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
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
There's something special and sacred about moments out in the fresh air with the Creator. It rejuvenates lagging courage, and inspires weary hearts.
I have long loved my quiet moments outside with Him. But in the turmoil of the last few months I had temporarily forgotten it's blessing.
He's reminded me. And I am grateful.
It's not in the flurry of activity, or the life of ceaseless labor that the greatest blessings are found.
In recognizing each little gift He sends, and taking the time to thank Him.
In stopping to feel His presence and appreciate His love.
In accepting pain as a medium for His greatest blessings, and learning the sweet peace and joy of full surrender.
In embracing the privilege of this moment and the things we may learn in it, whether or not it suits our fancy.
In quiet moments with Him.
"The one thing needed above all others today is that we shall go apart with our Lord, and sit at His feet in the sacred privacy of His blessed presence. Oh, for the lost art of meditation! Oh, for the culture of the secret place! Oh, for the tonic of waiting upon God!"
It was a simple thought, but one packed with power. My brother was telling me that he had been contemplating the other morning how water can only produce an accurate reflection when perfectly still-- how we can only produce an accurate reflection when perfectly still.
That thought really struck a cord with me. The depth of it's meaning is something I'm still trying to get my mind around. Just as the restless water produces a distorted reflection, we produce a distorted reflection of our Maker when we allow the storms of life to shake our trust, or when we become so frazzled by the business of life that we lose sight of Him. It's no accident we are told to "be still" and know that He is God.
A complete reflection of our Jesus can only shine from the heart that is perfectly still.
That rules out anxiety, which is really just a lack of trust.
It rules out the all-consuming business that leaves no time for Him.
It completely dispenses with frustration of any kind.
Instead this reflection requires trust. The kind that believes in the heart of it's Savior, even when it doesn't understand.
It asks us to be willing to accept His plans instead of our own, without having a "grown up tantrum." We've all seen the little child's version, but do we ever consider that sometimes we throw grown up "internal" tantrums when God says no? This summer has given me plenty of opportunity for them (like even this afternoon when I found out there are only four more GED testing dates this year at the "local" college before the new GED comes out, and two of them are on Sabbath, and one we are likely traveling, and the other will probably be booked by the time I get the necessary papers. :)) But I'm learning that real peace is found in giving Him the pen. I had definite aims and deadlines, ones that I'd prayed about and thought were right for the last few months. But sometimes He knows we need the gentle push towards deeper surrender and reliance on Him that disappointed plans will bring. And then, we can either struggle or surrender. But the restless water caused by the struggle reflects the Image poorly.
This reflecting Him... It calls for time daily to come apart and learn of His heart. Only the individual who knows the Master can reflect Him...
It asks us to be still. So still that not only the world-- but also our Maker-- can see His face perfectly reflected in us. It's the kind of stillness that only comes through trust.
*Be all at rest and let not your heart be rippled,
For tiny wavelets mar the image fair,
Which the still pool reflects of heaven's glory.
And thus the image He would have you bear.
*Streams in the Desert
Photos taken at NJFC
Credits: father :)
Pain is the richest backdrop for joy.
Words written in my journal three days ago when I had no idea that He had a plan to put a smile on my face in a few short hours. But there's something beautiful about trusting without seeing.
Peace found on the roughest road is sweeter than peace found because the road is smooth.
Joy because we trust His heart is deeper than joy because we see His hand.
Singing in the midst of trial means more to our Jesus than singing on the easiest day.
And Love that loves so much that it allows pain, is to be valued far more highly than any love that will only permit sunny skies.
A true friend will be willing to pray that you will be placed in the furnace of affliction so that you may come forth as pure gold. And He who loves you so much as to place you in the furnace of affliction, can be counted on to be the truest Friend of all.
We are told that He "weeps with those who weep..." (DA p. 533), and in my minds eye I can see His hot tears falling on the gold as He purifies it. Every time He puts it in the fire, it breaks His heart too.
Maybe more than it breaks ours?
Could it be, that it would be easier for Him too, if all we had were sunny skies? But He is willing to suffer Himself, to see us made whole by the fire?
"...I wound, and I heal..." (Deuteronomy 32:39)
That's the God I serve.
That's the God I trust.
It was only a week ago. I lay on my hammock outside (my summer sleeping spot J) gazing up at the stars. Inside I knew my Jesus had something to say to me. Something deep. I’ll be honest, I’d been resisting it because I was worried He would ask me to do something I didn’t feel I could do. Now under the blanket of the starry sky I was ready to listen.
Child, are you willing to give up your dreams, plans, and yourself and be used up for the good of others? Are you willing to live your life only for the good of others? Will you let me use you to make a mark on this world?
Silence. Of course I had told Him before that I wanted to live my life for others, but somehow this time was different. It was if He was asking for something deeper.
And I knew He was asking for action. I am far too good at talking and dreaming, yet never doing much about it. Just a few days ago we were talking with some friends about what it is that stops us from acting on our talk. Fear of the unknown and lack of commitment. Ouch. I knew that He was asking for my answer to be more than words—He wanted a “yes” in actions. And I paused. Was I ready for this?
I looked up at the stars again. And then a thought flashed through my mind…
This little world that you call home, it is the only world that hast fallen. And yet all the riches of the universe have been poured out on it. The Maker of the Universe has trod here. Angels have poured themselves out for your little world. Do you count your life too much to be given?
My answer comes. No Jesus. No cost is too much. I give you my everything. Just pour me out for the good of others and I will be satisfied.
And this last week I have really experienced it, and it has been thrilling. He has changed my desires so that I really desire the good of others above my own good. That’s a miracle.
Sometimes we tend to think that pouring ourselves out for others can only be done in some desert Africa, but that can be a subtle deception. Sure I’d run all the way to Africa to pour myself out for all those starving people if I could. But I’m learning that there are starving people here too.
Even if the only place we can pour ourselves out is our own homes it is worth it. It is necessary. Every heart longs for love. We can fill that longing.
We can never touch the hearts far away until we touch the ones closest.
By His grace, I’ll love every individual He places in my pathway. And maybe one day it will be a starving African. But for right now I’ll be content with serving the people around me.
This Sabbath finds me lying on my bed, head pounding, stomach churning, back aching, and throat sore. But I’m not giving way to feelings of frustration. If my miniscule suffering can help me relate to the greater suffering of others just a little more, then it’s all worth it.
I turn on one of my favorite songs and let the words sink in. They mean more than ever before…
There is a candle in every soul,
Some brightly burning, some dark and cold.
There is a Spirit
Which lights a fire,
Ignites a candle and makes His home.
Carry your candle!
Run to the darkness.
Seek out the lonely, the tired and worn.
Hold out your candle!
For all to see it.
Take your candle,
Go light your world.
Frustrated brother, see how he’s tried to
Light his own candle, some other way.
See now your sister.
She’s been robbed and lied to.
Still holds a candle without a flame.
We are a family whose hearts are blazing
So lets raise our candles, light up the sky.
Pray to our Father
In the name of Jesus,
Make us a beacon in darkest night!
Quiet. It’s not something I crave naturally. Actually, it’s something I can tend to shy away from because it throws me way out of my comfort zone. But I’m discovering—it’s vital if we really want to serve.
It was only a week ago that I found myself on a plane headed home, leaving the country and all the beautiful people I’d come to love so quickly. The flight was none too long for me to process the last week, and fill up the pages of my journal. And I found myself wondering why God sometimes brings us to the quiet when there is a world starving for service. Now a week later, I don’t have to wonder.
Our first, full day home found me up on a ridge on our property taking time to think and pray. It’s amazing how that spot has become special after only four days. And it’s been in that time of communion that the answer to the question I battled with on the flight home has become obvious.
Quiet is preparation for service.
David lived out his youth in a quiet valley before he was qualified to be the king of Israel. Enoch spent many quiet weeks in the hills before going down to speak to the people. Moses raised sheep for forty years in the wilderness before he could lead the children of Israel out of Egypt. John the Baptist spent his childhood in the wilderness before giving the message for which he was born. And our dear Jesus lived in a little village for thirty years before his three years of ministry. The disciple John never received the Revelation until on the lonely island of Patmos. Paul spent several years in the wilderness before going out on his missionary journeys that shook the world.
The pattern strikes me. Could it be that quiet always comes before we can do something great for God?
On my little rock overlooking the valley I’ve been doing some deep thinking. I came across a quote that says it should be the mission of the youth to give the gospel to the world in this generation. And that left me pondering… what is it going to take to make us give the gospel to the world in our generation. The answer that came really hit home. Before we can share the gospel, we need to be living the gospel. I mean, really living it—not just talking about it. We can’t share it’s changing power until it’s changed us.
And so I’m seeking to remove all obstacles. I want to be totally changed—completely revolutionized. I’m seeking to treasure the quiet, and really learn the lessons it provides. And quiet is more than just living in the hills. Because with our phones, iPods, and tablets we can bring the clamor of the city to the hills, can’t we?
We’re headed out again… but my iPhone is still in my closet at home. (I’m still blogging from my old computer, but limiting myself to using it very little). J My phone is one of those distractions that is watering down the quiet, and taking it away almost completely when we’re on the road. And it’s shocked me how even the few hours I've been without it have shown me how dependent on it I was! Far too dependent. That’s going to change. It seemed like every five minutes I would find myself reaching for it.
If it takes three weeks to make a habit… I’m going for three weeks without my phone. And if I succumb to the temptation to use it within that time… I’ll start the three weeks again. So far, it’s challenging me, but I’m loving it. I've had so much more time to think—really think.
And so on this trip I’m choosing to take some quiet with me. Jesus, you can have my phone, and all the other things that distract me from you. I’ll find my joy in some little mountain spot of communion with you.
Quiet is preparation for service.
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.
The car hums quietly as the sights of home drift behind us. I pull my old computer out, well aware of my great need of Him. The journey has begun! Not just the journey to OK Family Camp, but the beginning of the 2013 camp meeting season, and for me the journey of writing book number two. Excitement is hanging in the air.
Ear buds in, I start typing. But not for long. I haven’t even finished the first paragraph before the car slowly glides to the side of the interstate. I pull my ear buds out. I don’t hardly need to ask what’s going wrong. We all know.
Our much-loved car has developed an annoying trait of not starting some of the time, which has been turning into half the time lately. Normally father or Caleb can fix it and we’re fine in five minutes.
But it’s never stopped while running before. We conclude that it happened because we were driving up a hill. (I’m thinking, this won’t be the only hill between here and OKFC). Praise God it starts first time and we’re back on the road… for about a minute. This time as we drift to the side of the interstate, we know something is really wrong. That becomes even clearer after we try and start it ten times without success. Many prayers go up. But the points clear—the car won’t start, the battery is dead, and we’re on the interstate 30 minutes from home, and over an hour from the nearest reasonable size town.
After about an hour, a wrecker is on the way to take the car to the auto repair for the week, meanwhile father calls every rental company he can think of in Flagstaff. They all answer the same way. "We can give you a full size car, but not an SUV." Just try putting four personal suitcases, a lever harp, a full size cello, and all the sound and video equipment in a little car! It didn’t even fit in our Tahoe without a pod and rack on the back. J
I try to ignore the battle in my mind. I want to get to camp so much. I don’t want this to interfere with our plans. I don’t want to be stranded in Flagstaff with no way to leave.
But another voice penetrates my thoughts… Trust me. You have been praying for trials to help you grow.. Now you need to trust that I will work this out.
I put my computer away and forget about book writing at this point. I have the distinct thought to go read my daily devotional for the day. I almost know before I get there that it will be just for me. But I never dreamed how much.
Let the words sink in. They weren’t just for me…
“That ye may know what is that good, and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
Thou knowest what is best; And who but Thee, O God, hath power to know? In Thy great will my trusting heart shall rest; beneath that will my humble head shall bow.
To those who are His, all things are not only easy to be born, but even to be gladly chosen. Their will is united to that will which moves heaven and earth, (thinking… then He can move our car if He wants to, right?) which gives laws to angels, and rules the courses of the world. It is a wonderful gift of God to man…To be at the center of that motion, where is everlasting rest; to be sheltered in the peace of God; even now to dwell in heaven, where all hearts are stayed, and all hopes fulfilled. ‘Thou shalt keep him in perfect peace because his mind is stayed on Thee.”
Study to follow His will in all, to have no will but His. This is thy duty, and thy wisdom. Nothing is gained by spurning and struggling but to hurt and vex thyself; (that one really hits me hard) but by complying all is gained—sweet peace. It is the very secret, the mystery of solid peace within, to resign all to His will, to be disposed of at His pleasure, without the least contrary thought.
Oh Jesus, You are so good.
I read that over and over. I have full confidence that His heart understands the desires of my heart, and will do what is best. The peace I find on the side of the interstate is even sweeter than the peace I have when we’re breezing along at seventy. Peace in the storm is always sweeter than peace in the calm.
After trying almost every imaginable option, father finds a Suburban in Flagstaff, and as soon as the car is dropped off at the auto repair, father and I head to the airport in the cab of the wrecker to pick up the car.
“We’ve come to pick up the Suburban we booked through the 800 number.”
“I’m sorry sir, we don’t have a Suburban here. The 800 number doesn’t really know what we have here. I can give you a full sized car.”
Sigh. We rent a compact, go pick up the rest of the clan, and head to the hotel for the night.
Before we go to bed father has another Suburban booked from another rental company. We’re a little dubious.
Another phone call Monday morning reveals the same answer as night before. No Suburban.
Oh Jesus, help me trust. I've read that devotional again and again in the last few hours.
Finally, father found a car that will fit our stuff—hopefully. After an hour of moving everything between cars, we’re on the road.
We’re a bit behind schedule, but I’m grateful. He knew I needed that wake up call to trust Him with my plans. The devil is not happy about this year of family camps, or the beginning of another writing journey for me. But if God be for us, who can be against us?
Jesus, thank You for being trustworthy. Thank You for teaching me to trust, even if it’s on the side of interstate 40.
It was 1,980 years ago today that Heaven’s greatest gift was given. 1,980 years! He should have come back by now… long ago. And why hasn't He? The answer struck me between the eyes. Because we still don’t get it. We live our lives and somehow we still act as if the world revolves around us. Our plans, our dreams, ourstuff, our rights. So often we just don’t see the big picture. It’s nothing to do with us. It’s all about His glory, and the knowledge of His name. There’s still people out there who have never even heard His name. And we carry on living our lives. The clock ticks on.
I know that for me the story of Calvary can often seem more like a fairy tale than a reality. I just can’t grasp it’s magnitude. But then there’s those moments when I can almost see it happening before my eyes. Yesterday was one of those. Father and I were putting up a counter in our utility room and I was holding the board while he drilled the screws. One of those “I’d better keep my hands out the way… that drill would really hurt” thoughts flashed through my head. And before I knew it I heard His gentle voice…
That’s what they did to My hands.
Oh Jesus! To think I’d ever be afraid to do something for You! I stood there holding that board, hearing the deafening sound of screws being ground into studs and felt like I could almost see His hands. Drills and screws are no better than hammer and nails. How could those heartless soldiers do that to Him? I never could.
And then this afternoon I was out on a walk contemplating those hands again. They actually pounded the nails through them? How could they? Then that familiar voice…
Every time you ignore Me, you pound the nails into My hands again.
Silence. I see myself taking His beautiful hand, and picking up the nail and pounding it through. And to think I've done it more times than I can count!
Then another thought hits me. Wouldn’t it have hurt Him so much worse if John, the much-loved disciple, had come and taken the hammer from the soldiers and pounded in those nails?
And yet I’m John. I say I know Him. I say I serve Him. I say I love Him. But I’m pounding nails.
We all do it. We’ve all scarred His hands. And it hurts Him—deeply. Because the closer we’ve been to Him, the more it hurts Him when we ignore Him.
Jesus, I don’t want to ever, ever pound one more nail into Your hand. Soften my heart and make it feel. You’ve been kept waiting for 1,980 years. Give us power to never pound another nail. Teach us to forget ourselves and make our lives a mere fulfillment of Your words. Jesus, begin a revolution in our hearts that will bring You back —soon.
20. Lover of Jesus. Daughter. Sister. Friend. Servant. Fan of the kitchen. Graduate of Masters of Biblical Counseling.
Follow this Blog
Follow Me on Google+
Hands Open. Heart Full.