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 –

STILLNESS AND STRENGTH

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)

Thanks-Living

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“I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus.  For in him you have been enriched in every way–in all your speaking and in all your knowledge.” (1 Corinthians 1:4-5)

My friends, we shouldn’t need a specific holiday to remind us that we ought to be thankful…but it doesn’t hurt!  Thankfulness should be second nature to a Christ-follower, and yet it is often easy to take the blessings, that we have been given, for granted.  The challenge for us is to learn the discipline of simplicity.  What is simplicity?  It is the discipline of letting go of our hunger and craving for more “stuff”.  It is letting go of our lusts for possessions, affluence, popularity, recognition and power.  These things are called mammon.  What is mammon?  Webster’s dictionary even describes it with a biblical context: “material wealth or possessions especially as having a debasing influence <you cannot serve God and mammon — Matthew 6:24

Richard Foster explains this issue: 

We really must understand that the lust for affluence in contemporary society is psychotic. It is psychotic because it has completely lost touch with reality. We crave things we neither need nor enjoy. ‘We buy things we do not want to impress people we do not like.’ …It is time to awaken to the fact that conformity to a sick society is to be sick.” (Richard J. FosterCelebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth)

Stuff, in essence, can become our god.  It can consume us, making us ungrateful and blind to the truth.  We can become lost in our “stuff”.  Possessions and things aren’t inherently bad but it depends on how we use them.  

Richard Foster had more to say on this topic: 

Jesus Christ and all the writers of the New Testament call us to break free of mammon lust and live in joyous trust…They point us toward a way of living in which everything we have we receive as a gift, and everything we have is cared for by God, and everything we have is available to others when it is right and good. This reality frames the heart of Christian simplicity. It is the means of liberation and power to do what is right and to overcome the forces of fear and avarice.” (Richard J. FosterFreedom of Simplicity: Finding Harmony in a Complex World)

The key to the discipline of simplicity is…well discipline.  Do you really need that cell phone upgrade?  Do you really need that new car?  Separate your wants from your needs.  Thanksgiving isn’t about getting more stuff to make you happy.  It should be about appreciating what God has already given to us and utilizing these tools for His glory!  That doesn’t mean that we can’t enjoy life or become obligated to a boring existence.  God created us to enjoy life and more importantly to enjoy His presence in life.  

Are you experiencing life through thanksgiving?  Do you have time in your day to just stop and say thank you to God for all of the awesome gifts and blessings He has given to you?  Don’t wait for specific holidays to recognize your need for thanksgiving.  Celebrate “Thanks-living” every day, because after all, each day is a gift from God!  

 “No duty is more urgent than that of returning thanks” – Saint Ambrose

Life is precious…use it wisely!  

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