Hitting the Snooze Button

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Woke up this morning, and I hit the snooze button. I hit the snooze button, over and over again, for the next hour. I didn’t want to get out of bed today. But I did get up, make my coffee, and manage to eat a few lemon poppy seed muffins–thanks, Tab!–with some oatmeal.

Photo by Paul Neil on Unsplash

In the process of getting ready, I happened to check my social media feeds. Friends and family, who are normally pretty chill people, are upset and angry right now. The topics of Coronavirus and racial injustice overwhelm my normal places of fun escape.

This has been one of those weeks where I have hit the snooze button more; this has been one of those weeks where I haven’t read my Bible as much. Instead of starting my mornings in the Word, I have been starting my mornings with a different type of word.

I am tired this morning.

Physically tired.

Mentally exhausted from being told that I should fear something. That instead of engaging history, we think that that engagement equals erasing the past. We live in some sort of Orwellian nightmare.

Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it. – Winston Churchill (paraphrased)

I am also heart tired. As Augustine wrote, I long for how our human experience could/should be versus what it actually is. While we may not put this longing into words, this is a longing for Jesus to return. His return will fulfill that deep human longing for the restoration of all things, for justice. No more:

  • Sickness
  • Death

A future where we will work alongside the Creator of the Universe. The curse of Adam, against work, removed from us.

In writing all of this, I realize that I need to pray for strength to overcome being tired. I also need to pray for grace… maybe for myself with the snooze button… more so for those whose actions I do not understand right now. When you have been living a pretty normal life, for more than a month, and your friends and family have not been, it can feel like talking to people on Mars. Irregardless of that Martian divide, I think grace continues to be the word.

For the Love of Cupcakes, Fear is in the Air!

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An invisible enemy is scarier than most enemies. For how does one combat what one cannot see? An invisible enemy could be anywhere. They might even be sitting next to you right now.

Photo by Rae Goldman on Unsplash

A few weeks ago, Wyatt and I walked into a local cupcake shop. We quickly noticed a piece of tape marked out on the ground that read:

“Stop. Stand Here.”

From behind the counter, the shop employee was wearing a mask. She was trying to fight against the invisible enemy. But underneath that mask, Wyatt and I both could read the look on her face. Which screamed in terror (and I’m not trying to be mean):

“Why aren’t you two wearing a mask?”

And even louder:

“Why are you two even here?”

A cupcake for momma; A simple Easter treat. I had wanted to surprise Tabitha, and Wyatt had come along for the ride. But here we were, in the cupcake shop, and feeling like we shouldn’t be in there.

It was in that moment that I discovered that I didn’t have my wallet…

I smiled, “We’ll be back.”

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

How we respond to the invisible enemy matters. Even weeks later, Wyatt and I can still remember the cupcake employee’s face. I hate the way this pandemic has caused us to view others. To think differently about something as simple as human touch. I want my personal response to be different, but I’m finding it hard to wade through the daily onslaught of online negativity. How about you?

Adoption Update: God Has Called Us To This, He Will See Us Through

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I had one of those difficult conversations last night with a foster mother. She talked about a recent placement her and her husband had received. As she unpacked a story that included:

  • Level of care being misrepresented
  • Messed up family drama on a scale you know exists but try to not think about

I was reminded that these children need an advocate–and not just the children she was talking about, all children in the foster care system–. Someone to fight for them, to push back against doctors / teachers / life; Someone to provide a place of stability after living in what I’d call a war torn home. There comes a point, when you are listening to such a story, where feelings of empathy and ultimately justice kick in. You can’t help but feel for these children; children who have done nothing to deserve the adult situations they have been plopped into. Makes me thankful for those who have been called to foster and who provide a sense of normalcy and stability while birth parents have a chance to figure things out / get their lives together.

As the foster mom talked, I could feel a small thread of fear trying to grip me. An inner voice saying, “This is the type of horror story you’ve heard about. This could happen to you and Tabitha! You could be placed with a child that has been misrepresented to you AND has all sorts of problems.” As I pushed back on that fear, the foster mom kept saying, “God has called us to this, and He will see us through it.” Amen.

I love how God used this conversation to strengthen my resolve. Reminding me that children are out there, hurting, needing a place of stability. I stand firm, in God-given peace, that He has called us to adoption.

This is not to say that I am not still wondering about timing. I am not good at waiting. God first spoke to Tabitha and I in January of last year (2019). Calling us to move past our 10+ year grief of infertility; calling us to adopt.

  • I still remember the peace I felt going to the first informational meeting with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS).
  • How quickly we were plugged into a PRIDE Training Class.
  • The crazy stories we heard while in training.
  • The 30 minute drives to Marshall, where I had Tabitha all to myself to talk / unpack / dream / decompress.
  • How happy we were when training ended at the beginning of May.
  • How after completing the Home Study / various hoops, our family was certified to adopt at the beginning of August.

Adoption is a process. The Hall Family is still in that process. At the beginning of December, we met with our Adoption Development Worker. She said that she had not found any children that were a good fit for our home. So we wait knowing that our God is big, His timing is good, and that He loves us.

From Across the Net – “Praying for a President Is Not that Radical: Platt, Prayer, and Polarization”

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Had meant to share this article by Ed Stetzer the other day. Man, this has been a long week already.

Furthermore, we can and must recognize that many hold different views and see things in different ways. Where some see praying for a president, others see a celebration of values they do not hold. We can acknowledge that people can and will experience such moments differently in the body of Christ.

Yet, the degree of ire directed towards Platt reveals that at times we can allow the same polarization and fear to grip our hearts in failing to extend grace to those with differening views. Likewise, the attempts to use Platt to endorse Trump fail to grasp the nuances of his prayer and inject meaning he was careful to avoid.

You can read more here

Fear, Geek Culture, and the Church

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Photo by James Pond on Unsplash

Michael Mendis, writing for Geeks Under Grace, recently wrote a piece titled “Geek Culture and the Church“. As he weaves through the history between the church and geek culture, he touches on something I have always found interesting:

Over the years I have heard numerous stories about Christian geeks who feel that they have to hide their hobbies from fellow saints. I’ve met a well-respected leader in a church who can’t reveal to the rest of his leadership team that he plays Dungeons & Dragons. A gaming missionary I have worked with tells a story about how he once visited a church to talk about gamer culture, and after his presentation, two people came up to him—back-to-back, but independently of one another—to privately confide that they were gamers, and that they were afraid to tell the other people in their church.

On a basic level, I get that we can’t 100% be ourselves at church. Fellow Christians may struggle with things that we do not, making it un-wise to talk about whatever it is in front of them. I get that. But playing video games, to me, is just as normal as watching television or following sports. In all my time, living in the buckle of the Bible Belt for over sixteen years now, I have never felt like I needed to hide the fact that I enjoy playing video games and tabletop games (and I get that my experience may be unique).

I remember approaching my pastor, soon after college graduation, about how I wanted to start a video game ministry. He encouraged me to talk to our youth pastor; who then encouraged me to think outside the box and not go to seminary. “Just do it”, he said like a Nike commercial (it was deeper than that). I’d like to think that my experience here isn’t unique, I was encouraged by my East Texas based church staff, not discouraged from where I felt God leading me in that moment.

As I edge closer to 40, I have learned to not be as worried about others opinions, to enjoy what I like. I have found that there are others out there, in the church, who share my hobbies. I want to encourage you not to live in fear. Be passionate about what you are passionate about. Own your video games, your hunting, and your love for modifying old cars.

Update 5/23/19 – My wife lovingly reminded me that I have encountered instances, at church, where fellow Christians have been less than loving about my hobby. Funny how one forgets such things when not in the moment. As with anything, I think you quickly learn who you can talk to and who you should avoid talking to about nerdy things. Such is life. – Bryan

Batman: The Telltale Series

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There is something brave about Batman: The Telltale Series. I love how Telltale made me care about Bruce Wayne just as much as I care about Batman. Their artful balance between diplomacy (Bruce) versus the shear force of The Dark Knight was great to play through. Also, loved the way Telltale portrayed The Joker.

I wish Telltale was still around to continue refining their storytelling (RIP 2018). While Batman: The Telltale Series is a high point for the developer, I still think that Minecraft: Story Mode and Tales from the Borderlands will remain my two favorite Telltale series.

Bottom Line: If you want a good spin on the Batman mythos, be sure to check out Season 1.

 

 

4/5 – Sometimes the past comes back to haunt us.

Title: Batman: The Telltale Series
Developer: Telltale
Platforms: PC, iOS, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and Android
Reviews on: PlayStation 4
MSRP: $30

>> SPOILERS <<

When Security Masks a Spirit of Fear

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in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.

What can man do to me? – Psalm 56:11 (ESV)

Another week goes by, we hear another story of a gunman invading a space and taking innocent lives. Calls for gun control quickly ring out in the media. Feelings of justice, fueled by anger and pain, trigger that deep down knowing that the world should not be this way. That we were not meant to deal with nor experience death, separation, brought on by a single choice made back in the beginning.

The Psalmist tells us in Psalm 56:11 that we should put our trust in God. There is no reason to fear when we put our trust in the Creator. Right? And yet fear percolates and permeates the atmosphere we breathe. Even in our churches, where Safety Teams equal Security Squads, fear rages. Played out with armed church members, unofficially, watching over the flock while services take place. A new defensive cultural norm.

NOTE: Please, do not misconstrue my words here, I’m all for keeping the Church safe. But I’m not okay when the spirit of fear drives a weekly version of security theater.

Photo by Bernard Hermant on Unsplash

Keeping silent. Toeing the party line. Those seem like the obvious responses. But I believe God calls us, as Christians, to more: Power, love, and self-discipline (2 Timothy 1:7).

What do you do when a spirit of fear infects a church?

You’re Going to Hell

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“If you wore your hair past your ears, you were going to hell.”

“If you wore a colored dress shirt to church, instead of a white shirt, you were going to hell.”

“If you were at a stop light and looked poorly at a woman and then got into a wreck and died, you were going to hell.”

The list of rules and unofficial law went on and on. Deep diving into the insanity of whether you wore a short sleeve shirt versus a long sleeve shirt, to church, determining your eternal destination.

Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger on Unsplash

“God’s grace was something that was preached but not understood.”

God reminded me this past week that we all come from different places. Even members of the same church, who are fellow believers in Christ, have prior built foundations. Rules and family situations, that may have felt true and normal at the time, which turned out to be built on lies of men.

I’m reminded that if the backdrops of our lives can differ so much with those that are around us, what about those that we encounter online?

I think we can easily assume that others are just like us. Raised, perhaps, in stable families; Raised in churches that were more about God’s grace versus invented “Biblical” law.

“I was afraid to read the Bible.”

We assume so much in our day-to-day interactions. This week, when I was able to actually listen to someone, I heard a different story than my own. I had assumed, perhaps projected my own experience, and I was wrong.

God is teaching me to listen more intently. I can’t imagine growing up without the peace that God has shown me through his grace. I can’t imagine thinking that my slightest action was going to send me to hell. I’m sure my wearing shorts to church, more often than not, would secure me a permanent place there… if the laws I described above were founded in truth. Thankfully, God, in his grace, isn’t concerned about my clothing.

The lies of the devil are prevalent. His lies even infect the church. Be aware. Listen. Lift a fellow brother or sister up. Speak truth.

Peace.

We Cannot Bring About Lasting Change In Anyone

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Labor Day has thrown me off this week. I keep thinking that it is Tuesday when it is really Wednesday.

I’ve been wanting to share my notes from teaching through Paul Tripp’s Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family in Sunday School. Each week has been a good reminder of what I’d call Christianity 101. Foundational Biblical truths we all know, as Christians, and yet forget to live out.

Sunday morning, our topic was on Inability (Chapter 4). The key principle was: “Recognizing what you are unable to do is essential to good parenting.”

We started out by reading the following quote:

If you are going to be what God has designed you to be as a parent and do what he’s called you to do, you must confess one essential thing. This confession has the power to change much about the way you act and react toward your children. It is vital that you believe and admit that you have no power whatsoever to change your child. If any human being possessed the power to create lasting change in any other human being, again, Jesus would not have had to come! The incarnation, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus stand as clear historical evidence that human power for change does not exist.

And then shifted to talking about our inability to save ourselves from the punishment we deserve for sinning against a holy God. How only faith in Jesus Christ can bring about lasting change, in our lives, and save us.

Photo by Cristian Palmer on Unsplash

We then went over the Gospel presentation that our Children’s Director goes over with our kids. I think it’s helpful to know what our kids are going over AND the simple presentation is good for us adults.

As a class, we read through the following scriptures noted in the presentation:

  • Genesis 1:1; Revelation 4:11; Colossians 1:16-17; Romans 3:23; Romans 6:23; John 3:16; Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 5:8; Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 3:18; Acts 3:19; 1 John 1:9; Romans 10:9-10, 13.

Afterwards, discussing what Tripp calls “The Three Most Often Used Tools of Parental Power”.

  1. Fear – “the power we buy into here is that we can issue a big enough threat that creates a big enough fear to change our kids.”
  2. Reward – “This may be the most popular way we fight our inability to change our children. We manipulate them to do what we want them to do by holding certain reward in front of them.”
  3. Shame – “Shame and guilt are power tools that parents use more frequently than we recognize.”

Coming to the point where we realize that we cannot bring about lasting change in others, apart from Christ, is freeing. Whether in our friendships, relationships, or parenting, Christ is the only one who can bring about lasting change. We CANNOT change anyone, no matter how hard we try.

“Good parenting lives at the intersection of a humble admission of personal powerlessness and a confident rest in the power and grace of God.”

Remember who you are in Christ

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Social media is a mess. Everyone seems on edge. Nerves raw after what felt like a prolonged election cycle. Ready to explode when given the hidden signal or somebody sneezes on accident.

Social Media

My twitter feed has become a water pitcher filled with fear and adult temper tantrums. I get it, people are upset over the Presidential regime change. When you spend 8 years with one President, you are bound to feel shaken. Especially when the newly elected President is Donald “You’re Fired” Trump.

As a Christian it is easy to get caught up in the political vortex, to lash out without thinking. Easy to forget your identity.

Pastor Paul Tripp said it best in his devotional New Morning Mercies. As you go about your day:

“May God give you grace to remember your identity as His child in those moments when remembering is essential.”

Remembering is essential. As Mufasa told Simba in The Lion King, “Remember who you are.”

I want to challenge myself. I want to challenge you. Remember who you are when:

  • You are hastily typing out responses to a debate on Facebook
  • Your co-worker goes on a political rant
  • You feel compelled to correct someone in an un-Christlike manner

There is no need to pass along the negative emotions you are absorbing as you scroll through twitter.

Listen first. Limit your social media time/exposure. Be who God created you to be, remembering that you represent Him, now.

On the Verge of Fear

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There is a fine balance between acting in a responsible manner versus reacting in fear. The church has a responsibility to ensure that all are safe that walk through it’s doors.

The responsible church has plans for inclement weather. Plans to guard against predators who prey on children.

16 “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. – Matthew 10:16 (ESV)

What happens when the church falters from responsibility into fear? I have been wrestling with this question. Wisdom and innocence alight in a dance. Chuck Norris hired to defend the front door.

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My Name is Mahtob by Mahtob Mahmoody

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My Name is Mahtob is written from the perspective of the daughter from the book and motion picture, Not Without My Daughter; Mahtob Mahmoody. She shares her memories of how her mother and her escaped Iran and made it back to the United States. Only to live the rest of their lives in fear that her father would come and take Mahtob back to Iran. Her story also included how she forgave her father for what he did and continued to do in her life. She tells of how her mother, family friends, teachers, and the Lord helped her reach a place where she did not hate her father for the wake of destruction he caused.

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The recurring theme throughout this book is forgiveness. Her mother, realizing that Mathob was growing bitter, sought out ways to help her remember her father as a person, not the monster he had become. And also showed her that her heritage was not a bad thing, but something to be celebrated. Another recurring theme in this book is the fact that neither Mahtob nor her mother would say anything ill of the man who kidnapped them.

My Name is Mahtob was a page turner from the very beginning. My heart ached for the five/six year old girl who ran away with her mother from her father. I wanted to protect Mahtob, as a young adult, when her world was shattered once again by her father. My favorite part was in the last few chapters. Mahtob is still affected by the abuse her father caused but time and distance has made her realize a few things:

  • She has sorrow for a father that let his “dysfunction rule his life”.
  • That her own adaptability was due to her father’s absence in her life.
  • Her memories of her father were not “distorted” by others.

I thoroughly enjoyed my journey into Mahtob’s life.

I was given a copy of this book by BookLook Bloggers. All opinions are my own. I was not required to write a positive review.

Cultural Lies

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I am not usually down with Rick Warren, but I thought that this was a good quote:

Our culture has accepted two huge lies. The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense. You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate. – Pastor Rick Warren

Quote of the Day – Fear of Failure

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“The fear of making a wrong decision shouldn’t strip the faith right out of our faith. The only way our faith will ever strengthen is for us to use it. We need to apply thought and prayer to our decisions and then trust God for the outcome. We need to set our sights on growing in faith, not shrinking back for fear of failure.” – Lysa Terkeurst, The Best Yes

GamerGate

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I resigned from a position I enjoyed last week. A combination of social media overload and a recent controversy in the gaming culture deflated my sails. I’m truthfully not sure what to think about something I have considered a hobby since 1989. I dislike:

– The sudden hostile atmosphere online created by the GamerGate scandal. This goes for both Christians and non-Christians alike, who have succumbed to fear and ultimately emotion. GamerGate was an opportunity for rational/academic discourse on how people should be treated online and video game journalism ethics in general. Instead, wagons have been circled and all discourse has been shutdown.

The game has changed. I’m not sure what this means for me. I feel God is telling me to focus on what is important. Right now, I’m not sure gaming is.

At Church: Fear and Anxiety

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We all know the story. God compels Moses to go before Pharaoh and ask for the release of the Israelites. Pharaoh resists. Plagues ensue. Pharaoh eventually relents and Moses leads the people out of Egypt.

Once the Israelites left, Pharaoh suddenly has a change of heart:

When the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled, Pharaoh and his officials changed their minds about them and said, “What have we done? We have let the Israelites go and have lost their services!” So he had his chariot made ready and took his army with him. – Exodus 14:5-6 (NIV)

Notice that the Egyptians are not happy about losing their slave labor. So Pharaoh leads his army forth to recapture what he believes is rightfully his. God has other plans.

10 As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the Lord. 11 They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? – Exodus 14:10-11 (NIV)

God delivers his people from the Egyptians. In the end, Pharaohs army is wiped out in the Red Sea.

Like I was going to have a post about Moses parting the Red Sea and not include Mr. Charlton Heston.

Like I was going to have a post about Moses parting the Red Sea and not include Mr. Charlton Heston.

This morning, my Sunday school class started a new series on fear and anxiety. My teacher pointed out the difference between the Israelites’ response (they thought they were going to be whole sale slaughtered) and the Egyptians’ response (they wanted their slave labor back). Fear often causes us to believe things that are simply not true.

Lately, I have been reading through Jon Acuff’s Start. In the book, Jon suggests writing down our fears when they occur/paralyze us. After writing down the fear, Acuff suggests then writing down the truth beside it. So something like:

Fear: I am going to lose my job and never find one again.

Truth: I have job security due to my position and even if that isn’t true, I will be able to find another job due to my degree and experience.

Just want to encourage you today to kick fear in the face. Start by realizing that sometimes the things that we hear whispered in our heads are lies. So write them down. Capture them. Confront them with the truth. We can do this.

Surf Report – 5/6/2013

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Surf Report

Welcome to the Monday edition of the Surf Report.

.: God :

Ever since I can remember, my wife has told me that her dream was/is to be a stay-at-home mom. I knew this before I married her. This spring, after 8 years of teaching–I don’t know if she’ll ever know how proud I am of her–, we started praying over whether she should continue teaching or not. A few months later, the deadline for her contract renewal came up. We had to make a decision. Oddly, we both felt like she needed to stay home with our son. Now, what is odd about this is that we both crave comfort; we both crave the security that her job provides. Well, we ended up deciding that she won’t be teaching next year. This means big changes for the Hall household.

Last night, my pastor mentioned the above “balance beam” sermon by Francis Chan. Even though I have peace over the decision my wife and I made, I still feel like I have been desperately clinging to the balance beam of life. Not wanting to let go of the safety and comfort the balance beam provides. Sure, I’ll let go and tell God that he can have my stress, fear, and worry. Almost immediately though, I grab back onto the beam.

Following Christ is all about stepping out of our comfort zones. I know this. I don’t want to live a life of sheltered/calculated risk. I want to go and do what God is calling me to do…even if that means moving forward and letting go.

I don’t want to go where the majority goes…

.: Life :

See above.

.: Gaming :

I went out and bought 3 games on Saturday:

  • Trauma Center: Trauma Team (Wii)
  • Dragon Age 2 (PS3)
  • Metroid: Other M (Wii)

Trauma Center: Trauma Team – My wife and I fired up the Wii and immediately dove into surgery–once we figured out how to set up the controls for co-op–. Overall the game looks and plays like a Trauma Center game, no surprise there. I’ll keep ya’ll posted on this one.

Dragon Age 2

Dragon Age 2 – I am not the biggest fan of Dragon Age Origins. Origins is one of those games that I really want to like but just can’t seem to get into. Dragon Age 2, on the other hand, has been pretty awesome so far. I love the fluid magic system (I’m playing as a mage) and the character interaction. DA2 plays more like an action game with RPG elements versus DA1, which was an RPG with action elements. The $10 price tag makes the game even more awesome.

Metroid: Other M – Universally hated by reviewers due to it’s portrayal of series protagonist, Samus Aran. Metroid: Other M, features tight gameplay mixed with cutscenes that depict Samus as a girl with daddy issues. The disconnect between the Samus portrayed in the cutscenes versus the Samus I’m playing in the game is jarring. We’ll see if I keep going. My Wii’s disc drive was making some pretty crazy sounds while I was playing. If the Wii fails, this will be the second time I’ve had to send it in for repairs. Lame.

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That’s it for this weeks Surf Report. Make sure to comment below and have a good week!

Fear of Silence

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“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” – Blaise Pascal, Pensées

Lately, I have been leading a Bible study at my church on Wednesday nights. One of the things I’ve been learning is to be okay with silence. For some reason, we tend to fill moments of reflection with noise.

This past Sunday morning, the choir director at church had a musical interlude for what seemed a few minutes. Instead of focusing on what lyrics were next, I found myself alone in my thoughts. Quietly, I was able to reflect on the lyrics that had been sung and was able to simply pray.

Our words quickly lose meaning, effectively becoming white noise, when we won’t shut up for a second. Instead of living in fear of awkward pauses, I encourage you to be brave and embrace the reflective silence. Who knows, perhaps you’ll discover something new.