That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”
I didn’t realize until I started looking at the qualities of a quiet heart, just how clear it is in Scripture that fear is the opposite of peace.
Listen to any message on the well-known story in the gospels of Jesus calming the storm and it usually focuses on the actual act of calming the storm. One thing I have noticed as I have been looking at the gospels through the lens of what Jesus was doing is that Jesus’ peace was never broken. There He was sleeping in the middle of the storm, not taken by surprise by it.
In fact, it was Jesus’ idea to go to the other side of the lake. He knew what was coming and He led the disciples straight into the storm.
So often, I think I treat God as if He must not know the storm I find myself in the middle of, forgetting that He knows all and leads me every step of the way. Instead, I scream at Him, “Don’t you care about me in the middle of this storm?”
Not only did Jesus lead His friends knowingly into the storm; He went with them. He didn’t send them out into a frightening encounter with the wind and waves alone, but He went right along with them, the power to command the elements in His grasp.
I’ve got some burdens on my heart in the moment, some storms brewing in my heart. It is so natural for me, like the disciples, to forget that Jesus is right there in the boat with me. He is not troubled because He knows what is ahead and He knows who holds all the power. And He’s right there with me.
Fear will lead to a lack of faith and a heart that is raging against the storm, yelling at God to come save us.
A quiet heart will trust that He already has saved us, knowing we might have to pass through a storm or two. But we won’t do it alone.
The first days after I became a mother were magical. Sometimes I feel guilty when I hear the trials other moms faced (but then I remember the days after the birth of my second child weren’t so easy). I would hold her and watch her while she slept, so peaceful and sweet.
I remember sitting in my grandmother’s rocking chair just holding this tiny child. I touched her fingers that couldn’t be much thicker than a matchstick and just started weeping. She was so content in my arms, peaceful. She trusted me so completely and her life was literally in my hands. I was overwhelmed with the responsibility of it all.
Now that same little one is going a thousand miles a minute every moment she is awake. I recently asked her to see if she could sit still and quiet for just one minute. Completely still. Only sixty seconds. I thought she was going to explode!
That once content baby in my arms has to work so hard to be quiet now.
But then again, so do I.
As I am still hanging out in the Psalms this week I have enjoyed reading them in different versions of the Bible and love the freshness of the Message. I came across this Psalm this week:
God, I’m not trying to rule the roost,
I don’t want to be king of the mountain.
I haven’t meddled where I have no business
or fantasized grandiose plans.
I’ve kept my feet on the ground,
I’ve cultivated a quiet heart.
Like a baby content in its mother’s arms,
my soul is a baby content.
Wait, Israel, for God. Wait with hope.
Hope now; hope always!
As I have been thinking for weeks about the characteristics of a quiet heart, I just love this perfect picture of a soul content like a baby, but that it isn’t something that comes naturally for us. It is something we have to cultivate. Like the work that goes into planting the seed, watering, harvesting. A garden doesn’t spring up overnight. It must be cultivated.
My heart isn’t suddenly quiet because I have been thinking about it for a couple weeks. As a matter of fact, worries gripped my heart more than I’d like to admit today. But I can return to the Father tonight and ask Him to help me keep my feet on the ground. I can wait with hope on Him – hope now, hope always.
The New Living Translation of verse two reads beautifully – “I don’t concern myself with matters too great or too awesome for me to grasp.”
I can worry and fret over God’s ways, concern myself with matters that will only make me spin. But tonight, I am choosing to close my eyes and remember that baby in my arms, the peace in that moment. And I am praying for a quiet heart and content soul.
Whenever I have felt stuck in my prayer and devotional life in the past, I have always turned to the Psalms. So much of the emotion of life is caught up in these poetic words - from despair and pain to hope and joy.
I have been in the Psalms lately as I have been reading the lectionary each morning, something I haven’t done in many years since attending an Episcopal church in college.
I have again found myself in the ups and downs of the Psalms, carried on the highs and lows of life from one song to the next. I think that is what I love so much about song and poetry - the ability to capture the range of human emotion.
Unlike the songs of this world, there is something unique and beautiful about the Psalms though. They so often come with a yet:
Psalm 40 – I am poor and needy, yet the Lord thinketh upon me…
Psam 73 – I was so foolish and ignorant, I must have seemed like a senseless animal to you. Yet I still belong to you…
Psalm 43 - Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.
The world can be rocking around us and yet God is our rock. He is the only unchanging thing in this world that will send us spinning topsy, turvy on waves of uncertainty and inconsistency.
My youngest is four but he is my last little one, so I don’t mind that he still runs to me when his world is spinning. I will let him stay my baby as long as he wants! Lately he has been clinging to me more.
Don’t get me wrong. He is a wild and free little boy. But let him fall while he is running and climbing and his eyes immediately and frantically search for me. He runs into my arms, feeling mommy can make it all right again. In the mornings when he wakes, still in that borderland between dreams and reality, he reaches out for me crying, My mommy.
I am the shelter he runs to when his heart is disturbed.
God should be the shelter we seek in times of trouble, distress, and worry. Like my little boy running into the arms of his mother, I want to run into the arms of the only truly unchanging One there is.
Life can be hard, painful, confusing, and downright mean. Yet…
Those who live in the shelter of the Most High
will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
This I declare about the Lord:
He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
he is my God, and I trust him.
I’ve always prided myself on being strong. Maybe it’s because the word strong probably wouldn’t come to mind when you look my 5’2” petite frame.
I remember the first time I felt bigger than I really was.
I found myself in my first leadership position. I earned the position of drum major in my high school band. Oh, the short jokes still ensued. They actually had to build the podium a bit taller that year!
But suddenly I was in this position that required strength – a loud voice that could bark commands across a football field, an authority I didn’t feel like I possessed.
I have never felt comfortable with authority though I have found myself in positions of leadership more often than not since that time.
I have found myself being strong even when I don’t feel like it, carrying loads that others wouldn’t. I have always felt like I am still up on that podium – on display, unable to show weakness.
I also remember the first time I realized being strong meant asking for help, not shouldering the entire burden yourself.
Straight out of college I jumped into full-time ministry while also a full-time seminary student. I was in charge of an entire children’s ministry – and I had no idea what I was doing! I felt like I had to figure it all out on my own and had a hard time asking members of a congregation I didn’t know well to volunteer their time.
I am gifted in administration but not in big event planning. I had a fall festival to plan and the night before the big event I found myself decorating an entire fellowship hall on my own. I was so out of my depth but it had to get done. I remember curling up in the dark of my office after I was done, stressed and overwhelmed, worried and tearful.
I didn’t know many people well yet in the church but became close to one co-worker and her family. I felt like I could vent my worries to them and when I did – they showed up. They helped. They prayed with me. They made it abundantly clear that they not only cared but they would do whatever it took to help me figure out this role I wasn’t equipped for. These beautiful people saved me time and time again.
Those were some of the hardest, most wonderful years of my life. God constantly stretched me and showed me my weaknesses. He also showed me what needless burdens I often bore when I tried to carry a load myself that others would willingly carry with me.
How often I treat God the same way! How often do I make my yoke so much heavier than it needs to be? I think I need to have it all together, believe I need to carry my worries myself. God tells us the exact opposite is true:
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4.6-7
That worried, harried heart I so often have? It is not necessary.
He can give me a quiet heart, full of peace that only He can give if only I would bring my prayers to Him instead feeling like I am some hero carrying the weight alone.
That beautiful little church on the Gulf Coast that I got to be a part of for a time taught me the joy of sharing burdens with others. They also taught me my first hymns, having come from a contemporary background. There is one we sang often that I need to sing over my life these days a little more regularly. As I carry weights Christ never intended, I need to remember these words…
What a Friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.
(Joseph Scriven, 1855)
I have loved writing every day this month. I have tried to come to the Word with fresh eyes every day, asking God to speak to me and writing from the overflow of what He is doing in my own heart.
I needed to prepare some posts ahead of time and walk away from the computer this weekend though to spend time with my family and to practice this quiet heart thing for myself.
Here I have been coming before God with the Word and a journal, and God has been speaking. But I found the time away from that this weekend to be the moment when He has spoken the most clearly to me.
It’s amazing to me how He will speak in the most unexpected moments when we allow our hearts to be open to hearing.
One evening was spent under the stars, camping with my daughter and her Girl Scout troop. As I watched them laugh and run through the fields near the campfire, I gave my heart space to praise God for the stars, these girls discovering life and the world around them, for friends and even for camping in a covered wagon on the coldest night of the year!
I found myself praising Him with laughter, with breath on the hair of a little one snuggling into my sleeping bag to keep warm, in the simplicity, in the moments to get away and be still.
The flawless night sky, created by the hand of a loving Father, was my church. My praise was under the light of countless stars.
The next evening my church was bright lights of an arena filled with the sound bass drums and ukuleles, thousands gathered to raise their voices.
I worshipped along with my favorite band, being led before the throne with singing and dancing and learning “the art of shindiggery.” If you don’t know what I’m talking about, check out Rend Collective (I included a video for you below). You will be glad you did. These guys know how to celebrate the living God!
Sunday morning I found myself in the same church I have been a part of off and on (between those wandering years, college and living overseas) for nearly twenty years. I listened to the same songs I have sung dozens of times before and the Pastor I have heard preach thousands of sermons.
But I watched with new eyes.
Coming off of a weekend full of worship, celebrating God in the ordinary and extraordinary of my normal life, I wept all through one of the greatest acts of worship in my life.
I watched my oldest child, sweet and genuine, just six years old, stand in front of a congregation of hundreds. A bold smile across her face, her little frame nearly disappearing into the baptismal waters, she proclaimed her love for God and her willingness to follow Him all her life. I have never thanked God so quietly and sincerely as in that moment through my quiet but body-wracking tears.
God was just showing off then when he delivered a message to my heart about – you guessed it, worship.
I smiled as I recalled the days before and the ways worship had woven it’s way through my life. “Worship is a response to a revelation of who God is and what He has done,” my Pastor said.
God had spent the past few days opening my eyes to the thousand little ways we can praise Him every day if we will quiet our hearts enough. He was showing me worship isn't just a song. Praise isn't just found in an open Bible but in an open heart. A praise band on stage doesn't lead us into worship. A heart responding to Him does.
And I thanked God for revealing Himself to me.
In the stars.
In a song.
In a child’s heart given freely to Him.
In a heart that is learning to praise Him continually.
“Though the tears may fall my song will rise to you. Though my heart will fail, my song will rise to you. While there’s breath in my lungs, I will praise you, Lord.” – Rend Collective
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