How Waiting Can Lead to Stillness

The Struggle to Live a Still LifeOctober seems to have flown by. It’s hard to believe we only have today and tomorrow left in this series. Over the last month, we’ve discussed how stillness leads to our gifts and gives us the ability to use them. We talked about it in the sense of moving according to God’s will and never our own, and we’ve even explored when God seems still.

Today, I want to address something I think most of us struggle with: waiting.

Waiting can be a joy killer. Am I right?

I could write for another whole month just on the waiting process. I experienced secondary infertility and it was fifteen years before I received an answer to prayer. When it comes to waiting, I consider myself a professional. I bet you can relate. Your reason for having to wait might be different from mine, but we all walk through the season at one time or another.

Waiting in ministry can also be extremely frustrating. Have you ever felt like God called you to do something specific and then it doesn’t happen?

Maybe you’re called to write, speak, sing, teach, administrate something within a church, start a new program… whatever it is, let me encourage you with this: just because it hasn’t happened yet doesn’t mean it won’t. Everything takes time and it’s always for good reason.

I’ve been thinking about king David. Samuel anointed him to be the future king and then David went back to tending sheep. And not only that, he spent thirteen years running from Saul before he became who he was destined to be. Can you imagine what it must have been like to run all those years knowing there was a greater call? Not to mention… he was literally fighting for his life throughout that time.

Almost five years ago, I stepped down from the position of assistant worship leader at my church. I knew in my heart I wasn’t supposed to do that anymore. I wasn’t saying goodbye to music ministry forever, but for that particular season God had other plans. Had I not stepped down, I would have never began my blog, published my book, began speaking regularly, or be attending seminary. It was a very difficult letting go process, but God gave me something new and beautiful to hold onto during that time.

When we have gifts, we don’t necessarily like it when God says, “Just wait.”

Part of waiting is learning to listen to God, and when we learn to listen, inch-by-inch we will move to the center of stillness. The move won’t be easy, mine wasn’t. However, it was necessary for my calling.

Maybe you know that God has called you to do something but it’s taking forever. Maybe you’re questioning if you heard Him right to begin with. Here is a checklist I go through to make sure if it’s me or God speaking.

  1. Does “it” keep coming to mind?

For me, the general rule is that if I can’t stop thinking about my calling, then it’s He who placed the desire within me.

  1. Am I working toward the goal?

If you’re passionate about something then you’ll want to make sure you are equipped for the calling. A worship leader cannot be a worship leader without practicing their instrument. A speaker/teacher/preacher cannot give a word without knowing THE WORD. It has to be studied. If you want to start a new program then you have to research it and learn everything about it. Most of the time, we are called to wait so that we can properly train and prepare our hearts in the process.

  1. Has it been confirmed?

Whether it’s through another person or the word of God, you will find confirmation. And when it happens, you’ll know if it’s the real thing.

After almost five years, I’m at the point where I’m experiencing the above three points and God is moving my husband and I forward. The waiting is ending.

We often need to hold on through all kinds of emotion and difficulty before we see our visions come to pass. In 1 Peter 1:13, Peter tells us to gird up the loins of our minds. He wants us to stay focused. Waiting can often lead us to a place of discouragement that causes our minds to drift away. Don’t allow that to happen.

Be confident in the gift you’ve been given, pray daily about it, and study the word. waiting is only for a season. We walk through the desert, we don’t pitch a tent and stay there forever.

Keep on keeping on, friend.

I’ll meet you back here tomorrow for the conclusion of The Struggle to Live a Still Life.

Love,

Jennifer

 

Going with the Flow

Going with the Flow

Earlier today I flipped open my Bible to the Psalms thinking I might find some comfort. Here are the first words I laid eyes on…

But our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases.

-Psalm 115:3

I smiled because, YES, indeed, He does. I don’t know what lies ahead, I only know that He will do as He pleases, and I will continue to praise Him. My husband and I made some rather large decisions lately concerning future ministry, and we’ve decided comfort can lead to complacency and that’s the last thing we want. We’re ready for all God pleases in our lives even if it means stepping out of our comfort zone into new surroundings.

One definite requirement of a still life, where God is concerned, is going with the flow. My days of pleading for another path, another call, a better gift, are over. I’m ready to settle in to what I know I’ve been born to do and to do it with everything in me.

We tend to want better gifts, larger platforms, and life as we deem it, but God will do as He pleases and that should please us.

Jesus said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.”

-Matthew22:37

We love Him because He first loved us. (See 1 John 4:19) He deserves our hearts, souls, and minds. He deserves us to trust Him with every change in life.

Whatever He pleases, though it may not always be easy, I will trust.

Will you?

Love,

Jennifer

If you’ve missed any part of my October series, The Struggle to Live a Still Life, click here and scroll down for previous posts.

So Much of the “Still Life” Boils Down to Choice

The Struggle to Live a Still LifeWith only five days left in this series, I think it’s important to spend some time considering not what stillness is according to formal definition, or even what we’ve searched thus far, but to look deeply inside our own hearts and search for ourselves what stillness means in this very moment -not what it meant yesterday or even five minutes ago, but what it means right now.

There’s an element to stillness that calls for finding the very best in everything. We need to Look for God’s fingerprints. The problem is that it’s often difficult to be aware of what God is doing in situations that are the hardest of hard.

In John’s gospel, he recalls the story of when Andrew approaches his brother, Simon-Peter, and tells him, “We have found the Messiah.” After this, Andrew brings his brother to Jesus. The text tells us that when Jesus saw Peter, He looked at him, identified him by his given name, and then named him Cephas.

I know we’ve talked previously about how Jesus saw Peter for who he was to become, not who he was in that moment. However, this particular verse gives proof, so I want us to take a look at it.

In John 1:42 when the Bible says Jesus looked at him… that word looked in the Greek is emblepo. Emblepo actually means to consider or look at with the mind. So when Jesus looked at Peter in that moment, He considered him.

And we know from 1 Samuel 16:7 where God looks concerning man…

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

Later on, after Peter denies Jesus for the third time, Luke tells a similar story using this same meaning of the Greek word emblepo. Peter makes eye contact with Jesus in the garden and once again we find Jesus considering the heart of Peter.

But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are saying!” Immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. 61 And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had said to him, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” 62 So Peter went out and wept bitterly.

-Luke 22:60-62

While that moment had to have been heart crushing for both the Savior and dear friend of the Savior, Jesus knew that Peter’s story was just beginning. And it’s amazing to consider that the blood, which was shed on the cross, covered and redeemed the life of Peter, that He might be the cephas (stone/living stone) that he was meant to become.

So, right now, as you evaluate the present circumstances of the moment, can you look inside and consider the grace you’re living? Do you see His fingerprints on your situation?

To define stillness in each individual moment takes a concentrated effort. It means casting off all the bad and accepting that God has a plan in everything, even when it hurts.

Friend, I have things on my plate that I don’t make a practice of sharing because for me, lips cannot utter the bottom layer of grief over situations that seem unending. So if you feel the same, I get it.

And so along with you, I’m considering the moment and wrapping myself in His grace. I’m choosing to cast off that with which the enemy wants to destroy me, and move towards the person whom Christ knows I can become.

He considered Peter, and He considers us, too.

He looks deeply at the heart, and so we must look deeply inside each moment and choose “the still life” we are meant to live.

Love,

Jennifer

If you’ve missed any part of my October Series, The Struggle to Live a Still Life, click here and scroll down for links to previous posts.

 

We Need to Practice Stillness

"Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net"

“Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net”

Over the last three weeks, we’ve been talking a lot about defining stillness as moving in the presence of God – taking steps according to His will and letting go of ours. However, sometimes stillness means exactly how it sounds… being still.

For me, quiet stillness before God doesn’t come easy. If my body isn’t in motion, my mind almost always is. I have a million activities going on and my life is usually summed up by tired lips speaking, “One day at a time, sweet Jesus.”

So how do we shut our minds off, pray, and meditate on His word without interruptions from the to-do list? Well, I’m no expert in this area, but I can tell you that I’m learning through practice.

We’ve all heard the saying practice makes perfect.

After I lost my daughter Courtney to stillbirth, I used to go up to the altar during worship at church and raise my hands. I didn’t want to, and my arms usually felt like dead weight, but I was practicing worship. I knew that in order to find a breakthrough in the midst of grief, I was going to need a show of action, even if my heart wasn’t in it.

The beautiful part in all this is that after I practiced worshiping, it became natural. I wanted to praise Him, my arms didn’t feel as heavy, and freedom was released.

My weakest moments have taught me how to have the greatest strength. (Tweet that)

When we practice stillness just a few minutes a day, we learn to spend quality time with God. Overtime, it becomes easier to block out the distractions.

Practice makes perfect.

Sometimes, I lie still with my eyes closed and recite a scripture I have memorized. It helps calm me. It used to be that I would only do that when I felt a major crisis occurring, and then I couldn’t understand why it didn’t fight the anxiety away quickly.

However, when I began to practice the process of reciting scripture on a regular basis, not just when panic encompassed, then when bad times came I was able to handle them better. It was as if the weapons in my arsenal were sharper because I practiced using them before the war.

Anything we want to excel at takes a consistent amount of practice, and disciplining ourselves to spend time with God in stillness is no different.

I want to encourage you to find a scripture you love, memorize it, and practice reciting it just two minutes a day in stillness. Don’t wait for panic to set in, sharpen your weapons and get to know your God.

Trust me, it’s a practice that leads us to where we all want to go: straight to the center of stillness.

Love,

Jennifer

If you’ve missed any part of my October Series, The Struggle to Live a Still Life, click here and scroll down for previous posts. When you subscribe to my blog via email, you receive my eBook, Mercy Waits, FREE.

 

 

Because We All Need Friends

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The struggle to lead a still life is exactly that… a struggle. Because the truth is we’re all looking for peace in the midst of some type of turmoil. Grief from death, job losses, marriages, and even the way we feel about ourselves can easily lead us outside the landscape of a still life. We are all on a quest to maintain peace in the thick of a turbulent, fast moving world.

The only way any of us stand a chance is Jesus. He is our hope, salvation, and He makes everything new. He is a God of resurrection and fresh beginnings, and while we are here fighting the good fight, He often sends us help.

Help often comes in the form of wonderful people we call friends. People who share our joy and tears. The ones who care more about the cleanliness of our hearts rather than our houses, and even more importantly, they pray. They pray when circumstances are good and bad.

C.S. Lewis said this, “Friendship is born at that moment when one man says to another: “What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . .””

We all need someone we can trust and confide in. Someone to help bear our burdens and lighten the weight of present circumstances. Someone who will make you feel better about life just because they exist!

Laughter and chocolate with a sweet friend will help bring stillness in the midst of the storm.

This is the day that the Lord has made, call a friend and rejoice in it!

Love,

Jennifer

PS: If you’ve missed any part of my October Series, The Struggle to Live a Still Life, click here and scroll down for links to previous posts.

Jumping the Wake

"Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net"

“Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net”

He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.

-Psalm 23:2

When I was a kid I used to love to water ski. Unlike snow skiing, I was actually pretty good at it.

I remember the first time I ever tried. My dad helped me get situated in the water and stayed in there with me. When I was ready he signaled for the boat to takeoff. That way if I couldn’t get up, he would be right there when I fell. I stood up the very first time and loved every minute of it.

Overtime, as I became more advanced, I would cross over the wake near the side of the boat. Once you learn to maneuver over the bumpy wake, the water on the other side is like glass. It feels smooth and still.

Last week I reread Psalm 23. Out of all 150 Psalms, this might be the most notable. We often hear it at funerals because of its ability to comfort through grief.

The following words caught my attention: He leads us beside still waters. When I read it, I recognized two significant points.

  • In order to be led anywhere, we must follow.
  • It’s more than likely we will have to jump a bumpy wake, but where He leads awaits stillness in its purest form.

More than ever I want to be led by God. I have a yearning to know who He is, and my desire is to get to know the deepest parts of Him. However, I’m completely aware that to do that I must choose to follow Him wherever He chooses to lead me.

Following Him means grabbing tightly to His will and letting go of mine. And we all know it’s never easy to jump the wake.

But there’s more. The very next verse in this chapter says…

He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.

-Psalm 23:3

Friend, He will restore your soul to complete stillness when you follow where He leads. You will most likely have to jump the wake, and it will be difficult, but as you follow Him He will be right there with you in the water, just like my daddy was when I was learning to water ski.

And even as you’re using every ounce of faith you can muster to jump the wake, there will be inexplicable stillness. It won’t make sense, but that’s the beauty of God; He is mysterious and awe inspiring.

My prayer  is that you will allow Him to lead you wherever He pleases. That you will be brave enough to jump the wake and experience the still, smooth water of His peace.

You can be restored!

Have a beautiful weekend.

Love,

Jennifer

PS: If you’ve missed any of my October series, The Struggle to Live a Still Life, click here and scroll down for previous posts. If you subscribe to the blog via email, I will send you my eBook, Mercy Waits, FREE!

 

The Day Fear Dropped Me Off in Crazy Town

"Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net"

“Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net”

I recently had the privilege of teaching some high school Bible classes. We talked a lot about worldview and absolute truth, and from there we went on a journey of Peter and discussed his personality, including how his shortcomings led to His strengths.

Anytime I speak or teach I like to mix things up with my own personal stories. Since I was talking to teenagers, I decided to travel back and pull out one of my least favorite memories from my adolescent years. Many of the students laughed hysterically. However, as I look back on this particular moment, I think of it as failing a test.

I decided to share this story because I was conveying to the class our responsibilities as living stones. We have the powerful ability to influence people with our actions.

When I was around the age of sixteen, my boyfriend, who is now my husband, took me skiing. He was a great skier and I… well, not so much. I liked to stay on the easy trails and after spending most of the time happily skiing the simple slopes, he was getting bored. He began communicating how he knew I was capable of skiing the black diamond run. I did NOT want to do it!

When my husband gets an idea in his head he can be relentless. As far as that’s concerned, nothing has changed since he was seventeen. He pulled out all the stops to convince me, and the next thing I knew I was riding a chairlift way up in the sky to the top of a mountain. And since we were night skiing, it was dark outside!

When we reached the top he gave me some instructions but fear got the best of me. And if I become overly afraid, I become angry. It’s not a quality I’m proud of possessing and when a person is sixteen, they usually don’t have a great time controlling these emotions that love to takeover.

I started down the hill, fell, rolled, was packed with snow, freezing cold, and mad as all get out! So of course out of maturity, I did the most sensible thing I could… I found my way to my feet and started to beat my boyfriend with my ski poles! (Thank God for layers, right?) I was screaming things like, “I trusted you!” and “I’m going to die up here!” He, being so patient as always, (another trait he has managed to keep over the years) just kept trying to softly calm me down.

And then came the really bad part…

I remember shouting that I wanted to ride the chairlift down the mountain when I heard a sweet little voice from a girl, who couldn’t have been more than eight years old, say, “You can’t ride the lift down, only up.” To which I promptly yelled back, “Shut up, little girl!”

I know, right?!?! Horrifying.

Yelling at a child is not, and never was, my personality. I had no idea I was capable of being so mean. Fear drove me to a place of anger and happily dropped me off in destination crazy town! If this moment was a test from God, then I failed. Big time!

I’m certain that no one who may have witnessed that out of control, angry, teenage girl would have considered her a living stone. And to this day, though it makes a funny story, I often pray for the child I yelled at. With one nasty sentence I’m sure I humiliated her, and even though there is no condemnation in Christ, I remember that moment to remind me of who I never want to be again – an overly angry person controlled by fear.

Fear, if allowed, becomes cancer. It infects us, causes anxiety, bitterness, and relationship struggles on every level. It destroys any hope of stillness.

I confessed this memory today only to communicate to you that to be still means letting go of fear that controls us and makes us who we were never meant to be.

We have a choice.

To be still in Christ means to put fear aside. “Do not fear” is a command stated to us in the Bible 365 times! That’s right, a reminder for every day of the year.

When Jesus looked upon Peter, he looked at him as not what he was, but who he was to become. That applies to us as well. However, we need to make proper choices along the way. Choose to let go of fear and allow yourself to experience stillness.

Love,

Jennifer

If you’ve missed any part of my October series, The Struggle to Live a Still Life, click here and scroll down for links to previous posts.

A Primary Offender of Stillness…

A Primary Offender of stillness

 

A primary offender of stillness is people. We tend to find ourselves hurt by others and that seems to steal the ability to remain still. But God calls us to love one another, right? Yes, He does. We cannot run away when we’re hurt. We can’t build walls and pretend that’s going to solve our problems. Sometimes, we have to face why we’re really hurting.

There is NO question that people have legitimate pain that says, “I’m running away or removing that person from my life.” And maybe God has provided an escape route. But what if He hasn’t?

What if He wants you to deal with matters head on so that you can move on?

I don’t know about you, but I hate confrontation. I don’t like to deal with it where others are concerned, and I don’t like to search my own heart and deal with it there either. However, sometimes we don’t have a choice.

Let me ask you these two questions…

  1. Do you expect people to meet expectations that only God can meet?
  2. Are you looking for someone tangible to fill a void that only God is capable of filling?

Those are questions we often need to look at when we are having issues with people.

My two youngest children are only seven years old, so when they come to tell me about someone who has hurt them, I always ask them the following question, “What did you do first?”

It might seem harsh, but let’s look at it this way: none of us can be perfect all the time. And then there’s the old saying that goes something like this… There’s two sides to every story and then there’s the truth.

What is God’s truth in the situation you’re dealing with? Have you evaluated that?

I’ve found it possible to be still smack dab in the midst of flesh and blood turmoil. It’s not always easy, but I’ve learned along the way that if I seek God’s truth in my circumstances by asking Him to reveal it to me, even when I think I’m right and know it all, that He will intervene inside the struggle and provide the stillness I’m desperate to obtain.

Seeking God’s truth in every single area of our lives will lead us to the center of stillness.

I have a challenge for you today…

If you’re struggling in a relationship and convinced you’re right, seek God’s truth in the circumstance before burning bridges and making catastrophic, relationship ending decisions.

And here’s the really important part…

Even if you think you already know what the truth is, seek Him anyway.

SEEK. HIM. ANYWAY.

Too often when our emotions become tangled and our pride is wounded, we find ourselves hearing our own truth rather than God’s. And then we run into danger because we confuse our truth with His.

Stillness is inside His truth and the one beautiful privilege we have is the ability to discover it.

Go ahead, friend, discover it!

Seek Him!

Love,

Jennifer

PS: If you’ve missed any of my October Series, The Struggle to Live a Still Life, click here and scroll down for previous posts.

 

 

Stillness and Listening to the Plan for YOUR Life, Not Hers

The Struggle to Live a Still LifeI remember being a child, sitting with headphones on in front of my stereo with the volume cranked up. (That’s when headphones were ginormous and practically concealed the identity of an individual based on the fact they nearly covered both sides of a person’s face.) I liked the song that was playing, and so I belted it out at the top of my lungs. A family member came downstairs and said, “You’re loud! And, by the way, you’re not singing the right words.” I liked the song so much that I was willing to sing what I thought the lyrics were rather than take time to listen and learn them first.

Stillness is about listening to God and walking in His will. It doesn’t necessarily mean we aren’t moving, but we are always listening, trusting, and hoping.

If we’re not careful, the noisiness of the world can sidetrack our thoughts and steal our focus. We can easily get ahead of where we are supposed to be because we’re trying to catch up to someone else.

Friend, we’re too tough on ourselves. We struggle with comparison and worry that other people might be doing life better than us.

And God just wants us to listen and walk in His will for our lives.

My life isn’t going to be like the girl standing next to me in the grocery store line, and her life won’t be anything like mine, but we each have a call to fulfill. I don’t have to compare myself to anyone. It’s only God’s standard that I have to worry about.

Too often we forget that the heartbeat of His word is grace.

So if I’m obedient, willing, and not vocalizing so loud that I miss out on the real words, then I think I’ll be alright.

Being still means listening and obeying the best we can. It doesn’t mean perfection and getting it right the first time.

This walk of stillness is a process and it’s a tough and sometimes arduous journey.

The point is this: listen to what He’s telling you. Don’t worry about what He might be telling the person next to you. Walk in His will for your life. YOURS!

But whoever listens to me will dwell safely, and will be secure, without fear of evil.

-Proverbs 1:33

Love,

Jennifer

To catch up on other posts from this series, just click here.

Stillness Requires Boldness

hands

For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

-Esther 4:14

Whenever I’m feeling like I need a good, strong dose of courage, I turn to the book of Esther and let the words penetrate deep into every fear-filled space of my soul.

Esther could have remained still in a sense that would have been more relatable to a person frozen in fear. Instead, she remained still in the presence of God moving at His command with the faith that whatever was to happen would ultimately be in His hands.

Go, gather all the Jews who are present in Shushan, and fast for me; neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will fast likewise. And so I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!”

-Esther 4:16

Stillness often requires boldness. Many of you have gifts and talents you’re afraid to use. You feel guilt over your past and stuck in your present. You’re worried about the person next to you holding more skill and qualification.

Guess what? God doesn’t care. He’s not a God of comparison! He’s a God who uses all of His children to help in the building of His kingdom, and He needs you.

Be bold.

Maybe you’ve been hurt in ministry and feel there’s no place for you.

Friend, we’ve all been hurt at one time or another. However, God has reserved a spot for you. You are meant for a specific purpose and there is a place for you.

Maybe you feel like the person next to you, in front, or behind would do a better job.

Maybe in the worlds eyes or even your own, someone else would be better. But God isn’t looking for that. He’s looking for faithful, obedient, loving servants to fulfill their calling for His kingdom. That’s you! You aren’t required to be the best; you’re required to be obedient.

Maybe you don’t know where to start or where to go.

What talents do you have? What do you feel passionate about? Where can you be most helpful? Those are three questions to help you figure out where to begin.

You can do this! Your life is for such a time as this.

Love,

Jennifer

If you’ve missed any part of my series, The Struggle to Live a Still Life, Click here and scroll down for previous posts. New email subscribers receive my eBook, Mercy Waits, FREE!