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James Meehan - In the Midst of Silence

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    James Meehan - In the Midst of Silence
TOPICS: Culture Makers

James Meehan: Welcome to this week of Switch Uncut, where we are continuing our conversation about what is faith, why does it matter, and how do we live by faith? We're currently in a message series titled By Faith, where in the first week we explored the idea of learning to trust the story that starts with a good beginning and a loving creator. Then in this most recent week's message, we talked about how, if we really want to trust the story, then first we actually have to meet the author. And we were introduced by Alison to this practice known as silence and solitude. And so what we want to do today is actually a little bit different, where instead of responding to specific questions, we just want to share with you what our journey of silence and solitude looks like, how we practice it, how we create space to experience the presence of God. And so that way you can hear two different versions of it that will hopefully give you some insight, maybe some ideas, some tips and tricks on how you can create space for God in your own life to experience His presence. So without further ado, I'm going to pitch things off to our co-host Kaitlyn Caffrey to sort of just introduce to us what this looks like for her. So Kaitlyn, tell us what you got.

Kaitlyn Caffrey: Yeah. Cool, I'm excited to talk about this. Honestly, being super honest, this is, this was a harder spiritual practice for me to get into. I tend to be like a really active doer. I just want to do all the things. And sometimes it can be hard for me to slow myself down and create some space to just be with God. And I think that's what these practices are all about. The silence and solitude is so much less about doing and so much more about being.

James Meehan: So good.

Kaitlyn Caffrey: And that's the transition that I have to make in my heart and in my soul as I start to step into these moments. And for me, something that was really helpful as I started was to know that structure is good, and okay, and helpful. I didn't have to just sit there in pure and utter silence, doing absolutely nothing to do this practice well. It wasn't like, okay, everyone go away, all noise off, let me put on some noise-canceling headphones, and just sit here in kind of a meditative state. No, it wasn't that. For me, it started with just creating some structure around what I did with my time in the morning. And this looked like using the SOAP method for me. First, like that was the first thing that I learned when I first started making space for God in my morning. And for people who don't know what that means, it's just an acronym that stands for scripture, observation, application, and prayer. And that was kind of how I structured my quiet time, my silence and solitude time with Jesus in the morning when I first started. And it was that structure that kind of created a springboard as I developed more and more intimacy with Jesus, having a structure as a starting place and as a foundation to build upon was really helpful for me.

James Meehan: When you talk about SOAP, you said scripture, observation, application, prayer, like break that down, let's get nitty gritty. You say scripture, what does that look like? What does that mean? How do you do that?

Kaitlyn Caffrey: For me, that started with picking a chapter of the Bible that I wanted to focus on that morning. So whether that be a chapter of the Gospels or like a Proverb or something like that, I would take that chapter and just read it all the way through at least one time, and that's what the scripture part of that was like for me.

James Meehan: Okay, great.

Kaitlyn Caffrey: And then moving on to the observation part, I'd have a journal or like a journaling Bible in some seasons of my life where I would just underline, highlight, write down the things that stuck out to me about that chapter, whether that'd be something that was like, oh dang, that's so good, or something that I was like, I have no idea what that means. And I would just write that down, and just like write down my question, or write down my observation. And then application would be like, okay, how do I take the truths that I'm learning about God, about myself, or about other people in this passage and try to walk that out today. And I would write down one or two action steps.

James Meehan: Interesting, yeah, yeah.

Kaitlyn Caffrey: And then I would just close the whole thing off with prayer, and that prayer would usually look like, you know, praying through those questions that I had, or, and or, praying through asking God to give me opportunities to apply what I had just learned that day. Risky, let me tell you, especially if you're reading something about patience, or like not getting angry at people, or like forgiving people, watch out, because He'll, He will give you those opportunities.

James Meehan: That right there is absolutely brilliant. So here's what's crazy is, literally, that was one of the first structures I used, was also the SOAP method. Because I remember when I first became a Christian, I knew quiet time matters, right? Quiet time is the way that a lot of people will describe silence and solitude. And usually it consists of some amount of reading the Bible, some amount of prayer, and some portion of just sitting and being still, and trying to hear the voice of God. And I'm also a very similar way where I really like structure, like I don't need too much structure, but I need at least a little bit to help me feel like I'm actually doing something. And I remember at first, when I started following Jesus, you know, I would just do YouVersion Bible plans, and those were a really helpful way to begin the process of learning to read the Bible and be exposed to what different people thought about the Bible. And what I realized though, is that over time I started craving more and more of the Bible and not quite as much of the devotional and commentaries that were a part of it. And so I noticed that even the types of Bible plans I would read started to shift, where I would look for more that were just, maybe instead of one or two verses with three or four paragraphs of commentary, I started looking for no, like give me a chapter at a time. And the more I started to read the Bible in longer passages, like what you described, like a chapter at a time, the more I started to have questions, the more I started to want to process and think about it. I think that was one of the things where SOAP was so helpful because it gave me this super easy format of here's the scripture that I just read, and then the way that I would do it is as I was reading my scripture, I would sort of highlight the verses that stuck out to me in my YouVersion Bible app, and then once I finished reading through that chapter or two of the day, I would pull out my journal and I would actually write out word for word whatever verse slash verses most stuck out to me. And then I would build my observations around that verse or verses, and I would write down, okay, based off of these three or four verses, what stuck out to me, how do I apply it, and I would pray and ask God to help me to do exactly that. What I also found though, is that I did that for quite a while, and eventually it became so normal and routine that I actually needed to like almost change things up because it became too easy. And that's the thing where, what I've noticed with people is, typically people either really, really love structure and the temptation they have to resist is getting too comfortable in that structure, or there's people on the other side who do not like structure, and so they just want it to be like totally unstructured, free, and spontaneous, but the temptation that they have to resist is allowing there to be so little structure that they aren't actually being intentional with that time. And so what I had to do is move from something that was pretty structured into something that was less structured, where actually I would just begin my silence and solitude time with setting a 10 minute timer where I would just sit and I would be still, and I would say, "God, I want you to speak to me". And I would just try to be as present in the moment as I could for 10 minutes. Now, over the course of those 10 minutes, over, and over, and over again, I would be distracted. I'd think about meetings that were coming up later that day. I'd think about a conversation that I had with a friend. I'd think about that video game that I'm super excited about. And every time I got distracted, I just tried to bring my focus back to Jesus. And one of the most helpful things that I learned in that process was this idea that those distractions aren't you failing to be present, actually, they're an opportunity for you to come back to Jesus. And the value of that time of silence is giving yourself opportunities to practice coming back to Jesus and bringing your focus back to Him. And that's become one of the things that I've recently re-implemented into my morning routine, where now, my time of silence and solitude looks like I sit down, I set a timer for 10 minutes, and I breathe deeply, I repeat this prayer several times that on my in-breath, I say, "Dear Jesus," on my out-breath, I say, "Have mercy on me," on my in-breath, I say, "Heavenly Father," on my out-breath, I say, "You're all that I need," on my, in-breath, I say, "Holy Spirit," and on my out-breath, I say, "Breathe on me". And I just repeat that three or four different times to sort of like settle into the moment. And then I just try to be still and be open to the presence of God. And then as I get distracted, which I do, I just try as much as I can to bring my focus back to Jesus. And then usually when there's maybe three minutes or so left on that timer, I'll just open up to a Psalm, and I will just slowly pray through that Psalm for the remainder of that time. And that's how I kind of have started starting out my quiet time, at least over the last month or so, and it's just been a really cool change of pace. And so then I'll go from that into my reading a chapter or two of scripture, figuring out what sticks out to me, and then do my journaling of the SOAP method. And that's been a really fun way to introduce space to just be still into my structured Bible-reading, processing, reflecting time, so, yeah.

I think that's so good. I'm thinking about the question that I've heard from a lot of students of like, how do you make it not just be like a checklist thing.

Come on.

Those really structured quiet times, like we were saying, can like easily become this, like, okay, did it. And I think that willingness to kind of change it up, to have these checks and balances in place, so when, okay, my heart's kind of going numb to this right now, I need to do something different to allow the Holy Spirit to speak to me in a different way. And then I love what you have with your prayer that just kind of recenters you. For me, that prayer that I pray when I need to recenter, and when I'm like focusing in in my silence and solitude, in my time with Jesus, is Psalm 46:10. It just says, "Be still and know that I'm God". And I will pray through that line. I'll just say, "Be still and know that I am God. Be still and know that I'm God," and then I'll start to break it down. I'll just read through the first few words, be still and know that I am, be still and know, be still, until I just get to the word be, and then my heart is centered right there where it needs to be, where I'm just being with Jesus. And then for me, that restructure has kind of looked like starting with journaling and just kind of pouring out. I ask myself a series of questions to just like remove all of the things that may end up between me and God. So I ask myself, what's on your mind, what's on your heart, what is your soul focusing on, what is in my strength to do today, and what needs to be realigned by love. And that comes out of the idea that the, like the greatest command is to love God with all of my heart, all of my soul, all of my mind, and all of my strength. And there are things that I can get focused on in each of those areas that I want to let God realign so that I am loving Him with every part of me.

Come on, come on.

And so I'll just start by journaling out all of those things that are on my mind, on my heart, that I'm really focusing on, or that I really want to do in that given day. And I'll just surrender them all to Jesus and say, "What needs to be realigned by my desire to love you with everything that I am"? And then a lot of times, that journaling time will end up determining what I'm focusing on in scripture that day. Because if I'm like, oh man, like I just really need to, I don't know, recenter myself on the fact that like, God is my helper, then I'll, you know, I'll direct myself towards like some of the Psalms where it talks about that. That's like a random example, but it'll usually come out of that journaling time and what I feel like God is wanting to work on in my heart that day.

That's so neat.

So that's kind of what mine has been looking like the past month or so.

Well, what I love about that is, you know, each of us kind of has our own unique approach, but there's some similarities in the big ideas, where really what we've both done is we started with what was a pretty clear structure, and then as we've continued on this journey, we have adapted that structure to help each of us, where we are and the things that we need to do to best connect with God to bring us closer to Him. And I think that's the thing that's really important to remember is that when it comes to these spiritual disciplines and practices, is that these spiritual disciplines and practices are sort of like the big idea, the big principle, but then how each of us specifically puts those principles into practice is going to look a little bit different, based on where we are in our journey. I think a really easy way to compare it is these spiritual disciplines and practices are the really big rocks of being a healthy human being. Like everybody knows that if you want to be physically fit, that you should eat good food, drink water, get sleep, exercise regularly, and make sure you get some time in the sun. Like those are some of the basics of being a healthy person, physically. Spiritual disciplines are kind of like those big rocks, where silence and solitude is kind of like going to the gym and exercising. It's this discipline that we engage in because we know that it can help us be more spiritually fit by keeping us connected to Jesus. And the way that I work out in the gym may not look the same as somebody else because of where I am in my fitness journey, or whatever that looks like. And I think the gym analogy is also helpful because they're called spiritual disciplines for a reason. Because disciplines actually take discipline, and they help us develop more discipline, and both discipline and disciple come from the same root word, and I think it's an indicator for us that discipleship requires discipline. I think this comes back to that piece you mentioned, Kaitlyn, of those people who are saying like, "Man, how do I make sure it just doesn't feel like a checkbox"? How do I make sure that spending time with Jesus doesn't just feel like a chore? And here's the potentially harsh reality, that there will be times where it feels like a chore. There will be times where you don't feel like spending time with Jesus. And then there are going to be times where it's exactly what you've been waiting for, where you're longing for it. But here's what's important to acknowledge, is that before you ever get to the place where you're longing for that, it almost always starts out as this is something I know I need to do, even if right now I don't feel like doing it. It's the same way for most people when it comes to going to the gym. Everybody knows the idea of going to the gym is important, it matters, it makes a difference, but until you're actually in the habit of going to the gym regularly, it's not something that most people are super excited about. But then once you make that a part of your life, and you start to experience the results that come from it, when you begin to experience the joy that comes from spending time with Jesus in the morning, experiencing intimacy with your Heavenly Father, and the transformation that takes place in you through that, then you will begin to delight in that time. So it starts out as a discipline, but eventually, if you continue in it, what happens is it turns into something that you delight in, but it's a process. And even after you get to the part where you'll have days where it is just incredible, there's still going to be days where it's not. And again, I think what's so important for us to remember is that this journey of following Jesus is a journey of us becoming like Jesus for the sake of others. And what that means is that there are things in us, in the way that we think, in what we believe, and how we live that have to change in order for us to live faithfully as disciples of Jesus. And to make changes always takes effort. If change happened automatically, then people wouldn't spend countless amounts of money on gym memberships, personal trainers, exercise equipment from the internet, and all of those other things that are supposed to help them get in shape. If change was easy, you wouldn't have to spend all this money on it. But actually change takes work, it takes effort, it's a process. Thankfully, for those of us who are followers of Jesus, we know that we have these disciplines that have been practiced by Christians throughout the ages, and that were actually modeled by Jesus Himself that we engage in, they help form us into people who love like Jesus, who live like Jesus, and start to look like Jesus.

That's, I think, another thing that we have to our advantage in this process of being changed, of being formed, of being disciples of Jesus is we have the Holy Spirit...

Come on.

...who is actually the one who does the work in us to change us, it is Him who sanctifies us. Paul talks about how we are being renewed day by day into the image of Christ.

That's so good.

And that's the work that the Holy Spirit does in us. And we, by participating in these disciplines, it is us coming into alignment with the work that the Holy Spirit already wants to do in us.

Well, just real quick on that point, and this is the thing that I think is so important for us to remember, is that the way that God works is He waits for us to invite Him in. God honors our freedom to choose. He honors our freedom to choose to follow Him or not. He honors our freedom to choose to be transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit or not. And I think this is the thing that's so interesting that we've got to continually remember is that God will not force us to become disciples of Jesus. He always invites us, and He, the Holy Spirit that's now living in us, for those of us who are followers of Jesus, is inviting us to be transformed. But the way that we say yes to the invitation, the way that we actually invite the Holy Spirit in to continually transform us, is by engaging in some of these spiritual disciplines. It's us doing these things and saying, "Hey God, change me". And I think that's the thing that we can't lose sight of, is that this whole process of transformation isn't something that we do on our own, it's something that we do in partnership with the Spirit of God. But we actually have to take a step. We can't just expect the Holy Spirit to be this like magical pill that changes everything, it does all the work for us. No, that's never been the way that God works. He wants to partner with us as his people in His plans to rescue others and restore creation.

Yup, so good. The other picture that came into my mind, you used the gym analogy to explain this. I was listening to this podcast and the guy on the podcast explained it like the anchor of a ship. And it's like you don't need an anchor until you start to drift.

So good.

And these spiritual practices are like dropping an anchor in our lives that keep us tethered to Jesus, that keep us tethered to living the truth, so that when, and they can, again, feel like routine, feel like habitual, like you don't realize that you really need it until you start to drift. And then those spiritual disciplines are the things that help us pull us back to center, pull us back to the foundation that we build our lives on.

Right, and if you imagine your life as a ship at sea, the thing we have to understand is that the world we live in is not a very calm sea.

Oh gosh.

It is chaotic, storms are raging, the wind is howling, waves are crashing, trying to throw us off course, but these spiritual disciplines keep us anchored and rooted in what matters most, the person of Jesus. And they bring us closer to Him every step of the way. And so I think this is a thing that we have to remind ourselves is that the world is trying to form us into a way of living that is different than what Jesus is inviting us into. But by engaging in these spiritual practices, like silence and solitude, creating space to experience the presence of God, we are anchoring ourselves in the middle of a crazy storm on the person of Jesus. So the way that we live, the way that we believe, the way that we think is more shaped by the truth of God's word than the current circumstances and values of our modern culture, because we are called to be salt and light. We're called to be the salt of the Earth and the light of the world. We stand out. We bring hope. We make a difference in the name of Jesus. And that can only happen if we actually engage in the practices of Jesus so that we can put on the character of Jesus.

So good, yeah, that's been something that has been waking me up recently, is just this idea that we're all being formed by something.


None of us are like unformable. None of us get a free pass in this area. We are all actively, daily being formed by something.

Come on.

And what has been like waking me up and firing me up recently is the desire to be intentional about what I am allowing to form me and shape me. I don't want to be just passively formed by you know, classic, like social media, by all the things in culture that are inputting into my life. I don't want to be a passive participant in my formation. I want to be an active partner of the Holy Spirit as He forms me into the image of Christ.

That's so good. So as you are watching this video, as you are processing through what does this look like for you, our challenge and our encouragement would be for you to find time in your day to be still, to create space by yourself, without any distractions, so that you can engage in the spiritual practice known as silence and solitude, which is simply creating space to experience the presence of God. Bring your YouVersion Bible app, bring a journal, set a timer, do whatever works best for you. But when you create space to encounter the presence of God, what you'll discover is that God will meet us in the space that we make. So I hope that this is encouraging to you. Thank you for checking out this week's episode of Switch Uncut. If you've got questions that you want us to tackle in future videos, make sure you comment those down below. Also like, subscribe, share the video if you know that this would be helpful to somebody. And we're just thankful that we get to continue on this journey together of becoming fully devoted followers of Christ. Thanks, y'all, see ya.

See ya.
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