I tend to be a dreamer. I can easily get bored and often find myself daydreaming about new ideas and new places to go. For me, there has never been a shortage of ideas or vision for what could be next. But unless we are content to just dream, there will be those moments of crisis; moments when we have to decide to not just dream but to take some steps of action. There are times when we have to risk and be willing to move into the unknown,
I was watching “The Hobbit: A Unexpected Journey” last night. There is this great moment after Bilbo Baggins finally decides to leave the safe and predictable, and enter this great adventure. A moment when he hears, “There are no safe paths in this part of the world. You are over the edge of the wild now…” The decision for him to go on this journey was a struggle, but once he took the step, made the commitment, signed the contract, it got exciting. For awhile. Like Bilbo Baggins, I have found there is another moment of crisis, a point of no turning back. This is when things really get interesting. These are the gut-check moments when our faith can really be tested.
I remember reading Oswald Chambers’ words, “If a person is ever going to do anything worthwhile, there will be times when he must risk everything by his leap in the dark.” I have thought about that a lot. I don’t think Chambers was talking about being blindly reckless or careless. I do believe he was referring to one of those moments, one of those times when there is no more research we can do, no more information to gather, maybe even no more prayers that will bring additional insight. It is just time to move and take the step that will cause us to go “over the edge of the wild.”
If you have been reading my blog, you may have noticed a theme of disappointment during the last year. In the midst of seeing God work in dramatic ways in some areas, other aspects of life have been difficult, marked with silence from God and struggle.
Some of those close to me have dealt with one disappointing blow after another. As I write this, I am struggling with another wave of that disappointment. In a way, this latest chapter has been the straw that broke the camel’s back. This morning I came across a picture I took during a very intense time for me. Last summer I ventured out to Colorado to find some peace amid the personal storms that were raging, and I took this picture…
It was like heaven had opened up and there was this waterfall pouring out of the sky right into the middle of the drought-stricken front range. This refreshing flow of water was certainly not covering the whole area, Only a small spot got a taste of the flow. Only one small area for a brief period of time saw and experienced something different. As I watched, I was given a glimpse of what is to come.
For whatever reason, so many of us live with struggle and disappointment. We wonder where God is and why he is allowing the pain and difficulty. It just doesn’t make any sense! I wonder why, at times, God seems so quiet. detached and uninvolved in the day-to-day moments. We know all the one-liners:
..there must be a bigger story
…there has to be a reason
but the truth is, there comes a point when it’s just not enough. That is where I am right now.
Then we get a glimpse of what’s to come. A taste. A look. A moment that reminds us He does walk through the storms with us. We have to keep watching and listening for moments like these. Somehow in the middle of a drought-stricken, forsaken place, there is renewed hope,
There is just a glimpse…
So, as you consider taking this whole day of extended time in quiet and solitude, remember…
There is no doubt that a dangerous vision, a dangerous hope, dangerous steps of faith, dangerous contentment and deep peace will be birthed in these extended times of quiet. If you can develop this rhythm of quiet and solitude, I believe you will be dangerous to an enemy as well. If you develop the regular practice of taking time to be alone and quiet before God, you will have a much better chance of living with rhythm and staying the course in your faith and ministry, at work and with your family. You will be ready to step into whatever God has in store for you and you will be much better equipped to finish well.
I recently read about a doctor who was tired, overworked and entrenched in long hours treating multiple patients. He found himself ordering more and more tests, hoping that the tests would somehow produce the answers that previous training, experience and intuition should produce. Without rest, quiet, and the right amount of margin in his schedule, he had lost the ability to use his experience and his intuition as he needed to.
The same can be true for us. If we fail to practice quiet, it can get very hard to hear and identify that “still small voice” we so desperately need. With no margin, that intuitive ability that others need from us can get dull or be lost completely. It happened in my journey, and if I had continued to follow the path I was on, if would have cost me a job and likely my family. You are at risk as well. We will get weary in the doing no matter how great the cause, and in our weariness we may turn to everything else but the Source for direction and help. That is the place where another kind of danger can set it.
Psalm 91:1 says “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.” I hope that you will find a way to rest, find refuge and hear clearly the voice of God. I hope you will find a needed harbor — a place of deep connection — that will give you strength for the weeks, months, and years ahead. I hope that you will learn to trust your intuition, and most importantly, to trust the voice of God as you hear it.
I am hesitant to invite you to pursue God in the quiet. These extended times of solitude can have a few mine fields.
In the last few years, these quiet times of listening have been a dangerous place for me. In the quiet God has convicted me of things that should be changed, relationships I needed to let go of, and strongholds I needed to surrender. In the quiet I felt the nudge to leave a ministry I led for 20 years and step into an unsafe, unknown, uncertain new role. In the quiet I was led to start a new ministry that had no guarantee of success.
What if you dare to turn off the distractions, unplug and PRACTICE pursuing God in the quiet? Get ready, because in the stillness and the quiet God will call you out. He will extend dangerous invitations to the kind of deep soul change that can lead to action. This just doesn’t happen in a 15-minute quiet time with a to do list and an agenda.
So, here is your invitation:
- Take a WHOLE day. Shut off. Listen
- If you don’t actually schedule this time, it more than likely won’t happen.
- Fight the resistance that tells you that you can’t or won’t or shouldn’t.
A few thoughts to help:
- Get to a place where your spirit wakes up. Remember, location is everything! Find a place where distraction don’t exist and where your phone can’t ring.
- Take a journal, a book, some music, whatever stirs you.
- To kick things off, read a favorite chapter in a book, listen to a favorite song
- Then, just listen…
I invite you to take some of the day to reflect on your spiritual journey. Go back to a time or times when God uniquely revealed himself to you. Where were you? Who were you with? What was going on in your life at the time? What did God say and how did you feel about Him speaking to you?
Carve this time into your schedule. Something as foreign as silence seeks to find a home in our obnoxiously loud world. Give yourself some grace in this. Seeking space so differently than you are used to will take practice and time to develop a good rhythm.
Here’s to taking this first day of quiet. May this space be the beginning of a journey that lasts a lifetime — a journey marked by the intentional pursuit of the still small voice that is the one we most need to hear.
I have always sought after times of extended quiet. In fact one of the themes of my life has been this longing for times to dream, listen, process and just shut off the noise. It started when I was really young and would wonder back to the pasture behind our house and think about the places I wanted to go and the things I wanted to do. There is often peace in this quiet, but I have learned not to seek the quiet for safety; for me, dangerous things often happen in the quiet.
Several winters ago a major blizzard hit on Christmas Eve. For a few days we were completely isolated. It took a major winter storm to force me into a needed change of pace. The quiet mornings gave me space to reflect on the previous months. It had been a rough year. I was at a point of transition and had been through a season of fatigue, boredom and restlessness that was the making for a perfect storm.
In that forced, desperately needed quite, God reminded me of the unique and sometimes difficult ways He had broken through and revealed himself to me .
If not for that time in the quiet, I would have been in real trouble. God took me through some minefields where I experienced brokenness and personal searching. He brought me to a point where I was willing to give up a dream for a new ministry to young leaders that had been on my heart for years. I was ready to step away from all of it.
Then my phone rang.
It was a random call asking me to go to Ecuador to speak at a leadership conference. The topic? What it looks like for a leader to stay the course and finish well. At that moment I could not have felt less qualified, but thanks to the prodding of a wife and a sense from God that I could not bury, I went.
In the quiet on a mountain above Quito, Ecuador, God began to renew my dream of investing in emerging leaders. He stirred awake longings and fueled my hope. He also reminded me there would be costs: being on the front lines of spiritual warfare, fundraising, relational and professional risks.
The blizzard raged on, but in those cold, isolating winds I felt some renewal in my passion to pursue Him again in the quiet and solitude. Through the years it has always been worth the fight to get these times alone with God. This time it just needed to be forced on me.
I believe the same is true for you as well. You can find renewal, and likely some dangerous adventure if you practice seeking Him in extended times of quiet. It is for sure worth the fight!