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

 

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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

Since beginning the remodel of our house I’ve made many decisions.  The most important decision was which contractor to hire, then came decisions about tile, granite, mirrors, light fixtures, wall and carpet color, and the list goes on.  It all feels pretty weighty because once these items are purchased and installed we will be living with them for a long time.

In the midst of our remodeling chaos, I am reminded of another weighty decision I made some years ago that has allowed me to remain enthusiastic in spite of the dust and confusion.  That decision was to become a Sabbath-keeper.

How has Sabbath keeping helped me get through my house remodel?

*It helps me tolerate the noise and confusion because I know that there will soon be a day of peace and quiet.

*On the Sabbath I can sleep in a bit.

*On the Sabbath I can take a leisurely nap without the interruption of pounding, sawing, and the worker’s music choices.

*It is the  one day I do not need to make any weighty decisions – I can simply be.

*On the Sabbath more than any other day I rest in the knowledge that God is in charge, that I don’t have to control everything, and that no matter what hapens, I can trust Him.

*Because I’ve spent the Sabbath in rest and quiet I am able to face the new week with optimism and energy.

*Most importantly, I get to spend my day focused on God and His presence in my life.  Because of the time spent with Him, His Spirit strengthens my entire being.

While I’m happy with my remodeling choices, I’m even happier with my choice to be a Sabbath keeper.  It adds adds value to every moment of my life, and now it is helping me through a house remodel.

Three weeks in a row the same prayer request from the same woman read, “Pray that God would restore the joy and delight I once found in Him”.   Remembering when that same request was the silent cry of my heart, I mentally retraced my path of rediscovering delight in God.

Like most God-directed journeys, this one began with an unexpected change of plans.  One spring day I was informed that the following year I would be teaching the Pentateuch to high school students at the local Christian school.  Though I had anticipated fun in the sun and some time away from school work, because this was a new teaching assignment I spent my summer working my way from Genesis to Deuteronomy.  I was determined to be faithful to God and to my students.  Up to that point in my life I tended to work sixteen to eighteen hour days, and so losing my summer break led my heart to cry out, “God, you know I love you, but I’m so tired and my joy in you is gone.  Help me find delight in you.”

In God’s providence, the answer to my heart’s cry coincided with what He wanted to teach me about the Sabbath.

When school began in the fall I was ready.  I taught that in Genesis 2 the seventh day held a special place in God’s economy – He called it holy.  When we got to Exodus 16, I explained that God used the Sabbath to train the Israelites to trust Him as they collected extra manna on the sixth day so they could rest from work on the seventh.  As I taught, I sensed God’s Spirit urging me to trust Him with my time by working six days and resting on the seventh.  Reaching Exodus 20, I saw as if for the first time that the Ten Commandments were written by the finger of God.  Facing my students I sensed God asking me to obey this law that I had neglected.  Though my life’s pattern was obedience, I struggled with this.  Visions of unfinished lesson plans and ungraded papers haunted me.  How could I get everything done in six days when I couldn’t fit it into seven?  In the end I said yes.  I knew I had to trust that God knew best.

That first Friday evening as the Sabbath began I sat on my back deck watching the sun set.  I knew that the next twenty-four hours were holy, unlike any other day of the week.  God’s felt presence surrounded me as I read the Bible, prayed, and sat quietly in His presence.  On that day and every Sabbath since, I find delight in God.  He reminds me that my value comes not from doing more, but from simply being His child.  Each Sabbath I delight in a God who provides one day in seven for me to refocus and spend time with Him.

Some time after I began keeping the Sabbath I happened upon Isaiah 58.  Verses 13-14 say, “If thou . . . call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord . . . then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord.”

When I obeyed God’s urging to take the Sabbath seriously I had no idea that through my obedience He would answer my prayer and the cry of my heart.

God is true to His word.  I silently prayed for the woman’s request, knowing God would answer.  Just as He delights in us, He desires our delight be in Him.

Why do I continue the practice of Christian meditation?  In the silence, in the being-with-God time, He speaks to me at a heart-level.

For many years I experienced God’s love solely from head-knowledge.  Logic told me there was a God, and that through Jesus Christ He demonstrated His love for all mankind.  I knew that if He loved all mankind, He must also love me.

This was good information and was what I clung to for many years.  Yet during those years I don’t ever remember feeling like God’s especially loved daughter.

When I spend time with God in silence, as if in layers, His love becomes real to my heart.  When my intention is to listen to His silence and His voice, His Spirit shows me how His love for me is specific and unique.

Knowing I am loved by God in this one-on-one kind of way alters how I view life and how I walk through my days.  This love permeates my heart, transforms my life, and makes my relationship with Him more complete than it has ever been.