Posted in Verses I am Glad I have Read

Verses I’m Glad I’ve Read: God Whispers

The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”  Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. (1 Kings 19: 11-13)

In a world where messages are so plentiful that most of us resort to extreme measures in order to gain any attention, it’s paramount to realize that God, the most powerful and omnipotent Voice in the universe, doesn’t speak to us in the loud, booming tower of fire of which He is able, but rather in the gentle, kind whisper that is capable of shooting straight to the core of every wounded soul.

Reflecting on these verses from Elijah’s story this week, I am struck with three, key things we can do to help us ignore the thunder and avalanches of the world’s messages and concentrate instead on God’s whispers: SLOW DOWN; BE STILL; BE QUIET.

SLOW DOWN

The most obvious way to make room for God’s gentle whispers in your life is to slow down the incoming messages that threaten to drown Him out every day. Contrary to popular belief, we don’t have to walk around with our cell phones as an extension of our arms. Moments standing in line might be spent practicing deep breathing instead of catching up on the latest posts on Facebook or Drudge. If the television must be streaming in the evening, why not the spa channel, nature sounds or classical instrumentals instead of news, dramas or reality TV?

My “bestest” friend and I are always trying to point out to each other the times when God is plunking tiny pebbles on our heads, trying to save us from a boulder before His message gets across to us. But, if I am so busy working, ferrying kids around town, running errands, squeezing in exercise and meeting social obligations, how can I be aware enough to notice that pebbles are plopping down?

The first step to hearing our God’s whispers is making sure there is enough space in your mind and schedule to notice the slightest wisp of information that can be overshadowed by the world’s more colorful, abrasive ramblings.

BE STILL

Slowing down is just the first step toward an even more important requirement when you want an honest, strong relationship with God. We must find time in each day to just be still in His awesome presence.

Perhaps this stillness differs between believers. For me, stillness with God is five, deep breaths of the clean, early Spring air on a sunny afternoon that just feels right, thanking Him for the moment, for the experience of being human and surrounded by a peaceful reminder of His master creation.

Being still is also my morning habit of praying to help me focus my actions for the day, of studying His Word and devotionals by others that give me different perspectives on the depth and breadth of the Bible and its application to my life.

Mainly, being still is taking the time to stop everything else and just focus on God, whether that be a prayer of gratitude, singing a hymn or just sitting comfortably in a chair with nothing else going on around me. This is a lifetime habit that must be cultivated, even if we have to set an alarm on one of our many electronic gadgets to remind us it’s time for stillness.  Otherwise, I’m convinced, the world will always scream louder than God whispers.

BE QUIET

But being still isn’t exactly enough. Too many times, sitting in half-lotus position with soothing sounds reverberating softly in the background, my mind refuses to concentrate on nothing but my breath going in and out of my lungs. Too quickly, it flits back and forth between worries, to-do lists and a thousand other things I need to accomplish or think I should do. How can I hear God whisper if I’m busy talking to myself?

Quieting the mind is another lifetime practice to perfect. But it begins by at least working to place our minds on the one, true God as we sit in stillness. We can thank Him for everything, including troubles because these take us closer to God, talk to Him about our troubles, bring the troubles of others before Him and ask Him the deepest, darkest questions of our hearts. When our minds are focused on God in this way, we can take the time to make our mind as quiet as possible to listen.

Listening is another skill we all need practice improving. Listening keeps us from making judgments about others, putting ourselves down, gossiping, or otherwise saying things that might break Jesus’ heart. When we concentrate on listening instead of being heard, we are open to understanding the messages in God’s Word and in the communications we have with others. Only by listening will we ever truly hear what God tries to tell us.

 

God coming in a whisper also reminds me that I have to be patient with my questions. I have to realize that sometimes His answers have been lost in the whirlwind of noise that constitutes a modern life.

I also have to ask myself why a God so mighty in power restrains Himself to a whisper. It’s a lesson I can apply to my relationships with other people, this knowing that words softly spoken can have more power than the force of a mighty wind.

This week, attend to how many opportunities you seize to hear God’s whispers and also how many opportunities inadvertently slip through your fingers.  After all, pebbles are much less painful than boulders.

In Christ,
Ramona

 

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Posted in Christian Living

Four Lessons From My Cat

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Lesson One: If You Want Something, Ask For It

If you have never had a cat, then you might find the concept of being in the house with your pet for an entire day without ever interacting with him a bit jarring.  But, in the feline world, such days are business as usual.

However, whenever my cat is ready to need me, he has no problem making his needs known.  He might meow loudly and arch his back at you.  He also loves to plant his front legs squarely and heavily on the middle of your sleeping chest.  If you are bald like my husband, he may even use the method of licking your forehead with his sandpaper tongue.

The bottom line is, the cat lets you know he means business.  And the business he is always about, or at least mostly about, is being fed.  In addition to his three squares, he also likes fish flakes, treats, and even carrots!  Getting food and water for my indoor cat is the only essential need he cannot achieve for himself.

Lesson Two: Be Careful What You Ask For

Mastering the manipulative art of begging for his supper has an unwanted side effect for my isolationist feline.  He often has to suffer my unwanted attentions.

Sometimes, despite his desire to be out of my arms, my cat’s body responds seemingly against his own will.  A deep, melodious purr emits from his belly, a calming balm to me that seems at odds with the semi-wild look in his eye as he gauges when best to wiggle out of my grip.

Like so many of us, he seems at times like this, almost double-minded.  He wants to be near me, but not so near that my person comes in contact with his catness.  He has yet to master the actually comfortable position of being loved and free at one and the same time.  Instead, he mistakes my affection for a cage he is all too eager to escape, even if he purrs while doing the escaping!

Lesson Three: Be Still

No one sleeps more peacefully than a cat.  We humans toss and turn.  Even dogs chase rabbits in their dreams.  But cats know how to curl in a ball or stretch upside down and breathe in perfect peace for hours on end.

It is not uncommon to leave the house and come back several hours later to find my cat in the same sleepy position in which I left him.  Just watching his fur slowly rise and fall can make me feel less stressed.

The rain may pour outside, the electricity may flash on and off in the house, and the television may blare away the hours, but my cat sleeps through all of it in perfect harmony with himself and the world around him, all he knows of reality.

Lesson Four: Go With The Flow

When I brought home a second cat many years ago, my tomcat’s first response was to run into the bedroom and hide under the bed!  As I hauled him out by his back legs and carried him through the house to show him the new member of the family had been isolated for the time being, he even had the temerity to hiss at me.

After I told him he was being silly, he didn’t take long to figure out he still had reign over his domain.  Within a few hours, he was sniffing at the door where the new cat was staying.  In just a few days, he was so determined to meet the newest member of our family that we decided to take our chances, forget the two week isolation rule for new pets, and opened the bedroom door.

My tomcat didn’t take long to adjust to his new reality.  He happily shared his food bowl and water dish, took turns at the bathroom faucet, and even slept within inches of his new buddy.

Despite the seeming closeness of my two pets, when I had to put the second cat to sleep, my tomcat also took this in stride.  I never noticed that he even looked for his former housemate.  If anything, I might go so far as to say that he is happier being the only cat in the house.

No matter if his household changes or he has to spend a few days at the vet’s, this cat manages to go with the flow.  Because he knows that he has very limited control over what happens to him, he takes his situation at face value.  He adjusts moment to moment.  What else, after all, can he do?

 

I often think that if I were more like my cat, I would be a better servant of my God.  God encourages me to ask for anything I desire that would please Him, assuring me that He will answer my request.  He tells me that He will take care of my every need for the basics of this life.  He makes Himself known to me best when I am still enough to listen for Him.  And my relationship with Him is strongest when I face the challenges of this life in full knowledge of His promise to always have my back.

Most importantly, my God loves me enough to let me go, to give me the free will to choose Him.  In the end, my devotion to my God is all the stronger because I long to know Him, not because He has made me follow.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a virtual slave to my cat, but I love him all the more because, in his own way, he draws me closer to the Creator who gives us the freedom to choose Him as our Saviour.

May the peace of the cat, and of our awesome God, be with you today and always.

In Christ,
Ramona

Posted in Christian Living, Faith

Salvaging the Sacred

 

Find Your Daily Sacred Space
Find Your Daily Sacred Space

Prayer is not asking. Prayer is putting oneself in the hands of God, at His disposition, and listening to His voice in the depth of our hearts.
― Mother Teresa

Prayer is a sacred act we have a tendency to take for granted in a multitude of ways.  Many of us have a bad habit of not turning to prayer unless we are in some kind of trouble.  Others of us fail to appreciate the great gift it is to approach the Maker of Heaven and Earth in conversation just as we might speak to a respected friend.  Because Christ serves as our High Priest, we always have access to the inner sanctuary of the temple, so to speak.  All we have to do is believe, ask, and, as Mother Teresa so eloquently reminds us, to listen.

Unfortunately, our ability to listen is daily challenged by a bombardment of messages and information that is greater than at any other time in human history.  From television and internet to cell phones and radios, we are almost never in silence.  Unless, we make a concerted effort to find time to be quiet.

The first step to silence is to pick a time in each day when you plan to spend time with just yourself and God.  Enter a room or your closet, close the door, turn off the cell.  Begin by finding a comfortable position.  Take three deep, breaths.  Spend the first few moments with God concentrating on clearing your mind.  Don’t let thoughts about your To-Do list or the confrontation at work that day get in the way of this moment when you are preparing to speak to the Most Holy of Holies.

The ability to clear one’s mind and be comfortable in our own silence takes practice.  Don’t expect to get it right at first.  But having with you your two strongest weapons–your faith and your Bible–will certainly help you focus your mind on the things of God and not the things of this world.  Ask Him to help you listen.  Admit your fears and your hope to Him.

Eventually, you will be able to expand the time you spend in your sacred space.  In fact, you will grow to covet the quiet time.  You will find there is always something or someone to pray about.  You will also find that even just sitting and concentrating on your own breath once you have invited God in can be a holy experience.

But, be ready to check the answers you think you hear from God against what you know He says in His word.  Ask your spiritual advisors for confirmation of what you think you have heard.  Remember that our human hearts are known as “the great deceivers” for a reason.  Often, the truth God needs us to see is initially painful, but it always leads to a better us, to the healing that is the promise of Christ’s love for us.

The power of prayer is meant to be shared
The power of prayer is meant to be shared

Finally, remember that, as your ability to find the sacred places in your own heart and day increase, you are duty-bound to share what you have learned with others.  Sacred spaces are even more sacred when we learn together to be still and listen for God:

For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them, Christ tells us in Matthew 18:20.

The family that prays together stays together, isn’t just an old wives’ tale.  It is the profound truth of the power of God when we truly let Him into our lives.

So, the next time you prepare to pray, take a moment or two to remember the value of the privilege it is that we Christians can speak, speak, to the One and Only in full knowledge that He is listening to us and that the One who died for us is sitting at His right hand to intervene on our behalf.  Now, that is a sacred truth worth feeling from the top of our heads to the tips of our toes.

Be on the lookout for the sacred this week.  Make time in your day for it.  All you need do is ask.