Wrestling with Rest

Do you ever pray for rest and then when it comes despise it?

No? Just me then?

For a few years I felt the overwhelming sense of busy and hurried in my life. It felt like I was sprinting for an entire marathon, and my entire being was just slap out of energy. I felt drained, emptied out fully in every part of my life. It as so bad that my emotions couldn’t be kept in check on anything and I was at a point of no longer caring if they were in check. I poured out to God that I just needed rest, I needed the breath that could only come in Him. I needed carrying and I needed the quiet of Him.

What I didn’t bargain for was an equal amount of wrestling with having rest over a particular season. The resting season He gave me and that I have found myself in for longer than I had drawn up, was turning into a bit of a wrestling match with Jesus. That I was done with the rest, the seeming quiet and the landscape that felt more like a desert than a dream.

We plead for rest and then when it’s given to us, it’s not how we expected it to be. We start wondering if God’s forgotten us, we doubt He has any good in this time for us, we question whether He is even with us in the quiet, the seeming silence of life. And so we start doing, start filling life with busy again because we have become people who cannot be still and know. We can’t revel in the rest He gives us, that He beckons us to with Him. We would rather carry the burdens than take on His yoke of of easy, His burden that is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)

Learning about rest in Him means that I am not in control, and let’s be honest, I never have been, but I like to lie to myself that I do have control. Learning from Him in a time of rest means I am taking on a gentle and humble heart, just as He spoke in Matthew, one that doesn’t continue in the fretting, one that knows that I am the star nor am I in any control. What we find in rest is waiting. A silent waiting where security, our security, isn’t dependent upon us but fully in Him.

Rest isn’t thrashing about, pointing fingers and accusing God of leaving us. It’s joy and gladness in being with Him in the waiting, in the giving of this time He has graciously bestowed. It is the very words of David that we can see as rest, what we are capable of in rest instead of wrestling with Him.

“Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because You will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will You let your faithful one see decay. You make known to me the path of life; You will fill me with joy in Your Presence, with eternal pleasures at Your right hand. “

Psalm 16:9-11 (NIV)

It takes learning to be in rest with Him, and not wrestling with the feelings of abandonment or aloneness. It takes choosing to rest firmly and securely in Him rather than attempts at a hostile takeover of my life. It means waiting in silence instead of lobbing doubts of His character at Him. The irony is that we were built to rest, and yet when He gives it to us we wrestle so hard against it because the world tells us we shouldn’t be waiting, shouldn’t be silent, shouldn’t be still. But stillness is where we know that He is God…where He is our security…where are filled with joy….where we are in His Presence.

Busted Tails and Lame Men

Last week I busted my tail bone. Flat out busted it, purple bruise, couldn’t sit straight for days. Let me tell y’all, it was not fun in the least. Almost a week later and it’s still hard to sit directly on it. I do not recommend busting it, ever.

If you are anything like me, when you are busted up or sick you really don’t want anyone around you or to ask for help. Yo don’t want to be seen as in need. Maybe it is just me, trying to remain independent and not be seen as helpless or in need of anyone but myself.

32926-support-illness-1200.1200w.tnBut what happens when we reach out for help? When we seek healing in the form of others’ assistance? We remind ourselves that we cannot do this alone and we are a dependent being.

In Acts 3 we see Peter coming off the sermon in the temple. The same Peter who weeks before had denied knowing Christ is now the Peter preaching His salvation and our need for Him. I love that…another beautiful picture of redemption. As Peter and John go into prayers at the temple they come across a man at the gate begging for money, unable to walk and dependent upon others to carry him there and others to give money either as they entered the gates or as they left. (The man was smart about where he put himself to ask for money due to his inability to walk)

Peter and John engaged him as they walked by, they wanted him to look them in the eye. Something that he probably thought odd since at that time a disability was a way to not look at someone, to not see them as human-often how many are seen even now. He wasn’t seeking healing but was merely seeking to settle for what had been his lot in life.  But Peter and John recognized the deeper healing that was needed, the healing of his heart, a renewal of his body in the strength of Christ and not money, or men. So not in their own power or authority but fully in Christ’s they tell him to get up, and he does.

I find that in my own times of desperate need I don’t ask for what it truly is I do need because I am blinded by the tangible in front of me. I am praying about this thing when He’s pointing to the deeper root of healing. He’s sending people in His power in my path to point me to the healing I need but I often am so focused on this thing that I miss it. What if this guy had missed it with Peter and John, focusing only on obtaining money from them to exist rather than to receive full restoration for the real hurt to be healed?

What if instead of walking past those hurting we fully see a hurt that we can speak healing into through Christ’s strength and power? Instead of denying others that privilege of helping us heal we allow ourselves the ability to share about our hurts, our wounds, our lame legs and weak hearts? What if we stopped trying to hide our wounds, our hurts and we started living into full healing that comes through Christ and His people?

 

Becoming the Woman He’s Praying For

Recently I was looking back through the archives here on the site, pulling some content to expand on for my book. A couple of falls ago, I wrote on praying for your future husband. As I looked through several of those posts, I realized I hadn’t really been paying much attention to that part of my prayer life in the last few months.

Part of the reason (or maybe all of it?) is as I have grown older I am coming to terms with my singleness, that perhaps it’s just not in the story of my life to be married. As hard as that is to type, it’s harder to face head/heart on. If I am really vulnerable with y’all here, I don’t think it’s truth though. I believe firmly God does not give us hearts of companionship with another if it’s not meant to be part of the story of our lives. I think we often supplant the need for His Presence with that of a person, pushing into relationships or elevating dating/marriage to the level of our relationship with Christ (that’s a whole other chapter in my book…).

As I started to kind of pull through the mess that was my heart, God’s will, desires and my writing on the topic I started to lean into a really hard question, and it’s where I land today:

Am I becoming the woman that my future husband is already praying for?

If he is praying for me, just as I am praying for him, would it not seem to fit that I would be pursuing the difficult, leaning into God, working through producing fruits of the Spirit? Before I get too far into this, let me also say that we shouldn’t base our growth as a Christian, as a person, on anyone’s desire for who we should be to them….Not in the least y’all, so don’t start down that twisted path of becoming someone you were not created to be. No, what I am pointing to is if my prayers for him are for him to become who God has created him to be, then I should be focusing myself as well on living into God’s will and design for my life.

Maybe the question needs to look more like this…

Am I becoming the woman God has been desiring me to be in order fulfill His will in my life?

I shouldn’t desire to fulfill a standard of a man, but when the man whom God has created for me to be his partner is fervently praying for me to be in God’s will, for protection from the enemy, to grow closer to God? How can I not desire those same things for myself? When I look at the ways to pray for him, am I also praying and seeking those same things for my own life?

Maybe it’s not about praying more for a spouse but being intentional to pray for that person to be who God created him to be, and then also praying for you to be the woman who God created you to be…After all, He’s still in the business of answering prayers if we listen and pray in His will, seeking wisdom and relationship with Him above all others.

Saul, Pride and The Wait

A while ago, the exact date I cannot recall, I remember praying for deliverance from a situation. It was a situation that I had wrestled, fought against, and made myself low in simply to find the means to get through it and into a new season. I kept finding myself back there, back in the situation that brought hurt, frustration and humiliation to some degree. As I asked God for deliverance, I defined how it should come forth. How He should provide it and what it should look like. I gave Him the story of deliverance to bless it, even in my most broken and convicted state.

I couldn’t take my eyes off of  the situation long enough to see how He was going to deliver me. I wanted the situation shuttled away, the person that was at the core of the frustration removed, all the while He was using me to refine and grow.

As I read through 1 Samuel this morning on the anointing of Israel’s first prince (Saul) and his reign over the course of five chapters I couldn’t help but see some of situation play out. What struck me was in the waiting on God to go before him in battle, Saul decided to take matters into his own hands. Specifically, he manipulated godly offering to justify his own inadequacies and fears. Moments after doing so, the promised arrival of the prophet and priest Samuel comes to fruition, laying bare Saul’s foolhardiness and prideful disobedience.

Years later, looking back on that season of life, I see that I was trying to manipulate my offering to God. Yes, you can have the situation and circumstances but only if you bless this specific outcome. Yes, I give this over to you, but only in this way and only if you deliver me in the way I have laid out for you. 

And I can honestly say I have done it since then, but not in such a large and bold manner. Not with such prideful disobedience to say that I would take the very thing God has given and use it for my own gain. It’s the evidence of a heart that still battles the sinful nature, a heart that desires control and knowledge beyond understanding. It’s the heart that tries to put itself on equal footing with God, when in fact it should be bowing in reverence, fear, and praise to Him.

When we define how God should work in our life, putting parameters and our limited thinking over His sovereignty we tell Him (and those around us) that we know better. We box Him into this far off God who does not care about the lives of His children instead of the truth that He does care, He does hear, and He does actively work in our lives for the good of all of us. That good doesn’t get defined by us in one moment/season/stage. We would choose the lie of our heart’s prideful disobedience rather than Truth which has redeemed us, carried us, and led us for far longer.

Maybe you haven’t dealt with this, or maybe you are smack dab in the middle of praying your way through a situation but giving God the directions as if He needed them. Instead of diagrams and manipulations of His will, today let’s release ourselves from the pride, the disobedience, the control and with open hands give God the entire situation as we wait. Waiting in obedience for Him to work as He deems good, and not how we define it for ourselves.

Silent Nights

We are six days from celebrating the birth of Christ. This time of year is most often characterized by the hustle and bustle, songs of cheer and laughter in the air. It’s running from one party or program to another, squeezing in those last minute gifts and errands in order to have this perfect holiday scene you know never makes it to reality.

For me, in this season, I truly enjoy sitting in the quiet of my home with the lights of the tree sparkling in the dark. I love the stillness of it and the peaceful calm that seems to emanate from corners of the season. The world gets loud, it gets rather busy and hectic with so many people vying for my ears and often my eyes. It becomes overwhelming to this heart of mine and sometimes I just need to pull back to pull on peace and quiet.

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But I think I get a bit fidgety if the quiet goes too long when it comes to God. That’s when doubt seeps in rather than peace pervading. I tend to worry that He’s forgotten me, or that He doesn’t love me as much as He has said countless times in countless ways. I question His work ethic and His ability to hear my prayers.

I don’t often read about Zechariah outside of the Christmas season. I don’t dig into his story much in the beginning of Luke except as the precursor to the story of Mary, Joseph, and the Coming Messiah. If we’ve heard the story of the birth of Christ, we can probably give a brief synopsis of his precursor, John the Baptist.

Dad was a priest in the temple, mom was a lovely woman of God but both were without a child and advanced in age. Dad gets called to the temple as part of his rotation, an angel  tells him that “Hey, you’re going to have a kid. He’s going to be the forerunner for the coming Lord. He’ll lead Israel back to prepare their hearts.” (my interpretation, obviously) Zechariah doubted, he wanted confirmation…and so he got silence, for nine months. In one interpretation it says he was mute, meaning he could not speak, nor could he hear.

For nine months.

Silence inwardly and outwardly for that long probably led to some real moments of fidgeting in Zechariah’s life. But then he could see the visual confirmation of the promise from God-growth of human life in his wife, the fulfillment of a long prayed desire. Hope confirmed. Yet God allowed him to be silent until his son came into the world. His first words once he arrived? Praises to God.

For nine months he had time with God alone. Silent nights filled with discerning and relationship building. Discipline lived out, and doubt rooted out. This wasn’t punishment for him, but discipline from God to bring the doubt out of Zechariah and draw him in closer to Him.

How often do I forsake the silence for doubt? How many times do I take the silent nights for granted and turn to God in mistrust and accusation? What if the silence-no matter the longevity-is for my good and His promise to come to full birth? To wait expectantly in the hope of Him who gives good gifts to those that love Him? To root out even the slightest sliver of doubt that may pierce deep within and allow God to have the only voice in my life?

As we enter the final week of expectancy of Christ’s arrival into our world thousands of years ago, may our hope and expectancy be rooted in the hope of a Promise Keeper, a Listener, and a Heralder of Good. May our doubt and fear of unanswered prayers be uprooted and the silence of a holy God take it’s place.

Post-It Note Mentality

post-it-notesI love Post-It notes. I use them for notes to myself, to others, as reminders or lists of things to do or get. They hold places in books and point out interesting parts in other books.

If I don’t write it down, I’ll forget it.

I think many of us would agree we do the same. It’s easy to forget things in our lives, with the busyness and pace of life, where we sit in drive-thrus typing out replies to work emails, where while we microwave a lunch we discuss the next project or writing idea. We’ve turned into quite the hyper-speed culture, and it’s causing us to frame up all of our lives in the same manner.

I try to do the same with God and the prayers I bring before Him. That if they aren’t answered in an hour, a day or even a week (oh the torture of 7 days!), that He’s obviously said no or not now and I need to move along. I attempt to put our world’s timing on His work and then live with the fallout of disappointment, doubt or fear…or even hurt thinking I am not in tune with God’s best for me.

But God doesn’t work on our timetable, no matter how we try to fit Him into it. We know this from His word (2 Peter 3:8) and yet we try to microwave our prayers to Him. Hoping for a rushed response to what we lay before Him. There are times when He says no or not yet to a prayer and we do need to accept that response from Him.

I think the bigger issue is though that we’ve become so used to high-speed and self-checkout with no waiting that we expect the same of God and how He works in us.

We are His worksmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works.

Ephesians 2:10 shows us that we aren’t just his side hustle, devoting pockets of time to us when He can get around to us in parts of the day. We are a continual work of His hand-ever growing and being written out. To be a work, it takes time. It’s not instant art, but works of art. Someone once shared that this word “workmanship” in the original writing was the same for “poem” and that we are to be seen as pieces of art, taking time to write out and ever being rewritten for beauty and glory to Him.

I don’t know about you but I rather like being a poem written out for Him instead of a hastily drawn creature left to my own vices and whims. I prefer the length, depth and breadth of a work of art rather than a Post-it note doodle or task to be quickly marked off. Instead of forgetting something about us, God writes it into our story, over time and with His hand knowing we are more than Post-It note reminders to Him….we are His creation. Meant to live it out in the long-hand of this life rather than the quick texting we have become accustomed to in our day.

Whatever you are praying through, know that He is listening and at work with you in it. Don’t see His work as a Post-It note task to be done speedily but the long-form of a poem being written across time for your good and His glory.

When The Words Won’t Come

Prayer is often a struggle for me, if I am honest. This coming from a woman who is constantly asking how and what I can pray on for friends and family. To the woman who used to sit in her church’s war room on Sundays during a service and pray over everyone in that auditorium.

Yes, prayer has become a struggle because I simply cannot find the words beyond a simple, “Lord, be with them.” “Lord, comfort them in their time of grief and need.” “Lord provide in ways only you can.” “Lord, I am sorry.”

That’s about it. Words that don’t seem to have belief behind them. Words that feel dry and rejected being spoken…faith somewhere else than in the One listening to those words.

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A longtime friend recently shared a simple request when prompted for what I could be praying on for them, and so I began to pray these same words over them. Feeling a sense of that God probably wasn’t much into listening to me yet again pander with words what I wasn’t really believing, that He was there and desiring to hear from me. That He could provide and speak into the needs of my intercessions.

So with a loss of words (and I dare say some faith in prayer) I took steps away from time talking to God. I trudged away holding my journal thinking it was all a big waste. It’s then I realized the purposefulness of time spent with Him, a time when I felt unheard and alone that I saw how real God desires a relationship, to hear from me and my heart, the struggles I keep within and those I come to Him with on behalf of others.

But the words still wouldn’t come because it felt weird, like that friend you’ve gone too long in seeing face to face…you aren’t sure where to start or if you can still go deep with them.

So I turned to His Word and what He has said to me and began to pray His truth, affirming it for myself and rejoicing in what He was already doing….

I thank You always concerning my friend for Your grace which was given to them by Christ Jesus, that they are enriched in everything by You in all utterance and all knowledge even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in them, so that they come short in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of You Lord Jesus, that You will also confirm them to the end, that they may be blameless in the day of You. You are faithful, by whom they were called into the fellowship of Your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

adapted from 1 Corinthians 1:4-9

He has already given us the words when we don’t have them, when we struggle to voice laments, praises, hurts, griefs and sorrows…joy and excitement…all of it. He has given us the words to speak, to pray, to be in relationship with Him when our faith wanes, when the heaviness of this life seems to push down and make us want to trudge away with our own emotions. He speaks, so that we may have the words to come to Him.

This season of words that won’t come is still very present for me, but I also know that to open His Word and pray them over myself, over others, to speak His Name is enough…it’s more than enough because He has provided…He has heard…and He meets me here each and every moment, even in the silence, He knows. So I take up this prayer again…for others, for myself, for Him…to be a part of the relationship I need and He desires for me.