It really is ok to rest…

Mark 6:31 (NIV) Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”

When I read this verse this morning, it jumped off the page and invited a deeper look; more than just a cursory glance. On the surface, it seems like a benign verse; one that can be read at face value and left at that. However, after giving this verse some thought, I beg to differ!

Jesus and the disciples had little, if any leisure time during His time of ministry; teaching and healing the people. The crowds never seemed to let up. People were so anxious to be near Jesus, to listen to His revolutionary teaching that set them free, released them from bondage, fear and legalism. They heard that He had the power to physically and spiritually heal them, so they came in droves with their ill and hurting friends and family, with those suffering from demonic harassment and chains, for a chance to see Him, touch Him, be healed by Him.

Jesus and his disciples rarely had  “opportunity for private meditation and prayer, nor of spiritual converse together; nor even so much as to eat a meal’s meat for the refreshment of nature.” (1)

Being fully God and fully man, Jesus knew and felt the physical and mental exhaustion of always being “on” and the deep fatigue of being surrounded by the hurting, needy and lost.  He also knew his disciples needed respite from ministering along side Him. So Jesus retired from His work. He was diligent to remove Himself and the disciples for periods of rest, refreshment and spiritual and physical re-filling, so that they could then return encouraged and strengthened for the next task set before them. He gave Himself and the disciples permission to stop and take a breather; to eat, to get themselves away from noise, hurry and the urgency of humanity knocking at the door of their hearts.

As I thought about this verse, I felt Jesus whispering to me and my worn out heart to “come with Him” by myself “to a quiet place and get some rest.” My days may not be filled with healing the sick and enemy-harassed in my world,  or with traveling roads that are literally dusty and parch the mouth, or teaching on hillsides in the hot sun, but He knows what my days are filled up with: relationships that are chaotic,  full of misunderstandings and unmet expectations; disappointment; dreams long held in my heart, that seem so far from being realized; illnesses and injuries that I cannot control or fix; past regrets that try daily to haunt my peace; friends and family going through heart wrenching trials that physically hurt me as I see the struggle; daily annoyances and offenses that threaten to become bigger than they need to be; and the list goes on. Life on planet Earth and the human condition!

I absolutely love that Jesus gets this! He understands the physical and mental exhaustion of taking care of everyone else around me. The things I take on that are not really mine to take, that I struggle and wrestle with until I have nothing left. He loves me enough to give me permission to get away, rest, get some refreshments for my mind, spirit and body and then, with the full armor of God strapped on me, get back in there and move forward, into all the goodness, abundance, joy and excitement He has planned out; filled up and able to minister to those He places in my path for such a time as this.

Is He calling you to go off with Him for a spell; to rest, refresh and soothe your mind, spirit and body? It really is ok to rest…

(1) John Gill’s Exposition of the Whole Bible

 

Meandering

High in the forested mountain, a burst of water comes bubbling up. Why it started there, in that hidden place is a mystery. Spreading out, it searches for the path it is to follow. There isn’t one readily visible, so with tenacity and confidence it presses forward, looking for that indentation; the hollowed decline in the ground. Success!

Following the downward dip in the ground, the water flows. Sometimes it seems to follow an exact, obvious path that makes perfect sense, then suddenly, a shift; a deviation; a random change of direction as an unexpected obstacle looms up, making the easy downward flow alter its course. It seems haphazard, but it isn’t. The obstacle is there for a reason. The stream does not know why it’s there or how the obstacle came to be in the way, but nonetheless, there it is and it must be navigated.

Success! The resilient water finds the best route around, over or through the offending obstacles and soldiers on to its destination. Where is that place? What will it look like? Will it be a long journey? Will there be any more obstacles or is the path now clear and straightforward?

The downward descent slows for a bit and the stream meanders along with no obvious route to is wanderings. It moves from here to there; around that rock, over that fallen branch; gurgling and swirling as little rocks, sticks and leaves beneath the surface shape its route. The path may be rocky and tricky to navigate, but there is such beauty in the journey, if one can take a bit of time to see it.  The water plays its gently flowing, or at times, powerful rushing music as it dances over, around and through those things that lie in its path. That in itself is lovely.

The stream may stay in this slow, meandering space for a bit; almost as if it is resting for what lies ahead. There is peace and rest here; deep pools reflecting prisms of light as the sun filters through pine-scented branches. Small bugs dart to and fro on their own journeys; busy and focused. Animals may stop by for some refreshment; finding nourishment here and leaving their footprints in the soft, pungent soil; adding to or taking from the stream; the dance of life. Connection.

Eventually the stream picks up speed and the time for calm is over. Heading down the mountain, it rushes head on into boulders, large fallen trees and other forest-y things that would like to block its way. The pull of its final destination forces the water to find a way over, around, through and it does; it always does. It may be wild and gushing and completely chaotic; or slow and methodical; plodding. But it will always reach its destination. The way has been charted out for this stream before the it even existed. I picture my life in this way, too. I relate to the stream and the obstacles it has to overcome, along with the times of rest and meandering, lazy peace. We all have a destination and we will all reach it.

My destination is the eternal arms of Jesus.

 

 

Everything

This song by Lifehouse (lyrics below) has been running through my head for a couple of days. I find this song profoundly beautiful and deeply moving; almost to the point that I cannot explain it with words. When I listen to it, goosebumps rise up all over my skin and my spirit awakens and rises up; tears prick my eyes and my heart beats stronger and faster. This is a song I can put on repeat. The lyrics resonate with me so deeply, because I have experienced these emotions and responses to Jesus described in this amazing song. I desire to hear Him speak and long for His words; it is a deep need in my soul and when I do hear Him, peace fills me up; I rest and have the strength to keep walking and trusting Him.

There are several specific times in my life that I look back on and know, like I know, like I know, that it was ONLY Jesus that kept me going each day; only His presence, only Him holding me in His hands and letting me rest that literally kept me afloat. There were times that I didn’t know it was Him carrying me through the storm, until it was over, and frankly, wasn’t sure I wanted anything to do with Him.  Nevertheless, He saw through the pain and fear, right into my hurting heart and gently lifted me anyway. I’m His girl and He wasn’t letting go.

During my years of battling an aggressive form of breast cancer, He was the only hope I had to cling to and He never once failed me. Never once. The weeks and months that I don’t remember, because of a haze of medications used to keep me from the sickness of treatments, He was there and held me in His hands. I have scars, yes, but I’m proud of them. It reminds me of where I was and where He brought me. Survivor. Overcomer. Victorious.

During other dark times, He was the light that led me to a place of healing, peace and safety. Fully protected; never out of His sight. Thoughts of Him do take my breath away! He has stolen my heart and I’m not ashamed to say so.

Life has things in store for me and those I love that will be hard, painful and seem very unfair. I know this. However, I also know that Jesus has walked this suffering before me, He knows, He understands, He heals and He restores. He brings joy and peace into situations where there shouldn’t be any.

He is all I want, all I need. He is everything.

Everything

By Lifehouse

Find me here, and speak to me

I want to feel you, I need to hear you

You are the light that’s leading me to the place

Where I find peace again

You are the strength that keeps me walking

You are the hope that keeps me trusting

You are the life to my soul

You are my purpose

You’re everything

And how can I stand here with you

And not be moved by you

Would you tell me how could it be any better than this?

You calm the storms and you give me rest

You hold me in your hands

You won’t let me fall

You steal my heart and you take my breath away

Would you take me in, take me deeper now

And how can I stand here with you and not be moved by you

Would you tell me how could it be any better than this?

Cause you’re all I want, you’re all I need, you’re everything, everything…

Roads through the desert

Isaiah 43:19 (MSG)

“Forget about what’s happened;
    don’t keep going over old history.
Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new.
    It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it?
There it is! I’m making a road through the desert,
    rivers in the badlands.”

This has always been a favorite verse of mine. I love the themes that jump out at me; hope, adventure, new beginnings; provision.

I have a tendency to go over the past, over think it and analyze it to death. I so easily become consumed with things that happened, things that were said that hurt (either by me or to me), actions and betrayals that I fear will happen again and again and again. This verse tells me to forget about reliving those things; to be alert and present, so that I don’t miss out on the brand new things God wants to do for and through me. He doesn’t say “I’d like to do something new” or “I’m considering it”; no! The Lord says “I am about to do something brand-new!” It is a promise! I can feel the excitement coming through His words when He says, “Don’t you see it? There it is!” The Lord is wild about you and me and loves the plans He has so masterfully created for each of us. It excites Him and brings Him such pleasure to surprise us with His purpose for our lives and to whisper into our spirits, “this is the way, walk in it.”

I don’t want to be so wrapped up in the past or worrying over the future that I completely miss out on what He is doing right now, right this minute. I don’t want to miss the road He is making through my desert; the obstacles He will move and the ruts He will smooth over. There are days when it feels like I can’t find the road; there are too many little off shoots and paths that distract me and keep me going in circles. If I stop, breathe and give myself space and permission to spend time with Him, He reveals that road through the desert and gives me directions on how to get back to it. He helps me over the ruts, around the boulders and through the brambles. He reveals the beauty that is there.

How bleak to miss the rushing river of blessings and revelation that He is creating in the badlands I often roam! How quickly I forget that water is the source of life. Where there is water, there is often beauty, refreshment, fullness of life, peace and provision. Jesus is my river in the badlands of humanity. He is beautiful, my strength, my peace; He refreshes my soul and provides for all I need. He is my source of life and He is enough. How wise I would be if I lived with this mindset every day. So let’s be alert! Let’s watch and wait on the Lord and see what He will do in our deserts and badlands; the beauty He wants to show us in the midst of our journey. May we live in watchful expectation for the new and exciting plans He has for us.

Just a morning

Sunlight filters in through the blinds; the breeze is cool and refreshing through the slightly open bedroom window.

Shifting from dreamy sleep to wakefulness; content and peace filled. Thank you Lord for waking me up – I’m coming!

Cozy cat stirs and stretches; stomping on body parts still under the covers. Time to get up. He knows the routine well.

Scent of brewing coffee brings homey memories to mind; rich and earthy, there is safety in predictability.

Dogs wait politely, then bound outdoors enjoying freedom after a long, snug night. Noses to the ground on high alert; sniffing out the offending evening invaders; dew drops spot their muzzles; glinting as the sun peeks through tree tops.

Sounds of the morning!

Wind chimes sing softly and gently as the breeze tosses itself about; birds up since dawn cling to the feeders, calling and scolding and jostling for position. Bright reds and yellows, muted greys and black.

The gentle light of early morning gives way to something  stronger; fortifying, brighter, life giving.

Coffee and the Bible sit on the pine table; steam swirls and pages flutter; beckoning and calling.

My heart stirs. There are mysteries to unravel here; richness to take in and understanding waiting to be sought and known. Revelation, peace and contentment are what I seek; warmth, depth and life.

Who knows what will come as the day unfolds? Joy? Laughter? Tears? Fear? For now, I sit at my Daddy’s feet, listening to Him speak with all my senses; sipping the warm richness of my coffee. It’s just a morning; but it is my joy.

 

 

Seashells

When I was at the beach not too long ago, I stopped and sat down on the sand, soaking up the sun. This beach was full of beautiful treasures washed up by the waves. I noticed some interesting looking shells lying near my resting spot, so I started to look at them more closely. I noticed that some were very intricate in shape and color and others were smooth with few rough edges. Some were very simple and sleek with muted colors while others were brighter and more vibrant, with fascinating nooks and crannies. I picked them up, piled them up in front of me in the sand and began imagining how each one became what it was; what its journey through the ocean might have been like, how far it had traveled before finally being spit up on the sand for beach lovers to gasp over and bring home as lovely treasures.

Looking at the force of the waves breaking on the shore, I can see that these shells went through a lot to get where they ended up; some of them whole and intact; while others were broken and a bit beat up, but pretty and interesting all the same. I like to imagine that these shells were uprooted from where they were comfortable and established on the ocean floor. The incessant pull of the tide, other larger sea creatures disrupting them, bothering them, forcing the creatures inside of the shells to move, hide or break just to survive.

Depending on the distance traveled, the severity of the storms weathered and the amount of time the shells were thrown into the rocks and ocean floor, all had a huge impact on how these shells arrived on the beach, what condition they were in when their journey was over. Isn’t this so much like us? When we finally come to Jesus and allow Him to be the center of our lives, our “enough”, don’t we sometimes feel a bit worse for wear? For some of us, the journey was not as arduous as it was for others, so we arrived like clean, shiny shells with just a few rough edges. For others, the journey was long and difficult and we arrived broken and battered, after weathering all that we did. Still others arrived with a vibrancy that captures the attention, with fascinating nooks and crannies coming from life experiences that are begging to be examined and figured out.

The very wonderful thing about these seashells, read us, is that each one is beautiful in its own way. Each one reaches out and speaks to someone different. Each shell, each one of us, with our intricacies, brokenness, vibrancy or calm energy, funky nooks and crannies or smooth edges, is needed to make this world what it is; to speak to and reach other people right where they are in their lives. I can’t imagine walking a beach and seeing only shells that look identical. How boring that would be; how devoid of life and mystery!

I say we embrace our journey and value all those things that made us into the funky, fascinating, funny people that we are! I believe that Jesus looks at each of us and all the ways that our journeys transformed us, gasps in delight and snatches us up as His very precious treasures.

The Ancient Paths

Jeremiah 6:16 (NIV)

“This is what the Lord says: Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. But you said, ‘we will not walk in it.’

This passage in Jeremiah is fascinating and really makes me think. I picture in my mind a traveler who sets out alone on a pilgrimage to find “the good way.” Someone who feels restless and dissatisfied, unfulfilled in the world and their place in it; searching for meaning and significance. I imagine this traveler is tired, dusty, thirsty and longing for some place to rest, because the journey has been a long one. A lifetime.

At last, up ahead our traveler spies a crossroads where different paths intersect and head off in completely different directions. I see an oasis at the crossroads; some sheltering trees where our sojourner can stop for a bit and think about which path to take. Where does each one lead? What if our traveler chooses the wrong way? Will the journey just continue on and on and on without leading to what they want most, which is peace, safety and rest for a soul that is banged up, wounded and weary; cautious and longing for healing, simplicity and to just belong?

I can imagine our weary traveler surveying each path, looking at the options and wondering what to do, which way to go. One path looks wider and more comfortable, the other path looks narrower and a little rockier. What to do? Suddenly our traveler notices, hidden in the shadows of a small grove of trees, a man reclining in the cool shade. Feeling relief that there is someone here who may know the answer and can give guidance, the traveler heads over and asks, “where is the good way? Which path do I take?” The man looks at the weary soul in front of him and asks, “what is it that you want? These paths lead in very different directions, my friend, so choose wisely. One, the good way, will lead you on a more narrow path, with areas that are not easy to navigate and that will have obstacles you will have to go around or over or through. There will be mountains and there will be valleys. The going will not always be easy, but the end result will bring you more joy and life than you could imagine.There will be beauty along this path, but pain, too. You will find rest for your weary soul, but you must follow the One who leads you and not stray off on your own. You will be guided every step of the way, but you will not be in control. This path has been followed by many before you, their foot steps can be seen and followed along the way. The traveler likes the idea of beauty and rest, but pain and obstacles, giving up control? “What about the other path?, the weary traveler asks, “Tell me about it.” The man sighs and begins speaking, “the other path, well, it will seem easier, smoother, wider. It will seem to be well traveled and it will allow you to chart the course, go your way. On this path, there are many crossroads you will have to navigate and you will be doing it on your own. You will choose which ways to go and you will reap whatever consequences come of these choices. The footsteps of those who went before you will be smudged, obscure and not easy to see. Those other travelers will not offer you their wisdom; they will concentrating on themselves and making their own way. You must choose your path; the time is now.”

Our traveler has a lot to think about. The thought of having a guide to navigate those rough places and obstacles sounds inviting; to not be alone, but to have Someone there to guide, to lead and who knows the way. Peace and rest are promised at the end of this path and there will be beauty, but also pain. Beauty in the pain? The other path sounds great as well. Easy, smooth, wide. Obstacles yes, but the ability to decide how to navigate them and being able to say at the end of the path, that you arrived because of your own wisdom. But, the man didn’t say that at the end of this path there would be rest and healing. He didn’t say what will be promised at the end.

So what do you choose, fellow traveler? When you come to the crossroads, which path will you choose? The one with the beautiful promise of rest for your weary, searching soul, or is the pull of being in control and having a wider, easier path calling out to you? Will you take the paths that are well worn with the sandals of those men and women who chose Jesus and went before us? The ancient paths with the footprint of the One who already knows your path and exactly how to navigate you along? Or will you see that path laid before you and say, “No, I will not walk in it.”