Tag Archives: busyness

Sounds Great, But . . .

In my last post I shared a few quotes from Brother Lawrence’s The Practice of the Presence of God. Brother Lawrence was a monk who found he best connected with God during his daily duties – kitchen work. He experienced intimacy with God more in the context of his normal life than even the times set aside for prayer and devotions in the monks’ cells. His encouragement for believers to maintain a continual conversation of the heart with God can help us transform any – every! – moment into a sacred one!

But, let’s be honest.

stained glass prayerHe was a MONK.

He had NO KIDS!

He worked in a MONASTERY!

So how in the world can his advice fit within the context of real life? Because, let me tell you, it seems a LOT harder to have this kind of continual conversation with God in modern life than it probably was for him – at least in terms of the many distractions that assail us.

Yet Brother Lawrence offers us some insights that can yet help us navigate all that draws our attention from God.

• A conversation of the heart with God need not necessarily always be with our “mind” – with words. It can be an inner sense, in our heart, of being at peace in God’s presence. It is a state of contentment and intimacy with God deep down inside.

• When we have a task before us that requires our full attention, we can consider this advice from Brother Lawrence: “Before beginning any task I would say to God, with childlike trust: ‘O God, since Thou art with me, and it is Thy will that I must now apply myself to these outward duties, I beseech Thee, assist me with Thy grace that I may continue in Thy Presence; and to this end, O Lord, be with me in this work, accept the labor of my hands, and dwell within my heart with all Thy Fullness.”

• And, ultimately, this isn’t about feeling guilty or like we’re failing when we aren’t doing “enough” to connect with God. Brother Lawrence advises a completely different perspective: one of joy, lightness, and delight in God! Consider this encouragement from one of his letters: “[God] requires no great matters of us: a little remembrance of him from time to time; a little adoration; sometimes to pray for His grace, sometimes to offer Him your sufferings, and sometimes to return Him thanks for the favors He has given you, and still gives you. . . . He is nearer to us than we are aware of. We can make an oratory of our heart wherein to retire from time to time to converse with him in meekness, humility, and love.”

[**All quotes Public Domain.]

I personally find it discouraging to set the bar too high – to aim to connect with God in every single moment, as Brother Lawrence advises. But what DOES encourage me is to simply aim for more. To tune in to God’s presence more. To pause more to remind myself that God is with me. To be more grateful, at peace, in joy in the light of this reality. To be more focused on the unchanging reality that God is with me.

How can you remind yourself more often of God’s presence? How can you experience more of God’s near, faithful companionship in your life?

In every moment, you are there.

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Oh So Much . . .

Merriam-Webster tells me gratitude‘s antonyms are ingratitude, thanklessness, unappreciation, ungratefulness.

But in soul-terms, much more could be added to this list. On the polar opposite end of the scale from gratitude we find habits and mindsets like worry, bitterness, spiritual malaise, self-reliance, pride, mistrust, over-busyness, selfishness, consumerism, and self-centeredness.

When our hearts are full of a pervasive and interwoven sense of thanks — a conscious awareness that God has given us oh so much — we’re able to live soul-centered in the peace and joy of the abundant life.

When we don’t? We start to buy into the lie that we don’t have enough, that we just need what’s more or what’s next. We live a life grasping out in all the wrong places for an elusive “satisfaction” that cannot be found in material things.

When we train our sight on the many goodnesses God has poured into our lives — loved ones, friendships, sunrises, smiles, bonds of love, church family, and a multitude of rich spiritual blessings — we’re buoyed when hardship or suffering comes. We can trust God because we know how God has come through for us in the past. We can rely on God even if things turn out badly, for we know from experience that God is good.

When we aren’t strengthening our souls in gratitude? We instinctively respond to trouble with worry and anxiety. Rather than relying on God, we turn inward in self-aggrandizing reliance on our own abilities and efforts to work miracles. And if things don’t get better? We become people poisoned by bitterness and anger. Continue reading

Meet My Friend . . . Keri Wyatt Kent

Author Keri Wyatt Kent speaks my language. Her books deal with the deep longings of our souls — intermixed with an honest view of the hectic reality we sometimes find ourselves in. She encourages us to make choices that draw us into a right rhythm with God and with others. I’m so grateful she popped in to speak with us today about a topic that is really, really important and also really, really tough to figure out sometimes: Sabbath. Keep on reading!

Keri, can you tell my readers a little about yourself? 

I’m the working mom of two teens, and for the past year or two, God has given me the opportunity to serve as our family’s primary breadwinner—although God of course is our primary provider. Last year, I had four different book projects published. Despite these pressures and workload, I took every Sunday off to rest.

The title of your book, Rest, simply draws me in. What an inviting — and needed — word in our lives! What motivated you to write it?

I had written about Sabbath (and other spiritual practices) in a previous book, Breathe. Many people seemed interested in the practice of Sabbath, many of them had an interest that centered on debate—thinking that it was impossible. So it was a subject that needed a more extensive explanation.

I know that for you the idea of Sabbath-keeping has been a journey. So how have your views and practices changed over the years? Continue reading

Learning Be-ing

Perhaps the title of the post should instead be “Un-learning Do-ing.” Doing, of course, is not a bad thing. What we do is very important to God in many ways and is part of who he made us to be–and we will explore that in an upcoming month.

But in our discussion of be-ing, do-ing can be a real danger. It is dangerous when what we do entirely defines who we are. It is even more dangerous, I think, when doing becomes inextricably linked with how we “use” time–When everything must be utilitarian, practical, or some sort of accomplishment. And it can be especially dangerous when doing = contentment and goodness while non-doing = discontent and discomfort that must be avoided at all costs. Continue reading

No.

There, I said it.

It felt great.

It’s a word that needs to be said often.

I’m not talking about disciplining children (my kids hear “no!” plenty in that context).

I’m talking about the personal spiritual discipline of saying “no” so that we can more fully say “yes.”

Consider these words from M. Shawn Copeland in Practicing Our Faith (Jossey-Bass):

“[S]pirituality is not a spectator activity. Tough decisions and persistent effort are required of those who seek lives that are whole and holy. If we are to grow in faithful living, we need to renounce the things that choke off the fullness of life that God intended for us . . . We must learn the practice of saying no to that which crowds God out and yes to a way of life that makes space for God.”

It’s a topic I’ve written about before, but I find it’s something I need to regularly remind myself about: Continue reading

We Are the . . . 90%?

One of the Bible stories that stuck firmly in my mind from my early childhood days in Sunday School was the somewhat horrifying story in Luke 17:11-19 of the ten lepers who Jesus healed and the stunningly offensive act of the nine who (gasp!) did not say “thank you.”

As a kid, saying thank you is of the utmost importance. You know you’re supposed to do it almost constantly. And if you don’t, Mommy’s voice is there with the warning prompt, “Say thank you.” It’s something we’re taught because it’s significant. It’s more than mere politeness — a habit of saying thanks shapes our attitude and posture toward the world.

Ah, but then we grow up. Mommy’s not there any more with her “Say thank you” and we’re left to be as grateful as we wanna be. Do we desire to be grateful? Sure! But often we’re like those nine who — and my childhood shock still rises as I write this — were healed from a terrible disease and a lifetime of being ostracized, and did not turn to say “thank you”! Somehow, even in this dramatic event-of-all-events in their lives, gratitude fell to the wayside.

Only one — a double outsider who was not only a leper but also a Samaritan — came to Jesus and praised him in overflowing gratitude and faith.

What’s strikes me today is the importance of recognizing that this account is not a parable. It sort of reads like one — like a lesson cloaked in hyperbole. After all, there’s no way only one would say thanks! . . . Right?

But it’s no parable. It’s something that literally happened, making its lesson all the more powerful.

The “90%” in this account probably felt grateful later. They likely had moments of wonder that evening as the shock wore off and they realized they’d been healed. But for some reason a “thank you” wasn’t their instinctive reaction. We can speculate why, but perhaps the more weighty matter at hand is considering the question for ourselves.

Why am I  often so neglectful of the practice of expressing gratitude to God? I’ll be pondering and praying about this question today. Will you join me?

Meet My Friend . . . Nicole Unice

This month I’m pleased to introduce you to a friend and co-worker of mine, Nicole Unice. She’s got great insights to share about a unique fasting experience she recently participated in with her church.

Nicole! Thanks for stopping by. Can you tell my readers a bit about yourself?

Yes! I’m a woman going in lots of different directions. On any given day, I’m doing the mom thing, the writer thing, the leadership thing….but my favorite thing to do is talk with women about the intersection of God’s word and their reality.

This month we’re talking about fasting on my blog. I know you recently participated in a fast together with your church family. Tell us more about that — why did you fast? What was the experience like? How did it challenge or inspire you? Continue reading

Sorting Clothes . . . unto the Lord?

I find it highly ironic that I’ve been so busy with “daily drudgery” and other work that I’ve neglected the blog this week. I feel the only thing of value I can offer right now, in this moment, is to say heartily and with the little gusto I can muster that service can be exhausting!

I don’t believe it is healthy to regularly live beyond our physical limits or to pack every minute of time with commitments. (See a posting I wrote about that here.) However, there are times when God calls us to step into an intense schedule of service: service through our vocation (job), through caring for families (meals, cleaning, budgeting, and so on), and all other sorts of service. This week has been one of those intense weeks for me, particularly in terms of my paid work.

So this has been a week in which I cling to Ephesians 6:7, and I offer it to you for your own encouragement as well: “Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.”

I’m so glad for this reminder that the week-long task I’ve been working on of sorting out the children’s clothes (what to donate, what to store in the attic, what no longer fits)–yes, even THAT task can be service done unto Christ.

Realignment

A bit ago I shared a quote from Dallas Willard about the importance of solitude in the spiritual life. When I first read that quote I felt two things. First, I thought: He’s right! I desperately need more time alone! But then I thought: This infuriates me! I have NO time alone . . . so he is saying I cannot grow spiritually?

My frustration with Willard was a feeling I had when I read several other spiritual disciplines book as well. They seemed to mostly be written by men (though there were a few female authors in there); further, they were mostly written by people in a stage of life in which they actually could spend long periods of time alone.

That is NOT my life.

But I think we need to give these disciplines a “makeover” in our minds. They can be a part of our lives if we focus on the core of what they’re about and why they’re essential. Continue reading