Keeping in Step with Jesus (Vlog)

In the middle of all that goes into releasing a book and talking about a book and promoting a book**, it’s easy to lose sight of what matters. This entry from Oswald Chambers “My Utmost for His Highest” (October 12th) was encouraging to me; I hope it encourages you. (forgive my cough; of course, as soon as I began to speak, my voice got all scratchy).

 

**Living the Season Well-Reclaiming Christmas

 

 

Why Slow Starts are Best (or, Typing as Therapy)

“For who knows how,
Better than he that taught us first to Plough,
To guide our Mind and Pens for his Design?
And he makes base things usher in Divine.”
John Bunyan, the Author’s Apology for His Book, Pilgrim’s Progress

I wrote at the beginning of this year about starting small, starting now when leaning into God’s promises, those urgings from his Spirit that draw us closer to His purpose and plans for our lives. It is easy to become intimidated when we consider those God thoughts, wonder if the change He’s spoken of will ever come to pass. Perhaps it is a ministry gifting you’re pondering. Perhaps it is a story to write, a book that’s inside you, a change you want to see in your personal life. How do we help those come to pass? Or is it more of a partnership?

‘Starting small, starting now’ came from a message at church of the story of Nehemiah and his people rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem, one brick at a time. Our pastor’s encouragement was to move slowly and faithfully in the direction God has called us, trusting God while our dreams are fulfilled.

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I just returned from a five day trip to Texas for a writer’s festival at a small Baptist college in a small Texas town. It was a delight for my soul to soak up some sunshine after the chill of the mornings, bask in the fun of making music and connecting with folks who are dear to my heart. There were opportunities to grow in my writing as well and be inspired by the words of other gifted folks.

When I returned home to the much wetter, cooler Pacific Northwest, I couldn’t wait to get outside to check the growth in the garden. My world is anchored by the seasons; I recently decided I like winter best. Why? Because all that gray, blank space gives my mind room to ponder. Because I enjoy watching the sometimes infinitesimal growth of the garlic as it spikes bright green towards the sky. The clematis begins to sport buds on the dead looking vine, the asters begin to poke magenta gray sprouts into the soaking soil.

tulips-february-2017

It’s easier to see growth in empty spaces, to appreciate the subtle and slow of sweetpeas returning or the forsythia threatening to pop, a tulip’s leaves curl through the dirt.

I snapped this photo and realized–God’s promises to grow us in our gifts and in His graces depend not on our efforts but on His creation. The life of a bulb or flower or shrub is inside, invisible. Under the ground, in the bare stalks of the tree or sleeping before bursting into tulips or crocus.  How that happens is a miracle every single Spring.

So, too, are the promises of God. When He speaks a word about changing you inside or gifting you with His creation to share with others–in a song, a story, a poem or a painting–the birth of it always lies in His power to give life.  The challenge we face is in the making room (clearing the soil), letting go (lifting our pruning shears or pens to the sky) and resting (while the seed grows). Continue reading “Why Slow Starts are Best (or, Typing as Therapy)”

Summer is for Listening

“My soul, wait silently for God alone; for my expectation is from Him.”

Psalm 62:5

“How slow many are to learn that quietness is blessing, that quietness is strength, that quietness is the source of the highest activity–the secret of all true abiding in Christ! Let us try to learn it and watch out for whatever interferes with it.  The dangers that threaten the soul’s rest are many.”  Andrew Murray, “Abiding in Christ”

      I suppose it is a foolishness to think things are quieter in the Summer–school is out and children romp and play outside my window, noise floats in as games are won and lost in the streets below our house. But Summer vacation also means less push and stress, less have-to and more want to. My want-to includes some quiet (er) time of listening to God in this season.

The push back is all the noise–even good “Christian” noise.

Don’t get me wrong but I think we (by “we” here I’m including myself) are quick to crank up the praise music before we spend time with our own words praising God in the silence. Bible studies and Christian living books are a way to learn, but sometimes I think we lean on them instead of the Holy Spirit to speak directly to us.  The internet is a 24/7 stream of everybody else’s opinions on what is godly, but it often draws us away from the Source–the voice of Jesus and God’s word.

Why not, instead, make this season a time of doing nothing, reading nothing (I know–sacrilege!) and just spend time listening and recording in a journal what you hear God say?

There might be revelation or resolution of an issue percolating below the surface that you’ve carried around and worried about for months. Years.  Perhaps there will be a healing touch from God’s Spirit, or simply a wonder-filled moment as you catch the joy of God in His creation.

To help you in the process, may I share some notes on the how-to of the process? These are taken from my session at our Glory Writers Abide Retreat in the Cascade Mountains last year. (I used the same notes for our church’s Women’s Retreat last May.)

Perhaps they will help you discover some glory of your own in God’s word to your heart.e80ce-viewfromthebackdeckjune2012

Notes on ‘Listening as a Spiritual Practice’, inspired by “God in the Yard”, L.L. Barkat, TSPoetry Press

Stop and make a space to listen 2-3 times a week, 20 or 30 minutes—start small  NOTE: Listening as a Spiritual Practice or Discipline is really about letting go & making room, more about absorbing & receiving from God than about my outcome or producing something. More being, less doing.

  • Examples of Spiritual Practice PERSONAL WORSHIP, PRAYER, praying in the Spirit, BIBLE READING
  • SIT where your eyes can be still, preferably outside with a view to something living; resting your eyes brings peace to your mind and soul and you can LISTEN BETTER
  • Don’t Read your Bible-this is not devotional time, it is time to listen…you can talk to Jesus, sing, but resist the temptation to DO SOMETHING; just WAIT
  • Remember: You have the Holy Spirit as your teacher and guide (Jn. 14:26)
    • If you ask God to speak, He will. If you ask Him to show you something, He will.
  • Here are some prompts for thought:
    • What is your deepest source of current pain, and how is God trying to meet you there?
    • Where are you finding joy with God?
    • What does the world around you say about God’s relation to you and your relation to Him?
    • Here’s what the Holy Spirit might do as you listen:
    • First, you’ll discover something—(see it—‘wow, I didn’t know I felt/knew that’!)
    • Then uncover it—(name it—‘oh, THAT’S what that is…’)
    • Then recover it—(live into it, like new skin) NOT fix it (as in patch it up)

      Don’t worry about what to do with your discoveries. Simply listen to what the sounds are telling you and offer them as an expression of truth to God then write them down.

      If you are not a person who keeps a journal, this might be a good time to start.

Writing down your story can bring healing to you and life to others. Our stories are a way for others to hear where God is meeting us now & where He has met us in the past, especially when we share them.

And most of all, when you look back over the entries, whether several weeks or several months or years, there is powerful encouragement of God’s faithfulness and care to you as His child.

      I hope you take the time to get away from the noise and ask Jesus to speak to you in way that’s like no other. He is so happy when we ask!