Silence in Waiting Birthed Holiness Profound . . .

My Praises today:

  1. Less is More . . . .
  2. Faith is deepened as priorities are simplified . . . .
  3. Silence in waiting birthed Holiness profound . . . .

After days of sadness at the ugliness of sin that has wrecked havoc on so many, I remembered the evil of a long ago time that impacted families and friends in much the same way:

“. . . an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the Child and his mother and escape to Egypt.  Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the Child to kill him.”

 So he got up, took the Child and His mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod.  And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my Son.”

When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.   Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:
 “A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.”

To mourn what is lost is necessary and absolutely right; our comfort is in knowing that His Love will prevail.

I was grateful to awake this morning with the quiet and hopeful words of Silent Night wafting through my mind:

Silent night, holy night,
  all is calm, all is bright 
   round yon virgin
    mother and Child.
Holy Infant, so tender and mild,
  sleep in heavenly peace,
   sleep in heavenly peace. 

Silent night, holy night,
  shepherds quake at the sight;
   glories stream from heaven afar,
    heavenly hosts sing Alleluia!
Christ the Savior is born,
  Christ the Savior is born! 

Silent night, holy night,
  Son of God, love’s pure light;
   radiant beams from thy holy face
    with the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord, at thy birth,
Jesus, Lord, at thy birth. 

Silent night, holy night,
 wondrous star, lend thy light;
  with the angels let us sing,
   Alleluia to our King;
Christ the Savior is born,
 Christ the Savior is born!

Silence in waiting birthed Holiness profound . . . a Hope-filled Manger . . . Peace for all who Trust in Him . . . .

All to His Glory!

Calm After a Storm?

I grew up hearing the phrase “calm before the storm” but never thought much about it.  This past week, as we watched the weather reports of an encroaching storm, there was NO “calm before the storm!”  Fear of the unknown was really more what ruled my heart, with a dash of wondering, “Will we get through this one okay?”  With every waking moment trying to prepare, it was a very intense week.  Then there was all the waiting . . . hour upon hour . . . as the storm neared, stayed around far longer than we were used to and f-i-n-a-l-l-y passed.

Our area was largely spared the loss and suffering experienced by so many living just north of us.  It has been hard to even know how to pray for those neighbors who have been stripped of family members or everything they worked many times a lifetime to attain.  After watching hour after hour of news reports I wondered, “Where is fairness in all of this chaotic mess?”  

Still battling this confusion, yesterday afternoon my husband and I drove down to a local beach to check on a friend and to survey some of the damage.  As we traveled, I was comforted by the bright light shining through a sky still full of banks of gray clouds that swirled over the passing countryside . . . I was struck by an unmistakable quietness of mind and heart.   The feeling was somehow familiar. . . CALM AFTER A STORM?  Yes!

There it was . . . that calm I have experienced during a multitude of life storms, when hanging on was all I could do.

There it was . . . breaking through solitary moments, a quietness of mind and heart that in past days had faithfully calmed my mind and heart, even as those seemingly devastating  storms stripped away all that I tried to hold onto.

There He was . . . finally revealed as all was stripped away.   My faithful God forever offering His strength . . . His peace . . . His amazing grace!

As His calmness tended to my confusion and heartache for so many impacted by this dreadful storm,

There it was . . . a calm full of HOPE!  

This morning, still pondering the blessing of yesterday, the words of an old hymn flooded my soul afresh with a balm of calmness to face this new day.  I offer the words of Katharina von Schlegel, that have encouraged many through a multitude of storms.  I especially offer it to those of you who are facing or are persevering through storms of many kinds, praying that His calm will prevail over your minds and hearts no matter what:

Be still, my soul: the Lord is on your side;
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to your God to order and provide;
In every change He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: your best, your heavenly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul: your God will undertake
To guide the future as He has the past.
Your hope, your confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.

Be still, my soul: when dearest friends depart,
And all is darkened in the vale of tears,
Then shall you better know His love, His heart,
Who comes to soothe your sorrow and your fears.
Be still, my soul: your Jesus can repay
From His own fullness all He takes away.

Be still, my soul: the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord,
When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past,
All safe and blessed we shall meet at last.

Katharina von Schlegel, 1752
Translated by Jane Borthwick, 1855
Tune: FINLANDIA, Jean Sibelius, 1899

“May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through.  May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  I Thessalonians 5:23

 All to His Glory!

Voices ~

Did you know that September 14 was Hearing Voices Day?   Living in a world that labels those who “hear voices” as schizophrenic, it was interesting to discover an international movement committed toWorking across the world to spread positive and hopeful messages about the experience of hearing voices.” 

The Bible unabashedly speaks about non-audible voices that can influence our lives in powerful ways.  As a Biblical Counselor I must affirm that helping people sort through problems involves much more than uncovering the bare-bones details of what may have started the problem.   Over time I have learned that those “inner-voices/beliefs” we listen to can either help resolve or complicate the problems we face.

The Apostle Paul wrote to his friends in Ephesus, warning that problems are part of an ongoing spiritual battle.  In Ephesians 6 he wrote,

“Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Verses 10-12)

Those “spiritual forces of evil” represent some of the voices that trip us up and seek to rob us of the joy and peace Christ has for us. That is why it is so important to be able to recognize His voice as the Shepherd of our hearts.  Jesus taught in John 10:

 “My sheep recognize My voice.  I know them, and they follow Me.  I give them real and eternal life.  They are protected from the Destroyer for good.  No one can steal them from out of My hand.”  (Verses 27,28– from The Message, 2001)

Recognition of the Shepherd’s voice is essential to our being able to navigate through the myriad of other voices that bombard us--fear, anger, doubt, guilt, pride and self-sufficiency are but a few.   Such voices can distract and take us off course, usually speaking when we are most vulnerable.  They have a way of slipping in when we least expect it.

In the Counseling Room we often refer to Isaiah 30:15-22 to help distinguish between God’s voice and the other voices.  I love the dynamic way the passage establishes the importance of staying close to God.  It begins with what I refer to as “God’s Rx” for growing through the challenges of life:

“This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says:
          “In repentance and rest is your salvation,
                    in quietness and trust is your strength . . .” 

I will never forget the day“God’s Rx” got my attention for the first time.  I was running scared.  I was sick and unsure about what the future held for me.  I remember feeling my heart beating crazily as my mind was scrambling for anything to hold onto.  When I hit the calming wisdom of God’s voice in Isaiah it was as if everything stopped.  After a moment, the voice of my Shepherd spoke through my fear and uncertainty as I reflected on His gentle call to repentance, rest, quietness and trust.  As I followed His prescription I began to see the world around me in a whole different light.  I had discovered rest for my soul.

However, as I continued to read the passage I had to laugh at the painful truth of what follows:

    “In repentance and rest . . . in quietness and trust . . . but you would have none of it.

You said, ‘No, we will flee on horses.’
    Therefore you will flee!
You said, ‘We will ride off on swift horses.’
    Therefore your pursuers will be swift!
 A thousand will flee
    at the threat of one;
at the threat of five
    you will all flee away,
till you are left
    like a flagstaff on a mountaintop,
    like a banner on a hill.”

Feeling lonely?  Misunderstood? Running scared?  Perhaps you have done some things that you regret (or did not do that thing you were convicted about doing?)  “Life” lived in our own strength, as we listen to those other voices, often leads to that hollow, tasteless place where we find ourselves wondering, “Is this all there is?”

Looking for encouragement?  Then consider this next bit that speaks to the reality of God’s voice as the Shepherd of our hearts, offering hope and a future to all who trust in Him:

 “Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you;
    therefore He will rise up to show you compassion.
For the Lord is a God of justice.
    Blessed are all who wait for Him!”

If you are feeling beat-up by guilt then you are very likely listening to the wrong voice.  God convicts our hearts in order to free us, not to destroy us!   Maybe you are discouraged because you started something that is not going as well as you planned; it is too late to turn back but you don’t know how to move forward?  “In repentance and rest is your salvation; in quietness and trust is your strength.”  Go to Him- repent, rest, be still, PRAY!

The last verses of the Isaiah passage offers hope and direction as it speaks to the realities of life:

People of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. How gracious He will be when you cry for help!  As soon as He hears, He will answer you.  Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them.  Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”   Then you will desecrate your idols overlaid with silver and your images covered with gold; you will throw them away like a menstrual cloth and say to them, “Away with you!”

Life can be so very hard . . . but as we listen for His voice He will keep us on the right path.  He is totally worthy of our trust!

All to His Glory! 

The Breath of God ~

What truly inspires you?  This week I learned that the way we think about and use the word “inspire” has been substantially watered down from its original meaning.  Culturally we have lost the original depth of meaning as we have come to use it in a more casual sense: “to fill (someone) with the urge or ability to do or feel something, especially to do something creative.”   However, the word “inspire” originally referred to “a divine or supernatural being, in the sense ‘impart a truth or idea to someone'”  Do you see the difference?  “Inspired” in its original sense was what I call a Royal Word*, it was a word that was to be used exclusively with reference to God.

It is sad that we have lost the connection of inspiration with God as a divine being.   Even so,  I was grateful to receive Romanian-born Cristian Mihai’s post on “Inspiration”  yesterday.  Mihai’s blog addresses struggles that are common to writers as well as insights into the mechanics of writing.  Although written from a secular perspective for writers I was encouraged by his insight into the mysterious power of inspiration:

 “Out of all the aspects of writing I’m most amazed by the simple power the moments of true inspiration hold.  You know, those moments when a story starts growing out of thin air — and grows and grows, and it feels as if you’re just observing, you’re just allowed a bit of insight into a new universe.”

He is right to be “amazed by the simple power the moments of true inspiration hold” and so should you and I.   I was touched by his reference to the supernatural in being “allowed a bit of insight into a new universe.”

Inspiration is a rare gift that can redirect, convict, affirm and encourage the human heart and mind.   I read recently about the practice of “harvesting” water in Peru. where rain is rare but fog or mist comes through.  People hang out cloths, not to dry but to capture the moisture in the air.  They then wring out the cloth to “harvest” the water.  Inspiration can be every bit as precious!

When I think about the mystery and power of inspiration, the words of the Apostle Paul in II Timothy 3: 16-17 fill my mind:

 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,  so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

The thought of the Bible being, “the inspired word of God” explodes beyond the universe with the realization that all Scripture is out-spired, the very breath of God!  Many years ago I purchased an amazing little book titled, Words to Die For.  Written by Lawrence Kimbrough, it is a fascinating compilation of thirty verses of Scripture that inspired ordinary people such as Clara Barton, Jim Elliot, and William Wilberforce to powerfully impact the lives of others.

It can be a wonderful thing to be inspired!  However, we do need to be careful and prayerful as to the source of what inspires us, because not all inspiration from out of this world is good.  The beauty of exploring the Scripture, is that because it is the very breath of God we can discover inspiration that takes ourselves out of the center of things.  We are then freed to see the world as God sees it.

How are we to determine whether our inspiration is good or bad?  By reflecting on God’s standard:  Will what inspires us honor Him?  Will it reflect love for our neighbor?

All to His Glory!

*When our children were still at home, we called certain words Royal because we did not want to diminish their power.  “Hate” and “love” were deemed Royal Words.   The Bible tells us to “hate what is evil and to cling (love) what is good” (Romans 12:9) so we sought to use such words appropriately.  Therefore, we did not “love” or “hate” brussel sprouts in our home.  We used other words to express our thinking about them!  ( :

Hope in Dark Places ~

Sometimes life gets complicated when we least expect it.   Are you struggling with disappointment or uncertainty?  Worried about a friend who is sick or in trouble?  Maybe you are concerned for your parents who obviously need help but refuse your efforts?  Me too.  It is during such times that I am always grateful to cozy up to the Scriptures for comfort, perspective and the HOPE that I have lost sight of.

Does that sound odd?  Living in a culture that seems to be all about creating diversions to avoid thinking about problems, I suppose it does.  Yet Forbes.com  reporter Melanie Lindner  suggests that much of the booming “self-help” industry is fueled by people seeking an age-old need:

“Americans spent $11 billion in 2008 on self-improvement books, CDs, seminars, coaching and stress-management programs–13.6% more than they did back in 2005.”  Lindner continues, ” Who buys into this stuff?  Mainly middle-aged, affluent females living on either of the two coasts. What are they getting for their money? In a word: HOPE.”   (Published 01.15.09)

Can money buy hope?  Not really.  Steve Salerno, author of Sham: How the Self-Help Movement Made America Helpless says the most likely customers of self-help products are the same people who purchased similar products within the previous 18 months.   Our problem?  In becoming our own gods, we look to contrive a self-made hope that can never satisfy.

But there is HOPE (tons of it!) if you just know where to look.  Consider this gem the Apostle Paul wrote to the Romans:

 “ . . . everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.”  (15: 4)

 By God’s design, the Scriptures are a gift to us that provide HOPE as they teach and encourage us to endure in our faith.  According to the Oxford dictionary to endure is “to suffer patiently.”  I appreciate the reminder not to give way to despair in my disappointment.  Instead I (we!) can choose to suffer patiently (even expectantly) as God works out His perfect plan.  The blessing that is worked out in this process is a quietness of heart we refer to as HOPE.  It is hope, centered on the singular goodness of our Creator, that brings light into dark places.

Just a few verses down in Romans is another verse that has been a source of light and, yes, HOPE in some of the darker seasons in my life.  I offer it to you and pray that you too will experience  God’s perfect peace as you endure to His Glory.

“May the God of HOPE fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with HOPE by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)

Coming Up “Empty”?

When I started driving gas was 28 cents a gallon; so long as I had a five dollar bill it was easy to keep the tank of my car full.  Having said that, I remember running out of gas on several occasions because I forgot to watch my gas gauge.  One time I was driving to school on a curvy mountain road when my car suddenly quit and rolled to a stop.  I could not believe I had done it again!   In a panic, I jumped out of my car and stuck out my thumb to hitchhike to a gas station.  The first car that came along stopped and I jumped in as I asked the driver to take me to the gas station.  The driver dropped me off at a station that was a couple of miles away and the gas station attendant kindly filled up a plastic gas can and drove me back to my car.  (Thankfully, there were no serial killers out looking for foolish girls to take advantage of that day.  It was not until much later that I realized how graciously God had put His hand of protection over me!)

Reflecting on Ecclesiastes in my Journey Notes, I have been struck by how the writer (with absolutely nothing out of his reach in terms of power and wealth) totally came up on “empty” as he assessed all that he had done in his life.  This is what stood out to me this morning:

 “I refused my heart no pleasure.  My heart took delight in all my work, and the reward for all my labor.  Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; NOTHING WAS GAINED UNDER THE SUN.”  (2:10b, 11)

Depression is a very old problem that began when Adam and Eve rebelled against God.  What I find interesting, is that Ecclesiastes affirms the root of man’s depression (referred to by many today as “the common cold of psychiatry) continues to be mans disconnection with God.  Consider 2:24 & 25: “A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work.  This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without Him who can eat or find enjoyment?”     

 Because we live in a fallen world Christians also get depressed or experience anxiety, coming up “empty” in trying times.  But God has blessing for those who seek Him for the help they need.  The question is, how can we assess that blessing?   The following are some guidelines that have been helpful to many of my clients over nearly twenty years:

  1. Give thanks to God that you are not alone in your struggle, that He is faithful even when we are not.  Ask Him for clarity in looking at yourself, the people around you and your situation.  Repent of whatever sin you have committed and give thanks to Him for that forgiveness.
  2. Talk to someone who you know as being spiritually mature and who knows the Scriptures.  Request their prayer support and their help as an accountability partner.
  3. Go to the Scriptures to be “filled” as you ask God’s Spirit to grant you a teachable heart.  I encourage all of my clients to go to God, with the help of the Journey Notes  process between sessions, to be “filled” with the wisdom and strength of the Scriptures. 
  4. Give thanks for what He shows you in the Scripture and act accordingly.   
  5. Actively commit to a local church that centers on Christ and the Scriptures.   

  It can be a good thing to come up on “empty” at times when it helps to underscore how much we need God in our lives.   If you are struggling with depression right now then let me encourage you with these verses from Psalm 139: 7, 8, 11 & 12,

“Where can I go from Your Spirit?  Where can I flee from Your presence?  
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;  if I make my bed in the depths, You are there.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,”  
even the darkness will not be dark to You; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to You.”

Do you see the blessing?  No matter how dark and empty things may appear, if you have Christ in your life it will never be as dark as it would be without Him.  The closer you are to Him, the lighter (and I must add fuller with hope) will be your perceptions.

All to His Glory!