The Joy of Community

I get to be part of this small gang of about six to seven families. It’s a close-knit group, with the families becoming a part of each others’ lives in a very detailed manner.

And therefore, yes, too many people naturally means too many ideas; it’s funny how when we travel, we end up having no food, because by the time everyone comes to a consensus even about having a tea break, it’s almost time for dinner. I remember on our last trip to Jaipur, we couldn’t stop for lunch and by the time we stopped for tea, it was dinner time and again we skipped our evening meal. Laughingly, we termed it as our budget trip —  travelling on an empty stomach. And it’s still something we laugh about because we are all crazy and have accepted each other just the way we are, and that’s the benefit of having a community that you strive with.

In the beginning, when I was newly married, I cared less for a community. My husband and I were like two free birds, going wherever, doing whatever whenever we wanted. And yes, it was all fun — we enjoyed just being the two of us, with no strings attached!

But the true sense of community started sinking in to me when I became pregnant. A few women showered their love on me through simple acts: making a meal for me, or pampering me with baby gifts (at a time when its called nesting). As a woman, I felt the need of having girlfriends who had been through this situation before, people I could talk to. It’s a time when you know you want a friend by your side who knows what you going through physiologically and emotionally. And none better than the girlfriends in your life. I remember squeezing their palms and yelling at my girlfriends from the labour room (you can blame the hormones and oh, the excruciating pain), and yet the gentle comforting touch of one of them saying, “It’s okay, you can do this” or, “Just a little more”, was something that worked wonders.

Before I gave birth, my pregnancy cravings were taken care of every week and my kitchen store was loaded with exciting stuff by these friends. Soon after delivery, one friend dropped in with weeks-worth of food. When I was hit with jaundice, my friend’s mom came in to cook and clean my house. After a while, I could even go to parties and events, safely leaving my baby with one of my girlfriends for an evening.

My life has been blessed by these women whom God has placed in my life. As my husband and I live in a nuclear home, God gave us the joy of living as part of this extended community. We may not be a family by blood, but we are a wider family, held together by the deeper bonds of the blood of Christ. Through these wonderful women, I have experienced and witnessed the love of Christ in the little details of life.

They have helped me begin understanding the value of having a community. The Bible says, “We are made in the image of God”. Therefore, each of us is like Him, not necessarily meaning that God has two eyes and a nose and all those limited physical attributes, but something that goes beyond this. From eternity to eternity, God himself dwells in a community — the Trinity — and we, being in His image, reflect that need and desire for a community as well.

Then the LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.” Genesis 2:18

Adam looked around and saw there were trees and animals of all kinds, but there was no one whom he could associate with. And so God gave him a community as well. Right from Eden, it has been true: life cannot be lived in isolation. We aren’t made to be Robinson Crusoes, living in one-man self-sustaining nuclear units.

This is one of the beautiful things about India, just the culture of family, large gatherings, people- and amidst all of this; there is a element of unity and acceptance that comes along by having a community that you grow along with.

As women we go through numerous emotions a day, we are filled with thoughts that affect us and our actions – having a bunch of spiritually edifying women sure helps you in your daily walk with God and also in your practical day to day living.

“Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts.” Colossians 3:16

 

 

The Brother I Always Wanted

Having grown up with only a sister for a sibling, I always wished for a brother. And my wish was granted when I married my husband, because his younger brother became mine.

My brother-in-law (henceforth called N) is four years younger than me and about a foot taller. At a gangly 6.4”, he’s like a pole with a loud, carrying voice that could wake the dead. When my daughter was born, I still remember how we’d all loudly shush him the minute he’d enter the house. Otherwise, as soon as he started speaking, you could be sure the baby would wake up!

I’ve been married eight and a half years now, and for the first five years of marriage, N lived with us. When people hear that, they always give me this pitying look filled with sympathy, as if to say, “Oh poor you. What a burden you’ve had to bear.” But if you ask me, I was blessed to have N live with us. I look at those five years as a time that not only brought us closer as a family but also cemented our relationship – his and mine.

Of course, there were days when he got on my nerves, as I’m sure I did on his. But every time I felt self-pity rise in my heart, God would tell me to go back and repair the damage. We had our share of arguments, mostly one-sided from my end because he’d never have a clue why I was annoyed to begin with. He’d patiently listen to every complaint I made and truly change any maddening habit.

Eventually, I learnt to accept him as he is. I always appreciate how far he’d go to accommodate my requests, like taking me to a bistro at 9 p.m. because I had pregnancy cravings to eat sausages! We have long conversations about life and people and he always listens to all my stories. However, having a brother means that I have to also listen to (extremely boring) conversations on sports between him and my husband (since I couldn’t very well contribute, being a complete ignoramus on the subject). Now this was a whole new world to me. I didn’t realise how seriously they took it until I got married. Suddenly my evenings were spent watching “Sports Center” – the most mind-numbingly boring show on TV (I guess that’s how MasterChef feels to men)! I never knew that a significant portion of the population thrived on sports news, and that it’s actually a thing! I would hear long drawn-out arguments about football, cricket, tennis, and Formula 1 racing. Now, after all these years, I have the dubious pleasure of knowing that Klopp is building the Liverpool team along the lines of what Ferguson achieved with Manchester United, that Senna and Schumacher were the all-time greats who raced in an era when a driver’s skill and expertise was tested rather than the car itself, and that Federer is the greatest on the grass court while Nadal reigns supreme on clay. If all that sounded like gibberish to you, don’t worry (though I’m sure when N reads this, he’ll be inordinately pleased with me).

Living with two boys meant having to up my cooking game as well. I still remember how I used to cook approximately 1 kg of chicken, believing it would last at least 3 meals. Only to find to my dismay that it took only one meal to finish the lot! We eventually reached a compromise to ensure food lasted longer – I cooked more and he ate less.

When N moved away to a different city, I missed him but I also knew that it was time for him to make his own way in the world. Nevertheless, I cherish the time we had together. Living in the same house taught me to accept others’ differences, even enjoy them. Being an introvert myself, I found his extroverted buoyancy a bit alarming initially. But gradually, I learnt to see beyond the laughter and inappropriate jokes to the genuinely kind, thoughtful, and sensitive person he is. At times he would use humour to deflect attention from his hurt or pain. So I learnt to ignore the teasing and pranks, pushing him to face his real feelings. He doesn’t always appreciate my interference, but that’s my prerogative as his older sister!

God has placed special men in each of our lives; and when we take the time and effort to understand them, it will bless us.

 

Photo Credit : Unsplash

How to Be a Godly Wife: Lessons from Salsa Class

“You can get your partner to lead however you want; kick him or tell him the next move, but you do not lead!” joked our dance instructor, addressing the women in the salsa class. My husband and I signed up for salsa classes some time ago, and from the very first class I have been amazed at the parallel between dancing and marriage. A healthy Biblical marriage, I’d like to suggest, is a lot like a good dance. Here’s how:

1. The man leads – The man has enormous responsibility. He needs to know his steps, and know how to lead the woman. Based on the tug of his hand or the gentle push of his palm, the woman should know what step he is leading into. A gentleman leads his partner courteously to the dance floor and presents her. He bends to her level, when necessary, so that she can move with ease.

2. The woman submits – There is no shame in submitting; this is the nature of the dance. Submission does not mean that the man is a better dancer. For all you know, the woman may dance better, but the man still gets to lead. Why? Because God’s constitution said so. Can you imagine the utter confusion if the man and woman tried leading at the same time? There would be no dance; it would not be a pleasure to be a part of or a delight to watch, and it could result in serious injury.

3. The woman knows her steps – A woman knows and practices her steps. She can dance solo. When the man tugs her hand a certain way, she moves along with grace and without confusion because she knows her footing. A man is not essential in order for her to be able to do her steps, but when he’s there, she joyfully submits.

4. The woman doesn’t resist – The woman trusts the man’s leadership. Even when she is uncertain about what step he is leading her into, she follows knowing that she will be okay. She knows this dance, and he knows it too. She doesn’t fear.

5. The woman guides with gentleness – When the man messes up, she does not rebuke him harshly or embarrass him in front of others. She doesn’t sound an alarm, each time his imperfections slip through. Instead, with gentleness and a kind smile, she reminds him the right step. She bears with him as he improves without giving in to discouragement. As they keep practicing, they both get better, at leading and submitting, and the dance becomes a source of happiness for them, and a pleasure for others to watch.

There have been times I wished that I was a man so that I could be the leader. But, God thankfully has been helping me to appreciate how He created me. A man who wants to be the kind of husband that pleases God, has a more difficult task than us. A woman is called to joyfully submit to her husband like the church submits to Christ. Now if you are a part of the church, you know how often we fall short. But the man! The man is asked to love like Jesus; no room for imperfection there.

Happy dancing, people!

 

 

Photo by Allef Vinicius on Unsplash

How Community Refreshes Our Souls

The other day, as we were driving to a friend’s house for dinner, our car began to overheat. This is our first car and with our limited knowledge about cars, we missed the warning signs. We noticed the problem only when smoke began to float up from the hood of our car. We pulled over quickly, not understanding what went wrong, just thankful that we were safe. We found out later that the radiator fan was not working and this led to overheating, causing the coolant to leak. For those like me who are completely ignorant about the inner working of cars, what happened was that there was no way for the car to cool down as the cooling mechanisms failed. This caused overheating, making the car ineffective and even dangerous if left unchecked.

This incident made me think of how each one of us also needs to have ‘cooling agents’ in our life. Often, we can go through life being so busy and occupied that we ignore our need for rest, refreshment and renewal. This can lead to frustration and lack of effectiveness in what God calls us to do. In some cases, it can even lead to burn out. It is important to make time to refresh our bodies, minds and souls for us to function optimally – physically, mentally and spiritually. How we do this may differ for each one of us, but we need to be intentional about it and be able to recognise signs of overheating in our lives.

This is a truth that has revisited me in the recently. This past month has been exhausting in so many ways. I often struggle to say “no” to people, but my exhaustion led me to decline even the invitations that would normally excite me. I would wake up tired, drag myself through the day and go to bed exhausted. On some days, I was snappy and unpleasant to be around. My productivity kept decreasing while my stress levels kept increasing.

It was only after all this that I realized how much I needed to be refreshed. I thought about it and began to identify what refreshes me.

Music is one of those things. There’s something about music that makes my weary body come alive. Singing with friends makes my face light up. And lifting my voice to God in worship and song refreshes me instantly and my cares begin to melt away. My husband and I often steal some time to worship God and pray together after the kids are asleep. Pouring my heart out to the Lord in song or prayer relieves my stress and fills me with His peace.

Family is another blessing that helps refresh me. There is nothing more pleasant than watching my daughters play and care for each other. I love the sound of their laughter and their cheerful songs. Being able to spend time with them helps me see glimpses of the beauty of God’s creation and I marvel at how wonderfully He has made each one of us.

But one medium of refreshment that has been on my mind lately is the precious friendships that God has given me. I’m blessed to be part of a loving and serving community. Here are a few examples of how they bless me and enrich my life.

They’ve accepted me as I am. I can relax and unwind, knowing I am accepted just as I am. A family that we love dearly moved to our city a few months ago and meeting them is always such a joy. We know we are loved and that their home and hearts are always open to us, no matter what. When we part ways, we always feel so refreshed and encouraged by their love for us and for the Lord.

They walk with us through life’s circumstances. I am so refreshed and encouraged by the lovely women the Lord has brought into my life. They’ve loved and supported me and my family, helped me with parenting advice, encouraged me to be a better wife, and been there in person or are just a call/text message away whatever my question or struggle may be.

“The heart is delighted by the fragrance of oil and sweet perfumes, and in just the same way, the soul is sweetened by the wise counsel of a friend” (Proverbs 27:9).

They pray for us. We are indebted to our families and friends who have invested in our lives in such a powerful way. Though often unseen, prayer is one of the most precious gifts one can give and our hearts are encouraged knowing someone is praying for us.

They understood my untold needs and helped out wherever they could. We’ve enjoyed people stepping in and helping out in many ways – with the dishes, bringing food for our bible study meeting, reading to our kids and babysitting them when I needed a break, or texting me to ask what help I needed, and even taking care of us in times of illness. A helping hand gives great comfort to the heart.

The more I think about it, the more I realise that these wonderful people refresh my soul because they are showing me Christlike love in different ways. The love I am experiencing is because of He who is living in them. Jesus loves me as I am, unconditionally, even dying for me when I lived in sin and darkness, in enmity with God. I am His child and I face no more condemnation, because I am fully accepted in Christ. He walks with me and I am sealed with His spirit till the day of redemption. Romans 8:34 and Hebrews 7:25 tell me that Jesus is now at the right hand of God, interceding for me. He is my ever present help in trouble, the One who can supply all my needs according to His riches in glory.

As I think of the friends I have and the people whose lives God has placed me in, I wonder if I am a source of refreshment to them. I hope and pray that as a child of the Lord, the love of Jesus may overflow from my life to the lives of the people I interact with, and that they may leave feeling refreshed, giving Him glory.

Have you been a source of refreshment to someone lately, through Christ who lives in you?

 

Photo by Seth Doyle on Unsplash

6 Simple Ways to Connect With Your Husband

A version of this article first appeared in Her View From Home.

Not too long ago my husband and I attended a marriage conference. Well, to be more precise, some bribing and coercion may have been involved in getting the hubbers there. He was concerned that the sessions would involve us sharing feelings and divulging deep thoughts. (I have no idea why that would scare a man away. No clue.)

I don’t remember much from our two days at the conference. Except for one “exercise”: the 20-second hug. Couples were asked to hold each other in silence for twenty seconds. Twenty seconds. Like that’s going to make a difference in a decade-long marriage. Turns out, I should really shush my inner critic. After 11 years of marriage, I discovered that all it took was a longish hug to turn me into butter. I just about melted in my man’s arms. Sure, we give each other hugs all the time. But this was quiet and intentional and made everything all better. It was a sweet moment in our marriage – and it’s going to stay with me a long time.

Studies have shown that kindness breathes life into relationships, even possibly restoring brokenness. What are some ways you can show kindness to your spouse while expecting nothing in return?

1. Two simple words. Thank you. We teach our kids to say it. We’re sure to say it to the stranger who holds the door open or the guy bagging our groceries. But, how often do we take a minute to acknowledge the husband who took the garbage out or unloaded the dishwasher or read the kids bedtime stories after a long day at work? It might seem formal – even unnecessary. You think, “Of course he knows I appreciate him.” But, does he really? It only takes couple of seconds and two words to communicate: I see you and I appreciate you.

2. Ask how you can help. There’s no denying that you’re wiped out. The day has been a blur of diapers and spit-up, teething and tantrums, Goldfish and Cheerios. But, here’s one way of surprising your spouse: ask him if there’s anyway you can help him.  Here are seven words to incorporate into your routine, “How can I make your day better?” Letting him know that the two of you are in this together takes some of the pressure off your relationship.

3.Listen (like you mean it). This one’s hard for me. I ask my man how his day went. And sometime through his description of it, my mind wanders to the fact that I need to add brown sugar to my grocery list. Or, if I’ve RSVP’d to that party invite. Here’s what you and I could do instead: Put away the phone. Make eye contact. Ask questions. Acknowledge that he’s had a hard day too. Celebrate his victories.

4. Plan a date night. When our kids were teeny weeny, we had lots of low-key, low-budget date nights. The husband would take the kids upstairs to put them to bed. I would cook steak on the stove top (Who am I kidding? Sometimes, it was a microwaveable TV dinner), pour us some wine and light a couple candles. I even pulled out a tablecloth and real china on occasion (like he really cared! That was solely for me). Sometimes, that’s all it takes to show you’re investing in him, in both of you as a couple. Date nights in PJs which end with a movie on the couch equals to no pressure, even if one of you (read: you) knocks off after a few sips of vino.

5.Compliment him. It’s his company annual do. The kids are with a babysitter and you’ve taken the effort to shave, pull down the ponytail, slap on some make up and get out of your sweats. You actually feel like a person again (as opposed to mama, or a grizzly in hibernation). But, instead of expecting a “wowza,” how about you extend a compliment? Let him know that he cleans up real good. That he’s still the man. That he’s going to be your arm candy for the evening.

6. Pray for him. Chances are, one of your wedding gifts was a book and the book was called, “The Power of a Praying Wife,” or something similar. It may be a cliche, but there is power in praying for your husband – and while you draw near to God, you’ll also draw near to your husband. Practically speaking, it’s impossible to pray for someone while also harbouring a grudge. (Although, just to be clear, we’re not talking about the “God, make him see my way is better” prayers). Sometimes, we get lost in the busyness of caring for our kids and praying for them. The hubbers and his concerns get a little sidelined. But don’t give up. Your prayers strengthen your relationship.

Little acts of kindness could add up to the best gift you can give your children: A strong marriage. Maybe that’s simplistic. But, maybe it’s worth a shot. Like the Greek philosopher Aesop writes in the children’s fable The Lion and the Mouse: “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”

 

Why is Rest So Hard for Us?

I have been in a state of survival for years now. Every time I start to get things under control (which is really an illusion, by the way) something upends my calm and hurtles me headlong back into chaos. Whether it is pregnancy, international travel, toddlers, potty training, night waking, puppies (yes, we are crazy people and just got a puppy), or all of the above, there is always something.

Recently I came to a place where I decided I needed more rest for my mind, more space to think and be still. My husband and I agreed I would try to take one morning each week to escape the pressures of normal life and sit somewhere and read or write or whatever.

The funny thing I found out is, escape without a purpose deeply rooted in God’s calling is just more striving. Each time I would get away, I would return feeling like I had failed to use my time wisely or that I had not had enough time. No matter how good or how long or how much I accomplished, something would inhibit that feeling of deep rest. And the truth was I wasn’t really resting—I wasn’t finding deep soul refreshment.

When I think of refreshment, I think of taking a brisk walk or splashing cold water in my face. I think of sitting in a coffee shop (alone) or a good night’s sleep after a long day of travel. I think of the things that revive and restore the body. But I also think of refreshment as a means to an end. What can I use to refresh me so that I can do more? How can I fill up my tank, so to speak, in order to pour everything out again? I think mine is a common, but rather broken, way of seeing deep soul rest.

One day, a month or two ago, one of the podcasts I listen to featured a writer named Hannah Anderson. She spoke about the idea of humility being a source of real soul rest so I picked up her book, Humble Roots: How Humility Grounds and Nourishes Your Soul. Much of her thesis centers on Matthew 11:28-29:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke up you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart,
And you will find rest for your souls.”

I have heard that verse at least 100 times; I know it by heart. And yet I almost never contemplate the heart behind verse 29. To take up a yoke, even if it is God’s, is to submit to another master. God doesn’t say, Lie down and rest in green pastures if you want to be less weary, he says, “take up my yoke.” He is essentially asking us to exchange one kind of work for another. Deep humility is the path to true rest because it says: I cannot do this by myself. Show me how to live!

Anderson writes:

“When we believe that we are responsible for our own existence, when we trust our ability to care for ourselves, we will have nothing but stress because we are unequal to the task. You know this. Deep inside, you know your limits even as you fight against them.”

In other words, I am a creature. I am created by God to follow him, to acknowledge my God-given limits and to acknowledge those limits as blessing. One of the unique ways God made me and you and all of us was with a regular need for Sabbath. Not just rest as a means to fill up and do it all over again, but Sabbath as a means to bring us into deeper communion with God himself. God, who also rested, not because he needed to, but because he wanted to sit back and delight in what he had done, because it was good.

In his article, “Wisdom and Sabbath Rest,” Tim Keller writes,

“God did not just cease from his labor; he stopped and enjoyed what he had made . . . We need to stop and enjoy God, to enjoy his creation, to enjoy the fruits of our labor. The whole point of Sabbath is joy in what God has done.

Often, I am my own worst enemy when it comes to rest. I will observe the Sabbath only as a day to complete all my projects or perhaps only to do nothing at all. These practices leave me feeling either exhausted or empty (or both!)—in other words, not rested. Keller recommends enjoying several kinds of rest in order to experience real Sabbath (soul-refreshing rest). He parallels the Christian life with the field in Leviticus 25 that is allowed to rest every seventh year to avoid over-farming. He recommends time for:

  1. Unstructured inactivity
  2. Avocational Activity (pleasurable work that you don’t do for a living) — he also suggests spending time in worship and quiet, spending time in recreation and allowing time for what he calls, “aesthetic rest,” where you are resting in beauty of some kind whether it is nature or the arts.

Keller quotes a Jewish (the originators of Sabbath) writer, Judith Shulevitz, who says,

“Most people mistakenly believe that all you have to do to stop working is not work. The inventors of the Sabbath understood that it was a much more complicated undertaking. You cannot downshift casually and easily. This is why the Puritan and Jewish Sabbaths were so exactingly intentional. The rules did not exist to torture the faithful. They were meant to communicate the insight that interrupting the ceaseless round of striving requires a surprisingly strenuous act of will, one that has to be bolstered by habit as well as by social sanction.”

Why is rest so hard for us? Why do we do it so poorly? Why do all the things of this world distract my heart and mind from true rest? This is a simplistic answer, but perhaps it is in part because we are still on this side of the Kingdom of Heaven. We are still in a fallen world. Keller writes:

“Anyone who overworks is really a slave. Anyone who cannot rest from work is a slave—to a need for success, to a materialistic culture, to exploitative employers, to parental expectations, or to all of the above. These slave masters will abuse you if you are not disciplined in the practice of Sabbath rest. Sabbath is a declaration of freedom.”

Like any of our failures to perfectly keep the law, our failure to “remember the Sabbath” exposes our need for a mediator and drives us to rely on the perfect work of Jesus all the more. We need his grace, his spirit and his provision to help us rest well. He created us with limits, and unless we exchange our self-sufficient yoke with his light one, we will be incapable of finding the rest we need. Furthermore, Sabbath was pre-fall. We were made for rest. God modeled what it looks like to rest when he rested from his creation work at the dawn of time. Much of our failure lies in our refusal to acknowledge those aforementioned limits and exert our wills to keep Sabbath, even when it seems inconvenient. Like Shulevitz said, “You cannot downshift casually and easily.”

When I have taken on too much, when I have been running ragged in a season of busyness, sometimes I do genuinely need more sleep or a day to myself. More often than not, however, I need a humble self-assessment. Have I been trying to do or be more than God is asking of me? Am I trying to take on the work of my creator, rather than doing his work as a created being? Usually a reorientation of how I view myself, a submission to his yoke is infinitely more helpful than a hot bath. Observing Sabbath is far more fruitful than a trip to the spa. It is just like God to tell us to do things we can actually do—embrace the humility deserving of our station or take Sabbath rest regularly—rather than a bunch of things we may not have the time, money or opportunities to do. No matter how we find refreshment, soul rest comes from resting in him.

 

Photo by Olesya Grichina on Unsplash

Learning to Wait in the Silence

“ . . . sit alone and keep silent . . . ” (Lamentations 3:28).

This is probably the most difficult task to undertake in this day and age. Not the sitting alone part; that most of us are quite adept at doing, our myriad devices enabling our self-imposed isolation. It’s the keeping silent part that gets me. I’m finding it more and more difficult to be silent. Not physically, which is easy, again thanks to the afore-mentioned devices that mute us while simultaneously filling our eyes, ears, and minds with endless noise. It’s quieting down mentally.

Recently a dear friend exhorted a group of us to learn to wait on the Lord. She explained how waiting involved staying silent and listening to hear God speak. It was not a “prayer time” where we gave God our list of current crises, nor was it a “Bible study.” It was exactly what it stated – waiting (or rather sitting alone in a room in quietness) to hear God speak. Just listening to her explain this made it sound like she was talking about some supernatural (read: crazy, out-there) experience, which it isn’t. The Bible clearly tells us time and time again to wait on the Lord. It’s amazing how much of wonder and awe our generation seems to have lost!

I decided to put it into practice immediately. That evening, my daughter was asleep, my husband was returning late, and my phone was on silent – basically everything in place for an evening of quietness. I sat down in a comfy chair and began to wait. And as the silence enveloped me, the voices in my head began to speak. No, I do not have multiple-personality disorder; I’m talking about the various thoughts that I’d been ignoring throughout the day that finally got a word in edgeways –

“I wonder how long before God starts to speak . . . ”

“Is this a good idea?”

“I hope this works.”

“I wonder how long its been since I started . . . ”

“Should I read the Bible before, or after?”

“I really need to clear up the kitchen.”

“I wonder if I’ve got any messages . . . Maybe I should check my phone just once.”

“I really should start exercising.”

And it went on and on until the cacophony in my head was enough to drive me insane. Every two minutes I had to stop myself from wandering off mentally, and focus my mind on God again. Finally, out of sheer frustration I told God this waiting in silence business didn’t seem to be working for me, so would He please give me another assignment.

And that was when He reminded me of the verse in Lamentations. He had quieted me once before with this verse and He did so again. What blessed peace!

So I decided to give it another try. And this time, it was different. A quietness filled my mind, seeping into my soul. As I thought about God, giving my thoughts free rein to wander along paths of my knowledge of Him, the voices died down. Slowly and gently, I began to sense His presence. And the knowledge of His company filled me with joy and a strange peace. He was here. And He would speak. In the meantime I could enjoy being with Him.

And I did just that.

To me, that was a soul-refreshing encounter. There were no gadgets or gimmicks. Only an honesty of my inadequacy and the longing to just sit beside Him in silence. And in the waiting and the silence, He met me.

I’m slowly beginning to understand what Isaiah was talking about when he said –

But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31

Refreshing of the soul doesn’t just happen as we stumble around from one event to another. It takes intentionality and, horror of horrors, discipline. But the fruit that it produces is worth all the pain. The joy of that encounter with our heavenly Father is pure, unadulterated bliss. It brightens your day and lightens your load.

I am reminded of an old Jim Reeves song that my grandfather would hum –

I come to the garden alone
While the dew is still on the roses
And the voice I hear falling on my ear
The Son of God discloses.

And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own;
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.

He speaks, and the sound of His voice,
Is so sweet the birds hush their singing,
And the melody that He gave to me
Within my heart is ringing.

 

 

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

How to Enjoy Your Quiet Time

“Read your bible, pray everyday” was a famous Sunday school chorus we learnt growing up. We not only sang it faithfully, we ardently tried to follow it to the letter, most often completely missing the point of the song.

So, although I was pretty regular doing my quiet time as a child, I did it mostly to check it off my list. Only during my masters degree program did I really understand what it was to enjoy my quiet time. It was during my time away from home, when I was pushed out of my comfort zone, that I understood the value of God’s word and the wealth of treasure I held in my lap.

Two significant things happened at that time that completely changed my view about quiet time from one of drudgery, to one of absolute enjoyment. First, I discovered the art of journaling. I began jotting down simple things that I learned from my quiet time. When I went back and read those verses and notes they really encouraged me. Second, one of my sponsors in seminary, gifted me a beautiful NIV Life Application Study Bible (which I still use to this day). I felt like a child with a new toy. I started rediscovering timeless truths from the bible. I began studying the bible and I began to enjoy what I was doing. Quiet time was not a point I checked off on my to-do list but a time I longed to spend with my Creator.

Here are a few tips that have helped me enjoy my walk with the Lord:

1) Favourite spot – I am a creature of habit and usually like to do certain things a certain way. Every time we shift houses I pick a favourite spot in the hall (living room). There is one particular couch that I like to sit on. That becomes my quiet time couch. (I specifically pick the hall because I have found myself falling asleep when I chose to do my quiet time in the bedroom.)

2) Favourite drink – I usually like to sit with a cup of hot herbal tea. It seems to wake me up and soothe me all at once.

3) Pick a time – Before my kids came along I would do my quiet time first thing in the morning but these days I do it right after they’ve all left for school. Personally, since I’m a morning person I enjoy doing my quiet time in the morning rather than in the night, because by the time 6 PM comes along I’m ready to call it a day. So choose whatever time works best for you, just try to be consistent with it.

4) Study Bible – Using a good study bible really helps. Of course there is so much help online to look up references and study, but I prefer a hard copy bible where I can mark and underline and make notes. Not everyone has commentaries handy on their book shelves, so I feel a study bible is a good tool to have in the house to add depth to your reading. Trust me, it makes quiet time so enjoyable!

5) Colour pens/pencils – I like marking different things in my bible with different colours. For example I would mark all the promises in pink and all the commands to obey in green and lessons I learned in yellow. So even if I went back to my bible years later I knew exactly why I had marked out those verses.

6) Journal – For the last three years our church has been encouraging us to use the Community Bible Reading (CBR) journal. I have enjoyed using this journal. The plan is to finish reading and studying the bible in three years time using the journal. The passage for the day is mentioned and the pages are brilliantly marked out for Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication points. There is also space to write out lessons you’ve learned. Using this journal has made me more intentional and systematic about my quiet time and has made the experience very enjoyable. There have been many lessons that I have learned and re-learned these last three years. Every time I have felt low or sad I flip through the pages of my quiet time journal and see how God has been faithful to me in the past.

Having said all this, I have to confess that I don’t do my quiet time everyday. There are days that I miss. But when I do miss a day or two, it’s not out of guilt that I pick up my bible again, but out of this deep longing to spend time with my Creator and Saviour. Recently at church the preacher spoke on a passage from the life of Mary and Martha. He made a very poignant statement during the sermon. He said, “Before we cultivate Martha’s hands of service let us cultivate Mary’s heart of devotion.” And that thought has really stuck in my head. Most of the time I find myself being a Martha running from pillar to post, serving the Lord. But the times I have intentionally chosen to be Mary, are the times I have grown in my faith and the times that my soul has been refreshed. May these verses from Luke 10:41-42 encourage you as much as they have encouraged me.

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed – or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

 

 

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

 

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