Day 18: Rest for Those Who are Worn

Are you worn out right now?

Does it feel like you’ve been treading water for a long time and your energy and spirit are about to give out?

Sometimes the answer is not a quick fix. There’s no magic formula that will instantly make all your problems go away. Even if you had previously rejected God and now you turn to Him for help, you may still be stuck in a hard place and frayed to the edges of your reserve. Still turn to Him, because in Him there is peace and hope in the middle of hard times. As Jesus encourages,

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.  — John 16:33

Filling a Water Jug

Photo credit: Water for South Sudan (Creative Commons)

You may be worn out and using up the last of your strength. That’s when it’s time to give it all up and cling to God for His strength. It was amazing to me the difference it made when I finally started reading the Bible regularly – not to check off a to-do list of how to be a good Christian, but as if making a daily trip to a well to fill up with water needed for life.

There’s also a future promise that God is making all things new. This struggle will end.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.  — Revelation 21:1-7

We will see Redemption win, as the song longs for. We will see God redeem the ashes of broken lives and a broken world. He will make all things new.

Rest here today.

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Day 16: A Letter to You (yes, you)

Dear Faithful Blog Readers (and anyone who ended up here because you clicked a common tag OR searched for a random phrase or word on Google and clicked over OR are spammers who keep trying to leave comments on my photos in foreign languages):

Welcome (all but you last creeps. Ok, creeps is too strong and you are welcome if you promise to read the post before you leave your spammy comment which I promise to not read).

Three things are very clear tonight.

  1. I am in a little bit of a silly mood.
  2. My high school letter writing technique of an abundance of parentheses is back.
  3. This post is not about rest (or is it?).

I started a post, trashed it, started another post, trashed it, got lost in my friend’s blog for awhile, checked Facebook, and here we are.

The 31 Days of Rest series is really difficult, especially when I’ve been running to the edges with life, leaving very thin margins, going to bed late and getting up early, and spending almost every evening at the computer working on the blog and other job-like tasks (but they’re all volunteer-based). My weekends have been filled with trying to get caught up. And I watched one 2 hour tv movie last Sunday and then felt like I wasted all this time, not because I thought that was too much tv, but because I have so much to do!

Yesterday, I didn’t post about rest, because I wanted to spend some time promoting Mary DeMuth’s new book. But, Monday? I took Monday off on purpose. There were a few other deadlines that had to be met. I had a little bit of reading to finish up before Lead School at 6am Tuesday morning. I wanted needed to get to bed early (which didn’t quite happen, but it was earlier than most of the month). At some point in the evening, I made the conscious decision to abandon my post (haha, get it?) and take the night off as far as the series was concerned.

The pressure to write meaningful posts is huge this month. I started with so many amazing comments from so many of you (including my awesome mom) about how much a series on rest would minister to you or to others. But, I’m not Ann Voskamp, Mary DeMuth, Lisa-Jo Baker, Emily Freeman, Sarah Markley…(whoops, I got sidetracked trying to figure out other amazing writers that I know. And yes, I left out a TON). When I try to write serious posts, I end up sounding a little bit phony (at least to myself), because – HELLO – I don’t have any of this crap figured out. I’m screwing stuff up on a daily basis. Like I said earlier, I’m trying to write about rest and not getting any of it myself this month.

I mentioned having a reading assignment for Lead School. For this Christian high school and college graduate, Lead School is kind of a refresher course in all things apologetics. Sort of. Not exactly.  But a little bit. This explains it better. It reminds me of some of my Bible classes, only this time I want to be there. There, that may be the perfect description.

This week’s class was on the Gospel. The main takeaway that has stuck with me for the past 40+ hours, is that our response to the Gospel is not a “one and done” event. We are saved only once. But we should be continually preaching the Gospel to ourselves and each other daily. What that means in light of my concerns over rest and writing the most amazing blog post that will refresh your spirit is this (and even here I may mess this up):

I have been saved by the grace of God, which gives me pardon and forgiveness that I did not/do not deserve. Even without deserving it, God gave it anyway. Jesus willingly gave up his life to pay the punishment that my wrongdoing did/does deserve. I have been adopted into the family of God. I am no longer a slave to sin; I am a child of God. I am freed from having to perform perfectly to be accepted, to be seen as valuable. I need to remind myself again that I write to glorify Him using the gifts I’ve been given. It is not to impress others. It is not because God needs me to spread the message of his grace. It is not to win accolades or fame or a book deal. Out of my love for God, as puny and weak as it is, I want to share this Gospel with others. In reminding you of the Gospel, I remind myself.

Come to think of it, I guess if we’re looking for somewhere to rest, the Gospel is about the safest place there is.

What do you know, today was day 16 of 31 Days of Rest. I didn’t expect we’d end up here when I began. Huh.
Tune in next time, when you never know what I’ll say. 🙂

Them, there, are Virginia mountains, them are.

Day 8: Rest right where you are

penguin_Omaha_ZooLast year, during the 31 Days challenge, I wrote a post on Rest. You’re welcome to read it, of course, but I’m going to share the meat of it here.

In that post, I talked about how some days of October 2012 were hard. There were days I didn’t have the emotional strength or energy to share anything else, especially a prayer for hurting people.  And I realized that I, too, was hurting, much like the people I was trying to pray for.

It’s another blessing of community. We hurt together. We cry together. We sit in mourning together. We wrestle through the hard stuff together.

If you feel alone reading this, with no one else understanding your pain, please pause a moment. Take off the blinders that keep you from seeing the hurting people right next to you.  If you don’t have anyone right next to you, if you have been isolated from the fellowship of community with believers who know and love God, go find them. We are not meant to live alone. We are not meant to hurt alone.

penguins_Omaha_ZooThankfully, God is calling us to rest. To stop trying to overcome our hurts on our own strength. Rest in these things:

One: God is strength when we are weak.

Two: God has put us in community to help one another.

Three: God meets us where we are, in the middle of our hurting and pain.

The lyrics of this song give me such peace. God the Father whispers to your heart and mine:

Hush my child. Fall into My arms.
I’ll give you rest right where you are.
Yes, I know, you feel lost and alone.
Let me hold you. How I love you.

If you’re reading this in an email, click through to listen to and view the video of this song by Derri Daughtery and Ellie Bannister:

31Days_Rest_thumb  ← Click to find links to each day in the series.

Day 3: A Place of Quiet Rest

Near to the heart

There is a place of quiet rest,
Near to the heart of God,
A place where sin cannot molest,
Near to the heart of God.

O Jesus, blest Redeemer,
Sent from the heart of God,
Hold us, who wait before Thee,
Near to the heart of God.

There is a place of comfort sweet,
Near to the heart of God,
A place where we our Savior meet,
Near to the heart of God.

There is a place of full release,
Near to the heart of God,
A place where all is joy and peace,
Near to the heart of God.

This version is instrumental, but also beautiful.

Draw near to Him and rest.

Day 3 of
31Days_Rest

Gratitude Equals Joy

To be simply frank and frankly simple, I do not have better words than Mary DeMuth’s from chapter 3 of The Wall Around Your Heart. Lessons that I believe God has been teaching me for the past 6 months are verbalized throughout this chapter focusing on loving God and loving others. Permit me, then, to share just a few parts of the chapter that hit me hard, with my italicized two cents thrown in.

Gratitude and Joy

Mary:  Loving others isn’t easy. And at times I don’t love well. I’d rather trumpet everyone else’s failures and barbs and minimize my own. I’d rather God forgive my mountain of sins than choose to forgive the molehill of sins that others have perpetrated against me. I’d rather bask in my self-righteous rightness than consider that I may be the perpetrator in need of others’ grace and forgiveness.

Janice:  Ouch. At times I don’t love well. This hits so close to the heart.

—–

Mary:  If I’ve learned one thing on this earth, it’s this: people who live in gratitude toward God have the most joyful lives. Dare to be set free today by exercising that kind of praise. The roadblocks to growth and joy come when we forget the bigness of God and instead make people bigger than He is.

Janice:  There it is. Gratitude toward God = joyful living. Wow.

—–

Mary:  It’s time we let go of people as idols. Not that we live fatalistically about others but that we realistically understand that God designed us to be filled up by Him first. If someone hurts us, we don’t need to be freaked out or surprised. In fact, we should be surprised when people don’t hurt us. This kind of letting go leads to freedom.

Janice:  Going to God first for filling is hard to remember sometimes. But it helps me see how often I try to put something else ahead of God, in essence making it an idol.

—–

Mary:  We are not leeches meant to suck people dry for our happiness. We are people in need of a Savior. Even though we all try to be like Jesus, we can’t truly be Jesus to others, nor can they be Him to us. Let’s let Jesus be Jesus, place our expectations firmly on Him, and grant others the freedom to be human, to be blessedly themselves, to rid them of our expectations.

Janice:  Let Jesus be Jesus. I can’t be Jesus to you and you can’t be Jesus to me. Word.
I can name relationships where I have drained others for my own happiness or what I thought would leave me happy. I am so sorry, dear ones. 

—–

Mary:  How much do you trust God with your relationships? Do you believe He is good? Do you have faith that He knows what is best, particularly when He moves you into a new circle of friends? Do you cling to some friendships longer than you should because of fear or insecurity? To revere God—to hallow His name—is to trust Him at this foundational level. God is a God of relationship. And He has a sovereign plan even in your friendships.

Janice:  How much do you trust God? Do you have faith that He knows what is best? Something to ask in your heart of hearts. Do you?

—–

Look for more thoughts from The Wall Around Your Heart in the near future. The book is available to pre-order now and will be released on October 15, 2013.

I’m linking up with these online friends:

Flowing Faith

Pray Like This

I’ve mentioned once or twice (maybe three times?) about how I’m on this launch team for The Wall Around Your Heart, right?

Right.

See, I’m so good at this, that even though some of us on the launch team decided to blog through one chapter every Monday, I waited until Sunday night to even begin to put my thoughts down in concrete form.

I’m know. I’m brill.

Wall Around Your Heart Launch Team

What I’m loving (and sort of secretly hating) about the challenge of promoting a book this book, is that every day that goes by, I’m having a mirror held up to my behavior and thoughts and friendships (or lack thereof). I don’t think it quite works this way, but I almost envision God saying, “Oh, you want to promote a book on community, do you? And you say you’re in missional community at church, are you? And this is a book about how community hurts and wounds and betrays, but you’ll learn how to come to me and in the community I give you to find healing from those hurts, is it? Well, let’s get the hurtin’ on!” (See, that sounds snippy and vindictive and God is just not like that, so this is clearly not what He’s saying.)

And yet, in the three weeks since I learned I made the launch team, it’s all coming out of the woodwork. Tough conversations, stretched friendships, messy community, slights from a friend, fresh reminders of my past screw-ups in community, etc.  I guess it makes the lessons easier to learn because I’m applying them right away, but it feels like the hard way to go about it.

All this to say, guess what my pastor preached on this past Sunday morning, guess what my church is in the middle of a 40 day challenge on, guess what I’ve been hearing God telling me I need to work on in my marriage, AND guess what Chapter One of The Wall Around Your Heart is all about?

In the opening of Chapter One, as Mary begins to walk us through the Lord’s Prayer, we read these words:

Jesus started His famous prayer with three words: “Pray like this.”

Not gossip like this. Not tell everyone else the other person’s issues like this. Not stew on the issue until your heart embitters like this. Not grumble like this. Not avoid like this.

“Pray like this.”

So simple. Praying is easy, right; just talking to God. I started praying when I was 7 or 8: “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep…” or “God is great, God is good, let us thank Him for this food…” How wonderful that Jesus understood we would need to be guided in how to pray, so He gave us His example, “Pray like this.”

And yet…don’t you sometimes have a hard time praying? I do. I get distracted, sleepy, interrupted, too busy, or at times too stubborn in my sin. It’s sometimes the last thing on my mind, when it should become first. Jesus gently reminds us, “Pray like this…”

I get annoyed at someone in the office – Pray like this.

My husband does something I think is inconsiderate – Pray like This.

A friend says something hurtful or her silence causes pain – Pray Like This.

I see someone hurting others – Pray Like This.

Someone does something I deem thoughtless, careless, or idiotic – Pray. Like. This.

Dear friend, we must be praying. We need to pray when someone hurts us. We need to pray when we hurt others.

One great thing from Chapter One of The Wall Around Your Heart is that Mary walks us through where to begin with prayer. She gives us a place to start, a mindset to have as we begin to pray for hurts and for people who hurt.

Of those starting points, the one I’m most struggling with is to begin seeing difficult relationships as gifts. This is something I will most likely bring up again soon, but for now, I leave you with a great quote from Chapter One:

gifts_gutsier_stronger

I’m ready to become gutsier and stronger. Are you? Together, let’s start remembering to go to prayer in these tough situations, in our difficult relationships.

“Pray Like This” is an invitation from Jesus to take your difficult relationships and place them in His hands.

I’m blogging through The Wall Around Your Heart, to be released October 15.  You can also pre-order the book on Amazon.

I’m linking up with:

Flowing Faith     

A little intro to The Wall Around Your Heart

gifts_gutsier_stronger

Mary DeMuth’s latest book, The Wall Around Your Heart, is set to release in October, but I can’t wait ’til then to tell you a little about it. In my very limited spare time, I’ve been eagerly devouring an advance electronic copy and I’ve got to tell you – it is so good.

Hard, too, though. There are some challenging parts, oh yes. My first clue was the promo video, when Mary says, “the very community that breaks you is the avenue by which God heals you.” Oy.

Community is hard. We, in Karis, often say community is messy. But there’s good in the mess, there’s joy and comfort, and fellowship. I like how Mary says to view the difficulty in community as gifts:

When we have difficult relationships, God often uses them as gifts in our lives—to shape us, conform us to His Son, and make us gutsier and stronger.

We can be thankful for these gifts that God has given us. Here’s to staying in community and working through the tough things together. Here’s to being gutsier and stronger!

I’m looking forward to sharing more about The Wall Around Your Heart as I get further into it. Stay tuned!

 

Tell Me Another Story

Once upon a time…

But he lied. It’s what he does, this angel of light.

happily ever doesn’t come

there’s no white horse and prince in shining armor to sweep the heroine off her feet.

housework

Photo credit: Ben124. (Creative Commons)

there’s dishes  to warsh (ha), tubs to be scrubbed

and a stomach-ache from too much stress.

…in a land far, far away…

We long for that Calgon land, where all is light and bubbly. There are no care-worn, sagging shoulders, and aching backs, and screaming kids.

It’s a lie. It’s a deception.

And the story ends, the credits roll, the lights come up.

And we sit blinking in the reality. Oh, yeah, work tomorrow. Housework to be done. Errands to be run.

The end….

Well, not quite.

In a land far, far away, a prince did come, not on a shiny steed, but on a donkey.
There was a rescue and there is a happily ever after to come.

It’s Jesus, our bridegroom, our Prince. One day soon he will come to claim his bride, the universal church.
And then there will be no housework, no chores, no sweaty labor. Just peace, and glory and worshiping him forever.

Hm, I went 2.5 minutes over this week, but I couldn’t leave us without the rescue. I’m joining in Lisa Jo’s Five Minute Friday on the prompt, Story. There’s lots of other great posts to read if you want to check them out.
Five Minute Friday

 

Original photo credit: Richard Fisher (Creative Commons)

Original photo credit: Richard Fisher (Creative Commons)

What Broken Looks Like

Ugh, seriously, Lisa-Jo? Broken? I’ve been trying to write about being broken all week. Since my story needs more than 5 minutes for the whole, here, in 5 minutes, is a glimpse at what broken looked like for me last week:

Broken is…

On Day Two of a weeklong commitment, turning to your husband and declaring, “I’m done. I’m ready to go home.”

Facedown on your bed, silent tears streaming out, leaving makeup smudges on the sheets. Those smudges serve as reminders of the depths for the rest of the week.

Broken is…

Heart pouring out to God, declaring utter helplessness, complete desperation and total failure to handle things on your own.

Daily tears, daily surrendering self to God again. And again. And again.

Broken is…

Getting smacked in the face with temptation, seemingly out of the blue. You didn’t even see it coming and yet, HELLO – wouldn’t you like to give this a try? (correct answer = no).

Running to your heavenly Father in complete abandon, throwing yourself on his extravagant grace to see you through each moment of every day.

Broken is…

admitting to yourself that you are not your own Savior. That the thing you desire is not your Savior. That the person who means the most to you is not your Savior.

Broken is…

relying on grace.

——

Whew. Broken is hard.

Can you tell this is just the tip of the iceberg? If/when I get a more complete post on brokenness and how it happened with me at camp this year, I’ll add the link here.

Want to read more FMF posts about Broken? Check out Lisa-Jo Baker’s Facebook page. I guess her blog is broken, how apropos. 

early spring tree

He Looked and Saw Beautiful

Photo credit: jox (Creative Commons)

A struggling tween, I looked in the mirror and saw freckles, frizzy hair, and thick glasses.

He looked and saw beautiful.

Graduating from high school, I looked and saw braces on crooked teeth, permed and frizzy hair, too much weight for my height.

He looked and saw beautiful.

Halfway through college, I gazed proudly in the mirror, I saw tamed hair, straight teeth, contacts replacing glasses, but a heart that was seeking worldly things.

He looked and said, still beautiful.

Nearing an unpleasant decade, overweight, lonely, and searching for a new dream, He still whispered,

Beautiful.

—-

It’s Five Minute Friday on a Tuesday. I couldn’t help it, but words started coming together as soon as I heard the prompt, Beautiful. ← Check out a few other posts when you have time.

And let’s all be thankful for a God who sees us as beautiful, no matter what we think of ourselves. This reminded me of a 31 Days post I did on body image, When You Believe the Lies are True, which includes a great song by Mandisa that ties in perfectly with this post.

Five Minute Friday

  • Hi, I'm Janice. I'm part bookworm and part creative. I love both science and music (and the science of music). I'm stumbling around trying to grow closer to God. Click the photo to read more about me.

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