I am glad that you are taking a few minutes today to care for what matters most. No matter how out of shape you might feel that you are, it's never too late to start. God's mercies are new every morning and Jesus is always excited and ready to give your soul rest!
Here's the workout for today. Put your pen down, there is no writing. Take a walk. That's it! I just want you to walk. No headphones, no phones, just you and nature. Find a lake, find a trail, or just walk down your street. Take some deep breaths as you walk and do your best to keep your mind clear of the world and its anxieties. Focus on breathing deeply and just walking. Remember, there is no need for you to strive or perform with God. He's already pleased with you because you are you. After you walk for a while, finish your time by finding ways to worship and thank him. This could be thanking him for nature, your family, your job, or the relationships in your life.
John Piper said, "The chief end to man's existence is to glorify God." When you worship God, you are giving him glory.
I hope you had a great walk! I wanted to share a testimony from someone who walked yesterday and experienced soul refreshment from the Lord.
“So check this out. Went for a 20 minute walk. No cell phone, no kids, no Fitbit, just me and God. It was amazing to see the revelation in just 20 minutes. Here is what God impressed on my heart. Every day is a NEW day with me I don’t remember your faults, your imperfections, your failures. I remember how much I love you. Now, mimic me in how you treat your children. Every day needs to be a new day for them. Don’t remember their faults and imperfections. Remember your love for them and more importantly my love for them.”
I loved reading this testimony. It’s amazing what God will tell us when we take the time to listen.
Okay, so here’s the workout of the day. I want to introduce you to the soul practice of Examen.
The Examen is a practice for discerning the voice of God and activity of God within the normal flow of your day. Take a few minutes at the end of your day and consider the questions below as you think through your day.
- When did I give and receive the most love today? When did I give and receive the least love today?
- What was the most life-giving part of my day? What was the most life-thwarting part of my day?
- When today did I have the deepest sense of connection with God, others, and myself?
- When did I have the least sense of connection?
- Where was I aware of living out the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control)? Where was there any absence of the fruit of the Spirit?
Take a few minutes and write down your answers. If you have not had a chance, listen or (re)listen to Scott’s message a couple of weeks ago. The practice of Examen is built to help you grow in your awareness of God in the ordinary.
For most of us, the work-out today might feel a bit strange or awkward. We are used to reading the Bible for information and content, not for meditation. We don’t normally imagine ourselves in the scenes of Scripture. Remember, you are trying things on this week. If it doesn’t fit, there is no pressure to wear it.
The following meditation is adapted from David Benner’s Surrender to Love. You will probably need at least 30 minutes of solitude to engage it fully. Select one of the following brief scenes, and engage in meditation. Picture yourself in each situation. Observe, listen and note all the sensory elements of each scene. Notice your feelings. And pay close attention to Jesus. Allow the experience to begin to teach you about being deeply loved.
a.) Matthew 19:13-15 — Join Jesus as people bring little children to him to be blessed. Picture yourself coming to Jesus as one of those little children. Crawl up on his knee, and feel his touch as he lays his hands on you and blesses you.
b.) Matthew 22:1-14 — Read these words about the invitation to a wedding feast as if they were an invitation to you to bring all the lame, broken, and fearful parts of yourself into the banquet of love being prepared for you by the God of perfect love. Dare to bring these neglected parts with you. There is space reserved for each, and each is welcome in the circle of God’s love. Allow these neglected parts of yourself to enjoy the warmth of God’s love as they are honored with special treatment.
c.) Or choose another scene from the gospels and try to engage it this way (e.g., Luke 15:17-24, Mark 1:40-42, John 11:32-36).
This practice is my adaptation from Transforming Prayer, by Daniel Henderson. Choose your favorite Psalm. Today we are going to practice praying through a Psalm. Take a few minutes and read your Psalm two or three times. After doing so, spend some time praying as you answer the questions provided.
Reverence: What does the Psalm tell us about who God is? The goal in this is to discover truths about God’s nature, names, and attributes. Why is he worthy of your time and worship?
Response: How should you respond? If God is what you just said above then that revelation demands a response. Confess any areas of your life where you are not trusting him to be____ in your life.
Requests: What should I pray about? Allow the Psalm and its language to be your guide here. For example, if your Psalm declares that God is your refuge…what are some areas in your life where you need God to be your refuge?
Readiness: Where do I go from here? Your life is a mission. Your mission is to live and love like Jesus in the spheres where God has placed you. How does this text challenge you to live on mission? What are the obstacles right now that are keeping you from living a “sent” life?
Reverence: End your time in the same way you began. Fix your eyes on God and his beauty.
Glorify him for who he is in your life.
Most of us take very little time for confession and self-examination. Even as we read those words, we cringe a little bit. Why is that? For most of us, confession is an experience that is filled with shame and guilt, but that’s a false understanding of what confession is and its purpose in the life of a Jesus follower. Confession is a beautiful thing; medicine for the soul. It’s through confession that we are invited to leave our baggage behind and experience God’s assurance of grace. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” Notice the word “if”. We are commanded to
confess our sins because God is faithful to forgive. Confession embraces Christ’s gift of forgiveness and restoration while setting you on the path to renewal and change.
- In the presence of God, ask yourself, “Whom have I injured recently through thoughtlessness, neglect, anger, etc.?” Ask for God’s grace and guidance as you seek to clean up that mess and restore that relationship.
- Ask some of your family and close friends to help you see your blind spots. Ask questions like, “What do I do that hurts you? How could I better love you?” Let their answers guide you in a time of confession.
- Imagine the kind of person you would like to become in your old age. Then look at your life and assess whether or not the way you live now is preparing you to become this person. Confess where you need to change. Ask God and your community for help.
This exercise is adapted from the Faith Walking 201 material.
Paul urges us in the book of Galatians to “keep in step with the Spirit.” The Spirit is always at work in us and in the environments where God has placed us. Set your alarm on your phone to go off every hour during the day…not at night. :) When the alarm goes off, pause and think about where you are and what you are doing. Let the alarm be your trigger to ask some questions.
What meeting am I about to go in? Who is going to be there? What fruits of the Spirit do I have the opportunity to exhibit?
What is going on with my child? How does he/she need to be loved right now? How can I use this activity to help him/her see Jesus?
What is God doing where I am? How can I see God’s grace in others? How can I encourage others to see God’s grace?
Here’s the point…we are not intentional by accident. We live intentional lives as we seek to keep in step with what the Spirit is doing. He’s always working and always inviting us to play.
The practice of silence and solitude has been a critical aspect of my soul healing. For this last work-out, I want you to read Dallas Willard’s words below and then pull out your calendar and schedule time to get away. For some of you this might be an overnight, while others it might just be a few hours. Either way, your soul will find rest. Your immediate reaction will be…I don’t have time. Consider Willard’s response…
Solitude and Silence
Among the practices that can help us attend to soul care at a basic level are solitude and silence. We practice these by finding ways to be alone and away from talk and noise. We rest, we observe, we “smell the roses”—dare we say it?—we do nothing. This discipline can be used of God as a means of grace. In it we may even find another reminder of grace—that we are saved, justified by His redeeming power—not by our strivings and achievements.
In drawing aside for lengthy periods of time, we seek to rid ourselves of the “corrosion” of soul that accrues from constant interaction with others and the world around us. In this place of quiet communion, we discover again that we do have souls, that we indeed have inner beings to be nurtured. Then we begin to experience again the presence of God in the inner sanctuary, speaking to and interacting with us. We understand anew that God will not compete for our attention. We must arrange time for our communion with Him as we draw aside in solitude and silence.
The psalmist said, “Cease striving and know that I am God” (Ps. 46: 10, NASB). And immediately following this, the writer affirms the success of God's mission on earth: “'I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.' The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold” (vv. 10-11, NASB).
Other translations of this verse read, “Be still, and know” (NIV) or “Step out of the traffic! Take a long, loving look at me” (TM). God's provision for us and for His work through us is adequate. We do not have to “make it happen.” We must stop shouldering the burdens of “outcomes.” These are safely in His hands. Someone insightfully said, “The greatest threat to devotion to Christ is service for Christ.”
What a paradox! This is so easily a challenge for many ministers. Allowing service for Christ to steal our devotion to Him is a radical failure in personal soul care. But it is one from which the practice of communing with Christ in times of solitude and silence can deliver us.
Time is Made, Not “Found”
A response to giving attention to personal soul care often is, “I don't have time for extensive solitude and silence. I have too much to do.” The truth is you don't have time not to practice solitude and silence. No time is more profitably spent than that used to heighten the quality of an intimate walk with God. If we think otherwise, we have been badly educated. The real question is, “Will we take time to do what is necessary for an abundant life and an abundant ministry, or will we try to 'get by' without it?”
So a couple of words of counsel are appropriate for our attending to the inner life. First, God never gives anyone too much to do. We do that to ourselves or allow others to do it to us. We may be showing our lack of confidence in God's power and goodness, though it may be that our models and education have failed us. Second, the exercise of God's power in ministry never, by itself, amends character, and it rarely makes up for our own foolishness. God's power can be actively and wisely sought and received by us only as we seek to grow by grace into Christlikeness.
Knowing Christ through times away in solitude and silence will “let our joy be full” (see John 16:24). It will bring over us a pervasive sense of well-being, no matter what is happening around us. Hurry and the loneliness of leadership will be eliminated. We can allow the peace of God to sink deeply into our lives and extend through our relationships to others (see Matt. 10:12-13).
A young Christian who had been guided into the effective practice of solitude and silence had this to say:
The more I practice this discipline, the more I appreciate the strength of silence. The less I become skeptical and judgmental, the more I learn to accept the things I didn't like about others, and the more I accept them as uniquely created in the image of God. The less I talk, the fuller are words spoken at an appropriate time. The more I value others, the more I serve them in small ways, and the more I enjoy and celebrate my life. The more I celebrate, the more I realize that God has been giving me wonderful things in my life, and the less I worry about my future. I will accept and enjoy what God is continuously giving to me. I think I am beginning to really enjoy God.
Experiencing God through the practice of connecting with Him via this discipline brings rich rewards.
Fight for this. Make time in your calendar to experience silence and solitude. Schedule it and protect it like you would any other commitment that you make.