When I listen in hiddenness

“When I listen in hiddenness, God’s thoughts reveal themselves and become precious.  My hearing, trained in that hiddenness, becomes attuned to the best kind of sound: my friend.”- Sara Hagerty

“How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!  How great is the sum of them!”- Psalm 139:17 (NKJV)

Sara Hagerty concludes Chapter 13 of Unseen as she notes that God’s thoughts toward us get lost when we fail to realize what we’re truly craving.  Because we seek affirmation from a sea of human eyes.  Consequently, Ms. Hagerty expresses her desire for friendship with God:

“I want God to get the best of me.  Unfurled and reaching.  Exposed but tender.  Whether in the dark of light.  Open to Him.”

Therefore, Sara exhorts, we need to pray without ceasing.  The kind of conversation with God the apostle Paul encourages in 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18.  And if gaps in our prayer life exist, Sara observes, those gaps provide reason to pause and examine.  For Paul forged his relationship with God in adverse circumstances.  Yet, Ms. Hagerty adds, Paul prayed because he’d grown to want nothing more, not because he should (emphasis Sara’s).  The author summarizes:

“Unceasing prayer can grow to be something we do not because of discipline but because of friendship.  Desire.  It’s where we’re headed, if we’ll let Him take us there.”

However, self-coaching never creates a lasting shift.  When we wish we could just walk away from the pain, we need to live with an expectation of victory.  As you journey through the hidden spaces of your life, truly believe these hidden moments matter.

Today’s question: When you listen in hiddenness, how does your hearing become attuned to God?  Please share.

Coming Monday: the annotated bibliography of Unseen

Tomorrow’s blog: “My place at the table”

Conversations with God – tethered

“For Jesus, conversations with God began with desire, not discipline.  He stayed close to God.  Tethered.”- Sara Hagerty

“But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”- Luke 5:16 (NIV)

Today Sara Hagerty discusses thoughts three and four of ways to grow toward friendship with God (Chapter 8, Unseen).

3.  Follow Jesus’ example of being tethered to God.  Sara observes that often we approach prayer as mere discipline.  Yes, approaching prayer as  discipline provides a starting point for conversations with God.  Also, discipline functions as a tool for those in need of structure.  However, structure wasn’t Jesus’ foundation for talking with God.

Furthermore,  we can chase the work of God, in and through us, with such fury we miss countless opportunities for friendship.  For example, conversing with God on our journey.  Also, we fail to allow for stillness in order to hear God’s whispers as we work.

Yet, God remains faithful.  He continues to bring us back to friendship with Himself.  In the process, He layers our understanding of the moments behind our pursuits.

4.  Speak the Word of God.  Out loud.  When you being to speak the Word of God, Sara exhorts, your relationship to Scripture changes as well as deepens.  Hence, you realize the words of Scripture as “living Truth, loving Truth, the Truth (emphasis Sara’s).

Therefore, God’s Word nourishes our roots in God’s love as it provides life-giving food.  As Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote in Psalms: The Prayer Book of the Bible, “The richness of the Word of God ought to determine our prayer, not the poverty of our heart.”

In conclusion, Sara underscores, God’s Word contains the only Truth enabling us to see beyond the limitations -sometimes even lies – of our circumstances.  One minute at a time, we’re able to replace those limitations and lies with the spoken truth.  Sara encourages:

“Win back your day one minute at a time with the truth of God’s Word, . . . and watch what happens to your heart as His truth begins to speak louder than all the other noise of the day.”

Today’s question: Are you tethered to God through discipline or desire?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “The crazy, transforming power of adoration”

Put on the shelf for a season

“The desert may mean being put on the shelf for a season, but from your perch you will experience the reality of a living God like never before.”- Os Hillman

“He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him.”- Daniel 2:22

Os Hillman continues Chapter 10 of The Joseph Calling as he reminds us silence from God denotes a time of discipline.  In contrast, God’s silence doesn’t signal a period of His displeasure.  Thus, times of darkness destroy all self-sufficiency.  In addition, we move away from depending on our own common sense.  Mr. Hillman summarizes:

“During these times, we need to ask ourselves if we trust God or the flesh.  God allows times like these so that we will know God is real.  As soon as he becomes real to us, people and other sources of trust fade away.  Nothing that others do or say can ever take us off the path God has for us.”

Therefore, Os sees three potential benefits that arise from the cave of isolation:

  1. Isolation from life’s distractions are productive time to hear God’s voice.  The author stresses it’s up to us to initiate these times.  Os suggests meeting with God in the early morning.
  2. God initiates times of isolation to focus our undivided attention on the work He’s preparing us to do.  Thus, we may experience an unpleasant circumstance, like a job loss or marriage separation.
  3. The cave provides a place to process our pain.  Through this process, we receive a message from God for our own lives.  Furthermore, this message also benefits others.

Today’s question: Since God’s put you on the shelf for a season, how have you experienced the living God from your perch?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Turning conviction into action”

Worthless idols

“Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.”- Jonah 2:8

In Chapter 4 (“The Age of Reckoning- Symptoms of a Deeper Problem”) of Finding God in the Ruins, Matt Bays notes that one phrase from Jonah 2:8 really impacts him- could be.  Pastor Bays interprets the phrase to mean that something is expected of us.  It’s asking for our help.

Eliminating worthless idols (in Matt’s case, alcoholism) requires discipline.  Matt describes the importance of discipline:

“Not many of us love the word discipline, but it is a critical prerequisite to our journey inward.  Discipline  expects something out of us we are not always sure we have to give. . . . If you did, discipline would not be knocking on your door.  It’s there to pinpoint what you’re lacking and then find a way, whatever it takes, to get that lacking thing inside you.”

Pastor Bays observes that when the foundational who we are is wrecked and we can’t seem to shake it off so we can get to what life could be, the temptation is to resign ourselves to that broken reality.  Fear keeps us from committing to true and lasting change.  We are afraid being pushed into alignment will be difficult.

In fact, a painful breaking must occur.  And our lack of knowing how to change is not a free pass to remain the same.  Susan Howard points out that internally we always will know the truth:

“We can never entirely silence the inner voice that always tells us the truth.  We may not like the sound of the truth, . . . but when we pay attention to it, it lead us toward wisdom, health, and clarity.  That voice is the guardian of our integrity.”

Today’s question (from Matt): What is the “worthless idol” you use to avoid real life?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “A theology of no more pain”

The undisputed boss

“Be very careful, then, how you live- not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity.”- Ephesians 5:15-16

“My schedule is far less about what I want to get done and far more about who I become.”- Bill Hybels

Several years after Bill Hybels became a Christian at the age of seventeen, an older gentleman from his church began mentoring him.  One day, near the end of lunch, the gentleman asked Bill: “How would you spend your time if God were in charge of it?”  With that the older man paid for the meal and left.

The question stirred something in Bill’s heart.  Up to that point, Bill admits, he had been “the undisputed boss” of his time.  Ever since that day, however, that question continues to inspire a lifelong discipline for Bill.  Every day he asks himself: How would God have me spend my time today?

In order to stay spiritually centered, in tune with God’s whispers and able to listen to His guidance throughout the day, Pastor Hybels advises protecting those quiet, peaceful, and uninterrupted beginning hours to our day- surrendering them to God.  The author concludes that in rewriting our schedules, we’ll be making choices carrying far greater implications than we imagine:

“I’m of the opinion that the thoughtful arrangement of your daily and weekly calendar is one of the holiest endeavors you can undertake.”

Today’s question: How would you spend your time if God were in charge of it?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Your one-word commitment”

Point-blank questions

When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”- John 5:6

Mark Batterson begins Chapter 11 (“Self-Fulfilling Prophecies”) of The Grave Robber by reporting that, in November of 2004, a group of elite medical researchers met at Rockefeller University in New York City.  They ultimately determined that most of our health problems are caused by factors under our control.

Most of our major health problems, Pastor Batterson notes, could be solved by making a few minor changes.  However, a wish or a whim won’t result in lasting change.  We have to want to change.  Mark offers his working definition of want: “the sanctified desire and matching discipline to do what needs to be done, no matter how hard it is or how long it takes.”

Jesus elevated formulating the right question to an art form.  Some of Jesus’ most poignant ones are the point-blank questions.  One was the catalyst for His third miracle.  Jesus didn’t assume the invalid really wanted to get well.  Only someone who wants help truly can be helped.

Mark points out that it’s easy for us to become accustomed to our crutches.  Our situation won’t change if we keep sitting on our security blanket, choosing safety over transformation.  Yet, every blessing from God comes with the responsibility to steward that blessing.

Today’s question: Following your vocation loss, what crutches or security blankets do you need to throw away?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “The law of requisite variety”

God’s workmanship

“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”- Ephesians 2:10

In Chapter 4 (“Discerning God’s Will: Finding Purpose in the Uncertainty”) of Waiting on God, Charles Stanley states he’s found over his lengthy pastoral ministry that believers are most concerned about God’s will during times of waiting.  We desperately want to know what God is planning and whether He will answer our prayers.  We would be greatly comforted if we knew with certainty that we were waiting for something definite- that God’s answer to our fervent prayers isn’t an outright, “No!”

Dr. Stanley assures us that the Father wants us to know the path He has designed for us.  However, in order to accomplish the good things God wants us to achieve, we need to know what He has called us to be and to do.  Just like a shepherd lovingly guides a lamb that is prone to wandering, Jesus trains us to listen to His voice, protects us, and even disciplines us to keep us on the right path.

We can be exceptionally confident, Dr. Stanley asserts, that God is working all things together for our good during our delay- that everything He does to lead us is for our ultimate benefit.

Today’s question: What Scriptures have been most meaningful in helping you to discern God’s will following your vocation loss?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: the new Short Meditation, “Lost in Your beauty”

God here in this moment

John Ortberg expands on his concept of “The Soul Experiment” as he concludes Chapter 10 of Soul Keeping.  When scientists conduct an experiment, John notes, they formulate a hypothesis concerning the anticipated results.  John then presents three assumptions, or hypotheses, to put The Soul Experiment to the test.

1.  God wants to make every moment of my life glorious with his presence.  Pastor Ortberg emphasizes that this is the core of the “with God” life: “He wants to fill our souls with beauty, splendor, wonder, and magnificence.”  God wants us to focus and abide in Him.

2.  The best place to start doing life with God is in the small moments.  “Easter” moments, John acknowledges, are few and far between.  That’s why we must be intentional in looking for God in the ordinary moments of daily life.  We need to be cognizant of God’s still, small voice.

3.  People will look different when I see them with God.  Because we have to live and interact with people, they are a major part of the “with God” life.  If we see others as being with God, that changes how we respond to them.

Pastor Ortberg concludes:

“Your soul will never find rest unless it finds its home.  We find it in the simple discipline of asking ourselves, ‘Is God here in this moment?’ ”

Today’s question: Which of Pastor Ortberg’s hypotheses best addresses your current situation?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “My yoke is easy”


The disciplines of patience

Denali“The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.”- Lamentations 3:25

“Teach us, O Lord, the disciplines of patience, for to wait is often harder than to work.”- Peter Marshall

In one of Vicki’s previous work lives, she was employed as a tour director for World Wide Country Tours.  When her assigned tours coincided with vacation breaks from my teaching position at Northwest Lutheran School, I was able to accompany her.  Our most memorable trip was a two-week excursion to Alaska.  Following our arrival in Anchorage, we traveled to the town of Talkeetna (population 876).  Talkeetna is approximately 150 miles from Denali National Park.  Denali (aka Mt. McKinley) rises to a height of 20,237 feet.  All or part of the mountain is obscured by clouds and fog 80% of the time.  Yet, the evening we arrived at Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge, we were blessed to experience a clear view of Denali from the lodge’s “backyard”.

Timing is everything.  The next day at Denali National Park we were greeted by fog, wind, and rain.  Only twenty-four hours kept us from being a day late and a mountain short.  Developing the disciplines of patience while awaiting the perfect timing and implementation of God’s plan for our life requires a patient trust, as John Ortberg writes in If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat:

“But in the real issues of life, we are not just waiting around- we are waiting on God.  Therefore we can trust His wisdom and timing.  We can wait with confidence.  Because waiting reminds us that we are waiting for someone, the single most important activity in waiting is prayer.”

Patiently waiting on the Lord necessitates an inexhaustible hope.  St. Paul writes: “For this hope we are saved.  Now hope that is seen is not hope.  For who hopes for what he sees?  But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience (Romans 8;24-25).”  Edward Hoffman defines New Testament hope as waiting with patient, disciplined, and confident expectation for and of the Lord as Savior.  The prophet Isaiah promises us that as we wait for the Lord our strength will be renewed (Isaiah 40:30-31).   Old Testament scholar David Hubbard exhorts us to live Isaiah’s inspired words “one line at a time.”


Framework for daily prayer

In Chapter 15 (“Practice: Daily Prayer”) of Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God, Timothy Keller outlines his suggested framework for daily prayer, emphasizing that neither the details nor the order is written in stone.  The framework consists of evocation, meditation, Word prayer, free prayer, and contemplation.  Evocation and meditation are discussed today.

1.  Evocation.  Pastor Keller notes that while to evoke means “to bring to mind”, it also can include invocation, calling on God.  In their book Prayer: Finding Our Way, Packer and Nystrom write that prayer should be started by:

” . . . thinking over who it is that you will be addressing, what he has done to give you access to himself . . . how you stand related to him . . . [and] the truly breathtaking fact that through His Word and Spirit the Lord Jesus is building a friendship with you.”

2.  Meditation.  Taking time to meditate on some portion of the Bible is a bridge to responding to God in prayer.  Meditation, however, does not enrich our prayer life overnight- it happens over time in our growth as Christians.  While serious, in-depth interpretation is integral to our Christian growth, Pastor Keller advises allotting time for meditation as well as prayer.

Today’s question: Following your ministry downsizing or vocation loss, how difficult has it been for you to see God as your friend?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Prayer and contemplation”