Laughter

One of my goals on a recent spiritual retreat was to laugh. While at first glance that might not sound like much of a spiritual goal for a spiritual retreat, I want to assure you it was.

As an enneagram eight, I need to play, I need to laugh, I need to enjoy. As an enneagram eight, that play, laughter, and enjoyment don’t always happen spontaneously. The toy box warns, “Some assembly required.” The eight should come with a similar warning pertaining to play, “Some cultivation required.”

So I left for my retreat ready to cultivate some play time, some laughter. My laughter cultivation had one simple tool: Netflix.

My retreat was a complete success in that I laughed until my sides hurt. I watched one episode of a show I had never before seen, the episode of Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee that featured Jim Carrey.

Laughter is good medicine. It’s about time for me to pull out the Netflix machine and watch another episode.

Sitting with God

Nothing gets the day started like sitting with God.

Just sitting.

Some days as my sitting comes to a close I feel eager to begin the activities of the day.

Other days I don’t want my sit to end, I just wish I could continue this special communion a little longer.

Today I want to keep sitting with God, but my heart is full and I know I’m ready for the day, come what may.

As my sit ends, I am already looking forward to this special time tomorrow.

Sitting with God.

Just sitting.

Into the Quiet

The phone is off.
The television is off.
The computer is off.
The music player is off.
The car is off.

Sure, in a way it is quiet,
but still, this is not the quiet
I am searching for.

My mind is racing —
thoughts are clanging around
cares are distracting
to-do list leftovers are screaming.

How do I find the quiet?
Is there a switch?
Can I turn off all the distractions?
Is there a door?
Can I just walk away from the noise
and into the quiet?

God, take me into the quiet.
Take me into Your peace.
Please, God, let’s go together,
walk with me into the quiet.

To Sing or Not To Sing

I still remember visiting a church in the mid 1980’s. What stands out in my memory is what I saw in their songbooks. As I flipped through the pages I saw a number of songs had been stamped with a bold, red message: “Unscriptural Song: Do Not Sing.”

While I cannot remember all the songs that had been marked, I do recall “Just a Little Talk with Jesus” was one.

Since this was the first time I had ever seen anything like this and I was curious about what could possibly be considered unscriptural about this particular song, I approached a friend of mine who was a member of the church to inquire. He expressed surprise that I would even ask about that song because it was “filled with false doctrine.”  When I asked him to be specific about the doctrinal problems included in this particular song, he unloaded.

“This song encourages people to directly address Jesus.  We are supposed to talk to God the Father in the name of Jesus. Never are we commanded to talk to Jesus.”

My intention is not to debate his response; in fact, I will just leave it right there for you to consider.

But I will tell you I remembered that “Do Not Sing” stamp this morning. The memory was triggered as I found myself singing, “I want to be a worker for the Lord. I want to love and trust his Holy Word. I want to sing and pray and be busy everyday in the kingdom of the Lord.”

I am not sure why that song came to mind this morning, but it did.  As I thought about the words I was singing I remembered that red stamp and thought for a moment that maybe it wasn’t such a bad idea.

Don’t get me wrong, I am all for being a worker for the Lord;. I am in favor of singing and prayer and trusting. But I cringed at the words:  “be busy everyday.”

Busy? Everyday?

I am convinced that we have neglected God’s teaching about Sabbath and rest. I am concerned that constant “busyness” is causing untold problems in the church — even killing the relationship some have with God. Do we really want to be busy everyday? What about days or seasons of rest? Have we forgotten this is a major emphasis in scripture?

So where can I get one of those stamps?  I’m gonna climb up there and stamp that screen.

The Quiet

“The soul is like a wild animal–tough resilient, savvy, self-sufficient, and yet exceedingly shy. If we want to see a wild animal, the last thing we should do is to go crashing through the woods, shouting for the creature to come out. But if we are willing to walk quietly into the woods and sit silently for an hour or two at the base of a tree, the creature we are waiting for may well emerge, and out of the corner of an eye we will catch a glimpse of the precious wildness we seek.”
–Parker Palmer in Let Your Life Speak, pp. 7-8.

Solitude

“Take time to be separate from all friends and all duties, all cares and all joys; time to be still and quiet before God. Take time not only to secure stillness from man and the world, but from self and its energy. Let the Word and prayer be very precious; but remember, even these may hinder the quiet waiting. The activity of the mind in studying the Word, or giving expression to its thoughts in prayer, the activities of the heart, with its desires and hopes and fears, may so engage us that we do not come to the still waiting on the All-Glorious One. Though at first it may appear difficult to know how thus quietly to wait, with the activities of mind and heart for a time subdued, every effort after it will be rewarded; we shall find that it grows upon us, and the little season of silent worship will bring a peace and a rest that give blessing not only in prayer, but all the day.”
–Andrew Murray

Lord, I Have Shut The Door

Lord, I have shut the door,
Speak now the Word
Which in the din and throng
Could not be heard;
Whisper Thy will,
While I have come apart,
While all is still.

Lord, I have shut the door,
Strengthen my heart;
Yonder awaits the task–I share a part.
Only through grace bestowed
May I be true;
Here, while alone with Thee,
My strength renew.

William M. Runyan

Alone

“At once the Spirit sent him out into the desert, and he was in the desert forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him” (Mark 1:12-13).

“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” (Mark 1:35).

Alone in the desert. As we begin exploring Mark’s gospel we are caught off guard when we read that just after Jesus’ baptism, the Spirit sent him (drove him, cast him out) into the desert. Jesus was apparently alone, that is, unless you count animals and spiritual beings. Why would the Holy Spirit send Jesus out into the desert? Think of the ways this time of temptation prepared Jesus for his ministry. Consider how this time of temptation prepares us to allow Jesus to minister to us. He does understand, doesn’t he?

Alone before sunrise. Jesus gets up before sunrise and heads out to a solitary place. He prays. Hours earlier Jesus had been visited “by the whole town” who brought their sick to him. Hours later Jesus would begin a preaching tour to the nearby villages throughout Galilee. Think of the ways this time of prayer prepared Jesus for his ministry.

God prepares us to minister. Sometime we are prepared by times of trial and temptation. Other times we are prepared through times of prayer. When we are focused on God we better understand ourselves. When we understand ourselves, our identity and limitations, we minister better.

A friend recently talked to me about his fear of being alone. Most of the conversation focused on temptation. While another friend recently shared with me his practice of getting up before sunrise to spend solitary time with God. Most of the conversation focused on confession and praise. Both friends are uniquely prepared for ministry as a result of their experiences alone.

Do you fear being alone? Do you crave it? How do you use it? What can you learn from Jesus’ alone times? How can you use those solitary experiences to minister to others?

Meditation

John Main, a 20th century English monk wrote the following:
“Meditation has nothing to do with quiet reverie or passive stillness, but with wakefulness. We awaken to our nearness to God. We realize that the power of creation, the energy of creation flows in our hearts.”
from Moment of Christ by John Main