|Photo from Even Rocks Cry Out|
In our bedroom, on my side of the bed, I routinely take time out first thing in the morning to praise & thank God as well as engage in my prayer list. I also read some from the Bible and reflect a bit on what I've read. So I've now inserted time for silence before I get into the Bible reading.
Right now I'm a bit mechanical in my approach. I set my phone timer for 5 minutes. This time amount most likely would seem paltry to most people; but for me this is where I am at, the most I can do at this time. (I have a thought that some day I'll become one of those people who takes out long stretches of time such as half a day, an entire day, or a weekend to give God their undivided attention. But I'm not there yet.) Five minutes of me not talking. Five minutes of me trying to silence all those thoughts in my head. I start by just saying "I'm yours Lord". I end, after the timer rings, by thanking Him that He would want to talk with me. So far I just have thoughts bouncing all over in my head as I try to quiet down.
In Invitation to Solitude and Silence Barton writes about how it can be more beneficial to acknowledge disruptive thoughts rather than try to ignore them. She writes about how fears, concerns, and repetitive ideas can be a glimpse into our interior selves. She encourages the reader to bring them to God. So far, for me, it's not really like that. It's just that my mind is all over the place. Being silent does not come naturally to me.
I figure that I just need to do it daily. Get myself into the routine, and eventually more will come At the very least I think that my "time with God" each day is too much about myself. I'm praising and thanking and asking for - which is all fine and good. But when do I listen for what God might be wanting to say to me? Certainly my time in the Word is that...but I think there might be more. So, I'm thinking that God knows my heart and sees that I'm trying to set things up so that I give Him my complete, undivided attention each day. From what I know of His character, I believe He will honor this desire. I don't know how this will look, but I'm expectant.
After silence today I read from a devotional that I've been going through. Then I took some time to review a book that we're going to be facilitating at church for a women's Bible study starting next month. As I was glancing through the Bible study workbook my attention caught on a page with a photo of a woman who leads a prison ministry. When I saw that picture a voice in my head said I want to do that. I certainly have the time right now; and even when I'm working again, I can take a few hours one evening a week or on the weekend to do something. I have been blessed in my life to have a few people, who at various stages in my life, invested in me. I've had some times in my life when I've been able to invest in others, but not as much as I'd like. My heart always wants to be there for others when they are going through tough times. But it does not naturally happen for me that I connect with people in this way very often.
So I went online and happened upon Prison Fellowship ministries. I've been peripherally involved with them in the past through Project Angel Tree; when my children were little, some years we would buy presents to donate to Angel Tree as our family Christmas service project. I remember, years ago, reading about Chuck Coleson and his vision when starting this ministry. As I looked through ministry opportunities on the website today I was drawn to opportunities to mentor a female prisoner directly prior to and/or following her release. I thought about how tough it is for people to get jobs once they have a prison record. I reflected on how some people in this situation don't have a healthy support system. I know that life is hard. No one can take away life's hardships or pain. But, in my experience, having someone to come along side and go through the hard times - not being alone - can be very powerful. I want to do that for someone. So I completed a very brief application and I guess I'll be contacted. We'll see what happens.
I don't know if the silence time and this opportunity to serve are related. I do know that over the past few years I've been trying to implement what I call "immediate obedience". This is the immediate obedience thing, theory and my practice, in a nutshell:
I've often encountered Christians writing or talking about hearing God tell them stuff. I've never actually heard a voice. But sometimes there are thoughts in my head, that sound just like all the other thoughts, that I think are the voice of the Holy Spirit within me. You know how when you're listening to the radio sometimes the station doesn't come in clear and it's all static-y? Sometimes the God thoughts are like that for me. I can't really hear them well. I've noticed that when I spend time praising God, being thankful throughout the day, being aware of God, reading the Bible, reading books related to God, listening to uplifting Christian music, etc. that it's easier for me to hear what I think are the God thoughts. Under those conditions, these thoughts seem to come in more clearly. Another thing that I've noticed makes it easier to differentiate the God thoughts from my own thoughts is what I call immediate obedience.
Immediate obedience is when I do what the thought is. For example, the thought may be to go give that homeless person I see some money. Or it may be to write an encouraging email to a specific person. It can be all kinds of things. I'm not absolutely sure that these specific thoughts are from God - but I figure if the thought is to do good for someone, it can't but be good to do it. I've also noticed that those specific types of inclinations or thoughts are typically the easiest for me to ignore. Because I'll counter those thoughts with ones like Oh I'm too busy, or, my little bit of money won't really help the real problem, or some other reason not to do the thing. It's very easy for me to get caught up on my own agenda for the day and the flow of the tasks for daily living. But I've found that when I think it's a God-thought for me to do something, and I do that thing right away (what I refer to as immediate obedience), that I can hear the God-thoughts in general more clearly. When I engage in immediate obedience, there is less static in my head.