Teaching From Rest

“Rest begins with acceptance, with surrender.” — Sarah Mackenzie, Teaching from Rest

I started this book after Christmas (when I finally found it, in the bottom of an Amazon box, in my Santa’s-workshop-of-a-bedroom.) I’d had it in my cart for months, debating over whether or not it was worth the full price. Sometimes it’s those $12 splurges that are the hardest! But I finally took the plunge. Something — Someone — told me I really should read it.

Only about 20 pages in, and I was already just on overload. Maybe you’re scrambling to order it now, and will find that those 20 pages hold nothing that special — I don’t know. Maybe it’s just me. Maybe it’s just what I needed to hear and ponder and repent of.

This issue of rest. Of peace. Of unclenching my teeth.

This issue of lordship.

That is, after all, what it boils down to. My obsession with squeezing every last bit out of every last minute, of making sure those moments go the way I “need” them to go, of freaking out when something comes up that is going to take those moments away from me — who am I serving? Certainly I have forgotten that I don’t own minutes, I don’t make minutes, I don’t get to claim minutes. They belong to Him. And I am His servant. He can set a list before me in the morning and then, halfway through, ask me to switch gears and serve a naughty toddler, a discouraged son, a hungry husband. He’s allowed to do that because it’s all His.

As I was mulling these things over, I overheard Ryan ask one of the boys for a double AA battery. If you have little boys, you know those are the most precious possessions. And my son responded that way. There was a moment of panic and freak-out, and Ryan just said, “Really? Who bought those batteries for you? Don’t you know I can get you more when you need them?”

And I saw myself so perfectly in that interaction. I heard so loud and clear: “Really? Who gave you this breath, this life, these 24 hours? Don’t you know I can give you all the moments you need?”

In Matthew 25, the Master hands out talents to his servants, a familiar story. But when I read it this time, I saw, “The master gave to his slaves of his own possessions.” It’s all His, and stewardship, therefore, looks like serving His desires with my time and energies.

*****

God isn’t after success, He’s interested in faithfulness — another nugget that illuminated a whole train of thought and conviction.

Certainly I know that. But in my efforts to be faithful, I’ve begun to define what that looks like and then judge my success at faithfulness (rarely do I give myself a good grade, as I’m sure you can imagine.)

And so in yet another paradoxical moment of following Jesus, I’m realizing afresh that repenting of idolizing productivity and giving my heart completely to His rule and reign is the road to (surprise, surprise) freedom! Because any number of things can hijack a moment, hour, day and prevent me from a “successful” end. But nothing, literally nothing, can steal my ability to be faithful in any given moment and circumstance. Jesus sets us free to win. We win! I cannot lose when I realize He’s asking me to respond by the Spirit, not hit a certain goal.

Take “my” moments and my days
Let them flow in ceaseless praise…

See? Even there! “Ceaseless praise” is not an end goal of success. It is defining my every moment! Success can be thwarted at every turn, but faithful, ceaseless praise—nothing can thwart that!

*****

So I recommend this book, but mostly, I’ll just encourage you to know that God is always pursuing us. He doesn’t leave us half broken. He’s a Redeemer. He’s a master Potter. The cracks and weaknesses and foibles that I am (or am not!) painfully aware of — He addresses those. I just yield to Him and follow Him on this path of sanctification, and find Him faithful. There is not much I find more comforting than to find myself in His hands again, being kneaded and shaped, knowing that He loves me completely and hasn’t forgotten me, and He has a vision of me being spotless and without wrinkle.

new years eve, 2016

A year is ending. A whole year made up of, really, pretty insignificant days all strung in a row. Some highs, for sure, and definitely some days that felt like a punch in the gut. But mostly, it was just daily kinds of days.

A tapestry woven of time, places, and people. The thread of my life intersecting with my children’s, with my husband’s, with yours. The gold of this situation, the black of that one. The rows and rows of whites and gray that seem to mean little, but what do we know? We aren’t the weaver, we’re just the thread, and this masterpiece will be seen when we’re on the other side.

*****

Feeling, today, thankfulness I can’t even put into words. I am incredibly rich in this season. I am pursued by a God who never gives up on me, who continues to turn over stones and illuminate shadowy corners and sets me free to hope and life and peace I could never have without Him. My husband is a man of incredible wisdom and insight, whose hope is firmly fixed on Jesus alone, who is generous all day long, and who speaks truth to me that sets me free. I have children who are a delight, whose lives were planned by God, and whose destinies I impact every day. Friends, family — abundance. A warm home, food in the cupboards, wool slippers on my feet. From small needs to big, God provides and teaches me in them all. In utter heartache, He hears. For grace to make another dinner cheerfully, He is there. Some years have left me trusting that God willprovide. This year, I am so aware of all He has provided.

*****

Saying goodbye to the year is, first, saying goodbye to a month of special moments.

*****

Already the Holy Spirit is stirring new hunger and expectation in my heart. The sun rises tomorrow to a new calendar year, but our true hope is the promise of eternity — and the foretaste we have now in the presence of His Spirit working out His kingdom come in our lives. He’s making something beautiful. We can trust Him.

serving in strength

As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

That verse has been on my counter for the last couple of weeks, catching my eye, realigning my heart.

Some days I may wonder what “special gift” I have received, but other times it’s quite clear: these are days of service. Laying my life down and spending my moments and days in cleaning clothes, preparing meals, organizing home, giving instruction.

There is always more to do than I’m up for. I get tired sooner than the mountain is moved. I lose heart before the task is accomplished. Many, many times, I simply forget that I’m serving, and elevate my feelings of “I just don’t want to” to a place of consideration. Selfishness is incredibly strength-sapping.

But when my eye catches this line, the one that goes, “serve by the strength which God supplies,” my heart is renewed. There is a source of strength that is endless! Endless.

That doesn’t mean I don’t head to bed early these days — I do! — or pause long to sit with the nursing baby — I do! But it does mean my attitude doesn’t cut off the flow of strength that comes from the Holy Spirit in me. I can smile. And when I don’t, and the excuses start to flood my complaining heart, I can know that my feelings are out of line and there is a better, abundant, strength-giving truth available to me. Repent and get back into the flow of strength.

And when all else fails, I can at least be thankful that my serving is generally done with two feet firmly on the ground. This guy handles the roof problems.

november 8: I will be with you

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned,
Nor shall the flame scorch you.

When.

When.

Not if, just when.

Sometimes the rivers overwhelm me. I am surprised to find myself in life up to my eyeballs. Sometimes what should be a small trial — a difficult week with too much going on — threatens to overflow me. Other times a truly significant testing of faith is the fire I face.

But so the path of Jesus leads — there will be waters, there will be fires, and

“We can’t go under them, we can’t go over them; Oh, no! We’ve got to go through them!” (Name that book.)

But here is my very favorite truth of the gospel: God with us.

“I will be with you.”

This morning, as a new day dawns and we have yet to see what waters or fires may await us, I can already know that there is a way through. And it is with Jesus.

september 20

A little humor can go a long way, so I keep this certain image (recalled from a calendar growing up, perhaps?) tucked away. How many times has the late afternoon rolled over me and I can’t quite figure out exactly what we’re doing with this day, and forget the to-do list because somehow I can’t get above diaper changes — and this picture pops into my head, and I just laugh. How did Mary Engelbreit know I would look just like this so very often?

A little humor, a little serious: it never gets more than just “daily”. Sometimes we think it should. We wait for exciting Start Of Our Lives, which never comes. We wonder when that Calling From God is going to elevate our lives to awesome-status, and instead we just wake up every morning with bad breath and bedhead and an empty jar that is supposed to have coffee beans. There’s this one day where we’re just on the cusp, and everything is banging on all cylinders and we’re praying all day and managing the house like a whiz and kids are mastering math problems — but probably maybe definitely the next day you’ll wake up with a headache and have to take it down a notch or ten and remember that life really is just daily, and God likes to draw near to humble, broken people whose lives are no more spectacular than your ordinary Galilean fisherman’s, and this — your real life — is the stage for the glory of God to be shown. He loves to shine through broken earthen vessels. Don’t try to fancy-up the outside; just lean into Jesus and let His grace shine.

And He’s not picky. He’ll shine through on the most daily of days, the most mundane of moments, your weakest point. He’s not above miracles that look like a smile and kiss for the baby who won’t sleep, drawing bony boy shoulders close when frustration would push away, an unexpected wave of energy to greet your husband when you were near collapse. His miracles make daily life beautiful and glorious and redeemed.

Sunrises, babies that scoot, spontaneous happy play moments, neatly made bed + sunshine, pears that match, food that nourishes soul and body, finishing our first phonics book, learning about stars with Papa and his telescope.

“To be a fisherman, you have to be around fish,” said Pastor Ben yesterday.

One of those laughably obvious statements, but painfully true: possession of tackle and rods does not make one a fisherman, and it certainly isn’t enough to land a fish. Even sitting in a boat above those fish isn’t enough. Not even just diving down and swimming around them! No, a fisherman must be where the fish are, with his gear at the ready.

I’m thinking about that this morning.

“Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

That’s me He’s calling.

I definitely am around “men” all day. And night. Every day and night. But am I ready to see and seize every opportunity to hook their hearts? Speak truth in love, pour out kindness and mercy, point to Jesus as the answer for their every need? Or am I just kind of floating through the day, too caught up in my own goals to notice the “fish” all around?

“Follow Me.”

That’s my part. He’ll teach me and show me and change me and cause my life to be effective; my part is to whole-heartedly follow Him.

Lord, You have my heart.

*****

One little life I’m currently pouring into: