Losing Your Cool

Sometimes people just get on my last nerve. Sometimes I’m too tired to react in ways that really accomplish what I’m after. Sometimes I lose my cool. It’s gotten even more difficult as the hormones of menopause have done their magic.  I also coach a lot of people who have trouble keeping their emotions in check. It seems with the chaotic and unpredictable nature of our world today, we are all finding ourselves a little frayed around the edges. It doesn’t help that much of the public discourse around us is dominated by gripping, complaining, and arguing.

grace.jpgSo what does God say about all of this? Well, we know that Jesus got angry and lost his cool at least a couple of times.  It’s one of the clearest signs that He truly was fully human. We also know that God gets angry – just read the Old Testament. What was behind their anger? In all cases, it was offenses against the Creator of the Universe. How often can I say that this is the source of my frustration and anger? Not very often. Most of the times I get angry it’s because my needs, my interests, my plans, my, my, my (whatever IT is)…. are not getting enough attention.

God calls us to examine our motivations especially when we are agitated, but that is soooo hard. It’s so hard to pull back, ask God to calm our hearts, and then allow Him to show us the source of our emotion. We don’t want to see it, we want what we want, NOW.

What comes out when we act quickly, from emotion, is what is truly in our heart. Jesus tells the disciples in John 6:45 “A good person brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil person brings evil things out of the evil stored up in their heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” This is why not losing your cool is not just about self discipline, but about relationship – our relationship with God. If we don’t build that relationship every day, how can we expect to have the fruits of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) – love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control – that allow us to show others grace. These are the characteristics of a “good person.”

Oswald Chambers writes in “My Utmost for His Highest” (September 20); “The secret of a Christian is that the supernatural is made natural in him by the grace of God, and the experience of this works out in the practical details of life, not in times of communion with God.  When we come in contact with things that create a buzz, we find to our amazement that we have power to keep wonderfully poised in the centre of it all.” This poise comes from relationship and produces in us an ability to step back, examine our motivations, curb our natural emotional tendencies, and act in ways that do not avoid the issues at hand, but deal with them in a grace-filled and kingdom building way.

Is your life built on a strong enough foundational relationship with God that you are demonstrating the character traits of the “good person” you desire to be?  I know I have work to do. Time with Him, in stillness, is the cornerstone of the foundation.

God fosters wholeness and healing in guest during Spring Retreat

Feelings of refreshment and freedom washed over Diane Herrick during this year’s Seeking Stillness Ministries spring retreat on April 7-9. With the theme “Create in Me a Clean Heart, O God,” 20 guests reflected on topics of humbleness, generosity and love at Our Lady of the Pines Retreat Center in Fremont, Ohio.

diane herrick
Spring 2017 Retreat guest Diana Herrick.

“What we were focusing on was very freeing,” Herrick said.

Seeking Stillness Retreats, led by Executive Director Debra Griest, encourage women to pull back from daily life and hear from the Lord in a nurturing and safe environment. The reflection guides, atmosphere and schedule helped Herrick have intentional time with the Lord throughout the weekend.

“While you are there, it’s always about finding the Lord in the moment where you are,” Herrick said. “You could go at any place in life. He just meets you there. He always meets you there.”

With diverse groups of retreat guests, Griest creates the material for women of all ages and backgrounds.

“I only hear positive feedback on how Deb reaches each person,” Herrick said. “I think that takes someone special.”

The retreat came at a time when Herrick began feeling better after a year of illness. She experienced numbness and paralysis on her right side after a surgery. When massages were offered during the retreat, she took the opportunity and the Lord met her powerfully.

“During my massage, I started to feel in my right arm,” Herrick said. “Throughout the weekend, I continually felt Him – that He is right there while I am healing. He was encouraging me that it is OK to depend on Him for healing.”

Herrick said it brought her immense comfort and validation to know, on a heart level, that God was by her side healing her.

“I could go away whole and whole in Him,” Herrick said. “Maybe not perfectly healed and maybe not exactly how I was, but to Him I was healing and I was whole and I was His.”

Herrick feels more whole and ready to continue healing, but still faces chronic pain and numbness. Yet, her faith is not tied to her health.

“This is all that I am. All that I am is in Him. I am His,” she said. “That’s all I need to be. I am not going to be the person I was before surgery.”

The spring retreat also helped her find contentment in being a different person spiritually post-surgery. She is on long-term disability and appreciates the support she receives.

“It’s about my soul,” Herrick said. “I have learned to receive because I wasn’t able to do everything on my own. I am going to walk away telling His story and being His child.”

Since Seeking Stillness formed in 2010, Herrick has attended almost every fall, spring and recently offered summer one-day retreats. She also actively prays for the ministry and Board of Directors.

Overall, she describes the retreats as peaceful and prayerful.

“I always come away feeling as though I am in a new place with the Lord, and that we have had valuable and intentional time together,” Herrick said.

She appreciates that Seeking Stillness Retreats have a loose schedule, but no pressure to attend every session.

 “You are sent way with instructions, but you don’t have to go back,” Herrick said. “You can stay right where you are when you are in the presence of the Lord. It makes it really special.”

The design of Seeking Stillness Retreats makes them a true withdrawal from the busyness of daily life.

“So often women – when they go on retreats – they think of them as stressful, but they are not that at all. It’s a very peaceful time with the Lord.”

Herrick connects Seeking Stillness Retreats with her growth.

“I look forward to each retreat,” she said. “It always singles out something I need.”

The retreats have cultivated confidence in Herrick to share her testimony and knowledge. She attends Friends Church Willoughby Hills, and will share about her journey of healing at the upcoming women’s retreat.

“So often people leave what they learned there,” she said. “I came away in a confident place with Him. I am ready to go and speak in front of others. I hope that they take away something from what I have to say.”

Prayer as a Lifestyle

” Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

In this hectic and confusing world, what does it look like to fulfill this charge that Paul left with the Thessalonians?  Often when I talk with people about prayer and the role it plays in their life, they respond “I just don’t seem to get around to having quiet time with the Lord.”  One non-profit ministry leader told me last week that he doesn’t really pray anymore, he leaves that up to the other people involved in his ministry.  Many people tell me they feel guilty that they don’t pray very often.

I’ve come to realize that while people say these things and feel they are not praying, they are often talking with God all the time.  This is life-style prayer.   Often our definition of prayer is too narrow and associated with the idea that we each need to spend dedicated time with God each day.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for dedicated “quiet time” with the Lord and I do feel it is soooo calming and instructive to spend this time.  However, let’s face it, it’s not always possible.

Rejoicing, praying, and giving thanks can happen anytime.   I talk with God all day long.  Yesterday I saw a kid on a bike narrowly miss getting hit by a car.  I audibly said “Thank You Jesus!” as I drove away.  People often ask me to pray for them and I am committed to do so, but this doesn’t always take the form of me sitting in my prayer chair with a candle lit.  God is everywhere and hears us from anywhere.  He’s told us he doesn’t expect long, windy prayers.  What he expects is sincere concern and care for others.

It’s easy to talk with God spontaneously when things are going well.  Remembering to give thanks in the midst of challenging circumstances is another thing.  Often God wants us to look beyond the present situation and allow him to show us, in the moment or over time, the “silver lining” purposes which he has put in our suffering.

Paul was a busy guy and so were the people of Thessalonica.  I am sure they talked with God throughout their days.  I am also sure that they did take time out once and a while – as often as they could – to sit and LISTEN to the Lord.

What Do I Want?

What Do I Want?

Deb Griest

Somewhere in my reading this week – of course I can’t find it now – I came across a question that stopped me in my tracks:

“At the end of the coming year, how would you like your relationship with God to be different?”

As much time as I spend thinking about, reading about, writing about, and talking about the relationship God wants with us, I’m not sure I’ve ever really thought about the nature of the relationship I want with God.  Sure, I want to be closer to God, but what do I hope that might be like?  Sure I want to sense God’s presence and power in my life, but how would that be reflected in the quality of our relationship?

Often I think we tend to view God as very distant and unapproachable.  After all, He does sit on a throne, so how can I expect to have a really close relationship with Him?  He is reallllllly busy.  Although my head knows that God wants to have an intimate relationship with me, do I really expect and ask for that?  I don’t think I have ever explicitly prayed to God or talked with Him about our relationship.  I’ve talked with Him about all kinds of other things and just assumed that our relationship would grow naturally.  I think we often do that in human relationships as well.

In Matthew 7:7-8 Jesus tells the disciples: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.   For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.  James 4:2 says “You do not have, because you do not ask.

As I’ve reflected on the question above, I’ve begun to sketch out the type of relationship I really want with God.  To get there, I sense I need to make some commitments to God, but first and foremost I need to take my desires to Him in prayer.  I need to get a sense from Him about where our relationship currently stands, in His mind.  I know He’ll help me define what I need to be doing to be more open to the relationship I want with Him, He’ll open my heart in ways I can’t, and He’ll be more than glad to walk through the door I’m knocking on and give me the desires of my heart – in His time.

I encourage you to spend time with this challenging question as you move into 2017.  Is there any more important New Year’s resolution than committing to talk with God about your relationship?  My prayer is that at the end of this year, our relationships with God will be surprisingly different, amazingly more powerful, and steeped in an even deeper sense of love, grace, and gratitude.

Please remember that we are welcome to blog submissions from you.  If God is prompting you to respond to this blog or share something else with our community of faith, please send your submission to Liz at lmcarthur@seekingstillness.org.

The Power of Story

The Power of Story

Deb Griest

“Story telling moves us into the place where we trust what we know, even if it can’t be measured, packaged, or validated empirically

Annette Simmons
The Story Factor

 The theme of the Fall Seeking Stillness retreat was “Light in the Midst of Darkness.”  Throughout the weekend participants were encouraged to reflect on and talk with God about times in their lives when God had broken into darkness and brought them hope.  It wasn’t an easy weekend, because we were called to remember times in our lives that were painful, disappointing, and very difficult.  However, as we looked back, many of us could see how God was present in these times and how He also used these dark experiences for good, in the long run.

In the last activity of the weekend, we reflected on these questions:

  • Think about how you talk with others about darkness you have or are experiencing.
  • How might the way you tell this story impact the way you experience transformation from it?
  • How might God have used or be using your darkness story (or stories) for his glory?
  • With whom might God be calling you to share your story?

I think it’s fair to say that all of us were amazed at how powerful the process of remembering and telling our stories was as the retreat drew to a close.  We sensed God’s powerful movement in our hearts and in our midst.

What is it about telling our story that makes it so impactful?  William Barry writes, in a book entitled Letting God Come Close, “sometimes we need to be asked about experiences before we can recognize how important they are to us.”  He considers times in our lives when we sense God’s presence with us as touchstones – experiences we can revisit in our minds at times when our sense of God is not so strong and our hope might be waning.  He goes on to say that “remembering and telling someone about our profound experiences of closeness to the Lord can be a royal road to ever-deepening intimacy (both with God and with the other person).”

I had a clear example of what Barry is talking about this past weekend.  I was driving with a women I’ve known for several years.  We consider each other friends, but haven’t really shared our lives at a deep level.  In the course of our journey, she began to tell me about a VERY difficult time in her life as an African refugee.  We’re talking life and death situations over multiple years.  Throughout the story, however, she often stopped to tell me how God had provided for her.  She said she tells the story to remind herself that He is always with her, even when she doesn’t see Him.  She said it’s only in retelling the story that she has come to appreciate how He was protecting her life.  At the end of the story, we gave glory to God together, feeling both closer to Him, and closer to each other.

I’m convinced that God uses not only our stories, but the way we tell our stories to impact us deeply.  He especially uses our stories of how we’ve experience Him in darkness when we tell them to ourselves and others.  Not only do these stories give those who hear them a sense of God’s power and a degree of hope in their own circumstances, but they create in us a deep sense of God’s love and provision.  The more we tell our stories in a way that gives God the glory, the more our hearts are strengthened in trust and reliance on Him.

Sometimes we don’t want to remember the difficult times in our lives.  Often, we’re embarrassed to talk about them with others.  When we plow through life as if everything is fine or when we lock our memories away, never to be revisited, we miss gifts God wants to give us and to the world.

I encourage you to think about the reflection questions listed above and to take time to share the results of the reflections with at least one other person.  I would love to hear how God impacts you through this process.   Write to me (debgriest@seekingstillness.com) or send me a blog that we can post so others are encouraged.

Blessings on your Christmas Season;

Deb Griest

Coincidence?

There Are No Coincidences, Only God At Work

When you have your antennae up, looking for God at work, guess what?  You see God at work.  At the recent Seeking Stillness retreat weekend God was at work in mighty ways.  There were many situations in which people heard things described or discussed that had already been on their minds.  In one morning devotional we focused on a story from scripture that one of the participants had read the night before – she said she had never heard it before in her life.  God obviously wanted her to pay attention to it.  In another moment, a women shared a sense of how God was stretching her and the woman next to her began crying.  This second woman had received the same message during the weekend.  The group was amazed at all these “coincidences” and we all knew that it was evidence of God at work.

I’ve concluded that the world’s idea of random coincidence is Satan’s way of diminishing our attention on God.  There are no random coincidences.  When I run into someone in the grocery who has been on my mind, that is a God-appointed meeting.  I need to ask, “What does God want from me here?”  When the same person or resources are recommended to me by multiple people, I need to pay attention.  When I’m reconnected with someone with whom I have lost contact in the most roundabout way, there must be a reason.  When I read a devotional or even read a newspaper article and the message fits perfectly with what is going on in my life that day, God is speaking.

People tell me all the time that they’re not sure God is real or if they believe in Him, that they have a hard time seeing evidence of His active participation in their lives.  The next time you experience what the world would call a “coincidence,” take some time to stop and ask God what He’s up to.  Praise Him for showing you His handiwork, and ask Him to reveal His intentions.  Keep your antennae up and you will see God all around you.  He never sleeps or slumbers (Psalm 121:4).

Pilgrimage

There’s a small 1.5 x 3.5 mile island off the western coast of Scotland called Iona.  After the fall of the Roman Empire, during which Scots were Christians, the country reverted to paganism.  In 587 an Irish priest named Columba landed on Iona with the mission of spreading the gospel and re-energizing the Christian faith of the Scottish people.  He found on Iona a special place, filled with God’s presence.  The Celtic heritage of the place – focused on the wonder of God’s creation, the presence of God in everything, and the joy of people living in community – provided a great backdrop for Columba’s ministry.

Last month I had the opportunity to travel – as a pilgrim – to the Isle of Iona.  Pilgrimage is not a common devotional practice for Christians.  We hear more about Jews having a life goal of celebrating Passover in Jerusalem, or Muslims’ desire to go to Mecca for the annual pilgrimage, known as Hajj.  Often Christians have “The Holy Land (Israel)” on their “bucket list,” but when we go, it’s often as tourists.

Through my Iona experience I learned that pilgrimage is different than tourism.  Traveling as a pilgrim involves intentional spiritual practice – prayer before, during, and after.  Pilgrimage is rooted in a desire to experience God more powerfully and to spend time in His presence.  Pilgrimage is less about the destination – there is nothing magical about Iona – and more about the process.  By stepping out of your comfort zone, traveling to a part of the world with which you are not familiar, and trusting that God will provide, all contributes to the experience.

I’ve traveled a lot over the years – for work and pleasure.  This was the first time I was a pilgrim.  I went on this adventure with a group, but much of the time I was by myself.  I started praying and journaling back in January.  My days on Iona were spent walking through pastures where sheep and cows grazed, praying in front of stone crosses where faithful Christians have stood for centuries, watching the fog blow in over the island and then dissipate in an instant, and sitting on the beach as the glorious sun set over the horizon.  Pilgrimage is about taking the time to notice God in action every minute of every day.

Pilgrimage is the gift that continues to give.  Since returning, people have asked me what I got from going to Iona.  I don’t have an answer for that question except to say that I know I am different than before I left.  I’m not sure I will ever be able to point to a specific decision I made, messages I heard from God, or changes in my perspective.  But, I know that I am different because I had this experience.

We don’t have to travel to Scotland or any other place considered “spiritual” (many Christians are going to the Camino de Santiago, Ephesus, Assisi, Jerusalem, mission trips…. ) to be on pilgrimage.  Anytime we leave the comfort of our homes, God has an opportunity to move in our hearts in a special way if we approach the journey with the right mindset.  I’m looking forward to viewing more of my business and leisure trips as opportunities for pilgrimage.

Where are you traveling next and what might God have for you in the journey?  Think about what you might do to prepare yourself, how you might spend the time so that you are open to God’s presence, and how you might return home in a way that makes room for God to continue speaking into your experience.

If you’re interested in finding out more about pilgrimage as a spiritual practice, I would recommend “The Art of Pilgrimage” by Phil Cousineau.  You can check out images from the Isle of Iona at http://welcometoiona.com.

A Stilling Season

By Helen Spigner

Why A Stilling Season? Life, for the most part, has been about drifting in and out of seasons, month after month, year after year. Moving through the motions with little to no time for reflection. How am I doing? Where is God in all of this? Am I controlling my circumstances? I find myself standing at life’s doorway.  Is this door fully open, cracked? Or does it seem to close more than it opens, giving me reason for pause, stillness, discernment.

My life… a complete blur, a tornado, a whirlwind, a chaotic, disorganized, seemingly organized mess! Yep, that was me…that is, until I came across life’s detour, cancer. My particular cancer had it’s share of curveballs, unexpected surprises that made me wonder…well, what is the prognosis? Uncertain was all I got. Not fatal, not stage 4 but results from a genetic test of my particular tumor placed me at an extremely high risk of recurrence. Some hard core chemo, multiple surgeries, post cancer meds, yearly exams and prayer equals new perspective on life. God met me in the uncertain moments. He whispered, “Helen, I just need you to be still and get to know ME. For I know the plans I have for you, declared the Lord….” That inner voice was the pause button I needed. Though I may oftentimes coast through the seasons of the year;  somehow, someway there is that hidden inner whisper that calls me to A Stilling Season. I have come to actually “feel” the nudge. I can almost sense his gentle hand pulling at my shirt as I begin to step back on the gerbil wheel of life. He gently leads me back to my quiet, reflective place. “Now, I just need you to sit for awhile.” Through this Inner Guidance, I am better equipped to live my life with intention, to recognize the detours, to stand at the cracked door and wait. I have come to understand the immense importance of taking time for prayer, discernment, moments to pause and reflect. Pre-cancer, I NEVER paused long enough to check in on myself. What am I doing? Does this feel right? Are my kids okay? Am I really being present for them? How is my marriage? Am I doing my part? How am I really doing? Hmmmm…. where is it I need to cut back? Is my “doing” outweighing  my “be-ing”? From what I believe to be God-imposed questions to me, this Inner Voice continues to whisper… “Now, you do remember part two of my mission for you; teaching others to discover their own “stilling season”. There is a time and season for everyone and I am calling every single child of mine to a stilling season, a time of rest and refuge, healing and hope.” (my paraphrased Heart Whisper) “Do people not know by now that they must be still to know that I am God in their life? It’s up to you to show them.” My response? “Well, in this crazy world, this isn’t an easy feat! No one wants to be still. There is too much to do, too many daily tasks to accomplish, and 24 hours just isn’t enough time to cram it all in!” Like Moses… resistance, arguing, “Are you kidding me? No one is going to listen to me. I am just an ordinary girl with breast cancer. Who cares what I have to say?” Ten years later He continues to challenge me to share His great message of our crucial need for stillness… as needed as food, clothing and shelter.” It’s time everyone embraces My Season of Stillness, created by Me for My purposes to be fulfilled. Without true, intentional, unforced stillness, very few will ever come to understand the abundant love and grace that I so freely offer.” God has provided me an ongoing image that has become deeply ingrained within me. When the memory or image begins to fade, He adjusts my focus. He will not allow me to slip away. He reminds me of his mission. He reminds me of what it felt like to enter into a new dimension of life, one of abundance and delight; a vibrant, life-giving dimension. I am forever grateful for this Divine imagery. Encountering this Stilling Season, there seems only way  to articulate the imagery that comes to mind and I share it through a video clip from one of  the breathtaking scene’s in C.S. Lewis’, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Stepping into the wardrobe, Lucy stumbles into the path of a new land, a new season in fact. She is in awe of its mystery. She expresses joy that is real. In that scene, similar to my own Divine experience in the woods, Lucy looks up among the trees and becomes awakened to this new creation. For her it seems nothing more than experiencing a  “new season”. Truly, it is the doorway of which God invites us in.  A Stilling Season is to be  space in which one is invited to take risk and enter in; a new season with arms wide open to embrace space that is more simple in nature, an escape from the busyness and chaos of the world. Just know…there are no rules here, no agenda, no judgment, just an offering of stillness; space that is not of this world; a place to just show up and rest  for awhile…prayerfully a moment where you are able to “experience” the Mystery of God.

“Be still before the Lord and wait for him.”  ~Psalm 37:7

Unsettled by Uncertainty

Deb Griest

I like to make plans and then follow those plans.  I like certainty.  I don’t like surprises, and I don’t like to make decisions when I’m not pretty certain about all the implications.  Does this sound familiar?  I think most of us are uncomfortable taking “leaps of faith.”  Our culture is full of words and phrases that signify our desire for certainty – we talk about “predictability”, “doing your due diligence,” “making sure there will be a return on investment,” “minimizing risk,” “using your head,”….

Most of us are unsettled by uncertainty and we can get overwhelmed with the emotion (often fear) that comes up when we aren’t sure about what to do or what will happen in a given situation.

What clues does the Bible give us about how to face uncertainty?  I think the Bible tells us to:

Slow down

In many situations slowing down seems irrational.  For some of us, the anxiety associated with not having closure leads us into making decisions too quickly and then closing ourselves off from other options.  Psalm 27:14 says, “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”  A mentor of mine used to encourage me to “sleep on it” when I had a big decision to make or when I was trying to sort out a difficult situation.  Slowing down allows God to bring ideas, options, and perspectives to mind that we might otherwise overlook.  Waiting allows for situations to develop and for new information to come to light.

I often sense that the pressure we put on ourselves to make a decision or take action, in the face of uncertainty, is more about control than about the ACTUAL urgency of the situation.  Rarely do the dire things we predict actually happen if we chose not to make a decision immediately.  Let’s be honest, we want to take control.  I want to take control and not leave events to chance.  Where is God in all of this busy-ness and pressure we put on ourselves?

Ask and Listen

 Ephesians 5: 8-10 says “for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.”

Discernment is the fancy word Christians use to describe the process of asking God’s guidance and then “listening” for a response.  The darkness referred to in Ephesians is the unsettling uncertainly of this world – often brought on by evil.  As children of the “light”, God wants us to have a different posture than the culture.  He wants us to seek His desires in the tough situations we face.

Are we willing to turn to God in the face of uncertainty and surrender the control that we believe might help us achieve the outcomes we want?  I think many times we don’t turn to God because we’re afraid that his guidance won’t align with our desires and plans.  Many times, we’re right to be concerned.  My experiences suggest that often God asks me to do things, say things, and respond to situations in ways that the culture thinks are foolish.  Think about it:  How many missionaries would we have if people really did the math and considered the risks of following God’s will?  How many people would follow the Biblical mandate to tithe if not for God’s prompting?  Often God does ask us to do things that don’t seem to “make sense” by the world’s standards.

The good news is that God also promises to equip us AND to give us peace when we do actively discern and follow His will.

Trust, Act, and Adjust

 Finally, we often do have to act in the face of uncertainty.  I wish I could say that God speaks so clearly that when it is time to act, we are always certain we know His will and we are assured that we are taking no risks.  In my experience and the experience of others with whom I’ve walked the path of faith, that’s not likely.  God can give us the peace to move forward with a decision when we have taken the time to allow Him to move in our hearts.  We can always trust that He will not ask us to do something that is inconsistent with His teachings.  Maybe He is simply waiting for us to trust him enough to take action, before he begins to refine our thinking and bring resources to our aid.

The classic trust scripture in the Bible is Proverbs 3:5-6:  “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”

What does this “make your paths straight” mean.  I believe it means that when we move out, trusting God, that even when things go in ways we don’t expect, He will straighten them out.  If we never move, if we never take a risk, if we never relinquish control, how can He give us the gift of taking care of us?  Most of the time when we face uncertainty, we have to do the best we can to sense God’s will, then we need to step out, allowing Him to guide and help us make adjustments along the way.  We have to be open and trusting enough that we allow the situation to evolve in the way God intends.

Now this all sounds neat and tidy.  Three things we should do when facing uncertainty – 1) slow down, 2) ask for God’s guidance and listen for His will, and 3) then trust, act, and adjust along the way.  For those who have faced uncertainly and tried to enact these steps, you know that they are very difficult.  I believe, however, that they are at the center of a true Christian experience.  This process is what makes (or should make) Christians’ response to the craziness of this world so different from those of others.  It takes a lifetime for God to perfect this process in us and for us to develop the trust in Him that is His heart’s desire.

God is with us in unsettling uncertainty.  The question is, “Are we with God?”  When the answer is “Yes”, we have the opportunity to not only be unburdened from anxiety, but we also may find that we get some spectacular, unexpected surprises!

The Heart of Prayer

I admit, I’m taking the easy way out in writing this blog because the bulk of it comes from my Lenten devotional called Show Me The Way, by Henri Nouwen.  I was so struck by yesterday’s reading that I wanted to share it with all of you.

Henri Nouwen, priest, professor, author, and spiritual director writes:

“For many of us prayer means nothing more than speaking with God.  And since it usually seems to be a quite one-sided affair, prayer simply means talking to God.  This idea is enough to create great frustrations.  If I present a problem, I expect a solution; if I formulate a question, I expect and answer; if I ask for guidance, I expect a response.  And when it seems, increasingly, that I am talking into the dark, it is not so strange that I soon begin to suspect that my dialogue with God is in fact a monologue.  Then I may begin to ask myself: to whom am I really speaking, God or myself…?

The crisis of our prayer life is that our mind may be filled with ideas of God while our heart remains far from him.

Listen to your heart.  It’s there that Jesus speaks most intimately to you.  Praying is first and foremost listening to Jesus, who dwells in the very depths of your heart.  He doesn’t shout.  He doesn’t thrust himself upon you.  His voice is an unassuming voice, very nearly a whisper, the voice of a gentle love.  Whatever you do with your life, go on listening to the voice of Jesus in your heart.  This listening must be an active and very attentive listening, for in our restless and noisy world God’s so loving voice is easily drowned out.  You need to set aside some time every day for this active listening to God if only for ten minutes.  Ten Minutes each day for Jesus alone can bring about a radical change in your life.

You’ll find that is isn’t easy to be still for ten minutes at a time.  You’ll discover straightaway that many other voices, voices that are very noisy and distracting, voices that do not come from God, demand your attention.  But if you stick to your daily prayer time, then slowly, but surely you’ll come to hear the gentle voice of love and will long more and more to listen to it.

Deep silence leads us to suspect that, in the first place, prayer is acceptance.  People who pray stand with their hands open to the world.  They know that God will show himself in the nature that surrounds them, in the people they meet, in the situations they run into. They trust that the world holds God’s secret within it, and they expect that secret to be shown to them.  Prayer creates that openness where God can give himself to us.  Indeed, God wants to give himself; he wants to surrender himself to the person he has created; God even begs to be admitted into the human heart.”

These thoughts from Nouwen are so simple and common sense, but so important to remember.  The statement “The crisis of our prayer life is that our mind may be filled with ideas of God while our heart remains far from him”  hit me between the eyes.  Nouwen really holds us accountable for silencing the voice we want to raise to God, and focusing our heart AND our head on listening to Him, even if we feel nothing is happening.  In the silence, God molds us into His image.

I pray that you are seeking and finding God in new and impactful ways through this Lent season.

Deb Griest