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)

Day 27 (Friday) -“Coffee Stains…”

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.”  Matthew 23:25-26

Jesus had some harsh words for the religious leaders of his day…but first let me share with you a story.  I love coffee…a lot!  I also have my favorite cups that I like to use every day. cup It’s the daily routine.  Every morning I wake up my children and get them ready for school.  Then I shuffle to the kitchen and brew myself a nice hot cup of coffee.  Most days my cup is clean but then there are days when my favorite cup was left in the car or in the sink…and it’s dirty.  There is a dilemma that happens, do I wash it or just rinse it out.  If I rinse it out I will know that the inside wasn’t clean…and I will be thinking about how it will affect the taste of my coffee as well as how it could affect my health to ingest bacteria from a dirty cup.  I could drink from it, but I won’t.

I would imagine that you would do the same – wash the cup.
If you’re anything like me, you care about your health and you want to ensure you take care of yourself…and cleaning is one way to help prevent illness and all-round health issues.

createJesus addressed a very real spiritual health issue with these religious leaders.
He was harsh, but straight with them.  They looked the part, but on the inside they were unclean.  Instead of dealing with their spiritual dirt, they pretended everything was okay.  They pretended to have it all together, but in their personal lives it was all falling apart.  Have you been there?  Have you at times pretended everything was okay, but deep inside you knew that there was dirt that needed removing?  That’s the conviction of the Holy Spirit!  He longs to cleanse us completely.  Without this continual cleansing – a full surrender is impossible.  We cannot run from this heart issue.  We have to confront the dirt.  Without confronting it, we will have this barrier between us and God.  The cleansing which comes from getting rid of the dirt is freeing as well!  Jesus went on to call these Pharisees “white washed tombs” – they looked good on the outside but on the inside they were dead inside.  This is a scary commentary by Jesus.  I hope and pray none of us receives this kind of appraisal of our spiritual lives.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be dead inside.  I don’t want to pretend everything is “holy” on the outside but inside it is anything but holy.

Are you prepared to clean the inside of your cup?
Are there areas that still need cleansing in your life today?
It can be a barrier and without that cleansing a detriment to our faith journey.
So let’s confess to the Lord today and allow Him access (perhaps once again) to our hearts and hidden spaces of our lives that no one else sees.

Prayer:  Dear Lord, cleanse me from the inside out.  I want to be yours completely.  Show me the places that require your cleansing.  Cleanse my mind from all malice and unhealthy thought.  Wash me clean and make me whiter than snow so that I can move past any barriers that keep me from full surrender.  Lead me today Lord and show me your glory!  In Your name I pray all of these things.  Amen.

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“Cleaning the inside of the Cup”

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence.26“You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also.” -Matthew 23:25,26
dishes
I hate doing dishes, just ask my wife…There, I’ve said it.
Sometimes I put dishes into the dishwasher and put that  little soap dispenser in and just hope for the best.
Most of the time that little soap dispenser lets me down…but sometimes I get lucky.

We do this too sometimes within our spiritual journeys too.
This passage of scripture may have been originally directed at the Pharisees and “hypocrites”, but it may as well have been directed at us too.
Jesus blasts these teachers and scholars of the Torah.  They know all the right things to do and all the right things to say, but their hearts are far from clean.

Sometimes we just load up our spiritual practices. practice
We just pile up the songs and scriptures and outfits that we wear…and we hope for the best.
Sometimes we get lucky.
Many times we do not.
A lot of the time, it makes us feel hollow and empty inside…almost as if something is missing or somehow, something has been overlooked.

Why?
cupBecause the inside of the “cup” has not been cleaned.
We can polish away at the soft glow of a sparkling clean exterior, but if the interior is still gross and filthy – what good will that polishing do?  I’m sure we can fool everybody.  We can fool even ourselves into thinking we have it made spiritually…but we aren’t fooling God.

News Flash:
You. Can’t. Fool. God!

I’m not saying we don’t sing songs of praise.
I’m not saying we don’t read the scriptures.
I’m not even saying “don’t go to church”.
But if all that we do is for “appearances”…then what’s the point?
If all we do in “worship” is hope that we sound good and “man did that worship team nail that last song“…we’re misguided and we could be avoiding the “camel” for the gnat (Matthew 23:24)…me may have some serious internal issues to deal with.

How is the inside of your cup?
Does it still need work?
Does it still need some cleaning?
A lot of cleaning?

This is a personal thing.
This is deeply personal…and yet this is also a corporate “Church-family” thing too.
Each of us should be mindful first of the condition of our own hearts before we even begin to contemplate the condition of others.

Are you sick of just going through the motions in Church? –So am I!
Are you tired of comparing yourself with others of the faith because they seem to have it all together and you’re just pretending?  -So am I!
Are you ready to do the hard work?
Are you prepared to allow the Holy Spirit to strip away the grime and caked on gunk in your heart?  -Me too.
You see this is the constant work of the Lord.
We must not stop seeking to be like Christ in our lives today.
We must not give up because holiness seems to be so far from where we are right now.

How is your cup?
May you seek Him out.
May you diligently allow Him to reveal and remove the dirt within.
God Bless you today!

-Something more for us all to ponder today.
To God be the glory!

Rotten from the Inside or Transformed?

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I held it in my hands, not knowing what was underneath it.  It looked like any ordinary branch from the top, wooden and covered in a flaky ashen grey bark.  The grain and color of this branch looked healthy and strong.  But when I turned it over I discovered the reason this branch had broken off and had fallen to the ground.  On the underside the wood was infected and terminal.  On the underside termites had other insects were milling about slowly devouring this branch from the inside out.  Glancing up at the tree, from which this branch had fallen, I quickly realized that this tree was doomed.  It looked sturdy from the outside, it towered over me as its branches reached the sky and stopped at about twenty or thirty feet above me.  The tree wasn’t that old, perhaps ten or twenty years, and it would have continued growing had it not been for the parasite now eating it alive from the inside.

Slowly over the next couple of months, as I would walk past this tree which was situated in a park near my home, I watched in silent sadness as it lost all of its once beautiful leaves.  Now with bare branches it stood ready to be chopped down by the park’s caretakers.  It had gone from a vibrant young tree with so growth to achieve to a dead, hollowed out shell worthy of becoming wood chips or kindling for a fire.

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Watching this foliage of tragedy unfold reminded me of how we are sometimes like this young tree in our spiritual lives.  We attain a certain height in our spiritual maturation process, we look vibrant, hopeful and secure in our faith…but then it happens.  We allow a small portion of our old lives to still exist within us.  Sometimes on purpose while other times unknowingly.

As children of God who are called to be set apart for His purposes, we secretly set apart some of the old self and cling to it even though it could kills us spiritually.  We store it up in our hearts, compartmentalize our “church life” from our “other life” and yet we know somewhere deep down inside of us that we are called to surrender it all.  We are called to one life, not two separate lives.  Either we’re with God as His child or we’re back in the world and in our old sinful, self indulgent lifestyles.  When we cling to these bits and pieces of ourselves, which existed before the moment of our salvation, we are essentially saying to God, “you can have most of me, but I’m keeping this one small thing!”

When we do this, why are we then surprised when we begin to rot from the inside out?  Why are we shocked when we lose our fruit and our branches become bare?  Why do we suddenly realize that our passion for Christ is now gone and yet can’t fathom why it is that way?

If we were to get serious about this faith and about our spiritual survival, we would quickly realize how vital it is for us to face our infections.  These infections are the spiritual parasites or the leftover remnants of the old life.  We cannot ignore them, because they will never go away unless when expose them and submit them to the light of Christ.  To simply ignore their presence only seals our fate of being slowly hollowed out and eaten alive.

From the outside that branch looked healthy, yet when I turned it over and saw what had become of it, I knew that the tree from which it had come was doomed.  It was so brittle and full of holes from which the termites poured out.  The outside looked fine, but the tree had lost that internal battle.

I think there is something to be said about our internal battles as well.  We, as Christ followers, can not afford to lose this internal battle that wages within us.  There is still work to be done by the Holy Spirit in the hearts of us all!  There may be small pockets of the old life still resistant and evident in us.  No one else knows it.  By all appearances we look fine and healthy on the outside, yet on the inside we’re struggling to stay alive.

Two things must take place within our hearts to prevent this parasite of sin to continue to exist within us;

One, we must expose it for what it is.  Don’t hold back or ignore it.  Do not shy away from confronting it, and do not keep it hidden.  The Lord knows its there, yet we keep trying to convince ourselves that it is not.  Expose it to the Light of Christ!  Share it with Him.  Open up the doors of those hidden dark passages of your heart and allow His light to flood them completely!  Without first exposing it to the Light of Christ, we can pretend and ignore it.  But once we’ve opened up the doors completely, and honestly looked in, we can’t help but feel shame and regret.  Let it happen.  Spiritual maturity, also known as Holiness, cannot take place completely without first facing our deepest darkest sins.  Then we get serious.  Then we let it all out and place it in the forgiving nail scarred hands of Christ.

Secondly, once His light has gained access to the abscesses of our hearts, we must be willing to let go of it.  We must relinquish our grip on it.  We must surrender it all to Christ.  Nothing else can grow there, nothing else can change in our spirit if we don’t first surrender those remnants of the old sinful ways.

When we have exposed this parasitical sin to His light and surrendered it into His hands, then we find ourselves surprisingly free of this burden of guilt and shame.  We find that we can finally grow again and allow His very image to be our sole desire.

The tree doesn’t have to die, our spiritual walk doesn’t have to stagnate!  We must be willing to reveal and surrender, then the healing can begin which will give way to this tremendous growth.

-Just a thought for today.

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