God conceals much that we do not need to know, yet we do know that He calls His own sheep by name and leads them out. -Elisabeth Elliot
My six year old is immensely curious about everything - the world, my life, God's truth. And she wants the answers now! I imagine she gets that from me. I am a planner by nature and I want all the answers up front before I make a decision. I have been known to make a list or two. To-do lists, packing lists, pro-con lists.
Don't make fun of me! It's a real struggle.
God, in His infinite wisdom, doesn't give us all of the answers to life's questions. He knows there is much we don't need to know. Perhaps it is because it is better for us to search out the answers, striving for a faith that is our own rather than easy answers. I believe if everything was spelled out for us we wouldn't need faith at all. As Proverbs 25.2 says, "t is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out."
It isn't just the answers that remain hidden, but when the answers will come to fruition. This is where I truly struggle to keep a quiet heart. My timing and God's rarely line up.
In the middle of the unknown, I'm not always the example of a quiet, trusting heart. I remember when I found out (surprise!) we were expecting our second child. We have never been in a season of more unknown than those days. We found ourselves searching for a house and both my husband and I searching for new jobs, with a two year old in tow and a baby on the way.
My usual agenda in circumstances like looks something like this: worry, plan and make it happen!
I found myself leaning on God more than I ever had in the middle of some of the biggest decisions, knowing it all had to happen in a very small window. We needed to close on the house before my husband switched jobs and we wouldn't qualify for a mortgage.
I remember the first few nights we spent in our new home when we would just look at each other and laugh, marveling and how God brought everything together in such perfection. We were outbid on several houses we thought were the ones, only to "happen to" to stumble upon this house that was move-in ready, in our budget and perfect for our family. We signed a contract on it before I started a new job and closed on the house before his job was to change. Something like this wasn't even on our radar.
In the middle of the unknown I don't find always find myself grateful for the questions or the waiting. Always on the other side of the answer I can see how God concealing certain things from me made the journey one that required faith and grew me in ways I never would have known had He just given me an easy solution.
In the waiting may we be able to tell our hearts...
Be quiet, why this anxious heed
about thy tangled ways?
God knows them all, He giveth speed,
And He allows delays. - E.W.
The one thing that has given me insight into God’s heart for us than more anything else is becoming a mom. When I held my first baby in my arms I thought I finally understood what His Father love for us must mean.
I had no clue.
As my children get older and venture out into the world more, I am daily gaining new insight into what it means to allow your children freedom when you want to protect them. I want to show them the world and shelter them at the same time. I need to give them the tools to solve their own problems when I really want to rush in and fix it for them.
I think I might have a firmer grasp of what this all means by the time they are teenagers or maybe by the time I have grandkids anyway!
I know how fortunate I am to have an incredible man in my life that has always shown me an accurate picture of how a father should look. But I didn’t always trust my Dad’s methods. I never doubted his love for me but that didn’t stop me from rebelling as so many strong-willed children do.
I have never struggled to see God as a good Father. I have, however, sometimes not trusted His timing, discipline, or testing of my faith.
And oh, how I have been a defiant child with Him!
As I struggle to show my kids love and discipline together, give them roots and wings, I grow in tiny steps towards trusting His methods, knowing His heart towards me is nothing but love.
I want to give my kids everything but I have to make decisions that will grow them into strong, godly, independent people. It hurts my heart when that means withholding something I know isn’t good or making them wait. It helps me see the truth behind Romans 8:32 that tells us “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”
His heart is to be gracious and give us all good things. His knowledge of what is good and our limited sight of what we think we want don’t always line up – much like most dinnertime struggles at my house!
The haunting sound of organ in the small church where I once served on staff comes to mind. I can hear the words of this old hymn playing in my memory…
“There is a place of quiet rest,
near to the heart of God,
a place where sin cannot molest,
near to the heart of God.
O Jesus, blest Redeemer,
sent from the heart of God,
hold us, who wait before Thee,
near to the heart of God.
– Cleland McAfee, 1903
I believe those words are true, that the quiet rest we so want is near to the heart of God. I think the problem is that I don’t often look to know and understand His heart, to truly seek to see Him for the Good Father He is.
The more I do draw near to His heart, the quieter mine can become.
Today was one of those days. Everything has seemed to break or need work done with our cars and house lately and all kinds of little expenses are piling up. A pay cut hit home today and all of those little expenses and little cuts lately feel like they are burying us.
My heart was anything but quiet and I wanted to spring into action mode - make a list, rearrange some expenses. What else could I give up? How can I fix this? Why is this happening?
When a problem presents itself it is my nature to try to figure it all out before it becomes a bigger issue. Maybe it's my personality or the way I was raised to be prepared or my sinful independence. But I all but pulled out my sword and started battling the raging dragon that is breathing down our necks.
And then I was reminded of words I heard preached recently, a story I hadn't focuses on in a long time.
When Moses and the children of Israel found themselves between the Egyptian army on one side and the Red Sea on the other, they all started complaining and lamenting, doubting and questioning. Moses turns to the people and tells them “The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” (Exodus 14:14 ESV)
We love the idea of God fighting for us, of going to battle in our time of trouble. But what about the command to be silent? I wondered should we not voice our doubts and fears to God? Should we not have a part in the battle?
Then I looked more into the word silent, which reads in other translations be still, stay calm and hold your peace.
Matthew Henry in his commentary says, “it is always our duty and interest, when we cannot get out of troubles, yet to get above our fears; let them quicken our prayers and endeavors, but not silence our faith and hope. Stand still, think not to save yourselves either by fighting or flying; wait God's orders, and observe them. Compose yourselves, by confidence in God, into peaceful thoughts of the great salvation God is about to work for you.”
It’s a bit of a buzz word in songs lately to say that God fights for us, that He is for us. Yes, indeed! We serve a mighty God who fights our battles and is all powerful. Everything is in His control.
But the point is, we are at war. Just because He is fighting for us doesn’t mean the outcome will be exactly what we hope it will be or that we will walk away unscathed. We are fighting against sin (ours and others) and against powers and principalities. There is real pain and loss involved in war – always.
In the midst of our troubles, though, we can trust Him to fight and be still. I cannot get out of my troubles - not today’s and not tomorrow’s. But I can get above my fears. And being silent doesn’t mean I don’t have a part or that I can’t raise my voice to Him.
I am trying hard in the midst of trouble to remember that being silent and allowing God to fight for me means to keep a quiet heart that is able to be silent enough to hear His commands and walk in obedience only the orders He gives.
So tonight I am anything but silent. I lift my voice to my Commander and ask Him for help. And then I will be still, try to stay calm and hold my peace. I will await His marching orders and believe that He fights for me.
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I love fall. Something about fall in the south just lights my spirit up. When I moved years ago to the Gulf Coast and there were no changing leaves, I grieved for the missing season.
The changing leaves and crispness in the air are a relief after stifling summer. The cool nights remind me of many evenings by the football field and the freeness of youth. And then there is pumpkin everywhere. The way to my heart is pumpkin cake, scones, cookies. Seriously.
But I also love the feeling of slowing down and intentionally being thankful. It is only early October but as I go through my fall decorations, I see the words "give thanks" and I am reminded of the necessity of this season. Summer passes in a blur of fun events and then school comes barrelling in. The craziness of the Christmas season is around the corner.
In the middle is this breath of fresh air to me. A little quiet. Time to be grateful.
I don't think anyone speaks more prolifically or beautifully about gratitude than Ann Voskamp. I have poured over her blogs on gratitude over the past few years, written lists of all I have to be thankful for with thousands of others after reading 1,000 gifts, and used her printables to talk about thankfulness with my family.
I will be getting a little tree ready soon - a simple branch from the back yard. We will cut out little paper leaves and hang them from string. Nothing fancy. Just a reminder to us every day to write out our prayers of thanks to God. We need these reminders every November.
I need them daily. It is so easy to let my heart get caught up in the noise, in the "what if's" and "why nots" and oh, the "have nots." They are deadly to a quiet heart.
But thankfulness is life to our spirits and quiet to our busy hearts.
"Happiness isn’t something you ever achieve, but only receive — like a gift. Like taking now as an unexpected gift of keys that will open you to more of God," says Voskamp.
I think that is why I really love fall. Nestled between the stifling heat and the bitter cold is a cool breeze and quietly falling leaves. It comes with the promise of a thankful heart, a quiet heart - open to more of God.
There is a reason I am a writer and not a public speaker. I have never been comfortable speaking in front of others. Sometimes when I even write it down ahead of time when I have something difficult to discuss with someone. Once they read it, we can talk. I just can't express myself out loud like I can on the page. It is definitely a weakness of mine.
I recently wrote an article for Christianity Today that got the attention of some Christian radio stations hosts. When a couple asked me for interviews, I desperately wanted to refuse. The thought of my voice on the radio made me nervous as well as the thought of having to "wing it." I love the power of editing and rewriting before sending your words out into the world. You can't exactly do that live!
But with the encouragement of some people I love and fellow writers, I chose to do the interviews. I prepared and prayed and then tried to set it aside, not think about it until I was on air.
I am not sure how I got through it in the moment. The words somehow just came and I was actually pretty happy with the result. I hung up the phone after the first interview and realized I was beat red. All of my nervous energy had exploded out of me in hives, but inside I had felt calm and collected. My voice only shook a little bit...
I breathed a sigh of relief and thanked God for giving me the words.
I have had people say I sound like a natural when I speak. They have no idea how I feel nothing but utter weakness when I speak.
In those moments I know it is only Christ's power residing in me that is shining through, making me sound like I have any idea what I am talking about. I definitely have no power of my own in that arena.
The assurance that God will cover us in our weakness comes in 2 Corinthians 2.19 (NET) when God says, "my grace is enough for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Along with Paul I say, "so then I will boast most gladly about my weakness, so that the power of Christ may reside in me."
My skin may break out when I speak and I may not ever feel comfortable with it. But I do feel comfortable saying I don't mind being weak. My weak spots are the areas in which Christ's strength can shine through.
My heart can quietly trust His grace as enough when I understand that when I am weak, He is strong.
I heard the Good News for the first time when I was fourteen years old. I was painfully aware of my own failure, but I realized for the first time that there was a solution. Jesus offered grace for me, a sinner, and I stumbled after it like a starving man after bread.
But I so quickly got caught up in the web of self-righteousness and law. I tried so hard to be worthy of the gospel, fought to earn something that was already mine.
Grace can so easily get lost in pride - when we think we have control over our own performance. Or, as I tend to lean, towards the other extreme of shame. I heap guilt upon myself for all my failures, diminishing what Christ has already accomplished for me.
I remember the first time someone looked at me with compassion in her eyes and read Romans 8.1 to me. I had run from God and His People, had tried to loosen His grip on me by living however I wanted.
I found myself back at His feet but now drowning in guilt over the way I had been living my life. A Bible study leader in the college ministry I found myself in told me "there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus," that I was righteous in Him.
Tears streaming down my face I cried, "Why didn't anyone tell me this before?" She preached the Good News to me all over again.
When my heart is not quiet, when it gets caught up in pride or shame -- I need to preach the gospel to myself. Jerry Bridges says, "to preach the gospel to yourself means to continually face up to your own sinfulness and then flee to Jesus through faith in His shed blood and righteous life."
Brothers and sisters, every day we need to remember our own depravity but also His grace and the righteousness that is ours in Him.
To truly have quiet hearts, lets flee to Jesus and remember daily what He has already finished.
I love these sketches from one of my favorite artists, my sister. She inspires me in the ways she seeks God that may not look like the "norm." Every week she sketches these little representations of the message during church. She not only teaches art to her kids at school and to refugee children, she shares beauty with the world in so many ways.
I laugh because my 6 year old doodles all through church as well. Sometimes we see these "doodlers" as not paying attention. But when I look at their art, I see the "get it" more than me. They internalize it in a different way and express it so beautifully.
I may use words.
You may use a picture.
How are you seeking after Him?
I discovered Heather's work when I started reading her articles on Mudroom and SheLoves Magazine and then I devoured her blog and bought her e-book. I am honored to be a fellow Redbud Writer's Guild member with Heather now.
She is one of the people who inspired me to start delving into art as a form of devotion, as a way to seek God. I was intrigued by her book, Word Made Art, that feature projects to transform your Bible into a work of art and find God in the process.
I have only done one project so far but my newly covered Bible is ready to be discovered in new ways.
It is reasonable to believe that the One who made the worlds, including this one and us who live in it, is willing to teach us how to live. He "became flesh" in order to show us, day by day, as He walked the lanes of Galilee, and the streets of Jerusalem, how to live in company with God. - Elisabeth Elliot
I always knew Christ was fully God and fully man, though that is one of those aspects of theology I didn't think too much about. It is too much for the mind to fully grasp, one of those things I just took on faith that I would understand one day but it didn't matter too much to me now. All I needed to know is He was my life, how his humanity and deity merged didn't change how I felt about following Him.
But then I was sitting in the place where this God-man preached and lived and I was being taught about His life, much like He taught His followers. As the cool spring breeze drifted off the Sea of Galilee onto us in Capernaum, we listened to the teacher talk to us about the humanity and deity of Jesus. Something shifted for me in that moment.
He talked about how Christ was fully Human and how his deity was "veiled" while He lived on this earth. He never stopped being God but to live fully among us, He became fully man as well. And not just fully man but the embodiment of the perfect human. He had to stay connected to the Father to receive His "marching orders," how to live His life. In the words of 1 John 1.1, "the Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us."
I always knew it was my life's goal as a follower of Christ to live a life that looked like His. But somehow when I really knew that He didn't come to earth just to save me but to show me the perfect human life, how one can really "live in company with God," I saw Him in a whole new light.
The Second Adam lived as man was created to live before He fell out of communion with God. He lived as we one day will live when all is restored.
Sarah Bessey says it so beautifully in her soon to be released book Out of Sorts, "Because He was fully and completely human, he is our perfect example of the humanity we were meant to embody as we move through this life."
We see how He moved through life with a heart that was never troubled because He stayed in constant connection with His Father, knowing He was in full control. He grieved with people. He had compassion on His sheep without a shepherd. But He lived with a heart so intertwined with the heart of God, that it was not at unrest.
A quiet heart, like the heart of Jesus, is one that keeps company with God at all times. He had that quiet heart and our perfect Jesus living in us offers it to us as well. May we look to Him to show us how to have and keep that quiet heart!
Saturdays on 31 Days of a Quiet Heart I will be highlighting a quote or idea from the book that inspired the series, Keep a Quiet Heart by Elisabeth Elliot.
I will be giving away a copy of this book during the last week of the series, so keep reading! The series isn't based on the book but God used it to inspire the thinking that lead me to seek after the qualities of a quiet heart for this month. That is something I always saw exemplified in Elisabeth Elliot's writings and something I always admired in her and yearned for in my own life. I will keep diving into some thoughts inspired by the book.
Stay with me - 4 more Saturdays to go!
I soaked in the sounds of the morning drifting in past the darkened stained glass. The shuffling of feet and the turning of pages in a Bible were the background music of my prayers. In the early morning of the monastery I sat next to monks and retreatants with heads bowed while my pen flew over the page, recording my prayers in the journal that lay open in my lap.
This glorious scene, the perfect time and place to meet with God, happened over a year ago at a rare weekend retreat at a monastery. I had two whole days to do nothing but journal, pray, seek God.
That was the last time the stars have aligned in such perfection.
Usually, the scene is more like this - I catch a few minutes while the kids are eating breakfast to read a devotional app on my phone. I hear God's voice speaking to me through the blog of a woman I have read many times before but never realized she was so much like me until her words leap off of the screen at me that day. I pray with the kids over dinner and choke back tears at the sweet, sincere prayers of an innocent six year old.
I have always aimed to have this perfect "quiet time," thought if I could achieve this quiet space, carved out for me and God, I could have this heart that is still before Him and communes with Him throughout the day. There was a time when early morning, candles lit, I met with Him.
And then, I had kids. And a full-time job. And a writing ministry.
My heart started to shrivel as I held onto this ideal of this perfect quiet time that only looked a certain way. When I didn't live up to that standard, I felt like I couldn't hear God anymore.
I started trying to find new ways to meet with God, outside of a Bible cracked open, a journal beside me.
I was listening to Katie Orr the other day speak about this idea of a "perfect quiet time" and how it "doesn't happen every day. It might not happen every year." This is a beautiful podcast from a mom who is helping ladies dig deep into the Bible in just a few minutes a day but what I love most about the recording is that her kids are screaming in the background! Quiet time is when we make time to be still, not when everything falls perfectly into place.
I am still working on retraining my ear for those little voices throughout the day that come from a song, a child, an interaction with a friend. I am clinging to the promise in Jeremiah 29.13 (the message) from God - "when you come looking for me, you'll find me."
I am finding that quiet time can happen in the noisiest of moments. It is when your heart is still in the Presence of God, no matter what you happen to be doing.
One thing that I have been inspired by lately is the way visual art can be such a beautiful representation of God and of what He is saying to us. My sister, an artist, sketches these creative little representations of the sermon each week on the bulletin as she hears the message preached and posts them on social media. Those little pictures stick in my mind and remind me of God's Truths. I am no artist (my mom is an artist as well and my sister and niece got all of those genes. I am a dancer and writer but can't draw a straight line with a ruler) but I am trying to sketch out things to remind me of what God is saying to me.
Instead of just journaling I have this unlined sketchbook where I am writing prayers and sketches and whatever God lays on my heart. Okay, don't judge me by my art but here is a little glimpse:
If you feel inspired to sketch something and send it my way on social media, I will post your sketches on the weekends (words, prayers, pictures, whatever creative way you find to practice keeping a quiet heart) on the blog.
Thank you for joining me on this journey!
Quiet is something I only know in the late moments of the day when the two wild ones are asleep. Many days I am awoken by four year old wonder, a steady stream of words and questions in my ear. All day they fight for our attention, a tangle of words tumbling over one another. They want to be heard and to make their presence known.
Even in the final hours of the night, he creeps into her bed and we hear hushed laughs coming from her room. Only when they both drift off to sleep is all quiet in our home.
Sometimes I crave those moments but even then, all is not quiet in my mind. To-do lists and deadlines loom, tomorrow's worries tease the corners of my thoughts and replays of today's mistakes linger.
Real quiet is more than the absence of noise. It is something inside the heart.
It is peace.
Look up the definition of peace and you will see the words quiet, tranquility. Quiet and peace are one and the same in the heart and mind.
So often I spend my time looking for the absence of noise instead of perfect peace. All of the busyness of life can stop and still there be no peace. Avoidance and distraction can masquerade for a while but only God can really bring the perfect peace I am looking for.
Isaiah 26.3 says, "you will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!" Keeping my thoughts off of my fears or my worries isn't going to bring peace. Keeping my thoughts fixed on God and His truth is where the quiet will start to take hold of my heart.
"God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing," said C.S. Lewis. Today I need to stop looking for peace in the world, for an absence of chaos and noise. There is no such thing. If a quiet heart is at perfect peace, a quiet heart is stayed on Him.