The Only Answer that Satisfies


Seems like whenever you bring up the story of Job, everyone is quick to criticize his wife and his friends. Maybe it’s because the whole story is so disturbing to us, and it’s kind of a relief to be able to assign blame somewhere. The question of human suffering and how God is involved in it has plagued us since the beginning– the very fact that the book of Job was recorded attests to that, and the story does not come to the tidy conclusions we might wish for.  And we all struggle with knowing what to say when someone we care about is going through a hard time. So yeah, maybe we tend to single out the less complicated characters for their faults, so we don’t have to think about Job sitting in the ash heap.

The one woman who speaks in the story rarely even gets a vote of sympathy, despite the fact that she is the one who brought those seven sons and three daughters into the world (the ones that were tragically crushed in hurricane winds– what mother can stand such devastation?). Not to mention that she is suffering the loss of possessions and her husband’s health, right alongside him. She can be forgiven for being a little out of her mind. When she tells Job to “curse God and die” she is doing what the Enemy predicted they would do– and he was probably rubbing his hands together gleefully at the prospect of winning his wager. The Enemy felt sure that humans only worship God for what they can get out of Him, and when the blessings stop flowing, so does the sacrifice and praise. She kind of felt the same way. She wasn’t wishing her husband were dead, or abandoning him…only stating the obvious horror, that if God is displeased with you, you’re beyond help, so you may as well give up on serving Him and make a quick and merciful end to it at least.

But Job hangs on stubborn to his convictions, and chides her for losing faith: God is either worthy of praise or He is not, regardless of the circumstances. (To her credit, she sticks around through the whole miserable affair and then goes on to bear another ten children– sturdy woman that she is.) Enter Job’s friends, who are coming to sit with him in mourning, according to middle-eastern custom. We point to them as poor friends because they failed to comfort him. After all, we know what it feels like to have friends let us down when we are hurting and in need…and we often feel so awkward ourselves, in knowing how to comfort others. These guys believe in tough love, and take it as their duty to help get their failing friend back on track. In their theology, you reap what you sow, and it’s somewhere between naivety and arrogance to protest that you planted something different when the crops are standing right there in full bloom. They have no idea that they are promoting a religious variation on the Enemy’s theme. Their intentions are good, at least.

And here’s the interesting thing: we judge these people as lacking in sympathy and practical help, in a situation of horrendous loss, and end up missing the point as much as they do. Job’s grief is heart-rending, but it is God’s glory that is on trial, and Job is His chief witness. God criticizes the men not because they failed to comfort, but because they did not know Him the way Job did. Job was wrestling honestly with his experience; he was awash with raw emotion, and the God he served seemed distant… but he was not giving up. He still believed that God was ruling over all things, and worthy of worship, regardless of his experiences. Rightly then, God’s answer to Job’s suffering has nothing to do with explanations or comfort–He shows up personally to this wreck of a man sitting in the ashes with his neighbors.

And that is what we need to see in times of great pain, when our focus tends to narrow down, to channel all our energy into coping with our circumstances and feelings; what we really need is a bigger perspective. As much as we look for answers to all the why? questions, realistically speaking there is nothing that will take away the pain of our loss…not even replacing what was taken away. And as valuable as the comfort and sympathy of others is to us in those times, there is still no short-cut or remedy for grief except to go through it one day at a time.

God’s answer to suffering is to reveal His own power and wisdom and authority. If you can’t manage the entire created universe in all of its intricacy and splendor, then you simply are not qualified to handle the lives of men. And if you don’t understand God’s ways and thoughts and plans, then what makes you think you can judge His affairs? What we tend to lose sight of in the midst of life’s circumstances is that God and His glory are at the center of all things, and it is His business to rule all things well. If we worship Him, and love and serve one another through the temporary joys and sorrows of this world, that is plenty to keep us busy.

The book of Job is Theology 101: He is God and we are not. There is more to the world than what we can see. There are forces at work which we don’t understand. Our emotions and thoughts do not define what is true…or even real. The Creator’s care for all that He has made is sheer Grace. It was an answer big enough to make Job repent and worship, while the friends realized their presumption in deciding who was worthy of God’s blessing. And God Himself suggested that Job show them what grace looked like. “My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your folly.” (Job 42:8)

God’s answer to human suffering remains the same– that He is intimately and powerfully involved in His creation, and He is with us in our pain, redeeming all things for our good and His glory. It’s what our hurting hearts most desperately need to know. And if we have any doubts, we can look to the cross where He laid bare His heart and suffered for all of us….where He silenced the accusations of the Enemy once and for all with the illogic of grace.

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For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:15-16)

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“There’s a place where mercy reigns
And never dies;
There’s a place where streams of grace
Flow deep and wide;
Where all the love I’ve ever found
Comes like a flood,
Comes flowing down…
At the cross, at the cross,
I surrender my life–
I’m in awe of You.”
(At The Cross, Chris Tomlin)

Badge of Courage

As we talk about discontent and acceptance, and the faith that enables us to handle both well, I keep thinking about the circumstances in life that are outside our control. The things that refuse to bend to your influence, no matter how hard you try. Those unyielding parameters of life are hard to accept when they make life difficult or just plain miserable. And they tend to shape you. It can be anything from the color of your hair, to the strength of your body, to the family you were born into, or the consequences of choices made a long time ago….at some point you have to just say “it is what it is” (if only for the sake of your mental health) and figure out how to live in that place, no matter how it chafes. Paradoxically, in the very act of surrendering your will and accepting things you can not control, you often find the power to change yourself and your surroundings in unexpected ways.

It takes a special kind of courage to live one day after another in a place you’d rather not be. To persevere in countless small acts of service. To take up the cross that will put Self to death, and follow Jesus day in and day out for the span of your life. If we are honest, many of us would rather make a grand noble gesture and be done (and of course it takes courage to declare your faith in the face of an angry gun, or give your body in defense of a child). But there is a bravery that runs deeper, that is in for the long haul– the kind of unwavering faith that hangs in there, and doesn’t give up, in spite of the pain. Courage that can count the good gifts of the Creator, even through the tears of this world’s wounds, and can keep on believing that God “exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6) And all the Spirit-breathed promises become very real and precious to the heart: “I have loved you with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3)…“do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. ” (Isaiah 41:10)…”Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet My unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor My covenant of peace be removed” (Isaiah 54:10)….Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4)

Like Leah, who was overlooked for her beautiful lively younger sister and then married off to the eager suitor anyway, in an elaborate plot that involved swapping out brides and keeping the lights turned low. No one was happy about the outcome of that night, except for her father, who took care of both daughters at once and gained a hard-working son-in-law who also happened to be blessed by the Lord– handy fellow to have in the family. And although Leah may have rejoiced for the moment at the prospect of home and husband and position, still there remained the small fact that her husband was in love with her very own sister, who was everything Leah was not. Hard place for a young woman to live, day after day, but what else could she do? And in bending herself to those hard things, a beauty that is all her own begins to emerge.

I see unwanted Leah naming her sons as constant reminders of God’s presence in the midst of her unhappy marriage. I can imagine her finding joy in their baby smiles and warm sturdy bodies held close, taking comfort in the fact that God in heaven sees her and stoops to her need. It takes courage to stare down the circumstances you’ve been given and give thanks when your heart is broken; it takes both humility and strength to accept what is out of your control and focus on God’s provision for you in the wilderness. She may have been as delicate and weak as the gazelle for which she was named, but in longing for the love of a husband, Leah found the Love that never fails and became a mother of the tribes of Israel.

And when you’ve accepted where you are, and begin to see God’s provision for you there, gratitude bubbles up naturally from the person you are becoming. Giving thanks is one more act of bravery, a chin-lifting resolution that refuses to give in to either self-pity or despair, regardless of the way things look. Not because you are so tough or so capable, but because you know Who really moves the universe. I may feel helpless in the face of circumstances, but I can count on the God who says He is working all things together for good in my story. “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning…” (Psalm 130:5-6) 

Gratitude is like a badge of courage to wear in the visible Everyday, proclaiming our hope and steadfast faith in the unseen Eternal. I don’t know what color gratitude is, but I see how it reflects the light of heaven’s glory.

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 “When trouble, restless fears, anxious fretfulness, strive to overpower the soul, our safety is in saying, ‘My God, I believe in Thy perfect goodness and wisdom and mercy. What Thou doest I cannot now understand; but I shall one day see it all plainly. Meanwhile I accept Thy will, whatever it may be, unquestioning, without reserve.’
There would be no restless disturbance, no sense of utter discomfort and discomposure in our souls, if we were quite free from any…opposition to God’s will. But we do struggle against it, we do resist; and so long as that resistance endures we cannot be at peace.” (H.L. Sidney Lear)

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“The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; He delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
(Psalm 34:17-18)

The Season of Our (Holy) Discontent

You have to know why something isn’t working before you can fix it. And I know for myself at least, that it can take a little while of muddling around in unpleasant circumstances before I realize I need help. When I am hungry, I have no difficulty recognizing the symptoms and finding something to munch. When I get sleepy, and it’s hard to focus at my desk, there is always coffee, and a resolution to go to bed earlier tonight.  Why am I often so clueless then, when it comes to matters of heart and spirit?

Part of the problem is that inner disquiet is peddled on countless screens and glossy pages, multiplying to the senses that first lie of the Enemy. Didn’t Eve fall for the same line, that what the Creator gave was not enough?…That she was not enough?… And maybe the beautiful things she saw offered a better answer? Our discontent serves the Enemy well. I have found that too many images of beautiful homes and gardens and perfectly put-together wardrobes can wreak havoc in my spirit. And there are so many opinions on what a happy family looks like (or acts like, or does together, or eats for dinner)– it can make me wonder how come mine always seems to fall just a bit short. All those voices out there telling us women what will make life more meaningful, more healthy, more successful….just More. And before I realize, I am chasing the wind like Wise King Solomon: trying harder for something that will fill this restless longing.

But (as Eve found out a long time ago) trying harder to be Enough on my own never quite adds up. Like Solomon said, “All things are full of weariness; a man cannot utter it; the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.” (Ecclesiastes 1:8) And at some point, I realize that the turmoil in my life comes from looking in all the wrong places for what ails my soul. It usually takes time for my brain to connect the dots of cause and effect– of choices and consequences– and how one turn led to another until I found myself on a path I never intended. Even the most well-intentioned hearts can find themselves in a season of restlessness and confusion. It’s not the worst place to be.

Ezekiel’s valley full of dry bones needed Spirit-breathed  words to live again, but first the people needed to get to the end of their resources. When they cried out “Our bones are dried up, and our hope has perished. We are completely cut off.” (Ezekiel 37:11) then they were​ ready for God’s miracle of new life. Uncomfortable as it is, dissatisfaction with the way things are can be the catalyst for change. Whatever your longings, there is only One who is large enough, lasting enough, satisfying enough to fill them. Whoever you wish you were, the woman God had in mind when He created you is just the right person to do what He has planned for you. His grace fills up the measure of “not enough” in all of us, so that He calls us “chosen people, holy and dearly loved” (Colossians 3:12)

Jesus told the woman coming to draw from the well, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst.” (John 4:13-14) But both she and Solomon had to walk down the dusty paths of their own trying, until they realized for themselves that what they were pursuing wasn’t working. The Wise King certainly found good in his discontentment, when he wrote, “Frustration is better than laughter, because a sad face is good for the heart. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning….” (Ecclesiastes 7:3-4) I suspect that each of us has to taste dissatisfaction with this world until we are sick of it, like a hunger pushing us to find the eternal food that truly satisfies; each of us has to come again and again to the realization that discontent with this world points us toward the reality of Eternity to come. And I do find that as I grow and experience this truth over and over again, it is easier to recognize soul hunger for what it is and come running for “the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” (John 6:33)

Whether we long to be loved, or to be valued…whether we are looking for purpose, or security, or joy…whether we yearn to overcome evil, or to find justice…whether we ache to be made whole, or to be freed from shame and guilt…the answer is the same. May all our longings drive us into Your arms, O Lord, and may we find our soul’s satisfaction in You.

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“The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. It is good for a man to bear the yoke while he is young.” (Lamentations 3:25-27)

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“I tasted the world seen more than enough–
Its promises fleeting.
Of water and wine I emptied the cup,
And found myself wanting.
But there is a well that never runs dry;
The water of life, the blood of the vine…

‘Cause all I know is
Everything I have means nothing,
Jesus, if You’re not my one thing,
Everything I need right now.
All I need is You right now.”
(One Thing, Hillsong)

 

 

 

The Things We Hold Onto

The Easter season has unfolded very naturally into our next study on Acceptance and Gratitude. It is freshly amazing how God fits things together in the Body-life of this church family– what we are processing, singing about, praying for– to meet individual needs at the right time. If you have eyes to see the big picture, it is really quite remarkable how the Spirit moves and breathes among us as we press on in our faith-journey.

So the fasting and repentance of Lent gives way to the joy of Resurrection Sunday, and green spreads over our hills, every little grave of Winter opening up to new life and growth. And as we celebrate what Christ did for us, may our hearts open up and pour right out in gratitude, the way Mary’s anointing fragrance poured out on the feet of Jesus– a surrender of her treasure…her security…her future. He knew what it cost her, knew the faith she was proclaiming without words. “She has done a beautiful thing to me. When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial,” Jesus said. (Matthew 26:10,12)

Shelly Miller points out that “Sacrificing what you love during Lent is like opening fisted hands into palms outstretched; laying out palms and waiting for Jesus to walk down the center of your busy life.”  There’s no escaping the fact that acceptance of God’s plans often means opening our hands in release: letting go of our ideas about what should happen, offering up our fears and our hurts, surrendering even our interpretation of circumstances to His better judgment. Because the things we hang onto tend to shape us in their image, and Jesus knows that what we need most is to be made new into His image. And when we let go, our hands are open to receive what He wants to give us, and there is more than we could expect.

So acceptance can’t help but lead to gratitude…or maybe it is the other way around, or even a full circle. And this woman who is supposed to remain invisible, sits and learns at Rabbi Jesus’ feet, and worships Him as the Messiah with her poured-out gift at the dinner table, and He publicly defends her actions, writes her down in history as one who proclaims His truth, while the men in the crowd are still arguing over how the money would be better spent, and deciding how far they are willing to follow Jesus. Trusting God’s way of doing things and having a thankful heart opens your spiritual eyes like nothing else.

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“Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in Me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in Me will never die. Do you believe this?'” (John 11:25-26)

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“You give life, You are love,
You bring light to the darkness;
 You give hope, You restore
Every heart that is broken…
Great are You, Lord.”

…It’s Your breath in our lungs,
So we pour out our praise to You only.”
(David Leonard, Jason Ingram)

Sunday Is Coming

In this Passion week, with the all branches budding red towards the sky, and the flowers bursting forth from their Winter graves, we see for ourselves a tangible picture of the Savior making all things new with His suffering (passio in the Latin). And there is Hope in this Spring-time resurrecting. Not that we will find something to satisfy our hearts in this world after all, but that in Him we will have enough, and that “this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.” (2 Corinthians 4:17) Life from death, joy from sorrow, reaping from our planting as surely as day follows the long night.

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“Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living One. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.” (Revelation 1:12-13)

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“Peace be still, You are near;
There’s nowhere we can go
That You won’t shine redemption’s light.
Our guilt withdrawn–
As You rise, we come alive;
The grave has lost, the old is gone,
And You’re making all things new…
And we are free;
Hope is found, You are here.
Our hearts forever sealed
By this love that came for us;
Now we are Yours.
As You rise, we come alive,
And You’re making all things new…”
(All Things New, Elevation Worship)

Not my Will

Encouragement today from the precious reminder of our Savior’s wrestling in prayer with the emotions and limitations of His humanity as He approached the cross, and the gentle exhortation that all the Father requires is a willing heart. If we can pray through the pain, and continue to desire God’s will above our own, that is enough. We should not be too hard on ourselves for having either questions or weakness, as long as we are carrying them rightly to His feet. And He will pour out His own strength to carry us through whatever we are facing– even comfort us with His love, so that we do not lose hope.

The nineteenth-century British theologian E.B Pusey advised believers to have a one-prayer-fits-all approach to life. “Choose but the will of God, and thou willest with His wisdom, thou choosest with His all-perfect choice; thou enterest into His counsels; thou lovest with His love. Be this our watch-word, brethren, for the Church, for those we love, for our own souls….This shall hallow our hopes; this shall hush our fears; this shall ward off disquiet; this shall preserve our peace; this shall calm anxieties; this (if it must be) shall soothe our heart-aches; this shall give repose to our weariness…. ‘Lord, not what I will, but what Thou’; not what I, in my misery, and ignorance, and blindness, and sin, but what Thou, in Thy mercy, and holiness, and wisdom, and love.” It is the prayer that never fails.

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And [Jesus] withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, ‘Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.’ And there appeared to Him an angel from heaven, strengthening Him. And being in agony He prayed more earnestly; and His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” (Luke 22:41-44)

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“Oh how I need Your grace,
More than my words can say;
Jesus I come, Jesus I come
In all my weaknesses,
You are my confidence;
Jesus I come, Jesus I come.”
(Jesus I Come, Elevation Worship)

 

The Gift of His Presence

The weekly study group has gathered up materials, closed its books in satisfaction, and is already looking ahead to the new topic. It has been an enlightening two-and-a-half months of honest discussion on busy-ness. But I linger here contemplating rest, lagging behind like a hopeful child wanting one more taste of holiday.

I am beginning to recognize that inner Over-achiever that has such trouble saying no; it’s getting easier to ignore her. Starting to answer eagerly, not afraid to be specific, when I hear Jesus say, “What do you want me to do for you?” Longing to have His presence more than His answers, to trust His timing more than my control. Finding the results in small unexpected ways, in my everyday. (I  wonder if it is only coincidence that I have been sleeping deeply and peacefully at night?) But there is more to learn here. I have the sense that I have only just opened the door to a room full of treasure. And frankly I can’t get enough of listening to Jesus. Mary of Bethany’s rapt attention at His feet comes to mind, and I feel sure that setting the table or checking the bread in the oven never even crossed her mind.

The commandment to “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy” (Exodus 20:8) is so much more than rules about what to do on a certain day. It is, at its heart, God calling us back to the intimacy of the Garden, a reminder that He wants relationship with us. The commandment is a formal covenantal declaration of what Jesus will tell His followers many centuries later with His “Come to Me…and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) In Jesus, all our longings for Sabbath-rest and relationship are fulfilled. Because of Jesus, the door is swung wide open to us and we are always welcomed into His presence. But from the beginning of time, God has consistently left the choice up to us. And from the beginning, the Enemy has consistently misrepresented that choice to us, distracted us with other shiny options. If we could understand the gift we are being given as clearly as Mary did, the choice would be simpler.

So let’s look at our choices and their consequences with clear eyes, see our busyness from a fresh vantage-point and listen to Jesus’ invitation with ears to hear. Our hopes will not disappoint when we meet Him there.

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“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” (John 15:9-11)

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“Heavy laden is often the result of listening to the shoulds of the bossy inner voice that degrades passion into duty and joy into meaninglessness.” (Shelly Miller)

 

 

 

 

Come Away, Beloved

The call to Sabbath-rest has become increasingly beautiful to me, these past two months. Less like a dry prescription for the good Christian life, and more like the beguiling tones of a Lover whispering: “Rise up, my love, my fair one, And come away. For lo, the winter is past…” (Song of Solomon 2:10-11) 

There is space here in Sabbath, for Jesus to re-write the falsehood of the Enemy, to gently straighten and re-align my thinking with “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable….” (Philippians 4:8) I can push on without His help, but the going gets slow and painful. I can hear Paul encouraging the early believers to  “…make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.” (Hebrews 12:13) When I spend time with Jesus, I am strengthened and renewed, and the lies of the Enemy are exposed for what they are.

There is space in Sabbath moments, to feel His presence and hear Him say that all the ways I don’t measure up in this world don’t begin to measure up to the ocean-depths of His love for me. When I get too busy to step into His light, shame becomes a constant tormenting companion that drains my energy, drives me to try harder, work more, to make myself acceptable. But Paul is writing triumphantly,“Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies….Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us..” (Romans 8:33-34) I need time with my Savior, to contemplate Grace, to send shame running.

Here in the quiet there is space for His Spirit to connect the dots in my life, to tie together today’s scattered events and experiences into the larger narrative– see how it all fits together as part of His plans for me. When I don’t stop to listen and wait on Him, I miss that perspective, see only the confusing clutter and the jumbled emotions inside. It’s easier to lose focus, when all I can see is my mess– easier to doubt His hand at work in my world. And there is Paul reminding me again that “in all things God works for the good of those who love Him….” (Romans 8:28) When I come to Him, my eyes are opened to see that He is shepherding my soul in every circumstance, and will lead me through whatever comes. Not one of the details of my life escape His notice, and He has already woven them, both the good and the bad, into the story.

And as I make the time to rest…to listen…to just be present with Jesus, the more precious Sabbath-rest becomes to my spirit. Sometimes you have to walk right into the ocean to really understand what it is like. We had no idea how beguiling its depths would be.

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Open your mouth and taste, open your eyes and see—
how good God is.
Blessed are you who run to Him.” (Psalm 34:8)

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“When I feel the cold of winter
And this cloak of sadness,
I need You.
All the evil things that shake me,
All the words that break me–
I need You.
Over The Mountains, over the Sea…
Here You come running, my Lover to me.
Do not hide me from Your presence;
Pull me from Your shadows–
I need You.
Beauty, wrap Your arms around me;
Sing Your song of kindness
I need You.”
(Song of Solomon, Martin Smith)

Five Minutes of Your Time

So we are practicing Sabbath, with about the same agility of a toddler taking first steps into his father’s arms. Five minutes a day to just stop where we are and block out the noise, say no to the distractions and whisper “Come, Lord Jesus.” Some days it’s harder than others. Some days it feels like I am the blind beggar sitting outside Jericho by the side of the road, calling out through the commotion “Jesus…have mercy on me!” (Mark 10:47) That’s about as much sense as I can muster in those few minutes, with too many things swirling around in my head. Kyrie eleison…Lord, have mercyChrist, have mercy…one of the oldest prayers of the church, and the one that is always appropriate for us.

And sometimes the question comes in the quiet: “What do you want Me to do for you?” (Mark 10:51) It’s the best part of the beggar’s story. As if the Lord of heaven and earth doesn’t know, or doesn’t have the right to make an executive decision for the man. “What do you want Me to do for you?” Because Jesus really wants to hear it in the beggar’s own words. I’ve begun to take a timid attempt to verbalize what I want Jesus to do for me– both because it’s quicker (given the five minute time slot), and because it shocks me to realize how difficult this is for me. Like maybe somewhere inside I don’t feel convinced of His interest in me, or worthy of His favor? The question helps me focus, though, cuts through the emotions and thoughts about the issue and gets right to the center of it, to my dependence on Jesus and my need for what only He can supply. Healing, strength, forgiveness, grace, perseverance, love, peace, the Breath of the Spirit– this is my daily Bread, and I am a beggar at His feet.

A few other helpful questions this week to focus my thoughts more quickly on Jesus and His work in me: “What are you missing because you are too busy to notice?  What is shame convincing you to believe that isn’t true?  Where is God in your lack, pain, and difficulty?  What path is He asking you to walk with Him?” (Shelly Miller, Sabbath Society)

This five minutes of Sabbath rest may be the most important of the one thousand four hundred and forty you will receive today. Just do it, and don’t be surprised if it stretches longer. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (Matthew 5:6)

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“I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.” (John 15:9-10)

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“Here’s my heart, Lord;
Speak what is true,
Cause I am found,
I am Yours,

I am loved…
(Here’s My Heart, Lauren Daigle)

Rest for the Heart

Funny how all of us who thought we were going to get a handle on busy schedules are facing instead the heart issues that pushed us onto this merry-go-round to begin with. We were just looking for a band-aid solution really, but Jesus had other ideas. He is not interested in helping us manage our agendas with more energy, wield our female super-power of busyness with more confidence, or even in delivering us from the consequences of our own neglect. Instead He is calling us to Himself.

Would it be so bad to admit that we are heartsick and tired of running? That the effort of hiding our wounds and avoiding our grief is wearing us out? That these failures we are covering up, these fears that drive us, this never-ending workload are all getting mighty heavy? What if we could just face up to the hidden dread that if we sit quiet and listen for God, He might not stoop to answer us– or worse, only reinforce the negative voices in our heads? If we could be honest about all our baggage, I wonder if Jesus’ words would ring loud and clear, and we could finally accept His invitation at face value: “Come, you who are weary….” Yes, we are the weary, but until we are truly ready to give up that shield of busyness, we cannot just come and find rest, really accept the Everlasting Love that calls us.

Author and speaker Shelly Miller rightly observes that resistance to God’s call is a symptom of self-reliance, an insistence that we can manage life on our own rather than trust the Creator. Looking at it that way, our failure to stop and rest is just plain ugly….one more way to rebel against the God who made us to serve Him. And herein lies a fundamental truth, that rest only comes when you stop trying so hard to be somebody and just come as you are with nothing to offer. The broken, the desperate, the lonely, the needy– all are more likely to experience Sabbath rest than the busy. “God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” (Matthew 5:3-4)

This understanding of Sabbath rest underscores the pointlessness of confining it to one day of the week, or outlining the activities that should or should not happen then. Whenever I come running to my Father and lean my head against Him like a child, sit with Him awhile, it is Sabbath. The Lover of My Soul knows when I need a break from everything that batters and presses, in this world. And in all the ways He calls to me, whether through a sunrise or a song, He is reminding me of His presence and His goodness– reminding me to stop and enjoy Him in the middle of Everyday. “…for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:29)

There, in any moment, we find Sabbath rest that refreshes and re-orients the heart again. Stopping our regular schedules for a whole day is certainly healthy, and a helpful way to turn in the right direction, but when we deal honestly with the issues that keep us busy, we begin to find Sabbath rest in bits and pieces everywhere. God promises, “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

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“…’Be careful to keep my Sabbath day, for the Sabbath is a sign of the covenant between me and you from generation to generation. It is given so you may know that I am the LORD, who makes you holy.'” (Exodus 31:13)

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“I’ve heard a thousand stories of what they think You’re like,
But I’ve heard the tender whispers of love in the dead of night.
And You tell me that You’re pleased,
And that I’m never alone.
You’re a good good Father–
It’s who You are….
And I’m loved by You–
It’s who I am….”
(Good Good Father, Chris Tomlin)