We live in a rat race of a world. The work is never done. At least mine isn’t. There’s always a dozen more things that could be tackled. The refrigerator contains the one sole loaf of bread in the house, which strongly hints that I have another thing on my to-do list. Right in the middle of planning when to do that I remember about the FB messages from over a month ago that have never been responded to. Or the fact I haven’t practiced piano for three times that long. A look in the ironing basket brings another reminder of yet one more thing to add to the list. And don’t even mention catching up on sitting down and going over income and expenditure. Having spent less than two weeks at home in the last two months doesn’t help, but truth be known, as soon as all those tasks were done I’d realize there were a dozen more. I could go on and on, but I’ll spare you because you probably have a dozen things on your to-do list too.
Yeah, we’re all busy like that. Sometimes it feels like it would take a lifetime to finish even the most basic of tasks.
But is that really what a lifetime is for?
Honestly, I think we would never finish all the work even if we had a dozen lifetimes. And though I by no means believe in shirking responsibility, neither do I believe in living in bondage to a list of tasks unaccomplished.
Somehow we have the idea that each day is a space of time to be used to get tasks done. So often my prayers in family morning worship echo my deep down idea of the day… “help us to accomplish all the things that need to be done.”
Wait a minute. When did life ever start to be all about accomplishing and not about enjoying? How is it so easy for me to spend the day running from one task to another and never take a moment to stop and just enjoy being alive?
It’s not like it’s a new revelation. I’ve been here before. But somehow the rat race carries me away and before I know it I’m living one day to the next thinking that I can’t consciously enjoy life until my work is done. Somehow it always seems like that moment of being able to just enjoy life for the gift it is is around the next corner. When we’re home I think I’ll have more time when we’re traveling and the minute we leave home I realize I actually had more time before.
The truth is, that moment that we think is coming around the corner will never come unless we choose to make it happen right now. Even if we were to stumble across a day where we had no work to do, we wouldn’t know how to cherish those moments.
One of my favorite quotes puts it so clearly… “Life is not an emergency. Life is a gift.”
*And another quote from the blog of the same author says simply… "A well-known pastor— he was was once asked what was his most profound regret in life? 'Being in a hurry.' That is what he said. 'Getting to the next thing without fully entering the thing in front of me. I cannot think of a single advantage I’ve ever gained from being in a hurry… But a thousand broken and missed things, tens of thousands, lie in the wake of all the rushing.… Through all that haste I thought I was making up time. It turns out I was throwing it away.’”
Truth is, life is meant to be lived not rushed. Simple I know… but not quite so easy to put into action.
There’s no better way to start than to take time to just come aside and enjoy being with Jesus. Not coming to Him with all the things I think He needs to give me. Not like a customer. But as His friend. Purely for the joy of being in His presence.
And so I take quiet hours in the middle of my day to let Him restore my soul. All the journaling I wanted to do but pushed aside because I didn’t think I had time… all those quotes I wanted to read… all those old Spurgeon sermons I’ve been wishing I had time to peruse… all those gifts I wanted to count but thought I had more important things to do… yeah, all of that. I’m catching up on that.
Maybe it’s more important to catch up on all those things that really refresh our hearts than to be forever worried about catching up on those school classes that can really wait a few hours… it’s not that they aren’t important. But sometimes the things we most neglect are the things we need most.
What if He can’t restore our souls until we are still long enough to let Him touch us? After all, the man with leprosy didn’t jerk away and say he had an important appointment before Jesus could touch and heal Him. So really, why do we?
After all, how much can we accomplish at our “appointments” when we are being destroyed by the leprosy of busyness? Perhaps what we really need is to be still and let Him catch us up in His embrace until He becomes more real than all the things that distract us.
Because what if it’s only then that we begin to really live?
*quotes from Ann Voskamp
We all have gifts we cherish. Precious family and friends, comforts and possession, dreams and plans… They give us countless moments of joy, fill up our days, and quite honestly our hearts too. We feel we have been blessed— and rightly so. This time of year often brings a fresh wave of gratitude from our hearts to the Giver…
That’s what Thanksgiving is about anyway, so we’re on the right track, yeah?
Or maybe not.
I wonder how much gratitude we would give if every gift the Giver has given was stripped away.
Sure, we may be determined that we would not curse God… we would not turn our backs…
But would we be grateful— even joyful?
Because the thing is… God is the One who is supposed to be first and foremost in our hearts. He is the One that should give us the most moments of joy and fill up our days, and our hearts.
And if we were just left with Him… we should find ourselves singing for joy that in loosing all else we can more fully embrace the greatest Gift.
But so often I find my own heart more attached to everything He has given than I am to the ultimate Gift Himself. I shrink from the thought that some of those gifts may not last forever… that seasons come and go… and so do gifts.
I look again at Job’s words— some of my favorite in all Scripture— and this time I begin to grasp a bit more what they really mean… “The Lord has given and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
One can only say such words when Jesus is the One loved more than all else.
I remember again the story that has been burning this lesson onto my heart of late…
He was a simple preacher, dedicated to giving every ounce of himself for his Maker and the people around him. And communist Russia would test his resolve. While returning from a secret church meeting in the home of a friend, Richard is quickly taken by two police men and shoved in the back of a taxi cab. Blindfold on, he is clueless to where he is being taken, except for the nagging idea in the back of his mind. He had known this day was coming. And as soon at the blindfold is removed and he can see the dull grey concrete walls that surround him he knows he was right. He is left to wonder at the length of his sentence.
Inside his cell, Richard Wurmbrand contemplates his fate. He had given himself to ministry and served with all his strength. But in the flurry of activity, it was easy to miss the depth of experience possible. His mind drifted back to the words of a friend… “there are only two kinds of Christians: those who sincerely believe in God and those who, just as sincerely, believe that they believe.” Now he would know which he was.
Richard later wrote, “Did I believe in God? Now the test had come. I was alone. There was no salary to earn, no golden opinions to consider. God offered me only suffering— would I continue to love Him?”
Years of imprisonment followed. Richard had plenty of time to answer that questions. 14 years in fact.
Over and over he was questioned for his faith, and given every incentive imaginable to give it up. But to Richard it had become more than a faith. It was his best Friend he was being asked to turn his back on. He couldn’t do that.
Torture was the result.
And in the midst of unimaginable suffering Richard was content… even incredibly joyful. He writes, “Words alone have never been able to say what man feels in the nearness of divinity. Sometimes I was so filled with joy that I felt I would burst if i did not give it expression.” Many times during the three years he spent in solitary confinement the guards found him dancing for joy. “I did not mind if my captors thought I was mad, for I had found a beauty in Christ that I had not known before.”
During torture he had a phrase that he would repeat over and over to keep his mind from the pain… “Jesus, dear Bridegroom of my soul, I love You.”
His captors were infuriated at his commitment to God and his fellow men, and arranged for a trial. Richard was quite ill when it took place, and when asked to speak he could only think of three words to say… “I love God.”
After eight years of appalling treatment and suffering Richard was set free… but he couldn’t rest while he thought of the many prisoners who sat in darkness without hope of the Savior he loved. He began to tell God that he was willing to go back to jail if that was His will. And after a few short months he was arrested and taken.
For six more years Richard faced horrible suffering for the God he loved so much. While the men around him crumbled and lost their faith in socialism and other political positions, he stood firm. All the tactics, torture, offers, and physiological methods the communists could employ could not induce him to leave the God he loved so much… the very God who had allowed him to be separated from his wife and son for fourteen years… the God who allowed him to live years without seeing the light of the sun, or eat a square meal, or sleep in a comfortable bed… the God who allowed his dreams to be dashed, and all his possessions to be taken. The God who knew that the real source of happiness is not found in material gifts, but in the incredible gift we have of cherishing Him as our best Friend.
Richard’s words sink into me… “I knew now that I was not play-acting. I believed.”
And I wonder how we have allowed God to become anything less than our all... How we’ve become so consumed with all He gives that we miss Him.
Because so often we are like customers coming to Him and expecting Him to give us what we want.
How often do we come to Him purely for the joy of being in His presence? Just because we love Him?
The words of one of my favorite songs have been engraving themselves on my heart of late…
...What if right at midnight Jesus softly struck a match
Could that change everything, the light one flame could bring?
The deepest dark surrenders when One candle flickers brights
The same flame that in daytime would be lost in worlds of light
The night is not the enemy, for darkness tells this truth
Only One light lasts forever, only One light is truth.
God, if you have to make our world dark so that we can discern the Only One who lasts forever… do it. Our treasures are all yours. We want the true Treasure. We’re willing to face losses, prison walls, loneliness, the loss of all things save You so that the continual motto of our heart will be…
Jesus, dear Bridegroom of our souls, we love You…
...We love God.
This thanksgiving the deepest gratitude of my heart is for You. You are all. You are enough.
High King of heaven… my treasure Thou art.
*Photo credit-- Yours truly :)
Sometimes I wonder when we transitioned from the carefreeness of childhood to the rushed and hurried lives we live as teens and adults. It seems like every year we get busier... we say we have more to get done, and yet somehow we're always still behind.
For years I'd been one of the people who had an everlasting "to do" list, or so it felt. I had high aspirations of what I wanted to get done, and when I wanted it done by. When I was in grade school that meant I was always trying to see how soon I could have the school year done. I even remember writing myself out a whole schedule of how I was going to get 7th grade done in four months. But for some reason, I always felt behind. I could never get it all done... and often, that really frustrated me.
And then, last year I found myself too sick to do anything for months on end. All my "to do" lists had to be laid down. And now, on the other side of my illness, I found my incessant drive to get to that "to do" list a little dampened. At first I worried that I was loosing my ambition. I'm now realizing that God had a lot more in mind.
I mean, when did we stop seeing life as a journey and start thinking it was a race to see who can get to the end first?
When did we stop recognizing the treasure of now?
And more importantly, how did our "to do" lists become so important that we feel too busy to give God our best?
I've told myself the lie a million times... "I don't have time."
But then, when was the last time you heard a little child complaining of a lack of time? And don't we have the same twenty four hours as them?
Maybe it's a matter of priorities. Of not being so controlled by that "to do" list. Maybe it's about figuring out what really matters.
Because really, we only have one life to live. And I don't want to spend it constantly rushing to the next thing.
I think we all intuitively know that God should be the very top of our priority list... But how many of us really live like He is?
As one of my favorite quotes states...
" God gave us time. And who has time for God? Which makes no sense."
If my God is the one I think He is... the One who breathes out stars... who speaks mountains into existence... how can I think that He will fit into the tiny spaces of my day that I squeeze out for Him? How can it do Him justice?
And how can I think that I will know His presence when all I give Him is a fleeting thought here and there?
So yeah, I've started seeing time in a new way. The work will never go away, but this moment will.
Not to say that the work is not important... but to say that God in this moment is more important than the work will ever be.
Maybe true ambition is not how much I can get done in this little life, but how much of God's presence I can recognize... how much of the almighty God I can know.
So I'll stop to see the sunrise... to head for the woods in the crisp morning air to tell Him good morning ... to pause for a lingering look at the bouquet of flowers in the kitchen... to write a line or two in my journal of gratitude for a God who's always there...
Because I can have as much of Him or as little of Him as I choose.
There is no limit.
Sidenote... I'm taking a plunge in this whole perspective of time and will be making time to update my blog far more regularly. So keep an eye out for much more frequent posts. :)
*Photo credit-- Hannah Rayne
MEN WANTED: FOR HAZARDOUS JOURNEY, SMALL WAGES, BITTER COLD, LONG MONTHS OF COMPLETE DARKNESS, CONSTANT DANGER, SAFE RETURN DOUBTFUL. HONOR AND RECOGNITION IN CASE OF SUCCESS.
-Sir Ernest Shackleton-
Quite a proposal. What would inspire a person to sign on to such a trip? What motive could possibly make a man want to leave his home and family for that? What if he did never come home? Could it be worth it?
Love does away with fear. In this case love of adventure...
Another quote comes to mind... this one from a famous astronaut.
"If we die, we want people to accept it. We are in a risky business, and we hope that if anything happens to us, it will not delay the program. The conquest of space is worth the risk of life." Virgil (Gus) Grissom
And later he and two friends did give their lives. While testing the Apollo 1, a fire broke out in the capsule and all three men died.
Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chafee before the fire.
What could have motivated them to be willing to make the ultimate sacrifice?
Yet again we find love. In this case, not only love of adventure but love for conquest.
And it makes me think... What would motivate us to endure long months of complete darkness? What would give us the courage to live a life of constant danger? What would we deem a worthy cause for which to expend our life?
And the same answer strikes again. Love. This time capitalized.
Because that add was not just something written to inspire men to join an adventure to the South Pole. Someone much greater asks for similar courage.
And if hundreds of men could apply for that because of their love of adventure, shouldn't hundreds of Christians be willing to face the same for love of their Master?
If three men were willing to give their lives for the conquest of space, shouldn't we be willing to give our lives for the conquest of something much greater?
Shouldn't we be willing to face hardship this year?
Sometimes God uses hardship as the very means of our growth. And I say that with more confidence than ever before...
Dec. 31 2012
Lord, I want a year of growth-- if that means a hard year-- let it be a hard year. Take me out of my comfort zone. Send me trials. All I want is the year of greatest growth in you that I've ever had. That will make it my best year so far.
Little did I know what I was asking for...
After various trials and several months of fighting an unknown illness, and then being diagnosed with Lyme disease in August, I have a little more idea.The seven months of sickness and pain have been God's answer to my prayer in the above journal entry. And yet I wouldn't have that prayer unsaid, or those seven months "unlived" for anything. I can truly say that hardship was my greatest blessing.
Fast forward to another journal entry a year later...
Dec 31, 2013
...Though I now know more than ever before the heart definition of pain, I know also the heart definition of upholding Love. I may have known personally what it is like to be utterly weak, but I have also known the amazing power of sustaining grace. I might have known disappointments and confusion but it was only so that I might now truly know trust. I may have experienced darkness, but it was only so that I could now appreciate more the one true Light.
I now see my greatest struggles as my greatest blessings. Hardship is not our enemy. It is a gift the Master allows that we may be strengthened to fight our real enemy.
This year, I'm excited to see what new things He has in store. I know my Jesus doeth all things well. I praise Him that the last few weeks have marked improvements in my health, and the beginning of a slow, but sure, recovery.
And for the record, Lord, I am willing to endure hardship for You this year. I deem You worthy of risking my life.
After all, didn't You deem me worthy of risking Yours?
Its almost as if I can see him, the old weary warrior, treading decidedly down the road to sacrifice. But there's no cloud on his brow, no fear in his eyes. He doesn't waste his last moments looking for sympathy. He is more concerned for his brothers and sisters in the faith. His words rise on the still summer air, reminding them that there is light behind the grave, a crown beyond the cross.
Paul arrives at the spot where he is to give back his greatest gift. His eyes rise to the clear sky, and its almost as if he can see the face of His Redeemer. The executioners ax descends, but he makes no cry of fear. His last thought springs up with joy at the glorious future before him, and it so absorbs him that the ax looses its terror. He finds his greatest joy in giving back his greatest gift.
And then I see me, so often fearing to give up my self. I'm ashamed.
It's a lesson my Jesus has been teaching me over the last couple weeks (even if it takes being in a plane over the Atlantic to give me a moment to get it in words). Paul's story made it hit home even clearer. It's not just about the receiving...
It was only a few months ago He was asking us to give up one of the gifts we cherished most-- wonderful friends and home in Montana. At times it felt like a big sacrifice-- some days it still does-- but I'm learning... Even more beautiful than receiving a gift is being able to give it back.
It's not in the bestowal of blessings that we receive our greatest joy, or even in the removal of them, but in the willing surrender of them, in the action of giving them back freely and unquestioningly.
Paul gave back more than a home and friends. He gave back life-- in the face of an executioner's ax. And it hardly seemed like a sacrifice because of the joy he felt in giving back.
Are we willing to give back life and all it entails-- even in the face of an executioners ax?
Jesus, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for all the beautiful gifts you have given me. But even more, I thank you for the privilege of being able to give them back. Your greatest gift is found in giving.
20. Lover of Jesus. Daughter. Sister. Friend. Servant. Fan of the kitchen. Graduate of Masters of Biblical Counseling.
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Hands Open. Heart Full.