The Unforced Rhythms of Grace

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me- watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Matthew 11:28-30 MSG

What do you know about grace?

Have you ever thought about the phrase “learn the unforced rhythm of grace? ”

I have been giving a lot of thought to recalibrating my life and those words from that verse have intrigued me. It sounds light, easy, peaceful, and restful. It sounds, quite honestly, like just exactly what I need. How about you?

Life can get messy, busy, difficult, painful, and overwhelming. And in the midst of it you grow exhausted and needy. You may come to recognize your own fragility.

Ok, it is not like I haven’t been in this place before, similar feelings brought on by different situations. I have found myself needy and fragile in the past. But my response to it often was one of choosing to keep pushing through. I did not want to give into it. I wanted to stand strong even though I felt as though I would crumple into a heap at any moment.

This time I am realizing my neediness is a place to invite in God’s grace. He is waiting for me to do just that each time I get to this place. He wants me to learn the unforced rhythms of His grace.

Grace. It is about Him, actually the word describes so much of who He is. It is about His love. It is about His presence and His going with me. It is not about me trying to do anything on my own. It is about connection, the connection of my abiding in Him. It is about me trusting Him. Doesn’t it seem like it always comes back to that word trust?

I have to trust Him enough to allow Him to show me the way through, to guide me in a gentle way. And in that He helps me to know that I am not all alone. His presence, His grace help me to know I do not have to go it alone, the pressure is off. I can stop, I can cry. I can say, “I’m tired.” I can be real and vulnerable.

The rhythm, the cadence of His sure-footedness is steady. Not racing or rushing. Just moving me forward. He isn’t forcing me or pushing me. He isn’t dragging me along unwillingly, He is by my side, always with me.

It has become so vivid to me now. His grace, His love are always here. He is with me. He has been with me, but I have been walking way too fast, super-focused on the mission at hand, pressing on to get my own way. And I have missed the tenderness of His gracious presence.

This time I see it, I feel it, I truly am learning of the unforced rhythms of His grace. His grace is for me all of the time.

Yes, we learn about grace mostly from the cross, but I am realizing my depth of neediness for tender grace in all of life. I am looking for it more and more as I walk through the rough spots in life.

How about you, is your life making you aware of your neediness, specifically your need for His tender grace?

The picture this verse gives talks about “yoke.”  A yoke we may be slightly familiar with is the yoke placed on two oxen at work. The stronger one showing the way to the weaker one. This gives us a picture of guidance, and helping to carry the weight.

Yoke here also speaks of the yoke of a rabbi, the yoke if a rabbi was his teachings, and if you chose to follow him it was said that you came under his yoke. This is another helpful picture. When we come to follow Jesus we come under the yoke of His teachings. Jesus’ yoke of teaching isn’t heavy or ill-fitting. That is to say it isn’t filled with expectation and obligation to fulfill the law on our own. Jesus has fulfilled it for us through His work on the cross. Now as we take on His yoke He walks with us through life gently leading us in His perfect way. He takes off the heavy yoke of sin that weighs us down and leads on the paths of righteousness.

I can stop striving under His yoke, I have nothing to prove. He knows my true nature and apart from Him I can do nothing. As I trust Him and walk in His yoke I can rest when I stop fighting for my way, or struggling to make it under the weight of my life’s burdens. You see He carries the burdens for us. And ahhh, yes, with the weight of sin and striving lifted we can rest in the saving grace He provides. True rest.

Abandoning control. Choosing His yoke. Choosing the way of trust. I am not good at this. In fact, I often struggle and strive to have my own way. And I choose the yoke of sin and the burden is heavy and I have to once again come to the place of realizing I can’t do it. I need Jesus. I need His tender grace and I need the rest I find in Him.

His yoke is easy when I choose to trust His heart and walk in His way.  His love calls us, “Come to me,” will you run to Him or find your own way?  I have run my own way too often but His grace definitely is the better way. It is there that we can find rest.

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Cultivating Passion in Life

Life can grow mundane in the ho-hum of the daily obligations. The same things fill each day and suddenly years pass by and you wonder where the time has gone.

It is for this reason that in 2018 I want to cultivate passion in my life. I want to really work at putting my whole heart and soul into those things that are important to me and more than that I want to have passion for all of life.

First of all that means making some wise choices. Shauna Niequist in her book Present Over Perfect quotes Mizuta Masahide who says, “Barns burned down now I can see the moon.”

Cultivating passion in 2018 will mean a number of different things for me, but first I will need to burn down some barns. Burning barns and choosing what is important is just where it starts.

I have already begun to do that. I am choosing things to focus on that are life-giving to me, and leaving behind things that just eat time. It seems all too often when I finally fall into bed it has been with a sigh of realization  that I never got to do any of what I really wanted to do.  I did cleaning, laundry, cooking, responding to others, and their needs, but I set aside what I yearned to do.

Oftentimes that ends up meaning I set aside writing and being creative. These are things I love, things that are really important to me, yet they get trampled out of my life by other things.

Beyond burning barns, I need to plan to do what I love and make it a priority. I actually have to sadly admit that I have planned what I wanted to do but just never made it a priority or found the time to get it done. I am realizing that it is not so much about bad planning, rather it is more about getting distracted by time-wasting activities that pull at me. So, I went through my typical to-do-list for a day and timed it out so I would know how much time it should take to accomplish the things I need to do. As it turns out, it really shouldn’t take that much time. This made me realize how many hours I was really wasting. Wasting time by surfing the net, reading articles/blogs and getting pulled from one topic to another, and on and on. I also was getting sidetracked by other things that I saw which needed to be done. Things that were not on my list but instead things that took away from the time I should have been giving to my priorities.

So I realized that I really need to stick to a specific list of what needs to be done for that day. Also, as I go through my day, I need to be aware of anything that the Lord may call me to do.  I can’t just go the way of distraction and waste time, because that only leaves me very frustrated.

Now that I realize, in reality, there is time enough for doing the things I love, my passions are being placed as a priority.

But this is not just about “my passions.”  I want to cultivate more passion for life in general this year rather than just going through the motions. Thinking about this brings me back to Ann Voskamp’s idea of a “to love list” rather than a to-do list. Somehow doing things out of a heart of love brings on passion and gives new life to the activity. It fills your heart.

I need to get back to focusing on living out of love. For me this means living out love by working harder at consistently cooking healthy meals, continuing my never-ending task of decluttering, and especially, finding other special ways to show love to my husband. Most recently, showing love to my husband has been accomplished by baking stollen. His eyes light up and a big smile comes to his face when he sees fresh-baked stollen on the cutting board on the table.

I also want to become more present and available, first to the Lord, and then to my husband, but we will get to that in next week’s post.

I believe the Lord desires for us to live passionately. He told us to  “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength and love your neighbor as yourself. There is no greater commandment than these.” in Matthew 22:37-39. He wants us to put our hearts and souls into living for Him.

This truth is also made obvious by the way the Lord rebuked the church of Laodicea in Revelation 3:14-22. The Lord was revealing to each ancient church what pleased Him and what displeased Him. The church of Laodicea displeased Him in that they were “neither hot nor cold” but rather just “lukewarm” in their faith.

We live out the faith we hold in our hearts in our daily walks, so it seems that just going through motions in life is like being lukewarm, very little passion attached to life. The Lord wants us to live passionately for Him in touching others with His love, by walking in the Spirit, and in growing the fruit of the Spirit through His work in us as we abide.

I believe I can cultivate passion for life this year as I look to the Lord to live through me, abiding more in Him. Living half-hearted has to be giving a poor testimony about what life in Christ is like. I want to live a full life, a life-giving and love-giving life because I am abiding in Him more. I want to use my God-given gifts for His glory.  In order to do this I will need to continually seek  His wisdom in life for direction and guidance, because I am truly satisfied when I am walking in His will. He is my Life-giver and Love-giver in all of life.

Are you living with passion for life? Ask Him to help you live life with all of your heart and soul! We can be truly satisfied living in and for Him.