The Heart of the Matter

By Elizabeth York

Human judgment is a funny thing. We do it by nature, and sometimes we’re right and sometimes we’re wrong.

Psalm 7:11 “God is a just judge.

The Bible tells us that God is the One who can really look into a situation and see not only the reality, but heart of the matter.

I Samuel 16:7 “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

I always took that Samuel passage to refer to physical appearance since that is the context. I’ve realized, however, that is just the beginning of the meaning. I think it applies broadly to our human perception about issues.

Since Jesus is our perfect example, I find it really telling that a key prophecy of the Messiah speaks about His ability to judge justly.

jesus-in-sand

“The Passion of the Christ”

Isaiah 11:1-5 “A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. 2 The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him— the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord— 3 and he will delight in the fear of the Lord. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; 4 but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked. 5 Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist.”

Human judgment was part of Jesus’ earliest life in the womb. His earthly father, Joseph, needed a divine perspective about Mary. God’s judgment prevailed over Joseph’s in the situation. (Matthew 1:18-24).

In His ministry, Jesus was the subject of judgment by the religious leaders, who accused him of blasphemy (Matthew 9:3) and of being satanic (Matthew 12:22-29). People in his hometown judged him as being simply an insignificant carpenter’s son. (Matthew 13:54-58).

Along the way, Jesus encountered people who were also judged by those around them. When Jesus showed grace and even invited those with shortcomings or stigmas into his inner circle, many didn’t understand.

Matthew 9:9-13: “9 As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. ‘Follow me,’ he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him. 10 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ 12 On hearing this, Jesus said, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: I desire mercy, not sacrifice. [Hosea 6:6] For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.’”

When Jesus spoke with the Samaritan woman at the well, he broke cultural protocol (John 4:1-38). But I think Jesus didn’t just see the woman in front of Him, he saw someone who was thirsty for living water, and who would be an incredible champion for the Gospel. Jesus always seemed to see the main issue at hand, what people needed, who they really were, and who they could be.

Jesus explained that those who have sinned and repented or simply been seriously humbled have even greater ability to love and live for Him. Luke 7:44-47: “44 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, ‘Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.’”

What are some things you judge? For some of us, our first inclination is to size things up in a worldly way. Discernment is good. Jesus says to “be wise as serpents, and harmless as doves” (Matthew 10:16). I think the key is to take our thoughts to the just Judge and ask Him to show us His views.

In Luke 18, Jesus tells a parable about an unjust judge. Immediately after it, he illustrates the heart we should have in order to begin to gain God’s perspective. Luke 18:9-14: “9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 ‘Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get. 13 But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, God, have mercy on me, a sinner. 14 I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.’”

Jesus knew people’s perceptions about themselves and others are subjective, dependent upon opinion, culture, and personal and religious attitudes. So, He did not put too much stake in their thoughts.

John 2:23-25: “23 Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Festival, many people saw the signs he was performing and believed in his name. 24 But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people. 25 He did not need any testimony about mankind, for he knew what was in each person.

I am inspired to ask for God’s heart and perspective through His Word, wise counsel, and the Holy Spirit. And if you are on the receiving end of judgment, give your concerns to God. Ultimately, put your estimation in the hands of God as Jesus did.

Prayer: God, please cleanse me of any faulty human or religious judgments I carry. As the just Judge, please guide me in truth and wisdom and show me Your heart on matters, situations, and people. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Sweet Lyrics to Remember

Screen Shot 2020-07-27 at 10.01.51 PM

By Elizabeth York

I really like 80s music. A lot. And I’m not afraid to admit it. Yes, the Thompson Twins still “Hold My Heart,” Lionel Richie has me “Stuck on You,” and Mike and the Mechanics have me believing “All I Need Is a Miracle” … to name a few. Tom Petty, Bryan Adams, Styx, The Cars, Chicago, Journey, Heart, Steve Winwood, Boston – yeah they’re on my list.

Why do I like these songs when I really came into them after their release? Music is a mystery, so I’m not really sure except that 1) I’m an 80s baby so that must be part of it, 2) back then you could be enthusiastic and still be cool, and 3) the many sweet lyrics. Even songs that were suggestive, like, “Hands to Heaven,” were still – sweet – like longing for the whole person. I think as a general rule, you didn’t have to worry about hiding children’s ears when you turned on the radio.

And here’s the other point: not only did songs leave a lot to the imagination then, but many of the love songs were – imagine this – loving and romantic. Take for example, “Waiting for a Star to Fall.” (Cheesy, I know, but bear with me.) Here’s an excerpt from the lyrics:

“Trying to catch your heart/Is like trying to catch a star/But I can’t love you this much baby/And love you from this far/Waiting for a star to fall/And carry your heart into my arms/That’s where you belong/In my arms baby, yeah/Waiting (however long…)/I don’t like waiting (I’ll wait for you…)/It’s so hard waiting (don’t be too long…)/Seems like waiting (makes me love you even more…)” 1988

The thoughtful guy is pursuing the worthy woman? Tell me more. Somehow that does more for me than:

“Said I’d never fall, I’d never fall/I’d never fall, but then I fell for you, mm/Back against the wall, against the wall/Against the wall, that’s how it felt with you, mm, mmMm, ’cause I love you/Mm, ’cause I love you/Mm, ’cause I love you/Mm/Knew it from the moment, from the moment/From the moment that I saw you naked, mm, yeah/I could never love nobody else, nobody else/The way I loved you, baby, mm, mm” 2020

Mmm yeah, thanks for nothing, Lauv. Maybe it’s indicative of our fast society or of lots of other things. We went from “The Flame” and “The Promise,” to, well, the pits. No matter what your moral views, that wonderful discovery of another’s personhood, heart, and mind is a pity to bypass. Admiring one’s beloved for more reasons than just the booty and the call would be nice. I’m ready to hear a real love song again. How about you?

Church: back to business as usual?

By Elizabeth York

The recent shutdown of many businesses, institutions, and places of worship has affected all of us. That is a subject worthy of its own exploration and probably more than a few blog posts. But for the sake of this one, I want to focus simply on churches reopening and what going back to normal looks like.

I have, like many people, found the proliferation of technology means I can access helpful teaching and biblical encouragement almost anywhere. In the mornings when I’m getting ready, I can listen to the Bible app on my phone. In the car when I’m driving I can listen to audiobooks. At home when I’m cleaning, I can listen to sermons. When I’m out walking my dog or jogging, I can listen to worship music or guided prayers. You get the picture. The library of Christian material is vast and growing. But, as every Christian knows, a coal by itself doesn’t stay hot for long. We need the Body of Christ as the Bible commands. At church is where we can really connect with people and get sharpened … isn’t it?

robin-spielmann-XuIQmhdGUMY-unsplash copy

My journey in recent years went something like the following. Start with the main church service. Everyone is sitting and listening to someone speak for an hour. So, if you want to talk to other people, go to Sunday school … where we’re also there sitting and listening to someone speak for an hour. Okay, so there’s going out to lunch with the group, which means more than half of a weekend day is gone, but where I can at least get some small talk in. How about Wednesday nights? Oh, another night of listening to teaching – usually more on the application side – with a little bit of talking. There is a special night in the week for adults in my demographic; that might be good! Oh, we go to an auditorium and sit and listen to teaching. Next, try prayer night – surely that will be a great opportunity to pray for our country, our families, the world, and ourselves. Imagine my surprise when it was 75 percent teaching. Or, there is another extra class during the week … where we go over the teaching from Sunday.

I ended up joining a group of friends in creating our own prayer and accountability group. I know others from church who have done the same thing in forming casual groups – reading a book together for example that applies to their life season. These groups don’t need to be sponsored or sanctioned by the church in any way. My point, however, is that something is wrong when a person can go to 10-plus hours of church programming per week and have nary a personal connection or a highly practical life application. There are seminars and programs put on that relate to, say, biblical financial literacy, but those are sometimes above and beyond the “business as usual” at church, requiring a greater investment of time.

Don’t misread that I am knocking regular and consistent Bible teaching in any way. That is not it at all. But, how much spare time do any of us really have? If everything especially practical and helpful requires the “11th hour” and beyond of church per week, who is in for that?

I had so hoped that, when churches opened again, there would be a reenvisioning and a reimagining of the old ways of doing things, where not everything is extra to the “program.” What if sometimes actual church were getting into groups and praying over needs and each other, getting to know one another, practicing sharing the Gospel, going out and sharing the Gospel, volunteering, partnering with other churches, learning practical personal and civic applications, and even moments of quiet before God? What if we had ministering, healing, and deliverance? What if we learned about the faith heroes who went before us in the centuries after the Bible was written and who changed the world? In doing these things, groups might make mistakes and even look stupid sometimes, but aren’t those foibles natural parts of growing up? The value and takeaways are worth far more than the risks.

I surmise churches don’t do things like this as part of their steady weekly slate for a few reasons. One, we’ve all been in those small groups where someone dominates the conversation or says random things. So, being a passive listener provides more control over potentially awkward situations or embarrassing moments in front of visitors. Secondly, the predictable pattern is easy, known, and accepted. The logistics of thinking through and putting creative things in place as part of the routine might be inconvenient. Perhaps even more risky, we might give the Spirit more room to lead.

The current populace is highly digital but highly relational. Some have fallen away from the faith, but I think many have just lost patience with the old show. If they were looking for entertainment, they can find something more compelling; if they were looking for music, they can find it more professionally done; and if they’re looking for teaching, they can find someone just as good or better. That might sound harsh but I believe it’s true. What they can’t find easily digitally is a major reason why people come to church: personal connections, relationships, discipleship, accountability, growth opportunities, service, and practical applications in their lives.

My suggestions are not meant as harsh criticism but as an encouragement to think differently during this pause and going forward. I wish more people would start this conversation wherever they are. The Bride of Christ is beautiful and the world needs a Savior. That’s worth a little extra trouble and effort, don’t you think?

Photo by Robin Spielmann on Unsplash

 

Good Change Disguised as Bad News

By Elizabeth York

This week, a longtime friend messaged me. He was laid off his job abruptly and revealed he had cried and was worried about the implications in caring for his grandmother, particularly. Another friend said she is waiting to hear where she’ll be in the next few months; her future feels uncertain and dim. I know it’s a hard time for many people.

guy-2617866_1920

After the initial sadness and empathy, the thought that welled up in my heart is that sometimes good change comes disguised as bad news. How many times has a heartbreak been a blessing in disguise, or a “no” when we wanted a “yes” turned out to be the right path?

Maybe you didn’t get a job, or didn’t have the relationship, didn’t get into the program, or lost what you once had. It’s painful. And it’s not just the loss itself that stings, but the “what ifs,” and “now what?” At times, we even know a comfortable or accepted place isn’t the best for us, we just don’t like the idea of things in our lives being unsettled.

A person can look back and realize, “If that hadn’t happened, I would have never tried something else, I would have never met the other person, I would have never moved, I would have never gone for more education, I would have never learned what I did…” It’s the bad news that often helps us get to the better place.

Once when I complained to God about how something would turn my life upside down, He immediately gave me the image of salt-and-pepper shakers, and the Holy Spirit put on my heart, “That’s how good things come out.” Those shakers have to be turned upside down – and shaken too – for them to release what’s inside and be able to serve their purpose.

But, unlike salt-and-pepper shakers, we feel everything and have strong preferences about what’s happening to us. I’m not saying we should be happy about watching metaphorical bridges burn, ships sink, paths crater, or other tribulations. There is a terrible side to all of that. But what I can say is that God can’t do a new thing if things always remain status quo. We have to let the old thing go. Our lives are not meant to remain the same. And if God promises to work all things for good for those who love Him, let’s let Him do it. (Romans 8:28)

Prayer: God I pray for those who are dealing with times of trauma and transition. Please show Yourself faithful in their lives. Let hope fill our beings; help us all to hold onto our faith. Let the outcomes of the trials and changes be better than things could have been before. And for me, forgive me for holding too tightly to things, situations, circumstances, outcomes, and people. Help me to trust and release them all into Your hands. Break off what needs to be broken off; bind what should be there. As I hold loosely, let me be aware that You are holding me tightly, and You are working for an outcome that will be for my good and for Your glory.

Isaiah 43:19 “Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”

 

Running Through the Rain

By Elizabeth York

Have you ever been outside enjoying lovely weather, only to find yourself caught in a downpour? That happened to me recently. I was out jogging under airy, cloud-filtered skies, when rain abruptly began. It was soft at first, and then more concentrated as the rain fell fast. I hadn’t prepared for it. I was over a mile from shelter, and my clothes were soon saturated.

lucas-favre-JnoNcfFwrNA-unsplash (1)

I knew my jog as planned was over. I could stop running in the blurry pelts of water and walk, or pause under a tree as I saw some doing. Or I could keep running through it, knowing that was ultimately the best way to get back home.

I think many of us feel caught in the rain right now. We were going to work and school and activities, living life as usual, and suddenly a downpour we hadn’t planned has come. Health concerns have soaked our collective consciousness. Some have lost jobs; many are dealing with reduced income. Others are anxious about their loved ones, their livelihoods, or their nest eggs. We wonder when things will return to normal, and when we’ll feel warm and secure again.

May I suggest, with utmost respect, that right now we are running through the rain. This feels like an end, but it’s not. We’ll get through the deluge and make it out of the poor conditions if we keep running forward. We might feel vulnerable and uncomfortable, but we’ll make it through together.

Prayer: God, please bring Your peace like a blanket over me and my loved ones and even over the whole world. Cause the virus and fear to lose their grip. Let people not be infected, and even if they are, let the strain be weak and the people be strong and recover. Give leaders throughout the world wisdom on how to deal with this issue and all of its ramifications. Bless everyone who is working to remedy this situation, including medical workers, police officers, grocery store clerks, truck drivers and more. Give us all wisdom on how to weather this storm and help those around us. Please allow infrastructure, manufacturing and supply transport to operate exceptionally smoothly to get supplies to those who need them. Let families, communities and work environments be safe, orderly, and in harmony. Allow people to not lose what they have worked for and let businesses survive. Father, work good through all of this. Please allow life to return to much better than normal! You are the God of healing and Your resources overflow and are never low, nor are you ever taken by surprise. Give us all that we need physically, emotionally, spiritually, economically, and relationally. Yours is the victory, and You are good. In Jesus’ name, amen.

(Photo by Lucas Favre on Unsplash)

In the Garden

By Elizabeth York

One of my favorite books as a child was “Secret Garden.” The idea of an enchanted outdoor room was enthralling. Over the years, I got tastes of gardening with my family’s vegetables, fruit trees, and roses. I have more gardening aspirations.

mitchell-gaiser-IkiaJW5sA9k-unsplash (1)

A garden is different from the forest or wetlands or jungle. It’s a place where a human shapes the natural. Nature, in turns, shows its most pleasant sides. In the garden, a person feels she can rest, enjoy the fruit of her labor, and admire God’s creation.

It’s significant that God placed the first humans in a garden. And it’s notable that Jesus went to a garden to spend time before the hardest moments of His life. There is something about a garden that resonates with the human spirit.

In Isaiah, God promises that believers will be like gardens: “The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail” (Isaiah 58:11). 

So, how does our garden grow? With God’s power of course. Isaiah 61:11 “For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations.”

And how do we remain healthy and vibrant? Jeremiah tells us: “But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him. He is like a tree planted by the waters that sends out its roots toward the stream. It does not fear when the heat comes, and its leaves are always green. It does not worry in a year of drought nor does it cease to produce fruit” (Jeremiah 17:7-8).

Okay, so we are like healthy gardens when we trust and obey God’s guidance. He gives us the ability to grow, produce fruit, and remain stable. But every garden still needs a good gardener though, doesn’t it? Jesus reminds us: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the Gardener” (John 15:1). He goes on to further expound on that metaphor, and explain that, though garden shears seem unpleasant to the rosebush, they make the plant much healthier (my paraphrase).

Jesus likens the accepted Gospel to seeds taking root in good ground: “Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown” (Matthew 13:8).

God still wants to walk through our gardens and fellowship with us like He once did with humanity. I want to give Him access to all of me, so I’ll truly be a healthy place where good things grow. He wants us to have soft, receptive soil, where He can plant precious promises and truths. And He wants us to bear good fruit and grow. Then, He wants us to share our seeds of faith and living water with others, so they can grow too.

Prayer: God, thank You for being the Good Gardener. I give You access to my life. I ask You to be the Master Gardener in all that concerns me. Help me to beautifully bloom and bear fruit for You. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Photo by Mitchell Gaiser on Unsplash

The Gift that Keeps on Giving

By Elizabeth York

Have you ever been around someone who seems set on changing you or planting seeds of insecurity? Maybe they make negative comments about your choice of clothes, a hairstyle, your goals, or the like. Chances are, you probably already knew their opinion anyway, but they spell it out for you.

joel-overbeck-oK-swFLDCng-unsplash

Even worse, some people give their unsolicited opinions or exert pressure about major life matters when they are not the ones living in your situation, paying your bills, and more. To be clear, I am not talking about destructive or sinful things here. (I am not even talking about telling someone they have spinach in their teeth, which is really loving by the way.) I am talking about people around you living their life and doing their best with the decisions they make, just like you are.

Chances are, you don’t have the exact same set of opinions about everything in life as those around you do. It would be strange if you did. Just because I wouldn’t decorate my place with a certain thing or have the same hobbies doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate how much another person likes them. Variety is the spice of life as they say.

On trivial matters, perhaps we all value our own opinions a little too much. If everybody were like me, we think, then they’d really be doing well. But what if we’re all supposed to be a little different from one another?

In matters that don’t really matter or aren’t in our domain, let’s loosen up and let people be who they are. It’s the best way to ensure that a relationship can breathe and people can feel free. We might even learn something new. So, as much as possible, let’s give the gift of acceptance. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

Photo by Joel Overbeck on Unsplash

‘Let go’ or ‘Try, try again’?

By Elizabeth York

We’ve all heard that familiar, work-emphasizing adage, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” In one aspect, we can agree with this statement in many scenarios. On the other hand, we contemplate the peaceful phrase, “Let go and let God,” which also applies at many levels. So, which one is correct? Should one try with determined fervor and do everything reasonable, or rest and rely on the sovereignty of God? Yes.

person-1209310_1920

The Apostle Paul sums up this paradox in I Corinthians 15:10: “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them – yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.”

So, somehow Paul is expressing that he worked harder than anyone, and yet it was God’s grace that made the difference in his life and in his work. The Bible is full of stories of those who undertook incredible risks (David vs. Goliath), went to great lengths (Israelites fighting for the Promised Land), and pursued near-impossible exploits (early apostles’ missionary journeys) to find God come through for them at opportune times (and many more examples of building, living, and believing). No, “God helps those who help themselves,” is not a verse, but I would argue it’s a fairly close paraphrase. There are some things only a person can do, and there some things only God can arrange.

May God give us all wisdom to know the difference between our part and His, wisdom to see how His hand is guiding us, strength to act bravely, and peace in the midst of stasis or change.

Stripped Down to Nothing

By Elizabeth York

Don’t worry, I don’t mean like that. Reading the Bible the other day, something stood out to me that I didn’t take note of before. At the crucifixion, Jesus was unequivocally stripped of everything. First, His right to a fair trial was taken away, then His dignity, then His closest supporters and family. He laid down the right to defend Himself. He gave up His health and well-being and the remainder of His lifespan.

jesus-3469896_1920

As if that weren’t enough, the loss went a step further, as recorded in John 19:23-24: “23 When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom. 24 ‘Let’s not tear it,’ they said to one another. ‘Let’s decide by lot who will get it.’ This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled that said, ‘They divided my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment’ (Psalm 22:18). So this is what the soldiers did.”

At the risk of sounding sacrilegious, Jesus even had his underwear taken away. Talk about being stripped down to nothing. Insult to injury doesn’t really describe it.

I wonder how many people feel as if they’ve been stripped down to nothing. Perhaps you’ve lost a relationship, a job, or something else. Financial or emotional struggles may feel overwhelming. Maybe your hopes haven’t materialized. It may seem like you’ve been through hardship after hardship and all that’s left is a tired soul. Jesus understands.

What do you do? Well, we can follow the example of Jesus. Take everything you have left, and give it to the Father. Luke 23:46: “Jesus called out with a loud voice, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.’

Take what remains of your life, and commit it to Him. He wants you; He wants your life. Keep believing in His goodness, even when the evidence around you shows loss or lack.

No matter what you’ve suffered, He will highlight to you what He has given you, and the blessed life He has for you. Jesus died so we could have abundant life and learn to obey the Father. (John 10:10 “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”) And as we know, He is in the resurrecting business.

Prayer: God, I thank You for my life and for the hopeful future I have. I give You my heart and life and obedience anew. I trust You, and I’m thankful that You will never leave or forsake me. (Deuteronomy 31:6: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”) Please surprise me with Your goodness and remind me that there is always a joyful end awaiting me.

Extremely…Balanced

By Elizabeth York

An article I read recently explored a modern pattern – vocal artists more commonly undergoing procedures for strained or damaged vocal cords. But what was different from previous generations’ artists, the writer posed? Was it that singers are expected to sing more, or at different tones? The conclusion was that what is widely considered good singing has changed. A number of vocalists are often yelling or virtually screaming in many songs. It’s as if a microphone isn’t amplification enough, and belting it out with more force means more talent.

waterfall-962798_1920

I can appreciate a powerful voice. Still, to me, the blare is symbolic of the rising noise (literally and figuratively) common in our daily lives. It seems that louder is better at concerts, events, at church – even in gym class. When we’re ready for some quiet, we sometimes have to turn on white noise to still other noise. All the loudness around us seems unnatural to me. Even in nature, most things that are loud are reason for caution: a thunderclap, roaring waterfall, torrential rain, rushing winds, popping fires, an avalanche, volcano, tsunami, tornado, hurricane, stampede, or the cry or growl of an animal. It’s like we weren’t made to be immersed in booming noise around-the-clock or to produce it constantly.

I observe a lot of extremes. Many of us are extremely busy and extremely tired. Fashion models are extremely thin and fitness forms are extremely muscular. Traffic is extremely bad and some commutes are extremely long. Living expenses and medical costs are sometimes extremely high. People are extremely pressed. We deal with a pace and a culture of many extremes – I’m sure more examples come to your mind.

But when we can take breaks from the noise, we attune our spiritual ears to hear what we didn’t notice before. Which one do we lean in to hear: a whisper or a shout? What if we could aim for different kinds of extremes? How about extremely kind, patient, giving, extremely loving? Maybe extremely diligent, thorough, or extremely committed to God?

And some days, let’s just be extremely relaxed, at peace, and balanced. That will be extremely beneficial.

Psalm 131:2 (AMP) “Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul; Like a weaned child [resting] with his mother…”