I need to clear my head!

 

What’s in your head? Do you ever find the time to block out distractions and listen to your thoughts? For most of us our thoughts are so many and often racing that we can feel very anxious when we listen to all that’s buzzing around up there. Quieting our minds is an amazing challenge, one that often we can’t do unless it’s first thing in the morning or last thing at night before we fall asleep. And even if those times may seem quiet externally they are sometimes the busiest moments in our heads since we have time to think about all there is to do and all we haven’t done – getting the kids off to school on time, unpaid bills, phone messages, texts, Facebook, news, work, even friends and fun which still keep us from ourselves.

 

My single friends look at the couples and feel lonely. My married friends wish they had more alone time. My retired friends want jobs to stay engaged. My working friends want more vacations. My parent friends are running ragged with child needs. My couples without children wish they had kids.

 

Being cognizant of these perceptions of others is not just a reminder to be grateful for our lives. Nor to stop coveting our neighbors’. Often our mental analysis of others and ourselves only serves to make our perceived lives seem unsatisfying and seemingly chaotic. More importantly by becoming aware that we create unnecessary drama and dissatisfaction through our thoughts rather than by actual facts, we become mindful of the need to become comfortable with our inner self. As we become more at peace with our lives, and our self, we become more able to hear Him.

 

Each of us have giant to-do lists. And each day we make progress, or not, on them, as they continually grow anyway. Our to-dos actually never end. The challenge is to deliberately break from the cycle and put at the top of that list to turn off the outside demands and seek inner quiet. A very effective way to make this happen is to read from Scripture. My favorite is the good old “Bible dip”, just see what passage you open up to and be wowed how relevant it is to your day at that moment. Or you can be more deliberate and read the parsha passages for the week. Prayer is incredibly helpful, randomly through the day or systematically as do more observant Jews who pray Shacharit, Mincha, and Maariv – morning, afternoon, and evening prayers. These appointments with HaShem prioritize Him through planned breaks from the secular.

 

So how does one find the time to do this? That challenge alone can create a whole new level of stress and racing thoughts. Think small. Don’t even try it when you’re in demand (driving, responding to a child, on a project with no break). But the process can be as simple as closing your eyes and breathing deeply while thanking HaShem for this very moment of life. Just doing that disconnects you from the secular distractions and perceptions we attach to them. Play some beautiful Messianic music in the background, while driving or while making a meal. Involve in Scripture reading and prayer those in your life who may be part of the perceptual dramas as ways to center the relationship. Once there is more peace together, there can be progress toward a more quiet self. For families with children, as you probably already know, there are no better bedtime stories to read than those about Moses and Messiah. No matter what the day has brought, ending it in that space calms both the parent and the child as we disconnect from all that pulls us from Him and focus on His glory.

 

When left to our own inner world of thoughts we can often feel discouraged, overwhelmed, hopeless, anxious. Not that we are negative by nature but we may misinterpret and sometimes overly dramatize or distort life’s happenings through our individual filters. When we still those thoughts by disengaging from such negative or stressful perceptions we are able to fill our spirit first with quiet, then with calm, as HaShem ministers to us through the Ruach. We feel the presence of our Messiah taking onto himself our burdens. It actually is palpable.

 

I urge you to give it a try. For starters, wake in the morning with a prayer of thankfulness, even if just for a few moments. Try to find little opportunities, while car pooling the kids or vacuuming, or commuting to or from work, while doing yard work, when mourning a lost relationship, to clear your head and make room for Him. Especially before bed try a Scripture reading or nighttime prayer to drift you off to His place through the night. I think you can sense Him there with you right now as you’ve taken the time to disengage from whatever you were doing and to focus on Him just by reading this Shabbat encouragement. That’s all it takes. . .

 

Shabbat shalom.

Diane

 

 

 

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  1. Stacey Stevens Reply

    Wise words, Dianele! Interestingly, I’ve just finished reading two books on that very same subject matter – that of slowing down our thoughts, and the pace of our lives. Without even realizing it, we can become prideful and thus develop an overinflated sense of our own importance because of all the things we do – even good, ‘religious’ activities that are ‘for God’ – that we can very easily miss out on those moments spent just hanging out with God, hearing from Him, and enjoying His presence. Time is a precious gift, the one thing that we cannot store up and save, to be used at a more opportune moment. (Just ask anyone who is suffering with a terminal illness.)

    Our God is the God of Now; as we corporately confess at while singing ‘Adon Olam’ at the conclusion of our Shabbat morning service: “He was, He is, and He will be…”. Even his Name, ‘I AM’, which we are not supposed to pronounce because it is too holy, causing us to refer to Him instead as ‘Adonai’ (‘Lord’) or ‘HaShem’ (‘The Name’), comes from the root of the Hebrew verb ‘to be’. There are myriad different names for God found all throughout scripture, but Yeshua teaches us about and exemplifies intimacy with our ‘Abba’, the Father-God Who loves us and is with us and in us at every moment of every day.

    Romans Chapter 8:15-16 says that The Ruach HaKodesh bears witness with our spirit that we have received a spirit of adoption as children, by which we cry out, “Abba! Father”. Yeshua points us back to that intimate relationship that was lost in the Garden of Eden, not because we ate of the ‘forbidden fruit’, but because we chose to listen to the voice of the Evil One which caused us to doubt and lose trust in Him, to choose intellectual knowledge over His loving presence and provision…and then we ate.

    We certainly want to enjoy that intimate relationship with God and experience the peace and the power for living that only His Presence can bring. How do we, in this day and age, with multiple responsibilities and distractions, whether in the workplace, at school, or in the home, with children or with aging parents, ever manage to find the time?

    It is here that I’d like to recommend those two books that I mentioned earlier on. One is entitled ‘Rhythms of Grace: Discovering God’s Temp for Your Life’ by Kerri Weems. Weems writes: “I used to think of my relationship with God as one thing, and my schedule as another…I came to realize that the way in which I view time and my relationship to it is not merely a framework for managing my spiritual activities, but rather, a profound reflection of my spiritual life…

    …When God placed Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, He gave them dominion over space…but we were never meant to conquer time. Time is God’s dominion alone. People are desperate to conquer time…so we trade on credit the only thing that we can’t conquer. Work (whether done in Eden outside of it), relationships, and health…are all just pieces of the bigger picture of shalom…the fragmenting that comes from putting those areas of life at odds with one another is not what God intended for us from the beginning, nor is it what He intends for us now…the key is not finding the perfect balance of work and worship; it is seeing all that we do as worship…sanctifying and redeeming the time by offering all (even – or especially – the most mundane or unpleasant of) our activities up to God in a spirit of gratitude.” I love how The Message Bible puts it in Romans 12:1-2: “So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside-out!”

    Weems quotes Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel’s teaching about our being attached to holiness in time, rather than in space (echoes of this teaching can be heard in Steve McConnell’s song ‘Yom Zeh’ (‘This Day’) when he sings “Let this day be a sanctuary in time…”). She likens our calendars and schedules as the wood and stone in which we are building the temple of our lives on earth, and poses the question, “What kind of temple do you want to build?” She talks about getting off the performance grid, being present where we are, being intentional about carving time out to be with our families, wisely evaluating opportunities that come up by saying no to even good things instead of saying yes for the wrong reasons, and having the integrity to be real about owning our imperfections and embracing our limitations. You have mentioned several excellent and very doable suggestions in her message.

    The other book, entitled, ‘More: How to Move from Activity for God to Intimacy with God’ by Greg Hawkins, is coming out in August and is another excellent read! Hawkins writes, “…at the end of the day – and at the end of our lives, for that matter – all of our accomplishments and possessions will not last. God and other people are the only things that will last into eternity, and loving them is the only job that ultimately matters.” He goes on to say that, while all of our activity with and for God in our spiritual communities is good, it does not, and cannot, lead to the soul-satisfaction and ‘life that is truly life’ that can only be found in an intimate relationship with God.

    The author begins by getting us to recognize the place in which many of us have been living all along: ‘in the Kingdom of Me, with a little bit of God thrown in when we need Him to help us’. This looks good at the outset, but when we delve deeper, we find that it is underpinned by fear and anxiety, leading to self-reliance – the belief that everything depends on us and our efforts, and that we must work ourselves to death in order to protect and provide for ourselves and our families. We labor under the lie that if we don’t take care of these things ourselves, then no one else will. But, Hawkins writes, God never intended for us to shoulder this kind of pressure! His original plan was that we would live in His Kingdom and that He would protect us and provide all that we need. In listening to the voice of the Evil One, we choose not to trust Him, and instead we take that heavy yoke upon ourselves under the guise of ‘being responsible’. He writes:

    “This present existence that we call ‘living’ feels very real and urgent, like if we didn’t have it, something in us would die. But in order to live the life that is truly life, Jesus tells us that we must lose in order to gain and die in order to live, which is backward, according to the world’s fallen way of thinking. When we have to surrender our agendas, we realize that we’ve bought into a culture that is based on achieving and acquiring. We’ve been trained from childhood to be consumers, and we even approach our faith that way. We consume a little of God in order to make our lives better, and for awhile, the illusion that we are in control and in the driver’s seat of our lives, with God as our ‘help desk’ seems to work. If we are honest with ourselves, we sense that there is more, but we are afraid of what it will cost us to find it. We have so much invested in our ‘Kingdom of Me’ that the idea of walking away is terrifying, until the unexpected happens (such as an illness or the loss of a job or a loved one) that shakes us to our very core, causing us to realize that we have absolutely no control over anything! Our kingdoms are bankrupt and in foreclosure, our assets have no value in God’s economy, and our resources are insufficient for meeting the demands of life.”

    “What in our thinking and in our practice needs to change,” Hawkins asks, “so that we can live a life of more?” There is no secret formula for being intimate with Jesus, but he cites such practices as Diane has mentioned in her message, including: being mindful and confessing to God when we find ourselves slipping back into our ‘Kingdom of Me’ mindsets; slowing down and taking time to be still and listen to Him through reading the bible reflectively; realizing that He is not only with us, but in us, and that He loves us unconditionally; trusting Him by living in the present and doing the next thing, rather than obsessing about tomorrow; and being open to opportunities for loving and serving others, both inside and outside of our worship communities.

    “But the biggest ‘secret’ of all (and probably one of the hardest things for us to do) is to eliminate hurry from our lives, lest we live in danger of actually missing out on our lives! We need to learn to cultivate the ability to slow down, reconnect with God, be present to Him and the people we’re with, and discover what He wants us to do to in order to love and serve them in the moment. When we slow down, we can trust, we can be grateful, and we won’t miss our lives. I’m not suggesting that we become slackers, or that we quit looking ahead completely; we still need to prepare for things in advance. It’s all a matter of keeping everything in God’s eternal perspective. So what it all comes down to is this: what to you want: an ordinary life, with God, or life itself? You decide.”

    Thank you, Dianele, for your very important reminder about clearing our heads. Let’s also clear our schedules and hearts!

    Hugz in HaShem –

    Stacele

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