Time with God

Matthew 5:6  “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness; for they shall be filled.” KJV

Morning and evening, my habit is to spend time in silent meditation on God.

I tell Him I have come to be with Him.  I tell Him I want to know Him, and that I am listening should He want to speak.  I invite Him to be present with me.  Though my body stays still during this time, my mind frequently wanders in any number of directions.

My purpose during these times of quiet is to focus on God.  Though I fail to always stay as focused as I would like, I am convinced of something that gives me hope.  I believe it is impossible for me to sincerely seek God, and for Him not to show up.

Though I may not be exactly sure what has happened during the time I spend with God, I am sure that something has happened.  Somehow, as a result of time spent in His Presence, I am changed.

God sees my heart.  He knows my desire is to know Him.  He is faithful to keep His promise, “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness; for they shall be filled.”

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Before mom went into a nursing home, week by week, her dementia worsened.  Her frantic early morning phone calls communicated confusion, agitation, and ever-increasing fear.

As her calls became more frenetic, my fear for her safety and well-being intensified.

Again and again, I prayed for her safety.  I reminded myself that mom had belonged to Jesus since she was young, and that God had taken care of her all her life.  Logically, I knew God could be trusted with her care now.  Yet shortly after praying, fearful thoughts returned.

One night I fell asleep, only to wake a few hours later.  Anxious thoughts swirled, and fearful “what if” scenarios played like a video in my mind:  Would mom wake in the night in confusion, and do something that might harm herself or someone else?  If she got up and left her apartment, would her caretaker wake up and help her back to bed?

I tried to pray the Lord’s prayer, but my mind refused to stay focused on the words.  Instead, as if drawn like a magnet, my thoughts insisted on returning to images that created fear and worry.

Finally in exhaustion, I prayed “God, help me!”  Silently, the words came to me:  “I am Yours, You are mine.”

My mind easily focused on those few words.  God loved me, and He loved mom.  I didn’t need to pray again.  I didn’t need to worry any more.  God had heard my prayers for mom’s safety, and He held her in His care.  All was well.

Peace.

 

 

On New Year’s Eve, I found myself missing the Watch Night services I attended at church as a child growing up in Michigan.

The service started between 10 or 11 in the evening.  We sang, spent time in worship, then listened to a sermon.  There was time set-aside for people to share about God’s work in their lives in the past year, and when midnight neared we gathered at the altar or remained in our seats to “pray in the New Year.”

Since leaving home and moving to the San Francisco Bay Area, I’ve never attended a church that held a Watch Night service.  Recently over dinner, my family was discussing the ways people celebrate New Year’s Eve, and I mentioned this service and the practice of “praying in the New Year.”  The mixture of disbelief and shock in my son’s eyes informed me that this may be something foreign to many people, and it made me sad.

I miss this tradition of the Watch Night service when I set aside time to invite the Holy Spirit to look back with me on the previous year, and to seek His guidance for the coming year.  I miss taking the final few moments of each year to stand still and acknowledge that God is God, and I am not.

I may not be able to bring Watch Night services back into vogue, but on December 31st as midnight was nearing I spent some time in quiet.  I invited the Holy Spirit to speak to me about 2017, and to pray for His guidance in 2018.  It was hopeful, and time well-spent.

If you’ve ever attended a Watch Night service, let me know your thoughts about the experience?

How do you spend New Year’s Eve?

This article was written by Robby Kautz for the blog:  Christianquietude.wordpress.com

The expected call came at 10:15 that morning.  Answering the phone, I felt relief when I heard the pride in my husband’s voice: “The meeting went exceptionally well.  The president even took the time to compliment me on the quality of my presentation.”

I stopped what I was doing.  Knowing that for my husband to fully enjoy this success, he needed my complete attention and appreciation for his hard work.  As he filled in more details about the meeting, I became aware that his love for me and our family motivated him to work hard and to take pride in his accomplishments.  In that moment my heart filled afresh with love for him.

Later that morning I went outside for my time of Bible reading and prayer.  It was then that I received another call for my attention.  As I began to read I sensed God’s Spirit urge me to stop my self-imposed devotional routine and to simply sit in the quiet with Him.

I put down my Bible and looked around.

A soft breeze caused the branches of the trees to sway ever so slightly.  I noticed the blue of the sky, the warmth of the sun, and the different shades of green in the bushes and trees.  I saw with new eyes the intricacy and beauty of the flowers at my side.

Like my husband, God wanted my undivided attention.  He wanted me to stop what I was doing so I could notice and appreciate the beauty of His work, His provision, and His care for me.

In that moment my heart filled afresh with love for Him.

*This blog post is the work of Robby at Christianquietude.wordpress.com

 

 

I love the Sabbath!

Shortly before sundown and the start of the Sabbath I knew I needed to sit and journal about my week and the many things I wanted  to get off my mind and onto the written page.

I wrote about talking on the phone while rushing to jot down a prayer request, missing a step, and falling onto the bathroom’s hard tile floor.  I wrote about how foolish I felt lying in pain,  about needing to go to the chiropractor because of the effects of that fall, and about how grateful I was for his help.  I wrote about the multitude of calls I’d made searching for a caretaker for my elderly mother.  Finally, I wrote about the to-do list I’d created at the beginning of the week, how few tasks I’d checked off the list, and the many tasks I would dutifully transfer to next week’s list.

Looking up at the clock and seeing that it was four minutes until sundown, I  quickly wrote, “I love the Sabbath!”

Four minutes later I lit a candle to welcome the Sabbath. Externally, time shifted me from  a week of work to a twenty-four hour period of rest.

Wanting to help myself shift internally, I settled into a comfortable chair.  My thoughts went to that final sentence, “I love the Sabbath!”, and  I asked myself what, specifically, in that moment, did I love about the Sabbath?

Do I love it because it’s like taking a deep sigh of relief after a week that typically feels like a marathon? Or was it simply an honest statement  that  I really do love the Sabbath?  Both reasons are true, but I was determined to find the most compelling reason that in that moment I chose to write that final sentence.

I continued sitting in silence, and before long I knew the answer.

When I started my journal entry I felt all jumbled and frazzled, yet as I wrote, things started to untangle.  In the same way, at the start of most Sabbaths I tend to feel  jumbled and frazzled.  Yet each week as I honor the Sabbath by spending time resting and focusing on God, what looked like a confused mess slowly untangles, and peace descends.

Each Sabbath while I rest in God’s Presence, He reminds me that He is working on my behalf in ways I can only imagine and that He can be trusted with everything that concerns me.

On this Sabbath, He reminded me that all the things that only moments before I’d hurriedly poured onto the page  were under His control.

 

 

Recently I had friends coming for dinner.  Knowing it was going to be a long night of cooking, hosting, and cleaning, I decided to spend time meditating on God before starting to prepare dinner.  Up to this point my evening time of meditation was reserved for just before bedtime.  I knew that if I waited until then on this night, I would likely be thoroughly exhausted and unable to focus.

Spending time with God at this earlier hour was wonderful!  Because I wasn’t tired, I was able to more fully focus on Him, and I loved it.

As I left my meditation time to prepare the meal and host my friends, I was surprised at how the moments I’d spent with God positively affected my energy level and creativity.  The effect was as if I’d spent time in an oxygen chamber (though I’ve never actually been in an oxygen chamber, from what I’ve heard about the experience, that’s how it felt).

Since that evening, I’ve been working to make this time-switch my new habit.  I find that when I meditate on God at this earlier hour, I am more available to Him and better able to stay focused on Him.  Sitting, standing, or kneeling silently in His Presence, I sense His love.  When I leave my time of silence, I notice His creative energy and help as I prepare dinner and through the remainder of the evening.

“And he withdrew himself into the wilderness, and prayed.”  Luke 5:16, KJV

When people learn that I keep the Sabbath they are often curious about what I do on that day and why I do it.  Their ‘why’ tends to be another way of asking what benefit I receive from separating myself from my daily work to spend time resting and focusing on God.

On the Sabbath I find that I am aware of His Spirit differently than the other six days of the week.  This allows Him to do in me what He wills, so that the following week because of time spent with Him, I am changed.

The above blog post was written on April 1, 2016 by Robby for Christianquietude.wordpress.com

Growing up in Grand Haven, Michigan, my family always spent New Year’s Eve attending the watchnight service at the Assemblies of God church near our home on Beechtree Street.  When the service began between 10:00 and 11:00 pm, we sang, listened to a sermon, then time was given for personal testimony when congregants stood to share their joys and sorrows as they talked about what God was doing in their lives.  When the clock’s hands neared midnight we gathered at the altar or stayed in our seats to “pray the new year in”.  Walking home after the service, I remember feeling at peace.

Praying the new year in was a way to stop at the end of one year and the beginning of the next, to be still and know that God is God.

As I look back on those watchnight services, I say to myself, “Good times!”

I am thankful that in my family and in that community there was an acknowledgement that each new year is a gift from God.  I’m thankful that as a child I developed the habit of looking back at each previous year to asses my life, to repent when it was needed, and to thank God for what He had done in my life.  I now see that this yearly service helped me develop the practice of praying as David prayed in Psalm 90:12, “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.”

Though watchnight services seem to be out of fashion, I plan to spend some time “praying the new year in”.  I want to take time to consider this past year and to express my profound gr attitude for all God has done.  I want to assess the year that has passed, and repent where repentance is needed.  And I want to invite God’s Spirit to be present in my life to guide me into and through this new year.

*A watchnight service is a Christian church service held on New Year’s Eve that concludes shortly after midnight.  Those in attendance review the past year, and seek God’s guidance as they look to the year ahead.

RK

Recently on the TV show The Voice, Emily Ann Roberts sang, “I Come to the Garden Alone” – a song she chose to honor her grandfather.  Listening to her angelic voice, I was reminded of how Sabbath keeping and silent meditation on God has shifted my perspective of that well-loved hymn.

Though I always thought the song was beautiful, I used to wonder about the words in the chorus that say that the joy God and I share in quiet is shared by us alone.  This portion of the song confused me, I thought the words were a bit prideful and misguided.  How dare the songwriter assume that the joy they experienced was a joy no other Christian had ever experienced?  That was before I began the practice of Sabbath keeping and silent meditation on God.

Since developing this practice I find that through His Spirit, God speaks to me personally.  He never contradicts His Word, but He reaches my heart and spirit with the exact message I need.  I have come to understand that having a relationship with God means intimacy, and that intimacy sometimes involves messages that are for me alone.  I don’t mean that when God tells me, “I love you”, He never says it to any of His other children.  I do mean that when He says it to me, He says it in the exact way He wants me to receive it at that moment.

I recall experiencing this kind of intimate communication one Sabbath while meditating on the love of God.  His voice came to my heart and asked,”Robby, do I love you?”  I answered, “Yes God.  You love the whole world, and because I’m part of your world I know you love me.”  God’s voice again spoke to my heart, “I’m not asking you about who or what else I love.  I want to know if you believe I love you?”  Oh.  I had never considered that question for myself.  I knew God was asking me what I believed about His love for me, and that He wanted me to answer this very important question.  Asking myself that question, I thought back on all the ways God has been such a loving Father, how He has led and protected me, and all the answered prayers.  My answer came easily, and I knew in a way I had never known before that God loves me personally and intimately.  In that moment I went from believing God loved the world enough to send His Son to die for all people, to believing that I am His especially loved child.  Because of that moment of listening to the truth God was speaking into my life, my view of God, my relationship with Him and my life have been forever changed.

In that moment I experienced what the songwriter was saying, that God’s voice to me in quiet will be specific and personal.  I now know the words of this song are not prideful or misguided, but awe-inspired and humbling.

I am thankful Emily Ann chose this song to honor her grandfather.  And I am thankful for the truth of the words of the song  – that God communicates personal messages to His children that He knows we need to hear.  RK