Cultivating Quietness

Truly my soul silently waits for God. Psalm 62:1

My soul, wait silently before God alone; for my expectation is from Him. Psalm 62:5

In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength. Isaiah 30:15

Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him. Psalm 37:7

Finding silence and quietness in this day and age is a challenge.  So many things compete for our attention that we have to be intentional to cultivate silence. Yet finding a space where we can be alone, remove the technology, shut the door, and be silent before God is critical for our ability to abide in Christ.

Quoting from Andrew Murray in “Abiding in Christ”, “”It is a soul silent before God that is best prepared for knowing Jesus.”  He also writes,

“Quietness is blessing…Quietness is strength…Quietness is the source of highest activity – the secret of all true abiding in Christ. Cultivate quietness as a means to abiding in Christ and expect the ever-deepening quietness and calm of heaven in the soul as the fruit of abiding in Him.”

For much of my youth and early young adulthood I only sought God when I had a problem or disappointment. Periodically I would attempt more of a devotional life, but it usually dissipated when life was “good.” I wasn’t taught how to be silent with God and therefore did not receive the benefits from silence and waiting on God.  I forged a path through life based on what others thought or what I wanted, and asked God to bless it.

Through a series of several severe trials, I found myself progressing from angrily questioning God’s goodness and my desire to remain connected to God, to searching the scriptures to see if I had missed something. In my searching I realized I had some wrong ideas about God. By God’s grace, this opened my heart to see God’s provision for me and my perspective began to change.  Several subsequent losses found me surviving only by turning to God and spending time with God, particularly in the Psalms, listening for God’s words for me. God met me and I found answers to my questions, comfort for my fears, and a changing perspective to see that I was not in control, life was unpredictable, yet with God there was peace and hope.

My experience of God’s comfort and love during trials led me to wonder how I could continue to seek after God in times of joy and prosperity.  The journey since has not always been straight forward as I am prone to wander.  Yet I have found that somehow, when I take time to be silent before God on a regular basis, God is working mysteriously in me to bring about what Andrew Murray describes as, “the ever-deepening quietness and calm of heaven in the soul” making it more possible for me to abide in Christ throughout my day, even in the midst of difficulties.

So how to cultivate quietness with God?  Here are some practical suggestions.

  1. Look for a quiet space in your home, place of employment, or somewhere in nature. If you can’t find one, consider how you can create one.
  2. Be intentional about a time of day you go to that space.
  3. Start by spending a few minutes in silence with God before you go on to reading and reflecting on scripture or whatever devotional material you are using.  Expand that time of silence as you are able.
  4. In the silence, focus on God’s loving presence with you. Other thoughts may pop up.  Quietly acknowledge them and let them go.  If they are troubling thoughts, silently release them to God for God’s care and go back to focusing on God’s loving presence.
  5. If you are able to find a quiet space and time, yet continue to struggle with silence or troubling thoughts, consider reaching out to a trusted friend, pastor or Christian spiritual director for support.

 

Arrest in the Garden

In the garden

in the middle of the night

Jesus rose from his wrestling prayer

with God,

these words on his lips,

 

“Not my will but yours be done.”

 

Moving through fear into love,

The battle was over.

 

Resolute, calm, facing towards his destiny,

he waited and watched

as tiny pinprick lights of torches grew larger,

a crescendo of swords clanking and hushed whispers,

footsteps approaching.

He stood to greet the unruly and armed crowd that had materialized

out of the darkness

in the garden.

 

Startled out of their deep slumber,

the disciples jumped up awkwardly,

rubbing sleep out of their fearful eyes,

blinded by the torchlight.

They watched in stunned silence.

A kiss.

A sword.

A rebuke.

Jesus, the only calm one in this scene,

is betrayed, arrested.

 

He did not resist.

He did not call out to His Heavenly Father to defend him.

Strengthened by love,

he gave himself up even more

than he already had.

 

He let the unfair actions against him play out

as the arrest took place

in the garden.

 

“Have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though He was God he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges, he took the humble position of a slave….he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal death on a cross.”

Philippians 2:5-8 NLT

 

 

Scraps of Life, Part 3

Surgery and After

Finally, after interruptions and another surgery, I am back to writing this series.

It has become harder, the farther away I am from this time of my life, to remember things accurately. I didn’t realize that until months after my initial surgery. One day, when I was recovered enough to get around, I found a bedpan in the laundry room and had no idea why it was there.  I had forgotten much of those first weeks between breaking my leg and following my surgery. My memory loss was more than likely due to the fact I was on pain medication and was sleeping a lot. My spot was flat on my back on the couch with my ankles iced and highly elevated. Yes, ankles.  My right ankle was sprained as well as my left broken, making it difficult to get to the bathroom, among other things!  Thus the need for a bedpan….

bothankles

My view from the couch.

When I came home from the emergency room late that night, we were sent home with the name of a surgeon they were passing me on to.  I was very concerned that I would not get in touch with the surgeon and get the surgery done quick enough.  So I called on Monday to get a hold of someone, and then found we were sent to a different surgeon.

The accident happened on Saturday; surgery was scheduled for Wednesday of the next week. I was eager to get on to the healing part, but it was a strange feeling to submit my leg to someone who I did not know anything about.  It never occurred to me at that time to Google and get that info! After my initial surgery to repair the broken bones, I learned that my surgeon had a reputation in Wichita of being a premier trauma ortho surgeon.  Thank you Lord!

My husband and I arrived at the hospital on surgery day by 5:30 am to check in. It was a bit of a shock to find out what we owed financially before surgery could happen (Gulp!  Thank goodness for HSA accounts.) I was wheeled away to get prepped for surgery and soon my family joined me in waiting.

When the surgeon arrived he informed us that in addition to the two broken bones at my left ankle (tibia and fibula) my ligaments were badly torn so he could not guarantee that they would fully recover.  He didn’t outright say it – I had to ask a few questions after he implied it (a man of few words) – and that gave me pause to realize that this may be a game changer for me.  How much would my ankle heal? And always the concern, how will I respond to anesthesia?  Yet as I lay there getting ready for surgery, something I have not experienced before, God gave me peace as I maintained my focus on Jesus by praying the Jesus Prayer,

“Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.”

A version of the well known quote by Julian of Norwich was also on my mind,

“With God all is well and all will be well.”

I gave myself into God’s care, safe no matter what the outcome. After a short ride to the OR, sliding onto the surgery table for the 1 1/2 hour surgery, I was out in a few minutes. Before I knew it, I was waking up in recovery.

Reflection:

“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

We live in a broken world,  a world marred by sin.  Accidents, illness, harm happens to all of us sooner or later.  Suffering occurs.  I am one that has spent a great deal of time trying to avoid suffering in my life.  As a young adult, during a “wilderness” time spiritually, I ran across (was guided by the Holy Spirit) Jesus’ words to his disciples quoted above. When troubles come, Jesus says, we should not be surprised. Strengthen your heart!  Jesus has overcome.

What troubles have come your way?  Are you discouraged?  Weary?  Full of anxiety?

I invite you to turn to Jesus in the midst of whatever you are experiencing.  Sometimes, however, we simply can’t prayer.  “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me” is a form of what is sometimes called the Jesus Prayer, Centering Prayer, or Breath Prayer. It was first prayed by a man who was blind, Bartimaeus (Mark 10:47), as he called out to Jesus. Consider praying this prayer to center your thoughts on Jesus, particularly when you are feeling the weight of your troubles.  It can help to focus on your breathing. As you pray, “Lord Jesus Christ”, slowly breath in, “have mercy on me”,  slowly breath out.

The actual quote by Julian of Norwich is, “All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well…you shall not be overcome.”

 

 

 

 

Awake O Sleeper!

What a few weeks it’s been!

Once again I have not been able to continue my blog series “Scraps of Life”.  Instead, I have been helping my parents in Canada, as my mom prepared and moved to a nursing home there last week.  It’s a lovely Christian facility and she needs their care.  We are also supporting my dad as this change is hard on him.

mom

Me with my mom on her first day in the nursing home.

me in ND

After a week in the winter north land, I found spring had sprung in my yard when I returned to Kansas.  I enjoyed working in the sunshine yesterday, fertilizing, cleaning up debree in the yard, and loving that the pansies wintered over in my greenhouse so well!

It turned out that on the first day of spring, as I went around to see what plants were beginning to recover from winter, and which ones weren’t, the words “Wake up oh sleeper” came to mind.

spirea bushes

Spirea bushes are pretty sleepy yet.

rose

Rose bush barely waking up.

IMG_4268

Daffodils ready to bloom.

hydrangia

Hydrangea is leafing out.

pansy

Glorious pansies!

“Awake, Oh sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light!” Ephesians 5:14

Reflection:

Spend a little time thinking about ways in which God might be inviting you to “awake”.  Where do you need Christ to give you light? Talk with God about what you notice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scraps of Life Part 2

What Happened after IT Happened

So there I was, down on the ground with an oddly swollen and painful ankle, and no one was responding to my calls. (FYI, if you ever find yourself in a similar position, don’t call for a person – yell HELP!  My neighbor later told me he heard me called ROB! and thought to himself, boy that Rob sure is in trouble!)

I called again, and one of the neighbors finally looked over.  When he did he started running towards me, as did the others.  Bless their hearts!  They came with eyes wide and asked “what should we do?”

It’s funny now to think back to that moment.  There I was laying on the ground obviously hurt in some way, and they were asking me what to do!  I have Red Cross First Aid training and if I was the one coming to aid I would have done things differently.  But that never crossed my mind in the moment.  My only thought was to get in the car and get to the emergency room that was a little more than a mile away.

“What should we do?”  “Get my husband,” I replied. “He’s in the house.”  They did and together they half carried, half walked me to the car.  I think someone pushed a little too hard on a rib and I felt it give way, but that was the least of my worries.

The ride to the emergency room seemed SO SLOW!  So much TRAFFIC!  I was breathing in and out slow measured breaths to keep the pain at bay, protecting my swollen ankle from touching any part of the car.

FINALLY – the emergency room!  Someone saw us coming and came out to greet us, bringing a wheelchair.  But NO PAIN MEDS until the x-rays were done.  And they had to MOVE MY ANKLE for some of the x-rays. They also confirmed my right ankle was sprained, and my back was fine. But then – morphine!  And as I felt the morphine move into my body – RELIEF!  I was more myself again – I could joke – and express my gratitude for the help I was receiving!

first ER

My ankle was carefully placed in a splint and I was sent by ambulance to the hospital emergency room where ortho people could set the ankle and place it in another splint.  My first ambulance ride! (wow those gurnys are narrow!)

ambulance

And then two ortho interns – a first year and a fifth year – forced my foot back into place using their bodies to do so.  I was expecting a great deal of pain (think Gray’s Anatomy ortho adjustments) yet it wasn’t terrible.  With the x-ray confirming my bones were where they needed to be, I then waited, and waited to be released to go home, which finally happened by 10:00 pm.  I was to be scheduled for surgery that next week as hardware was needed to put my bones back where they belonged.

Below are the xrays taken before they set the bones.

Xrays of broken bone

xray 2

On all these trips my husband and daughter followed me and sat with me, keeping me company during the waiting, and showing their care and love.  I am so grateful to them, to the ER staff in both places, the ambulance folks, and to my neighbors who gave me their aid that got me going in the right direction!

2nd ER

waiting to be released

Reflect:

The worst has happened.  An accident, a misstep of some kind.  A diagnosis. A shocking revelation. The unexpected.  Maybe it happened a while ago. Who helped you during that time in your life? Who can you thank God for?

Maybe it is happening now.  Who has God placed around you who could help?  Are you willing to ask for it?  There are times when we simply aren’t able to help ourselves.

66 times in the book of the Psalm the word “help” is spoken of.  God is also your help.  Take a little time to reflect on Psalm 22:24 below.  Talk with God about what you notice.

 Psalm 22:24 (NIV)

For he has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one;
he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.

 

 

 

 

 

Scraps of Life, Part 1

What Happened

I was ready to turn a new corner at the beginning of my 60th year.

I had re-arranged my life; organized the house making space to create, minister, and time to help my aging parents.

I had just come off of a very busy June of birthdays, our anniversary, Father’s Day, a family reunion in Canada.

Now I was home to begin this new phase of my life.

And then it all came to a crashing halt on a Saturday afternoon, July 7, 2018.

I was doing what I’ve done many times before; stepping onto a stepping stone in my yard near the water faucet on the house I use to water my flowers, but this time I was careless.

I stepped only partway with my right foot onto the stone which was raised above the ground some.  I immediately twisted my ankle and fell back hard on my other leg. I don’t know exactly how I landed but I remember feeling my rear hit the ground. My leg must have been under it. Here is a photo reinacting my mis-step.

footstone

It all happened so fast I had no time to catch myself.

As I write this now in February 2019, my heart is beating a little faster just thinking about that moment.  It felt like I was being pushed down.  The ground was packed hard underneath me and as I peeked through my bent legs I could see that the ankle on my left leg was unnaturally swollen.  I knew immediately that I could not step on that leg – something was seriously wrong.

My husband and daughter were in the house so I began to call for my husband.  Rob!  Rob!  I called and called but no one came.  I saw two of my neighbors across the street but no one was even looking my way.  I stopped calling and began to worry that I was going to have to move – could I crawl to the house?  And the words formed in my head…Really God? Now this? Really?

Reflect:

It is very natural to question God when the unexpected happens.  Whether you are in a season of unexpected happenings or not, I invite you to take a few moments and read slowly through the scripture below, talking with God about what you notice.

But now, O Jacob, listen to the Lord

who created you.

O Israel, the one who formed you says,

“Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you.

I have called you by name; you are mine.

When you go through deep waters, I will be with you.

When you go through the rivers of difficulty,

you will not drown.

When you walk through the fire of oppression,

you will not be burned up;

the flames will not consume you.

For I am the Lord, your God,

the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.’

 Isaiah 43:1-3a (NLT)

 

 

Honoring Influencers

I promised that I would begin a series entitled “Scraps of Life” in my last blog, particularly my experience of the past six months or so.

However, a few interruptions have kept me from that promise. Like last weekend. Two individuals who greatly influenced different phases of my life passed away within 3 days of each other.  And I’d like to stop to honor them.

On Friday, January 25, 2019, at the age of 85, Roland Reimer passed away.  Roland was the pastor of the church where my husband and I met as single young adults.  Roland and his wife Lois, who happened to be a relative of my mom’s, did our pre-marital counseling and Roland married us in 1985.  It was under his pastoral leadership that my husband and I began to transition into becoming active church members.

After our wedding, I volunteered for two years as a church wedding coordinator. Roland and I worked many weddings together during those years.  In fact, the singles group was nearly emptied out and we sometimes had back to back weekends of weddings. We shared many fun memories, like the time Roland raised his hands to bless the couple right at the end of a wedding and his Bible dropped out from under his arm and thudded loudly to the floor. Roland and Lois led a young married Sunday School class that started the class both my husband and I attended and served in for many years to come. And it was under his pastoral leadership that I eventually served on church staff as part-time Director of Kids Ministry in the late 1980’s – a first for that church. We moved away from that community for a few years, and when we moved back, our paths did not intersect as closely.

On Monday, January 28, Mr. James Thiessen passed away at the age of 91.  Mr. Thiessen was the superintendant of the christian high school I graduated from.  Our family moved to that community in 1964 when I was 6 years old and my dad was the high school music director there for 10 years.  Mr. Thiessen began his tenure at the school a few years after my dad, and remained there for the rest of his career spanning the years of 1966-1994.

When I was finally in high school I was a little in awe of Mr Thiessen. He represented a great deal of authority and I didn’t want to get his attention for the wrong reasons! Upon reflection I remembered his favorite chapel topic and the sound of his voice as he preached on the topic of our “verticle and horizontal relationships”, and how our vertical relationship affected our horizontal ones.  While I might have rolled my eyes upon hearing this message for what seemed like the umpteenth time in highschool, I now realize that repetition is good for long term memory!

It struck me this week that both of these men, by following God’s call in their lives, were instrumental in creating environments in which I lived and grew.  They weren’t perfect individuals, but they provided stability, guidance, care, role models, and a place to flourish.  They put up with a lot – particularly Mr. Thiessen who guided an institution that attempted to provide a biblically grounded education to hormonal and anxty (is that a word?) teenagers from the 60’s through the 90’s. Church life also has its challenges, and Roland saw many changes throughout his ministry, providing at cricial times much needed words of wisdom and faith.

I am reminded of all those “heros of the faith” as listed for us in Hebrews 11.  Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, and the list goes on.  We know their stories are filled with examples of their humanity, but they are commended for their faith.

Sometimes we don’t fully appreciate what we have until we have a chance to look back and review how God has worked through individuals like these two men. It might be a good exercise for you to think back to who influenced you in your journey of faith. I pray God’s peace and comfort to their families now as theyse two men have gone on to the place where “faith becomes sight”. Hope in God’s gift of eternal life was a strong theme for both men.

At the funeral of Mr. Thiessen I was introduced to two pieces of music that I want to share to end this blog.  I was touched by the message of both.  I leave you with Psalm 23 – Surely Goodness, Surely Mercy by Shane and Shane, a 2017 release.

And The Mighty Flood that Rolls, a hymn by Leach published in 1883 and used as a funeral hymn for many years. This link takes you to a website where you can listen to it. https://hymnary.org/hymn/HPEC1890/page/439. We heard a grandson lovingly sing this song while accompanying himself on his other grandfather’s guitar.

Hymnal and Canticles of the Protestant Episcopal Church with Music (Gilbert & Goodrich) page 439

Thank you Roland Reimer and James Thiessen for your faithful, servant leadership and commitment to the Lord. Those of us who knew you and who remain, wait with anticipation as we continue to walk our own path with God, to that great reunion around the throne of God, singing and praising our great Redeemer.