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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Love in the Loneliness

Until I find community enough in being with Jesus first, the entire restaurant wouldn’t suffice the aching that loneliness hungers to fill.”
Choosing Real Bekah Jane Pogue

Loneliness is very common. Loneliness is a neediness within that eats away at your heart like a cancer.

Loneliness is defined as a “sadness because one has no friends or company.” I think that at first glance this definition may seem true, but when you really think about it, loneliness can be present even in a crowd. It is the depth of connection with a spouse or a friend that bridges the gap. You don’t feel lonely when you feel understood, known, loved, and you’re your heart is safe.

I learned through my depression that the pain and neediness of my heart cried out for understanding and love. My depression left me feeling as if I was drowning, suffocating, and overwhelmed with so much pain. I mostly pushed people away, but when I found that my neediness wouldn’t annihilate another, then I would cling. It was through this that I learned how needy I really was, I became aware of the emptiness and loneliness of my heart. I recognized how much I had been hiding, how deeply my real self was really buried.

It was in the midst of learning these things, in the midst of my clinging to another in hopes for healing, that the Lord made me to know that He wanted me to give Him my neediness.
It is so easy for us to run to others with our needs even when we know that the Lord is the One with the power to heal, to comfort with His love, to give understanding, and to lead in His perfect wisdom.

The Lord wants us to run to Him with our neediness and loneliness. It was when I began to pour out my heart to the Lord, and really give Him my neediness that my healing began. He desired me to see Him as my greatest need, the All-Sufficient One, my Healer.

Life can just be lonely because of the mundane of everyday. We get so busy with all we try to do that our lives may be spent in living solitary lives. If that is where you are at, Pogue suggests that “maybe solitary isn’t something we need to run away from” instead she suggest it may be our cue of to run to the Lord.

Loneliness can flood your heart throughout many moments of life for many very different reasons, the loss of friendship, the death of a loved one, moving away, isolation, or divorce. It is in these times we need to cry out to the Lord. Maybe it’s just the day and the way it’s going down, or maybe it’s the place you are in life right now, that the string of days, weeks, or even months leave you feeling lonely. Cry out to God. He hears and He answers our prayers. He deeply cares about the neediness in our hearts.

Remember, after you give the Lord the neediness of your heart to look for His answer. It is easy to miss His answers when one’s mind is set on wanting the prayer answered in our own specific way. I share this thought out of my own experience, because it was what happened with me in my depression. I knew what I felt my heart needed and I prayed for the Lord to do it my way. Instead, He showed me His way repeatedly, He wanted me to trust Him with my neediness. He wants to be the One we run to, He wants to be the One to meet our needs in the perfect ways that come out of His wisdom and love.

So, from our knees in prayer, we must get up and look to see what He is doing, where He is leading, who He is bringing or in some cases, whom He has already brought that we have missed. He knows who He has put in your life, or wants to put in your life. He knows the purpose for which He brings them.

I believe that as He sees and hears us bringing the neediness of our hearts, He will lead us to the quenching of the thirst in our loneliness through relationship with Himself, as well as with specific people He puts in community around us. He has a beautiful way of touching our neediness with His love so specific to our personal desires. He truly satisfies our hearts when we give Him the need and trust Him for the answer.

Are you lonely today? Call out to the Lord with your need.

Do you know someone who is lonely? Ask the Lord if there is a way to meet that person with His love.

The Lord is always near and never will abandon or forsake us. In moments of loneliness cling to Him and watch Him work! He is at work because He loves you!

What Benefits Scripture Praying Brings

I have found that praying the Scriptures is invigorating to my time with the Lord. I have used this method much more recently than in the past. I had used the scriptures for prayer in the past, but mostly by reading a prayer I found in the Scriptures and putting in names or praying it specifically for myself. But the game changer came when I read the book, Praying the Bible by Donald Whitney. He helped me to learn so much about prayer, as well as a wonderful way to pray using Scripture. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is struggling in their prayer-life or just needs some encouragement.

There are many benefits to praying Scripture, and Donald Whitney especially highlights using the prayer-book in the Bible, specifically the book of Psalms. He explains how to use other portions of Scripture for prayer as well.

Let me specifically share the benefits I have found.

First of all, the most obvious benefit is it gets you into God’s Word. There are so many books about the Word, and studies that use the Word to answer questions, that it is easy to just use the Bible as a reference book. When you use Scripture for prayer, you choose a portion and read it slowly. You meditate on what the author says. So for me right now that means I choose a Psalm and I read through it once to become familiarized with its content, and then I begin the process of praying through it.

Donald Whitney explains in his book that as we read the chosen Psalm, you slowly read and use it to prompt a prayer need, and you pray that need then go on reading. You may have many prayers for one verse and none for others, but it is not about using all the verses, it is about being drawn into God’s Word and praying it back to Him. Whether that means worshiping Him in a praise of the Psalmist or confessing how much you do not feel like worshiping because of the overwhelming concerns in your life. Praying the Scriptures may mean recognizing more about Who God is in ways that are new to you. It may mean your heart becomes burdened for the lost because of what you read. It means being open to the Holy Spirit prompting your heart with His Word to pray whatever He brings to you, and that brings us to the next benefit.

I have found in praying Scripture I have a new openness to the Spirit. My heart and mind are fully focused on God’s Word, and the Spirit uses His Word to touch my heart with Truth that easily relates to my life and the lives of those around me. The Psalmist may share the thanksgiving of his heart in a portion of the psalm and one word he says may prompt me to recognize so much that I have to be thankful for.

For example, Psalm 9 begins “I will give thanks to the LORD with all my heart. I will tell of all Your wonders. I will be glad and exult in You; I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High.” Well reading that made me realize first of all that I was distracted and overwhelmed, I wasn’t attending to Him with my whole heart, so I had to ask for help to concentrate and really be present with Him. I had to quiet my soul, my heart, and my mind. It was then I could share all that I had on my heart to be thankful for, telling Him of the great wonders He had shown me, being glad and exulting in Him, and even being drawn into songs of praise. Later in this Psalm David speaks of the Lord being a “Stronghold.” Here I asked the Lord to be a stronghold for certain people in my life who were going through difficult times and needed Him even more than we need Him every day. I shared my own troubles, and how my heart needed protection because of certain hurts. Just one Psalm gives us an open door to so many prayers of our hearts as the Spirit opens our eyes to what He sees and knows and reveals things we have missed in our busyness or distraction.

I also have found praying the Scriptures beneficial because there are so many Psalms, with the Psalmist’s sharing their hearts out of different circumstances. Each prayer-time is new, a different perspective, a different way to bring my needs before the Lord highlighting these needs in a different way.

And finally, always amazing to me, but a known truth is the fact that the Lord makes His Word fresh and new to me each time I read it. I am in a new place each day emotionally, and spiritually. My outlook on life may be different, my neediness for the Lord may be different, my understanding of the Word may touch my heart in a different way dependent on my perspective on life that day.  I may reread a Psalm I did a different day and totally different words and truths stand out to me and my prayers are voiced in a new way about the same people and the same things. It is never boring.

God’s Word gives us all we need to learn to pray and to pray from the depths of our hearts with earnestness and also finding the depths of our very real desperation for our Father God.

His Word is written for us and we can benefit so much as we read it and use it in praying. I hope that your heart is encouraged to open up your Bible and use it for prayer.

Lord, I Need You, I’m Depressed

Sadness is a part of life. It is often related to or can be attributed to life circumstances, disappointments, or losses. But there are time of deep sadness or even depression that can really knock you down.

I went through a very deep depression a number of years ago. It was a time of darkness and hopelessness. I was out of work for 11 months. I felt like I was drowning, and I couldn’t find my way out.

When we deal with depression we have varying responses as to how we get help, or even if we get help. I met with a Christian counselor and she helped me work through some issues that were affecting me. I also went on medications to help me with my depression, anxiety, and sleep issues.

The more I knew about the emotional pain from which my depression stemmed, the more I felt like I knew exactly what I needed to have happen in my life so that I could go on. It was a heart neediness that I needed help with. There was a deep emptiness, a hurt endured, a need unmet, but, my first response was not to call out to the Lord. I thought that I knew what I needed and I tried to manipulate getting the need met on my own terms.

It took a number of months of suffering before the Lord made it clear to me that I was praying for Him to work in my solution in my predetermined way rather than coming to Him for healing according to His wisdom. I prayed that the Lord would work it all out according to my plan.

When I finally accepted that truth of my sin and confessed it, I chose to ask Him to heal me His way. It was then that I saw Him work in my heart and life. It was amazing how He showed me His love for me and helped to grow my trust in Him.

He used the medications, the counselor, and the doctor to help me through, but He is absolutely the One who healed my heart. He knew I needed to trust Him with my neediness. in the deepest of ways. He knew I needed a deeply intimate relationship with Him more than I needed anything else.

O Lord I need you!

Elijah went through a period of depression. It is recorded in 1 Kings 19 in the BIble. Elijah had just experienced God’s miraculous, supernatural power in response to his prayer. And the next thing we read is how Elijah is filled with fear. He is exhausted, he is depressed, and he wants to dies.

Elijah had been running because his life was being threatened. One day he knows the hope of God’s power and suddenly he can only feel the gloom of despair. The Bible doesn’t explain how Elijah gets from that mountaintop joy of a miracle to the place of defeat and despair. But the Lord is there too. Elijah tells the Lord that he just wants to die. And, God meets him in that place.

I think when we are feeling so depressed we often just want the pain to be gone. And sometimes the pain is so excruciating we just want to die.

The Lord knew Elijah’s need and met him there. We too can cry out to the Lord in our neediness. The Lord know our needs. He knew that Elijah felt lonely and scared. He knew that Elijah was exhausted and in need of food and water. And the Lord met those needs.

The Lord also knew that Elijah needed to know the Lord in a new way. I think that the Lord allows us to hit rock bottom so that we can look up with new eyes of neediness to see Him again. It is in those wilderness places of life when we feel no hope that the Lord wants us to see Him as all we need.

Elijah had just seen the Lord send fire down from heaven. Elijah had prayed and trusted that the Lord would answer and prove Himself as True God. Yet when Jezebel threatened his life he crumbled.

I know one thing I realized about my faith in my depression mostly after my depression is that the Lord wanted me to grow in my trust of Him. He wanted me to share the depths of my neediness with Him and depend on Him in it to care for me and satisfy me.

God is a personal God who is able to do amazing and miraculous things in this world. yet we so easily forget that He is that same able God in our personal wilderness of depression.

Yes, He has given us doctors, counselors, medications, and books that we can turn to for help. But He desires us to bring even our deepest neediness to Him. Nothing is too hard for Him. He wants to personally show us His glory. He wants to whisper hope in His still, small voice into our brokenness.

The Lord is able to take the deepest hurt and emotional pain and bring healing. He is able to use whatever we have gone through for His glory. He is able to satisfy our hearts with His love and with His perfect plans for our lives. When you cry, “Lord, I need you,” you can expect Him to show up and work in that hurting place. It may not be an overnight fix, but He will hold you in the pain and bring you to a place of new hope. We can always depend on and trust in HIm!