This is the Christmas talk I said yesterday that I would post. It is pretty long, and it isn’t perfect grammatically, because it was really an outline for a talk that I gave to the women at my church. But I thought I would share it here with anyone who might be interested.
When Sandi asked me to speak for this event, and share some practical ways for you to live this life that has been described tonight, I was most anxious to share with you, because all around me I see women living lives that are OVERWHELMED. Sometimes the results of living overwhelmed are staggeringly tragic. But sometimes the results are a little more subtle, allowing us to live lives that are not exactly meaningful, not exactly joyful, not exactly peaceful. Lives that are FULL, but not ever really fulfilled. And at no time is that more evident than at this time of year.
Could you hear the words at the beginning of the song? (**Scroll down to bottom to see song lyrics.) “When I think I’m going under,” When I feel the waves around me,” “Still the raging storm in me.” Sometimes the pressure we feel is external, but sometimes it is internal (“I’m worried about what that person is going to think of me if I make this choice.”) I can only speak from my own experience, but I hope that by being transparent and sharing from my heart that it might speak to you and touch something in your own heart.
Most of the time we are searching for fulfillment in all the wrong places. I have been a serious Christian for many years, my life has been radically changed by following the Lord, and it even today continues to be radically changed, but we live in the world, and I still have a tendency to look for fulfillment in the world’s goods. Examples from my life (past and present): one more shopping trip, one more great dessert, even good stuff…one more sermon online, one more great book. I do a bit (too much) of blogging. And one of my favorite bloggers wrote this poignant blog entry one day:
UNSATISFIED, DISSATISFIED, UNSATISFICATION
I sit here at my computer checking and rechecking all the blogs on my favorites list in search of…something. I’m not even sure what I’m searching for: motivation, inspiration? I don’t know. All I know is that lately I am unsatisfied. Maybe unsatisfied is not the right word…maybe apathetic? Not really, because I feel very strongly that I want to feel…something, I’m just not sure what that something is. So I guess un-satisfied is the word (is it really even a word?) that is best used to describe my current mental/emotional state.
Going back to the song, the solution to the problem was identified: I need you. I need you every hour. I need you in joy and in pain.
So now we are to the heart of what I am supposed to share with you. Again, I want to tell you how very inadequate I feel to share with you. I avoided organizing my thoughts on this because in truth, I just don’t feel qualified. But I like an illustration David Platt used. He described a mother duck with her baby ducks following her single file. If the mother duck is Christ, the only qualification that the second to last baby duck has to lead the last baby duck is that he is a baby duck who is following the mother duck. So again, I will share specifically things that have helped me to draw closer to the Lord. To live a life overwhelming in the depth and breadth of the joy and peace that Jesus came to bring.
So, I identified four things that you could do to bring you back to Him, the Light of the World. To draw you ever closer in an intimate walk with him. I even tried to make each thing start with an ‘S’ so maybe you could remember them.
1) SIMPLIFY Even some very good things must be eliminated. What do I mean by ‘very good things?’ It can be material things. We have SO MUCH STUFF in America. But it can also mean events and activities. The most recent example that I can think of in my life was when I was spending the day with my dad. He leads a small group Bible Study, and we frequently discuss the topic before he actually teaches. But when he asked if I would be going with them to their small group that night, I said no. I knew if I did that that I would be over-tired and that would ultimately impact my time with the Lord the next morning. But it was not without some sadness that I turned down an opportunity to hear my dad teach.
I want to share a word of encouragement to all the grandmas out there who are so very busy going and doing for their grandchildren–sometimes going and doing to the point of exhaustion. I know that you do everything you do out of love, and out of your desire to have a positive impact on your grandchildren’s lives. I know you think I don’t understand because I am not a grandmother. But I am a 54 year old grandchild, and I want to share with you what I remember about my grandma. I remember the way her eyes lit up when I walked in the room. I remember the way she said my name, like she was the luckiest person in the world when I came to visit. I remember the way she loved my grandpa…if I had ever gotten married, she would have been the model I would have chosen to follow. I remember the way she loved the Lord, and the way she prayed for me and shared His word with me. And that’s all I’m gonna say about grandmas.
There is a very good quote by Annie Dillard that says “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. This is so very true. If we live (speaking of the Christmas season) rushing from one event to the next, with shopping trips stuffed in between the events, necessitating hours of massive present-wrapping sessions, that is how we have chosen to spend our days, and that is indeed, how we will find that we have spent our lives.
I urge you to simplify your lives, and to be ruthless in doing it.
2) SOLITUDE: God said it best: BE STILL AND KNOW THAT I AM GOD. This will only be possible if you have worked on #1 (SIMPLIFY.) There are 3 things in particular that I have found particularly helpful in drawing closer to the Lord. I want to say that I realize I am describing activities, which is not always the traditional way to describe solitude. I purposely left off ‘silence’ because that is almost too difficult for women who are used to being busy and ‘productive.’ That is a topic for another time.
a] Contemplation/meditation. For me, this happens when I memorize scripture. I have always said that memorization was important, and I have memorized many verses (and forgotten many verses) over the years, but when Dallas Willard challenged me by saying if I was a serious disciple of Jesus, I would memorize large portions of His word, it really spoke to me. And he suggested that Col. 3 was a good place to start. There is really not another way to embed God’s word in your heart. And the way the words come alive as you struggle to remember them. The way they come back to you as you need them in specific situations that occur in your daily life. Its a good thing.
If you are one of the many who say they can’t memorize, I am not here to argue with you. But you still need to meditate on Scripture. Choose one verse, or one portion (maybe 1/2 chapter) and read it repeatedly. Maybe 3-5 times in one sitting. If you have a lull in the day, read it again. If you go for a walk, read it while you walk. The next morning, read it again. And the next morning….etc. etc. etc. Ask the Holy Spirit to illuminate the passage for you. Think about one verse in the passage, and what that would look like in your life. Then go back to the passage the next week and see if it has taken root in your life at all…and then read it again.
You can choose any passage at all. You can choose a topic that you might feel you need to work on in your life, or you can look at the words of Jesus. Be sure to choose a translation that speaks to you. I really like the New LivingTranslation, but I also like the Revised Standard Version, because it is so beautifully written, and almost poetic.
b] Reading good books. Why would we not take advantage of the opportunity to spend time listening to those men and women who have devoted their lives to knowing and loving God more, and are willing to share their insights from the journey with us? I think of some of my favorite authors as good friends who I can turn to for advice andd/or inspiration. As I said, I can over-do it on reading books, but all of my favorite authors have led me squarely back to God, and to His Word. Many is the time I have put down Calvin Miller and picked up my Bible, or put down Richard Foster’s book on Prayer, and just spent some time with the Lord in prayer. Dallas Willard and Jill Briscoe encouraged me to memorize His Word.
For this Christmas season, you might want to choose a book to read from a bit each evening. A Christmas Longing, by Joni Eareckson Tada, and Kneeling in Bethlehem, by Ann Weems are two excellent choices.
c] I also wanted to mention the first Christmas I was introduced to the Advent wreath. Our church had a wreath, and one message each sunday was preached from the theme of the 5 candles. At that time, the candles stood for faith, hope, love, joy, and Christ. My best friend at the time made me my own advent wreath, and I really found it very meaningful to light one candle each week until all 5 were lit on Christmas day. What a great way to end the day–turn off all the lights, light your advent wreath, and just spend some time quietly with the Lord.
3) SERVING. From the Old Testament to the New Testament , God tells us over and over how very important it is to him that we should care for those less fortunate than ourselves. This came to light for me with the second passage that I chose to memorize, Isa. 58. The Israelites are whining that God does not care for their fasting, and he says, “NO,THIS IS THE KIND OF FASTING I WANT: FREE THOSE WHO ARE WRONGLY IMPRISONED AND LIGHTEN THE BURDEN OF THOSE WHO WORK FOR YOU. LET THE OPPRESSED GO FREE, AND REMOVE THE CHAINS THAT BIND PEOPLE. SHARE YOUR FOOD WITH THE HUNGRY AND GIVE SHELTER TO THE HOMELESS. GIVE CLOTHES TO THOSE WHO NEED THEM, AND DO NOT HIDE FROM RELATIVES WHO NEED YOUR HELP. In the New Testament, Jesus reiterates this message by reminding us that when we help the hungry, thirsty, strange, naked, sick, and imprisoned, we are virtually helping him.
And here’s the thing. Because we are such wealthy people, because we have every form of media available at our fingertips, we are no longer just responsible for the beggar on the corner where we live. We know all too well about people around the world starving to death, dying of preventable disease, or being abused and used. And we are responsible for them.
But here’s the good news. Here’s the follow-up to that portion of Isa. 58–“then your salvation will come like the dawn and your wounds will quickly heal. Your godliness will lead you forward and the glory of the lord will protect you from behind. Then when you call, the lord will answer. Yes I am here, he will quickly reply.”
Then the passage repeats how you should help others, and then God says: “Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon. The lord will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength. You will be like a well-watered garden, like an everflowing stream.”
Try to help someone in need this Christmas. It is always the best if you can do this in person rather than monetarily, but DO SOMETHING.
4) SABBATH As it says in Hebrews: And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another— whether it is to be encouraged, or to encourage someone else, it is so important to NOT NEGLECT meeting together. In fact, if you are able to encourage someone else, you will be encouraged. You know, God never sets up a rule for his benefit. As far as I can see, every ‘rule’ that God has made for us is for our own benefit, and meeting regularly with a family of believers for encouragement and accountability is definitely for our own good.
This talk was definitely aimed at Christians, hoping to encourage you to deepen your relationship and your committment to the Lord. But I want to be sure to speak to any of you who are visiting, and might be thinking ‘what the heck is she talking about?’ or ‘Gosh, that sounds good to me.’ I would be thrilled to talk to you, or you could speak to any of the ladies who were up front doing the reading. Any of us would absolutely love to talk to you afterwards. Following Christ is the adventure of a lifetime. I can’t imagine living one day without the hope, love, joy, and peace that he brings me.
Complete Song Lyrics:
Part the Waters, Lord…I Need Thee Every Hour
When I think I’m going under…part the waters Lord.
When I feel the waves around me, calm the sea.
When I cry for help, O hear me Lord,
and hold out your hand.
Touch my life…still the raging storm in me.
I need the every hour, most gracious Lord.
No tender voice like thine, can peace afford.
I need thee, o, I need thee.
Every hour I need thee.
O bless me now, my Savior, I come to thee.