Why We Need Quiet

We live in a noisy world.

Devices ding, ping, jangle, and whistle. Media delivers a non-stop monologue. And then there are those blessed people whom God has placed in our lives—those who call us Mom, Dad, Husband, Wife, Grandma, Grandpa, Co-worker, Boss, Friend, Fellow-church member, and Passerby.

And if outside noise isn’t enough, there’s also a whole lot of noise in our heads. Sometimes it’s productive, because it reminds us of important stuff we need to do, but most of the time, it’s just environmental overflow from the hubbub around us. It elbows its way into the quiet spots in our heads like a 300-lb. man squeezing himself into the seat beside us on an airplane.

Today I’d like to share three reasons we need quiet times in our lives:

1. Quiet allows us to hear God’s voice. As I study God’s Word, I see times when he thunders from the mountain top or shouts through a storm. Most often, however, he speaks to his children in the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit in our souls.

Think of Elijah on the mountaintop and David in the open fields, or Daniel in his prayer closet and Jesus during his early morning worship times. Sometimes he shouts over the din or our lives through an accident, illness, crisis, or family emergency, but often, even then, his voice is muffled by the chaos around us. 

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Be silent, that we may hear the whisper of God.”

2. Quiet allows us to hear our voice.

Quiet spaces in our minds are open fields where God can plant the seeds of creativity and inspiration. When we still ourselves, turn off our devices, and wait in quiet reflection, it’s amazing what we think.

On a recent early-morning walk in the woods, I cleared my mind of clutter and invited the Lord into my consciousness.  As my thoughts wandered, I began to connect Scripture with an idea for a blog post. Then I thought of a lovely gift idea for my daughter for Christmas. Before the walk had ended, I had the solution to a problem I’d been wrestling with, another blog post idea, and the basis for a women’s ministry presentation.

Peter Drucker, an American businessman, said, “Follow effective action with quiet reflection. From the quiet reflection will come even more effective action.” Building times of quiet thought into our days allows us to hear our own voices and leaves room for our creativity to blossom.

3. Quiet restores our souls. 

Psalm 23 reminds us that God the Good Shepherd invites us to lie down in green pastures, leads us beside still waters, and restores our souls. Listen to the words the psalmist chose to describe the place where God refreshes us: lie down (not race around), green pastures (not black asphalt), and still waters (not raging rivers). Peaceful, hushed places, whether they’re on the top of a mountain or the corner or your bedroom, are restorative and invigorating.

Keep in mind that the place is less important than the presence. When we carve out time to sit in stillness before the Lord, we gain a fresh perspective, spiritual energy for the day, and hope for the future.

I hope by now you’re convinced that intentional periods of quiet are healthy, productive, and necessary. But the same busy world that steals our quiet also often prevents it.

How can we build times of quiet into our lives? Here are three ideas: 

1. Make an early morning quiet time a priority.

You may not naturally be a morning person, but it’s worth retraining your biological clock. There’s a reason Jesus, probably the busiest soul on the planet, met with God early in the morning. I’ve found that if I wait until nighttime/bedtime to have my quiet time, I fall asleep in the middle of it. 

2. Look for moments of quiet during the day, and instead of pulling out your cell phone to check Facebook, open your Bible app, and meditate on one verse of Scripture.

Or think about what you read that morning in your quiet time. Ask God to speak to you. Then direct your mind to conscious listening. Jot down what you think you heard. (Hint: One way to know if it’s actually God speaking is that what you hear always agrees with Scripture.)

3. Turn off the noise. 

When you’re driving, walking, or working around the house, instead of turning on the TV or your Ipod, listen instead to the silence. You’ll find mental room to think and pray if your mind isn’t pulled in a thousand different directions based on what you’re hearing from an outside source. Don’t be afraid of silence.

"Make time for the quiet moments, as God whispers, and the world is loud."

I’d love to hear your thoughts on how to build quiet into your days. Do you have a suggestion on how to capture or create moments of silence? Have you experienced on of the benefits I’ve listed above, or maybe you’ve thought of one I haven’t? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.

Today, why not begin your day with a few moments of silence? And after you've stilled your soul and rested in God's peace, allow Kari Jobe's "Be Still My Soul" set the tone for the rest of your day.

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The Most Popular Post on Hungry for God -- How to Know God's Speaking to You

Today I'm reposting the most popular post that's ever appeared on Hungry for God. It's been viewed by 156,000 readers. I hope it helps you recognize when God is speaking to you.

“God told me the other day. . .” a friend said matter-of-factly, and then proceeded to tell me what she felt the Lord had instructed her to do. 

The concept of hearing messages from God sounds like a topic for an alternate reality television show, but in truth, it’s a very biblical concept. From the beginning of creation God has spoken to his people. In the early days, before the canon of Scripture, he spoke to believers in several ways: through his audible spoken word (Gen. 6:13), through angelic messengers (Dan. Luke 1:11), through a Christophany—a pre-incarnate appearance of Christ (Gen. 18:22), and through the prophets (Jer. 1:7). 

Today he speaks primarily through his messengers (pastors, teachers, and fellow believers), his Word, and the Holy Spirit’s voice in our hearts. But the question remains: 

How do we know we’re hearing God’s voice rather than our own or someone else’s? 

Here are some guidelines: 

1.  What we hear must agree with Scripture. In other words, God never tells us to do something contrary to his Word. This means the abortion clinic bomber who testified that “God told me to blow up this place” may have been hearing voices, but they weren’t the Lord’s. This is why we must read the Bible daily and become familiar with its truths. It becomes the plumb line for all other input. 

2.  God usually repeats an important message. He knows we’re sometimes spiritually dense, so he gives us more than one opportunity to get it. You may read something that applies to your life in your morning quiet time, read it again during a devotional reading, and hear a preacher or teacher mention it in a sermon or lesson. God’s willingness to repeat himself is blessed confirmation if we think we’re hearing from God but aren’t quite sure. This is why it’s important to journal during our Bible reading and prayer time and take notes during teaching and preaching times. Sometimes the pattern of God’s messages to us becomes clearer when we write them down. 

3.  An idea may come to us while we're praying. If it’s something simple, like Send Sally a note of encouragement; she’s been struggling since Dan lost his job, and isn’t contrary to Scripture, I usually act upon it immediately. It’s probably the Holy Spirit prompting me. If it involves a greater commitment, I test the thought by waiting to see if God reinforces it in other ways. 

For years the Lord had prompted me to write inspiring articles for homeschooling moms. Friends encouraged me to compile them into a book. When another friend invited me to attend a writers conference, the idea began to take shape. I sought confirmation by speaking to an acquisitions editor at the conference, and he invited me to submit a proposal. When I shared the idea with a Christian businessman, and he offered to help, I knew the idea had been from the Lord. 

4.  If an idea is from the Lord, the desire usually grows stronger with time. I confess—I get some crazy ideas sometimes. Crazy or not, I write down the idea and begin to pray about it. As the days pass, I’ll often find my enthusiasm and desire waning. Other times the desire grows, develops, and blossoms into a full-fledged calling. God confirms it in other ways and reinforces it with appropriate Scripture. 

5.  It usually requires an element of risk and faith. God seldom calls us to do something completely off the normal path of our lives. Instead his call is usually the next step, albeit sometimes a BIG step, on the path we’re already on. 

For years our family’s been involved with missions. We’ve financially supported missionaries, prayed and provided resources for them, and hosted them in our homes. When my husband and I began to experience a desire to take a short-term missions trip with our family, we sensed it was from the Lord. 

We began to pray about it, and the desire grew stronger. We already knew a mission trip was scriptural, so when one of our missionary friends mentioned how they’d love to have a family work with them in Mexico, we knew the Lord was calling us to go. 

Although it seems a bit mysterious, God loves to speak to his children. To hear him, we must learn to recognize his voice. This ability comes with patience and practice. Missionary Frank Laubach accurately expresses how every conversation with God involves learning to listen: 

“The trouble with nearly everybody who prays is that he says, ‘Amen,’ and runs away before God has a chance to reply. Listening to God is far more important than giving him our ideas.” 

May God bless you as you learn to listen to his voice. 

How about you? How does the Lord usually speak to you? And how do you know it's him speaking? Leave a comment below. I'd love to hear your thoughts. If you're reading by email, click HERE and scroll to the bottom of the post, then click on Comment to leave your thoughts.


 I'd like to tell you about my book, Hungry for God … Starving for Time, 5-Minute Devotions for Busy Women?

 Today's women want to connect with God, but in the craziness of life, it’s just not happening. We want practical, biblical answers to situations you face every day, but we don’t have hours to pore over Scripture.

We need a resource that answers the questions we’re afraid to ask out loud. Questions like:

• Is my situation hopeless?
• If God already knows what he’s going to do, why bother to pray? 
• Why have you allowed this to happen to me? 
• No one appreciates what I do. Why shouldn’t I quit? 

Each devotion begins with a Facetime question and ends with a biblical answer wrapped in a modern day parable. Like a spiritual power bar, Hungry for God … Starving for Time is packed with enough scriptural nutrition to get you through the day. Wherever you are—in break rooms, carpool lines, or wherever you can snatch five minutes of quiet reflection—Hungry for God … Starving for Time, 5-Minute Devotions for Busy Women is for you. 

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If My Child Turns Out Badly, Is It My Fault?

I recently participated in an interesting online discussion about kids, and culture, and parenting. One woman wrote, "If your children turn out badly, there's no one to blame but yourself."

I respectfully disagreed. 

My response generated quite a few grateful emails. It was evident I had struck a nerve. It made me wonder how many Christian parents are living in fear that if they don’t do everything “right,” their children are going to turn their backs on God, and it will be all their fault. 

I agree that one of our best responses to the culture is to train our children in the ways of the Lord. I also used to think the primary responsibility for the way my children turned out was up to me. If I homeschooled them or didn’t homeschool them, sent them to youth group or didn’t send them to youth group, had devotions with them, taught them to memorize Scripture, took them to church every time the doors were open, then they’d grow up to love God. If I messed up somehow, or failed to do something important, it would be my fault if they went astray. 

When I’d see families with wayward children, I’d secretly assume (but never say aloud) that there must have been some inconsistency or failure on their part as parents. Maybe they look spiritual on the outside, I’d think, but behind closed doors, well . . . 

I’ve come to realize, however, that I was presumptuous in thinking I held the power to make my children turn out “right.” I realize that I was powerless, through the force of my will or the conscientiousness of my parenting, to compel my children to love God. 

I know now that as a parent, I can till the ground and plant the seeds of faith, but only God can make them grow. By assuming the misplaced responsibility for what were, ultimately, my children’s decisions to make, and thinking that if they turned out “bad,” it was my fault, I had assumed a responsibility that wasn’t rightfully mine. 

If your children grow up to love God, it will be because of God’s mercy and grace (Gal. 1:15). If they grow up to reject him, then they alone will bear the responsibility for their choices. Our parenting can put them on the right path, but only their choices and the work of the Holy Spirit can keep them on it. Thinking it’s all up to us is assuming a burden and responsibility no parent should bear. 

I’m not saying we’re not responsible to rear our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, because we are. Deuteronomy 6 gives Christian parents very clear instructions. What I am saying is that we can do everything right (as if we can really do everything right), but the choice to follow God is, ultimately, up to our children. 

As I look back on my active, homeschooling, child rearing years, I’d still homeschool. I’d still take them to church. I’d still teach them to memorize God’s Word, and so on, and so on. What I would do differently, however, would be to pray more diligently and earnestly for God’s Holy Spirit to draw my children to himself and conform them to his image. Because this is something only God can do. 

This is my prayer for you all, as you parent your children in faith.

" . . . God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace. . ." 

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Sleeping with Lions – An Up Close Look at Daniel

Vacation Bible School has a way of making you think. And since I just spent a few days in VBS, I’ve been thinking a bit more than usual.

Our theme for this year was Daniel’s Babylonian Adventure. The week culminated with King Darius’ nefarious hirelings dumping Daniel into the lions’ den because he continued to pray to God despite a kingdom-wide, pray-only-to-Darius prayer Initiative.

One image, a photograph of a ferocious lion roaring, lingered with me long after the projector light dimmed. Those cats have really big teeth. I’ve seen a lot of choppers in my 35 years as a dental hygienist, but for a feline, their canines are immense. Not to mention that a full grown lion’s mouth is cavernous.

So we have big cats (the average male lion weighs 420 pounds), with big mouths, filled with big teeth.

I also discovered that lions often suffocate their prey by covering its mouth and nose with its mouth (picture the lion-tamer with his head in the lion’s mouth – Now close, please). If that doesn’t work, a huge paw (8-12 inches wide) over the mouth and nose is their effective, suffocating, Plan B.

If that still doesn’t work, there are the claws. Eight of them. Each an inch and a half long and razor sharp. They’re retractable, too, which means they don’t get dulled from walking.

And did you know the average male lion is eight feet long? Picture the tallest basketball player lying down, and you’re still a foot too short.

Are you intimidated yet? Multiply these lion facts by three, or four, or six, and you’ve got the makings of a true horror flick.

This is what Daniel faced as he decided whether to continue praying three times a day to God.

If I was Daniel, I’d be thinking:

This prayer-to-King-Darius thing only lasts for 30 days. I can skip praying for that long, can’t I? God will understand. After all, what good am I if I’m dead?

Where does it say I have to pray aloud? Or kneel down? I can pray silently all day long and the bad guys’ll never know it.

But not Daniel. His prayer time with God was his joy. His delight. Pass up a chance to talk to the God of the universe? Are you kidding me? It was a privilege, one which he would never take lightly.

Maybe he remembered the courage of his friends Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego so many years ago. Punished for not bowing to King Nebuchadnezzar’s idol, they were spared when God delivered them from the fiery furnace. Now Daniel risked punishment for bowing to the true and living God. Perhaps God, in his great mercy, would also spare Daniel’s life.

What was Daniel thinking as he made his way toward home and his prayer chamber, knowing that the instant he bowed his head, he would seal his own death sentence? Did he see the villains skulking in the shadows, following him like dime store detectives? Did he walk hesitantly, heart beating hard with fear? Or did he walk resolutely, head held high, and stride long and determined?

And when he prayed that fateful day – what did he say?

Father, protect me?

Save me from this hour?

Forgive them?

Glorify your name?

How long did it take his jealous colleagues to report to the king and return with Daniel’s death sentence? An hour? Two?

Hurried feet, a clamor at the door, and shackles.

"May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!" King Darius cried as they dropped the aged statesman into the pit.

“Roll a stone over the mouth,” the king said reluctantly, then pressed his ring into the wax that sealed Daniel’s grave.

In the damp darkness of the den, furry bodies cushioned Daniel’s fall. Warm breath heated his fear-frozen flesh. A wet nose snuffled his ear. But nary a tooth shone in the feeble light that ringed the rock-covered entrance. The angel of God had shut the lions' mouths.

Groping gingerly for the floor, Daniel felt a tail, then a paw, then a velvety side, rising and falling like a gentle wave. Exhausted from his ordeal and weary from the adrenaline rush that had suddenly left his veins, he lowered himself to the ground. 

Warm bodies drew close, piling around him like kittens, It was hard to tell where one body ended and the other began. Determined to stay awake and watch until morning, he sat, still and erect, praying for God’s protection.

Soon, however, fatigue won the battle over fear. His head began to nod, then dropped to his chest. Gravity pulled him forward until his face touched the shaggy mane of the largest lion. In Daniel’s semi-sleep, it felt like the coarse tapestry that surrounded his bed. With a sigh, he drifted off, lulled to sleep by the gentle rumble of the lion’s purr.

Hours later, with dawn barely ringing the edges of the stone- covered mouth of the den, a commotion arose, awakening Daniel from his sleep.

“Lift it off. Quickly man, or I’ll have your head. ‘Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?’

 “O king, live forever!” Daniel shouted. “My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, O king."

 “The king was overjoyed and gave orders to lift Daniel out of the den. And when Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him, because he had trusted in his God (Dan. 6:20-23).

“At the king's command, the men who had falsely accused Daniel were brought in and thrown into the lions' den, along with their wives and children. And before they reached the floor of the den, the lions overpowered them and crushed all their bones (6:24).

“Then King Darius wrote to all the peoples, nations and men of every language throughout the land: 

‘May you prosper greatly! I issue a decree that in every part of my kingdom people must fear and reverence the God of Daniel. For he is the living God and he endures forever; his kingdom will not be destroyed, his dominion will never end. He rescues and he saves; he performs signs and wonders in the heavens and on the earth. He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions.’"

 “So Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian. (Dan. 6:24-28).

I don’t know what lions are trying to devour you right now. Maybe it’s a difficult spouse. Or a dangerous illness. Or bills piled to the ceiling and no job in sight. Remember Daniel’s example. Pray and don’t stop. Call on the God of heaven. Ask him to meet you where you are and fill you with courage and conviction. 

Claim King Cyrus’ words as your own:

“He is the living God and he endures forever; his kingdom will not be destroyed, his dominion will never end. He rescues and he saves; he performs signs and wonders in the heavens and on the earth. He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions,” and he will rescue you, as well.

Perhaps, like in Daniel’s den, God might even use the same lions you fear for his glory and your deliverance.

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Tender Words for Hardhearted Conflict

During a conflict with my husband the other day (yes, we have them, just like every other married couple), I ignored our habit of saying, “I love you” before we part for the day. To be honest, I didn’t feel very loving right then, so why be hypocritical? The phone rang, he answered it, and I walked out the door.

Boy did that feel good.

Until it didn’t.

Somehow we think slamming the door, getting the last word in, or telling someone exactly what we think of them will make us feel better. And it does, for an instant. But after that, if we are Christians with the Holy Spirit living inside us, we feel miserable. We know we’ve sinned against God and the other person, and guilt and regret weighs on our souls.

On this particular day, I drove all the way to work feeling smug. There. I showed him. Why should I always be the one to say I’m sorry? I’m too softhearted. I need to be tougher and not let things bother me as much. If he wants to be mad, let him be mad. It doesn’t have to ruin my day.

But in the deepest part of my heart, it was ruining my day. I love my husband, and it hurts when I’m at odds with him. But I stuffed the feelings down, determined to carry on with my day as if nothing was wrong.

I took my first patient back to the treatment room and made small talk about the weather and summer vacations.

“How’d your trip to Florida go? You were getting ready to leave the last time I saw you,” I said.

“Not so good,” she replied. “I need to tell you – my husband and I are separated. Our divorce will be final in a few months.”

Her words hit me like ice water on a hundred-degree day. As we talked about the sad events that had led to their separation, all I could think of was the disagreement I’d had with my husband that morning. And how prideful and hardhearted I had been to leave the house without telling him I loved him.

As soon as I dismissed my patient, I grabbed my cell phone.

“David, I’m sorry I walked out without saying I love you this morning. It was childish, and I’m sorry. Will you forgive me?”

He did, then apologized for his part in the disagreement.

“I love you,” I said.

“And I love you,” he responded.

I don’t believe the first patient on my schedule was a coincidence that day. She was God’s reminder to treasure my marriage, set aside my pride, and remain tenderhearted.

The book of Second Kings tells about King Josiah, who lived among a wicked and rebellious people. Despite the negativity that surrounded him, he maintained his soft heart. ". . . because your heart was tender, and you humbled yourself before the LORD,” 2 Kings 22:19 testifies.

I want to be like Josiah, to resist pride, and remain tenderhearted and humble. This pleases the Lord. And it helps me live in harmony with those around me. 

“Be kind and compassionate to one another,” Ephesians 4:32 reminds me, “forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

Before my patient left, I told her about Love and Respect, a book my husband and I are studying with a group of friends. We don’t always get it right, but we’re learning biblical truths that have the power to transform our marriages. I pray she’ll read it and apply the principles to her life, too.

Now it’s your turn. Do you ever struggle with pride and a hard heart? What Scriptures help you choose God’s way for resolving conflict? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.

Here's a fun photo from our 2016 time together.

Next month, I'll be leading a one day seminar at Good Shepherd UM Parish in northwestern Pennsylvania on Saturday, July 14, 2018. 

I'd love, love, LOVE for you to join us if you're anywhere nearby. Two years ago I met readers from Delaware, Ohio, and Pennsylvania in this same location -- how fun is that? We got to learn, worship, and pray together. It was a day-long glimpse of what heaven's going to be like when we're all together. If you're too far away, I'd love to work with your church's women's ministry to put together a one-day or weekend retreat or special women's event. Click on the Speaking Ministry tab to contact me.

Here are all the details about Today You Have Two Choices:

What: One-Day Ladies Seminar
Where:  Brookville, Pennsylvania
When: July 14, 2018
Cost: $35, which includes lunch and a prayer journal
Cost Saver deadline: June 15
How to Register: Contact Kathy Shaffer (814-328-2034)

Three Fantastic Sessions:

Session 1 - Today You Have Two Choices: 
Grumbling or Gratitude
In this hilarious session, Lori shares a story from her life that demonstrates how life can go from cruising to crashing in an instant. We'll examine the two options that usually accompany a crash and see what God's Word (and modern-day research) have to say about them.

Session 2 - Today You Have Two Choices:
Bitterness or Forgiveness
Bitterness, it's said, is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die. We know it's destructive, yet we often struggle to overcome it. Sometimes we're not even sure we want to. In this powerful session, we'll study two women who made two very different choices, learn from their examples (good and bad), and discover what God can do when we surrender our bitterness to Him.

Session 3 - Today You Have Two Choices:
Fear or Faith
Hebrews 11:6 says, "Without faith it's impossible to please God," yet it's often easier said than done. When the circumstances of life hit us hard, fear often becomes our default setting. How can we resist fear and choose faith instead? Practical and personal, this workshop will lift your eyes beyond your circumstances to see what God can do if you commit your life to wholly trusting Him. This session includes a simple yet profound method to make your Bible reading come alive.
Melissa Sylvis will lead us in worship. 

When you register, please let me know so I can look forward to meeting you!

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