Saturday, June 16, 2012

SELAH (Pause and Calmly Think)

I love Saturdays!

It’s usually one of the highlights of my week. It gives me more time to sleep in, rest, read, reflect, pray, write, or just hang around and wait for what the no-agenda day has in store for me: could be an unplanned date with friends, time to curl up with a book, a lazy day with my computer (facebooking, chatting, blogging), opportunity for baking and cooking experiments and for a bit of cleaning up, or could be a space to just enjoy the warmth and silence of home.

Saturdays mean rest for me.

But this week (while away from home on a work-related travel), I’ve been learning about a different kind of rest. One that does not just happen on a Saturday, but the kind that truly gives you a break any time of day and week!

Have you encountered the word, “selah”?  It’s actually a musical term that signifies a pause or an interlude. I have come across this word several times while reading the book of Psalms. I consulted Google and discovered more about it - Selah is to:
  • stop and listen
  • weigh and value
  • hang
  • worship (in Aramaic)
  • break
  • reflect and understand
  • pause and calmly think of that! (as written in the Amplified Bible)
I have a very active mind. My imagination can go really out of control – to my disadvantage sometimes. I worry a lot – most often about things that are not true or never will be true. In a sense, my mind is noisy, thus making my heart restless. But this week, I’ve seen how my heart longs to have the Selah it needs:

To stop and listen. I’m here in busy and noisy Bangkok. But it’s such a sweet surprise to be having a meeting in a guest home that offers quiet rest amidst chirping birds and trees that make a rain-like sound. It’s so easy to ignore this nature-produced music, in the same way that we could miss God’s still small voice if we are not attentive. To hear Him, we need to quiet our minds and hearts and kill the nagging sound of worries, paranoia, fears, disappointments, and sadness. Then, really listen…and hear. He has so much to say.

To weigh and value. We make plans and life sometimes happens totally different from our hopes and expectations. How do we respond? To rest is to let every circumstance fade in the glowing light of God’s will. We measure our experiences against the weight of the wonderful plans that God has for us. Then, we realize that our momentary troubles mean nothing compared to the surpassing value of having God in our lives. His presence and promises far outweigh anything that this life could throw at us. We fix our eyes on Him. We rest our hearts in His and trust His good, pleasing and perfect will.

To hang and just worship. Have you been in situations that felt like you’re against the wall? You don’t know what to do. No more space for another step – it’s dead end! You’re left hanging. That’s a “selah moment”. While you’re there hanging and helpless, just worship. Think about who God has been, is and will be to you. Let go of the need to move and let God move mightily on your behalf. You’ll realize that being left hanging can be turned into restful waiting for God to intervene and remove you from where you are.

It’s Saturday today. I slept in, read a bit, reflected on my week, prayed, went online, and wrote this. This afternoon, I plan to go out, eat and shop. It will be noisy and crowded outside but I’ll keep my mind and my heart on Selah mode.

Rest happens in the heart in full trust, complete reliance and confident leaning upon the Lord. In our hearts, God is there. Wherever God is, we can find rest.

Selah: pause and calmly think of that!

The LORD replied, "My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest." – Exodus 33:14

Saturday, June 09, 2012

OUCH! (Pruned to Blossom)

Pruning (transitive verb)
  • To cut off or remove dead or living parts or branches of a plant, for example, to improve shape or growth.
  • To rid, clear of, or remove anything superfluous or undesirable.

Pruning is a gardening process needed for a tree or a plant to grow in health and shape. This is a truth that is at times associated when a person growing in God experiences tests and difficulties.

Of course, plants don’t get hurt (do they?!). But in “real life”, when something is cut off or removed, there is always pain involved. The degree of pain can be proportionate to the extent by which the thing that is being removed has grown on a person.

But why do some things (which, more often, we find desirable, comforting or giving us happiness) need to be taken away from us? Similar to what happens when pruning is done, this process – no matter how painful it seems – causes GROWTH, BEAUTY, and FRUITFULNESS.

Growth. Every gardener knows that for a tree to grow, it will need some (sometimes serious) cutting of branches that are already dead. For our own good, God cuts away parts of our lives that drain us of energy we need to focus on Him and what He wants us to do. Are there things that take most of our time, resources and attention to the point that we already compromise what should belong to God? Surely, these things will soon go through some pruning. But God’s intention is not to hurt us or deprive us in any way. He wants us to grow…and grow we will!

Beauty. For a plant to remain in good shape, pruning is also done. This takes the form of trimming unnecessary leaves that make a tree look dull and lifeless. Are there aspects of our character that do not reflect God’s breath-taking beauty? It can be the way we manage our emotions, how we demonstrate patience, our attitude when conflict arises, or how we value our relationships. As a woman, one of my favorite encouragements from the Bible is to have that unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit. God has been teaching me to be calm, trust and rely on Him completely and sit still as I rest in His unfailing love amidst confusions and difficulties. This takes some painful trimming of things that make me worry, restless and unsettled. And all because God wants me to bloom in beauty!

Fruitfulness. After a pruning process, a tree bears much fruit. According to the Iowa State University Reiman Gardens horticultural brochure, Pruning Grapevines, “The purpose of pruning is to obtain maximum yields of high quality grapes and to allow adequate vegetative growth for the following season.”  A painful experience can actually be the preparation we need for an upcoming season of fruitfulness. It should then make us excited! We are being pruned now so we can be fruitful soon!

Are you going through a tough, painful time right now? Be of good cheer! As you abide in God, the Master Gardener, and trust His process, you are on your way to blossoming growth, beauty and fruitfulness. Listen and obey when He asks you to let go of things that keep you from His purposes and your ultimate good. He knows and does what's best.

As we go through seasons of pruning, I pray for the grace and strength to fully yield to God’s work in us as He steadies our hearts for what He has secured for us - all in His good, pleasing and perfect will. The best is yet to come! :)

"But if you remain in Me and My words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! When you produce much fruit, you are My true disciples. This brings great glory to My Father." John 15:7-8, NLT