Embracing Solitude

Solitude is so counterintuitive to our culture. It takes a lot effort to learn to cultivate this spiritual discipline, but we can see in the Gospel accounts that time alone with God was very important to Jesus:

In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there. (Mark 1:35, NASB)

 So Jesus, perceiving that they were intending to come and take Him by force to make Him king, withdrew again to the mountain by Himself alone. (John 6:1,5 NASB)

It was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God. (Luke 6:12, NASB)

We don’t know what happened between Jesus and the Father in these times of solitude, but we do know that quiet, reflective time with the Father was a priority to Jesus.

By the world’s standards, some might have said Jesus was “wasting” time. Not being “productive.” Not “accomplishing” anything. The truth is that Jesus was operating on a completely different value system, one that we are wise to consider if we, too, want to draw close to the Father.

The Psalmist David also experienced this, saying, “My heart has heard you say, ‘Come and talk with me.’ And my heart responds, ‘Lord, I am coming’” (Psalm 27:8, NLT). In that place, he could open himself up to the Lord and commune deeply with Him. David wrote of this practice: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. (Psalm 139:23, NLT). When we sit quietly in the presence of the Lord and invite Him to search us, we join David and a long line of spiritual giants who have experienced this before us.

(from Chapter 8 Am I Loved?)

The Power of Money

In considering different things to moving away from and moving toward during Lent, I read Matthew 6 with a few friends this week. The wisdom of Jesus is sobering:

“No one can be loyal to two masters. He is bound to hate one and love the other, or support one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and the power of money at the same time.” (v.24)

Moving away from the power of money and toward God is a conscious effort. We live in a culture that worships the power of money, and man is it powerful! So how do we utilize money in a healthy way without allowing the power of money rule our lives? Maybe the answer is in Jesus’ teaching earlier in the same chapter of Matthew.

“Don’t pile up treasures on earth, where moth and rust can spoil them and thieves can break in and steal. But keep your treasure in Heaven where there is neither moth nor rust to spoil it and nobody can break in and steal. For wherever your treasure is, you may be certain that your heart will be there too!” (v. 19-21)

We may be able to answer the question for ourselves about our draw toward the power of money by taking an honest assessment of what type of treasures we are building today. Are we piling up things and possessions, or are we investing in relationships. A growing relationship with God, ourselves (becoming more self-aware, yet less self-focused), and growing relationships with others.

As we come to the close of a week look at your schedule, what is your focus? Possessions or Relationships?

Finding the Father

Our 5 year-old daughter Hadassah, our youngest, finds me in the morning. Most mornings of the week I leave the house early before our kids awake, but on the weekend Hadassah wakes up first and she finds me. I have a few places I like to sit in the house. She looks for me, finds me, crawls into my lap and sits there in my arms. (I know, she’s 5 it surprises me too that she just sits there for a while)

Each morning Hadassah finds me she enters into my morning ritual of sitting with the Father. It has become my favorite thing to do. To sit, to listen, to be still. So I sit there with the Father and in comes my daughter to sit with her father. I promise I am not making this up to make a point or be poetic, or give a visual of what is offered to us each morning through a growing intimate relationship with God the Father. I am just letting you in on what is happening, real time, in my own life and in the life of our youngest daughter.

If you have young kids chances are you are experiencing or have experienced the joy and exhaustion of young kids wanting as much face time with you as possible. They will take as much as they can get. Especially that one-on-one, on the floor down on their level, playing the games they choose. Or the time right before bed when they ask for one more story, one more song, one more kiss.

It’s hard to imagine sometimes but it is true, in fact the truest reality there is, that you and I have a Father who can’t get enough of us. He is with us, giving us as much time and attention as we want. And his favorite time is that one-on-one, on the floor down on our level, playing the games we choose. And somehow, in a mysterious way you are his favorite one.

 

 

 

A Model For Prayer

I was encouraged in 2000 through a seminar to spend daily time with the Lord, and took the presenter, Tom Raley, up on his challenge.   In my early years of doing daily time I followed Tom’s recommendation to a T. This is what he taught me: When you wake up in the morning, “Good morning Jesus. Thanks for a good night sleep. Look forward to being with you.” After that spend a few minutes in each of these:

  1. Praise
  2. Thanksgiving
  3. Guidance – read scripture and pray over calendar for the day
  4. Dedication of the day to the Lord
  5. Intercession – pray for family and those you minister with and to
  6. Petition
  7. Meditation – pick out something from your time with the Lord that you can walk with the rest of the day.

* By Tom Raley – Practicing Spiritual Discipline

After a few years of using this model I began to branch out to other tools. The devotional book titled, “A Guide to Prayer” has been a great companion on this journey of daily time with the Lord. It gives a daily psalm, scripture reading and reading for reflection for the day. This is a great tool for someone starting out on a journey of daily time. For three years I did the One-Year Bible and it was fantastic. It got me deep into scripture each day and provided a grounding for my faith.

What I learned from Tom and from my own experience these past sixteen years is that a plan is vital. Without a plan we are wander. To get up each morning and know where to begin our time with Jesus is essential for longevity. If we are serious about making time with the Lord a priority, then follow a plan that becomes a simple ritual will lead to vibrant life in Jesus.

Lent Day 3: Do You Believe that I Can Do This?

As I mentioned, the words of the song, “Jesus Loves Me” fought a losing battle with the gloomy narrative swimming around in my head that said, “do you really think you measure up…don’t take yourself so seriously… you’ll never find someone to love you… you’re quite a mess you know… you probably ought to work out more… you probably ought to study harder… you’ll never amount to much… look at you!” It wasn’t until 2006 that I realized I’d been shackled with FEAR and unbelief most of my life. In a moment of personal chaos and despair I became aware of a choice I needed to make. Would I allow fear to continue its destructive dominance in my life, or would I walk through it with Jesus?

Thankfully I was walking through life with a friend at the time. He and I were both at the point in life men get to when we realize we no longer have all the answers. In fact, we came to know there were many more questions than our youth allowed us to be aware of. So, by the time this whole “fear” thing reared it’s ugly mug, I was in an uncontrolled skid toward depression.   I needed help! We were in his car driving down the road he said, “Have you read today’s Utmost?” I had not read Oswald Chambers Oct 27th entry in “My Utmost for His Highest”, so I grabbed it from his back seat and began to read. It was right there, I had never seen it before! Jesus, when speaking to two blind men, asks them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” Chambers expounded on this question: “Our Lord unwaveringly asks us that question, and it confronts us in every individual situation we encounter. The one great challenge to us is— do I know my risen Lord? Do I know the power of His indwelling Spirit? Am I wise enough in God’s sight, but foolish enough according to the wisdom of the world, to trust in what Jesus Christ has said? Or am I abandoning the great supernatural position of limitless confidence in Christ Jesus, which is really God’s only call.”

After reading that, I knew my answer to Jesus’ question, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” was “NO”. And if I was being completely honest with myself my answer was, “No, I don’t really believe that you can do this Lord, so I am going to do it. I am in control, thank you very much!” And that is how I went about my days. Being the “BEST” at everything was how I approached life. The best follower of Jesus, the best husband, father, friend, director of a non-profit ministry. This pursuit was exhausting and left me frazzled, spent and feeling alone. After reading the excerpt from Utmost I began to explore the idea, what if the goal is not to become the best ________? (fill in the blank). What if the goal is to believe that God can do this, whatever the “this” is I am currently facing. What if the goal is to move beyond living in the head, beyond having everything figured out? So with Jesus’ question haunting me, in a good way, I asked the Lord how to get out of this pattern of fear and of doing things on my own. What I heard seemed elementary, but I went with it…