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.

Obedience is UNDERrated!

Obedience training has begun.  My husband is working with our little pup, teaching him four basic commands –  sit, stay, come and no.  These are the commands, that when fully trained, Denver should respond to immediately – and always. I look forward to his increased obedience as he matures.  He will not only be pleasant to live with, but he will be much safer.  I will be able to count on stopping him before he goes out in the road, or swallows a toy, or eats a shoe.  I can know he will come in when called, so he won’t get lost.  Basic obedience will also allow him to fulfill the “work” he is bred to do- upland hunting. When he finds pheasant in the field in a few months, he will likely experience the joy of doing the job for which he was created.   I see very clearly with Denver how obedience is taught, learned and practiced over and over again.

I smile as I watch my grandchildren learn obedience.  It’s a beautiful thing.  As an adult, it’s easy to look at children’s stubbornness and disobedience and think, “Come on…just surrender and do what’s right.  It will be so much easier; so much better than fighting the ‘war’ you are engaging.”

I can only imagine how often God has felt that about me! Yet, I take comfort in knowing that Jesus understands that obedience is often hard. He, though perfect, had to learn obedience. He learned through many trials. Hebrews 5:8

Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered

When children learn obedience (through what they suffer), they (and others around them) are always so much happier afterward.  I love my grandchildren!  They are so much fun, and they are great kids.   I had to laugh as I heard the antics of my youngest grandson, Micah, a few days ago.   Micah has such a sweet, tender conscience and can carry on conversation way beyond his (almost) two years of age.  However, as he nears the age of two, this struggle for obedience can be humorous to watch.

Earlier this week he said “no” to his dad.  That, of course, was not acceptable.  His daddy then told him he was not to tell daddy “no” (and if he did he would be punished).  He then looked away from his dad, into his mommy’s eyes and calmly said, “No, Mommy!” He just wanted to  “clarify” (or test) what it meant to be obedient.  Sometimes, obedience is outward, without being inward.  After being told by mom that he could not watch the movie “Polar Express” again, since he had already watched it that day, he walked away mumbling under his breath, “I will watch ‘Pola Press’; I can watch ‘Pola Press’!”   Obedience is often quite hard.  That’s why it’s called obedience.  If it wasn’t difficult, it could just be called “doing what we want to do”.  We can, like Micah, do the right thing, but it can take a while for our attitudes to catch up to our actions. It’s a good start!

This principle was further illustrated by a conversation I had with a dear friend last week.  She had struggled for a while with feeling surrendered to God after experiencing several difficult situations.  She simply could not find much joy in her walk with God.  However she kept walking.

Several months ago, she was able to regain her joy in her relationships, beginning with her relationship with God.  The change in her attitude is quite evident in her conversations, her expression and her entire demeanor.  She is able to think and process without the angst that was previously there.  I asked her what had brought her to this newfound peace.

Her answer was simply, “You know, obedience is under-rated.”  She went on to explain that in her struggle, she had maintained her love and respect (fear of God) and had decided that she would be obedient to God and His word despite how she felt.  It was not always “smooth”, but she kept on doing the things that were right.  In time, God blessed that obedience and she found her “heart” again.

The scriptures state this in Philippians 2:12-13

    Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed–not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence–continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, [13] for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.

If we keep on obeying, out of awe for God, He will give us the will (the want to, the heart) to carry out His purposes for which we were created.  When we don’t “feel” like doing it –keeping on obeying God will take us through the “muck and mire” that can get into our hearts and get us to the other side.  There, as with Denver, and my grandchildren, we will be safe, happy, and able to fulfill the purposes for which we were created.  Never under-rate simple obedience.

Global Roaming

This week my work has taken me out of the country.  As I prepared for my travels I learned I needed to change a few settings on my phone in order to avoid exorbitant data roaming fees.  I also programmed settings allowing me to make calls and send and receive texts via global roaming (all for a slight fee).  The fact that I can speak into my phone, and someone in a far off country can read what I just spoke involves sound waves and laws of physics and nature that some very smart people have learned how to use.  (And, if I used the data available I could even press another button that translates what I wrote into another language!)  Understanding how all this works, to me, is like understanding another dimension. Some things just boggle my mind. I can somewhat begin to grasp how this functions, but can’t even fathom the “whys” behind the “hows”. The workings of the laws of physics behind the laws that must be harnessed, used and relied upon to make these things work are too wonderful to me.

We had breakfast yesterday morning with a German disciple who is a world-renowned professor of physics.  His deep understanding of physical science has only increased his amazement toward and faith in the Creator of it all.   I learn from God’s speaking to Job:

Job 38:1
Then the Lord answered Job out of the storm. He said:….

Job 38:31-35
“Can you bind the beautiful Pleiades?
        Can you loose the cords of Orion?
    [32] Can you bring forth the constellations in their seasons
        or lead out the Bear with its cubs?
    [33] Do you know the laws of the heavens?
        Can you set up God’s dominion over the earth?

    [34] “Can you raise your voice to the clouds
        and cover yourself with a flood of water?
    [35] Do you send the lightning bolts on their way?
        Do they report to you, ‘Here we are’?

Job 42:1-3
Then Job replied to the Lord:

    [2] “I know that you can do all things;
        no plan of yours can be thwarted.
    [3] You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?’
        Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
        things too wonderful for me to know.

I take comfort in knowing God has perfect global roaming.  I count on this as I am here and have seen several specific prayers answered that I have prayed for the churches over here.  Specifically, that God would help bring a revival in the youth and campus ministries.  I am so amazed at God as I’ve heard of numerous teens getting baptized as well as God providing some campus disciples who “just showed up” here from other countries.

Yesterday I received two texts from my family informing me that in the same evening my oldest granddaughter had broken her arm and that my youngest grandson had been transported from the doctor’s office to the hospital by ambulance because of the severity of a croup attack, that had come on suddenly.  It feels helpless to be where I can’t “do anything but pray”.  And yet I realize that often prayer is the most important thing I can do!   I count on the fact that though I am miles away, my prayers  reach God and can touch the lives of those in another country.  What a comfort!  What an amazing God.  The power of prayer is way more wonderful than global roaming.

Ephes. 6:18
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.

Philip. 4:6
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

Col. 4:12
Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.

1 Thes. 5:17
pray continually;

1 Peter 3:12
For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous
        and his ears are attentive to their prayer,
    but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
The photo is the German sky above where I was just praying alongside a corn field.  Today when you look into the sky I hope you see more than just a blue expansive slate…..Marvel at the great God who has ordered creation, and who can hear and act upon our prayers no matter where we are.  Our prayers can make more difference than we can know.


I’ve always admired those close up pictures of butterflies that “some people” are able to capture.  Well, yesterday was my day.  While on a prayer walk  I spied this beautiful creature enjoying some sweet nectar.  Butterflies always remind me of the amazing change that happens while going from a worm to a graceful, fluttering specimen of God’s handiwork.  I carried a scripture with me throughout the day today.  It reads,

John 5:39-40
You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, [40] yet you refuse to come to me to have life. (NIV)

The Message puts it like this, 39 “You have your heads in your Bibles constantly because you think you’ll find eternal life there. But you miss the forest for the trees. These Scriptures are all about me! 40 And here I am, standing right before you, and you aren’t willing to receive from me the life you say you want. John 5:39-40 (MSG)

When I was still more in the worm stage of my Christian walk the Scriptures were still important to me.  However, they were too often more like something I read to feel better about doing the right thing (which is still better than not doing the right thing), rather than to value and bask in the relationship to which they led me.

When I was a kid I wanted to be able to tell my Sunday school teacher I was a daily Bible reader.  She had said we could read verses, or just say some from memory.  So…on some days when I had failed to put effort into reading I would lay my head on my pillow at the end of the day and remember that I had forgotten!  So, in order to be a “good Bible student”…I quoted to myself, “Jesus wept.”  Voila, I was a daily Bible reader.
Wow.  I’m embarrassed to write that pathetic Pharisaical confession.   I’m glad the worm has morphed from those days!  As I continued on this prayer walk I marveled in the delightful reality that I get to walk and talk with my best friend –  the creator of the universe,the Almighty God, my Wonderful Counselor, Prince of Peace and Lord of Lords… And amazingly, He tells me that he is delighted to hear from me. Utterly delighted.  It’s hard to fathom, but it’s true.  And to top it off as I came to the end of the path this scene was before me. 

And guess what!  My Father owns it and made it for my pleasure. Very few days am I able to see this kind of scenery on a prayer walk. (Please note…this is not the norm.)   However, I’m grateful that the relationship is not dependent on the scenery or circumstance!  I don’t want to miss the forest for the trees.  I want to not just put my head in my Bible…but my whole heart!  It leads me to the most fulfilling, amazing relationship possible.