Be Still and Know
Day 65 - Issue 32

Day 65 - Issue 32

March 31, 2020

1 John 3:2 NLT

'Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is.'

You are composed of three interlocking aspects, which affects who you are. Some factors that have affected your life you had no control over – for example, you did not select your parents. As you grew, you became increasingly complicit in the decisions that directly affected you – for example, you chose friends and took decisions on how you treated them. The third aspect, like a seed awaiting germination, is the essence of who God created you to be, which we spend a lifetime choosing how much to explore.

Over time, we run into the consequences of choices made for us as well as those we make for ourselves. Some are positively detrimental to my realising the God essence within me. These choices lay the soil within which this Godseed was expected to both grow and flourish. The soil itself was not naturally full of the nutrients necessary for a fruitful life.

We are created to wait on God so that we might learn how best to lay aside the realities of previous decisions opposed to the work of God in our lives. This involves bringing my perceptions, attitudes and habits under the rule of God’s testing. We wait on God, the Master Gardener (John 15), sometimes in frustration, for he knows the seasons to wait and to prune, to ensure we flourish into our future.

QUESTION: Take time to reflect on decisions that have impacted your life. Where and when has God pruned your life so that you might flourish and become more fruitful?

PRAYER: Help me to trust that your pruning is for my ultimate good.

Day 64 - Issue 32

Day 64 - Issue 32

March 30, 2020

Psalm 25:4-5 NLT

'Show me the right path, O Lord; point out the road for me to follow. Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in you.'

Waiting has negative associations today. Western society expects instant results or access, whether it is medical results, superfast broadband access to the internet – even finding a suitable partner has been reduced to ‘speed dating’ so that we can budget our emotional energy effectively.

It’s all too easy to offer up a morning prayer for guidance – “show me the right path” – and anticipate we will have God’s response by sunset. We soon learn that God does not subscribe to a consumer mindset. Ease of access and mass supply is not one of God’s attributes. In this way, God appears quite old-fashioned. More like the ironmongers my dad took me to as a child, where he and the shopkeeper ferreted around for ages, looking for a screw to match the one Dad was seeking to replace. This was the very antipathy of newer DIY stores, with their neatly stacked aisles and pristine packets.

In reality, waiting carries within it a sense of expectation and hope. We are stationary in anticipation of something. The challenge is managing our emotions as we wait. It is also how to fill the time while we wait. If we mismanage that we can boil over with frustration, directing blame towards whoever or whatever we judge to be the cause of the delay. Fortunately, patience, the attribute we need to navigate waiting, is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), freely given to every disciple. It requires no supernatural intervention or anointing from on high. The challenge is learning to find and to use patience.

QUESTION: Is patience evident in your life and behaviour?

PRAYER: May I wait with expectation, faith, hope and patience.

Day 63 - Issue 32

Day 63 - Issue 32

March 27, 2020

1 Peter 1:3-4 NLT

'All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, and we have a priceless inheritance – an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay.'

I am greatly helped when thinking of blessing, both as an act of praise to God (and therefore to “bless God”) and as a receiving of help from God through the prayers of the Church (the act of giving and receiving blessings). It is in these ways that we “become blessings” for one another and offer blessings to God – by living true to who God has made us as his people.

Learning to give thanks, to bless God and others, in seasons of plenty and seasons of want, gives a positive appreciation of God in all of life. That positive foundation becomes essential when life puts the squeeze on us.

Ultimately, our destiny, as today’s scripture reminds us, is secure because of Jesus Christ. It is on these nursery slopes of our mortal life that we gain the experience for the mountain of eternity. All of our life can only make sense in light of our eternal objective. It’s not that we are being too heavenly minded to be of any earthly use; instead, we are discovering how to live with heaven in our heart – through all the complexities life serves up.

Discipleship requires a lot of letting go of the human drives that we might assume hold our lives together and direct our steps. We are to seek God’s presence in every moment of our life, and in doing so we discover fresh fuel to bless God. The manna, the miraculous provision of food for the Israelites in the desert (Exodus 16), was never a series of ready meals safely stacked within the freezer against a rainy day. It was fresh every morning, just like the “steadfast love” of God (Lamentations 3:22-23, ESV).

QUESTION: As you recall your ultimate destination, how does that affect your day today?

PRAYER: Thank you for the prospect of eternity and for the provision of daily bread on earth today.

Day 62 - Issue 32

Day 62 - Issue 32

March 26, 2020

Psalm 96:1-3 NLT

'Sing a new song to the Lord! Let the whole earth sing to the Lord! Sing to the Lord; praise his name. Each day proclaim the good news that he saves. Publish his glorious deeds among the nations. Tell everyone about the amazing things he does.'

One of my life’s great challenges is to avoid stagnation; the tendency to put off decisions, avoiding what must be done, to let relationships and activity drop, which in the past I compensated for by comfort eating or investing a lot of time in meaningless activities. In such a slough, I realised that a lot of my ‘purpose’ was defined by what I did and was measured against how other people navigated life. I was losing self-confidence and any reason for living. I needed to reassess who and where I was in life and rediscover my primary reason for living.

What I needed was a new song, a fresh refrain for life. I returned to God and began to take God’s declarations seriously. I considered how seriously I wanted to take God at his word, and what that might mean for my life. This took time, but slowly I found my true voice and was able to sing my new refrain. While we can all sing, we cannot all start in the same key or carry a tune within the same vocal range.

Today, having found my voice, I confidently sing out my life song, my distinctive appreciation of God, my world and my life. This song carries within it my story of God’s blessing and presents a characteristic sound to those I meet. This has awakened me and I am stimulated through blessing God. My life is once again moving in a clear direction, I am developing as a child of God. I give thanks to God and freely share my experience of blessing.

QUESTION: Is your life stagnating? If so, take stock, shake up your routines and take some small steps in the direction you want to travel in. Slowly find your song and your voice.

PRAYER: May I bless you, as I learn to sing the unique story of my friendship with you.

Day 61 - Issue 32

Day 61 - Issue 32

March 25, 2020

Psalm 16:7-9 NLT

'I will bless the Lord who guides me; even at night my heart instructs me. I know the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me. No wonder my heart is glad, and I rejoice. My body rests in safety.'

Unlike the psalmist, I cannot with authentically claim that “I will not be shaken”. At times, I really struggle with the challenges life brings. Clinging to God, I acknowledge God is “right beside me”, even if I cannot always sense that presence. This is the nature of faith; something unseen, yet factual and reliable. So, I place my confidence in this unseen truth ahead of my perceptions and their many attendant anxieties. For every crisis I survive, and there have been so many, while I give thanks and even formulate a testimony of gratitude, I know further tests lie around some future corner.

The ultimate reality of blessing lies in the fact that I can live at rest with myself, my circumstances and my future. So, I am invited, and consistently instructed by the Holy Spirit, to place my complete confidence in God. The fruit from such confidence is that elusive peace “the world cannot give” (John 14:27). This fruit takes some work. I can see that reality in my garden where, last autumn, the established fruit trees were laden for harvest. Yet, those I have planted since moving into the Oratory as yet only bear a minimal crop. I have to settle into the soil of blessing to fully harvest its riches – a truth that has taken time to be learned.

On Day 57, I described a tremendous experience when I woke enfolded in a deep sense of well-being. I was indeed blessed and my thoughts and emotions were touched with a positivity that I do not easily experience. I am normally actively practising a positive approach, but that morning I simply soaked within what felt like a hot and fragrant bath. So, my learning continues to be to bless God, no matter how dark the night that surrounds me.

QUESTION: Are you learning to draw comfort from the knowledge that God is beside you always?

PRAYER: Thank you for the blessing and promise of the gift of your Holy Spirit abiding with all who believe in Christ.

Day 60 - Issue 32

Day 60 - Issue 32

March 24, 2020

Psalm 103:1-5 NLT

'Let all that I am praise the Lord; with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name. Let all that I am praise the Lord; may I never forget the good things he does for me. He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases. He redeems me from death and crowns me with love and tender mercies. He fills my life with good things. My youth is renewed like the eagle’s!'

It is very easy to bless God with only a certain percentage of my “heart”. Much of the rest of it is distracted by a series of less profound anxieties and desires. Who hasn’t realised part way through a time devoted to God, that actually their mind has strayed and in fact the past minutes have actually been occupied by their own thoughts and worries? In some ways, this can be identified as prayers, yet not prayers that are consciously being brought to God. I certainly don’t criticise myself in such circumstances, yet I have learned that to bless God “with my whole heart” is something else, and learned practice.

When it comes to considering all that I am, I’ve taken this to mean not only my internal thoughts and state of mind, but also my activities and behaviours. How might I bless God throughout my day? For me this has meant discerning God in the so-called mundane activities of cleaning, laundry and washing-up. No longer frustrating tasks, these are all now activities within which I bless God. Such tasks need next to no mental energy. Yet, they usefully demand my time, time I can then use to bless God. So, slowly my day, while being framed by prescribed activities, is a series of opportunities to bless God.

QUESTION: Are your time and your tasks invested in blessing God with all of yourself?

PRAYER: Thank you for the gift of life and for this day ahead. In all of my ways and tasks, I want to acknowledge you and invite you in. May I commune with you in every hour of the day ahead.

Day 59 - Issue 32

Day 59 - Issue 32

March 23, 2020

Philippians 2:10-11 NLT

'…at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.'

You may know that the word “blessing” means “happy”, as in the Sermon on the Mount. Yet, it has its roots in the idea of blood sacrifice from Proto-Germanic roots, as well as it’s Hebrew meaning of “to bow the knee”. As such, it is highly appropriate as we respond to God’s blessing with an act of humble acknowledgement of God’s authority.

When entering or leaving the House of Commons, MPs face the mace, the sign of Parliament’s authority, and bow their heads. They are acknowledging the constitutional monarch’s authority under which Parliament officially meets. When the mace is removed by the sergeant-at-arms, whose role it is to maintain order in the Commons under the direction of the Speaker, then Parliament is no longer able to act as a legislative body. It is why we bless God, for we have no authority, indeed no true existence, beyond God’s royal permission in sustaining life on earth.

All too often, our prayer life is silent, mental prayer offered from a sedentary position. Nothing wrong with this. However, we can be far more physical in our prayer and use our bodies to remind us of the nature of our prayer, as well as physically connect us with our prayer actions. I use a liturgy taken from the Orthodox Church, which has a long tradition of bowing in recognition both of God’s authority and our humble submission to God’s Lordship. The Trisagion, “Holy God, Holy and Mighty, Holy and Immortal” is said three times and I bow my head for the first phrase, from the neck for the second and from the waist for the third. There is neither magic nor compulsion associated with this. It just helps me acknowledge my love and respect for God’s grace in rescuing and resourcing me.

QUESTION: Have you tried kneeling and/or bowing as part of your daily devotions in acknowledging God’s authority and your submission? Why not explore this?

PRAYER: I join with the angels in bowing to you, holy and almighty God, my maker and redeemer.

Day 58 - Issue 32

Day 58 - Issue 32

March 20, 2020

Psalm 63:6-8 NLT

'I lie awake thinking of you, meditating on you through the night. Because you are my helper, I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings. I cling to you; your strong right hand holds me securely.'

It is easy to agree with the sentiment that God is “my helper”. However, my submission to God leads me into contexts I would never have chosen for myself. Yet, God remains my friend, and friends stick with us through thick and thin.

This has taken me years to fully appreciate, and even longer to relax into. Is it a resignation of responsibility to quote Romans 8:28: “…all things work together for good, for those who are called according to [God’s] purpose” (ESV)? Or am I merely trying to put a brave face on challenging circumstances? I believe Paul wrote those words in recognition of the reality that God is always on our side. I face the challenge of first agreeing with that statement and then going in search of God to find grace, no matter my situation.

So, as I have aged, and hopefully matured (for there is no guaranteed correlation between these two states of being), I realise that I must stay awake in every moment of life, attentive to the presence of God. I need to keep a careful watch for God, much like the disciples in their storm-tossed boat (Matthew 14:22-36). Scripture tells us this was during the fourth watch (ESV), between 3:00 and 6:00am. This is when the night is at its darkest and just before dawn. We can enter a fourth watch at any hour of the day or night. It is when we feel most lost, without light to reveal our way, and are invited to scan an unseen horizon for the presence of Jesus. As Peter discovered, as he leapt from the boat to join the Master and was then battered by the reality of the waves that surrounded him, Christ’s hand held him securely.

QUESTION: Have you found God’s hand holds you securely through the fourth watch, when life is dark and storms rage?

PRAYER: I need you each day; I need a saviour and a friend. Hold me in your grip.

Day 57 - Issue 32

Day 57 - Issue 32

March 19, 2020

Psalm 63:4-5 NLT

'I will praise you for as long as I live, lifting up my hands to you in prayer. You satisfy me more than the richest feast. I will praise you with songs of joy.'

Last autumn I woke one day with a sensation of being bathed in love. I felt a rich and deep inner contentment and well-being. I knew I was with God and this was God’s love. I lay in bed, a smile in my heart, which was reflected on my face. I prayed with hands uplifted. I was deeply satisfied and I took those waking minutes fully to enjoy this state of grace.

I always pray, albeit briefly, as my head hits the pillow. I am fortunate in that I quickly fall asleep each night. I want to remind myself of the presence of God with me at all times. It was as though this acknowledgement of both my desire and need for God expressed in prayer even as I entered sleep continued throughout the night. As I woke the next day, not only had I found God without being conscious, but God had found me. We were united and all I could do was give thanks, pray and bask in God’s mercy and grace.

All such experiences are subjective, and for good reason. We can accept them as signs of God’s grace or rationalise them with some psychological explanation. I choose to accept such moments as tokens of God’s grace, which lie beyond human rationality. That said, God’s presence is experienced in different ways by each one of us.

I am grateful that in our church, Jayne and I are part of a group which shares stories of where we have encountered God during the past week. It is encouraging to learn from each other the everyday struggles and delights in following Jesus. This approach is personal and practical, keeping us from talking about God in a theoretical way.

QUESTION: When has God surprised you with a special grace, or moment of encounter?

PRAYER: Thank you for the times I have met with you in a deep way. Be close to me today and this night throughout my waking and my sleeping. I ask in the name of Jesus Christ.

Day 56 - Issue 32

Day 56 - Issue 32

March 18, 2020

Psalm 63:3 NLT

'Your unfailing love is better than life itself; how I praise you!'

Knowing myself has helped immensely in developing my appreciation of God. Knowing my strengths and weaknesses means I can develop skills to avoid the worst excesses of my character, which otherwise might prove self-destructive.

How we approach God and the world will shape our experience of God. You and I are each created in a unique way, although we share some common characteristics with others. We can be confident that God knows us very well (Psalm 139). What we need to appreciate is that in finding ourselves and making friends with the person we are, we can then explore finding God, relaxed and confident in our own skin. When I don’t know myself, the danger is that God becomes something of a life raft I expect to carry me away from the sinking wreck of my own personhood. When that fails to happen, I will most naturally blame and reject God.

We are not offered an escape from the realities of our own personality, nor from the difficulties this creates for us in navigating life’s realities, simply by clinging to God. We are invited to have the courage honestly to appraise, appreciate and accept ourselves as we are and then collaborate with God to enhance our strengths and manage our inner challenges. As with all learning, this takes time, guarantees mistakes and setbacks, while risking failure.

This has raised many questions for me over the years, yet today I know the landscape of my personality and acknowledge the dangers as well as the opportunities it affords me. Finding out who you are, how you tick within yourself, is a valuable first step when seeking to find God and subsequently God’s path.

QUESTION: How well do you know yourself?

PRAYER: “Search me, O God…Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life” (Psalm 139:23a-24).