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Sunday grace

Predawn darkness. Sound of perking coffee. Fresh air from an opened window.

The new day begins. I sit in the stillness, Bible open in my lap and prayer list in my hand. I read, pray, listen.

God was awake before I heard the alarm. He kept watch through the night. He waited in expectation for me to come. He desires fellowship with me.

I stand amazed.

Before the sun crests the tree tops, birds begin their chorus. First one, then others join. The little woods becomes a symphony of song.

The words I pray are no surprise to my Father. He knows the needs before I ask. He understands my feeble effort to express my requests, remembering that I am dust. He determines the times and seasons and works His plan to bring about His will.

What more could I ask?

I journal and pour out my heart on paper. God comprehends more than the words I try to write, the longings so tangible that I ache, the storm brewing that needs a calming.

As near as my breath, He speaks peace. “Fear not. I am with you.”

I rest in Him, a Sabbath rest that incompasses every day of the week. It is the choice I make as I rise to face the day. Whatever it brings, I know God loves me. He hears my prayers. He answers according to His perfect will, accomplishing His purpose in me and those I love.

This is grace.

Sunday grace.

On being busy

I’ve been wanting to write a post on busy-ness for over a week, but I’ve been too busy. And I chuckle at myself.

Pondering busy for days now and how I relate to it, I’ve considered the then-and-now practices of spending my one wonderful life. Just recently my good neighbor said, “You’re always so busy,” after I offered to help her with a sewing project. My response was: “I’m busy because I find things I want to do. . . . I’ll probably die busy. At least I hope so.”

A number of years ago, a close relative – who will remain unnamed – suggested I might want to start a support group for busy people. It was said in jest cloaked in a measure of truth. You recognize the underlying meaning of those comments when you hear them.

I’ve been an actively engaged woman, no doubt. When I was employed full-time outside the home, out of necessity to provide for my family, I also tried to keep the homes fires burning. Involved in ministry and volunteer positions, my adrenaline pumped hard. I went from one appointment to the next, with a daily list of things to accomplish. I seemed to thrive on it, even boasted a bit about how much I could get done.

I was playing the role of Super Woman without the cute costume. I didn’t allow for a Sabbath rest. I was burning my candle at both ends.

I remember when God dealt with me about rest, how I needed to allow it and plan for it. I was in an extremely difficult season of life, a place of utter dependence on God.

Desperation has a way of opening our ears to hear.

My weekly rhythm needed a change. I determined to do all I could the six days leading to Sunday. Then, after church, I closed my planner and chose rest for the remainder of the day. It was life changing. And I’ve been a cheerleader for rest ever since.

Still, I’ve continued to lead a busy life because this is who I am.

My mind works routinely at high speed. I think of projects I’d like to do along with the everyday tasks of life we all  must accomplish. I like to create, experience new things, organize, read to learn about the world and the people in it. Often when I sit to watch a movie, my hands have something to do.

This season of a lively life is different from a few decades ago. These days my weekly list usually includes time with people, scheduled or impromptu. I love that kind of busy. Opening the door to friends and family who gather around our table brings a richness and flavor to Sweet William and me. Preparing a crock pot of soup with toasted bread and fruit, setting the table, and the clean up afterward call for a certain amount of busy.

The rewards are well worth the energy expended.

 

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It has been an active week for me, actually several weeks of being hard at it and on the go. This morning I woke knowing I had no pressing obligations and the house to ourselves. It’s what we need today. It’s the rest required after the busy.

So I catch up with some paperwork, anticipate leftover soup or spaghetti pie for lunch, and stay in my pajamas a little longer than usual. I put off running some errands until tomorrow so I can retreat and take refuge.

Today I rest and reflect, and I finally have time to write this post and cross it off my list.

The overcast skies have already given a little rain, making it feel like a day to snuggle in. Maisie and I wandered the lane this morning in the mist. I admired the color changes emerging slowly this autumn and she kept her nose to the ground.

I’m about ready to put on another pot of coffee and relax as I sip its warmth it. Because I’ve learned the art of rest. And it’s a beautiful way to spend a day.

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Work was never the curse from the fallen days in Eden. Work was given as a blessing. A day of rest was also given to bless us, restore us, and help us realize we are not super beings. We can’t keep going 24/7.

God is the one who never slumbers or sleeps. He is omnipotent and needs no time off. He is ever vigilant and watchful. He is always working.

We find our rest in the Creator, the Lover of our souls whose work in us goes on without end.

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Sunday grace

Selah.

What an unusual Hebrew word in Scripture. It is one which scholars cannot completely agree upon the meaning. Some say it is a musical term, others a liturgical signifier.

Often it is interpreted as “pause and think about it.”

We aren’t much to pause in our vigorous culture. We rush. We multitask. We move from one assignment to another, sometimes on auto-pilot. We accomplish much and travel far, but pausing is not on the agenda.

We fall into bed at night, exhausted, hoping to sleep just enough so we can begin the race again tomorrow.

What if we paused more often? Paused to view the sunrise in the morning. Paused to taste breakfast. Paused to listen to more than the words being spoken. Paused to give thanks for being able to move and work and think. Paused enough to enjoy the blessing of sleep. Paused to hear the still small voice of the Spirit.

Life is not an emergency, though we treat it as if it is sometimes.

 

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Music needs a rest to emphasise the notes played. The rests in music make the remainder of the song more beautiful.

Today, pause. Rest. Take a deep breath. Worship with your heart in it. Sing your song out loud as you move to its rhythm. Hug your people long. Look into someones eyes and hear what the heart is trying to say.

Selah. Pause and think about this good life God has given you.

Sunday grace.

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Permission to rest

Rest has not always been on my list of things to do. More likely in years past, I tried to see how little of it I needed. But no longer. I have wised up. I value a good night’s sleep. I enjoy sitting with afternoon coffee. I relish time at the table with friends and loved ones.

In our face-paced living, perhaps we need to rethink rest and give ourselves permission to do it more often. We might live longer; we might be happier; it might improve our relationships; and just possibility, we could experience a whole different kind of Christmas.

I enjoy Holley Gerth’s writings, and today she speaks to my heart. I hope you will read her wise words, posted here, and allow yourself and those around you to have a restful holiday season.

HOLLEY GERTH: What Can You Give Yourself this Christmas?

Rest can be an act of worship.

Monday grace

My devotional theme yesterday morning was about resting, and it took me to a familar passage, Psalm 23.

Sometimes things old and familiar can be common and ordinary if we are not careful.

I didn’t need to turn to the Psalm. I’ve known it by heart since a child, learned in Children’s Church when rewards were given for memorizing. Whatever works, and it worked for me.

As I quoted the verses by heart, I noticed afresh how they speak of resting.

The Lord is my Shepherd. I have all I need. I don’t have to concern myself with working for salvation or be consumed with the cares of life.

He makes me lie down. Why is it so hard to cease from our busy schedules and relax, be refreshed?

He leads me beside still waters. The rushing waters are beautiful and powerful, but the still waters invite me in to its gentle flowing.

He restores my soul. How I need this. Jesus tender touch on a weary brow, a heart that is broken, a soul that has drifted.

He leads me in paths of righteousness. This is His path, not one of my own making. His path is the right way.

Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. Fear has torment and is the enemy’s tool. No matter the place I must go, my Shepherd is with me.  He is good and He is strong. He replaces anxiety with His very own peace.

Your rod and Your staff. Comforting tools of the shepherd are there to protect and guard, to guide and rescue.

You prepare a table for me. I love it when someone invites me over, prepares the food, and tells me to sit and enjoy. I am the pampered guest, and I feel loved.

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My cup runs over. Not “just enough” but more than enough. Christ’s love is everlasting, His mercies are ever new, His compassion fails not.

Goodness and mercy will follow me. I don’t have to chase them down and beg. They are pursuing me with the graciousness of my God.

And I will dwell in the house of the Lord. Ah, here is the ultimate rest, to be absent from this body and present with my Lord. I am a member of the family and will make myself at home.

Because I will be Home. And nothing says rest to me like home.our house by Elyse

P.S. I took this Paslm to heart so much yesterday that I rested from from Sunday grace and technology.

 

 

 

June begins

June, the month of summer. Children are out of school, and I hear them across the fields at their play.

I remember being a kid in summer, constantly outside in play and adventure. We swam until we got hungry. We played board games on the porch at my aunt and uncle’s house when the sun got too hot. I don’t remember ever getting bored. There were fields to roam, projects to construct, neighbors to call for ball games in empty lots, and dinner with the family each evening.

There was church on Sundays and mid-week when one of my friends could come stay with us a few days and then return at next service time. Our annual church convention brought an overnight stay in a motel, a sort of vacation for us. And there was a week at youth camp, up in the mountains where the days were sweltering and nights made us pull on the blankets. Open aired cabins with bunk beds were the places for making friends. The girls wore their hair in curlers all day long, our heads wrapped in scarves, so we could look pretty for church at night.

They were wonderful days.

Some call it the lazy days of summer. Having grown into an adult, I’ve not lived a lazy life. Circumstances beyond my control loaded me with responsibility. It has been my lot to move, to get things done. I stayed on task and accomplished as much as possible in a day, often falling into bed exhausted just to set the alarm to begin it all over again tomorrow.

This month of June seems like an invitation, like a Sabbath calling me.  There are no piano lessons this month. An upcoming procedure will keep us close to home. No travel plans ahead. My calendar is looking strangely blank.

Something calls to me to rest, to sit idle, to be still. My body feels it, the pull to nurture myself; to wander instead of power walk; to tread gently in the gardens and enjoy the summer beauty without focusing on the weeds; to spend time with books and to play the piano for the pure pleasure of it.

I am reading Wendell Berry’s New Collected Poems. He is a Kentucky native and a lover of the land, like I am. He writes:

“The aged voices of a few crickets thread the silence. It is a quiet I love, though my life too often drives me through it deaf. Busy with costs and losses, I waste the time I have to be here–a time blessed beyond my deserts, and I know, if only I would keep aware. The leaves rest in the air, perfectly still. I would like them to rest in my mind as still, as simply spaced.”     — The Sorrel Filly

This is what I am craving – the quiet I love. I’ve lived under pressure many days. I’ve rushed from one appointment to another, driving in the fast lane. I’ve made the long lists of things that needed to be done, and I’ve checked them off one by one.

It will be challenging for me to slow. I hesitate to even write it here, like I’m making a promise, a promise to myself. It is my nature to do things, and there is always, always something to do. But I am compelled to pursue what pursues me. Perhaps it is the Spirit calling me to come away, to listen for the hushed calm, to be still and know my God.

[Jesus] said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a little while”—for there were many people who were continually coming and going, and they could not even find time to eat.”  — Mark 6:31, AMP

I can linger on the deck in the early morning, before the thermostate rises high enough to send me indoors. I can sip my coffee slowly, because it never get too hot for coffee. I can listen carefully without distration. I can be observant, looking deeply at the flower or at the face in front of me. I can hear what my heart has to say.  I can ponder the questions that mystify me. I can be quiet.

I can choose to make June a month of rest, a Sabbath. And I shall see what joy awaits me that I might have missed in my hurrying.

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Sunday grace

God planned rest for the weary soul, the one whose energy is spent, whose mind is full to the brim with responsibilities, cares and burdens, and a to-do list that runneth over.

He gives us Sabbath.

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For the Jewish people, preparations are made the day before; work will be laid aside. The candles will be lit at sundown and Sabbath declared as the prayer is recited:

Blessed are you, Adonai our God, Sovereign of the universe, who hallows us with mitzvot [commands of God], commanding us to kindle the light of Shabbat.

Sometimes the running to and fro, the busy schedules, the work that simply never gets finished become more than we can bear.

Sometimes the cares of life, the search for happiness, the seeking after something else, something more, pulls our minds into the darkness, and the road ahead looks fearful.

Sometimes the effort to be perfect or, at the very least acceptable, and the striving to be all things to all people weighs us down.

We realize we cannot finish the tasks. We are depleted.

We forget Adonai our God is Sovereign Lord of the universe. And Sovereign Lord over us.

And so Sabbath comes to offer rest.

This day, take off the backpack of overload. Rest in the completed grace of Jesus’s full salvation. Trust the Father with the ones you love. Believe He has a plan and is working all things for your good and His glory.

He is the Shepherd and we shall not want. He is our Peace and our Righteousness and offers Himself to us. He is the God who sees us right where we are. He is the One who loves us with a tender compassion and mercies inexhaustible.

Rest today, dear one. Rest in Him.

 Come to me and I will give you rest—all of you who work so hard beneath a heavy yoke. Wear my yoke—for it fits perfectly—and let me teach you; for I am gentle and humble, and you shall find rest for your souls; for I give you only light burdens. –Matthew 11:28-30, Living New Testament

Sunday grace.