Be still and …

We entered the room, looking for a sign.

At the church women’s conference, each room had directions posted for activities encouraging devotion in different ways. We had been given only a few minutes to be here, because there was so much to do.

On one wall, a mirror was hanging over a sofa. Using dry-erase markers, someone had transformed it into a sign, using big, beautiful, bold capital letters to spell out: “REST.”

There were a handful of us in our group. All of us entered the room, and all of us sat down. One of us boldly capitalized on the huge opportunity spelled out for us — and entered into beautiful rest.

We sat in different places, but more or less at the same vantage point. And we entered into a conversation filled by our work: describing the care that we give to our work, meeting the standards we’ve personally set for our work.

She sat on the sofa, under that mirror, and became a reflection of its message, as she entered into the space between words. A space that had already been set aside for us to do what was needful.

We all enjoyed discovering the activities of a conference.

She found a retreat.

She silently closed her eyes, then leaned back.

Selah.

She stretched out her legs and laid her hands to rest.

Selah.

Soon, we all heard the signal that it was time to move on.

Surely there’s so much to do. But we’ve been given a short time to be here.

Selah.

Gift Receipt

When I get a gift, I get distracted by the look of it — the colors, patterns, shine, and the ribbon handles. It’s just so pretty, so fun. And so I linger.

Soon, someone is saying: “Just open it!”

And I tend to collect those gift bags.

I stash them away, and I keep them so long. When an occasion presents itself, I pull them all out and look them all over. I wonder when and if the clutter will prove useful.

The difficulties of 2018 were gift bags for me. No, not so pretty, not so fun. But still I linger.

The look of things has been so distracting. My memories are colored by every disappointing circumstance. My mind has grown weary as the pattern of troubles has extended, becoming repeating and increasing trials. My energy has dimmed, and I’ve fumbled in trying to handle so much of what came my way.

I stash it away; who wants to hear about all that? And I wonder how any of this will prove useful.

But then I wonder: Am I forgetting to pull out the gifts that those circumstances brought?

Having more than I could handle in each day, means that I’ve received a daily delivery — primed awareness of God’s sovereignty. When I could not take another step forward, I’ve paused long enough to speak and cry out to God. What I could not lift, I handed over.

When I had so many overwhelming tasks, God reminded me to let Him overwhelm me more: His love, His faithfulness, His might, His wisdom, His ways.

I love to celebrate the small gift, like the Christmas card I got from a student who actually wrote a personal message. And I have to remember to share the huge gifts: my receipt of God’s omnipotent Presence, and His loving personal message for each day. I receive them in prayer, as I drive down the street; in opening my Bible, as I unwrap God’s promises tagged just for me; in praise, as my wail of frustration becomes a hymn pouring out my heart.

My abundant need has been met by these abundant gifts, and I need to put them to use, telling everyone I know how good God has been to me — how He’s been so good. I need to keep my gifts on display, because their beauty outshines their packaging.

My gift bags have a corner; they don’t need ongoing inspection. When it’s useful, I can speak to someone’s circumstances, to their baggage, because I can share the gift I’ve received. I’ve been encouraged to encourage; I’ve been strengthened to strengthen.

When I submit to God’s will that we do so daily — slowing down long enough for a smile, a word of praise — I can’t always track how the Holy Spirit delivers that comfort. I don’t know how it will be received.

But I do know that every good and perfect gift comes from God. I don’t want to overlook anything God sends my way, and I pray for God to clear the clutter.



The Sharpest Sword

I had seen what it could do. Now it was my turn.

We were at a festival that celebrates the Renaissance period of history, with food and events that match the theme. While chewing on a huge turkey leg and watching a jousting match, we’d gotten a fresh surge of energy, and now we were exploring the shops.

My husband had admired the range of swords, and a worker at the shop invited him to try out his favorite. Behind the shop were bundles of reeds standing up in water barrels. They’d been soaked overnight, and the thick bundles were now dense and heavy.

First, the shop worker took aim. And swung, slicing in one steady, fluid movement. He showed us the swiftly dissected bundle, and reviewed what made the sword so effective and efficient. After giving us a lesson on careful use, he then handed it off to my husband, who readily did the same.

Sword

Now I had the sword in my hand.

I’d been fed. I’d been taught. The sword was sharper than we could have imagined. All I had to do was understand what it could do, and then choose to use it.

There’s a sword that is so sharp it can divide bone and marrow, soul and spirit. You have this sword. And it’s been placed in your hand.

You’ll want to be fed first. The good news is that God’s Word is a sword, and at the same time, God’s Word is a daily bread. You’ll want to be fed with that daily bread. Meaning that you’ll want to taste and see that the Lord is good, first sampling what God has to say to you, and then coming to savor it. And then, when you’re ready to read more than a verse or two, and begin to choose larger portions, you’ll want to sit down to make a meal of it, and then another. You’ll become filled with His love and His wisdom for your life. And you’ll realize with each meal that the joy of the Lord is your strength.

You’ll want to be taught. You can get a lesson on careful use of the word of God, if you seek a conversation with God.

Your prayers may begin with seeking God’s intervention in the circumstances of your life.

As you pray, you will want to remember how God has already intervened in your life, and take time to be thankful. Not only will gratitude honor God as He is due, but thankfulness will renew your mind as to what God can and will do.

As you recall what God can do, God can reveal to you that what He has done reflects who He really is. As you seek to give God a role in your life, God can help you recognize that His role reaches beyond intervention, to sovereignty; that God was meant to be Lord of your life.

And as you realize, in greater and greater detail, who He really is, you realize that all of what He is, is what you need and want most. Realizing that God himself is what your heart is missing, your prayers can then become about seeking His presence – God himself.

For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Hebrews 4:12 KJV

Understand that God’s Word can divide soul and spirit – defining your spirit as your truest self, which is restored fully by your saving faith in Him; and defining your soul as your mind and emotions. Just as marrow gives life and function to the body’s joints, your thoughts and feelings were never meant to reign over your life, but to be given life and function by your spirit. Your soul, which needs daily healing and restoration, needs to be led by your spirit, which is the essential innermost substance of your existence. And your spirit by faith has a perfect connection to the perfect leadership of God’s Holy Spirit.

In Ezekiel 37, a prophet in ancient Israel shares his vision of what God will do with His people regardless of what state they are in. He gave an eyewitness account of divine restoration far beyond human capacity when God restored dry bones, in a valley of death. In Psalm 23, another prophet named David shares the relationship with God that preserved him and his life, regardless of the valleys he walked through. Here I share my witness to what God can do. I relay to you that hope is never lost, when you place your hope in God.

What happened when it was my turn with the sword? I said I was ready. And I focused – more on what I had learned, than on what was before me.

I took aim, and sliced steady. The bundle fell to the sharp sword.

Take your turn.

A 23rd Psalm Attitude

pupy sweater

My dog Al came looking for me. I was the only one upstairs, and he’s like a sheep herder’s dog, checking up on the flock.

Nah. He’s more like a sheep himself. After gazing into my face, he leaped into my lap and curled up there.

He’s a good sheep – for a miniature schnauzer.

I wanna be like Al.

My dog leaps into my lap because he knows he has a place there. He leans his head back all the way, just to gaze with adoration at my face. I want a 23rd Psalm attitude like my dog Al.

Whatever we’re eating, he wants some. He’s there, as close to the stove, table or dish that we’ll allow. Yes, his dog dish is full, but he’s still eager, for the crumbs we’ll surely drop. After we’re done, he’s allowed to leap up again, where he’s eager to even to sniff the fragrance of what we had.

He knows that staying close means sharing even more in what we’re enjoying.

The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want.

Freedom from fear — the fear of going without — is the idea that opens this psalm. The rest details tender tending for a sheep. Al, who’s carried, petted, entertained at length by the members of his household, would relate.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

In this psalm and elsewhere in the Word, we get the heads-up that we will face tribulations, and we are glad to get the Word that we will know victory. But that victory is more than the relief we experience when our tribulations are over. It’s so much more, because God also provides us the rest, comfort and peace we need before, during and after those tribulations. He tends us tenderly with healing for our souls – our minds and emotions – and strengthens and soothes our bodies.

In the midst of all this providence we find in the next verse the reason for great trust: our undivided awe for God, who is omnipotent within us and around us.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

God acknowledges and addresses what we face. Enemies stand against us; and we are given time to receive and be strengthened by whatever we need in that day – our daily bread. Disease and injury threaten; and we are fortified, soothed and healed.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

Because God is everpresent and eternally faithful, our faith endures. And we always have a place to turn to, a place with Him.

Surely Al knows he has a place to go – a place of goodness, lovingkindness. He has a place to abide, and an abiding trust.

He’s so eager to draw closer. He’s leaping at the opportunity.

Let’s take a leap of faith today.