Confessions of Solitude…

I am not too good with silence.
When I sit too long within its somber embrace, I get nervous…
I wait for the other shoe to drop (so to speak)…
I drum my fingers like a world famous rock star just to break its heavy blanket around me…
I am not too good with silence…
We aren’t friends.
But sometimes, we learn to cohabitant, her languishing about, while I attempt to ignore her call.

I find it interesting, given my avoidance of such an activity, that it is in fact a spiritual discipline.   This comes continually as a surprise to me and my extroverted nature.  I desire to be around people, around the noise of life, and around the fellowship of constant chatter…but silence?  That’s a discipline you say?  Hmm…

Thomas Merton once wrote:  “Not all men are called to be hermits, but all men need enough silence and solitude in their lives to enable the deep inner voice of their own true self to be heard at least occasionally. When that inner voice is not heard, when man cannot attain to the spiritual peace that comes from being perfectly at one with his true self, his life is always miserable and exhausting. For he cannot go on happily for long unless he is in contact with the springs of spiritual life which are hidden in the depths of his own soul. If man is constantly exiled from his own home, locked out of his own spiritual solitude, he ceases to be a true person. He no longer lives as a man.

Far be it for me to tell you how to acquire this spiritual discipline that I myself still struggle with maintaining , but here’s what I have learned along the way thus far:

Silence (or some semblance of silence) can be achieved by being still. 

What do I mean by that? Life is so busy, and we move at such a fast pace in our world.  We often times to not have the time or the patience to remain still.  We live in a world full of constant distractions, instant messages, cell phones, streaming services and the addition of modern technology.  There is certainly nothing wrong with these tools, but too much of a good thing can be detrimental to us…to the point of distraction…to the point of the absence of stillness in our lives.

When we have distraction, the presence of stillness cannot descend upon us…that doesn’t mean that the Holy Spirit cannot still speak to us.  He can do anything within this world since He has authority over all, but can we hear His voice within the distractions?

Silence brings freedom from the powers of life and replaces it with compassion…

Richard Foster says;   “Silence frees us from the need to control others. One reason we can hardly bear to remain silent is that it makes us feel so helpless. We are accustomed to relying upon words to manage and control others. A frantic stream of words flows from us in an attempt to straighten others out. We want so desperately for them to agree with us, to see things our way. We evaluate people, judge people, condemn people. We devour people with our words. Silence is one of the deepest Disciplines of the Spirit simply because it puts the stopper on that.   When we become quiet enough to let go of people, we learn compassion for them.” (Richard Foster, Freedom of Simplicity: Finding Harmony in a Complex World)

Without aligning ourselves with the presence of God (which can be accomplished through silence and solitude), the needs of others through the lens Christ cannot be seen (or at the very least, this vision is greatly diminished).

Commissioner Harry Read –


Be still, my soul, be still,
If you the Father seek
Be still, be reverently still,
If you would hear him speak.

Be still, my soul, be still,
God is not far away,
Be still, with humbleness be still,
Be willing to obey.

Be still, my soul, be still,
Of God be now aware,
Be still, with openness be still,
Your heart for him prepare.

Be still, my soul, be still,
Receive God’s energy,
Receive his grace, his love, his will,
Receive your destiny.

Psalm 46: 10
“Be still and know that I am God.”

With every blessing,
(Harry Read, 23.09.18)

What if it is the stillness of God that I am afraid of?
What if in that stillness I am found wanting, and like the prophet Isaiah, I realize that I am severely undone?
Perhaps it is in this unspoken fear that I must embrace His still small voice, which beckons me to put down my distractions, my hindrances and kneel at His feet.

Am I able to be still?
Am I capable of such a step?
Are you?

Something more to ponder today.
(I will write more on this topic again soon)

Let’s Get Uncomfortable About Prayer

I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had no where else to go. My own wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for that day.” ― Abraham Lincoln

Today is National Prayer day.
So let’s talk about prayer shall we?!

We have these images in our minds when we think about the word “Prayer”…perhaps it looks like this:  handsor maybe maybe this:
gardenThese iconic images of prayer are okay, but are they really what prayer looks like and should be for us today?  Don’t get me wrong, I am not discounting some of us might fold our hands like this when we pray, but by and large our prayer life probably looks more like this:


Driving back and forth from home to work, only to repeat this process.  Perhaps after a really good, challenging Sunday service we might feel compelled to be more intentional about prayer and so we turn off the radio and simply talk to God.  Realistically, the World around us seems to be a constantly busy place and our prayer life can begin to be measured out in how long it takes us to get to work.

Still there are some of us whose prayer life resembles this:
We work hard all day long and when it comes time for us to go to bed we think about prayer.  So we pray, and we are serious about it, but at the end of the day we are completely spent and so our prayers fall into sounds of deep breathing and even snoring.

I don’t say this as a guilt trip, because I’ve been guilty of this too.  We mean well, it’s just that our bodies and our minds are tired and we drift off to sleep.

Let’s Get Uncomfortable About Prayer:
This will probably be unpopular among many Christians, but we are too soft.  We are not as disciplined as we should be in regards to prayer.  Instead of looking like this in our prayer life:  runing

(We don’t take the intentional time we need.  We aren’t focused.  We lack the discipline to keep going.  We struggle with many distractions such as TV, cell phones, social media, websites, books, video game…etc. )

So we end up looking more like this in regards to the discipline of prayer:
And the only time we pull out our prayers, our conversations to God, is when we are in need of something.  Could it be that THIS is why we feel as if God isn’t listening?  Perhaps because we haven’t really disciplined ourselves enough to have a constant conversation with Him?

It’s like the couch potato suddenly gettingug up from the comfortable sofa and putting on their shoes and attempting to run a marathon without any training.  Sure, some might actually finish, but by and large most would fall flat on their faces in utter exhaustion.

Prayer takes work.  
Real prayer isn’t a bunch of “Thees” and “Thous” thrown into some fancy sentence full of flowery meaningless words.  God doesn’t want our ritualistic prayers.  He doesn’t want us to be something we’re not.  He wants our authenticity.  He longs for us to be completely candid with Him.  He already knows us, there’s nothing hidden from Him…so why do we feel as if we have to put up a wall or limit what we say to Him?

Brother Lawrence, in his little book called “The Practice of the Presence of God” said this; “Do not be discouraged by the resistance you will encounter from your human nature; you must go against your human inclinations. Often, in the beginning, you will think that you are wasting time, but you must go on, be determined and persevere in it until death, despite all the difficulties.
― (The Practice of the Presence of God)

True prayer requires concerted effort.
It might require us to become uncomfortable.
Discipline is required to spend time conversing with the Almighty.
It is not a waste of time.
He does hear us.
He will speak…but the question is are we actually listening?

Do we need prayer?
Absolutely…BUT perhaps prayer isn’t what we have always been taught it is.
Could it be that our prayers should resemble more of a constant invitation for God to hang out with us?  Could it be that instead of kneeling at our bedside,  we continually begin to think and speak to our Creator?  Perhaps we’ve been taught prayer is all about closing our eyes…maybe we should open them instead.  God longs for our fellowship, and a part of that fellowship is our constant communication with Him.  He is nearer than we think or realize.  But perhaps could it be that our hearts are not completely in tune with Him?  Perhaps we are out of sync due to our random, undisciplined prayer lives?

The Discipline of prayer is more than just a notch in the “Christian” belt of accomplishments (hopefully we don’t think of it like that), it is connect ourselves completely to the Divine.  It is a part of Holiness.  It is a part of the complete surrender the Holy Spirit is desiring from us.  For many of us, a complete surrender is really scary to think about.  Instead of thinking about the things we will give up, think about the life that we will gain and the peace and knowledge that brings.

I’m not there either, but I want to be.
Something more to ponder today.

Dear Salvation Army, 3 Spiritual Lessons From Football (Soccer) That Matter!

I was watching my son play a football match the other day.
In the U.S. we call it soccer, for the rest of the world it’s called Football.
Just to give you a little history about who I am; I have played soccer since I was a young boy.  It began in the playground as a little boy on the Island of St. Helena.  My parents were missionaries there many years ago.   I played soccer in South Africa as a boy – my parents were missionaries there too.  I played soccer in the United States – my parents were missionaries there too.

I love the game.
As I have grown up, so has my knowledge of the game of football.
I finally see the strategy that my father once called “Chess-like”.  -A player makes one move and then a counter move…and so on.  The game is built upon team work, strategy, and determination.  I admire the structure of this sport that I played so long ago.  I equally enjoy watching my son compete in it as well.

This brings me to my point today, Dear Salvation Army.
Here’s my metaphor for the day – There are lessons we can acquire from the game of football.  These lessons can have a deep impact on our ministries.  These lessons can either shape us if applied, or break us if not applied.  Allow me to share these 3 spiritual lessons with you today.

3 Spiritual Lessons From Football (Soccer) That Matter!

soccer1.  Flat-Footedness Produces A Flat-lined Passion:
I have watched professional games where you can almost tell which team will win just by how they compete.  The players who stay focused and on their toes (literally) will be better equipped to create attacking plays and score goals.

When you play the game of football, you must constantly operate on the balls of your feet.  Being “on your toes” helps you anticipate passes, gives you an edged, and allows you to move faster.   If players play flat-footed, they lose a step.  That player will not be quick to the ball, and they will become reactive instead of proactive.

Are we Flat-footed or are we on our toes?
Spiritually speaking, we cannot operated our ministries in a reactionary capacity.  We must anticipate and move when the Holy Spirit prompts us to move.  Sitting back on our heels doesn’t prepare us for active ministry, it opens us up for failure in ministry.  We weren’t called to preserve we were called to persevere!

When we go out and engage our communities…
When we get up out of the pews and help others in our communities…
When we seek to be a resource of solutions to problems and situations in society…
When we practice what we preach on Monday – Saturday…
We will cease to be flat-footed and on our toes in ministry.

ronaldo2.  We Can’t All Be Ronaldo and Messi!
No offense to these phenomenally talented footballers, but the game is usually never won because of one player among 12.  The whole team has to contribute.  The Goalie has to know his/her role.  The full backs need to know their role.  The midfielders and the forwards – theirs as well.  It’s a team sport.    messi

I love to watch teams like the Netherlands national team play.  They pass with precision.  The operate as a group.  Sure, there are some stand-out talent on the team, but without players who can move the ball, pass and defend – that talent is useless.

We are members of one body (Romans 12:5, 1 Corinthians 12:12).
Each part of the body has to work with the other.  This doesn’t mean that we lord over other parts and brag about our accomplishments, rather, it means we help each other along- we work together for the same purposes.  Do we not have the same mission, Dear Army?  Are we all equally important?  Sometimes I think (and it happens in almost all Churches) we have “Stars” who tend to get all of the notoriety and credit…just like Ronaldo and Messi.  Most of these “Stars” are actually very humble about their role within the Army.  We must never lose focus on what is MOST important.

It’s not about who gets the credit (God should actually get this praise…right?!).
It’s not about who looks better in the uniform.
It’s not about ranks and roles and positions…although some would disagree with me.
-We need more team work and less ball hogs.
-We need more sharing of vital tools for ministry and less hoarding of these resources.
-We need to stop comparing ourselves and instead compare our lives with Christ – who ought to be the one we long to emulate and imitate.

conditioning3.  Conditioning & Discipline Lead To A Successful Football Club (Spiritual Flabbiness is Shabbiness) 
Okay, let’s get the cynics out of the way first – yes, of course some of the major football clubs also have MILLIONS of pounds, dollars, euros (and everything in between) to work with.

Without physical conditioning a team will fall flat on its face.
Without being disciplined in the sport, a team will fall apart when pressure mounts.    endurance
Physical strength requires sweat, toil, tears, and even pain.  One cannot expect to compete at a professional level without first sacrificing time, laziness, and other luxuries.  Practice is required, not optional.  Determination to practice and perform at the peak of excellence is desired for all players on the pitch.  If a player begins to decline or under-performs, that player may be sent down to a subordinate minor league team, or kicked off the team all together.

Dear Salvation Army, we cannot afford to have spiritually flabby soldiers.
I mean this with the sincerest amount of grace.  We need to hold each other accountable.  We need to press for spiritual discipline and spiritual conditioning.  We cannot settle for mediocrity IF there is even a hint that we can be more and do more.  God doesn’t want our leftovers on the mission fields we are called to, He wants our best efforts, or complete faithfulness, and our whole hearts.  If we are to be a better Army, we have to strive for spiritual excellence and holiness.  We cannot remain static if the Holy Spirit is calling us to move forward.

I love football, and I apologize to some of you that really don’t care for sports at all.
It’s an analogy that works for me.
Perhaps it will click for some of you as well.

-Flat-Footedness Produces A Flat-lined Passion
-We Can’t All Be Ronaldo and Messi in Uniform – Be Who God Called You To Be!
-Conditioning & Discipline Lead To A Successful Football Club (Spiritual Flabbiness is Shabbiness)

There is so much more I could write on this topic, and perhaps I will in the future…but for now, this is enough fodder for one day.

Something more to Ponder today…(oh and by the way Go Manchester United!)
To God be the glory!

Devotional Pondering – “This is going to hurt me more than it’s going to hurt you!”

In this all-out match against sin, others have suffered far worse than you, to say nothing of what Jesus went through—all that bloodshed! So don’t feel sorry for yourselves. Or have you forgotten how good parents treat children, and that God regards you as his children?

My dear child, don’t shrug off God’s discipline,
    but don’t be crushed by it either.
It’s the child he loves that he disciplines;
    the child he embraces, he also corrects.

God is educating you; that’s why you must never drop out. He’s treating you as dear children. This trouble you’re in isn’t punishment; it’s training, the normal experience of children.” 
Hebrews: 12:4-10 (The Message) 

No likes to be disciplined.
I remember as a kid getting in trouble with my mother and she sent me to my room.  Then she said that horrifying phrase: “Wait until in your room until your father gets home!”  I remember sitting there on my bed, empty pit of a stomach just dreading the punishment that I knew I had coming to me.  I contemplated many things while waiting.  I thought of the various phrases I would say like, “I’m sorry” or “I didn’t mean it“, or “I’ll never do that again!“…they all sounded hollow and empty.  Humorously (not then though) I also contemplated things about my punishment, like “how many books can I put in my underwear without my father noticing so that my spanking won’t hurt?”  I was very dramatic then.  

No one likes to be disciplined.  I didn’t then and I still don’t enjoy the moments when it happens today.  

Wait until your Heavenly Father gets home!
God has a way of shifting us from our own private spaces of ignorance and sin into correction and discipline.  It hurts.  It’s not fun.  It is most certainly not enjoyable and yet it needs to take place.  

Just as a parent disciplines and shapes a child so that when they grow up they have learned their lessons and are good people, so too God disciplines us (His Holy Children).  Did you know that you’re a child of God?  He loves us so deeply and He longs for us to grow up as health and strong righteous men and women who are worthy of being called HIS!

Sometimes He disciplines through the words of a friend or an elder.  These truthful words can be painful to hear and they strike directly at the heart.  But these moments are never to wound us or harm us, they are for our correction and growth.  

There’s something about  a Rose Bush:


In order for a rose bush to grow the next season following autumn and winter is for the gardener to prune and cut it back.  So the gardener cuts the branches and the excess away despite the sharp thrones this plant is beautiful and magnificent when it blooms.  The gardener knows this and so takes great care to cut just enough away in order to make room for the rose bush to grow again.  When the next season comes around the rose bush thrives in the sunshine and the rich soil that the gardener has placed it in, and because of the pruning process it flourishes and grows even more beautiful.  Soon roses bloom in full and the scent of its aroma fills the air and many people come and admire the beauty of this rose bush.

Stand firm in your pruning!  


 I believe that God is not done with us yet!  There is still more to prune from us.  Sometimes the pruning process is painful.  Sometimes there will be tears as He corrects us, but He does this so that we will bloom and grow until we are Holy just as Christ is Holy.  When we allow stand firm and allow Him to prune us through His discipline we are able to flourish and produce the kind of love that has a sweet aroma of God.  Without the pruning process in our lives, we cannot grow, we will be stunted and limited in this life.  

Discipline hurts for but a moment and then when we allow it, God brings to us peace of His presence and the assurance that we can bloom and grow in His holiness.  



Questions to consider:


What pruning has God done in your life so far?
What is He teaching you through this discipline?
What still needs to be pruned?
Are you willing to stand firm amidst His loving correction? 

Prayer:  Dear Lord, thank you for loving me so much that you seek to discipline and correct me.  Forgive me when I have been stubborn and refused your correction on my life.  Show me what your holiness looks like in me and how I must change and surrender that which stunts my growth in you.  -Amen.  

Equipped And Engaged (Spiritual Discipline and Moral Failure)

“He lives the poetry that he cannot write.  The others write the poetry that they cannot realize.” –Oscar Wilde



What of this thing called integrity?  Is it a lost art and lost application of principle in our world today?  Do personal and corporate ambitions get in the way of true honesty and moral character?   All too often we hear about leaders and figure heads from all walks of life falling from grace because of moral or ethical failure.  It’s always uncomfortable to hear or watch their lives fall apart right before our very eyes.  Sometimes, dare I say, we look down upon them and think “that could never happen to me”.  You’ve heard the phrase “pride comes before the fall”, and yet we fill ourselves, defensively, with that insulated pride and think either we’re impervious to ethical or moral failure or that we will never be caught.  Either way, we walk on very thin ice if we believe either of those pretenses or excuses will protect us should temptation come our way.

How do we avoid failures of integrity and character?

Here are a few suggestions to better equip and protect ourselves from such trappings:

1.  Equip and transform our minds with honorable things:

Philippians 4:8 says; “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

Another power passage of scripture tells us – “be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2)

The battle of this war that we wage against sin and temptation begins within our thought processes.  Whatever we put into our minds we will eventually live out in our lifestyles and actions.  So to avoid failures of integrity and character begins with thinking and meditating on things of a godly nature instead of a worldly perspective.  What this means is that perhaps we become better stewards of our time and what we see, hear and read.  These forms of media are everywhere in our lives.  They aren’t inherently evil, in fact there are some very effective and healthy forms of these, but all too often we do not balance our intake of what we hear see and read.

When we realize that what we feed our minds and thought processes becomes who and whose we are, then we begin to see how vital it is to cut off or limit that which is harmful to the very fabric of our moral and ethical character as a human being.  The mind is the battle ground to our senses…leave it undefended and ill trained and it will be a source of daily defeat in your character and responses to others.

2. Avoid the ‘Bad Apple’ Principle:

You know the old farm tale of the apples that were to be sorted in the apple bin?  The boy was to discard the bad apples from those that were ripe and vibrant, but he got lazy and decided not to finish the job and left the apples for the day.  When he returned to the task the next day, many of the healthy ripe apples had become rotten because they were not separated from the bad apples.

Ephesians 5:7,8 says, “Therefore, do not be partakers with them; for you were formerly darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light.”  This passage of scripture doesn’t mean that we aren’t to be Christ’s ambassadors to the lost, but it does mean that our association with those still living in the darkness should be limited.  If we are children of light we need other children of light to help keep our candles lit.  Proverbs 27:17 says that “iron sharpens iron”, meaning that we as Christians ought to be in fellowship with one another to help each other along the way.  When we are not a part of a fellowship of other believers we can often lose our way or find ourselves at a moral or ethical precipice because no one was there to prevent us or hold us back.  Ignorance as Christ followers is not bliss, we need each other and we need to hold one another accountable.  We have to avoid the bad apple principle by partaking in the fellowship of other believers who will help us become better equipped to engage and shine our lights into the world.


“Through simplicity we live with others in integrity.  Solitude allows us to be genuinely present to people when we are with them.  Through submission we live with others without manipulation, and through service we are a blessing to them.” –Richard Foster (Celebration of Discipline, pg 201)

3.  Engage in an Active and Protective Prayer Life:

Eleven leaders of conservative renewal movements, representing eight groups from within six Protestant denominations, pooled common concerns at a third annual meeting.

Conference convener Matthew J. Welde, of Presbyterians United for Biblical Concerns, noted an increase in renewalist groups, and Gordon-Conwell Seminary professor Richard Lovelace told the group that greater unity among evangelicals, across denominational lines, is possible. One concern of the group: prayerlessness. They cited recent studies showing that “the average pastor surveyed prays only three minutes each day.” (Christianity Today, April 6, 1979.)

This illustration may have been written a while ago and only about pastors, but the truth is everyone needs to engage in an active and protective prayer life!  If we are to avoid the pitfalls of ethical and moral failures in our spiritual character as Christ followers, then we have include the discipline of prayer!  Not only are we to engage in prayer, but we have to protect that time as well!

It is fair to say that most, if not all of us, engages in a lot of activities throughout our daily routines.  Many times we can forget or neglect our daily devotion and prayer life with our Heavenly Father.  God doesn’t want what’s left of our day, or to be included in just a portion of it.  His fellowship with us can be most effective in our defeat and repelling of temptation and sin by daily communing with Him through an active prayer schedule.  This doesn’t mean that we have to get on our knees every fifteen minutes or write up some sort of elegant schedule, but it does mean that we ought not to treat prayers with God as something reserved for times of great need or just before bed time.  He can and will help us overcome obstacles and temptations that are before us.  But before we even encounter these obstacles or temptations it is wise to have His counsel, his fellowship and these conversations with Him can empowers and equip us to stand firm and avoid the trappings of sin all together.

Let’s wrap it up:

It would be foolish to think that any of these three areas of equipping our spirit and body is easy.  Spiritual disciple is very difficult!  This should be seen as a daily, even minute by minute effort of engaged spiritual discipline in our lives.  If we are to be protected and armed for this battle that is waged all around us, then we need to be armed with the right equipment.  There might be other areas of our lives that we might need further weapons of spiritual warfare…but daily, the exercise in these three are paramount to standing firm when temptation comes our way.

“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” -Proverbs 4:23

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