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Posts Tagged ‘quiet’

But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.” – 1 Peter 3:4

Quietness is hard for me.  I like to talk.  I like to be busy.  When I long for God, I long for His action – for evidence that He is involved in my life.  That verse, “Be still and know that I am God,” is comforting, commanding, and challenging.  Stillness is also something I am not good at.

Most of the time I pray for quietness, to feel at peace.  I want that inner contentment and focus.  Lately I’ve been realizing I need to behave peacefully, to be intentional about being quiet.  And it seems too common, too human an effort, to apply this to how I talk.  But it isn’t.  I need to practice biting my tongue when I have nothing edifying to say.  To first ask myself, “Have I listened?”  Is my need to talk a need to bless and build up others, or is it something selfish and impulsive?

These are the things I was thinking about while I watched the movie, Avatar.  Reflecting the vulgar culture common to the military and Hollywood, the film employs cussing.  Such words are, in context, meaningless grunts of emotional expression.  Because they are cuss words, they also indicate that the speaker is at a state of minimal restraint and no respect for his audience.  He is speaking because he feels he must, not because he wishes his hearers to understand.

Even when the vocabulary itself is not profane, the dialogue is not very deep.  Often I got the impression that the main character, Jake, was jabbering because he was used to talking, not because he had something to say.  He would speak in English when no one around could understand.  The natives, aliens to us, were always making noise: hissing at enemies, crying out with enthusiasm for war, ululating for unexplained reasons, chanting repetitive hums at religious ceremonies.  I wondered why the moviemakers would put such scenes in the script.  Partly I believe they were imitating cultures that are foreign to Americans as a mere device to convince us the tribe was “primitive” and unfamiliar.  On the other hand, maybe the writers and director function in that way themselves, and see nothing unusual about a noisy movie that says nothing.

Indeed the movie itself spent over two and a half hours showing off imaginative landscapes, fanciful machines, and big fires.  There was a story, but I didn’t find it captivating and this is why: I don’t think they were saying much of anything.  Imitating storylines that worked in other movies, Avatar was an unconvincing performance of people learning to live by impulses, to fulfill themselves as told by their bodies, not by any transcendent principles.  They spoke, acted, felt, and thought because they wanted to – which if any of those things had been possible without purpose, would not be profane.  But each of those things does have value and direction, given by the Creator.  Even in a myth, where storytellers are not describing the true world and its true God, they must bow to this truth or be found profane before the Creator they are imitating.

And I must either speak as the oracles of God or, as Job, place my hand over my mouth.  God is the original.  If I do not reflect Him well, I am an abomination, an insult to the sacredness He has placed on words, on thought, on feeling, and on work.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Whether I thought I needed it or not, the topic has continually reappeared in my life the past few months.  This summer the theme was supernaturally empowered change – the change directed by spending time with God, devoted to prayer, majoring my life on the word of God.  And now, with less change than I expected – or felt called to do, maybe God is wooing me away from my distraction and hitting this change from the other direction.  “Spend time with Me,” He says. 

 

I love my life.  Most days are wonderful.  My mind is always engaged.  I read, and write, and get things done.  Etsy has welcomed me into its world, even though I don’t have any sales yet.  Church activities fill my week, and in the spaces I get together with friends: talking or doing ministry together.  Some days are so filled with searching the Bible for answers that when I go to sleep after midnight and have energy to read only a short Psalm or less with my God, I feel that’s ok.  And I sincerely don’t believe I have to be legalistic. 

 

And then sin creeps in, little thoughts or words out of control or no energy for the priorities God has given me.  Last night, well after the second or even third lesson from the odd place about filling up one’s own spiritual life in order to pour out love and grace to others, I had just enough energy to quickly read Galatians 6, finishing my book of the week.  This was in between TV, movies, ice cream, internet articles, email…  And I felt vaguely guilty putting the Bible away. 

 

When I woke this morning, ambitiously early, instead I lay there realizing how little I’d been talking to God about my days and my life.  We had a chat, but we need more. 

 

God’s grace is amazing.  Tomorrow I’m meeting with some co-Sunday school teachers about our next series, Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World (based on the book by JoAnna Weaver).  It so happens that about a year and a half ago I purchased the book for about two dollars, recognizing the title as popular with friends.  The topic didn’t really interest me that much, because I’m Mary.  I’m lazy sometimes, and love to study and be with Jesus more than to work hard and get things done.  So I was going to give the book to our church library, but never got around to it. 

 

Since I conveniently possess this book, I decided to read the first couple chapters to be up to speed with the other ladies who are teaching.  I’m on page 8, still feeling that Martha isn’t really me in general.  And then all the past weeks’ lessons and hints towards “Be still and know that I am God,” come gently back, triggered by a word or a sentence or one of the author’s testimonies. 

 

Sunday evening a friend offered to loan me her apartment for a week as a place to get away quietly with God, to worship.  Friday I was remembering times in the past when I’ve worked through things with God by house-sitting for friends.  Compared to my busy, noisy house, the quiet loneliness of an empty house is enticing.  I have any number of getaways at which I can stop in the midst of errands, rebel against tyrannical schedules, and take time to pray.  The library has a walk around the outside where I do lots of energetic discussion with God.  And I have a membership to the center for evolutionary propaganda in our state, the Denver Museum of Nature and Science – which if you filter the comments about Darwin, evolution, adaptation, ancestry, etc. is a very peaceful place to focus on God’s marvelous creativity and design. 

 

But to kneel and pray, to sing out loud, to sway to the chorus of faith scarcely held silent in rocks and trees and hills, one needs to be alone.  To cry out to God about the confusion of life in the world, lifting up specific names of friends and situations – essentially to do anything sufficiently open as to derive any conclusions – privacy is important.  Time is important. 

 

Beyond that, though, there is the daily remembrance that God is there.  I need to be aware of His presence, leaning on Him for every good work that He prepared for me to do.  Where does my help come from, my peace, my joy, my attention to the needs of the world for a reason for the hope that I have – if not from Him?  Does He not deserve my every breath, all my worship? 

 

Yet again, God did not call us only to a list of works.  What we do is an overflow of our relationship with Him.  As though while walking with God, He lifts a table by own end and says, “Here, grab that end.”  When I was little I would help my sister rearrange our room.  (She still rearranges her room an average of five times a year.)  I love to help and all, but I know full well that while she was investing all her strength in her end of dressers and beds and mattresses, I was only the balance point, contributing very little strength to the operation.  This is what it’s like when I join God in work. 

 

To quote from page 5 of Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World, ‘ “The better part!” I say to God in the midst of my own whirl of activity.  “You mean there’s more?  I have to do more?” 

‘No, no, comes the answer to my tired heart.  Jesus’ words in Luke 10 are incredibly freeing to those of us on the performance treadmill of life. 

‘It isn’t “more” he requires of us. 

‘In fact, it may be less.’

 

The same point was drawn out of John 6 in a sermon I heard when visiting a friend’s church plant this month.  We were in John 6, and it reminded me of a blog post I did last year, This Grace is Made for Walking. 

 

Verse 24 says the people went seeking for Jesus. 

 

Jesus reveals their true motivation in verse 26: they wanted Jesus so that he would feed them again.  Rather than eating of the bread of life, desiring Jesus Himself, which would leave them filled forevermore, they were looking for little doses of temporary food. 

 

Verse 27 says that the food that endures unto everlasting life is what the Son of man shall give unto you.  Give.  Eternal life, the satisfaction of a relationship with God, is a gift. 

 

But in verse 28, the people respond, “What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?”  They still haven’t gotten the point.  What shall we do?  Do?  Work? 

 

Verse 29 contains Jesus’ refutation, “This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.”  The work is belief.  The work is a gift.  The life is a gift.  Jesus was sent.  He is near to those who would seek Him. 

 

The pastor compared this to Galatians 2:21, “I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.” 

 

We neither come to God by works, nor follow Him by works.  The work of God is that we believe on Jesus.  This is the food that endures unto eternal life. 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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