Rest Stops on My Journey

My Recalibrate Life Read for July is Even God Rested: Why It’s Okay for Women to Slow Down by Kim Thomas. This book centers around the themes of ceasing and feasting in the three areas of Emotional Rest, Physical Rest, and Spiritual Rest. There are suggestions, Rest Stops at the end each chapter to guide you in the process.

I have read this book slowly, a little at a time to let it soak in. I am left with a several takeaways but I will just share a few from each section of the book.

I am seeing as I move through this year that my four main priorities in recalibrating my life are to:

1. Learn to linger, savor, and slow down.

2. Learn to be present in the moments of life.

3. Learn to live in simplicity.

4. Learn to rest in the Lord’s love, abandoning outcomes to Him.

They all fit together like the pieces of a puzzle. They are interrelated, and as I grow in learning to live more like this, I am realizing that this growth in learning requires both ceasing and feasting.

Thomas says, “…we have neglected the pursuit of the eternal in pursuit of the temporary.” Looking back on my life I can see this as being true.

It is so easy to get caught up in the busyness of life. The expectations and obligations send us running and in the hustle and bustle of it all, we miss much of what really matters. We are consumed by the stressors of life. And quite often we never really stop to look at what the causes of our stress are, we just keep pushing on.

Stress is the very first thing Thomas deals with in her book. She suggests that we look for the stress triggers in our lives and figure out ways to deal with them. I am learning to recognize where my stress level is at and what the triggers are. I think often in our busyness we may not even be aware of how we are living with overwhelming stress. One book I read said that stress can become like adrenaline to our bodies, pushing us on.

Stress changes how we act and interact. It causes us to react, often in ways that may be harsh. When I am stressed, I often react with frustration out of feeling overwhelmed. Thomas suggests that once we learn what our stress triggers are, that we try to anticipate what is coming rather than reacting. When we do this it is easier to respond in a softer way.

As I learn about my stress triggers I’m learning to respond rather than react. I recently realized how frustrated I was getting when my brother called. All I could think of is what I needed to be doing, and I was short and edgy with him. After thinking about it I recognized that he was always calling when I was in the middle of getting dinner ready, and that irritated me. So the next time it happened I responded by telling him of a better time to call, and since then it hasn’t been an issue. Such a silly little thing caused me so much frustration, and there was such a simple solution. But in my initial upset, I didn’t think about a solution, I only reacted.

Thomas says, “…an unbalanced woman has nothing to offer herself or those around her.” So it is helpful to begin to find some balance in the areas of stress that have kept me teetering.

Along with that Thomas reminds her readers to remember to “replenish your well.For me, replenishing my well means taking time to relax, to read, or journal, or on occasion, even take a nap. I am choosing to gift myself with those things in between tasks on my to-do list. Replenishing my well does a lot for my attitude.

Some other areas Thomas discussed ceasing from in the area of Emotional Rest, are noise, negativity, numbness, and anger. I find that often my negativity and anger arise out of stress. She asks three important questions in the areas of Ceasing from Anger, Feasting on Flexibility. Each of these are important, especially to me, because often I have trouble being flexible. Maybe you will find them helpful as well.

1. “Is it possible for us to become more flexible, to survive the conflicts around us by adapting more appropriately?”

2. “Can I find myself surrendering my need to control in favor of relaxing in God’s ultimate sovereignty in my life?”

3.”Can I put the small stuff in perspective and flexibly move through my day?”

Good questions to take into consideration when learning to choose Emotional Rest.

The next section is Physical Rest. And in this section we learn about ceasing from busyness, hurrying, over-consuming, and crowds. Busyness and hurry were the areas of most interest to me here. As we learn to cease from busyness we learn to feast on leisure, and as we learn to cease from hurry Thomas discusses feasting on slowing down.

In the section on Ceasing from Hurry, Thomas reminded me of something I am slowly learning. “God’s love and acceptance do not depend on what I do. His grace is not opposed to my efforts, but my efforts do not earn grace.” Oh, how I need to remind myself of this when I forget about walking with “slow feet” and begin rushing about.

I know I often have heard myself say, “there is never enough time for all I want or need to get done.” But using the Bible story of the feeding of the 5000, Thomas reminds us, “…if we give God what is in our lunchbox, he will make it be enough.” I need to give my moments to Him and let Him lead me in making the time I have to be enough.

Thomas suggested in this section to make a time pie relating to how you spend your days. She asks, “Which pieces should be smaller, which pieces should be bigger?” This is so helpful to really see how your time is being consumed and to see if you are doing what really matters. I know I seem to easily waste time on things that distract me during the course of a day.

Finally, in the area of Spiritual Rest, she writes about ceasing from fear, hard-heartedness, the need to know everything, and anxiety.

Here ceasing from fear and anxiety interested me most. When we cease from fear we need to learn to feast on trust. In the Spiritual Rest Stop here, Thomas gives a long list of scriptures to feast on. Thomas says, “Putting away fear and feasting on trust, we rest in the reliability of God.” How very true! That is what I am learning as I seek to know His love for me in a deeper way.

In the area of Ceasing from Anxiety, Thomas reminds us of these important truths:

1. “The first step to ceasing from anxiety and feasting on peace is recognizing our need to surrender control.” (Yes, I am slowly learning to abandon outcomes to the Lord.)

2. “We have to remember that even though we have relinquished control, we are not sent untethered into life’s anxious circumstances. God secures our tether and he is still in control.”

So, with these things in mind, knowing that God is in control, Thomas suggests that we can only do what we can do. Anxiety gets us nowhere. But in the Lord we can find peace and we can definitely trust in Him!

Thomas shares the story of the fiery furnace from the book of Daniel. She reminds us of the courage of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego as they said “if their worst ‘what-ifs’ came to pass, ‘even-so’ they would praise God.” Oh, Lord help us to look at our “what-ifs” in this way, with a willingness to praise you!

This book was another great read on my journey of recalibrating life. I hope you found something helpful here for you as you journey with Jesus.

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Rooting in God’s Love

The Lord is using His Word to speak to my heart and give me new and deeper understanding of His love for me. It is truly in His love that we find rest. And it is in that heart-rest that a life of simplicity grows out of.

My study of His love began with Ephesians 3:17-19:

“May Christ through your faith [actually] dwell (settle down, abide, make His permanent Home) in your hearts! May you be rooted deep in love and founded securely on love. That you may have the power and be strong to apprehend and grasp with all the saints [God’s devoted people, the experience of that love] what is the breadth and length and height and depth [of it];

[That you may really come] to know [practically, through experience for yourselves] the love of Christ,
which far surpasses mere knowledge [without experience]; that you may be filled [through all your being] unto all the fullness of God [may have the richest measure of the divine Presence and become a body wholly filled an flooded with God Himself.]”

Paul writes these verses out of great excitement because he knows in his heart what knowing God’s love has really meant for him. Paul writes these words out of a place of heart experience. He knows the Lord and he knows His love in a deep way.

When I take in the depth of God’s love for me, I can begin to trust and rest in His control, I can start to learn of contentment and live out of that place. I know He will take care of me and give me what I need. It is then I can stop striving and people-pleasing to fill up the emptiness because God’s love fills me. Paul had that kind of knowledge.

Paul desired that we would be rooted and grounded or established in God’s love so that we could really know His love, the width, the length, the height, and the depth of it. We need to be constantly growing in the knowledge of His love for us.

Recently, when I was taking time to meditate on these verses, I found that drawing a silly picture helped me to better understand about His love. I drew a picture of a flower with roots in the soil on one of the pages in my prayer journal. The picture reminded me that my roots are to be growing in the soil of God’s love. And to a flower the soil is a life-giving place where the plant is nourished, it is surrounded by the soil and held stable, and the plant is given room for growth.

God’s love is that life-giving place for me, where my soul is nourished, His love surrounds me, it holds me stable, and He encourages my growth. I look at that picture there in my prayer journal often and it speaks to my heart the truth of God’s love in a very simple but meaningful way.

I feel like so often I get uprooted by pain, worry, frustration, expectations, and obligations; just by life itself, and I lose sight of God’s love. I end up feeling abandoned and needy. Apart from the protection of His love, I find that I go back striving and people-pleasing to get what I need.

My roots are tender and fragile and some are yet shallow in the depths of His love. Staying rooted means security, but I must grow deep to find all I need in His love. I must grow deep to really learn to fully trust. It is not a one-time-and-done process. This process of learning of His love and learning to trust is a lifetime process. He is teaching me how to cope with the fear and the neediness in ways that calm me and help me.

As I continue to delve into God’s Word learning of His love day-by-day and I will be sharing more about it’s impact on my heart and the healing process next month. Later this month I will be sharing my response to the book Even God Rested by Kim Thomas.

I hope that you, too, are feeling the comfort, security, and hope of God’s love in your heart and life as you grow your roots down deep. May you feel held and secure in it!

Photo on Unsplash Garden Room by Eddie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo on Unsplash Garden Room by Eddie

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Response to “Abundant Simplicity”

My recalibrate life read for the month of February has been Abundant Simplicity: Discovering the Unhurried Rhythms of Grace. This was a book I had read a few years ago but I connected with its contents much more this time as I read it.

The phrase that really stood out to me in the first few pages of the book was “The Christian focus of simplicity is to abide in Christ.” I loved that the author geared my focus toward making the Lord my Treasure.

The process of learning the disciplines of simplicity brings us to a couple of very important realizations. First of all, Johnson points out that “[we] don’t yet trust God to help us feel acceptable when we’re not managing what others think of us.” How often do we purposely try to make others like us or think well of us? And secondly, she reminds us that “[it] is not just others who have “the self-serving motives” of “pride, greed and desires to control”. It is so hard to take a long, close, hard look at our own motives.

Self-awareness is very important in our lives as it is the gateway to transformation. As we grow in self-awareness, we can take our thoughtss before the Lord to have Him search out our hearts. He can shine a light within to show us our motives and help us to know the path we should take. When we fail to do self-examination or soul-searching we miss this opportunity to talk it over with the Lord.

I mentioned in my response to Sacred Rhythms that doing the activities of self-examination and discernment were some of my favorite. I have learned a lot about myself through this process. When I take time to look back on my day and week and look at where I recognized the presence of the Lord and where I felt alone, when I take time to think about my attitudes, responses, and reactions, and then talk about all of this with the Lord, I gain new insights about myself.

I have learned about boundaries I need to set with people who push my buttons and bring me to a state of fuming. I have learned how my being available to others and fully present with them truly leads to deeper closeness, bonding, feeling loved, belonging, and acceptance for me. For me, that means putting down the planner, or my tablet, or setting aside my task list, and maybe asking my husband how I can help him, or what he wants or needs. Or maybe it means just being really present in the conversation, not allowing my mind to race on with a million other random thoughts.

I never really realized how all of this was impacting my life. The more I choose to do self-examination, to talk with the Lord about what is going on in my heart and my life, the more I learn to know Him as my Treasure. Because in those moments when I take time with Him to be real, I grow in trusting Him and my relationship with Him grows in intimacy.

One of the chapters discusses contentment with what we have and the importance of resisting the impulse for more. It was interesting to me to learn how our wounds from the past can play into our level of contentment. Later in the book frugality and generosity are further discussed.

Johnson also leads her readers to consider doing a heart exam to help us discover our longings and priorities in life. She says, “Simplicity strips away the things that distract us (sometimes good things), helps us to re-evaluate where our heart is, and provides room for God to speak.” Simplicity is all about being intentional rather than living “on autopilot.”

I once again realized that, all too often, I am trying to just do too many things, I have too many focuses. Narrowing my focus reduces my stress level a great deal. I have learned that choosing to slow down has given me space to hear the Holy Spirit convict my heart of wrong. Being busy all the time, failing to do the soul-searching, often left me unaware because I was barreling through life as a bulldozer. I realize how often I have missed the gentle nudges that could have led me down a better pathway, whether that be a calm response, a space for silence, or the learning of new wisdom.

The disciplines of practicing simplicity of speech, as well as, silence and solitude are discussed. Johnson found that in her practice of simplicity and gentleness of speech, her words “imparted grace” to her hearers. The importance of really thinking about how my words are being used and considering what the motive behind saying them is, became very clear to me. It surprises my how often my words are manipulative, such as trying to get another to do something I want them to do, without actually asking them to do it. I recognized how that annoys me a great deal when I feel manipulated by others, but I had not realized how often I do it. Another point the author made about our speech is that it is most important that the Lord hears all about it, and it is not necessarily important that others hear it. Oh, how often I run to tell others, by phone call, or via text, or email, when I could just turn that worry or concern into a prayer, or when I could turn that joy into a praise.

As I eluded to earlier, both frugality and generosity were discussed, The importance of how we use the gifts the Lord has given us was reiterated. Again the emptiness of our souls is a factor. This emptiness plays a role in our purchasing of items because of a personal need to fill an inner hole. Johnson reminded us to ask ourselves what we want and what we need. Unfortunately, that is not something that I have often done in the past, but it is something I am choosing to do more and more often now. Johnson states that “Practicing frugality involves two changes, limiting what we already own… and limiting what we acquire.” Her goal in this is to have us limit our possessions, so that we have space to treasure the Lord. As well as limiting our purchases so we can “live a generous life rather than a grasping life.”

The chapter that spoke on simplicity with time was one of my favorites. Johnson said, “Simplicity with time requires the diligent intentionality of creating enough space that I may say yes to treasuring God and loving people.” This is an area that I want to work more and more on.

The discussion on the importance of putting “margin” in our days or “serious nothing” in our weeks has led me to rethink my schedule as I continue to recalibrate life, We need the “free in free time.” Johnson gave a list of leisure opportunities and suggested choosing one to try.  I need to be even more intentional about putting “margin” in my days and “serious nothing” in my weeks. I frequently fail to follow through on this even if it is written in my planner.

The bottom line is living simply in all of life, the way we dress, the way we take care of our bodies, and the way we use media.

Johnson says that as we learn to live in simplicity and draw nearer to God we find less reason to worry. That in itself is encouraging as worry can consume so much of our lives.

Each chapter had questions to answer and experiments to try. I completed all of the questions but am still working my way through some of the experiments of simplicity that I want to try. Some of these experiments will be my topics for my next months posts.

This was an excellent read on my journey to recalibrate life. Next month I will be reading GodSpace: Time for Peace in the Rhythms of Life by Christine Sine, M.D. I look forward to sharing my response with you.

The Luxury of Lingering

My goal of recalibrating life is leading me to desire simplicity in everything. Last month the sermon series at my church concentrated on the subject of prayer. Prayer can be a complicated part of life mostly because of our personal understanding and expectations of it.

Too often prayer becomes a time of laying out a laundry list before the Lord of the needs we know we and those we love have. At least that has been my experience. And, in time, that can become cumbersome. In fact, in reading off our long lists we can become bored, at least that has been my experience. It begins to get repetitious. Unfortunately, it seems that I circle back to this problem time and time again. I go for a while praying the Scriptures, and then one morning I will lazily pick up my list and read it off. It will be a disconnected task that I try to complete in a short amount of time, just to get it done.

When we concentrate on a list we can lose sight of the relationship we are suppose to be living with the Lord. Our requests get made and we are ready to move on with our days. Does that ever happen with you? Maybe it’s just me, because I do know people who do just fine with a prayer list. I just know that I want the intimacy of a deeper relationship with Him and the list method does not seem to take me there.

As a part of our church services during the month of January we have been breaking into small groups to pray. One Sunday as I was joining a few people to pray it occurred to me that prayer is meant to be so much simpler than I often make it out to be.

That Sunday the sermon had been about the disciples asking Jesus to teach them to pray. Jesus turned to prayer often in His life, and it is obvious that His disciples had observed this and were interested in learning more.

Jesus saw the neediness of the people surrounding Him, He recognized the effects of sin on mankind, and although these were pressing issues He needed to share with His Father, I think that His time of prayer was more about abiding and finding restoration. Jesus simply wanted to linger with His Father. Sadly, that is not what prayer is for many of us.

But I am learning to linger with my Heavenly Father. And I am learning that in the lingering I receive luxuries of the Lord’s compassion. I am finding that I want to linger with Him more and more to know His heart in a deeper way. I think you too will feel a desire to abide with Him in that sweet spot, the place where He teaches you of His endless compassion for you. So please take time to use the following verses as places to linger. Before the verse is the topic they fall into and then before each verse I will share with you what it is that touches my heart about that verse, what makes me want to linger.

Love:

He loves me so much that he sings over me, he delights in me. I yearn for His song over me and His delight in me.

The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17

His love is unfailing, no matter what. Unconditional and forever! I need that kind of love in my life.

“Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed.” says the LORD, who has compassion on you.”  Isaiah 54:10

His compassion never ends, His love is that great. He does not let us be consumed, (and some days it feels like the overwhelm could quite literally do just that.)

Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumes, for his compassions never fail.”  Lamentation 3:22

Instruction

He promises to give us the instruction we need and to teach us the way. I know I need direction for my day, for my life. Life is complicated and confusing, but He sees it from beginning to end and knows the path He has for us. 

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you. Psalm 32:8

His Word lights the way, we need not stumble through the dark.

“Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” Psalm 119:105

The Holy Spirit gives us truth for the way and helps us to know about the future.

“But when he the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.” John 16:13

Nourishment

He meets our needs for all of life. Life, at times, can seem so empty and we can become so discontent. The Lord fills us and quenches our thirst.

“Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” John 6:35

Grace

He promises us grace and mercy in our neediness. He wants us to call upon Him.

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:16

He promises us forgiveness and purification. I am realizing more and more the sin-sickness of my heart. But the Lord gives me hope in knowing He will forgive me and that I have righteousness through Jesus.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9

He grants us eternal life through our faith in Jesus.

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23

Encouragement

God is always available to us, He helps us in our times of trouble. I can always call on Him, I just need to choose to do so.

” God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” Psalm 46:1

We can find peace as we take our worries and anxieties to Him. I get caught in the quicksand of worry and anxiety all too often instead of knowing the peace the Lord promises.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:6-7

God is our salvation, our strength and defense. He is trustworthy. There is no need for fear. Fear ties me in knots and paralyzes me, I get stuck in it. But I have a Deliverer, He is showing me that, more and more, as I linger with Him.

“Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The LORD, the LORD himself, is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation.”  Isaiah 12:2

Rest

In our overwhelm, He promises rest. Rest is something that He has most recently shown me in Psalm 23, but the verses below are verses I visit time and time again.

“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 11:28-30

He promises His presence, as well as to give us rest. I am finding the reality of His presence more and more as I remember to call on Him through the use of breath prayers. These little prayers are bringing me into connection with Him throughout my days.

“The LORD replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” Exodus 33:14

He is our Fortress, and Rock, our Resting Place of safety. This verse has been especially helpful just recently when I was struggling.

“Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.” Psalm 62:1-2

In lingering, we are restored. As I continue on with recalibrating life, I am learning to linger with the Lord and receive from Him what He has for me. For me, it is much less about asking. It is more about learning to be with and take in His Word for me in those moments, receiving what I need to help me through the day. And daily I have been taking a breath prayer with me. Some of them have been:

“My Sweet Abba; Help me abide.”

“My Shepherd Guide, Restore my soul.”

“On Life’s rough terrain; Lord help me be surefooted.”

“Make my heart steadfast; Fully trusting in you.”

One day I just took the word “Fortress” with me because I felt shaken by what was ahead of me. So now it is in those times of fear or upset, I continue to call out to my Fortress. I need His help to trust and I need His protection (most recently in icy travel).

He has brought me to short passages or sections of Scripture that speak to my need and then have restored me as I linger there. It is from those portions of Scripture that I choose a word or find a breath prayer to take with me for the day.

Lingering with Him in the quiet or in His Word, He gives me just what I need for the day. Oftentimes the verse will remind me of requests I have and I will seek His help through deeper prayer. But the simplicity of lingering in these luxuries of His love has been a path to restoration. It is all a part of me recalibrating life.

Take time today to linger with Jesus and learn more of His love.

God Will See to Our Need

A few days ago I had lunch with a sweet friend. As we watercolored in our journals, we chatted. She shared about the word she chose for 2019 and then explained that she was also choosing a name of God for the year. I really liked that idea of choosing a name of God, and immediately my brain started trying to decide on one. I didn’t come up with one at that moment, but later prayed for the Lord to show me what He wanted me to learn about Him.

In Genesis 22, we read about Abraham obediently taking Isaac to the mountain so he could follow the LORD’s command to sacrifice Isaac. The horror of it must have ripped at Abrahams heart, yet that is not what the Bible tells us about. Instead it shares about Abraham’s trust and obedience. And then, just when he is about to kill Isaac the LORD stops him, and Abraham sees a ram in the thicket. There the LORD provided the sacrifice, and it is from this place in Scripture that we learn of the name of God, Jehovah-Jireh. God will provide.

The Lord has shown me throughout this year my need to abandon control. He has consistently demonstrated His faithfulness in so many situations in so many amazing ways. So as I look forward thinking about 2019 I realize this is the name of God I want to focus on. I want to look, with an evermore abandoning trust, for Him to provide in my life. Well, the abandoning trust will have to grow in my heart as the Lord works with me, but that is my hope.

Jehovah Jireh can be translated God Sees, God will Provide, or God will see to our need. As I studied this a little, I learned about the word “prevision”, God sees our need before we even know it, and that prevision leads to His perfect provision. He has made this truth real to me in many ways in 2018. He has been leading me to learn to trust Him more. I now am realizing how my understanding of the concept of “prevision” really can help me to trust. When I realize, recognize, and acknowledge that He sees to my need and prepares the provision apart from my worrying and fretting, I learn to rely. I can then find peace in the trusting. I know I knew this cognitively, but I feel like He has made it real to my heart in deeper ways. I want to continue on that path in 2019.

We can see God’s prevision throughout the Old Testament as we see verse after verse pointing to our coming Savior. And, in a few days, we will once again celebrate His provision. Jesus, our Deliverer, born as a baby, sent to us out of the Father’s love. He saw a our sin-sickness, and knew our desperate need for hope and He provided.

Thank you Heavenly Father for giving us the greatest gift! You will see to my need, Jehovah Jireh. You are ever so faithful. You will see to our need. Help each of us trust you more!

Again, I must say, what an amazing God we serve. The way He weaves all of life together to teach us His truths is mind-boggling.

Merry Christmas!

Cultivating a Peaceful Heart

My life has been anything but peaceful the past few weeks. It has been crazy busy as I am helping my mom get moved into a safer environment.

I had forgotten how much there is involved in a move. Especially when it is a move requiring downsizing and there is so much left in the house, so much that still needs attention.

Even so, I do not want to lose sight of recalibrating life. I need to constantly cultivate peace in my heart despite the chaos in my life. Have you been there?

Peace is such a beautiful word and such a tranquil feeling. But where can you find it? How can you live in a state of tranquility?

Colossians 3:15 says: “Let the peace of Christ control your hearts, for you were, in fact, called to it in one body.”

When life gets overwhelming, and your heart grows anxious, and fretful words stream from your lips, you soon recognize need for peace within.

Anxiety, worry, and overwhelm scream fretful words in our heads. “You’ll never get done.” “There is too much to do.” This is impossible.”

God’s Word tells us not to be anxious about anything. Instead, pray. Offer up your requests. Give thanks. And then God’s peace comes. “The peace that passes all understanding.” It makes absolutely no sense to our human minds. But this peace fills our hearts and minds, it stands guard. These are the truths of Philippians 4:6-7.

Peace also is given as we keep our minds “stayed” on the Lord (Isaiah 26:3). Perfect peace is promised. My mind is often like a bouncing ball, rambling about from one place to another. My mind needs to instead be like a tether ball, attached to the Lord, like the rope that holds the ball to the pole. When I focus my mind on Him, Who He is, and what He is able to do, as well as all He has done, new peace fills me. Feeding on His faithfulness, remembering His goodness, these can bring great peace to our hearts. My heart and mind need His perfect peace to help me find rest.

Psalm 29:11 tells us that “The Lord gives strength to His people, He blesses them with perfect peace.” What encouraging words when you are feeling weak and overwhelmed. When your body feels weak and exhausted from too much work, and your mind cannot fathom how it will all get done, the Lord promises strength and peace. He meets us in those impossible places, renewing our strength, somehow replenishing our depleted energy, and filling us with peace to calm, which in turn renews our hope.

It is too easy to fall back into the old pattern of needing to control everything and feel responsible for it all. Peace is not a by-product of a life trying to keep it all under control. Be still and know that He is God (Psalm 46:10)! But in walking the path toward recalibrating life, I need to remember to let go of control, and learn deeper trust in the One Who truly is in control, that is where true peace is found!

So with aching muscles from lifting, packing, and unpacking…with a tired mind from five hours of driving almost daily for about a week, I find rest. Not because the work is done, but because I know I am not alone in the doing. The Lord continues to faithfully provide. He knows my weariness and He touches me with His love in sweet and unexpected ways. My husband heating up dinner, Mom’s neighbor offering to rake up all of the leaves that have fallen. Another neighbor promising to get the mail, take care of the garbage and recycle containers, as well as cleaning up any snow that may come. And then there is the Christian realtor who has access to many other helpful resources. The Lord never ceases to amaze me with His goodness and loving-kindness. His mercies really are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23).

He knows my overwhelm, He knows my worries, He knows my neediness, and He has it all under control. He is able (Ephesians 3:20)! His grace is sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9)! He meets, He supplies my needs “according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

His peace is real, and I find rest in the hope of its constant availability. He is present with us through all of life. Pray. Keep your mind stayed on Him. Remember His faithfulness. Look at how He has been at work. Your heart can know peace in the midst of anxiety and overwhelm. He only wants us to whisper a prayer, tell Him our need.

Cultivating peace means the need to weed out worry, and choosing to focus on Him.

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.

Being Intentional with the Essential

The busyness of life so often keeps us focused on the world, our possessions, and our to-do lists. We get thoroughly bogged down and we frequently are blinded to what is essential. I must admit I have been hi-jacked by my to-do list, by the overwhelm of life, or by the want of more material items, etc. This has been the case more than I care to admit.

As I continue to look toward Recalibrating Life in 2019, I want to refocus my lens in order to make it all about what the Lord tells me is essential in living for Him. Too often it is and has been all about me, what I need and want, what will fit into my schedule, what will make me happy. Well, quite honestly, I have found that in the end self-focus is not very satisfying.

A few years back I went to a conference. My mom had given me a sweatshirt that said, “It’s All About Him” with a couple Bible verses on it. The gift was one I had requested. Anyway, I decided to wear it to the conference. The Lord had a lesson to teach me there. That day we broke into small groups to discuss something the speaker had spoken on and I felt very excited to share my opinion, except everyone took a turn, I seemed to be invisible and suddenly time was up. I never got a turn. My shirt said that it is all about Him, but in my mind and body that certainly was not true. It was all about me and what I wanted to say, and how upset I felt that I did not get a turn to share. Self-focus at its worst. I couldn’t even concentrate on what the others had to say, and I left when the speaker called us to go back to our seats. I have not worn that sweatshirt since. I want it to be all about Him, but my flesh says it’s all about me in all too many incidents.

Living to control everything or manipulate it all, to get my way or to be heard or to protect myself or check off more things on my to-do list, all of these end up leaving me empty. I realized, that day, to a greater degree my selfishness and my need to be seen and heard. It is a lesson I will never forget. It is these kind of lessons, when the Lord helps us to see self clearly through His eyes, that make me want to make some changes.

So, as I think about Recalibrating Life and recognize all that the Lord has taught me so far in 2018. I decided the place to start is in regard to what is essential according to God’s Word. There are some key verses that are essential to the way of intent that I want to live by. Here are the verses:

Psalm 62:8 NIV  “Trust in him at all times you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.”

Luke 10:41-42 “Martha, Martha” the Lord answered,”you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed– or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Proverbs 3:5-6  “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him and he will make your paths straight.”

Psalm 62:5-7 “Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge.

Matthew 11:28-30 “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.”

Proverbs 4:26 “Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways.”

Proverbs 19:20-21 “Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise. Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’S purpose that prevails.”

I want to learn to live intentionally out of each of these essentials. But how? My times the overwhelm paralyzes me, rather than leading me to, as Elisabeth Elliot says,”just [doing] the next thing,” I get stuck. I forget that it doesn’t need to be big and epic. The Lord isn’t taking my performance into consideration in order to decide how much love He will pour into my heart and life. His love is unconditional.

Each one of the essentials can stop us in our tracks if we think that we must do them in a perfect way. Just think about it with me for a moment. Have you ever sidestepped praying or seeking direction because you were fearful that you could not do it well enough? What if you prayed the wrong thing? What if you misunderstood what God was directing you to do? Or what if you sought counsel but like Rehoboam took the wrong advice?

When my intention becomes about proving myself or about controlling things to turn out for my benefit I am in error. The Lord looks at our hearts and He searches our motives. He knows we are dust, He knows we are sinful. Yet, He also knows whether our error is born out of selfishness, hatred, or if it is because of honest misunderstanding. God is a loving God. He knows the depths of our heart better that we do.

Fear can be a guard rail of protection or a prison cell. I want my intentionality to be coming out of a heart that just wants to grow in intimacy with the Lord. Intimacy with Jesus is the bottom line of all the essentials I have listed. Each one is either a pathway to intimacy or a pathway out of learned intimacy.

So, seeking to grow in intimacy with Jesus changes how I approach each essential. You see, many times we confront our intentions like a checklist of things to be done, with the goal just to get it done. But this is about being relational, not about an accomplishment.

As I look back over my walk with the Lord, I see Him being the One drawing me into deeper intimacy through life lessons, through meeting me in His Word, through speaking to my heart as I pray. But none of it was anything I could control or make happen. The soil of my heart is what matters here. It is about my readiness and willingness and the Lord’s perfect timing.

So, my intention her must not be about accomplishing things on a list but instead about using these essentials as pathways to drawing nearer to God’s heart.

As I contemplated this, I came up with a list of intents to focus on, they are as follows:

  • to pray out of a heart of desperation and vulnerability.
  • to set aside the busyness and enjoy times of quiet before  the Lord, developing and practicing out of desire, not another thing to do.
  • to look for His love in His Word and moment-by-moment in my life so I grow in knowing Him more.
  • to choose to abandon control in life, resting His control, acknowledging that He is God, and letting Him work.
  • to rest as I wait for His deliverance in whatever the situation may be, rather than fretting and manipulating.
  • to learn His “unforced rhythms of grace” and rest, rather that seeking to prove.
  • to seek His direction and listen to the counsel He provides rather than trying to figure it all out on my own.

These are the intents of my heart that I recognized as I realized the error of my ways in the past. No, I am not beating myself up, the Lord has worked in me and through me despite my bulldozer style, despite my need to control, and despite my checklist and pencil. He is slowly teaching me and growing me up, growing my trust, helping me to know His love in a very personal way. And as I look back over this past year I see clearly how I want to grow in intimacy with Him in a new way. Not methodical and calculated, but in trusting Him in a love relationship as He refines my heart.

I must say once again, what an amazing God we have! How patient and gracious He has been with me through the many years I have walked with Him. He loves me and works with me where I am at. He is gentle and kind. His yoke truly is easy.

I am slowly learning to trust and learning to rest. I praise Him for showing me His loving presence and perfect understanding.

Journeying with Jesus truly brings joy even when we are on the rough, rocky roads with sharp rocks cutting our soles, or our souls. He never leaves us and He is always loving.

How is your journey going? What is He teaching you? Is He taking you on a new path? I pray that His lessons bless you as He has blessed me.

The Lord’s Perfect Way; Not Always What We Expect

There is less than two months until Christmas, and then only one week beyond that 2019 begins.

I recently was rereading snippets from my journal and repeatedly read about the stress and exhaustion I was feeling. How very overwhelmed I was, and how much my neck and shoulder muscles were throbbing. Over and over and over these complaints were voiced in nearly every journal entry.

This made me want to cry. You see, my word for the year 2018 was “Cultivate.” I wanted to cultivate presence, passion for life, gratitude, and joy. Sadly, I saw very little written about those things in the fabric of my life.

So, I am on a quest towards rest for my soul. I am reading books on rest, Sabbath, and leisurely time with the Lord knowing His presence. I have a special journal I am using to put my notes in about these topics. As I read I record words and thoughts that resonate with me.

The Lord has been consistently working on my behalf in so many areas of my life that I have allowed to stress me out. And I see Him healing some very deep and painful wounds within. It is not an overnight process. It is slow but He is gently with me teaching me truths to help me heal.

This morning I meditated on Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV).

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.”

I have been too busy, and too stressed, and just am feeling exhausted. The Lord’s invitation for me to “come” touched a tender place within and made tears sting my eyes. I felt so like a little child, needy and fragile, and I crawled into Daddy’s lap as he stretched his arms out to me and called me to ‘come.’ I ran to the Lord, and snuggled in heart to heart. I told Him once again about how I feel and all that is weighing me down. I cast all of my cares on Him, trusting in His care for me, as 1 Peter 5:7 tells me.

My neck and shoulders relaxed.

My jaw unclenched.

I breathed in deeply.

All too often I do this but then run head on into my day and lift the boulders of worry, the heaviness of expectations, and the overload of obligations up again. I carry it all back into my life with me.

But then I heard, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest” (Exodus 33:14). The rest doesn’t need to end when I get up and begin my day. Unfortunately, it often does.

Yesterday, my husband and I had to make a long drive and as we were traveling I started to think about 2019. It felt refreshing to think of starting over. And I began to remember all that I have been taught this year during my time with the Lord as well as during those unexpected opportunities in the midst of life when He finds a teachable moment. As I recalled those things, I realized how much I want and need to make some very important changes in my life. Changes He has been pointing me towards that I have been reluctant to follow down the path of.

I felt frustrated with myself in not having cultivated joy, presence, gratitude, or passion for life consistently through 2018. My frustration made me feel earnest and deliberate about seeking change. So much so that I have already chose my phrase for 2019’s focus in my life.

My two-word phrase is “Recalibrate Life.” In 2019 I want to focus on the essential and be intentional. I want to choose to live passionately. I want to practice walking with slow feet, abandoning outcomes to my Lord, living present before Him, practicing reflection and listening, and setting aside time for play. All of these, so I may learn to know more joy in life, more joy in my heart. I will only truly know that joy as all of life is centered around Christ.

So as I prepare, as I read books on Sabbath, soul rest, and leisurely time with the Lord, I will be praying for more of His leading regarding how He desires me to live out these changes.

I know holding tightly to control, worrying, allowing anxiety to take over, pushing through, manipulating, trying to get my way; none of these work. Relying on Him and resting fully in His love is the way I want to live.

I have found that reading through past journal entries, reflecting on the paths I have been traveling, reviewing how the Lord has worked in my life, and considering what He is teaching me, help me see the road I have been walking on during the previous year. And I have opened my heart to the Lord to help me clearly understand what He was doing. Taking this time for reflection with an open heart and mind are so important.

What about you? Where have you travelled this year? Are you taking time to reread, reflect, review, and really look at where you have been as well as consider where you are being led?

I am so thankful to the Lord for all that He has taught me so far in 2018. Not easy lessons, but good lessons, ones that have helped me to know Him more and have helped my trust to deepen.

Now in the frustration I was feeling, I just realized that I had totally misunderstood my word for 2018. Cultivate. Wasn’t I suppose to make something happen? I was looking or good things to be planted in my life and bear good fruit.

But instead I realize that the Lord truly wanted to cultivate, He wanted to begin to weed out roots of sin, to make me see my lack of trust, to loosen my tight grip on control, and so much more. It was not the journey I expected or even wanted, but I am realizing it was a very necessary journey.

He had to start the weeding-out process before He could make the soil of my heart ready for what He wants to grow there. He has specific desires for changes He wants to make. My Creator God is at work recreating my life, heart and soul, to work out His purposes rather than my own. He had to help me learn to release my grip of control in order for me to be open to the new thing He is doing.

Isaiah 43:19 “Behold, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs forth; do you not perceive and know it and will you not give heed to it? I will even make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”

What an amazing God. You see, I thought I knew what cultivating meant, but the Lord had a different plan. A better plan.

Remember to take time to look for His work in your life, He will always surprise you with His wisdom and His love!

Standing Strong in Fearful Times

Living fearlessly means living with your eyes glued on the Lord, not on your circumstances. Focusing on who God is and what He is able to do changes everything.

In the book of Daniel, we read about the men who were thrown into the fiery furnace. King Nebuchadnezzar had set up a golden image and commanded that all should bow down and worship it and that whoever refused would be cast into a “burning fiery furnace.” The command was given by the King and three Jewish men Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to bow down. This sent the king into a rage, he asked that these men be brought to him. When they came before him he asked if what he had been told about them was true and they told him that it was. The king asked them who could deliver them from the punishment of the fiery furnace. The men answered him with these words, “If our God Whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning furnace, He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image which you have set up.” This response caused the King to become more furious and he commanded that the temperature of the furnace be raised to seven times hotter than normal. And when this had been done the three men were cast into the midst of the fiery furnace.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego chose only to worship God no matter what. They did not compromise even in the face of such drastic punishment. (You can read this story in Daniel chapter 3.)

More and more in this world we see anger and rage threatening people’s safety. Persecution is real and threatens many who stand up for Christ. Many die for their faith. As I read and hear about these stories it always makes me question, what I would do?

I look at the threats and beatings endured by many of the disciples, apostles, and early believers with amazement. Paul and Silas sang as they sat in prison in stocks. And when given an opportunity to escape they stayed and influenced the other prisoners to stay as well. (Acts 16:16-40)

Peter and John held firm to their convictions when warned not to speak or teach in Jesus’ name. They responded to those opposing them with these words,  “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than God, you be the judge, for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard. ” (Acts 4:19-20)

Peter and John were firm and immovable in their beliefs. They were confident in the truth of God’s Word and in His faithfulness. Their convictions made them stand firm even when faced with great consequences.

When our fear of man overrides our trust in who God is and what He can do we often choose the path of compromise. Too often it seems easier to ride the fence and not make a stand for Christ at all. We may not say anything in rebuke, or say as little as possible in order to not stir up trouble.

The truth is hard to take and generally many do not want to hear it. When choosing to stand up for the Lord we often will meet with opposition to stand up for the Lord we often will meet with opposition. Holding firm to our convictions may mean losing the popularity vote because we make a choice that others disagree with or do not understand.

We have to choose whether to walk in obedience to God or not. And we will face consequences for our choices. Often fear gets in the way! Fear may keep us from sharing the Gospel or from showing love to one others think isn’t worth the time of day. Or maybe fear keeps us from saying we can’t meet on Sunday morning because that is when we worship. Our fear can also stop us from speaking the truth about holiness in many areas of life.

So how can we stand up to our fears and stand firm in our convictions?

Here are a few things we can do:

1. Know God’s Word.  When it comes to making a choice find out what the Bible says about the choice. If we are unable to find the answer on our own, we can ask a trusted pastor who has studied God’s Word.

2. Be in prayer. I am doing my third study by Jennifer Kennedy Dean, each one of the titles of the studies have worked on begins with the words The Praying Life. Dean says that the praying life is turning every fear, concern, or worry into conversation with God. We need to seek God for wisdom and direction. We need to learn to “be still and know” that He is God.

3. Be committed to living for the Lord. Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). His Word is our plumb-line.

4. Follow Paul’s advice to the Ephesians in the book of Ephesians chapter 6 verses 10-13. Put on the full armour of God. We can be empowered through our union with Him. We can draw our strength from Him. He will help us to stand firm in crisis situations.

We cannot allow our fears to open the door to compromise. We have the Lord and His Word to help us. Here a few verses that are helpful to me:

Psalm 50:15Call on Me in the day of trouble and I will deliver you and you shall honor and glorify me

Psalm 56:3-4What time I am afraid, I will have confidence in and put my trust and reliance in You. By [the help of] God I will praise His Word, on God I will lean,  rely, and confidently put my trust. I will not fear, what can man who is flesh do to me? “

Psalm 18:3I will call upon the Lord, who is to be praised, so shall I be saved from my enemies.”

Psalm 119:105 “Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”

Those are only a few there are so many more that can encourage our hearts in times of fear. God’s Word really can help us to stand firm. We all need help to keep our confidence in the Lord and not allow our fears to cause us to compromise. Let’s pray for strength to stand strong in our convictions so we can bring God glory no matter what comes our way.