Sabbath: Choosing to Rest

This month’s blog post topic’s center around Sabbath–keeping. Last week we started off by looking at how we can choose to cease on the Sabbath. You can find that here: Sabbath: Choosing to Cease. This week we’re looking at the various aspects of choosing to rest as discussed in Keeping the Sabbath Wholly by Marva J. Dawn.

Dawn discusses spiritual rest, emotional rest, intellectual rest, and social rest in this particular section of her book. I honestly never considered rest in so many different ways prior to reading these chapters.

Dawn begins by sharing about spiritual rest which seems foundational to the others. She says, “When we cease striving to be God we learn a whole new kind of contentment, the delight of the presence of God in our present circumstances. When we give up our silly rebellion against God’s purposes, we discover that he provides the security for which we were searching.”

This takes me right back to: “abandoning control” to God, ceasing to strive and learning to trust Him with whatever may happen. I share more about abandoning control in this post, Relinquishing Control and Finding Peace. Giving up “our silly rebellion against God’s purposes” is key, rest and rebellion cannot co-exist. His purposes are so much bigger than what we can even wrap our brains around. Yet, this is probably my biggest area of struggle when I consider choosing to find rest.

Biblical Sabbath is all about accepting the Sovereignty of God. We find the bedrock for our trust in knowing that He has it all under control and can take care of everything. I totally get that, but knowing His love seems equally as important for me. I feel much more secure in finding rest as I grow in knowing both His sovereignty and His love.

Dawn says “The greatest result of Sabbath resting is the opportunity to know the presence of God, no matter what our circumstances might be.” It is nearly impossible to know His presence in our rushing and striving because our focus is on accomplishing. But when we choose Sabbath rest our focus changes and we can look for Him in our moments.

As Dawn moves on to discuss choosing physical rest in Sabbath keeping, one of her most important statements is this: The Sabbath is never a day to allow ourselves to be pushed (especially by our own false guilt or by other’s expectations) into activity of any kind.” It is so easy to be pressured into fulfilling other’s expectations or letting our own sense of guilt force us into doing something. Dawn says that if she senses this happening to her, she stops and puts the task aside for another day. The task can be done on the Sabbath, but has to come out of a different frame of mind. Her example was that of writing letters. She felt like she “should” write and when she recognized that feeling of “should” she chose not to write them on that Sabbath day. But the next Sabbath Day she did write them from a different mindset.

This section on choosing to rest also brought up God’s command regarding ceasing from work on the Sabbath (Leviticus 23:3). This means that planning ahead is necessary so that you really do have time to rest. This may mean spacing out your work differently during the week or rearranging your schedule. We have to choose to trade in our striving, hour after hour, for times to rejuvenate our bodies in restful ways.

Dawn shares that it has actually been scientifically proven through studies that our body’s need this kind of Sabbath rest every seven days in order to get revived from the strain of the other six days. A lot of different physical and mental symptoms can show up when we live with a continuous lack of rest in our lives.

I have noticed the importance of rest just recently in my own body. My neck and shoulders have been extremely tense and sore from stress, but as I have taken time to get extra rest I am not hurting as much. My body was screaming for the peace and quiet and sleep, and I hadn’t been listening.

When explaining the importance of emotional rest Dawn highlights how the Lord cared for Elijah in 1 Kings 19 after his dealings with Queen Jezebel. This story makes it very obvious that the Lord cares about our physical and emotional needs. It is one of my favorite stories because it so beautiful shares the Lord’s awareness of exactly what we need. 

As we choose to set apart the Sabbath and grow in deeper intimacy with the Lord we will find that we experience emotional healing also. I have found this to be true even as I regularly set aside a portion of time to be in God’s Word, the Lord leads me to new understanding of where I am at and His wisdom enlightens me. I am given tools to help me with the struggles I am dealing with, those that often so deeply affect my emotions. Sometimes it is the Lord Himself speaking to my heart impressing something on me. At other times He allows others to share and I will find healing in their words. Sabbath rest allows time for deepening both our relationship with the Lord and with others, and both are very beneficial to emotional rest.

Dawn explains, “…letting God be God in our lives gives us the freedom to deal constructively with our emotions, to accept them and listen to them but not be controlled by them.” Giving my emotions to the Lord as I go through my day is extremely helpful. Telling Him how I feel about this or that and letting Him be at work in it, gives my heart and mind peace to rest in. So it seems especially important to remember how being controlling can affect our emotions (I know, I have experienced those feelings more often than I care to admit,) But, again, it goes back to recognizing God’s sovereignty in situations and letting that be what controls my heart and mind rather than reacting out of my emotions.

The Sabbath also can give us time to explore our deep feelings and desires that have been buried under busyness and striving. We can take time in our resting to talk with the Lord about all that has been lost in the rush of the last six days. What deep feelings have we suppressed? What important desires have we set aside? The Lord cares and He wants to hear about them.

An important part of each day for me is journaling but often my time to journal is limited due to other demands. I have found that on the Sabbath I will spend an extended period of time journaling my thoughts, feelings, dreams, and desires. This is a very special time to me and I always come away refreshed.

Dawn states, “Emotional rest is especially induced by whatever calls for creativity and spontaneity.”  I have found, also, how much I enjoy just playing with watercolors. It is relaxing as well as being a creative outlet. My painting with watercolors tells a story in itself by the colors I use and the strokes of the brush. My emotions are vividly splashed across the paper.

Dawn shares about intellectual rest in terms of even rethinking the way we read the newspaper or hear the news on the Sabbath. She suggests allowing our knowledge of God’s sovereignty to reframe our thinking as we listen or read. The Sabbath gives our minds time to rest from fear and worry. We can free our minds to focus instead on how we can glorify the Lord.

We can get so caught up in fear and worry, mulling things over in our minds as we busily try to check things off of our to-do lists. But on the Sabbath, we set aside the striving and we can choose to rest our minds, again choosing to use those moments to give praise to the Lord.

Dawn mentions that she enjoys reading fairy tales as part of her Sabbath rest. it is all about finding aids to intellectual rest that leads our thinking down creative paths. We choose to use our brain in a more positive and restful way because on normal days our minds are overloaded with busyness. And we definitely need this renewing!

As I read many of these suggestion I realized that they could be carried over into everyday life even to give us a little Sabbath rest in each day. and that is something I want to do. I want to practice recognizing the Lord’s presence more and choose to rest in His Sovereignty more consistently. Sabbath day is a day to extend these practices throughout the day for greater rest.

The final aspect of rest I want to share from this book is that of social rest. Dawn suggests that, “Sabbath keeping fosters…an increase in our gentleness and tenderness, a non-aggressive stance towards others. The ability to dismantle our own power.”

She mentions that usually we only hear about “social unrest.” Social rest is just the opposite. She says that when our hearts and minds are nurtured by the Lord’s presence, we grow in tenderness and gentleness. It helps us to look at others differently. Life becomes less about power and control or aggression and more about living out His love. And that is an important part of how we should live as we celebrate the Sabbath.

Choosing to rest on the Sabbath does not mean sitting idle, staring into space. Often times, I think that this is our biggest fear. But instead we find so many options of ways to choose rest. So many options that I want to take time to try on my days of Sabbath rest. How about you? What ways intrigue for choosing rest on the Sabbath?

Next week’s post will be Sabbath: Choosing to Embrace. I hope you will join me.

 

 

 

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The Catalyst

Too busy, I have been too busy. And although I have been planning and thinking about how to work towards recalibrating my life, taking steps toward doing so have been small.

One thing I have noticed in my busyness, is that my stress and exhaustion have kept me from praying consistently. I think about taking time to pray, and then I get distracted. Or I feel too tired to pray, and I choose to do something mindless, something that I don’t have to think about.

I have been becoming frustrated with myself. I felt stuck as if I wanted to pray but just couldn’t. And then on Christmas Day my heart was touched. We were visiting Mom in her new home and she had some things that she had gone through and was deciding if she should get rid of them. So, I was looking through some containers of jewelry, just checking to see if there was anything I might want to keep. Something silver sparkled in the menagerie of pins and necklaces. I pulled it from amongst the other pieces, it was a silver necklace with a small oval pendant hanging on it. The oval part had folded hands, not etched in the silver, but raised. I flipped the oval over to look at the back, and etched in fine print were the words, “God answers prayer.”

Tears filled my eyes and emotion caught in my throat. How had I let life become so overwhelming that I no longer had time or energy to pray or spend with the Lord? How had I forgotten His faithfulness?

I put the necklace on and fingered the praying hands. My heart felt a tug and something inside released. I had felt as if in a vice grip of anger, frustration, and overwhelm. Resentful! And in the midst of it all I think I pushed God away. It really makes very little sense to me, because He has been working in amazing ways in my life, making things happen that only He could do. Ye I think I felt buried under all that was and is left undone. And somehow I still felt left very much alone. But I didn’t cry out to Him, I didn’t seem to have the focus or the energy to say anything.

This necklace, the folded hands, the words of promise on the back, encouraged my heart and made me feel my need again. My need for the Lord, my need to pray and to share my heart.

It feels like He reached for my hand, for my heart, and reminded me, hey, I’m still here, you don’t have to continue to carry that alone. How had I forgotten?

How very tender and sweet is my Heavenly Father who knows my wayward heart when it feels stuck in quicksand and reaches for me in such an unexpected way. He can use anything as a catalyst to pull us close, to help us feel His love and desire for our intimacy with Him.

Since that day I have been learning of some changes needed in my heart. The Lord is showing me daily where growth needs to take place.

I got together with a dear friend for coffee, to share our responses from a study we are doing together, to exchange Christmas presents, and to chat. We had a beautiful time. Just before we got ready to leave we shared pour personal prayer requests. She shared her struggles and need, then I shared mine. I told her through my responses to the questions and as I verbalized my requests how I had been so overwhelmed and preoccupied that my prayer life had been suffering. I shared how I needed to be quiet before the Lord instead of frantic and rushed.

The next day as I read in my Recalibrate Life read for January, I found myself in a chapter on prayer. Here in Ruth Haley Barton’s book, Sacred Rhythms I learned a little more about “breath prayers.” I saw what I had previously underlined and wrote in the margin. I noticed the breath prayer I had chosen. As I reread a few paragraphs giving instruction in deciding on your personal breath prayer, I noticed that I had missed an important part in how I wrote mine. I had not voiced a need, instead I had just made a statement. The self-sufficiency of that so-called prayer glared at me. How could I have missed that? I knew the need was the same, but this time I would voice the neediness. I wrote my new breath prayer in my prayer journal. “My Sweet Abba, Help me abide.”

I can’t do it alone. In order to continue to grow in my relationship with the Lord I need to find that quiet place of abiding on a regular basis. I need that place of intimacy and rest.

I closed my eyes and whispered my breath-prayer, tears immediately filled my eyes. At first it seemed puzzling to me, but a picture came to my mind. When a small child is in need of a nap but is fighting you as you attempt put him down, and the chase is on. Then, at last, when you catch the little one and hold them tight, usually tears ensue in the midst of the wrestling for calm. The child recognizes the comfort they have found, and their exhaustion catches up with them. They finally find rest.

There I was, tears sliding down my cheeks, recognizing I was where I needed to be. My tears came because I have wrestled so long with self-sufficiency and at last there in the abiding I found what I needed. A peacefulness settled over me. And the Lord brought a few verses to my mind.

Psalm 91:4 NLT “He will cover you with His feathers, He will shelter you with His wings, His faithful promises are your armor and protection.”

Psalm 63:7-8 NLT “Because You are my helper, I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings. I cling to You; Your strong right hand holds me securely.”

When I abide in the shadow of His wings, in His loving presence, I find there I can stop striving. I can just be there without words. A sweet place to rest. It is my hope to find this place often throughout my coming days. To just sit with my Lord. I have known this place before, but busyness caused me to lose my way.

The verses above are now printed in my planner on a page just before my daily pages. A small reminder of my neediness. I see the folded hands necklace every day, and choose to where it some. It has been a precious catalyst to help me find my way back from the chaos. And my breath prayer is only a whisper away to lead me into the Lord’s presence as He draws my heart to know it’s neediness for Him more and more.

How sweet and gentle is the Lover of my soul! How is He drawing you? What is He showing you that you need? Draw near to Him today to know His love for you more!

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.

Letting Go: Trusting God and His Love

Letting go is difficult, we clutch on with fear in our hearts. Last week I shared biblical truths that are helping me toward abandoning outcomes to God.  I am focusing on repeating one of the truths as I find my neck and shoulder muscles tightening as I strive to gain control or get it done my way. Sometimes I just tell myself two words, “abandon outcomes.”

It seems so easy to recognize our need toreally know God and to acknowledge our need to be growing in trusting Him. But, I am finding what I think I know and how much I trust is different from the way I live it out in reality.  I am realizing I do not know Him the way I need to, I already knew that, but I did not realize to what degree. I guess we can deceive ourselves into thinking our faith is stronger, and our trust is deeper than what it really is.

The Lord wants us in a deep trusting relationship with Him and as Christians we all have trusted Him for our salvation and we trust Him to varying degrees beyond that. He is at work within each one of our lives to draw us nearer to Him, to lead us to know and trust Him more and more, day-by-day, moment-by-moment. Yet, humankind has been striving for independence ever since the fall of man. Unfortunately, independence never gets us to where God wants us. Stillness not striving is what God wants of us.

I am studying “Living a Praying Life Without Fear: Let Faith Tame Your Worries” by Jennifer Kennedy Dean. It is a study that was given to me, and initially I considered passing it on, it didn’t seem relevant to where I was at. But now, months later, I am learning some very important things about fear. I am realizing how very blind I have been and am to how my own emotions are related to my fears. And I am realizing how my fears are really about my lack of understanding of God’s love for me and my trust in Him.

One of the questions Dean asks her readers is to consider about how we would complete this thought,  “if only…  than I’d be happy and secure.  She asks us to fill in the blank with whatever it is we think would bring happiness and security. At first I didn’t know what to write, but as I thought about my fears, especially the ones that keep me striving. to have control, I wrote, “If only my heart weren’t a sieve, then love would stay and I would feel happy and secure.” If that were true I wouldn’t need to strive to people-please to earn love and satisfaction.

Writing that made me wonder what my heart does with God’s love.  I don’t know the answer to that question but in my prayer journal I paraphrased part of Paul’s prayer from Ephesian’s 3:17-19 AMP. I wrote this:

Lord, help me to be deeply rooted and securely grounded in Your love. Help me to be capable of comprehending the width and length and height and depth of Your love, fully experiencing your amazing, endless love. Help me to come to know, practically through personal experience, Your love, and help me to be filled up with all of Your fullness so that I may have the richest experience of Your presence in my life. I want to be completely filled and flooded with You, Lord. ”

God is love. The Amplified Bible explains that He is the originator of love, and it is an enduring attribute of His nature (1 John 4:8 AMP).

Be still and know that I am God.

Be still and know that I am love.

When we really know His love with every fiber of our being we can be still, we can stop striving. We can stop striving because we will be fully satisfied in Him.

It always amazes me how the Lord keeps bringing me back to this place, repeatedly, as if to ask me: Do you know My love for you? Do you trust me? Why do you keep striving and trying to control outcomes?

So here I am AGAIN, holding my heart up to Him, like a dripping sieve, my heart needs to have all of the holes filled with His love, so no love can seep out. And I ask Him to hold me in His love and help me feel secure in Him, I realize that it is the only place where I will learn to grow to trust Him. It is the only place that I can be still knowing that He is God; knowing that He is love makes all the difference.

I need to bask in His love in order to stop the fear and stop the striving. I need to bask in His love in order to feel safe enough to abandon outcomes to Him.

After all that the Lord has done for us, how can we question His love? It doesn’t make sense. Yet, He continually has to help me see my need for Him, my desperate state. He continually has to help me know His love for me. He has to continually help me be willing to release my clenched fists and stop holding onto control. It is not a one-time-and-done lesson, at least not for me.

When I am striving I miss out on His presence and His love because my focus is not on Him. I miss knowing all the blessing He has for me because I am holding tightly to getting what I want.

What about you, do you need to know His love more?

How will learning more about His love help you to stop fearing and stop striving?

What He asking you to release to Him?

Oh Lord help us! We are a desperate people and so blind to our desperation.  Help us to stop striving and learn to abandon outcomes to You. Help us to trust You, for Your love is all we need. Amen!