disengage…I repeat…disengage…

The words in the title come from an intense scene in The Incredibles movie. I couldn’t help but think of them as I was preparing to give a ‘VILLAGE’ talk on the importance of Solitude & Silence.

Do you ever notice how long it takes for your phone to power off? Or your computer? I realize there are technical reasons for this. Most of us simply keep our devices on – all the time. With a tap of button or the flip of a screen, our phones and computers are ready to serve us. This is because we keep our e-devices in sleep mode. It was Steve Jobs who said, (and I paraphrase) “Why would you want to turn off your computer when you could simply put it to sleep? This way, when you’re ready to use it again, it’s ready to go, no waiting time at all.”

Most of us can agree that Mr. Jobs was a genius (apple user or not). However, I can’t help but think that this is just mirroring our complex problem of not being able to shut things off, most importantly, us. Just like our phones or laptops, we don’t shut down. Just like the energizer bunny, we keep going and going and going. The problem is that life is more complex than a 30 second commercial about batteries lasting longer and longer.

As we continue our quest to move DEEPER into relationship with God, we must take a good look at the importance of Solitude & Silence. They are two of the many Spiritual Disciplines that help us create space for God to speak into our lives. Many writers on the subject list them as things we do to: deepen our relationship with God, discern next steps in our life, hear from God, reflect on where we’ve been and where we need to be. You’ll know them as…prayer, journaling, fasting, giving, serving, community, etc.

Solitude & Silence seem to make the top of this longer list of disciplines. There’s a good reason why – we are in desperate need of ‘alone time’, even though it’s one of the hardest things to fit into our schedule. If there’s one text (out of many) we could look to, it would be Psalm 46:10. The Psalmist encourages us to “Be still and know that I (HE) is God”.  If we could just read that and sit for a few minutes in complete silence, we’d be better for it.

We learn about this best from Jesus. He often took time ‘alone’ to prayer, reflect, reenergize, and rest. This is Jesus we’re talking about. God. He purposely removes himself from the equation to be alone. We see it multiple times in his life and ministry. Here are some examples…

Matt 14:23 “And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone” Mark 1:35 “In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed.” Luke 4:42 “At daybreak he departed and went into a deserted place. And the crowds were looking for him”

Solitude & Silence give us breathing room, from our hectic lives, so we can better see where we’ve been, where we’re going, and how God might want to speak into our life.

Here’s one problem, many of the people who’ve written about this in the past have been monks or priests or pastors. Many of which didn’t have home obligations. (I must add that many of the present/modern writers are just like us, with families and lots to do) They have set aside their lives and jobs for, what we’ll call, full time ministry. Most people can’t identify with that.  So this begs the question: How can we implement times of Solitude & Silence into our lives that are already so full of everything else? I can’t answer that question fully, because it’s a question that you’ll have to address by connecting your desire to grow DEEPER and your present life situation. However, I will leave you with a few things to think about.

Be intentional… (schedule it)
Be strategic… (use idle time)
Be practical… (no your situation/stage of life)
And somehow, some way, do your best to press the ‘shut off’ switch (regularly).

Why? We want to create space for God to speak, and for us to listen.

What we talk about when we talk to God

What we talk about when we talk to God

I’ve come to expect a few things from my wife over the years. Her smile, her awesome cooking (BTW, that’s an honest appreciation for her gift, not a chauvinist comment in any way), her wisdom, her love, and among other things, her phone calls while she is driving. Funny that we use our drive time to make calls, but if there’s one thing technology has assisted with is the multi-use of our time. I can now stay in contact with the people I care about while driving. 15-20 years ago I would just…drive. (If you do this, please be using a bluetooth device or head phones:) (and please note that we’re not dismissing the other ways technology robs us of personal contact) 

It never fails, on the mornings that I’m working from home, my wife might be on the road for less than 5 minutes and the phone rings. She just wants to chat; catch up on stuff we missed over breakfast. It’s a good thing right? I love it, and she obviously does to, otherwise she wouldn’t dial the number.

Relationships are based on conversation and communication. They grow when we’re talking, they don’t grow when we’re not talking. I’m not discounting the profoundness of being present without words, however, we can all agree that healthy friendships are based on conversation that travels both ways.

If this is true, why do we think that our relationship with God is any different? Without thought we will go days without talking to God, without reading the scripture, without quieting ourselves to listen to what he has to say. The funny thing is that we somehow convince ourselves that our understanding of God, our walk with Christ, can move forward even when we neglect one of the most important lifelines for it – prayer. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t an easy thing to be consistent with. I speak from experience: I’m consistently inconsistent and inconsistently consistent (how’s that for a tongue twister). That being said, if I want to grow deeper in my faith and move closer to the person Jesus is calling me to be, prayer has to be part of the equation.

Prayer is…
– something the scriptures teach us to do (found 100’s of times in the Bible)
– expected of people who follow Jesus
– expecting God to answer the phone when you call (Psalm 4:3, 138:3)
– something we do alone (Matt 6) & together (Acts)
– something we do on good & bad days
– something we learn (‘Jesus, teach us to pray”Pray like this…’)

Prayer isn’t…
– just a bunch of words
– something we rush
– like pestering an authority figure to get something we want (Luke 18)
– to show off how spiritual you are to others (Matt 6)
– us telling God what to do, combined with hints on how others should live

Prayer (does)…
– helps you become the person God created you to be
– like all communication tools, fosters relationship (with God)
– reminds us that we’re not doing life alone
– gives God joy

Why do we pray???
– because Jesus did (Luke 11:1, 5:26, 22:32)
– because Jesus expects us to (Matthew 6:5,6,7,9, Luke 11:9)
– because prayer invites God into our world and ushers us into his
– because if we don’t pray we only halt our desire to deepen our relationship with God

There is so much more to say. But simply put – Pray!

Talk to God. Listen to God. See what happens as you do it more and more. Don’t just fit it into your busy schedule, try and base your schedule around it. I’m with you in this journey. I want to pray more in my 40’s than I did in my 30’s. Why? Because if I want to move deeper in my relationship with God and the mission Jesus compels me to live, I have to pray.

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small(er) group questions

If you were asked to describe prayer, why you do it and what you get from it, how would you respond?

In Matthew 6, Jesus gives us some instructions about prayer. How long we pray, how loud we pray, and what we pray for.
– Why do you think Jesus says not to pray for the purpose of others hearing you?
– What about the Lord’s prayer excites and inspires you? What part is tough to accept or pray?

How has God answered your prayer? Have there been times where you feel he’s been silent in responding?

If pray is conversation, what kind of things should get into the dialogue?

Ruth Barton says that, ‘prayer has features in common with all relationships that matter…exciting/dull, loud/quiet, joy/irritation’. What do you think she means by that?

We pray because (1) Jesus prayed (Luke 5:16, 11:1, 22:32), (2) He expects us to pray (Matthew 6:5,6,7,9), (3) Jesus taught us how (Matthew 6:6-11)

What would you like us to pray for tonight?

Let’s read the Lord’s prayer as we close. A little slower, with a few seconds of reflection between phrases.

How much do you want it? Really?

How much do you want it? Really?

Over the next few weeks we want to look at one word as it pertains to our faith journey – DEEPER. If we take some time to reflect, most of us would agree that it takes more than just brief thoughts and hopeful aspirations to grow in a relationship with Jesus. Jesus calls people to something bigger and better – at times more demanding, but always more rewarding.

What we’d like to get to the bottom of is the how and what:
– How do we move forward in our relationship with God?
– What can we implement in our rhythms and routines to better understand and live out the ways of Jesus?

Those are two great questions. And we will get to them soon. But first we have to ask another set of questions: How much do we want this? Who can really change me?

The scriptures reveal that the closer we get to God’s way of doing things, the closer we get to who we were created to be.
Soren Kierkegaard said, “With God’s help, I shall become myself”. His words reflect Jesus’ words in Matthew 10:39, “Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will find it.”

If finding God actually helps us find us, why don’t we do more to find God? Because most of us don’t believe that change is really possible. But that’s what the gospel story is: a life changing story. John Ortberg says, “The Christian gospel insists that the transformation of the human personality is really possible. Never Easy. Rarely Quick. But Possible.”

In Luke 5:18 and John 5:6-9 we see two different individuals who approach God with humility. They come to a glaring reality, they can’t fix themselves, only God can fix them. Only God can fix us. Ruth Barton says, “I knew that whatever needed to be done in me, God would have to do it, for I was incapable of fixing myself”

We all have area’s in our life that need improving. No matter how good we think we are, we have lots of growing to do. We’re fooling ourselves if ever think that we’ve arrived – God help us. Ortberg also says, “I am still disappointed that I still love God so little and sin so much. I always had the idea as a child that adults were pretty much the people they wanted to be.”

We’re going to get into a lot more practical ways (including some spiritual disciplines) that will help us go deeper. Until then, think about these questions as it pertains to your spiritual journey. They work for any goals you may have, but for the sake of our series and your desire to know God more, apply them to our theme.

  • What am I willing to give up? (sacrifice)
  • How am I responsible for not growing deeper in faith? (look in the mirror)
  • What discomfort will I need to push through? (it’s not easy, but worth it)
  • Who is going to be in my corner? (community – we’re in this together)
Looking forward to this conversation: Both to what I’m going to learn personally, and how we, together, will discover more of God and the mission Jesus’ is calling us to live out.
All I want for New Years is…Hope

All I want for New Years is…Hope

(my first instalment of 52 posts that reflect thoughts from our weekly conversations at The Village)

I think about all the good intentions people have around this time of year. The resolutions made, the promises said, the ambitious goals written down in journals across the globe. They’re all good and nice and even necessary. I too strategically think about how I can be better in the coming year, especially as I look at some of the places I’ve slipped in the passing year. (for some of my other new years reflections, go HERE)

For some reason, as the two years were transitioning I was brought to a certain part of the scripture over and over again. First from a colleague of mine who works and lives in Africa, and then via my thoughts and prayers, over and over again. I was brought to Romans 15:13 a few days before 2014 was ushered in, and then kept going to it a few days in. The word Hope (and Joy & Peace) are prominent in this text. They are good words – warm words – encouraging words. What really got me is how we aspire for these virtuous words and realities in our lives, but go to the wrong source to get them.

Romans 15:13 says, “May the God of Hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

A couple of things that stand out.
1) God is Hope. He is the one in whom Hope is fully realized. Our best and most profound example of Hope is God.
2) We are asked to trust in this God. Why? Because he is Hope. And only this God can fill you with Joy & Peace (two other things people are in demand for)
3) As we trust this God of Hope, he does something beautiful – he fills us (to the brim) with…you got it…Hope.

So amidst all the resolutions, all the ambitious dreams, all the re-prioritizing and de-cluttering of our space and lives, May the God of Hope…fill you with Hope. May the God of Hope…fill you with Joy. May the God of Hope…fill you with Peace. And let that Hope overflow, so that others may see it and be better because of it.

Walk Disney said (in Saving Mr. Banks) ‘We story tellers…we restore hope…again and again and again’. As God does that in us (restore hope), let us in turn do that in and for others.

Happy New Year.