Posted in Faith Nuggets, Meditations & Meanderings

Enjoying

When we read that God rested, it certainly can’t mean that he removed his hand from the work of sustaining the creation that he had just made. It means that he enjoyed it. – Aimee Byrd, Theological Fitness

For years, I’ve had these little naggings about Sabbath. It’s a big deal in Scripture, but we never quite seem to know what to do with it as Christians, other than declare it an Old Testament principle. After all, Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath, and salvation is our Sabbath rest, so we’re good, right?

But about three and a half years ago, those little naggings began to form into conviction. A realization that the Holy Spirit was trying to point out an area of disobedience in my life. An exploration to discover what obedience was supposed to look like – because I didn’t have a clue!

Since then, the Holy Spirit has been slowly teaching me – us, really, as it’s a family thing – what it means to rest. We’ve made tangible changes and have grown a lot, but we also know we still have a long way to go. Last year, we read several books that helped us process through what God’s Word has to say about rest for believers, and those were amazing. But, the interesting thing is the number of places I’m still seeing rest mentioned. The necessity of it. The importance of it. The obedience of it. It seems that many people are being reminded that God did not make us for 24/7 busyness.

One lesson I’ve learned along the way is that rest is not just about stopping. Because stopping can be counterproductive. Stopping can increase anxiety instead of easing it. It can fill us with restlessness instead of rest. It can be harmful instead of helpful.

No, rest is not about stopping. So, what is it?

Last year as I was reading Theological Fitness by Aimee Byrd, I came across the quote I shared above. The day I read it, the quote jumped off the page at me, and it has stuck with me ever since. As have the thoughts I wrote in my journal the morning I read those words:

Do I enjoy what God is doing around me? Do I stop long enough to notice? Perhaps this is a key to Sabbath. Not simply taking a break, but ceasing from labor to enjoy. Enjoy what God is doing around me. Enjoy what He has done through me.

In our go, go, go lives, I’ve noticed that we often seem to have very little time to enjoy what we’ve accomplished. In fact, it seems that we never finish. Oh, we might close up a specific task or project, but we’ve already started a new one before that one is anywhere near complete. It’s a constant cycle. A constant running. We can never celebrate the completion because we’re buried in the middle of the next thing.

God created. Then God declared it good. He enjoyed His creation.

What if we were to stop and do the same? What if, every day, we were to stop and find something good from the day? What if every week we were to stop, take a breath, and just spend a day enjoying? What would change about us? About our attitudes? Our stress levels? Our health? Our outlook?

I’m going to make a choice to enjoy. Enjoy what God is doing around me. What He is doing through me. What He is showing me. Him.

Will you join me?

Posted in Faith Nuggets

The Enjoyment of Rest

Do you ever read the early verses of Genesis and sigh with longing? I do. The beautiful garden. Perfect interaction with nature. An intimate relationship with God. True, perpetual rest.

Interestingly enough, though, the true rest was not an absence of work.

We honestly don’t know how Adam and Eve spent their days in the garden. All we know is that they didn’t just flit around mindlessly without purposeful activity. They were the garden’s keepers. Because all we know is the curse, we have no idea what it looks like to keep a garden in an environment of perfection. We know the effort it takes to coax food out of the ground through toil – to work hard to ensure good soil, keep back the weeds that also love the good soil, and maintain a proper balance of irrigation. Without a day-to-day description of how Adam and Even lived before the Fall, we can only make guesses as to what beautiful, rewarding, curse-free work looks like.

But, what does that have to do with rest?

Some time ago, my family made a change in our schedule. We realized that we were going non-stop seven days a week for weeks on end because the normal down time of our culture simply did not work for us. Sundays are work days for a pastor’s family. Period. Even for the kids. They might not have as many responsibilities as Dad or even Mom, but they still have to be “on” all day on Sunday. It’s work. And, most of our Saturdays were becoming consumed with this obligation or that. Even if it was enjoyable obligations, it still was not optional and was not rest.

So, we shifted school and my work so that the whole family could share Doug’s day off.

Obviously, as a pastor, he doesn’t always get that day off. Sometimes needs that fall on a Friday are just not optional. But, we have still been able to become much more proactive about distinguishing between those things that are and are not optional and preserving Friday as a day of rest.

But, the rest part has not been automatic. Thanks to the curse of sin, rest – real rest – is not something that comes naturally. Our natural inclination seems to be to replace rest with escapism. Run from work. Run from obligation. But escapism is never truly rest.

So what is rest? Real, biblical rest?

Well, we can look at what little we know of the garden. We can look in the laws God outlined for the Israelites after rescuing them from Egypt. And we can look at the discussion of Sabbath rest in Hebrews. Gallons of ink, millions of words, and hours upon hours of thought and study have gone into this question. There is no way I can simply or definitively solve the problem in one simple blog post.

But, I can share one thing that I know for sure: Rest is not about the absence of work. On the contrary, rest is enjoying the things God is doing around us. His work.

I can’t find the exact Mark Buchanan quote, but in his book The Rest of God, he talks about orchestrating every day of our week around the Sabbath. The three days before look toward it, working in preparation for it. The three days after look back upon it, implementing its message into the routine of life. (Great book – I highly recommend it!)

That is Sabbath rest. Taking a day to enjoy the work of God so greatly that it permeates every corner of our curse-soaked work week, allowing us to see God’s hand even as we fight through what so often feels like mire.

I hunger to learn more about true rest each week because I know it drives me a little close to the way I was created to live – in the beautiful rest of perfect work alongside my Savior and my God.

Posted in What I'm Learning

Reading

Anyone who knows us knows that we are a family of readers. I’m probably the least well-read member of my family, partially because of other obligations, but also because I often just don’t take the time to read. But, I do have a huge stack of books I really want to conquer.

Last Year

Last year, I decided to become more aggressive about conquering that stack, determining to always have two books going. The first would be something fiction, primarily because that is my number one way to relax. For years, I limited my fiction reading to slow times. But, I’m learning that rest does not come by waiting until after everything is done or life is slow. (When does that really happen, anyway?) It comes by trusting God to take care of the needs while I obey and take moments or days of rest. One of my active steps toward rest has been to intentionally keep a novel going. It might be just a chapter at night before I go to bed two or three nights a week, followed by a little more reading time on Fridays. But, it’s always progress.

The second book would always be a nonfiction title. I’m not a strong nonfiction reader, and it is very easy to not ever get around to that stack. But, the more I read nonfiction, the easier it becomes. So, while intentionally reading fiction was about rest, being intentional about nonfiction was an effort to stretch myself and grow. Last year, I chose titles I could read in short bursts during my morning Bible and prayer time. Again, it wasn’t much each day – typically only a section from a chapter, rather than even an entire chapter. But, I saw more progress through nonfiction than I have seen in a long time! Through the course of the year, I read several great books that way, including Aimee Byrd’s Housewife Theologian, Ken Shigematsu’s God in My Everything, and The Rest of God by Mark Buchanan.

What’s New

This year, I’m continuing the trend, but I’m adding a third reading slot to the schedule. I have a list of “want to read” titles that don’t really fit in my morning Bible reading and devotional time. These titles are aimed to help me with my writing goals, show me a little bit of what it means to adopt a child, or strengthen my ability to teach. So, on “normal” days, one work break will be a fifteen minute time slot set aside for reading one of those books.

Right now, I actually have six books going, which is incredibly odd for a gal who is typically a “one book at a time” kind of reader. But, that’s temporary. I just had some time-sensitive reads that needed to be tackled – including some school titles that I need to read alongside my high schooler. I’ve got a good rotation schedule going, and I’m enjoying every single book!

Right Now

Here are the titles I’m currently enjoying:

  • Catalyst – a Star Wars novel, prequel to Rogue One. The rest of the family has already read it, and considered it a fast read (a few hours). That means I’ll hopefully have it done in about a week!
  • The Heart of Revelation by J. Scott Duvall
  • Words That Change Everything by Karen Jordan
  • Passion and Purity by Elisabeth Elliot
  • Can You Drink This Cup? by Henri Nouwen
  • Self-Promotion for Introverts by Nancy Ancowitz

Meanwhile, I am finally making use of the Goodreads account I’ve had for a while, entering upcoming titles so I’ll be able to just glance at my list to pick my next read.

What about you?

Are you a reader? Do you make time to read, or do you just read when you can? What are some of your favorite – or current – reads?

Posted in Faith Nuggets, Thoughts, Thoughts from Life

Living on the Lake

Two weeks ago today, we were starting our meandering trip home after several glorious vacation days. The time away didn’t quite turn out like we’d planned at first. At the last minute, we found ourselves scrambling to make a backup plan. Well, a backup plan for us. I can’t help but think that it was actually God’s original plan.

Instead of staying in a hotel and with friends, all of which would have been a treat and fine and lovely, we ended up in a cabin on Tims Ford Lake in Tennessee. For three nights, we went to bed with every window open so we could sleep to the smells and sounds of the lake. For three mornings, we woke up to the calm quiet of springtime in a secluded location. Everywhere we went over the course of our four-day vacation, we had to drive through wide stretches of nature and farmlands. Every aspect of our environment spoke to our souls, filling and nourishing us.

Inevitably, every time we passed a church in the middle of that beautiful, peaceful environment, we joked, “Hey! We can see if they need a pastor so we can just live here!” It had nothing to do with wanting to move or leave our current church and start over. We really have no interest in doing that! But, the environment of the countryside we stayed in or drove through soothed, revived, and refreshed us in wonderful ways. And we just wanted to stay.

In truth, though, staying in a place that revived us momentarily would not have the same effect long term. Every time we are revived, we then come to the time when we must get back to work. We must take the refreshment and apply it to the task at hand. We cannot stay in a constant state of soothing. We were made to actively glorify God in everything we do, not just to soak up moments of nourishment.

This truth reverberates across all areas of our lives. Whether it’s a physical location, an emotional or mental state of being, a place of fellowship, or a period of spiritual illumination, none of these aspects of nourishment are meant to be our solitary state of being. We are meant to live, not simply absorb.

The beauty of life in Christ, though, is that we can have both simultaneously. Our nourishment and refreshment can come even in the midst of the work. Our space of beauty explodes from the Word of God and the handiwork of the Spirit all around us. Our filling comes from communion, true relational communion, with our Savior. Sometimes, yes, we need to physically get away from the noise of everyday life. But there is no need for getaway in our spiritual lives. God equips us to live every single day in the nourishment of His presence.

We lack, not because we need a spiritual getaway, but because we do not choose to live in His daily nourishment.

I would still love to live in a home built in the hills overlooking a lake. But, I don’t want to live a life of escape. I want to live a life daily nourished by my relationship with the Lord. Some days I do experience that life. Other days, I fail to rest in Him. But, that is my goal. That is my heart. And when I choose it, there is no lakeside home that could ever match the comfort of a Christ-enveloped life.

Posted in Faith Nuggets, Thoughts, Thoughts from Life

Walk Away…and Toward

That’s what I’m trying to do today – walk away.

Walk away from the constant involvement.

Walk away from the computer (yes, I wrote this ahead of time!).

Walk away from the e-mail.

Walk away from the things that continually to claim my thoughts and my attention.

In our constantly connected world, it becomes harder and harder to walk away. I homeschool. I work from home via the Internet. Our ministry surrounds us all the time. The “office” – no matter which office it is – can go with me anywhere.

It’s hard to walk away. I have to choose to do it.

But, I think the bigger question is this: What am I walking toward?

God is teaching me more and more about rest. The need for it. The reality that rest is a command. But also the intricacies of it. What does it mean? How do the OT laws and principles apply to me today? How can I be obedient to the command for Sabbath rest in my life?

That’s where the walking away question comes into play. You see, I have long known that I need to regularly walk away from work. But, when I do, I feel lost. So many hours are focused on teaching my children, handling the ministry side of life, participating with my family in meeting the needs of our home, and meeting my HEDUA obligations.

What do I do when I walk away from the work?

I must have something I’m walking toward. And it cannot just be a generic statement of “rest” because I need to know exactly what rest means. What does it look like?

The only answer is that I must walk toward Christ.

Which brings me to an interesting thought. Isn’t that what I’m supposed to be doing on a daily basis?

Could it be that rest is not just a weekly Sabbath thing but a daily thing? Could it be that Jesus’ invitation to come to Him means that we can find rest even in the day to day pressure?

Could it be that I am commanded to walk away daily, walking toward Him instead and allowing Him to take full control of every moment?

Could it be that even in the pressure of life, I can dwell in rest?

What a powerful thought!

Yes, today, I’m walking away from certain aspects of work to spend time being refreshed with my family. But, my direction for today should be no different than my direction for Monday. Each and every day I should be walking away from the cares of this world and walking toward rest in Christ. He will then take care of the details of that rest.

Will you walk toward Him with me today?