Monday, April 29, 2013

Discipline of Solitude

This was first published on April 26th of 2011. I smile to know I was tuning my ears to hear God's challenges for these disciplines. The challenge for silence and solitude is as great today as ever before!


I am always amazed with how God takes a heart, and through the Spirit guides us to learning more of one aspect of Him at a given time. My heart has been especially open to considering quiet and stillness lately.

I have discovered a book that I have actually had sitting on my shelf for awhile now. I have no doubt that reading it now is perfectly timed for the lessons I have gained from it :) I am reading the classic "Celebration of Discipline" by Robert Foster.  I have found some wonderfully inspiring encouragements in those timeless lessons.

I have been challenged by all the disciplines: meditation, prayer, study, submission, service and fasting (so far)..but one of them has really stood out to me. The Discipline of Solitude.

He speaks of our fear of silence, our fear of being alone. He speaks of how we have replaced quiet solitude with noise, filling our ears and thus our minds and hearts with other than godly things.  He contrasts solitude versus loneliness,  "Loneliness is inner emptiness. Solitude is inner fulfillment."

He stresses the importance of quiet to the spirit of solitude..."without silence there is no solitude."

He clarifies that it is not just the absence of noise or speaking, but a state "listening to God." He says, "Though silence sometimes involves the absence of speech, it always involves the act of listening. Simply to refrain from talking, without the heart of listening to God, is not silence."

He challenges me when he asserts that using words or noise for the sake of filling silence can take us away from listening to God, or being in a state that allows us to hear Him.   I am totally guilty of that!

I didnt realize how much so I was guilty of it until feeling challenged in this area - I started realizing how often I dispel quiet moments with music, talking or with allowing my mind to wonder. More specifically, how I dont take advantage of the moments in my day where I can take hold of silence, if even for a moment.

I found that when I did have a moment or two (which happened more often than I realized!) where the noise is dispelled for a blessed moment (naptime, or when the kids are outside and occupied) I look to turn on music, reach for my phone or jump on the computer. I didnt really realize how often I am guilty of this, and have since realized how many little moments in my day that have potential for quiet, silence and solitude.

It may be literally 2 minutes, but it DOES happen ...who knew?

He especially challenges me when he talks about when we use words to dispel quiet. He goes so far as to reference Ecclesiastes 5:1, "To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools." 

 Hm. How often have I given a "sacrifice of fools"  when I try to get my words out and heard? Uh, ouch. He continues the assault on my pride when he states "one reason we can hardly bear to remain silent is that it makes us feel so helpless. We are so accustomed to relying upon words to manage and control others. If we are silent, who will take control? God will take control, but we will never let him take control until we trust him. Silence is intimately related to trust."  Ouch again.

Yesterday, I really tried to embrace this idea. I resisted filling up my quiet moments with noise, and found I had more moments that I thought possible to meditate, pray and consider things of God. I prayed more for family and friends, I thought more of things that were "pure and lovely."

Honestly, that was way easier for me that will be the next opportunity I have to chose between keeping my trap shut and sharing my vast wisdom with someone. But, he challenges through Thomas a Kempis, "it is easier to be silent altogether than to speak with moderation."  Sheesh, my toes hurt. :)

I am going to keep working on this - truly the moments of quiet and listening were well worth the "sacrifice" of noise.

What do you find more difficult...embracing quiet or being quiet? ..being okay with less noise, or keeping your tongue stilled?

Discipline of Simplicity


It has become somewhat of a buzz word for many of us in the bloggisphere the last few years. I think it's largely because we all love the idea of making things more simple, I think we all crave a little more simplicity in our lives.

This blog was largely due to my desire to embrace a form of simplicity all those years ago. My bible study, Everything You Need (currently out to publishers, fingers crossed!) was really inspired by a desire for the more simple life. So, I felt like when I started reading Foster's take on simplicity in Celebration of Discipline I shouldn't have been surprised by what I found there. I was a bit more surprised and challenged than I thought I would be.

I have considered simplicity to be something that I did purposefully to make room for the things that should be the most important in my life. It includes getting rid of things, organizing my home and schedule, learning to say no to things and creating a hard line of priorities that I direct my daily tasks. I think it is those things, still.

Foster, however puts a God-spin on the concept when he challenges that godly simplicity is to seek God first.  Seek God more than stuff, more than acquiring wealth, more than reputation, more than a job, more than a nice car, more than an image, more than security, more than ...anything.

To seek God and his Kingdom first means that we weigh everything on a scale of worthiness. Is our pursuit of wealth, achievement and more stuff worthy of the Kingdom of God? Do we have the time, money, energy or desire to do what the Kingdom of God asks of us?

I know for me as I learn to incorporate these spiritual disciplines into my life my biggest struggle is finding the time to do it. I want to practice mediation, study and prayer but I struggle with finding the energy, motivation and resources to make it happen. A lifestyle of simplicity allows us the resources to make it happen.

If we were to, for example, look at our schedules be brutally honest about which things are helping to advance God's Kingdom and which are not, I wonder what we would find? What if we asked ourselves how God would have us spend our money, or be entertained? If we are seeking God first, and we were willing to take another step what things would we let go of?

Would our schedules change? Would our spending shift from more for ourselves to giving to others? Would we consider more carefully what we were entertained by, what we studied on a day in and day basis through that entertainment?

We can just think of simplicity as just organizing and decluttering, or we can look at those things as ways to free up resources for the life God has for us. The implications are eternal, but the rewards are very much for the here and now.

What kind of changes would you be willing to make in order to live a life of simplicity for his sake?

Saturday, April 6, 2013

a little tip: A Study Bag

I originally posted this in June 2011. I updated it a bit, but it's still a great tip so wanted to pass it on while we are focusing on study this week!


I am in my hiding place again today, and I brought with me something that just dawned on my as being a wonderful tool.  Even after my hiding place goes away (a.k.a., when the neighbors get home from vacation) I am going to keep using this tool as a great way to store and tote my study stuff.

The last two days I have been using a "study bag".  This morning, it was so great to grab my coffee that I had set up on an automatic timer, my Study Bag and head out the door to go hide :)

I am recalling now, Emilie Barnes, in her book Spirit of Loveliness encouraged a woman of God to have a "prayer basket". This is a basket that holds all you need for your prayer time, so that these quiet moments with God can be anywhere that you can carry your prayer basket.

The same idea, I filled up my Study Bag with the things that I would use in my quiet time, and the things that would help me get my mind working in the right direction this day.  I used my every faithful Organizing Utility Tote by Thirty One. I chose this one because it can handle my slue of books without falling apart. It also has a ton of pockets, so I can put my pens, highlighters, small notebook and phone (for when my hiding is more than my family can bear :).

I didnt read or even look at all the books in my bag in one sitting, but because I never really know which way my quiet time will lead I make sure to have lots of options :)

Currently, on the menu is: a couple versions of the bible (today, its the NIV and NLT),  What's So Amazing About Grace? by Philip Yancy (because our study on grace has really sparked an interest in the topic!), Mere Christianity by C.S Lewis (for Sunday School), a couple books by Dallas Willard (havent started these yet), and my scripture study notebook.

[Update: Currently I have the Celebration of Discipline, 7: an experimental mutiny against excess (bible study and book!), Intimate Faith: a woman's guide to the spiritual disciplines, and of course my NIV and NLT! to see what I was looking at/studying/thinking about about 2 years ago!]

Having this bag ready to go helps me be able to take my quiet and study time anywhere in a moments notice - to a hiding place, to my bedroom, or to Starbucks for a cup of coffee with God :).

I am also loving that I have a place to store my stuff, instead of all of it just being stacked all over the table all the time :)

The only problem, is that the bag I am using  for my study bag is the one I use ALL the time for other stuff also ...SO, I think I just found a great excuse to get another Thirty One bag! :)

What do you do to make your study time mobile? What do you use in your study time?...what versions of the bible do you use? What books are you reading right now? Tell us about your study time ..I would love to hear all about it!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Discipline of Study

{study produces JOY. Like any novice, we will find it hard work in the beginning. But the greater our proficiency the greater our JOY. - Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline}

Do you study? I mean really study?  You may be surprised that you do, even if you are not a big "book person".   Based on the defining characteristics that Foster offers in his explanation of true "study" in Celebration of Discipline you may be studying any number of things on a regular basis. 

According to him, to study something means that you return to a thought/idea/book/topic over and over again. Study is firstly defined by repetition in a given area. As you repeat an idea to yourself you begin to concentrate on it.  By doing those things you then start to comprehend the topic/idea/words you are studying. To really study you then reflect. You ponder, consider, mull it over, or as my daddy says "put in your hmm box."   

What is in your "hmm box" ..what are you "studying"? Think about it ...
  • what ideas, thoughts, blogs, books, shows do you find yourself going to over and over again? What topics do you find yourself "repeating" ...organization, homeschooling, history? Think about what shows you watch ...if you return to the same type of shows, are you okay with the fact that you are "studying" their content? 
  • what do you concentrate on? What do you think about? What directs your thoughts? 
  • what do you feel like you understand? you have a good grasp on organization, teaching small ones, the world news or the way a criminal mind works?
  • Finally, what do you reflect on? What do you ponder, consider or really think about on an ongoing basis? 
Studying is a natural thing for most of us, even if we dont realize it!

Foster challenges that "ingrained habits of thought that are formed WILL conform to the order of the thing being studied. WHAT we study determines what kind of habits are formed, which is why Paul urges us to focus on things that are true, just, pure, lovely and gracious."

{"Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - think about such things." Phil 4:8}

How important the topic of our true study!

Of course when we direct our minds to things of God, whether his words, his faithfulness, his acts in our lives and in those around us we are studying him. We are learning to put things together and build our understanding of Truth, and how that Truth is reflected in our life. When are concentrating on how he shows himself in the world around us we are being students of God work around us.

Scripture is a wonderful place to start to get our mind thinking in the right direction. God's words say it the best:

{"All scripture is inspired by God teach us what is true, to make us realize what is wrong in our lives, it corrects us when we are wrong and it teaches us what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do his good work."  2 Tim 3:16-17 NLT}

{"All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work."  2 Tim 3:16 NIV}

Tell me...what do you STUDY?
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