November 27, 2012

Living Quietly Revisited: Choosing Commitments

During this busy time of year, I need to give much thought to my commitments!

...aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.
~1 Thess. 4:11-12

Thoughts of living a quiet life continue to woo me. They were birthed as the result of a particularly chaotic season in our family's life - several weeks of commitments every night. The activities that clamored for my attention soon lost their appeal, leaving me tired, cranky and empty. It also brought conviction.

Housework and paperwork, too long neglected, loomed large before me. I had sacrificed my duties on the altar of busyness. 

Merriam - Webster defines busy as foolishly or intrusively active.


A quiet life also demands answers to some hard questions regarding commitments.

Am I using this as an opportunity to glorify God? Athletics, community organizations, and other activities outside church can certainly testify to God's goodness and grace. Does my participation and attitude reflect that? Even in my commitments away from home, I must remember my calling (1 Cor. 10:31).

Is this helping me to grow in the Lord? Preparing Sunday School lessons offers that opportunity, as do taking meals to those who are sick and befriending parents of my girls' teammates. I must seek activities that help me to live in light of the Gospel.

Is this causing me to sacrifice my primary responsibilities to God and family? Even church activities can cause us to spend too much time away from home, or to be too tired to care for my family when I am home. I must be careful not to neglect my family in the name of serving God.

I am happy my man and my girl play sports, but I would rather splash in the pool with them than cheer them on from the sidelines.  I am thankful for my daughter's youth group, but I would rather learn God's Word with her than hear what her leader taught her.

If our commitments don't lend time for the things I'd rather do, they aren't worth it.

November 23, 2012

Reducing the Noise Part II (Revisited)

Still thinking long and hard about the noise I'm contributing to this wonder called the internet.

...aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.
~1 Thess. 4:11-12

Living quietly means more than controlling the level of noise allowed into my life. I am also convicted of the noise I contribute. 

Social media has allowed us to collect "followers" and "friends" like trinkets on a charm bracelet.  We are compelled to share intimate details of our lives with complete strangers, yet we are ashamed to ask friends to pray for us as we wrestle against sin. We brand ourselves with carefully crafted personas, afraid the true person cowering behind the screen isn't good enough. We allow site hits to determine our significance.

We shamelessly promote ourselves instead of the One who deserves all glory.

In considering the noise I contribute to the social media frenzy, I ask questions that are somewhat familiar:

Am I attempting to drown out the voice of God? I must aim to glorify Him and Him alone in what I post. Family accomplishments are to be celebrated, not paraded for public consumption.

Am I infringing on my family's privacy? Sharing what God is doing in our family can be an encouragement to others and testify to His goodness. Sharing my daughter's struggles or my husband's sins violates their confidence in me. When sharing my own sins and struggles, I must be careful not to implicate my family in any way.

Is this relevant in God's Kingdom? I must gauge the importance of the information I'm sharing in light of eternity.

Will this encourage and help others in their walk with the Lord?  I must remember that even in social media, I am called to disciple and encourage others.

I have lovely group of Facebook friends  - women serious about the Lord, but not always so serious. Our bond in Christ has been strengthened by discussions on theology as well as our mutual affections for Jane Austen and OPI nail polish. I have close relationships with other women I've only met online, forged through blog comments, emails, and prayer.  I have learned much, grown deeper in the Lord, and laughed til I cried. I am incredibly thankful that God has enriched my life through social media.

I want my online presence to reflect that truth.

November 21, 2012

Reducing the Noise Revisited

The holiday season is full of noise. These questions may be harder to ask ourselves during this time, but they are perhaps even more necessary.

...aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.
~1 Thess. 4:11-12

I've been pondering the quiet life and its ever-decreasing value in society.  Noise has drowned out our craving for quiet.  





                             Smart phones.

                             24-hour news networks.

                             Hundreds of television channels.

We have unlimited access to information, unfettered interaction with people near and far. But at what price? We've become desensitized to the constant droning around us. We are uncomfortable with face-to-face contact. We have exchanged flesh and blood for pixels and gigabytes.

Noise reigns in our lives.

Merriam-Webster defines noise
any sound that is undesired or interferes with one's hearing of something; irrelevant or meaningless data or output occurring along with desired information.
Keeping this in mind, these are the questions I want to ask myself - thinking on long and hard - as I seek the quiet life:

Is this interfering with my hearing God? I must guard my time in His Word before spending time in the words of others, no matter the source.

Is this interfering with my hearing my family? I must also guard my time with my family. I cannot forsake my responsibilities to love and minister to them.

Is this relevant in God's Kingdom? I must gauge the importance of the information I'm consuming in light of eternity.

Is this encouraging and helpful in my walk with the Lord?  I must accurately assess its influence upon my willingness to live for God's agenda rather than my own.

Some of the answers may surprise me. Watching Ina Garten may inspire me to try a new dinner that knocks my man's socks off. Reading so many Christian blogs may be pulling me away from spending time in God's Word or from meeting my family's needs. I don't know what it will look like, but I truly believe that asking myself these questions before I read, listen, or watch will have a tremendous impact on the noise level in my life.

November 20, 2012

A Quiet Life: Revisited

With the holiday season approaching, I need to revisit this series from the archives.

...aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.
~1 Thess. 4:11-12

 Quiet.  One of my favorite words. One of my favorite things.

...low tones of classical music wafting on the air as I'm curled up with a good book. 

...hushed jazzy voices crooning while I clean our home or prepare a meal.

...absolute stillness of a dark morning lit only by a small lamp and the Word of God.

...crickets chirping outside my window as I fall asleep.

I enjoy a good football game, laughter, and being with friends. Yet it is in the quiet moments of my life that I feel most alive.

My soul craves quiet.

Perhaps it's a reaction to years of going, doing, and spending. Maybe it's a result of endlessly trying to meet others' expectations. I believe it's wisdom gained.

I've spent much of the last few days thinking about what it means to live quietly. I'll be sharing my thoughts here over the coming days and weeks. In the meantime, what does living quietly mean to you?

November 15, 2012

Thankful Thursday

Praising the Lord this week for:

~a freshly painted living room and kitchen

~the man and the girl I worked with to make it happen

~answered prayers

~refreshment provided by a visit to this church

 ~a new Bible study

~these words...
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. ~1 Peter 1:1-7

November 14, 2012

Do We Really Need Strong Faith?

I recently heard a pastor share an analogy about faith that has given me much to ponder. Consider a frozen pond. If you walk out on it with great confidence and the ice is thin, the ice will not sustain your weight no matter how much you believe it will.  If you walk out on it with great hesitancy and the ice is thick, the ice will easily sustain your weight no matter how little you believe it will.  The strength of the ice is far more important than the strength of your belief in it.

It doesn't matter how strong our faith is if we're placing it in a weak god.

The god presented in many churches today is a weak, watered down version of the God of the Bible.

We've weakened Him in our emotional "worship" songs that have reduced Him to an object of our affection (often without ever making mention of His Name).  When my husband lost his job, we didn't need a god who was content to let us recline against him, feel him breathe and hear his heartbeat.1 We needed a God who would strengthen and help us, and cause us to stand upheld by His righteous, omnipotent hand.2

We've weakened Him with sermons that focus on our efforts rather that God's. Many pastors are so busy telling us how to live for God, they forget to tell us why we should. My attempts to obey God's Word will will fall terribly short if I don't have a clear understanding of who God is.

We've weakened Him by our lack of knowledge of Him. He's not a fire-insurance policy. He is the Holy Lord.

I, I am the Lord,
    and besides me there is no savior.
I declared and saved and proclaimed,
    when there was no strange god among you;
    and you are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “and I am God.
Also henceforth I am he;
    there is none who can deliver from my hand;
    I work, and who can turn it back?”
~Isaiah 43:11-13 (ESV)

The gospel reveals eternal realities about God that we would sometimes rather not face. We prefer to sit back, enjoy our cliches, and picture God as a Father who might help us, all the while ignoring God as a Judge who might damn us. Maybe this is why we fill our lives with the constant drivel of entertainment in our culture - and in the church. We are afraid that if we stop and really look at God in his Word, we might discover that he evokes greater awe and demands deeper worship than we are ready to give him.

We've weakened Him by convincing ourselves that He is here to serve our purposes, rather than us serving His.  We have forgotten about the One who laid aside His rights in order that God's plan might be accomplished.  If there was ever a man who deserved to have His own way, it was Christ. Yet, He did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped (Philippians 2:6).

It's time believers stop settling for a weak god. If we truly worship, know, and serve the God of the Bible, our faith need only be as big as a mustard seed.

1"The More I Seek You", written by Kari Jobe
2"How Firm a Foundation", written by John Keith