Entering the “Quiet Wilderness”

Have you ever searched for….. that still, quiet place of utter bliss? That place where you can gather your thoughts and  focus on what is most important, rather than all that is urgent?  That place where you can commune with your creator and leave refreshed and full of peace?  I needed to find this place, and was reminded (by a three year old) where to find it.

Life around here lately has been anything but quiet. (Thus, my hiatus from writing)  In February, our oldest daughter, son-in-law and their three children put their house on the market.  They need to move closer to the city in order to be closer to their ministry.  Their house sold immediately (good news) and the buyers wished to move in the following month (March.) Our kids had no place to live…so we invited them to move in with us while they searched for a house.

After a difficult search they found a place, however the sellers of their new place are not able to move out until the end of July.  Oh, did I mention our kids also have a dog named Reilley? (More to come on him in future posts.)  Seven humans, three dogs and one house make for a lively and loud place of abode.  One of the most “special” moments comes when one of the children cries.  Reilley, at the sound of a child in distress, howls at the top of his lungs.  This sparks our little dog to join in to make a duet…no, make that a trio (one crying child and two howling dogs.)  It is quite something to behold.  If I catch this moment on video it is sure to go viral.  I’ve never heard anything quite like it.  And Reilley barks… a lot.

Honestly, it has been fun and a true joy to spend this time together as extended family.  I love my family and am so grateful for all of them.   However, to be honest, I sometimes just long for quiet.

Now that it’s spring I can go outside.  But wait…. when I go outside things get even louder.  Our house is at the end of a dead end street, abutting a park.  Tennis courts and soccer fields are directly across the street from our front yard.   When we moved to this house years ago this was a quiet park.  Now, the whole town shows up here.  High school tennis matches (complete with big yellow busses parked in our front yard,) soccer meets, lacrosse games, softball games and accompanying practices happen here every day in the spring and fall. Sometimes, when I step outside, I feel like I’m arriving at a carnival.

I read (with new vigor) about a day in the life of Jesus as captured in the first few chapters of the gospel of Mark.  I stand in awe of Jesus’ compassionate, giving and selfless ways.  In this account, after being with people everywhere, he tried to get to a quiet place to pray only to be met with more people needing his healing touch.  He kept  his purpose in clear view…as he kept giving to people and preaching the good news.  I find his attitude and actions deeply convicting, yet utterly inspiring.  I long to react like him more often, and to be continually filled with his love ( which he promises to pour into my heart when I run out -thank you!)

    And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.  Rom. 5:5

(read the verses before and after as well.  They are super helpful)

So, back to the lesson from a three year old.  Sunday afternoon my three year old grandson rode home with us from church.  While we were in traffic, he marveled at all of the “quiet wilderness” outside.  Amidst the traffic, he was looking at trees on the side of the rode.  This reminded me of a similar time I was with him last year.  We were amidst a group of people in someone’s yard and he stepped just a few steps away from the group, across the lawn into an adjacent vacant lot dotted with some trees. He called me over,  looked up at me and asked me to listen as he said, “Nana, sshhhhh….we are in the quiet wilderness.”  IMG_3838

I reflected on this lesson and how close the “quiet wilderness” can be to us even when we are in loud, crazy conditions. The “quiet wilderness” can be steps away and yet we can miss it.  (The “quiet wilderness” could have been a bathroom at work, a closet, the car…)  With that thought in mind, I went into my room closed my door to pray. Alas,  I came out to put barking Reilley in his crate….then went back to try to put into practice the scriptures:

He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,  Psalm 23:2

 “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.   Psalm 46:10

The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save.  He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love….”  Zeph. 3:17

Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”  Mark 6:31

    “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. [29] Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  Mt. 11:28-29

When I came out of my “quiet wilderness” I was finally able to quit feeling sorry for myself.  I was once again refreshed and at peace.   I’m thankful a little child reminded me to go to the “quiet wilderness” and that Jesus was waiting there for me.

Getting Past the ABC’s – Annoyance, Bedlam and Chaos

I’ve renamed the dogs.  Let me introduce them.  Annoyance is on the left.   Bedlam is front and center and Chaos is on the right.   They had tested me throughout the day yesterday, and it culminated this morning – about 4am.  The older dog (Blackie, aka “Jackie”) usually sleeps on the floor at the foot of our bed.  I suppose he wasn’t feeling well, since I was awakened to the sounds of him throwing up on my pillow – right next to my head.  That was quite disgusting.  It was annoying enough to be awakened – not to mention the need that followed to get out of bed to change the pillowcase.  Thus his new nickname, Annoyance

We also have our puppy, Denver, who is …well – a puppy.  I named him Bedlam. Then there is Brady.  This week we are dog-sitting Brady, our son’s dog, while our son and his family are out of town.  He is a loveable dog, who has high energy and also really loves the water.  Yesterday I had decided to let the dogs out before I needed to leave for an appointment.  That’s when Bedlam and Chaos took over.  Brady (Chaos) headed to the creek beside our house to take a little dip, and Denver (Bedlam) went the other direction toward a swamp.  Denver thought it would be fun, instead of coming to my call, to grab hold of a large stick and run the other way toward the field where some gentlemen were playing Ultimate Frisbee during their lunch hour.  Finally, both dogs returned – covered in dark mud.  I was not amused.  Thirty minutes later, after giving the puppy a bath and watching my husband hose down Brady,  I rushed with breakneck speed and high anxiety to get to my appointment.

Annoyance, bedlam and chaos are not planned.  They just happen, usually at the most inopportune times.  They may be, as mine were, covered with fur.  Or, they may come in the form of a flat tire, a flooded basement,  a baby’s poopy diaper, a child’s tantrum, a lost shoe,  a snowstorm, or even just a “bad hair day”.  But come they will.  Bedlam breaks loose, chaos erupts and annoyances happen in what seems the mere blink of an eye.  They distract us from our purpose and plans, and tempt us with frustration, anger and anxiety.

I’ve learned that I can’t change them, or in most cases avoid them – so I must decide how to respond to them.  I’m constantly amazed and inspired by how Jesus dealt with annoyances, bedlam and chaos.  He remained calm and purposeful, even amidst it all. Look at one day in the life of Jesus.  Mark 1:21-38

They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. [22] The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law. [23] Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit cried out, [24] “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are–the Holy One of God!”

[25] “Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly. “Come out of him!” [26] The evil spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek.

[27] The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching–and with authority! He even gives orders to evil spirits and they obey him.” [28] News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee.

[29] As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew. [30] Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told Jesus about her. [31] So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them.

[32] That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. [33] The whole town gathered at the door, [34] and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was.

[35] Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. [36] Simon and his companions went to look for him, [37] and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!”

[38] Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else–to the nearby villages–so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.”

In this one day in the life of Jesus his sermon was interrupted by a crazy man, his friend’s mother in law (who was the hostess of the house where he was visiting) was very ill (so he healed her); and many sick and demon possessed clamored to him to be healed. He was offered no privacy.  I stand amazed and inspired.

Several things stand out to me as Jesus met with bedlam, chaos and annoyances.   He got away to pray; he was always filled with compassion amidst the chaos, bedlam and annoyances;  his heart was always to give;  and he did not let himself get distracted from his purpose of telling people how to have a relationship with God.  Because of his compassion and focus, I now have the hope of heaven.

May I today, get past the ABC’s of annoyance, bedlam and chaos by learning from Jesus – and take time to pray; view others through eyes of compassion;  decide to be a giver, and show people Jesus – enabling them to have a relationship with God and one day be in heaven.

De-Dreading the Dentist…and other things

I strongly dislike going to the dentist.  Yesterday was my semi- annual teeth cleaning appointment. (I was six months late scheduling this appointment, so it actually became my annual appointment.) It’s far too easy to procrastinate doing things I don’t enjoy.  Fortunately, thus far my teeth haven’t given me problems and I still have them – wisdom and all.  I’m grateful I didn’t have to go to a “tooth cleaning”.

When I’m dreading a task, I try to add some redeeming quality to make it better.  I think about the apostle Paul in these situations.  His attitude continually convicts and inspires me.  While in prison because of his faith, he wrote about continually rejoicing, encouraging others and finding the unseen blessings of his trials such as being able to share about Jesus with those he may not not have had the opportunity to meet were it not for the circumstances.

Philip. 1:12-14
Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. [13] As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. [14] Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.

Philip. 1:18b-20

   Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, [19] for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. [20] I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.

Wow.  Do not those words call you higher? I wonder what “my” letter might have sounded like.

So, trying to learn from my brother Paul, I looked for opportunities to share, to encourage,  and to rejoice and be thankful in a situation I didn’t like. (Of course, the dentist and prison are not at all comparable, but I do really, really dread going to the dentist.)  Applying these scriptures to my more mundane situation still made the experience so much better.  In fact, I almost enjoyed the time.  My dentist practices in a town near the ocean.  So, before listening to the lovely metal-on-plaque sound I took a few extra minutes to pick up a cup of my favorite fish chowder in Gloucester, and then drove to my favorite prayer spot…to enjoy my chowder and pray.  This was the view from my car.

Truthfully, I believe God’s beauty can be found everywhere when we are looking.  Yes, this is a magnificent view, but so is the sky…and the trees, the flowers, the animals – everything He has made. I made it through my dentist appointment, and even determined to “enjoy” the few moments to close my eyes and listen to music (with the occasional instrumental accompaniment of the dental tools).

There are numerous other “tasks” I don’t enjoy.  I don’t like to iron or put away clothes. However, years ago a sister taught me to pray with thankfulness for the family member for whom I was ironing.  This helped. I don’t mind it anymore. Well at least not as much as I did. (Fortunately I don’t have to do it so often now.)   I tire of the daily ritual of washing my hair.  Yet, during this time I think about what I’ve learned and can share – thus this blog entry. For some reason, the thoughts come best then, so I’ve learned to look forward to it. The decisions I make about my attitude really do make a difference in my feelings toward necessary but unpleasant tasks I encounter.

May we all learn from Paul in the scriptures – and look for ways to rejoice, to encourage, to see God at work and to find new opportunities to share about Jesus as we sit in our “proverbial” dentist chair.