Turn Down For What?

by Melissa Parkhouse

Noise.

It’s pervasive.  Intrusive.

It’s so much a part of our daily lives that we don’t realise what we are hearing anymore.  We’ve dulled our senses to tune it out.

A few years ago when wind storms knocked out power throughout most of our city for 2 days, I was struck by how quiet it was!  Inside a home with no furnace running.  No electricity buzzing.  No appliances humming…

Just.  Silence.

With no power there was a different kind of silence too.  No TV.  No internet.  No email.  No distractions.

We live in a culture today that demands immediate attention at all times.  TV’s become the background noise to our existence.  Commercials get louder and more invasive.  Smart phones create immediate access to billions of bits of information at a moments notice.  They buzz.  They chime.  And all those the little red notifications of “look at me now! I demand your immediate response!”  Friends can text instead of call.  Exchanging brief moments of interaction for real connection.  We are distracted by everything that is vying for our attention.  And we are held prisoners by the demands of the lives that we have built.

But is this the kind of environment that the human heart was designed to flourish in?

Over and over throughout the life of Jesus we see him withdrawing from crowds, and even his disciples, to be still and pray (Luke 5:16).  He would withdraw from crowds, he would head out into the wilderness, he would find lonely places, so that he could be alone with his Father.

Even Jesus had to be intentional in creating space to hear from God.

So why don’t we?

There are several reasons we run toward noise and away from silence:

1. Silence is Confrontative.

Being still with only the company of yourself can be scary.  We often keep the noise level high because we don’t actually like who we are.  Stillness gives us time to evaluate the inconsistencies in our lives- and that can be downright painful!  We choose busy over growth.  We choose avoidance over change.  We choose noise to mask the discomfort of our existence.

2. We’re in Pain

Chances are there isn’t a person reading this blog who has not suffered pain in one way, shape, or another.  We are highly aware of the sting of rejection, the painful embarrassment of shame, the sharp stab of guilt, or other forms of assault that have damaged us to the core of our being.  When we’re in pain, we want to escape it.  So we choose our drug of choice: chronic busy-ness, technology additions and overpacked schedules.  We create elaborate, busy lives to stay far away from the pain in our hearts.

3. We’re Afraid

What will you discover if you were to put down the computer and just be still?  Are you afraid of what you will find?  Will what you discover force you to change?  Change is uncomfortable but it is absolutely necessary to live the life that you were called and destined for!

The other aspect of fear is we are afraid that if we set aside time to be still and listen and perhaps lean into the Lord, that He won’t show up.  That He does speak, but not to you.  That lie is straight from hell and designed to keep you far away from your loving Father.  The testimony of Scripture is that God is the God who loves to speak to his children.

One of the best things you can do for your personal and  spiritual growth is turn down the noise level in your life. That doesn’t just mean volume, it also means turning down distractions, interruptions and busy-ness in favor of creating space in your life where you can have quietness, stillness and focused attention on the Lord.  So I challenge you.  Turn down the noise level in your life.  For the benefit of your entire being, turn it down.

You might discover that you not only like it, but that your life begins to flourish as a result.

Here is a short list of things you might try as you work on turning down the volume level of your life:

1. Clear some time in your schedule.

Is everything on your schedule absolutely necessary?  Take some time to sift through the essential and non essential things on your to-do list and weekly schedule.  Block out time for stillness.  Put it on your calendar and schedule things around those times you have set.

2. Turn off the technology

Shut off the TV.  Turn off the music.  Walk away from your computer screen.  Turn your phone off.  Log out of social media. There is nothing in your life that is so urgent that you cannot leave each one of those technologies alone for an hour or more each day.  If you struggle with doing that, I challenge you to evaluate your addiction to the technology in your life.

3. Turn off the push notifications

You are not at the beck and call of a digital device.  You can decide when you want to check your email or social media page.  The urgency goes away when you don’t have chimes, vibrations and little red icons demanding your attention all the time.

4. Set some healthy boundaries

If your schedule is overpacked because you have a hard time saying no to people, it’s time to lovingly stop saying yes.   It’s important to be clear on your boundaries so you can determine who has access to your life and how much. That’s not mean or unChristlike, it’s wisdom!  Make a list: Who will I always give time to?  That should be a pretty short list and definitely should include God, time for yourself, your family and a few key friends.  Everything else can work around a reasonable schedule in your life.

Turn down for what?  Turn down for the benefit of your soul.  Turn down, to learn a new way of being.  Turn down, so you can connect with the Lover of your soul.  Turn down, so you can gain life.

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Created for Relationship

Relationship in Chinatown NYC
 Chinatown NYC

Last week at Anchorage City Church we dove into the attribute of God’s triune nature. His great mystery of being three in one. The big take away from our cursory overview was that we are created for relationship because God Himself is relationship. Relationship is not something God merely does or values, It is someone He is. We took time at the end of the service to practice this and to be in relationship with each other. We met with people we didn’t know and talked about projects we could work on together as a church. It was a bit of a curve ball, but I loved it. Our experiment didn’t allow time to put some application points in everybody’s notes either.

So here are a few things to chew on from Wayne Grudem’s Systematic theology that will be helpful.

1. Why is God pleased when people exhibit faithfulness, love, and harmony within a family? What are some ways in which members of your family reflect the diversity found in the members of the Trinity? How does your family reflect the unity found among members of the Trinity? What are some ways in which your family relationships could reflect the unity of the Trinity more fully? How might the diversity of persons in the Trinity encourage parents to allow their children to develop different interests from each other, and from their parents, without thinking that the unity of the family will be damaged?

2. Have you ever thought that if your church allows new or different kinds of ministries to develop, that it might hinder the unity of the church? Or have you thought that encouraging people to use other gifts for ministry than those that have been used in the past might be divisive in the church? How might the fact of unity and diversity in the Trinity help you to approach those questions?

3. Do you think that the trinitarian nature of God is more fully reflected in a church in which all the members have the same racial background, or one in which the members come from many different races (see Eph. 3:1–10)?

4. In addition to our relationships within our families, we all exist in other relationships to human authority in government, in employment, in voluntary societies, in educational institutions, and in athletics, for example. Sometimes we have authority over others, and sometimes we are subject to the authority of others. Whether in the family or one of these other areas, give one example of a way in which your use of authority or your response to authority might become more like the pattern of relationships in the Trinity.

5. If we see the trinitarian existence of God as the fundamental basis for all combinations of unity and diversity in the universe, then what are some other parts of creation that show both unity and diversity (for example: the interdependency of environmental systems on the earth, or the fascinating activity of bees in a hive, or the harmonious working of the various parts of the human body)? Do you think God has made us so that we take spontaneous delight in demonstrations of unity in diversity, such as a musical composition that manifests great unity and yet great diversity of various parts at the same time, or in the skillful execution of some planned strategy by members of an athletic team working together?

6. In the being of God we have infinite unity combined with the preservation of distinct personalities belonging to the members of the Trinity. How can this fact reassure us if we ever begin to fear that becoming more united to Christ as we grow in the Christian life (or becoming more united to one another in the church) might tend to obliterate our individual personalities? In heaven, do you think you will be exactly like everyone else, or will you have a personality that is distinctly your own? How do eastern religions (such as Buddhism) differ from Christianity in this regard?

May His grace, mercy, courage and joy be found in us all!

Rich