Last week, I headed for the Maranatha Christian Writer’s Conference. I wasn’t nervous about the trip, but I was insecure about my choice to go and whether I would learn enough and make enough connections to make the trip worthwhile. Tired, discouraged, and stressed from summer tensions, I prayed that God would use this trip to refresh my soul and replenish my sagging spirit. [Read more…]
Where do you go to spend time alone with God when you have no place to go?
Recently, my husband and I flew to North Carolina to visit our daughter and her new husband. We spent part of one day on the beach near Surf City, and it was a glorious day. After splashing in the waves and making a video about the new sights I was seeing for our What I Saw Today Facebook group page, I detached myself from the family so I could spend some time alone with God.
It was much needed. The last three months have been tough on several fronts, and I desperately wanted to reconnect with my Abba Father. Being a pastor’s wife, I’m around people a lot. Because I don’t drive, I can’t escape to the serene places I envision as the perfect oases for time alone with God, If I can’t have my pretty, peaceful, perfect place, I tend to not do it at all.
My time at the ocean reinforced my need for time with my God and the importance of finding my solitary place, no matter where it might be.
Time alone with God is a good thing. Jesus did it.
Jesus was intentional in His time spent with His Father.
The Bible says in Matthew 14:13 that Jesus withdrew to a solitary place. He had experienced some tough times too. The crowds were always at his elbow, there were so many needy, hurting people crying out for His attention and compassion, and He bore His own private pain of the execution of his cousin, John the Baptist. The night before the cross, he took Peter, James and John to a quiet spot in the Garden of Gethsemane and then withdrew to be alone with His God.
Jesus did a good thing, the right thing. When life smacks you in the face, the best thing you can do for yourself and those around you is to withdraw. You can go by yourself or take a few good friends.
Lena Hann did this. When diagnosed with incurable pancreatic cancer, Lena withdrew to her daughter’s house for a weekend. Church people were told, “Don’t call. Let me be.” Our small congregation respected that. A week later, Lena rejoined our church community, strong and ready to face the final few weeks of her life.
I don’t have to wait to the end of my life for moments with my Lord. Time alone with God needs to be a rgular practice. Just like Jesus, I need to be intentional. And so do you. If we have no place to go, how do we make it happen?
Where is my solitary place?
Where would I like it to be? A coffee shop. A beautiful place. A Gazebo in the middle of a botanical garden. A park. A comfy couch in an alcove with quiet music and a coffee pot nearby.
But I don’t drive and I live in a small town with a backyard minus a fence to hide my tears and cries to God. What are my options?
- Home while my husband is at work
- My breezeway
- Back yard canopy
- The rocking chair in my office
- An alcove at our church next door.
What solitary places can you use for your time alone with God. Stop right here and brainstorm a list.
Still stumped? It’s not necessarily about a place but about the time. It isn’t about where you go to but what you get away from. Here are some ways you can create your own solitary place.
Creating your personal space and time
Get rid of the excuses. I used these excuses about places I could use as my solitary place.
- Too hot or cold to be outside
- Too far to walk to a restaurant
- No place to hold my Bible
That’s when I came up with the list of places I COULD go rather than what WOULDN’T work.
Follow Jesus’ example and command. Jesus sought a solitary place, not a beautiful place. I was dismissing options because in my mind, they didn’t create an environment of beauty and peace. Jesus emphasized that whatever we do, we need to be alone so it’s just Him and us. Jesus instructs his disciples to go into an inner room, or closet as the King James says, to pray in secret. That might be the best idea for you! A closet is dark, free of distractions, and too small for even the cat or dog to join you.
Remove distractions. Hide your smart phone so you can’t hear the notification chime. Contrary to all the pictures on Google that show someone with their Bible and a cup of coffee, leave your coffee in the kitchen. It’s one more distraction. Let God know your time with Him is more important than anything.
Communicate your priority. If you work in an office or a home office, treat your time alone with God as an appointment. If you are a parent, tell your kids that you need some moment by yourself. When my girls were in elementary school, I told them, “I will be a better mom if I have a few moments by myself to talk with God and read my Bible. You need to let me do this and not bother me for the next [x numbers of] minutes.”
Make the most of the moment. I’m bad about this. As a pastor, my husband’s schedule and time to arrive home is unpredictable. If I suspect he is coming home soon, I delay getting into a big project or something for which I need alone time. I’ve learned to do it anyway. If I don’t want to be disturbed, I close my office door – that’s Jack’s signal that I am off limits.
Jesus, as the all-knowing Son of God, knew beforehand that 5,000 hungry people would follow him to his retreat with his disciples. He could have easily thought, why bother? I’ll get interrupted anyway. He persisted in taking them to a solitary place, dealt with the interruption, and then finished His time alone with God after he sent the disciples on ahead.
Don’t wait for the perfect time or perfect place for your time alone with God. Make it happen. He’s waiting for you.
Where is your solitary place? Share with us in the comments below.
Our church family said goodbye to the most godly, perky, pain-ridden, and feisty woman I think I’ve ever met. Her name was Anne. Anne with an E, she would tell you. Like Anne of Green Gables, she would add.
You’ve met Anne before. I’ve told in this blog how arthritic Anne determined to make sugar cookies for a campus ministry outreach and how students responded to the Gospel message because of the Cookie Outreach.
Here are the blogs I wrote about Anne.
Despite 50 years of struggle against rheumatoid arthritis and several memory stripping strokes, Anne attended every church function and community event. She crocheted beautiful afghans by the dozens and sugar cookies by the hundreds of dozens. She was faithful to bring either deviled eggs or Jello salads to every church dinner, declaring they were a flop, but of course, anything Anne made was wonderful.
She always had something to say whether in Bible study, a personal greeting, or commentary on life in general. She had the knack of making every woman feel special for she greeted all of us with “Hello pretty lady.” She told us she loved us dearly and she prayed for us every night. I do believe she did.
We termed her comebacks as “Anne-isms” and didn’t realize how prevalent her unique way to coin a phrase was until her daughter read an entire list of aphorisms at her funeral. My favorite was “Too soon old, too late smart.” Her children remember her warning of, “You straighten up or I’ll knock you into the middle of next week.”
Near the end of her life, Anne hurt so bad, it hurt to watch her.
We could tell she was in pain by the way she shuffled into our worship center. Yet, we would ask her how she was and she’d say in a chipper voice, “Able to sit up and take nourishment.” We knew it was an especially hard pain day when she’d say, “Not so good.”
She longed for Heaven where she would hurt no more. She had every confidence where she was going and wasn’t afraid to talk about it, even to a Hindu doctor in her last week of life. She was ready to go, the sooner, the better. As her physical body deteriorated, we all knew instinctively that going on over to Heaven was the very best thing for Anne.
And so as I sat in her funeral service, I heard the ministers and her family members express Anne’s hope of Heaven. I believed without a shadow of a doubt that Heaven was Anne’s new address. I quipped to several people that someone should have snuck a pair of ballet slippers into Anne’s coffin, for now she would be dancing with Jesus, pain-free.
My head knew where she was.
My sensibilities and love for her wanted nothing but that for her. Yet the knowledge of Heaven’s blessings did little to comfort me. The reminder of my hope wasn’t evident in its healing balm. I still missed her. A gaping hole stretched across my emotional heart.
The emptiness pervaded the church sanctuary. All of us could feel it. Anne was missing. Forever, there would be an empty chair at my weekly bible study, an empty spot before the church’s kitchen counter where she and her husband dried silverware after our midweek meals, a void of a perky voice telling me she loved me and she was praying for us. Even as I asked church lady friends, “Who will fill Anne’s shoes?” I quickly realized none of us can fill the void of what Anne offered to our community life. We are not Anne. The best we can do is to be the best we can be of ourselves.
Anne often bemoaned she didn’t have anything to contribute. After serving years as a public school reading specialist, her arthritis and strokes left her dependent on the rest of us. Anything she did accomplish came at a great struggle. I often said to her, “It’s not what you do but who you are that blesses our lives.” I don’t think she ever bought that.
Did I want her back?
Are you kidding? That lady was in horrific pain. She had suffered tremendous heartache throughout her life. Yet I missed that courageous presence that taught me how to deal with my own pain and heartache. I missed her unflappable faith that showed me I could boldly speak the name of Jesus and get away with it.
My husband came to the podium for the last time and asked us to bow in prayer.
“Thank you for Anne’s life. Thank you for the gift of Anne.”
Anne was a gift from God, oh no doubt. In fact, each life that intersects ours is a gift from God. Instead of resenting the removal or breakdown of the gift as will ultimately happen, I can thank God for the gift of Anne.
Gifts have many purposes. Gifts are given for us to enjoy and find pleasure. Gifts are also given to enrich our lives, to be used as tools to ease our daily tasks. Some gifts are treasure troves that unlock worlds to explore. Gifts are more than one additional thing to own. Gifts make us a better, richer, and more fulfilled person.
I am a better Christian because of the gift of Anne. She may have passed on to Heaven, but the treasure trove of her life remains: her spunky spirit, her unflappable faith, her tenacity and courage in the face of tremendous odds. Those are the gifts that remain, gifts I can redistribute to others. Like Jesus’ breaking of the loaves and fish to feed thousands, instead of becoming less in the division, these gifts become greater in the multiplying. We are all richer people because of who she determined to be.
Thank you, God for the gift of Anne. In that, I found closure and comfort.
Who in your life has been God’s gift to you? Take a moment to thank the Lord for their lives and what they have contributed to your life.
Have you ever prayed an impossible prayer?
The biblical account of a blind man who received restored sight in his adult years has long held special meaning for me. As a child, I believed if Jesus could heal Bartimaeus, He could heal me. After my eye surgery in 2015, I reread the account multiple times, resonating in the joy of a man with new sight. Jesus really can do the impossible!
The poor man didn’t even have a proper name. Bartimaeus means son of Timaeus. Perhaps you’ve experienced that. You were John’s girl, Michelle’s sister, or the neighbor next door. Seen but unknown. Not worth bearing a unique persona. You can appreciate Bartimaeus’ public fuss in order to get noticed. “Lord,” he shouted over and over. “Have mercy on me.”
Jesus asked what seems like a redundant question. “What do you want me to do for you?” Isn’t the answer obvious? The poor man wanted healing. Give me sight and let me slink back into oblivion.
Was it so obvious?
Bartimaeus could have answered in so many different ways.
- Give me money.
- Let me win the lottery so I don’t have to beg any more.
- Give me a nicer house.
- Tell my family to take better care of me.
- Why can’t I have friends like that crippled man you healed in Caperneum where the crew lowered him through a hole in the roof? Jumping junipers, I can’t even get as much as an arm to get me where I want to go.
It wouldn’t have been out of the ordinary. Others had treated Jesus more like a social worker than the Son of God. Someone in the crowd once demanded Jesus tell his brother to share the family inheritance with him (Luke 12:13). Another man complained about the unfair system at the Pool of Bethesda. Only a few paragraphs before the account of Bartimaeus in Mark 10, James and John had answered the same question with, “Let us sit on either side of you when you come into Your Kingdom(Mk 10:36).” Jesus was the ultimate fix-it guy, the benevolent grandfather who could help everyone live on Easy Street.
Bartimaeus wanted something bigger.
Lord, I want to see.
Anyone with a bit of clout could talk sense into his family or pull strings to provide new housing and a nicer begging bowl. Only Jesus could give sight to the blind. That is why Jesus told Bartimaeus that his faith had healed him. Bartimaeus uttered a request for the impossible.
Jesus’ healings have a bigger purpose than merely helping people feel better. Hundreds of people saw Jesus heal Bartimaes who praised God loudly and followed Jesus along the way. The incident was recorded three times in the Gospels and have blessed countless throughout the ages – including me. Jesus accomplishes God-sized acts for our good out of His lavish love for us. At the core of it though, He does the impossible mostly for His glory. His miraculous intervention shines a spotlight on us so that the world may see God’s presence in the world. He gives us a story to tell so we can tell the story.
What have you asked God for lately?
Things that anyone with a bit of authority could do?
What would only convenience you?
Requests that only He can fulfill and that would bring Him a lot of press.
What do you want that only God can give?
- Physical healing
- Restored relationship
- Emotional healing
- Breaking a habit that has become an idol in your life
- Overcoming a character flaw
- Salvation of someone dear to you
- Salvation of your enemy
- Healing the wounded heart of someone you love
- Send more harvest workers into a specific area of the world.
- Use me to do something big for Your Kingdom
- Expand the ministry of my local church exponentially
If God answered your prayer in a marvelous way, would you be willing to share the story of what He has done for you? Bartimaeus praised God so vocally that others praised God too. Are you willing to do the same? Do you want it badly enough that if God gave it to you, you would spend the rest of your life telling others what God has done?
Dare to dream.
God has the capacity to do more than you can ask or imagine. Don’t stay content with only your salvation. Yes, Jesus died for you but He wants to make you shine so others will see Him. Let God give you a personal story so you can share His glory.
God did it for blind Bartimaeus. He did it for me. He has done it for thousands of others.
He can do it for you.
Just ask. Ask Him to do something that only He can do.