Category Archives: Quiet Time Musings

Leaving it all on the altar

This summer, our worship pastor, Matthew, explained how, as worship leaders, we prepare, plan, and practice for Sunday mornings, but we often take our sacrifice of praise back off the altar and drag it around with us the next week. For YEARS I have taken my value and worth in how I’d “performed” during worship services.

“I totally nailed it this week! God must be so proud of me!” = pride and self-righteousness

“Oh man, I completely forgot my part. I’m such a failure.” = depression and self-loathing

What would it be like if the priests of old had dragged the charred, spent carcass of their offering off the altar and carried it around the rest of the time saying “look at my great sacrifice!”? It’s absurd and disgusting, right? In the same way, making myself the center of the praise offering is absurd and disgusting…praise and worship should be centered, focused, and wholly about God…His goodness and grace and inexplicable mercy on prideful, sin-filled people.

I am so thankful that Matthew taught me this lesson. This weekend’s worship band was…wild. People were sick, fighting sickness, we had technically complicated difficulties…you name it, it was happening. But then we had this awesome time of baptism at the end of each service. God’s Grace and Glory was on powerful display as people spoke of how the Gospel has transformed their lives. During the first set, I had been self-absorbed with my fading voice and all the technical details of the music, but hearing these people testify to the Grace they had received reminded me that it didn’t matter one bit if I sounded great or awful…it’s all about Jesus anyways. As a lead worshipper, my job is to prepare, plan, and practice in order to bring honor to Jesus and create a place where others can come and worship and adore Him.

After that first baptism and the Holy Spirit reminding me of the truth, I just worshipped. I happened to have a microphone and keyboard in front of me, but that didn’t make me any more than just another sinner, saved by the amazing Grace of our Loving God.

Ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name. Bring an offering and come before Him! Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness. ~ I Chronicles 16:29 ~



Joy! The Choice and the Feeling.

My insomnia is back.

A few weeks ago, this would be a terrible thing. It was in the night watches that my dark thoughts would spin; endlessly looping in my mind. All the problems and difficulties in our lives would swirl around creating a hurricane of depression in my brain, leading to conclusions that were just more destructive and discouraging than anything. Yes, there were thoughts of leaving my husband, of suicide, of just walking away from everything. None of these are actually options for me… or choices that I would make, but the perpetual thoughts were there. I felt like I couldn’t stop them, couldn’t escape them, and for the life of me, couldn’t just go to sleep. Even for the time I was on medication, the nighttime battle was there.

I’d get up and pace to the couch where I’d cry and pray and beg for rest. Usually, the sun would start lightening the sky before my exhausted body would finally fall into a short nap before it was time to be up and back to taking care of the family.

I love my husband, but he didn’t understand. I love my children and my current role as stay-at-home mom, but didn’t find joy in that.

I’ve said before that I would battle it, that I would fight it, that I would choose to be happy and content with where I am. That would work for a time, but not for long.

My post a few weeks ago was about the basic idea of capturing thoughts. It’s an old spiritual discipline that I’d forgotten… but the basic idea comes from 2 Cor. 10:4-5:

The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments (imaginings) and every pretention (assertion) that sets itself up against the knowledge (truth) of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”  

Pretty much, although I don’t have control over the thoughts that enter my brain, I do have the authority (“divine power”) to tell them to go straight to the pit of hell where they belong.

So I have been.

And you know what? I’ve had an awesome last few weeks. Yes, there’s moments of sadness (our home church’s women’s retreat is this weekend and I wish I was there with my friends… the coastal town where my family lives had a fireworks celebration on the cliffs that my kids would have adored…), but I can acknowledge my sadness without STAYING there. Moving on to the next thing, fixing the eyes of my heart and mind on Jesus and the joy that He’s given me in my day-to-day life. Even if I still can’t go to sleep, I remind myself to meditate on scriptures, sing songs to the Lord in my head, count my blessings, or even just get out of bed and spend some time reading my Bible until I’m tired enough to go back to sleep.

This has been so helpful. I can FOCUS on my kids, and I’m realizing anew what a total delight they are… and I can’t imagine enjoying them more or better if we lived anywhere else. I can wrap my head around the reality that we’re having ONE MORE, and she’s going to just add to the happy chaos that is our home. I can see my husband as a man, not my SOURCE of joy or happiness, but as my partner as we try to figure out our lives and family.

So today, when I was reading Psalm 9 in my quiet time, my spirit shouted “YES!” to these verses:

I will praise You, O LORD, with my whole heart; 
I will tell of all Your marvelous works.
I will be glad and rejoice in You;
I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High!

The Discipline of the Mind – Conviction and Confession

Although I can’t find any current information about Anne Ortlund (at least not online), I am being blessed and convicted by her little self-published book from 1977 called “Disciplines of the Beautiful Woman.” It’s a book I borrowed off my mother’s bookshelf years and years ago, before I’d met Anthony or even become a college student. I remember that I kept it because it had an impact on me, and this morning in my quiet time, the Holy Spirit urged me to pick it up again.

Because I’d missed an important lesson.

The wonderful, amazing thing about books (and especially books inspired by God!) is how you can read them over and over and discover new treasures, new wonders, and fresh revelations with each reading.

I obviously have been a terrible blogger lately, which has a lot to do with my depression, a little to do with my new pregnancy (13 weeks!), and a lot to do with the fact that I just don’t feel like I have anything interesting to say.

Because I don’t. But God does. Here’s what Anne wrote that convicted me:

One of the disciplines of a godly woman must be the discipline of the mind. We are not free to let our emotions flip and flop all over the place. We are not free to fret and worry if we feel like it, to indulge ourselves in pouting and stewing. That doesn’t mean that “blues” aren’t permissible; they are. Many of the Psalms are David‘s laying out his feelings openly before the Lord–his “down” feelings as well as his “up” feelings–but putting them both into God’s hands in completely surrendered faith. “Lord, I feel great today; I praise you”; or “Lord, I feel lousy today, but I praise you, anyway.” Bad feelings aren’t necessarily the result of sin; if I feel down, maybe I just ate something that didn’t agree with me. 

But anxiety–that’s something else. Worry is disobedience. The disciplined mind makes no room for doubting God’s plans for me. “What if ––––?” has no place in my thinking. The graph he has plotted for me can include automobile accidents, visits to the zoo, hot chocolate in front of the fire, hysterectomies–it’s up to him.

I understand that a big part of my depression comes from some chemical imbalances going on in my body, in addition to environmental realities that I have no control over right now (I think every other Facebook status I’ve posted since we’ve moved to AZ has been about how homesick I am). Since becoming pregnant, I’ve discovered that I can either choose between taking my anti-depressants but being miserably nauseous and sick all day, or not take them and not throw up. I’m choosing the option 2, as if that was a difficult choice!

With the medicine being taken away, I’ve worked really hard on being aware of my moods, and in my Bible time, I’m reading through Psalms again. David seems so relatable right now, and I’m enjoying reading his poetry that acknowledges his sadness, but always returns to God’s goodness and sovereignty in his life. I need to practice that.

I guess the part of Anne’s writing that convicted me the most was how she said it’s not OK to let our emotions flip and flop all over the place… the “blues” are permissible but must be surrendered to God… and how worry is disobedience.

So often, I just let my thoughts take off… there’s not much here to distract me from myself… and off I go, imagining “what if,” wishing things could go back to how they were, feeling cut off and left out of my “old life.”  It’s not that it’s BAD that I miss home, or our friends, or our church, but when that becomes my whole life… not living here because I wish I was living there… that’s allowing my emotions and thoughts to dictate the direction of my day. And THAT’S depressing!

So my focus this week is going to be the discipline of the mind: surrendering my life here in the desert with total faith that God obviously knows what He’s doing much better than I do. When I catch myself feeling down because I’m here and not there, I’ll acknowledge the feeling, and then return my focus back to the Lord. When I start to worry about how we’ll never get back home, I’ll remind myself that it isn’t my job to make anything happen in that department, and turn the worry over to Jesus.

And hey, if you think of me, would you pray that I would find joy in our new life out here?

Flavored Honesty

Being a good blogger requires the personality of a narcissist; coming up with something new and profound to write about. And many days, although I have a lot happening that I could talk about, I honestly don’t feel like I have anything to offer that would be remotely interesting to anyone else, including my husband.

Hi Honey, how was your day?

Fine. I changed diapers, schooled kids, cleaned the house, then watched as they tore it up again. I’d like to drink a beer in the bathtub with only my book, but I still need to clean the kitchen and fold a mountain of laundry before I pass out in an exhausted heap. And no, I do not feel romantic tonight.

It’s not like I have deep revelations from God every morning (although I constantly pray for them) that will change your life (or mine). Recently, my cherished quiet times have been accompanied by my sweet-faced baby boy, who is now so intrinsically linked to my sleep cycles, that he cannot possibly stay asleep when I am not laying beside him.  This means my previously child-free meditation/writing times come punctuated with coos and squeals from a freshly-rested bundle of life, with plenty of frustrated grunts as the young one tries to figure out how to get his toys closer, or how to roll from his stomach to his back. An interesting addition has been the pigeons…

Mr. and Mrs. Pigeon moved into our patio’s storage closet a few weeks ago, when the door was accidently left open.  For an afternoon, the kids and I watched, fascinated, as they flew back and forth with sticks in their beaks, building a little nest behind the water heater. Anthony was not OK with the idea of more critters in our space (have I mentioned that we have a bug problem?), and shut the door. I felt so bad: the birds had spent all day getting that tiny pile of sticks back in the closet, and now all their hard work was closed off.  But they haven’t given up. They are now making a new nest behind Anthony’s bike (which does not fit in the storage closet). He’s relented. As long as they don’t mess up the satellite dish, they can stay.

So every morning, when Joshua and I come into the living room for sunrise, I open up the sliding glass door to our patio, and Mr. and Mrs. Pigeon coo a morning song to Joshua. And he is fascinated! He lays on his play mat perfectly still as the birds hum and talk. When they stop, he begins to kick and wiggle and sing his own song until the birds begin again. This morning, that drama was much more exciting to me than the thick passage of Deuteronomy I was attempting to delve through.  Josh’s exuberance is so total; so embodied! Every part of him quakes and anticipates the sound of the bird’s song, and then ceases to move a muscle while they converse in their strange way.

So, ignoring the blessings and curses in the Old Testament, today I meditated on that child-like anticipation. When I come before the presence of God, it is rarely with quaking and trembling, or even an elevated sense of excitement. At best, my attitude is that of duty and habit. And when I hear the Voice begin to sing morning songs to me, I’m often so overwhelmed with all the other sounds (my to-do list, my worries), that I am not still and quiet. But, even if the Voice has nothing revelatory to say, but simply sings for the joy of singing, isn’t that enough? Shouldn’t I just be still and bask in the beauty and wonder that this Voice sings to me? That God loves me so much that He will sing for me?

“The Lord your God in your midst,
The Mighty One, will save;
He will rejoice over you with gladness,
He will quiet you with His love
He will rejoice over you with singing.”
Zephaniah 3:17

I continue to struggle to learn this lesson, of being quieted with His love, but I think having my children as an example helps.

Joshua at Rest

How do you cultivate child-like faith in the Presence of this God who sings over us??

Peace is a state of being

I read Susan Gaddis’s blog yesterday morning about formational reading and began to explore my thoughts about the devotional book I’ve been trying to get through for the last few weeks, “God’s Whisper in a Mother’s Chaos: Bringing Peace Home” by Keri Wyatt Kent. This is one of those excellent books that I could have written (I swear, I’m not trying to be prideful!), but it is so good to reread lessons that constantly struggle to remember.

First of all, I have to say that I was raised with a very idealized view of daily devotions (in our home, they were called quiet times).  Mom would wake us up early so we could read our Bibles, pray and journal before breakfast. What started out as a daily chore in my childhood became essential to my morning in my teenage years. As my relationship with Jesus deepened, I enjoyed spending an hour or two in this time of intimacy every morning. My pattern changed a little after I got married, shortening as my home responsibilities grew. However, after the birth of my first child, quiet time was only a dream. I was so exhausted that any quiet time became sleep time, and when I did try to pray, I was usually fell asleep mid-prayer. For the longest time I felt so unspiritual, too enmeshed in the routines of family, home and school to spend the hours of contemplation with my heavenly Father that I had been accustomed to as a younger woman.

Two things happened early in my mothering career that made me realize that, although my quiet times with Jesus had changed, the time spent in His presence was no less significant. One was discovering the FlyLady, a home management system put together by a sweet, Southern Christian lady. In one of her essays, FlyLady Marla talks about how when she sticks with the same routine of cleaning her house every morning, her mind and heart are free to meditate on scripture and listen to God speak. That jarred me! I thought I had to sit in quiet contemplation to meditate and hear the voice of the Lord, but this lady was saying that in doing her daily chores, she was spending time with Jesus!

The second discovery for me was studying the “Ancrene Riwle” in my Medieval Literature class. This rule book was written for women who had devoted themselves to the church and cloistered life, becoming Ancoresses of the church (these women eventually became known as nuns). This crazy little book had a prayer for every single activity in the woman’s life, from the second she opened her eyes in the morning to when she fell asleep at night. Prayers for putting on socks and brushing hair, prayers for cooking and bathing and sweeping. Prayer was built into their daily chores!

I began to realize that I have always compartmentalized my life: mornings were my “spiritual” time, and then I would start real life. Sunday mornings, youth group and Bible study were spiritual parts of my week, but other gatherings were unspiritual. As the Lord continued to work on my heart, I began to realize that it is all spiritual because I carry the Holy Spirit in my heart as I go through my day.

So now I don’t worry when I don’t get to have my actual, structured quiet time in the day. Often, as soon as I wake up, at least one of my sweet children is needing to be fed, so my first activity is usually supervising the pouring of milk and Cheerios, closely followed by requests for cartoons, books or games (anything but getting dressed and ready for school!). But once the initial morning mayhem has settled down, I start into my routine: wiping down the bathroom, washing dishes, making beds, laundry, sweeping floors. I pray in the Spirit as I bless my home and family. Gratefulness fills my heart that I still have a warm bed to make, that I have food that dirties dishes, that I have happy children that track mud in (every. single. day).  And I’m learning to maintain a state of peace within, even as my hands and body are busy. The things that God talks to me about in these mundane tasks are interesting and no less revelatory than they were when I had the time to sit in quiet contemplation.

I may be a busy wife and mother, but I am a spiritual giant. Chaos often surrounds me, but I am not shaken. I am the Anchoress of our home, maintaining the lifeline into  Christ, our Solid Rock.

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