Silence and Solitude

sandsWhen you find yourself a bit frazzled and frayed by the various stressors you encounter each week, where do you go to find solace? Some people find a sanctuary in solitude and silence.

As a business professional, David Haber spends much of his day crunching numbers and wrestling with the stress of financial decisions.  Haber has said, “The biggest challenge as an entrepreneur is how to not get lost in the daily execution, but to take a step back and really think things through. Quiet moments give you the opportunity to reflect and make smarter strategic decisions . . . Finding balance between work and life, and using silence to help me decompress, is an important part of doing my job well.”

Like Haber, I also think quiet moments are beneficial.  These interludes from the hectic pace of the world rejuvenate me when I refocus my attention on God.

Silence and solitude of themselves are mere emptiness that cannot feed a hungry soul. To stave off starvation, your mind needs to be “stayed” on God. The words of Isaiah echo this truth: “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You because he trusts in You (26:3).”

Here are a few Scriptures to focus on as you try to keep your mind “stayed” or focused on God:

  • Psalm 46:10: “Be still and know that am God.”
  • Isaiah 12:2: “Indeed, God is my salvation; I will trust Him and not be afraid, for the Lord is my strength and my song. He has become my salvation.”
  • Philippians 4:6-7: “Don’t worry over anything whatever; tell God every detail of your needs in earnest and thankful prayer, and the peace of God which transcends human understanding, will keep constant guard over your hearts and minds as they rest in Christ Jesus.” ~JB Phillips

I encourage to check your priorities and to reorder your life. At the top of your To-Do List, scribble in: Quiet moment of silence and solitude—be still and know God.

A Peak Behind The Clouds

double-rainbowTuesday morning, I was driving west towards Wichita and I was blessed with the beauty of a double rainbow. As the dazzling colors shone brightly against the distant backdrop of dark and menacing clouds, I was reminded that life is much like that storm.

Throughout a person’s life, he will experience the highs and lows; the sunny days and the threatening storms; and times of crippling sorrow as well as abundant joy.  Through all of these moments, there is always a rainbow: the promise of God’s presence and providence.

It was the promise of God’s presence and the hope of His providence that sustained the Apostle Paul in the many heartaches and trials that he endured:

I am at peace and even take pleasure in any weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and afflictions for the sake of the Anointed because when I am at my weakest, He makes me strong. ~2 Corinthians 12:10 The Voice

When the tough times come, and they will, remember to peak behind the clouds—God has a rainbow-full of promises just for you.

. . . when I form a cloud over the Earth and the rainbow appears in the cloud, I’ll remember my covenant between me and you . . .

Genesis 9:16 The Message

Never Never Land or The Land of Never

never-never-landWhere are you living?  I don’t mean the place where you park your car or the address that your GPS takes you to when you touch the HOME button.  Where do you live in your thoughts, fantasies, worries and wants? Is it Never Never Land or the Land of Never?

Thanks to Peter Pan, most people have some knowledge of the fictional place called Never Never Land. It’s that place that’s fixed within the framework of your imagination where everything is so wonderfully pleasant and perfect that is far beyond the scope of reality.

The Land of Never is also an imaginary place, but it’s one of a harsher existence.  The boundaries of the Land of Never are marked by signs that reflect a contempt for self, others, and the truth:

  • Sign #1: I will never be loved or respected.
  • Sign #2: I will never get a job.
  • Sign #3: I will never be able to go home again.
  • Sign #4: God will never forgive me.
  • Sign #5: My life will never get better.

If you believe the lies of the Land of Never, you will be chained to your past and you’ll never live in the present.  Words like “never” and “always” are usually void of the truth, and they’re lies that limit you.

The only “never” that really matters is found in Deuteronomy 31:6: “Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will never leave you nor forsake you.”

If you’re living in the Land of Never, isn’t it time to pack your bag, move out, and start abiding in Christ? Jesus said, “If you continue (abide) in My word, you really are My disciples.  You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free (John 8:31-32).”

As you begin the move, I encourage you to focus on a promise found in the Psalms:

The Lord also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. And those who know Your name will put their trust in You; for You, Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You.

Psalm 9:9-10

Happiness: A Key or a Principle

keyHe’s no locksmith, but Michael Porter thinks he has discovered an important key—the key to happiness. Porter, a Harvard economist, has been researching social process and how to measure it.

Through his research, Porter has found the key to a person’s happiness is the opportunity to change and better one’s life:  Porter’s research suggests this “is a crucial but elusive ingredient to a smoothly functioning society—or what, at the individual level, one might call happiness (Quartz).”

Another researcher, Dr. Stephen Post, has studied the different components of happiness for several years.  He believes the key to genuine happiness is found in living the Golden Rule.

When you do unto others as you would have them do unto you, there’s a good chance that you’re a person who volunteers to help those in need. The willingness to help others can enhance your sense of well-being.

A study found that 41% of people who volunteer an average of 100 hours a year report a greater sense of well-being, saying that volunteering

  • 68%: “has made me feel physically healthier
  • 92%: “enriches my sense of purpose in life
  • 73%: “lowers my stress levels,”
  • 96%: “makes people happier,”
  • 77%: “improves emotional health,”
  • 78% also reported that volunteering helps with recovery “from loss and disappointment”

Typically, people who give of themselves to others have less trouble sleeping,  and they experience less anxiety, less helplessness & hopelessness.  They also report better friendships and social networks, and sense of control over chronic conditions than people who are more self-centered.

In his, It’s Good To Be Good, research, Post says:  ….as one achieves a certain shift from selfishness to concern for others, benefits accrue.   His research suggests that a person may feel good when he gives a financial gift to an individual or a cause; however, the benefits of helping others are most pronounced in direct person-to-person “hands on” activities.

The key research by Porter and Post simply validates the principle posited by Jesus over a thousand years ago:  Treat others the same way you want them to treat, and you both will be blessed.

When we embrace the words of Jesus and begin to live the Golden Rule, a satisfying life is within our reach.  According to Post, one way to elevate happiness is to reach out in helping behaviors and contribute to the lives of others. That happiness in turn elevates giving, which in turn elevates happiness. The two fuel each other in a circular fashion – a classic feedback loop.

The words of Dr. Albert Schweitzer leave us with a thought worth thinking: The only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve

Making Sense of the Nonsense

birdGrief and anxiety can be so powerful that you can melt in the heat of their presence like a dip of ice cream on a 110-degree day.   When the trials and tragedies of life assault you, God can seem so distant that his voice is inaudible and His care and compassion inconspicuous.

When you feel like you’ve been bullied by misfortune and beaten down by fickle friends, you can be blinded by a pervasive sense of loneliness and a warped perspective on life.  This was the case with Asaph when he wrote Psalm 73:

My feet almost slipped; my feet almost slid out from under me. For I envied those who are proud, as I observed the prosperity of the wicked. For they suffer no pain. . . They mock and say evil things; they proudly threaten violence. They speak as if they rule in heaven, and lay claim to the earth.

Whenever you find that you are walking with Asaph down the path of misery, you need to recalibrate your compass.  Instead of focusing primarily on your internals, you need to take an eternal perspective on life.  This is what Asaph did to reorient his direction in life:

When I tried to make sense of all this nonsense, it was troubling to me. When I finally looked beyond myself and quite beating myself down. I looked up to God and I entered His temple, and then I understood the destiny of the wicked (my paraphrase of Psalm 73:16-17).

In times like these, God may seem to hide, but He is still present to present you with what you need.  “Sometimes God gives us a gentle push of courage; sometimes He mercifully numbs us so we don’t experience the full intensity of our pain; at other times He carries us when we cannot take another step on own (Bruce Carroll, Sometimes Miracles Hide).”

One of the more comforting sections of Scripture that may help when you are feeling the pain of lingering bruises is Psalm 121:

I look up at the vast size of the mountains—from where will my help come in times of trouble? The Eternal Creator of heaven and earth and these mountains will send the help I need. He holds you firmly in place; He will not let you fall. He who keeps you will never take His eyes off you and never drift off to sleep. What a relief! The One who watches over Israel never leaves for rest or sleep. The Eternal keeps you safe, so close to Him that His shadow is a cooling shade to you. Neither bright light of sun nor dim light of moon will harm you. The Eternal will keep you safe from all of life’s evils, from your first breath to the last breath you breathe, from this day and forever. ~The Voice

A Godly Celebration

god-is-goodYou’ve heard it before: “If it sounds too good to be true, then it’s too good to be true.” When you read Zephaniah 3:17, you may think that it sounds too good to be true:

The Lord your God is with you. He is a warrior who saves you. He happily rejoices over you; renews you with his love; and, He celebrates over you with shouts of joy.

Before you pass judgment on the veracity of this verse, you may want to consider it from the perspective and testimony of some people from the pages of history:

  • Think about Daniel. He was thrown into a den of lions which was the sentence of death; however, God intervened; the lions were afflicted with a serious case of lockjaw; and, Daniel was saved.
  • What about David? This runt of the litter was fiercely courageous, and God used him as a warrior to slay Goliath.
  • Lazarus heard the shout of God, and he experienced a celebration and the joyful power of the resurrection.

Still think it sounds too good to be true?  Then you might want to read Psalm 121, the Pilgrim’s Psalm, from The Message:

I look up to the mountains; does my strength come from mountains? No, my strength comes from God, who made heaven, and earth, and mountains. He won’t let you stumble; your Guardian God won’t fall asleep. Not on your life! Israel’s Guardian will never doze or sleep. God’s your Guardian, right at your side to protect you—Shielding you from sunstroke, and sheltering you from moonstroke. God guards you from every evil, he guards your very life. He guards you when you leave and when you return, he guards you now, he guards you always.

Believe it! God is with you, and He wants to happily rejoice over you.

Title, Deed, and Ownership

Title-DeedsWhen I woke up this morning, to the rhythm and words of an old gospel hymn.  The four-line chorus reminded me of a precious truth:

Now I belong to Jesus,

Jesus belongs to me,

Not for the years of time alone,

But for eternity.


Of the 19 words in that refrain, the word belong stood out more than the rest.  It occurred to me that when you belong to Jesus, you should be longing for a relationship with Him.

During a debate with some skeptics, Jesus spoke of the key to this relationship: The one who belongs to God listens and responds to God’s words. You don’t listen and respond, because you don’t belong to God (John 8:47).

When you listen and respond to God’s words it’s evidence that you belong to God, and it’s the first note in a harmonious relationship with Him.  Paul spoke of this relationship, and who you are in Jesus:

  • Ephesians 1:7—In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace
  • Ephesians 1:11—In Him also we have obtained an inheritance
  • Ephesians 3:12—We have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him.
  • Colossians 2:9-10—As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving, and you are complete in Him

When the feelings of doubt and despair try to take root in your heart, remember that you belong to Jesus.  His desire is to have a relationship with you, and He will watch over you as a shepherd does his flock.

 

Psalm 100:2-4

Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands!

Serve the Lord with gladness;

Come before His presence with singing.

Know that the Lord, He is God;

It is He who has made us, and we belong to Him;

We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.

Enter into His gates with thanksgiving,

And into His courts with praise.

Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.

Hessston, Kansas: Tragedy Strikes Rural America

Tigger-Eeyore-Winnie-the-Pooh-WallpaperOn February 23 at 11:27 AM, Cedric Ford made a post to his Facebook page: “Woke up this morning vibing God is good.”  Last night, channel 12 news identified Ford as the shooter at the Excel Plant in Hesston, Kansas. I’m not sure how a person can post those words on a Tuesday and then take a weapon on Thursday, and kill 3 people and shoot a total of 18.

Strange as it may seem, this incident reminds me of a critical moment in the life of Tigger in a Winnie the Pooh story.  Because his stripes washed off while bathing, Tigger was facing an identity crisis.

The usually boisterous and exuberant Tigger grew solemn and sullen as he mulled over his dilemma.  Because tigers are recognized by their stripes, Tigger isn’t sure who he is without his. In an effort to discover his identity, he tries being a rabbit, a bear, and a Christmas tree.

His problem is resolved when Eeyore tells Tigger, “You’re always the same person on the inside.”  The wisdom of Eeyore may have been comforting to Tigger, but it also presents a discomforting truth.

When you contrast Ford’s actions with his “God is good” words, you see the constant battle that rages between the stripes of your flesh and your spirit.  Paul spoke of this turmoil in Romans 7:

Here’s an important principle I’ve discovered: regardless of my desire to do the right thing, it is clear that evil is never far away. For deep down I am in happy agreement with God’s law; but the rest of me does not concur. I see a very different principle at work in my bodily members, and it is at war with my mind; I have become a prisoner in this war to the rule of sin in my body.  I am absolutely miserable! Is there anyone who can free me from this body where sin and death reign so supremely? I am thankful to God for the freedom that comes through our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One! So on the one hand, I devotedly serve God’s law with my mind; but on the other hand, with my flesh, I serve the principle of sin.

The tragic shooting of last night brings a harsh reality to light; the potential of committing horrendous and evil acts lies deep within each of us.

A fog of horror and disbelief hangs low over the city of Hesston as her stunned residents wonder: “What happened to the stripes of Cedric Ford?” Did he suffer a psychotic break?  Was it a violent outburst of anger? Was this a sudden emotional explosion or has his fuse been smoldering for weeks?

It’s too early to have the answers to all of these questions, but it’s never too late to pray.  I hope you will join me in praying for the employees of Excel, the citizens of Hesston, the first responders, and everyone who has been touched by this tragic event.

Choice Choices and Daunting Decisions

decisionEach day of your life, you are presented with the opportunity to choose to do or not to do. Many of these choices are minor, but there are times when major decisions must be made.  Some of your choices can be as simple as:

  • What clothes will I wear?
  • What should I eat for breakfast?
  • Which brand of toothpaste should I use?

Major decisions can be more taxing and involve questions like:

  • Should I be cremated or have a traditional funeral?
  • Should my money be invested in an IRA or a ROTH?
  • Should I use a neurosurgeon or an orthopedic surgeon for back surgery?

On occasion, people will call me when they are facing a perplexing situation that requires a major decision.  They will consult with me and ask for my opinion concerning where they should work, live, or who they should marry.  Their question is often:  How do I know the will of God?

Discovering the will of God is more of a mystery than what it needs to be.  Let me suggest five questions to help guide you.

  1. Is the action you are considering consistent with the principles of the Bible? God will never lead you to do something that is contrary to Scripture.  Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding. Acknowledge him in all your ways, and he will make your paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6).
  2. Have you prayed and asked for guidance? For I know the plans I have for you; plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. You will call to Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart (Jeremiah 29:11-13).
  3. Have you discussed your situation with your friends? A nation will fall when there is no direction, but with many advisers there is victory (Proverbs 11:14).
  4. What will the results of your decision look like? If your mother reads about it on the front page of the newspaper, will she be proud of your actions or will she be embarrassed?
  5. Are you depressed, angry, or stressed out? If so, you need to clear your mind and calm your emotions before you try to make a wise decision.

I encourage you take some time to reflect on Psalm 37, and how it relates to your situation.

Trust in the Lord and do what is good; dwell in the land and live securely. Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you your heart’s desires. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him, and He will act, making your righteousness shine like the dawn, your justice like the noonday. Be silent before the Lord and wait expectantly for Him