For When It’s Hard To Be Still

Have you ever noticed how a photograph—of someone you know or a scene of nature—can cause you to be still for a few minutes or longer? It holds a moment in our life or a mesmerizing sample of God’s creation. When my computer screen is idle, my photo collection rolls, and if my husband or I are nearby, it’s inevitable that we just stop and watch and eventually get misty-eyed. The photos stir emotion and memory, gratitude to God, and sometimes reflective words that testify to His character.

“Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46.10a)

These God-breathed words have arrested my heart countless times. When I’m overwhelmed in a years-long trial or stress is shaking me to the core, God makes this Word known again to my heart. All at once, I feel loved yet humbled. His words comfort me like I might comfort a child. Stop. Remember who I am, how you’ve experienced me, what you’ve read about me—and trust Who I am. He humbles me, too, and I realize I haven’t been still much lately, and the power of my will, mental wrestling, and self-determination are wearing me out.

You and I have opportunities every day to stop, give time to be present to God, and practice experiencing Who He is—and what that means for us. As LORD, He commands us, and as our loving heavenly Father, He guides: Be still, and know that I am God.

His aim is our heart, that we personally know Him as our all-powerful, all-knowing, always present, sovereign God—through firsthand experience in prayer, the scriptures, and being still with him. He calls us to stillness for our good and for His glory.

Be still.  Stop moving, be quiet, and be present. Stop moving our mouth and mind and maybe our body, too. Put down the phone, close the computer, turn off the TV, step away from that project. The rhythm of our work or family life challenges us to believe that we can give up some time to ‘be still.’ Yet, notice God doesn’t say how long. He doesn’t say, Be still for 5 minutes… 30 minutes… once a week. It’s an intriguing invitation and uniquely personal to each of us.

If you go to a presentation that requires your undivided attention, you stop everything else because you don’t want to miss the big moment. If you have a child, you’ve likely told him to be still when you want to tell or show him something significant. God requires our undivided attention, for us to truly know him and trust him.

Be still.  Where? When?  . . .  in the carpool line, while you sit in the bleachers alone, during your lunch break, in a comfy chair with a cup of coffee, or looking at the amazing sky, a flower that’s just bloomed, your child as he sleeps or simply fascinates you. Ask God when and where, and He will show you. He wants this time for you and with you. How? Close your eyes or watch, listen, reflect, wait, praise Him. God is always in our midst; yet in stillness, we step in to holy communion with Him. We obey and show him our love, being still WITH HIM. And He keeps his promise—He grows us to know Him, such that His peace anchors our heart and transcends every matter it carries.

In stillness, insight unfolds. Nature reveals His power and majesty. Quiet makes space for His voice. Reflection transforms hard life stories into testaments of His character.

Dear God,
You are mine and I am yours. You are all I need, my safe place, my strength. Quiet my thoughts now and help me be still. I want to know you. I want to rest in You as God. Amen.

I Guess I’ll Just Pray

“I wish I could do something to help.”
“I’ll just pray . . .”

Have you ever felt frustrated that you can’t do more for someone or that you’re not doing enough? Maybe you can tell that someone is in pain—at your workplace, across the aisle in the grocery store, or living in your home—yet you struggle with how or whether to engage. I have; maybe you have, too.

We want to help, to do, to say something helpful or comforting, to fix. These are fine and often helpful responses. Yet sometimes we miss beautiful opportunities to partner with God, as we think on what we can do or say. Our greatest response or engagement toward a person generates from the stir of God’s Holy Spirit in us. We don’t “just pray.” We exercise a privilege to go to Almighty God on someone else’s behalf because we believe that he listens and that he always responds with his best in his perfect timing.

“Let my prayer be counted as incense before you.” (Psalm 141.2a) The psalmist David knew that prayer honors God. “And when he (Jesus) had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.” (Revelation 5.8)

Express your heart to God—plain and simple, humble. Our earnest words are incense to our Father who wants intimacy with his children and enjoys the pleasure of our coming to him. Continue to offer your heart’s words, over and over again . . . unless or until he stirs your heart to modify it. God doesn’t need us to pray, in order for anything good to happen. We need God and thus, we need to talk to the One we need.

I could and want to pray more. Perhaps, the same is true for you. So why don’t we? I can share one personal, powerful insight I experienced recently—We forget how AWESOME PRAYER is.

A few weeks ago, a group of pastors’ wives gathered to pray. I knew I had to slip out after a few minutes in order to get to the airport. When I quietly stood, a friend whom I’d only met twice looked up, “Let’s pray for Teresa before she leaves.” Everyone stood, surrounded me, and prayed. I was humbled and awed. They are weary, too, yet they gave as conduits of the message and power of God. I hardly know some of them, but they are my sisters in Christ. They loved me with their words to our Lord, and he refreshed and strengthened me. . . . just pray? What could have meant more?

I spent the rest of that week with packers as they boxed our belongings for our move to South Carolina. Occasionally, one of the packers named Patricia asked me questions, “How long did you live in Houston? How old are your children?” So I did the same. Then she told me about her mom. As she shared, I was surprised by the reaction in my heart. I felt pain, even grief, for what her mother had experienced. I took a deep breath, “May I pray for your mother?” She looked shocked and almost whispered, “Yes.” When the first word left my mouth, I began to weep. I tried to stop but couldn’t, so I kept praying. When I finished, I looked at her and smiled through my tears (yes, I felt a little weird), “I will continue to pray for Sylvia.” . . . just pray? God swelled my heart with his love, and I trust that he holds Sylvia’s.

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4.18)

Dear God, Thank you for your love for us. Help us learn from you how to more often exercise our privilege to pray. Grow us to recognize your prompts, so that joy fills our heart as we respond with silent or aloud words to you. Help us see prayer as sweet communion with you. Fan in to flame passion in our soul to pray. Thank you for Jesus. Amen.

Grace for Goodbye

“Can I come by for a few minutes?”
“What is it?” she asked as I entered her house.
Tears brimmed in my eyes, I hugged her, and stepped back. “We’re moving.”

In our almost 29 years of marriage, Terrell and I have moved six times, each related to a job change. First, God gets our attention to reflect upon the present. Then, he stirs our heart to consider what he possibly has next for us. Last, he shepherds our steps and heart as he brings the current season to a close.

In recent weeks Terrell and I have cherished time with friends in Houston, saying goodbye. We’ll stay in touch and hopefully see each other again, but our sacred season together to plant a church has ended. My heart is sad. It’s hard to say goodbye. Underneath each goodbye is the history of that relationship and significant shared experiences.

The beauty of the sad goodbye is the treasured story that led up to it.

God reigns over our stories. Line by line, we live them. Each relationship is a story. Each event, milestone, revelation, and challenge is a story. Some stories develop over years. Others are short in time, yet long in depth.

So, have you or your child experienced an end to a story recently—involving a job, relationship, school, or perhaps a move like me? It’s never too late to mark its end, in the warm light of God’s love.

Marking an end helps us say goodbye—to a place, a rhythm, a plan, and perhaps to people we’ve grown to love.

Marking an end creates space to celebrate God’s goodness—his faithful provision of all that we need and more, his insights to our self and insights to Him, new relationships that wouldn’t exist if not for the sovereignty of how God intersects lives, his patience, mercy, and amazing grace.

Marking an end helps us ready for the new beginning that God has in store.

When I mark an end, I spend time alone to reflect. I spend time with the people with whom I lived the story. We reminisce, laugh, share our hearts, and maybe cry. Especially, I thank God for giving me this time, for all that he did in it and in me. And then I commit it all to him.

“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock.” (Isaiah 26.3-4)