Be Still and Know
Day 8 - Issue 34

Day 8 - Issue 34

July 10, 2020

Ruth 1:16 NLT 

But Ruth replied, “Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God.”

I have ditched God occasionally, drawn by some distraction that caught my heart. Yet God does not rush to any swift judgement because of my waywardness. Why would he need to, since he knows more about me than I will ever know about myself? It seems, however, that our humanity is wired towards criticism, notably of others yet equally of ourselves. Perhaps it’s a British thing, but complaint appears to be seeded deep within our DNA. Even when asked how we are, we respond: I can’t complain. I have taken quite some time to throw off the cynicism such criticism births. For too long I confused being clever with being a master of the sharp reply. Time has taught me to quieten my inner critic and wait for God’s presence. Life is only ever complete when in God’s presence, or in hot pursuit of my Lord.  

So in this latter season of my life, I have settled within my heart that I’m to live for God and simply and quietly follow in Jesus’ footsteps. God will never ask me to turn back or take my leave. I have become far better placed to say yes to God and deny myself. My greatest contentment is hanging out with God. The normal weft and woof of daily life appears to be draining of all colour. It is with a growing sense of detachment that I feel somewhere between heaven and earth. I know in a way I have never known before that heaven is where my heart is and where my heart longs to be. Following Jesus is really quite simple. Like Ruth, it is a matter of taking a decision to go wherever God leads, without fearing the consequences. Will you follow? 

I have a deep sense of contentment in Christ. I’ve little way of measuring the value of so many years that lie behind me. But I remain confident and comfortable in following Jesus, and that he holds my life in his hands 

QUESTION: How can you quiet your inner critic? 

PRAYER: Lord, help me to live each day of my life with and for you.   

Day 7 - Issue 34

Day 7 - Issue 34

July 9, 2020

Deuteronomy 31:8 NLT 

'Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.'

I quote this verse far too often, to myself, but also to family and friends. Quoting is easy: confidently living out its content proves exceptionally challenging. When gazing back over my life, I see quite a lot of fear and discouragement. As a young Christian I met disappointment with frustration, often expressed in angry outbursts. I lacked a lot of self-control – yet it was one of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) I received upon choosing to follow Jesus. It cost me nothing. For so long, I failed to realise God’s provision was already within my grasp. My problem was my failure, or unwillingness, to take hold of this fruit and apply it in managing any difficult set of circumstances. I have spent much time wondering at my stupidity and inability to take hold of what was already mine in Christ and secure the benefits for a less tempestuous life. I might have retained any number of relationships that disintegrated under the violence of my temper tantrums. Yet God has wonderfully forgiven me and enabled me to forgive myself.  

God reminds me I need not fear tomorrow, and he has already preceded me into my fears for tomorrow. Even death has not only been tamed, but utterly destroyed by the risen saviour. Jesus endured its agonies that we might know it offers nothing more but the threshold beyond which lies eternity with Christ. As Paul declares: Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?  

The challenge, this side of death, is to find and retain a confidence in God’s complete provision for us, at all times.  

QUESTION: What stops you trusting God’s promise not to fail or forsake you (1 Chronicles 28:20)? 

PRAYER: Lord, today I put my hand in yours. Lead me.  

Day 6 - Issue 34

Day 6 - Issue 34

July 8, 2020

Luke 9:23-24 NLT 

Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.”

I have spent many hours trying to hang on to my own life. Who doesn’t invest time reflecting on who they really are? The internet is awash with courses offering answers to the mysteries of our psychological make-up, and I serve as a spiritual coach and director, so I have bought into the people development business.  

Jesus’ emphasis was to redirect our gaze from ourselves to our creator. This makes sense, since the one who crafted me is the one who truly knows me. Yet an insistent voice within me demands the right of self-expression, often at the expense and suppression of others expressing themselves. So what will I compromise to secure my desired ambitions? Jesus is uncompromising in his teaching. No one can carry a cross inconspicuously. It will impact all of my life. 

While this sounds harsh, it has become a sweet journey. As I try to shoulder the cross, and I drop it regularly when distracted, I find a fresh reminder of the fullness of joy found in God alone. I must let go of my desires when they prove obstructions to the life of spirit that I can only find in God. Have I mastered this way of living? By no means! I am still all too often consumed with my fears, doubts and disappointment. I face the challenge of fierce temptation and must fight to resist its attraction. Sometimes I succeed, other times I fail. But God always forgives and encourages me to resume the walk of faith in his footsteps. I am conflicted. My lips say yes to God; my heart will always drag a little bit behind and consider doing it my way.  

QUESTION: What sort of life do you want? Is it one where you are in control? 

PRAYER: Help me, at least for today, to give my life to you. And to do the same tomorrow.  

Day 5 - Issue 34

Day 5 - Issue 34

July 7, 2020

John 6:26-27 NLT 

Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, you want to be with me because I fed you, not because you understood the miraculous signs. But don’t be so concerned about perishable things like food. Spend your energy seeking the eternal life...”

I’m not sure it was easier for those first disciples who’d actually seen and been with Jesus, though we might wonder. Faith is required, regardless of whether Jesus is present as he was throughout his incarnate ministry on earth or today, when we encounter that same presence through the grace of God’s Spirit.  

On this occasion the crowds who had enjoyed a free picnic go in search of Jesus on the far side of the lake. The night before, they had attempted to make him their king. Jesus sees their motive and contrasts their material desires with their failure to perceive their spiritual poverty. And I see myself within that crowd. There is the constant desire within me: I want Jesus to resolve all my issues.  

As Jesus explains later in the chapter, he is all we need to live. I once expected that my obedient pursuit of God would protect me from the harsh realities of life. I could treat God as little more than a divine slot machine. Life experience teaches something different. If I am to endure the winters that test my Christian resolve, I will need to differentiate between what I perceive as my welfare, and what God chooses for me. All too easily, I am consumed by the mirage of personal peace, affluence and security, at the cost of my deepening friendship with God. 

I hear Jesus’ voice in the distance calling me to follow him, while challenging me as to where I am investing my energy; in pursuit of the eternal or merely in securing a larger piece of the material pie? God invites you, as he did the crowd, to choose where you want to invest your energy.  

QUESTION: Where are you going to invest your energy? 

PRAYER: Guide my choices, Lord, so they agree with yours.  

Day 4 - Issue 34

Day 4 - Issue 34

July 6, 2020

Matthew 4:18-20 NLT 

One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers – Simon, also called Peter, and Andrew…Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” And they left their nets at once and followed him.

What so caught the attention of the first disciples, that they walked away from their jobs and followed Jesus? Was something of his immortality breaking through? Or did his charisma draw them? Maybe he spoke with such authority, they had to follow him. They soon saw that Jesus was the Messiah. In John’s Gospel, the first disciples heard the Baptist announce that Jesus was “the Lamb of God and immediately set out to discover more. They turned their attention from God’s prophet to God’s Son. ‘To follow’ is to choose to go to the same place as someone. They want to keep close to Jesus. Over time, the Church came to understand that to follow Jesus was to choose to live one’s life dedicated to God to the degree that Jesus did. It was to create a distinction between my preferred path through life and the one God invites me to follow.  

I remember the story of Sleeping Beauty that my parents read to me. The prince, searching for his princess, cut his way through a fast-growing forest. It demanded courage and determination. These initial disciples exhibited a similar resolve. Their hearts were captured by something intangible, beyond the descriptive powers of the gospel writers. They left their livelihoods and homes simply to walk with a stranger with whom they established a friendship, and were introduced to a completely different perspective upon the world in general and the purpose for their lives in particular. Today, I stand alongside them. I set aside what I once imagined was my lot in life to pursue the stranger, Jesus. Over time I have grown more familiar with him, and would now call him my friend. Following him has demanded everything, cost me so much, yet gifted me the deepest sense of peace.  

How is God calling you? Have you chosen to walk it, or do you still find it impossible, for fear of where it might lead you?  

QUESTION: What path is God calling you to follow? 

PRAYER: May I follow faithfully, with your help, Lord.  

Day 3 - Issue 34

Day 3 - Issue 34

July 3, 2020

Psalm 134:1-2 NLT 

'Oh, praise the Lord, all you servants of the Lord, you who serve at night in the house of the Lord. Lift your hands toward the sanctuary, and praise the Lord.'

Once I’ve entered my day, time appears to rush by. Pursuing my rhythm of prayer as a contemplative, managing the Oratory, responding to the questions of those seeking advice, life is full. The day makes many demands and sometimes it’s a challenge maintaining my focus on God. I guess we all face that daily challenge. 

If I have started my ‘day pilgrimage’ by laying a solid foundation as outlined this week, then I am better placed to reach the end of the day with a heart still resting in the Lord. It is then I once again want to encounter God.  

So my day ends as it began. I tell God of the goodness I enjoy as a result of our friendship, the blessing of God. I refuse to let life and my daily experience silence me. Regardless of the wounds inflicted through my daily interactions, I declare what I know is true of God, despite my feelings. I remind myself I’m God’s servant and have the privilege of partnering with him and enjoying the strength that he alone can bring. As Paul declared in 2 Corinthians 12:10, in weakness I shall discover a place of strength. I choose, by an act of my will, to step away from my troubles, into the embrace of my God. I acknowledge my failures before accepting God’s forgiveness. This is an essential part of my day so that I close my eyes at the point at which, hours earlier, I opened them.  

May each day offer you the opportunity and the challenge of a fresh pilgrimage in the grace of God. It is your privilege and opportunity to learn to bless God from dawn to dusk.  

QUESTION: Can you see each day as a fresh chance to live in harmony with God?  

PRAYER: May I greet you each morning, end each day with gratitude and live in contentment with you. 

Day 2 - Issue 34

Day 2 - Issue 34

July 2, 2020

Psalm 131:2 NLT 

'Instead, I have calmed and quieted myself, like a weaned child who no longer cries for its mother’s milk. Yes, like a weaned child is my soul within me.' 

In a noisy world, one of the greatest challenges we face is finding space for ourselves, away from the demands that stalk our every waking moment. The pressures of daily living are intense. Reviewing the many prayer requests that cross my desk reveals the intense strain that finding regular employment, affordable housing and managing ongoing health conditions places on us. It is incredibly difficult to take each day at a time, when anxieties about the future encircle us. We are easily robbed of any sense of peace. 

There have been periods when I have been unable to sleep. Awake, I’ve battled the most terrifying thoughtsWhile the dawn often brings a welcome measure of balance, I can’t completely shake off the spell cast by such extreme anxiety.  

Yet I have discovered, amid many disappointments, and with my fears encamped around me, that I can enjoy God’s peace. It is my responsibility to seek this inner sense of God’s presence. The logical impossibilities of my circumstances demand that I set rationality to one side and search for the presence of the living God. If I can find that space, then I am assured that I shall continue in my pursuit of God regardless of where I perceive myself to be in life.  

The baby knows the warmth of its mothers love and rests comfortably within its mother’s embrace. So we are to feed oGod and draw complete confidence that his promises are true and endure. I turn my gaze away from the trouble that assaults me towards my God who sustains and protects me. Life is not easy, and we have choices to make. Turn your eyes away from the immediate challenges that threaten to overwhelm you, and search for God’s constant, consistent gaze. Here alone have I found peace, and you might too. 

QUESTION: Can you find a place where you can be at peace? 

PRAYER: May I find shelter and contentment in you, Lord.  

Day 1 - Issue 34

Day 1 - Issue 34

July 1, 2020

Psalm 130:5-6 NLT 

'I am counting on the Lord; yes, I am counting on him. I have put my hope in his word. I long for the Lord more than sentries long for the dawn, yes, more than sentries long for the dawn...'

What is your first thought, when you wake up? I go into day having offered my first thoughts to God. I have a very simple sequence of three prayers committed to memory. 

Someone asked me recently about the difference between formal and informal prayer. It is often a matter of personal preference. Although caricatured as an anarchist, I like boundaries. I love the regular prayer rhythms that measure my routine in the Oratory. Prayer repetition means many are committed to memory, so I can more easily live below the head noise that distracts me from the focus of my prayer life. In my experience, spontaneity demands a lot of creative energy, drawing me away from simply abiding in Christ. 

Having prepared the Oratory for the day ahead, organised my wife’s packed lunch, fed the dog, each activity accompanied by a quietly voiced prayer, I arrive at breakfast, where we end our night-time fast. Often, we feel hungry. I take that feeling of hunger and ask myself, how hungry am I for God today? This can sound contrived, yet how else can I guarantee that I’ll remember, amid the busyness of starting the day, that my primary focus is to love God and my neighbour?  

My longing is not as intense as I imagine that of sentries longing for the dawn to be. Directing my desire for breakfast to considering God reminds me that my pilgrimage through this day is primarily in the service of God. Without it, I crash into my day consumed with my own needs, and forget I accompany Jesus throughout my day. 

Contrast your own appetite for certain food with your appetite to hang out with God. There’s no judgement here. Guilt will distract you and is a useful tool of Gods enemy. Brush such guilt aside and nurture your appetite for God, and feed your soul with Christ even as you feed your body with breakfast. 

QUESTION: Are you hungry for God’s presence each morning?  

PRAYER: Thank you for each new day, and may I start each morning afresh with you.  

Day 66 - Issue 33

Day 66 - Issue 33

June 30, 2020

Ephesians 4:21-23 NLT

'Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes.'

Some time ago, over a period of months, I lost a considerable amount of weight. One consequence was that my clothes were too large for me and I had to replace them with new outfits.

When we pursue God, metaphorically we change our diet. We no longer feed off the contemporary drivers that inform culture, but invite God to signpost how we are to live. Becoming a Christian is not to accessorise our life, but to completely change our fashion sense. Our lives slowly reflect a set of values that are not instinctive.

The God life demands we pay close attention to our conscience, which is an inbuilt navigation guide. Just as a yacht that has been sailing the globe for some time needs to be taken into dry dock so that the barnacles and other growths can be scraped off to enhance its seaworthiness, so we may need to pay some attention to sensitising our conscience. All too often it has become numb to God through overexposure to the fierce and changing tides of secular culture.

When losing weight, many people encouraged me to keep the clothes that no longer fitted me, convinced I would yo-yo, and put the weight back on. I didn’t take that advice, passing them on to the charity shop. The walk of the disciple is always forward, never backward or circular. The excitement is that we can continuously get to know God better day by day and grow in our appreciation and in the character of our discipleship. Ageing simply means getting closer to God.

QUESTION: How sensitive are you to God’s navigation aid, your conscience?

PRAYER: May I pay attention to you and discard all that gets in the way of our friendship.

Day 65 - Issue 33

Day 65 - Issue 33

June 30, 2020

Ephesians 4:16 NLT

'He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.'

The wonderful truth is that we are not born to live isolated and lonely lives. Just as God is a Trinity, a community of interrelating persons of divinity, so we are created for relationship or, more simply, friendship. We enjoy friendship with God and that finds its fullest expression within the mutuality of our interpersonal relationships. Church is the vehicle which is intended to give the fullest expression to that mutuality.

Just as our hearts yearn for companionship with God, we are designed to live in communion with each other. It’s why none of us is gifted for everything. Work gets done as we pull together and draw upon the rich diversity of gifts dispersed across humanity. While all humanity seeks relationship, it is most clearly achieved within the Church, for here by Christ’s action there is no separation of ethnicity, gender or economics. We are one not because of a single thing we’ve done, but simply because we have been found by God.

This mutuality ensures that the whole body is encouraged, strengthened and released to realise aspects of God’s kingdom on earth. As one who sits closer to the introspective end of the spectrum, I can find it a challenge to engage with people. I am always attracted to my own company, be that a walk or a good book. The world within my head is always moving and demanding my attention. It is a very satisfying space to explore. So, I can easily be persuaded to draw back from God’s hard-won gift of mutuality, yet I am diminished in my God life if I pursue that course. I also rob others of the life that God has awoken and nurtured within me.

QUESTION: How engaged are you with others? Do you choose to pursue mutuality with others and so realise God’s purpose as Church?

PRAYER: Thank you for the richness of mutuality and for the gift of the Church as a rich resource for my life and faith.