In my experience of rearing children, a few days are watersheds. The most prominent in my mind are potty-trained, driver’s license, and graduation from college. Each of these watersheds grants to the parents a sense of accomplishment and liberty.
Another victory that I celebrated, at least internally, is what I called voice-broken. It was and is a great joy when a small child responds to a simple command with obedience. Sometimes you can even watch the wheels turning in their little minds. “Hmm, he wants me to come to him, but I think I’d rather … but, no, I’ll do what he asks.” Victory! Other times you can watch the child decide to disobey, sometimes by taking off and running exactly in the opposite direction of their obedience.
This week I asked myself this question: am I voice-broken? When I hear my Father’s voice – through reading His Word, in the Spirit’s conviction, in preaching or teaching – how do I respond? What do I do when confronted with God’s truth? Do I obey right away? Do I first consider my options? Do I run in the opposite direction?
Dear Trinity Baptist Church Family: My copier is jammed. Wait, you don’t understand. This is also the printer for my computer. A jammed copier means no scanning, order of service work, no committee print offs, no handouts for VBS, no nothing. It means every project I begin has a stopping place. It would seem I can complete nothing this morning!
And then I rebuke myself and remember: God made me and loves me, Jesus died for me and I am His own, I live freely in a wonderful country, I am blessed with family and ministry, and I am physically well. The copier jam is an inconvenience, but I have no reason for anger or even frustration.
Keith Russell went back to St. Agnes on Monday. He was resting well yesterday. He has a staph infection that does not respond to antibiotics. This seems to be making it difficult for him to breath. Please pray for strength and grace for he and Janet.
Sue Struska begins her 6th and last scheduled chemo treatment on Monday.
Lin and I are taking a few vacation days and will not be at Bible study tonight. Doug needs to be gone too. David Olson has agreed to take the adult Bible study and prayer time this evening.
Beth just came in and fixed the copier. I guess I really don’t have a reason to complain.
Embracing Truth, Pastor
Lin and I were on our way to our regular Friday morning McDs breakfast when our normal and the easiest path to McDs was blocked by some traffic cones. The parking lot for the offices and retail establishments just east of McDs was barricaded for a resurfacing project. When I realized that we were not going to be able to cut through that lot like we normally do, I turned around, went through another lot, and proceeded to McDs.
A lady driving a mini-van was behind us. Her morning was also interrupted by the construction project. She motioned to the worker-guy showing him that she needed to get through to McDs. He did not move the construction cones for her. She honked her horn and waved some more. That got our attention, but he did not move the cones. She eventually did what we did and found a way to McDs.
When she got out of her van at McDs she proceeded to the lot next door to confront the worker-guy. By now there were a couple of skid-steers unloaded and a large dump truck full of hot asphalt waiting to unload. I wish I could have heard the conversation. Plainly she told him that he had unreasonably ruined her morning. I expect that he told her: 1. That she had no “right” to drive through that private lot. 2. That if he did not get that lot done in a timely fashion both his boss and the owners of the lot would be very unhappy with him. 3. That her morning coffee was not his problem. Like I said, I did not hear the conversation, but I think it might have been a fun one to hear.
As Lin and I had our coffee and muffins, we talked about how often we are just like the lady. We get upset when our normal routine is interrupted. We are frustrated when our high expectations are not met. We are angry with those who do not cooperate with our agenda. We moan about aches or imperfections in our body. In short, our day is ruined by people and life’s circumstances.
I believe we – Americans, my culture – are becoming more impatient. Technology and systems efficiency have made our life one of conveniences. We get upset if our battery is low on our phone or our computer shuts down or our water is not soft. We don’t like humidity or gluten or ultra-violet light. We change stores if our favorite product is not stocked. We get angry if a storm shuts down our TV during our favorite program. And Lord help the airline that cancels our flight because of whatever-they-dream-up as a good reason.
Because we have received salvation, Christians are to be full of grace and mercy. Forgiveness and kindness are to identify us. When our lives are interrupted by people or circumstances, mature Christians are patient. Let me say this again for my benefit. Mature Christians are patient people. It is only babies who cry when they are hungry or not getting the attention they want.
Lady, I hope the rest of your day went better. Worker-guy, thanks for enduring those who don’t understand your problems. God, help me to exude mercy and grace all over the place.
“Silence is the sleep that nourishes wisdom.” Francis Bacon
“Hi! My name is Scott…and I’m an addict.” This is the second year that Jane and I have stayed in a cabin in Tennessee for our vacation. And we’ve already reserved it for next year. Being there again though made me aware that I was an addict and having to go “cold turkey” while there.
The owners named this cabin “Two’s Company.” It’s about ten miles east of Monterey, TN, in the midst of a Mennonite community, called Muddy Pond. The cabin is nestled on the banks of a 1 1/2 acre private lake. It’s built of beautiful wood, inside and out. From the back porch, you walk straight down to the dock. And if you didn’t know where it was, you’d probably never find it. As soon as you turn down the winding country road tightly hemmed by evergreens, you begin to feel the difference…even in the atmosphere. It’s secluded, comfortable, romantic and very private. You’re in the midst of acres of solitude with a feeling of peace over it all.
Each night we’d listen to a chorus of bullfrogs. On the way in, because we’d been there before, I bought a 5 lb bag of dog food to feed the catfish. We watched a fawn come down to the water’s edge. A blue heron, along with a flock of Canadian geese, were our only neighbors. There’s no phone, no cable and no Internet. It’s very isolated and very, very quiet. Yet, the first day there though I found I was feeling a bit anxious…then it hit me. I was detoxing and it was a little uncomfortable. I was feeling the absence of all technological connections. It felt weird, like a new suit that’s a bit scratchy. It took me a couple of days to get used to it, and then I began to thoroughly enjoy it.
It reminded me though once again – I’m an addict, a technology addict. So are most of you. Technology, like phones, TV and cars, is so much a part of our lives, we don’t even realize it and hardly know how to live without it. That was highlighted for me by this recent experience in the mountains. We had to drive half a mile away from the cabin just to get a bar on our phone to be able to text. If we wanted to use the Internet or check email, we had to drive ten miles into town to the public library or down the road half an hour to Starbucks.
Are you an addict? Which would you prefer: pain or being disconnected? The weekly journal, Nature, recently reported, “Given the choice, many people would rather give themselves mild electric shocks than sit idly in a room for 15 minutes, according to a study published in Science.” In an experiment led by social psychologist, Timothy Wilson, at the University of Virginia, 409 undergrads were asked to sit alone without mobile devices, books, or any other kind of entertainment for just 15 minutes. That’s it, a mere 15 minutes. Nearly half found this unpleasant. Allowed to repeat the experiment in the comfort of their own homes, nearly one-third of the study subjects later admitted to cheating.
But here’s the shocking part. In the next experiment, participants were given a small electric shock—akin to a jolt of static electricity—that was so unpleasant that three-quarters of them said they’d be willing to pay not to experience the shock again. But when participants sat in the room alone with their thoughts, 67% of male participants and 25% of female ones were so eager to find something to do that they shocked themselves voluntarily. Did you catch that? A significant percentage of women and majority of men got so bored sitting quietly for 15 minutes that they chose to hurt themselves rather than just sit there. The researchers discovered, too, that this wasn’t just a young person issue. The results were the same when the researchers repeated the experiment with a broader age group sampled from a church and a farmer’s market with participants as old as 77.
A commonly used term today is ADHD. Could it be that ADHD is not so much psychological or physical but rather, technological? Let’s be honest, in an eye candy, supersaturated technological world, even our relaxation tends to be busy. Most have no idea how addicted we are. I know I don’t.
We have nomophobia and aren’t even aware of it. That’s a term for “no-mobile-phone-phobia.” It’s when people feel anxious when they lose their cell phone, run out of battery, or have no network coverage. We’re so dependent on our phones, some 20% of us check our email in bed. Half of us take our phones to the beach. Symptoms of nomophobia include being unable to turn off your phone, obsessively checking it, constantly topping off the battery and even taking it to the bathroom. (Ok, it’s a little weird when someone is in a bathroom stall having a conversation on their phone.)
This not only affects us relationally with each other, worse, it affects us relationally with our Heavenly Father. In Psalm 46:10 God says, “Be still, and know that I am God.” Could it be that so many of us are stunted spiritually because we don’t have a clue what it means to “Be still, and know that I am God”? Could it be our Heavenly Father can hardly get a word in edgewise because we’re so preoccupied with all the racket, the temporal and trivial of this world? It’s not just that we don’t spend time in the Word, but even when we’re in the Word, our souls are off somewhere. Or, we’re ticking off the minutes until we’re done. We struggle with turning it all off. To have a healthy relationship with our Heavenly Father, to be effective in digging into the Word and prayer, we must. Spiritual intimacy and depth only come from times of soul quiet without distraction.
Wouldn’t we be less anxious and experience more of God’s peace if we knew what it was to “Be still, and know that I am God”? What troubles you? Is it your circumstances? Finances tight? Are their marital or family issues? Maybe your conscience is pricking you? Or, you’re troubled by sin’s grip on your life? Do you lack trust in God? Love? Joy? Peace?
Parents often ask children, “Are you listening to me? Are you paying attention?” Our Father is asking us the same thing. It’s usually not vile sin that keeps us from hearing His voice; it’s just the countless distractions.
Technology has an on and off switch. Let’s choose to tune it out and turn it off so that we can carefully tune in to that still, small voice that makes an eternal difference in our lives (1 Kings 19:12). Solitude, quiet prayer and contemplation are vital for our spiritual health. The Lord promises us in the book of Isaiah, “in quietness and in trust shall be your strength” (30:15).