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.
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