Driving along the waterfront today the brightness of the sun, the clear blue sky and the sparkling sea beckoned. It beckoned to come and sit and enjoy nature’s beauty. It beckons me to turn away from errands to pause and bask in the sun’s warmth.
It’s like that with God. There are so many moments in our days when He beckons us with His love. It’s the kind words from someone that carry with them the grace and strength from God. The warm smile that says in unspoken words, “I’m here and I understand.” It’s the acts of kindness that leave you warmed by Heaven itself. It’s the detail in a flower that reveals its Maker. And it is the voice of the Holy Spirit speaking to you as you go about your day.
It’s our invitation from God to encounter Him.
The roads were busy. Road works seemingly everywhere. Everything just felt busy. People driving to work, to appointments, to coffee, to wherever. My to do list felt as long as the traffic queued in front of me. The city was alive, on the go, and yes busy.
Yet in a central suburb is an oasis, a different world. A park, a farm. Where new lambs had been born and daffodils were tilting their faces to the sun. Where people gathered and lingered over coffee, or went for a stroll or just simply sat in the sun. In amongst the busyness it was a place of serenity, of peace. A space away from the noise and urgency of the city that lay outside its stone walls.
Life is busy. There’s always something to be done, an email to be sent, someone to call, an appointment to make, chores to be done. But in amongst this busyness we all need a stone wall behind which there is a space to rest, to recharge. That counter balance to our work where we turn aside from our agendas and pressures. That place and time of quiet retreat to recenter our soul, to refresh our spirit.
That rest. That Sabbath.
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
It all began a couple of weeks ago. Leaving my parents’ house one evening I glimpsed up and saw the beginnings of a sunset. I decided that on reaching home I’d take the opportunity to pause and watch it. Unfortunately by the time I arrived home the sunset had faded into dusk. A few days later on farewelling friends at the door I once again saw the beginnings of a sunset. All I had to do was go inside and step out onto our balcony to enjoy the view. But once inside I was distracted and missed my chance. It appears with a sunset you have to seize the moment!
During our days we have moments when an encounter with God awaits. But we need to press in then and there. They’re fleeting opportunities to turn aside and be aware of His presence in our day. It’s the song on the radio that stirs our spirit, the line in a book the speaks to our soul, it’s the prompting to listen in to what a friend is sharing, or to simply pause and exhale during our busy day. It is the inclining of our ear to the still small voice of the Holy Spirit.
For all of us, each day holds the promise of many God encounters. And like how we have to take the time to look up to see the sun’s rays paint the sky glorious hues of pink and red, our soul too needs to lean into these moments with God.
I’m yet to see my sunset. But while away on holiday, up early on a cold winter morning feeding my littlest chap, I had the opportunity to sit and savour the sunrise over a crystal sea.
Theatres, recording studios, and even home media rooms have all had a lot of time and money perfecting the acoustics. From special wall treatments to ceiling panels, and probably a host of other “things” of which I have no idea! All techniques and tools to enhance the art of listening. The aim of bringing clarity, purity to the sound being made.
I’m no sound expert or even remotely interested in the science of it, but as always it has me on a tangent. Learning to hear from God is a lifelong journey of discovery. God is constantly speaking to us in a myriad of ways. He doesn’t restrict how He speaks to us today by how He spoke to us yesterday. And as much as people spend time creating spaces with special acoustic treatments we need to create an atmosphere for listening to God in our lives. Jenn Johnson of Bethel Music said this “My life is worship; I stay connected to the Lord always. Sometimes we can all feel when the connection is not as strong, it’s ok because it’s life. Even if you have 5 seconds in your car when you are driving, turn your affection to the Lord. When you are shopping for groceries just say, “I love You so much”. Stay in your connection with Him throughout the day.”
Builders might be armed with acoustical foam, diffusers and panelling, but all we need to be armed with is a heart that is set towards God and an expectation that God is speaking to us.
Whatever you are doing in your day take time to incline your ear to God.
“It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings.” (Proverbs 25:2)
You have to love treasure hunts. Starting off with merely a clue and tracking down the treasure hidden away. Not that I’ve done many treasure hunts myself – the last probably being when I was a child, unless being lost in Rome and trying to find our hotel counts as one. Still love the thought of them though – the anticipation and then the excitement at finding the treasure.
Everyday God gives us opportunities for a treasure hunt of sorts. The opportunity to discover more of His character, more of His love and grace for us and more of His purposes for us. It all starts with a clue – a Scripture that grabs your attention, a name, a word that sends you to your concordance to find out more. Sometimes it is following up on the cross references against your daily reading and seeing where it leads.
For me today it was a place in the Bible that caused me to hunt out the meaning and a reminder from God that He is in control over my circumstances. A treasure much appreciated for the encouragement given.
“The Pause that refreshes“. A marketing slogan for Coca-Cola in the 1920’s with wisdom for us in 2015. In the busyness of our days we should apply the same. Not so much the reaching for the carbonated soft drink but the pausing – the taking time, taking moments to pause, to let our soul breathe.
Maybe, just maybe it’s as simple as pausing and listening to the birds when collecting the mail. Maybe in the rush of the morning it’s taking your littlest for a coffee for you and a gingerbread man for him before his preschool starts. Or it’s actually drinking the cup of tea that you brewed instead of allowing it to go cold as you send that important email or put on the next load of washing right then and there. Perhaps it’s allowing yourself a few moments to just sit in the sun.
Learning to pause allows space to be, to breathe. Wayne Muller in his book “Sabbath” writes about a South American Tribe that would go on a march that would last days, when all of a sudden they would stop walking, sit down and rest for a couple of days. Their explanation – “they needed the time of rest so that their souls could catch up with them.”
Has you life been marching for too long without a rest? A pause? An opportunity for refreshment? The taking of time so perhaps a soul can catch up?
“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He refreshes my soul.”
“Let us be silent, so that we may hear the whisper of God” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)
“His voice is the whisper after the noise” (Kalley Heiligenthal)
The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.”
(1 Kings 19:11-12)
For Elijah, God was not to be found in the noise – the noise of the wind, the earthquake or the fire. God was found in the gentle whisper. Elijah expected to find Him in the noise. He was on the mountain where God had appeared with thunder and lightening to give the Ten commandments to Moses. This time God was not in the noise but in the quiet. What Elijah needed most was not a dramatic display of God’s power and might but encouragement and strength through a quiet conversation with God.
After the noise of our day God is waiting to be heard. His voice is still that gentle whisper, that still small voice. Our life may be jammed packed with noisy days and noisy distractions but when we step aside from the noise to soak and rest in His presence, we will hear Him. When we quieten our soul we can create a space that lets us hear His whisper. And we find that the peace of God comes. The peace that calms our anxieties, dispels our fears and stills our busy soul. We receive encouragement and wisdom to keep going.
A whisper is an invitation to lean in, to draw near. It is intimate and private. It creates a secret space – a sacred space. In quiet awe, in private communion our weary soul finds rest and refreshment. The soul takes to heart the call of God to “be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10)
“Make time for quiet moments, as God whispers and the world is loud.” (Unknown)
It’s official, adult colouring books in and are doing a roaring trade. Colouring books are the latest phenomonem and booksellers are consistently listing them in their top 10 bestsellers. They have even hit number one on Amazon. Gone are the days when you needed to apprehend your child’s colouring book for some time out (yes that would be me!), now you can own your own. Delightful options too, from Enchanted Forest to Secret Paris, even a Chanel Couture one.
The colouring books are apparently the latest weapon against stress. Indeed take up your crayons people! Taking time to colour in is about relieving stress, inspiring creativity and relaxing. It’s downtime, relaxing time. Health trend even, promoted for colouring your way to peace. Well for everyone that is except me! I must confess I leapt at the opportunity to have a grown up colouring book. I delighted in my newly acquired tools of the trade (aka colouring pencils). I enjoyed sitting colouring in with nothing more pressing to decide than which shade of green to use or which page to choose next.
But then somehow along the way, I lost that joy, that calm. I put pressure on myself to achieve, to complete! I’d finish work for the day, look at my watch and decide yes just enough time to get this page finished. Deadlines in my head started appearing and colouring was no longer relaxing but something to be included on my to-do list. I felt the need to make progress.
We can do the same with our walk with God. What is meant for our enjoyment and pleasure – reading the Bible, worship, prayer – we can sometimes reduce down to something to be ticked off our to-do list. We forget that the purpose, the intent of it in the first place is for relationship with God, something that we can enjoy. Spending time with someone who loves us. Instead we can find ourselves frustrated or demotivated when we get behind on our reading plans. It’s not about perfection or achievement in reading plans completed it is about relationship with the one who created us and loved us first.
Meanwhile, I’m taking a chill pill with the colouring in and remembering that this was meant for fun and enjoyment. I’m remembering too it doesn’t need to be perfect.
“And the heart must pause to breathe” (Lord Bryon)
In our fast paced and busy days we need to carve out time. Time to let our heart, our soul breathe. Time when we intentionally slow down – when we take ourselves away from our to-do lists, our phone notifications and the chatter of life. Quietness creates a space where our hearts can pause, can breathe, can be. The stillness creates space for God to speak to us. When we take the time to step aside from our busyness, our agendas, we find refreshment in God. We find rest. We are recharged and refuelled to go again. It is what sustains us. We don’t have to perform, strive or pretend. In the presence of the God who created us, who knew us before we were born, who knows our past, our future and our present, we can just be.
It’s the sitting in the sun in a comfy chair, the walk along the water’s edge. It’s the mountain top or the park bench. It’s the corner nook of a favourite café. Wherever it is, it is the pausing of the heart. It’s the waiting on God and the receiving of His grace.
“Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense His grace.” (Matthew 6:6 MSG)
“You’re my place of quiet retreat; I wait for your Word to renew me.” (Psalm 119:114)
The heart pauses. The heart gives a sigh of relief. The heart breathes.
Apparently in French you don’t say “I miss you.” You say “tu me manques” which means “you are missing from me.” I love that. It has so much more depth than just “I miss you.” It suggests that you aren’t complete without the other person. That they are of real significance to you and their absence has an impact on your life.
It makes me think that my 4 year old may have a little French in him. Earlier this year I went on a week long business trip to the States (that’s a long time for a little 4 year old). Ever since then interchangeably with him saying “I love you” he started saying and still often says “I missed you in America”. To him it’s one and the same. When he says I missed you, he is saying I love you.
St Augustine wrote at the start of his confessions, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.” For me it is a perfect translation of sorts of “tu me manques.’ We are restless when God is missing from our lives. We have a God shaped hole that we seek to fill. It is a yearning that is infinite and unable to be quenched through worldly means. Peace comes, rest comes, completeness comes when we find God.
“My soul is yearning for you, my God” (Psalm 42:1)
“O God, you are my God, for you I long” (Psalm 63:1)