Be still.

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Be still.

 

Everything inside me screamed no.

 

I had written down all of the ways I needed God to act. All of the fronts on which I needed Him to move mountains. I’d prayed over each and every one, and surrendered them to Him by name – lifting them up like sacrifices on the altar.

 

Yet I found myself, three days later, sitting there—feeling like somehow my sacrifice had crawled back off of the altar.

 

Instead of seeing breakthrough, it seemed things had fallen into a greater state of uncertainty.

 

I needed God to act in big ways, and in an extremely short period of time. I needed some sort of clarity. I didn’t need to know the whole plan, but I needed to know the next right step.

 

I had pressing deadlines. Other people expected answers from me. I needed to know soon.

 

I felt anxious and desperate. I felt like I had to do something.

 

And then I realized, maybe my sacrifice hadn’t crawled off of the altar. Maybe I had taken it off when I thought God wasn’t looking.

 

I had told my friends and family I was trusting entirely in God. That I was trusting in His goodness and His timing.

 

I was praying for God’s best, and knowing that if He brought it, it would be wonderful. A testimony. A life story.

 

Note the “if.” While I was praying for breakthrough, I was busy on my end—trying to put together a contingency plan in case God let me down.

 

Now, this fear was unfounded. God had never let me down before. He had always come through at the right time, in a way that turned out to be miraculous, and for the best of all those involved.

 

But somehow, I still recognized a seed of distrust. I needed to make my own plans just in case. God was working all things together for everybody. Maybe I served a God of 4-6 business days. Maybe He wouldn’t make it by the time I needed Him.

 

I’d prayed three days before for Him to act with immediacy. And I sat there, three days later, feeling like everything had immediately fallen apart.

 

Enter the command to “Be still.”

 

If everything is falling apart, it’s our knee-jerk reaction to put it back together. To not be still. To be proactive. People praise us for being proactive.

 

So, everything in me was holding firm against “being still.”

 

Being still? Resting in the Lord. I didn’t want to rest. Then I would have to remember how everything had fallen apart. I’d take my eyes on the future and have to dwell on the present. That felt hopeless.

 

But we serve a God of hope, not hopelessness.

 

And I didn’t understand what “be still” really meant.

 

“Be still” comes from the Hebrew word “rapha”, meaning “to let go” or “to release”. It is a battle command, not a passive statement.

 

The exact phrase “be still” is used at two pivotal moments in the Old Testament:

 

Exodus 14:14 – “The Lord will fight for you, you need only to be still.”

Moses says this to the Israelites, who found themselves standing—“terrified”—between the approaching Egyptian army and the Red Sea.

 

Actually, Moses says all of this:

“DO NOT BE AFRAID. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you, you need only to be still.”

 

And immediately after Moses issued this statement, the Lord commanded the Israelites to “move on” and parted the Red Sea.

 

Do not be afraid. Stand firm. Be still. And see God act today. At the time that is most needed, and in a way that will make an impact.

 

Trust Him with what’s attacking you, and the “enemies” (impossible challenges, desperate needs) you face today will be solved or eradicated.

 

Psalm 46:10 – “He says, ‘Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted in the earth.’”

Psalm 46 is written when David is on the run. It starts by detailing how God is our “refuge and strength, our ever-present help in times of trouble”. (There goes my God of 4-6 business days.)

 

Like Exodus 14, David then makes the statement, “We will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.”

 

Though the things around us are falling apart, though we are on shaking ground, we will not fear BECAUSE “the Lord Almighty is with us.”

 

In verse 5, we see “God is within her, she will not fall.”

 

God is within me. I will not fall.

 

“Being still” has nothing to do with God’s ability to work and everything to do with reminding ourselves who He is. What He has done. What He will do.

 

Be still. Let go.

 

 

 

“Be still and know that I’m with you,

Be still and know that I am here.

Be still and know that I’m with you.

Be still, be still, and know.

 

When darkness comes upon you,

And covers you with fear and shame

Be still and know that I’m with you

And I will say your name.

 

If terror falls upon your bed,

And sleep no longer comes,

Remember all the words I said.

Be still, be still, and know.

 

When you go through the valley,

And shadows come down from the hill.

If morning never comes to be,

Be still. Be still. Be still.

 

If you forget the way to go,

And lose where you came from.

If no one is standing beside you,

Be still, and know I am.

 

Be still and know I Am.”

~Be Still, The Fray

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The Right Question

“You’re not asking the right questions.”

 

The private detective was standing opposite the police chief, firmly placing his hands on the worn wooden desk between them. “What about the…” and with that, the detective launched into the train of thought that had led to his recent epiphany.

 

What led to this moment?

 

The chief and his department had already issued their verdict on the case, but the detective sensed there was more to it than met the eye. He’d spent the past weeks pouring back over the evidence—each clue, each photograph, and each statement.

 

At first glance, it seemed that the initial verdict was right—everything seemed to point to the suspect that the police currently had in custody. But as the detective started to look at the evidence from other angles and piece together alternate scenarios, he realized there were crucial gaps that the first investigation failed to recognize. There were minutes that were not accounted for, and slight discrepancies that didn’t add up. He’d visited each of the eyewitnesses once more, this time with a new set of questions. These questions were met with a new set of answers—and now, he knew the real culprit.

 

*          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *

 

“You’re not asking the right questions.”

 

This time, the statement came from my best friend on the other end of the line.

 

“If you keep asking the wrong questions, you’ll get the wrong answers,” she continued.

 

I was frustrated. I was asking the questions others seemed to have asked in my situation, or were asking of me now. I was asking the questions that seemed natural.

 

Natural. Funny, that’s not what they were at all.

 

We live in a world where we are constantly bombarded with messages. The average person receives over 5,000 advertising messages a day—and this doesn’t begin to include the messages we receive from media, church, colleagues, friends, and family.

 

Even social cues send us subliminal messages. If someone is standing with their arms crossed, they are closed off, protecting themselves, and not as receptive to what we’re saying. If they’re leaning in towards us—eyes big and smiling—we sense enthusiasm and excitement. We feel confident, and start to mirror their excitement and energy.

 

In short, the messages we receive are powerful—they’ve shaped and reinforced our identity since we were kids. Many of these messages are positive—ones of affirmation, inclusion, and optimism. But we also are confronted with messages that question who we’ve become and what we believe, and cause us to re-examine our identities in ways that may not be for the best.

 

Just like reciting the ABC’s, repeated “reception” (bombardment) of these messages causes us to learn and adopt different ways of thinking and acting. We learn certain ways to behave and act—and questions to ask—in different scenarios.

 

For example, we’ve learned through the right messages and experiences that God is good, and we can trust that goodness. So in trials, we naturally start to act out of a place of confidence and victory. We are not daunted. We don’t ask, “Will He be good again?” We state, “I can trust Him for goodness today—and always.”

 

But, sometimes these “learnings” aren’t as healthy. They might teach us that because something is going wrong, it must be our fault. It can teach us to ask questions like “What have I done?” or “What does he / she think of me?” that may lead us to the wrong conclusions.

 

“What does he / she think of me?”

 

Wow. That’s a good example.

 

When we’re interested in someone, we take his or her perception of us into much greater account. You start putting greater care into what you wear when you see them. You take an interest in their interests, and hope they return the interest. You start to pick up on cues when they’re with you—“He did this when I said this” or “She leaned in when I started talking about this.”

 

Now, this is all good and natural. Positive messages received on both sides are what start beautiful friendships and relationships. Our ability to perceive is a wonderful, Godly gift. These friendships and relationships are wonderful, Godly gifts.

 

And, clearly these perceptions may change the way we act. “He likes it when I wear blue.” and we may start to buy more in that color. Or, “she likes it when I hold her hand.” Perceptions and subsequently adjusted behaviors can make both people feel loved, heard, and valued.

 

However, through all of these things, we must be careful in how the questions we ask of the other person—and how we interpret our perceived “answers”—evolve.

 

Then, it’s easy to start taking our questions of, “Who am I?” and “Who should I be?” to this other person to answer, instead of to God.

 

This transfer of identity is the number one destroyer of relationship.

 

In complete honesty, I’ve learned that I’m not—and nobody is—qualified to answer these questions about themselves, let alone assume the responsibility of trying to answer them for another person.

 

Let’s zoom out now—we also may be taking these identity questions, “Who am I?” and “Who should I be?”, to our job, our society, or our hobbies.

 

Whoever we are currently asking to answer these questions, they are ultimately meant to be answered by our Creator—our Savior, the Lover of our Souls, the Author of our Faith.

 

Author. That mean’s He’s writing the story. He has crafted a purpose that is unique to us, and our place in His Kingdom. And only when we start asking the right questions, of the right Person, do we get the right answers and find ourselves in the right place.

 

Right questions. Right Answerer. Right answers. Right purpose.

 

Warrior Heart

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“She needed a hero, so she became one.”

 

I was defeated.

 

As I sat on the steps of Lincoln Center, I tried to assess the current state of my heart. It normally beat strong and bold—like a warrior going into battle, confident of victory and singing along the way.

 

That night, though, it felt like my brave heart had been pummeled in a fistfight. I could see the warrior’s black eyes and bruising, and feel the weakened heartbeat inside her chest.

 

The warrior had valiantly taken on the challenges and battles of the last few weeks, guided by the King’s plans and aided by His reinforcements. She had faced these challenges with hope, courage, and joy—confident in the King, and her identity in Him.

 

She loved and swore allegiance to the King. She was passionate about the King’s kingdom and cause. She fought bravely and continued to take back ground in the King’s name; yet, the increased reclamation of enemy territory was met with even greater resistance. Whether guerrilla warriors or full-on battalions, the warrior started facing conflict on two fronts, then three—still taking on each challenge in the King’s name, but her energy and resources now spread more thinly.

 

She started to focus so much on fighting the battles that it slowed her communication with the King, so intent on proving her worth that she didn’t ask the King to send reinforcements. And in this fog of combat, she became vulnerable.

 

She started to act on what she thought that the King would want her to do, instead of going back to the King for His plans to victory. She started listening to voices other than that of the King—voices that knowingly or unknowingly started to chip away at the warrior’s armor. Instead of affirming the warrior’s strengths, they penetrated her weaknesses. She faltered and questioned her ability to win the battle. She lost her joy—her secret weapon from the King—and the blows of the enemy started to make dents and leave bruises.

 

And so I sat on the steps of Lincoln Center with my bruised soldier of a heart – feeling quite weak and in need of triage.

 

In tears, I lifted my hurting but persevering heart up to the King.

 

I needed Him to come rescue His Warrior Princess. I didn’t have to beg, plead, or prove myself—before I could finish my whispered prayer, my King and Defender was at my side. An overwhelming sense of relief brought tears to my eyes.

 

My identity in the King rushed back to me.

I am HIS.

I am LOVED (Romans 8:39).

I am COMPLETE (Colossians 2:10).

I am FREE (Galatians 5:1).

I am created for a PURPOSE (Philippians 3:13-14).

I am His HEIR. His PRINCESS (Romans 8:17).

I am His AMBASSADOR (2 Corinthians 5:20).

I am HOLY and BLAMELESS in His sight (Ephesians 1:4).

I am POWERFUL and clothed in His ARMOR (Ephesians 6:10-18).

I am MORE THAN A CONQUERER (Romans 8:37).

I am already VICTORIOUS (John 16:33).

I am UNIQUELY DESIGNED for His purposes—for each of the relationships I’m in, and each of the challenges that I face (Psalm 139:13).

I am JOYFUL and, therefore, STRONG (Nehemiah 8:10).

 

I was reminded that my joy is a special and sacred gift that allows me to wield the weapon called worship. This joy arises out of the confidence I have in Christ (Romans 15:13) and my joy also gives me strength (Nehemiah 8:10), which is renewed by hope (Romans 15:13). And I can do ALL THINGS through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13). Therefore, with JOY I am able to do ALL THINGS.

 

So, for me, this joy is to be protected above almost all else. When I had allowed myself to become sapped of my joy, I had been sapped of my strength and vulnerable to attacks of the enemy.

 

Now, understand that joy does not equal happiness. Being joyful in all things does not mean I am constantly happy. Joy comes from knowing that God is in control, surrendering all to Him, trusting in His goodness, and not allowing anything to quiet the hope that beats in my chest. Confident hope that He is working all things together for Kingdom good, and for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purposes.

 

Hope that he is working all things together for my good, as one who loves Him and is called according to His purposes.

 

And because of that hope, I have a reason—and a RIGHT—to worship Him in any circumstance. Worship changes everything.

 

Praise is celebration. Worship is adoration. Worship is a weapon—it presents a problem for your problems. It will move mountains. Yet, sometimes when I’m praying for the mountain in front of me to move, I really need to be asking if God is first trying to move a mountain inside of me. My situation may not change right away, but with worship—my perspective and approach to the situation will.

 

Sitting on the steps, I remembered what someone once told me: “The minute you start serving Jesus, you become a problem in Hell, so everything in your life will be opposed. So it’s good to know if you’ve got some problems and drama and opposition, you’re probably on the right track to change the world.”

 

And then, I remembered a line from the book that inspired this Warrior Princess so long ago: “‘Courage, dear heart,’ and the voice, she felt sure, was Aslan’s.” ~ C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

 

Courage, dear heart.

 

Review: Caffé Storico

A tasteful juxtaposition of culture and cuisine, in an atmosphere that’s bright, white, and beautiful.

Caffe Storico is a gem, nestled into the New York Historical Society on the Upper West Side.

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(Photo credit: NYHistory.org)

 

Culture

White marble cafe tables match the white marble statues—the Society’s inner hallways are visible to diners through vaulted windows, offering a one-of-a-kind view. Additional windows offer a view of 77th Street and drench the cafe in natural light. The Caffe’s high ceilings and sparkling gold chandeliers add a touch of elegance—especially in the evening—and coupled with wood accents, create an atmosphere that’s polished yet slightly whimsical.
It’s a uniquely NY experience—and, there’s nothing like walking up the beautifully-lit stone steps of the New York Historical Society to impress friends or a dinner date.
Cuisine
From dinner to drinks, all was scrumptious. Executive Chef Tim Kensett crafts each entree to showcase local ingredients within authentic Italian dishes. We started with the Tagliatelle con Asparagus (with bianchi and lemon ricotta), fresh yet flavorful, followed by the Gnocchi di Patate. Personally, the Gnocchi was my favorite dish of the evening—each piece was airy and fluffy, and the pecorino sardo brought out a creamy, rich quality. The meal culminated in a succulent lamb entree with featured, steamed local vegetables and drizzled with savory juices.
Caffe Storico is one of my new favorite spots in the City, and its seasonal menu makes each visit an exceptional experience. Highly recommended.
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(Photo credit: CUNY.edu)