You can build on the truth

Life is nuts. Or is it just me? Maybe I only spend time with super busy people, but it feels like everyones’ lives are spinning out of control in the chaos that is our world. We have less time to produce, less time to rest, less time for family, less time for friends, less time for everything in our lives, yet somehow, in spite of working harder and longer than any other civilization in history, we get less done.

The American Dream? Right. It’s a Ferris wheel, spinning around and around and going nowhere. That’s how life feels most days. I don’t mean to be a downer, but can anyone else identify with this feeling?

Chaos. Futility. Constant exhaustion and the overwhelming certainty that you’ll amount to nothing but failure at the end of your life, regardless of how hard you work.

A kitten at Safe Haven Farm giving me a dirty look

A kitten at Safe Haven Farm giving me a dirty look

When I find myself sinking into that mindset, it’s time for a walk. I need to get away from my computer, get out of my own head, and go somewhere else, a place where I can recognize what’s really true and what really isn’t. For me, that’s outside on our patio with a kitten in my lap. For you, it may look different (although you should never discount how soothing the interaction with an animal can be).

Regardless, you have to stop moving. You have to stop thinking. You have to be still. Only when you’re still can you truly let your brain process, otherwise it’ll keep running in the background.

Once I’m still, then I can think. Then, I have to go back to basics.

What do I know for sure?

So much of what I worry about and stress over are unknowns. They’re the things I can’t control, the outcomes I can’t manipulate, the opinions I can’t change. No, none of that is my responsibility, but that doesn’t stop me from freaking out about it. And once I start thinking about all those things, I wind myself up into a ball of nerves and frustration, and before I know it, I’m snapping at people and just feeling generally angry. Then, whatever productivity I might have had goes out the window.

If you can’t identify things you are sure of, there might be something else going on. But I’m willing to bet that everyone knows the grass is green. Everyone knows the sky looks blue. Everyone knows gravity is constant, or at least constant enough to keep us from being flung off this spinning dirtball into the void.

Basics.

The sun will set tonight. It will rise tomorrow. And you can’t do anything to stop it either way. In one minute, sixty seconds will have passed. You need to drink water, or you’ll end up dehydrated. You need to eat, or you’ll starve. And everyone needs hugs, even people who don’t think they do.

What are the basics you know?

ps46-1-3I also know that God is in control. I know God is good. I know He has never promised to leave me. He’s promised to work all the crap in my life out for good, to bring glory to His name and to provide a beautiful future for me. I know He has my best interests in mind and that He’s the only one big enough to weave all the disjointed strings of my life into a masterpiece.

Maybe you don’t know all that. And that’s okay. But I do. There’s no promise that God has made to me that He hasn’t kept. He’s always there. He always keeps me on track. And everything I do, I want to do for Him, because He’s the only one who can make everything work out.

Those are my basics. Those are my certainties. That’s bedrock, where I start building again. Life and the world and people and circumstances can knock down everything I’ve built (and they have), but nothing can touch that foundation. Lord willing, nothing will.

There are several times in the Bible where God says, “Be still and know that I am God.” He says it so many times, and I don’t know why it’s so easy to forget. But if we can just remember to be still—to stop moving and thinking and running ahead—and remind ourselves who God is and what He’s promised, life won’t feel so chaotic anymore.

Because once you know one truth, you can build on it. Because rock is solid, storms won’t move it. Because storms won’t move it, you can build on it. Because you can build on it, you can restore what you lost.

Because God is God, we can trust Him. Think about what you can build on that truth.

God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. So we will not fear when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea. Let the oceans roar and foam. Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge! Psalm 46:1-3

Life is nuts, but God is good. And even if it doesn’t feel like it, He’s got it all under control. So stop chasing your tail. Take a minute. Remember who He is, and if you don’t know who He is, learn. Then, ask Him for help. He won’t turn you away, and He won’t ignore you, not if you truly come to Him for help. He may not give you the answer you want, but if you really trust Him, you’ll do what He says.

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The difference between stillness and effectiveness

Colorado has lots of beautiful lakes and streams and creeks, and many people who go out to camp bring boats and kayaks and rafts. We didn’t. If we’d had room, maybe. But I don’t go to the lakes to boat or kayak. I go to take photos. There’s an old family legend about a specific lake in Colorado, Taylor Reservoir–a photograph my dad took many moons ago. The world was so still that the Collegiate Mountains with all their trees and the sky and the moon were reflected perfectly in the waters. Dad snapped a photo of it on his old film camera, but in trying to get the image reproduced again, he lost both the negative and the only print of it (conspiracy theories, anyone?).

In any case, none of the lakes we visited in Colorado this time were still enough to take a breathtaking photograph of. The breezes were strong enough to toss the waters and obscure the reflection. It was still beautiful, but I would have loved to be able to see the mountains reflected perfectly.

Mirror Lake near Tincup, CO

Mirror Lake near Tincup, CO

Today’s verse is Psalm 46:10.

Be still, and know that I am God!
    I will be honored by every nation.
    I will be honored throughout the world.

When God says to be still, immediately my brain jumps into defensive mode. Still? I can’t be still. I have too much work to do. So I brush it off and continue running around like a chicken with my head cut off, and before I know it, I’m more stressed and more frantic than I was before. And surprisingly I haven’t gotten as much done as I wanted because I can’t focus.

I make the mistake of confusing being still with being effective. Being still isn’t sitting around doing nothing. Being still is living at peace with God, trusting that God has it under control, and taking steps to take care of yourself in the mean time. That means taking a Sabbath. That means eating right and caring for the body God gave you. Being still is a lifestyle, and it has nothing to do with sitting around. It just isn’t being frantic all the time.

When you’re still, you can catch reflections. Like the waters in the lakes of Colorado reflect the image of the mountains and the sky, we can reflect the image of God to people around us. But if we’re running like busy crazy people all the time, God’s image is obscured. All people will see is our own craziness and not God’s power.

When we’re still, we can reflect God’s peace into other peoples’ lives. When we’re still, we can focus on what matters. We can see clearly because our vision isn’t clouded with anxieties or insecurities that we have no control over. And all of that makes us more effective in general.

So don’t fall for the lie that being still means you won’t accomplish anything. Actually, being still and focusing on God will help you accomplish more than you would otherwise. And, what’s more, you’ll be able to portray a beautiful picture of God to the world around us. People will see Him in you. Isn’t that why we’re here anyway?

Pretty pink flowers at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

God is exalted in our stillness

I’m busy. I’m beyond busy. I make a headless chicken look calm and organized. There are so many things going on in my life right now, and most of them are good. Some of them don’t meet the traditional definition of good, but I’m trusting that God will take care of that.

But I learned something at the writing workshop that I attended this year, and really it didn’t have much to do with writing.

Pretty pink flowers at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

Pretty pink flowers at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

Today’s verse is Psalm 46:10.

“Be still, and know that I am God!
    I will be honored by every nation.
    I will be honored throughout the world.”

This is part of the large passage I put up yesterday, but this verse is so good, I wanted to revisit it. The first line is familiar. It appears in many other places throughout scripture. I think one of the first places is in the Book of Exodus when Moses and the Israelites are trapped between Pharoah and the Red Sea. But it also appears here.

At the writing workshop this year, the presenters really focused their keynote sessions on resting and peace. They don’t tell us exactly what we’re going to be hearing when we sign up, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. And I ended up bawling through most sessions because peace is something I really need, but as a performance-driven perfectionist it’s something I usually deny myself.

So when this verse came up–and subsequent statements about living in God rather than working for Him–I started seeing this statement from a different perspective.

Be still. Know that He is God. And He will be exalted.

Do you read any stress in that statement? Do you see anywhere in that statement (notice the quote marks) where God is saying we have to work ourselves into a pit for Him to be exalted? No.

See, that’s what’s amazing about God is that He will be exalted whether we work for Him or not. He will be exalted whether we acknowledge Him or not. I mean, for Pete’s sake, even rocks rejoice and give Him praise. He doesn’t need us to. He wants us to. He wants to have a relationship with us more than anything, but He doesn’t need us to be exalted.

I run myself into the ground on a daily basis. Sometimes on an hourly basis. And while I don’t think I’m wrong to live that way, I shouldn’t do it all the time. I don’t take sabbaths. I don’t ever slow down.

Well, I shouldn’t say not ever because I’ve had to. Some health issues have finally forced me to take a breather–health issues related to the amount of stress I put myself under. And the irony of my stress is that usually it’s self-inflicted. I expect so much more of myself than anybody else does. I set impossible goals, and then I kill myself trying to exceed expectations.

No, it’s not wrong. Yes, we should always do our best. But God doesn’t say stress yourself out so I can be exalted. He says be still, know He’s God, and He’ll take care of it.

So how are you doing on that score? Being still is more difficult than it sounds. Knowing God is God? You wouldn’t think that’s hard, but it’s not easy either. Why? People don’t like standing still, and people don’t trust very easily. Not really. It’s not our default setting.  They’re both choices we have to make.

Be still. Know God. That’s all we have to do.

Are you stressed out today? Have you worn yourself out working for God? Have you driven yourself to the edge of your sanity trying to accomplish a goal you set so that God will be pleased with you?

Guess what? God doesn’t need you. And maybe He’s called you to do something, and that’s great. And it’s great that you want to do your best for Him. But He never calls you do something alone.

So stop stressing out. Be still. Know God. He’ll be exalted. And actually, He will be exalted more in your stillness than He would have been in your stress.