“Encouraging Words for Today” – July 14, 2011
WHEN LIFE SQUEEZES…
By Lucinda Secrest McDowell
- When everyone is depending on YOU for strength and guidance and you don’t have anything left to give…
- When your family is financially devastated…
- When a child’s needs are constant, life-threatening and scary…
- When the scandal or the humiliation is yours…
- When a loved one is diagnosed with cancer and fear sets in…
What comes out? Despair? Frustration? Bitterness? Anger? Defeat? Or Calm? Peace? Serenity? Trust? Hope?
What comes out is what’s inside, friends. The core of who we are is revealed most vividly in such trying times. Jesus reminds us in Luke 6.45 “Out of the Overflow of the Heart, the mouth speaks.”
About 50 years ago pastor AW Tozer warned that some clergy felt like they could say or do anything they liked all week, but when they stepped into the pulpit on Sunday, they would instantly become the convincing voice of God. But he countered, “What they have done all day and all week is what they are when they open up the Book to expound it to the congregation.”
Our public persona is in direct correlation to our private selves. We need to examine our hearts and learn to live from overflow — inside out. I believe with all my heart that this is where our power and influence ultimately reside. In the moments of prayer, solitude, worship, Bible Study, silence — that’s when God gives us what He wants us to pass along to others.
How much time, energy and resources are you spending on maintaining a healthy spiritual center? I cannot emphasize enough the importance of daily deposits into your heart account, also known as Spiritual Disciplines. But don’t take my word for it, this has been borne out by centuries of Christians. Most of us believe in the importance of soul care doctrinally but how many of us actually carve out significant time each day to build on that which is never seen?
Have you ever received one of those dreaded phone calls or emails that says you are overdrawn at the bank? Well, basically, you spent more than you had deposited. This same thing happens all too often with our spiritual lives.
Because I didn’t marry until my thirties, I had achieved a level of success as a writer and speaker before I became a mother of four children and began juggling domesticity with my profession. But one can never just ‘coast’ spiritually — even with a seminary degree. Life squeezed me hard! Unfortunately, during those early years what often came out was impatience and frustration and words that I regret. I was so busy that I hadn’t made enough deposits into my heart and the withdrawals were coming at a frantic pace.
Like the great English reformer, William Wilberforce, I learned that “the shortening of devotions starves the soul, it grows lean and faint.” And, like Wilberforce, “I must secure more time for private devotions. I have been living far too public for me.”
Over the years my moment by moment deposits and soul care habits have grown and changed. This Type A is becoming a contemplative as I embrace prayer, solitude and silence. I continue to be a spontaneous and constant pray-er, but I am also treasuring ancient prayers that have been prayed corporately for centuries. (I personally use the Divine Hours volumes but there are so many wonderful resources for this.)
What better way to start the day than with this morning prayer:
“Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought me in safety to this new day: Preserve me with Your mighty power, that I may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all I do direct me to the fulfilling of Your purpose; through Jesus Christ my Lord, Amen.”
And I always sing a hymn, the rich theology of the verses ministering to my soul as well as the music. God loves that we make a joyful noise to Him. But silence is also an important spiritual discipline, but so hard to do. Sitting silently for at least five minutes, awaiting a word from God which will most assuredly come, but only if we are quiet and receptive for that still small voice.
At the end of the day, I go to prayer examining what the day has held, what has been done or undone, and spending time in repentance and confession — committing all to the One who never sleeps. I usually include this Night Prayer:
“Keep watch, dear Lord, with all who work or watch or weep this night, and give Your angels charge over those who sleep, Tend the sick, we pray, and give rest to
the weary; soothe the suffering and bless the dying: pity the afflicted and
shield the joyous; and all for Your love’s sake. Amen.”
I’ve just finished reading (and recommend) Gordon MacDonald’s new book on leadership “Below the Waterline” in which he mentions David McCullough’s book The Great Bridge about the building of the Brooklyn Bridge. In June 1872 the chief engineer of the project wrote a letter in response to an impatient public:
“To such of the general public as might imagine that no work had been done on the New York tower, because they see no evidence of it above the water, I should simply remark that the amount of the masonry and concrete laid on the foundation during the past winter, under water, is equal in quantity to the entire masonry of the Brooklyn tower visible today above the waterline.”
The Brooklyn Bridge remains a major transportation artery in NYC today because 135 years ago the chief engineer and his construction team did their most patient and daring work where no one could see it: on the foundations of the towers below the waterline. The work done in our souls (where no one can see) is what determines whether what we have done will stand the test of time.
For some of us, it may not look like much is happening on the outside right now. But that’s okay if there is foundational work going on — deposits being made.
Life will indeed squeeze us — may what comes out be the sweet aroma of Christ.
“O let me hear Thee speaking in accents clear and still
Above the storms of passion, the murmurs of self-will,
O speak to reassure me, to hasten or control,
O speak and make me listen, Thou Guardian of my soul.”
(hymn “O Jesus, I Have Promised” by John E. Bode 1866)
under the mercy, Cindy
©2011 Lucinda Secrest McDowell