Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Silent Prayer

Time of Silence #1 - Start with a time of silence. Enter the silence with no agenda. Just listen for hints of God. 

Scattered. Cluttered. Restless. Anxious. Bored. Broken. Overwhelmed. 
I come to You. 

I haul heavy burdens from the past. 
I carry busyness and distractions from today. 
I bring uncertainty and fears for the future. 

The world sends constant messages and keeps littering my life. 
I want to disconnect from the world’s voice and be still with You. 
I want to know You and be lead by you. 

Time of Silence #2 - Be silent. Relax. Enjoy the silence. You probably don’t get a lot of it.

You have created me for You and for You alone. 
Teach me that my heart and my mind will be restless until I find rest in you. 

Time of Silence #3 - Be silent. Give your burdens to God. Meditate what your life would look like if you fully accepted and experienced God’s forgiveness. 

You have created me to know You. 
Not just to know about You, but to know Your embrace. 

Time of Silence #4 - Be silent. You are alone with God. Simply spend time together. 

Almighty God – These things I ask of You: 

Replace scattered with focus. 
Replace cluttered with simple. 
Replace restlessness with harmony. 
Replace anxiety with peace. 
Replace boredom with passion. 
Replace broken with blessed. 
Replace overwhelmed with overwhelmed by Your presence. 

Time of Silence #5 - Close the prayer with a final time of silence. Be open to the work of the Holy Spirit in your life. 


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Turning Up the Silence

We need to find God, and He cannot be found in noise and restlessness. –Mother Teresa 

Noise is a sound that causes disturbance. Restlessness is constant motion and activity that occurs as a result of anxiety or boredom. 

Disturbances. We don’t like them, but for some reason we live with them. The Boy Scout leaders hourly clog your email inbox with a barrage of clutter instead of communicating systematically and thoughtfully. The neighbor’s car alarm goes off in the middle of the night and the neighbor is out of town. It’s dinner time. The phone rings. The person wants to know your thoughts on healthcare and national defense or at least share with you their candidate’s position on healthcare and national defense. Disturbances are normal and normal isn’t working because God isn’t found in noise. 

Anxiety. It’s a negative feeling about upcoming and imminent events and uncertain and unforeseen outcomes. Kierkegaard calls anxiety the dizziness of freedom. Dizzy is no way to live. Anxiety is the lonely and scary place between “now” and “then.” Anxiety slowly chisels away, piece by piece, at the masterpiece God has created. (Ephesians 2:10) 

Boredom. Kierkegaard writes that boredom is the root of all evil. It is the despairing refusal to be oneself. Jesus says the thief comes to steal and take away but that Jesus comes to give us life in all its fullness. (John 10:10) Boredom is the hidden enemy who slowly and steadily steals the very thing God gives.

Noise. Restlessness. Disturbances. Anxiety. Boredom. This is not God’s plan for your life. (Jeremiah 29:11)

View from the swing

The father and son are sitting on the swing on the dock on the lake. It is dark. The clouds scatter throughout the nighttime sky and occasionally cover the waning moon. A gentle west wind blows over the lake and provides some relief from the southern Missouri heat and humidity. An owl can be heard in the distance. So can the small waves bumping against the dock. An occasional fish jumps out of the water. 

They sit in silence. No noise is present. No restlessness is present either. Only solitude and peace. The nearest connection to the Internet is a couple hundred yards away. The phone is turned off and put away for the night. The moment is as simple as it is sacred. 

The father wonders if he should be talking to the son or if the son should be talking to him. They don’t get many nights like this. They are busy people. One leads a church and coaches a soccer team and carts kids around from point A to point B and is a husband. The other is a student and a soccer player and a Boy Scout and a big brother. 

The father then wonders what they should talk about. The day’s activities: jet skiing and swimming, driving a John Deere Gator through the woods, and a walk through the hills. Or maybe the upcoming school year or the woman and the little boy who are up at the cabin. All good topics of conversation, for sure. 

And then he realizes something. Even though they aren’t talking, they are doing something more useful and more holy: they are communicating at the deepest level. 

The swing rocks back and forth. The little hand of the ten-year-old boy embraces the medium sized hand of the forty-year-old man. The boy puts his tired head on his dad’s shoulder. The dad moves his nose above the boy’s hair and inhales the comforting, sweaty smell of the boy. 

Occasionally one of them speaks. Usually to share what has been experienced in silence. After a laugh or a thought or a response, silence subtly makes her welcomed return. 

Some things can only happen in silence. Other things best happen in silence. The father and the son learn of such things on this night. 

Then the father thinks of another Father and Son who spent time together. The Bible doesn’t give a whole lot of details about the prayer life of Jesus, but the few details given are more than enough to make the case that connection to God comes not from noise or restlessness nor disturbances or anxiety or boredom, but from solitude and silence. 

Jesus prayed in lonely places. (Mark 1:35) He taught the masses to find a quiet closet, shut the door, and have a conversation with God. (Matthew 6:5-6) He sent the disciples ahead of him and went to the mountain to pray. (Mark 6:45-46) Even in Gethsemane, he told Peter and the brothers they could go so far, but no further. At the moment Jesus needed God the most the last thing he needed was noise. He needed James and John arguing about who was greater just about as much as he needed Peter telling him that Peter would never deny Him. So Jesus took a few more steps, fell to his face, and began his conversation with God. (Mark 14:32-35) 

Culture is full of noise and restlessness. Both are common, expected, and ordinary. But, noise and restlessness prevent us from experiencing God and embracing each other. iPads, iPods, iPhones, fifteen versions of ESPN, Twitter, text messaging, busyness, consumerism, Madison Avenue, email, and eBay provide enough noise to make a jet engine sound like wind chime during a gentle breeze and enough restlessness to turn an exhausted pre-schooler into an insomniac. Being constantly connected to the noise and restlessness of the world ironically and sadly disconnects us from the abundant love of God and the genuine love of others. We confuse busyness with significance, entertainment with joy, and vast connectedness with vital communication. Our basic human needs of genuinely knowing God and others and authentically being known by God and others are being lost in the confusion and complexity of the world. 

God simply says through the Psalmist: Be still, and know that I am God. (Psalm 46:10) 

Unplug. Listen. Say “no” to what isn’t working. Rest. Relate. 

Turn up the silence. Listen to God. Be fully present with others. Discover and embrace your true self. Be still. Be silent.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Hold Me. Purify Me.

Hold me

Sometimes my life just don't make sense at all 

The mountains look so big and my faith just seems so small 
I wake up in the night and feel the dark 
It's so hot inside my soul there must be blisters on my heart 

So hold me Jesus, 
I'm shaking like a leaf 
You have been King of my glory 
Won't You be my Prince of Peace (Rich Mullins: Hold Me Jesus)

You go before me. You are with me. You won’t leave me. You hold me.
Hold me in your arms, help me not to be anxious or afraid, and give me Your peace. 
(Deuternonmy 31:8 and John 14:27)

Jesus, you held the hand of a little girl and brought her back to life.
Jesus, hold my hand and bring me back to life and new levels of life. 
(Mark 5:38-43)

Hold me 

Purify me 

God, show me Your unfailing love and have mercy on me.
Show me Your great compassion and forgive my sins.
Wash me clean from my guilt. Purify me from my sin. 
(Psalm 51:1-2) 

For I recognize my rebellion; it haunts me day and night. 
I have sinned against you and your children. 
Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean;
Wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. 
(Psalm 51:3-7) 

Bring back joy to my life; You have broken me—now let me rejoice.
Create in me a pure heart, O God and renew my mind with purity.
Do not banish me from Your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me want to obey you. 
(Psalm 51:8-12)

Make me pure. Remove all imperfections from my life. Make me holy. 
Refine me like pure gold and silver. Help me live a life that is acceptable to you. (Malachi 3:3) 

Purify my thoughts for my thoughts lead to my words. 
Purify my words for my words become my actions. 
Purify my actions for my actions become my character. 
Purify my character for my character becomes my destiny. 

Purify me