Nuggets: How to Rest

Most of us know we’re sleep deprived, or at least over worked and stressed out. (Come on, it’s the modern curse that this is actually a badge of honor!) At the same time, most Christians are fully aware of God’s call to rest. If nothing else, in the 10 Commandments, we learn that God modeled a Sabbath rest for us.

Wouldn’t you like to take a rest?

It requires more than you think. Resting is costly.

Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”… Matthew 11:29

The prerequisite for rest, for truly letting your guard down, giving up control and walking with the Spirit is ultimate humility.

Yep. Rest might cost you your reputation, your wealth, your esteem, your drive and more.

True rest is found beneath the yoke of Christ. Look at Him. He tells us to learn from Him about rest and He certainly wasn’t taking a lot of long naps!

No, spirit-deep rest is found in surrender, gentleness and humility. But I have a feeling, that when we learn these traits from Jesus, we’ll find a supernatural rest that even affects us physically and mentally.

 

What the Hatmaker Said When She Interrupted Me

God keeps interrupting me.

It started with this appetizer last week. On top of that, having just moved to a new place and flexing my “get acquainted” muscles, I’m looking for the places to plug into my community where I can have an impact for Christ. Then, I was chosen to be one of 250 bloggers to receive an advanced review copy of Jen Hatmaker’s updated book, Interrupted. I was primed for Jen’s book, pondering and praying about God’s next move in my life.

For the next few weeks here on Predatory Lies, I’m going to plow through Jen’s book with you. By the time we’re done, you’re going to have to read it just to see if you agree with my revelations from it. (But that’s okay because through July 31, you can get a 20% discount on the book here. Oh, and I’ll be giving away a copy on Predatory Lies, too!)

I’m only a few chapters in right now, but let me tell you, Jen Hatmaker kept me up last night. No, not reading. I’m pretty good about turning the lights out at a reasonable hour even when I’m reading a great book. But she got under my skin; she kept me awake pondering whether or not I’ve totally missed God, if all my attempts to follow Him, to work out my salvation, to hone my vocation and use my little life for His glory—whether I’d gotten it all wrong.

Here’s Jen’s first epiphany: “And from the heights of heaven, this is what I heard: ‘You do feed souls, but twenty-four thousand of my sheep will die to day because no one fed their bellies; eighteen thousand of them are my youngest lambs, starving today in a world with plenty of food to go around.’”

Gut punch.

Jen follows that excerpt from her conversation with Christ with dozens of statistics. It’s heart-rending. Honestly, the statistics have always been available, but most of us have learned to scan over them when we see them in print, or change the channel when the Compassion International commercial comes on, or squirm in our seats when they take a special collection for missionaries in Uganda.

Before you squirm now and bail on me, take heart, I’m going to take a different spin on Jen’s message. Yes, she kept me awake, but it wasn’t God leaning into my heart saying, “You’re not doing enough.”

I wrestled all night, “God what do you want from me? Where am I supposed to go, what am I supposed to do? Is all my Christianity filthy to you because I’m not on my knees cleaning a leper’s sores in India?”

No.

(I know I’m kind of all over the board right now, but bear with me.)

Jen’s right and I’m not wrong. I’m not averting my gaze from her statistics and I’m not going to quit reading the book because it makes me uncomfortable. In fact, I’m going to change my prayer life, increase my financial giving and take brutal inventory of my excess. I’m making a commitment today not to buy anything else this year that is not consumable—no new clothes, dishes or decorations. I am committing before God not to live in blissful ignorance of the needs of God’s global, precious image-bearers.

But God hasn’t called everyone to take up Jen Hatmaker’s mission. God hasn’t called every Christian to march under her banner.

A couple years ago, God wouldn’t let me out from under James 1:27, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”

About that time, He opened doors from Brave and I to become a certified pet therapy team and we’ve been visiting the sick, elderly and lonely. I am passionate about this. It’s not easy. Sometimes it’s boring or frustrating trying to carry on an encouraging conversation with someone on the brink of senility or trying to appear interested when a lonely child won’t stop talking, or pretending I don’t notice a disfigurement, an ugly wound or the dirty hand gripping mine. But I know that I know this is what God has given me to do—and He’s given me a passion for it as well.

Additionally, God has opened doors wider than I ever thought imaginable to speak hope and healing into the lives of several girls pinned down under the weighty lies of an eating disorder. This is brings me joy, challenges me and affects my heart. This too keeps me on my knees asking God for wisdom, words and grace.

Summation? Jen’s book is going to cost me some sleep. She’s awaking my heart to a deeper level of need that I’ve either been unaware of or not wanted to acknowledge. However, her clarion call will press me deeper into my own calling to serve the least of these, dig my hands deeper into the soil of my own mission field and follow the Servant-Savior wherever He leads.

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Active Rest, Walking out the “Stuck”

I’m really good at giving advice. And I’m pretty good at taking it from others. I start to struggle a bit when I know that I need to take my own advice. More accurately, when I need to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit as He tells me something I don’t want to hear.

There are a lot of things going on in my life that I don’t have much control over. Yet, I’m wearing myself out, tangling myself up in my mind trying to get a grip on them, force the proper outcome, demand the delayed response, see the future. But I’m hearing God say “rest”.

How does one rest? What does one do in the meantime? I mean, the world keeps spinning, expectations keep mounting, time marches on and: I still don’t have an answer God! I don’t know what to do about this circumstance, that situation or another relationship.

The One Word God gave me as a lens through which to view this year is walk. I sat with my Bible on my lap, staring out the window at a gloomy, spring morning and waited, as best I could, for God to give me something more. I didn’t know how to get up, or what to do next if He didn’t answer me. Finally, He spoke:

Abby, I want you to see the correlation between walking and rest. Do not charge ahead as if you’re in some race toward a marked finish line. There are no lanes, no finish lines, just a person-goal, Myself.

When I was deeply entrenched in my eating disorder, compulsive exercise was one of my greatest challenges and resting was very hard for me. In “workout vernacular” there’s a term active rest. It is those seconds between sets or days between workouts that capitalize on all your hard work. During those rest periods, the muscles and tissues grow and rebuild. Without them, the body’s ability to perform diminishes.

When those rest periods are used wisely, the body is able to lift more, run farther and perform more efficiently over time. In those periods, it is beneficial to drink water, consume nutrients, stretch—and walk. Stagnant rest is detrimental to muscles, but slow, constructive, mindful movement accelerates healing and increases longevity.

Walk, Abby. This is how you wait. One foot in front of the other; the next right thing.

The exercise analogy can be related to the importance of rest in my daily life and walk with God. So often throughout Scripture, God calls us to wait on Him. Usually, I spin my wheels in those spaces, wondering when He is going to act, or maybe I can just step in and do whatever it is for Him. But God calls me to wait, tells me to rest for my own good.

He knows that when I slow my movement, consume the nourishment of His word and walk mindfully through each day I’ll eventually come upon His answer. And after those seasons of slow movement, rest and recovery, I will be able to serve Him longer, in more difficult circumstances and with a stronger faith.

This was first published at http://www.FINDINGbalance.com

Poem secret place

arnsberg-617991-mTake me into the secret place, Father.

A hidden place of muted song and raging melody,

Of solace and passion.

That same place, with You,

I find that pours and presses peace into oft unwilling mind.

But that pulls me to my feet and sweeps me in ecstatic circles.

That place,

Only You know the way.

It’s never the same path twice,

To trace my steps or share a code:

“Two steps, a prayer, a toughened knee, three songs, a verse by heart.”

So I come, as far as I can go, the threshold of Your throne room.

So close.

I can taste Your goodness

Swoon with the sweet fragrance of a thousand prayers,

Peer at Your beautiful strength,

But freeze in awe of contained majesty.

In flesh!

A hand pierced, extended.

Please, please take me to the secret place,

Where no one else can see my tears today.

I need the sound of Your breath,

Even in the absence of Your words.

I need the thunder of Your heart,

Even when You do not lead me forward.

Oh, that secret place.

Where tears, shy of human comment,

Flow freely from waves of pent fears and awe.

Be All To Me

Funny, I can go months at a time without writing a poem. Then, all of a sudden, one hits me and a few follow. Hope you don’t mind me posting another prayer-poem. 🙂

May God bless and keep you, Friends.

Oh Father, 
Increase my hunger for you. Screenshot 2014-04-12 13.55.44
Whet my appetite for prayer
And my tongue with intercession.

Greater in me,
Let your Life-breath swell my chest.
Illumine my eyes.
Weaken my resistance to your probing eyes,
healing hands and pure, fiery heart.

I want to know you and,
In knowing you to need you more.
I want to pummel you with questions,
Seek you for guidance,
Fear you with wisdom,
Love you with passion and an undivided heart.

Even in my frailty and oft distracted gaze,
I know, I know that you alone
Are sufficient for my days,
And more, more, more!

With answers to past troubles,
And light for distant paths,
Oh Father, when hungry teach me to feast on you.
When thrilled to glory in you.
When troubled to seek you and rest in you.
Be all to me.

Digging In

I’m of the persuasion that more is better. I mean, isn’t most of America? Supersize it! Go big or go home. Strive, push, go, run, driven, goal-oriented, persistent…everything we want to be, right?

I’ve internalized this message and applied it to my vocation as a writer. It feels like I’m cheating to reach back into my repertoire to say the same thing again. All past pieces, published or not, are just bits of gravel strewn along the path behind me. Admittedly, they have some merit to have brought me here, but to be a real artist, a real writer, I must only make new, not build upon ruins. Or so I have believed. I have dozens of folders of scraps. Half-digested ideas that made their way onto the page, but were soon forgotten and deemed irrelevant to current pursuits.

But recently, I’ve come to a stand still. I don’t know if you can tell (I don’t know if I want you to notice) every noun seems forced, verbs evade me, sentences seem slippery and limp. I can’t seem to make anything new. It feels like I’m slogging through molasses. I…can’t…seem…to…press…on…

A very perceptive friend emailed me last week. He took the time to write me a long letter, encouraging from one perspective and a bit convicting from another. Realizing that I am thrashing and flustered by my lack of creativity, he reminded me of my own words: when I first found your website years ago, I picked up on your words “Sometimes it takes pain for us to hear the already God-given permission to rest”, so make sure you practice what you preach.

Oh my, practice what I preach. Indeed. Guess I might have caught that if I ever “wasted” the time rereading my own blog. At the time I wrote it, I was so certain that God was speaking to and through me. I could barely spill the words fast enough. I must have assumed that I mastered whatever God was hoping to teach me, because just as quickly I pressed on.

While rereading that post, I stumbled upon a whole season in which God kept insisting rest, rest, rest. 

My friend continued to talk about the futility of striving. He gave specific accounts of his own life. Striving took its toll, but when he stopped, too tired and worn to press on, God did beautiful, complete things in his life.

I thought about the physical parallels of this. An image of myself treading water formed in my mind. Usually, swimming  laps seems superior to treading water. But have you ever tried to tread water for any length of time? It takes more strength to pedal your legs and flap your arms just so, in one spot, than it does to perform a perfect crawl stroke for the same duration. Not to mention, it takes incredible mental stamina to tread water.

I felt God lean into my heart with the words: Go deeper, not wider.  I’m still unearthing all the treasure associated with that little phrase, but this is a start: Stay here. Tread deep. Reread. Relearn. Don’t go forward. I love the way Exodus 4:37 says this, “But if the cloud did not rise, they remained where they were until it lifted.” My cloud isn’t moving.

At this time, I don’t think still necessarily means stationary. It simply means not going forward. I need to do what I have here to do. Go deeper with my platform, the publications for which I am already writing, in my blog and talking here with you, in the church and the small groups I have now, in my marriage, with my friends. I must wrestle with this discontent, this inkling that where I am isn’t good enough and I must do more, reach farther.

I’ll leave you with this for today. I wrote an article prompted by the word “silence”. My heart kept seeking the word “silence” in Ps. 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God.” It’s not there, but what I discovered about the command to be still surprised me. 

So I’m settling in. I’m going deep. I’m staying right here. Until He tells me Move. 

Embrace the Silence

“A time to keep silent, and a time to speak.” Ecc. 3:7b
Silence makes most of us uncomfortable.
The silence of a vacant page is enough to rip the words right from a writer’s finger tips. So, as I frantically searched the hall of my mind and the pages of my commentaries for a way to explain to you the profundity of this word, silence, I panicked when God said, “Be still.”
“As soon as I figure this out God,” I whispered back, “As soon as you tell me what to say!”
“Be still, and know that I am God.” Ps. 46:10
The Hebrew word translated, “Be still,” is, raphah, which means: to sink down or drop into, to let it drop, let alone or to be quiet.
Has someone ever told you to, “Just drop it.”? They mean to abandon an argument or discussion, to withdraw from your frantic pursuits.
That’s what God is calling us to here. He desires to spend time with us, not only to hear our petitions or worries, but so that we can know Him and love Him more because of who He is. And that happens in silence. It happens when like a little child we come into His presence and sink down deep into His loving arms. It happens when we drop our fears, frustrations and pleas (and our discomfort in quiet).
If you’re struggling in your walk with God and feel as if you do not know Him like you want to, or don’t have a strong relationship with Him, be still. Sink into His arms and get to know Him in the silence.
This post was written for Swagga4Christ and also featured on FaithWriters daily devotional. I hope you’ll visit their incredible website and read the other inspiring and aspiring Christian authors.

Poem From A Broken Writer

I felt sunlight softening soul into spirit,

Liquifying calcified dreams

Pressed dormant into crannies

Of this flesh-shell.

 

I felt icicles like prisms melting

Drips of radiant, golden life

Suspended from the end of despair

And soften, butter-yellow

Fall, back into this flesh-shell.

 

Yes, I felt sunlight soften my soul

Dripping spirit back into body

Filling, ever so slowly, back up this

Gutted flesh-shell.

 

I watched goals and dreams flitter

Like litter cross the street,

Fast and flimsy, uncharted, un-chased

Un-pursued.

 

Acorns pop beneath my feet,

Rebelling, I walk past lecture halls

And lessons.

I abandon should’s and should-nots and

Probably nevers.

 

I refuse the notion that my pen,

My words, my voice propels

The essence of my story.

I am not the harvest of so many pages

Or the culmination of book deals,

Digital friends and lurid likes.

 

I am not a soul-ish creature

But spirit filled and driven,

Spirit carried and consumed.

I am an artist and a canvas,

Both a creator and a lump of clay.

 

So, I let the warmth of sunlight

Bake my spirit firm.

Like autumn pies, rich with clove

Fragrance wafting from this open heart and

Weakened pen.

 

As soul melts and drips spirit

Back into this flesh-shell,

Abba bake me in the morning rays

Of Your exquisite love

And infinite purpose.

 

A purpose so profound,

It is only written on a softened heart.

A purpose of worship,

In words and notebooks, pens and pages

Hearts and humanity in right this minute.

A Place Called Home, For Now…

“Father, I’ve found a church I like here. They have a women’s group that meets at the perfect time on Wednesday nights. Other doors to get involved are opening right and left. I get so excited, God, and then I panic. What about when we move?”

As a nomadic, military spouse, I hate one question: “What church do you belong to?”

I can handle, “What church do you go to?”, but the concept of belonging…somehow that doesn’t seem possible for me anymore. 

In our nearly eleven year military career, my husband and I haven’t moved as much as some. I’ve lived in four states; my husband has lived in four states and three countries. At our first two duty stations, I dug in quickly. I grew up like a good, church girl, having a church membership with my family at the same building for years at a time. My parents taught Sunday school classes, I went on trips with the youth group, sang in the choir, attended and then helped to lead vacation Bible school. 

It felt like the right thing to do as a married adult, to carry on those traditions in a new church home. But that’s just it, it didn’t feel like home. As if uprooting my irises, un-hanging all our pictures and garage selling the least sentimental gifts from last Christmas isn’t enough; as if bidding farewell to my biological mother and father and sisters isn’t enough, now ever few years I am supposed to say farewell to brothers and sisters in Christ that I have sat with, served with, eaten with, laughed with, confided in and studied with. 

No, I’m not sure I want to belong anywhere. But then, not belonging feels terribly lonely. 

I lifted my pen from the journal page, flipped the notebook closed and stood. My petition and fears now lay at the foot of Abba’s throne. It was up to Him to show me what to do about this inviting church. 

Later that day, I listened to a sermon by Paul White as I cleaned the bathrooms. 

“We have a lot of transience here, and it’s tempting to wonder why our church numbers aren’t constantly growing. To many, that would signal that we’re doing something wrong. Why are people leaving?”

It was almost an aside to the message, but he believed the words were for someone. That someone was me. 

“But I believe Christians are sent out. People are supposed to leave. The point is not to build a big church, but to equip and encourage people in the love and grace of Christ and send them out to share that with others, even within other churches.”*

I love how God often hammers a point home by repeating it through many sources. The next sermon on my iPod was by Ed Young, so I let it continue to play in the background. 

Ed spoke on evangelism, the urgent need for believers to be all consumed with sharing the love and rescue of Jesus Christ. He quoted from Matt 28:19, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,”.

In the original language, Jesus said to the disciples, “As you are going…”. This going out to the nations (and states) is an ongoing thing. I am not called to establish a home in one location, but to be a tent-dweller (2 Corinthians 5:1), uprooting my tent pegs every time the Spirit leads, just like Moses and the Israelites followed the cloud by day and fire by night. (Num. 9:21)

The Holy Spirit tapped my shoulder one more time, to reinforce His point. That evening, as I poured over this new church’s website, reading their mission statement and distinctives, my eyes snagged on this phrase:

“We don’t want you to ‘join the church’ so your name can be on a list or in a database somewhere. We want you to experience the awesome adventure of finding real life in Christ and helping others find it too. Our end goal is not for you to become a member; we want you to partner with us by choosing to Live Big, Love Big and Give Big.”

That was it. I can hammer in a tent peg here and get busy serving with a diligent, nomadic, enthusiastic, committed body of Christ. I may not be here long. Within a year or two, I’ll likely be pulling up stake, uprooting my irises and giving the remaining contents of the fridge to my neighbor. But for now, until it’s time to get going again, I belong.