Above all . . .

“In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” – Isaiah 30:15

How good are you at resting? God is very big on rest and actually designed our weeks to have one whole day in which we are told to rest – to stop what we do on other days and do something that is refreshing and restorative.

After God had given the commandments to Moses, he emphasized one of them: Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the Lord, sanctify you'” (from Exodus 31:13). Above all? Does God really mean that? Why, I wonder?

I think it’s so we learn to trust him. Trust him with the work we didn’t get done, with the plans that need to be made, and the relationships that need to be fixed. Trust him with the anxieties we carry all week. One day a week, we rest in his love and grace and his work on our behalf.

And that includes spiritual striving. God does the work of making us holy – setting us apart for him. We can try harder, working our hearts out to please him, but if he’s not in it, all our efforts are fruitless. Sometimes he just wants us to sit still in his presence and let him work his transformation in our lives. It is in that rest, perhaps, that we learn to love him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and to love our neighbors as ourselves.

Maybe restful living is mostly about letting go.

“Unhurried does not describe how I spend hours or minutes. It describes a state of heart. Unhurried comes not from forced breaks, but from chosen stillness.” – David Timms

#sabbathrest

It’s about time.

“Oh! Teach us to live well! Teach us to live wisely and well!” – Psalm 90:12 (MSG)

Most of us don’t wear watches anymore, but not because we’re not concerned about the time. Our phones handle time management for us with a ding 30-minutes before our next appointment and a beep every time we get a new text or email. Who needs a watch when we have a device constantly calling us to pay attention?

There are two Greek words for time. The first is chronos and refers to what we might call “clock time”. Chronos keeps us on the go, always preparing for the next thing, always feeling hurried. That’s the kind of time our beeping phones can help us handle.

Then there is kairos. Kairos refers to a period of time, a season, an era. Kairos asks us to resist responding only to the urgency of chronos and invites us to openness, willingness, patience, and introspection – to an observation of growth, change, or healing. Kairos is the kind of time we need God to help us understand.

How we spend our hours and days is important, but God’s perspective is longer, more patient, more focused on end results. He calls us to peace, not anxiety. He reveals the eternal view, not the temporal. And he never seems to be rushed. That, I think, may be why he calls us to a day of rest every week. A day to re-calibrate our hurry, to trust him with what we didn’t get done, and to allow him to refresh and renew us. We can’t escape clock time, but, by his grace, we can live above it!

“The most important thing in your life is not what you do; it’s who you become. That’s what you will take into eternity.” – Dallas Willard

#spiritualjourney

A Handful of Quietness

“Better is a handful of quietness than two hands full of toil. . .” Ecclesiastes 4:6

Busy. Sometimes that’s a too accurate picture of our lives. Even when we have opportunity to slow a bit, we choose to be busy. We can work later and make a little more money. We can buy the house that  needs help and end up working every evening to make it better. We can volunteer at too many places and be on the run serving others. The constant pressure is unsettling after awhile. That’s why the writer of Ecclesiastes says “Better is a handful of quietness than two hands full of toil. . . “ (Ecclesiastes 4:6 ESV)

So, how do we find a little bit of quietness in the middle of a busy life? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Before you get out of bed in the morning, lie still for a few minutes, thinking about being in the presence of God. Feel the love he has for you. Be amazed at his majesty.
  • Take a 10-minute walk alone at lunchtime, paying particular attention to the wonders of creation around you. There is a double blessing in experiencing your quietness in the sunshine!
  • If you have a few minutes between appointments, sit in stillness, silently saying “thank you” to God for something specific. You’ll find that you  can create an internal quietness in spite of activity around you.

God’s plan is not for us just to be busy, but to have an abundant life – including a centered peace. A handful of quietness in our day today might move us toward that goal!

“It is precisely when life is at its most frantic, most frightening, that we each need a place to go to, a place that wraps us around in silence and calm.” – Joan Chittister

 

#contemplation

Did I make the right decision?

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.” – Psalm 32:8

Even when I pray over a decision and think I’m hearing God’s direction, I second guess myself. Do you do that, too? I want to do what he wants, but sometimes it’s hard to sort out his will from my own.

So, today, I went back to God questioning a decision I had made. “I was really trying to do what you want, Lord, but now I’m not sure I did the right thing. Did I mess it up by going down a path that might have been more mine than yours?”

What came back was a reassuring message. It was something like this:

“You did what you did because you thought it was what I wanted you to do. That’s what really counts – your attitude of wanting to please me. Not all of your decisions will be right, but I look at your heart. And, remember, I can work with every choice you make. My will will be done in your life, not because your decisions are right, but because your heart is right.”

He works with my decisions! If my attitude is right, he will intervene and overrule my bad choices and turn it all around for his glory and my good. I like that! Then I remembered David. God saw him as a man after his own heart even though David made some bad decisions. God is loving and forgiving toward all of us who truly want to do what he wants. That sure makes me breathe easier! You, too?

“We count on God’s mercy for our past mistakes, on God’s love for our present needs, on God’s sovereignty for our future.” – Augustine 

 

#decisions

Ups! and Downs

“The fear of the Lord leads to life; then one rests content, untouched by trouble.” – Proverbs 19:23

Do you ever feel like you are on an emotional roller coaster? Happy, then sad, hopeful, then despairing? You’re not alone. In fact, in the first 11 verses of Luke 5, we find Peter going through several emotions in a very short time.

Peter discouraged

He was ready to give up! He had been fishing all night and hadn’t caught a thing. Can’t feed the family with empty nets.

Peter elated

Jesus comes along, tells Peter to throw his nets in again and, amazingly, they were full to overflowing. Now, Peter is happy to be in the fishing business!

Peter afraid

Then he realizes the power and authority of Jesus and falls at his feet in fear. A man who can bring fish to the net like this must be special in a way that was simply scary. Peter knows he is not worthy to be in the presence of such a man.

Peter redirected

Being a successful fisherman was nothing compared to the plans Jesus had for Peter. He first tells Peter not to be afraid, then he calls him to leave his boats and his nets and become a fisher of men – bringing people to awareness of who Jesus is and his desire to rescue them from pain and sorrow to joy and eternal life.

We can follow Jesus closely and still have emotional ups and downs, but when we are on the path with him, he gives us perspective, hope, and abilities to accomplish what he has planned for us to do, no matter how we feel.

“True spiritual life depends not on probing our feelings and thoughts from dawn to dusk but on ‘looking off’ to the Savior!” – Martin Luther

Where’s your prodigal?

” . . . the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining”. – 1 John 2:8b

Has someone you love walked away? Rejected what you believe? Who you are? The way you live? It hurts, doesn’t it? And nothing you do seems to fix the problem.

Then sometimes God steps in. And when he does, we find out he had a plan all along. Onesimus was a slave to Philemon, a 1st-century Christian. One day, Onesimus ran away. Runaway slaves in that time could be put to death. It was a serious crime to break free.

Onesimus headed for Rome, probably thinking he would never be found on the crowded streets. But, God made sure Onesimus met Paul, and Paul introduced him to Jesus. Everything changed for Onesimus at that moment, and Paul apparently told him he had to make things right with Philemon. He had to go back home.

Paul sent him on his way with a letter to Philemon explaining the change in Onesimus now that he was a Jesus follower. He asked Philemon to take Onesimus back, not just as a slave, but as Christian brother. In fact, Paul says that maybe, just maybe, Onesimus’ escape was for an eternal purpose: “For this perhaps is why he was parted from you for awhile, that you might have him back forever.” (v. 15)

God knows the bigger picture: He may have a plan for our prodigals that means we can have them back forever. So we stand still and strong, praying and trusting that, at just the right time, he’ll step in to help them find their way back to him and back to us. Keep the light on.

“Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining.” – Anne Lamott

 

 

Just a Whisper

“For I am the Lord your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.'” – Isaiah 41:13

Have you ever stood by when a young child has what we call a “meltdown”? This often happens when a special-needs child responds to frustration by becoming out-of-control, usually thrashing around, and crying out.

Therapists tell us the best way to respond is to put your arms around the child, often from behind to hold them as still as possible. Then begin to whisper in their ear. They instinctively will want to hear what you are saying, so will quiet down as the still, small voice calms their fears and frustrations.

Spiritually, we are all special needs people. And sometimes, we have our own version of a meltdown. We become frustrated and panicky, feeling everything is out of control. We may not physically thrash around and cry out, but internally we can feel we are drowning in anxiety, anger, and/or fear. Does that ever happen to you? If it does . . .

Guess who is standing behind you? Putting his arms around you? Whispering in your ear? You are God’s dearly loved child and you are having a meltdown. Now just calm yourself so you can hear his quiet, gentle voice. He will assure you all will be well, tell you he loves you, and let you know nothing is out of control for him.

So when you feel the stress building, stop. Calm yourself. Listen to his whispered promises and reassurances. Remind yourself that, with God, “All will be well, all will be well, all manner of things will be well.”*. You can trust him.

“In your brokenness and imperfection, God whispers three words: You are mine.” – Margaret Feinberg

 

*Julian of Norwich

#allwillbewell