By MARY GEISEN
Is rest just another four-letter word? Do I allow myself to rest or treat it as something I should avoid at all cost? When I slow down, am I fully present in the moment?
Growing up, I remember the lazy days of summer. Each day there was a smattering of play and pool time, and mixed in were long periods of cloud gazing, reading, or just hanging out with the neighborhood kids. There were no schedules and the best part of the day was when dusk descended and all the kids emerged from their houses to play Kick the Can or Ghost in the Graveyard.
Rest was my friend, and I relished the chance to move from one activity to another with no agenda. I am not sure what age this all changed but rest no longer came easily and it reared its head as more of an enemy than a friend. The summer days of childhood are now long gone and instead, I let my to-do list take over my days. Somewhere along the path, I lost my way and in the process, I forgot how to slow down and rest.
Now, as I make my way through the middle part of my life, I find I am seeking rest on a more regular basis. It all has to do with presence and the chance to not miss a moment of life that happens when I am with those I love the most. I describe it as being where your feet are. But the more I look for that elusive rest, the more I crave it, just as the more I seek God and relationship with Him, the more my appetite increases to taste and see the goodness of the Lord (Psalm 34:8 NLT)
God promises us rest in Him (Psalm 62:5) When we are weary and burdened, God is still there to give us rest (Matthew 11:28) There is nothing God won’t do when we feel overwhelmed and overcome by daily life. He desires to carry our burdens for us (Psalm 68:19)
Rest is not the enemy. Rest is the restorer of our souls and God is the Great Provider. Let’s give ourselves permission today to slow down, lose the to-do list and rest our weary bodies.
FOR FURTHER THOUGHT If rest is the restorer of your soul and God promises rest, then what would it look like to turn to God for a deeper and richer restoration of your soul? When the loss of presence with those you love takes over quality time, how will you recognize the loss? If your to-do list becomes more important than being with the people you love, what will you do to reverse the effect?
Let’s work together on giving ourselves grace for those days that are just going to be busy. After extending grace, take time to reflect on one thing you can change that will provide you the space to do something that fills your soul–quiet time, reading, walking, or taking a nap. I give you permission to try it just as I give myself the blessing to do the same.
As you are making the space for rest, try releasing all distractions from sight or in your mind the next time you gather with friends and/or family. The gift of presence is soul-filling and heart-expanding.
You are worth the time and effort it takes to lose the to-do list and let God lead your days.
PRAYER Father God – Thank you for the promise of new life in you. May I recognize my need for rest and choose the space to work it in each day. As I wake up each morning, point me away from busyness and draw me closer to you. Show me how to be fully present each day as I release all distractions to you. Thank you for knowing me better than I know myself. You are a good, good Father! Amen.
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By SARAH DAVIS
Shame has a way of spreading through the soul like mold spreads through a house. Shame is different than guilt. It isn’t just feeling remorse or regret about an event in your life, like when our internal moral compass tells us we are in the wrong and indicates a course correction should take place. Shame is the feeling that you are bad and that there is something inherently wrong with you.
My husband encountered a recent disaster on the job site of a large and beautiful home in which he was working. There was a knob that broke off of a sink, followed by substantial volumes of water sprayed at high pressure. Picture a fire hose opened at full throttle in your Pinterest version of a refinished laundry room. The water damage was extensive, leaking through to the ceiling of a finished basement and requiring the ceiling to be ripped out and dried for hours upon hours with industrial fans. Without going to the length of ripping out the ceiling, there was a strong likelihood that mold would spread quickly in the dark and concealed spaces beneath it.
I have come face to face with shame in my own life and have fought my way through the trenches of rediscovering my worth. I had to take a painful look at what was growing beneath the ceiling of my heart. It has been a long journey, and through that process, I have learned to identify shame in the lives of others because pain recognizes pain.
I want to be that reminding voice to others that even though you have made some mistakes in life, you are not a mistake.
In Luke chapter 15, we see the story of the prodigal son who has left home and disgraced his family. When he comes to his senses and returns home, his father sees him coming from a long way off and pulls up his robe and runs to him. The father knew that if someone else were to get to his son first, they might beat him, send him away, or publicly humiliate him. He ran to his son to spare him the shame.
We have a father who runs to us. We have a father who will stop at nothing to restore you to your position as the beloved. He tears down ceilings and runs to get to you first so He can absorb the shame.
FOR FURTHER THOUGHT During that time of confronting shame in my own life, I had to learn that if God is capable of forgiving me of my sins and past mistakes, then I could learn to forgive myself, too. When your perception of God is one that believes the lie that He is still holding your past against you, it naturally causes you to distance yourself and to turn away from Him rather than to Him. This reminder in the story of the prodigal son has been deeply healing in my own life of how the Father demonstrates His love for us even when we’ve made a mess of things. When you’re feeling unloved, unworthy or rejected, picture God running toward you, arms wide open, ready to love you through to a better place.
PRAYER Father, thank you for running to us. Thank you for absorbing the shame so we don’t have to. Help us to be people who do the same to those we encounter in life. Help us to love so radically that it heals and transforms and silences the shame. May our lives tell this love story written with each of us in mind.
By BARBARA LOWNSBURY
Leadership is a heavy mantle that sometimes we wear too lightly. While I never want my role as a leader to feel overwhelming, or worse, carry it as if it were mine to bear, I view it with sober judgement. As a ministry leader, I carry people’s hopes, fears, dreams and devastations in my hands. It doesn’t matter if I am dealing with them directly or indirectly. Whenever I assume the role of “leader,” my words and my actions carry more weight, whether I’m speaking to a crowd of thousands or passing by quickly in the hallway. Yes, everyone (usually) knows I put my pants on the same way they do – one leg at a time. Still, there is no denying the impact a leader makes, whether for good or for bad. And sometimes both, simultaneously.
Two scriptures immediately come to mind. The first, by the Apostle Paul, comes after a long, long list of his sufferings for Christ. He wraps it up in 2 Corinthians 11:28-29 by saying, “Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?” Paul doesn’t think, Ah, well. I tried. They’re accountable for the own actions before the Lord. I don’t need to care or worry. It is clear he loves the people he is serving, and takes ownership of their spiritual journey with the heart of a father towards his children.
The idea of not just caring for those within your sphere of influence, but caring deeply, can quickly get overwhelming to me if I don’t immediately place it in the context of the next scripture: 2 Cor 2:14-17: “In the Messiah, in Christ, God leads us from place to place in one perpetual victory parade. Through us, he brings knowledge of Christ. Everywhere we go, people breathe in the exquisite fragrance. Because of Christ, we give off a sweet scent rising to God, which is recognized by those on the way of salvation—an aroma redolent with life. But those on the way to destruction treat us more like the stench from a rotting corpse. This is a terrific responsibility. Is anyone competent to take it on? No—but at least we don’t take God’s Word, water it down, and then take it to the streets to sell it cheap. We stand in Christ’s presence when we speak; God looks us in the face. We get what we say straight from God and say it as honestly as we can.”
The victory in people’s lives rests firmly in God’s hands. My job is to fully lean into Him, remembering it is He who directs my steps and guides me, and to keep my heart sincere before Him. As I share and move and be, God is shining through. My love for others, the words I share and the actions I take then stem from a position of humble and faithful obedience. I don’t have to “perform.” Rather, I serve with humility and compassion, leading from a position of meekness. It’s like one beggar sharing a piece of bread with another beggar. It’s the bread that matters. Whether the other beggar accepts it or not—embraces the Lord or not—is out of my control. Jesus is the bread of life, not me. When I remember that, the unhealthy pressure dissipates, and I can continually offer the bread freely with a sincere heart.
FOR FURTHER THOUGHT While you might not think of yourself as a leader, the truth is we all wear that title in one form or another. Whether it’s with your family, your friends, your children or your co-workers, there are people who look to you for guidance and direction. Spend some time today reflecting on your leadership roles and how God can grow them.
PRAYER Lord, I am humbled that you choose to use me, flawed though I am. Help me to remember that it’s not up to me to make things happen. That’s Your job. Instead, help me to focus on giving my best effort to honor You, knowing Your grace covers the gaps in my leadership, and help me to continue to grow to become more like you. May I reflect the aroma of Christ as I go about my day to those around me. Amen.
BARB LOWNSBURY is the Executive Director for The Dented Fender. Follow Barb and The Dented Fender community on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
By KRISTAN DOOLEY
Running in a new place can be rough. In unknown territory, adjustments have to be made. Over the miles a runner learns her route. She knows when the path dips, how it turns and where it gets rocky. The known foundation underneath her pounding feet welcomes her consistently. It’s freeing to know where you are. Freeing in a way of energy conservation. To the runner, a known path is an easier path because she can direct her energy on what is ahead and not what is below.
We are on vacation, which means this morning my running routine was different. New place, new space, new foundation. Instead of the often cold, hard running trails in Ohio, I found myself on the soft, sandy beach in Florida. Total upgrade, I know! Only, instead of breezing through what should have been just a beautiful run, I found myself struggling tremendously. Where I had easily completed six miles at home two days ago, today I struggled to complete three!
The terrain was different. Instead of the normal blacktop, the soles of my feet were met with fleeting sand. Each time my foot connected with the sand underneath, it sank, making it a lot harder to pick back up again. Not only was I struggling to connect my stride, but the ground was uneven, causing one side of my body to overcompensate and throwing me off balance throughout the duration of my run.
I thought about stopping when I sensed God speaking.
“Slow down, take a deep breath. This is a new place. The ground here is different. Today, you are going to work new muscles into your old routine. You won’t be able to run as fast as you could at your old place and that’s okay because look around you. Don’t allow the new terrain and the pain of what you don’t know distract you from the beauty surrounding you. You’ve never been here. It’s beautiful. Enjoy it. Learn it. Get used to it.”
Isaiah prophesied about the struggles the Israelites would have coming out of captivity. Though the new scenery surrounding them would sing of freedom and adventure, they would find themselves wildly concerned with the unfamiliar terrain. Focused on the unknown, they would struggle to move forward.
“This is what the Lord says— He who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters, who drew out the chariots and horses, the army and reinforcements together, and they lay there, never to rise again, extinguished, snuffed out like a wick: “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:16-19 NIV)
With so much still ahead of them, they couldn’t waste energy dwelling on things behind them – even the good things. God is the God of today – but He is also the God of tomorrow and because of that we can keep going even when it’s different.
I kept running on the beach and eventually the sand solidified under my feet and became a place of consistency. It still wasn’t as comfortable as my everyday run at home, but it was more beautiful than what I was accustomed to. Running in new places is about adjustment and alignment. It’s about allowing ourselves the space to slow down and the grace to readjust and the time to realign. In the grand scheme of things being a runner is about learning to run in lots of new places as well as the comfortable old spaces.
FOR FURTHER THOUGHT If the new land you are running (or walking) on is hard – slow down – because your pace is not as important as His work. He is laying a new foundation that your feet will eventually learn just as well as the old. Look up. Look around. Take in the new scenery. Smell the air. Breath deep.
PRAYER Father, make me a celebrator of the new. Help me to have open hands concerning the way you’ve moved in the past, keep me holding loosely to the land around me. Empower me to walk forward into the unknown. Keep my head up so I don’t miss the beautiful scenery around me. Adjust my step to the new foundation underneath me. Thank you for the unknown. I celebrate what is coming! Amen.
By SARAH DAVIS
My heart absorbed the moment as I listened to my husband’s words to our son, “You are made for so much more. You are meant to be a voice on the earth.”
It had been a long and emotionally taxing day after receiving a phone call from my mother-in-law. Her voice on the other end was regretful and apologetic as she told me that my son had gotten in trouble. Though it was a little thing, it had potential to become a big thing that if not diverted now. Fear of a negative trajectory for his life seized my heart with fear.
I sat heavy in my seat on the car ride home where I knew he was waiting for me and dreading my arrival at the same time. When I walked into our home, I found him sitting in the kitchen with his elbows resting on his knees, and his head hung low. I sat across from him, and our eyes met for a moment before the tears pooled in the corners of his eyes. I had to fight the urge at that moment to be the rescuer.
Discipline is more painful for me as his parent than for him as the recipient. Not because he asked numerous times over the next week for his phone privileges back. Not because he fatigued my ears and my will by asking, “How long?” It’s painful for me to inflict punishment because I know that it doesn’t feel kind to him. I remind myself that love without discipline is not loving at all. If I save him and don’t allow him to experience the burn of touching the stove, he will likely continue on a path that will hurt him more in the future. He will not learn the crucial lesson at hand. My heart feels the soberness of this wrecking truth: If I in all of my best efforts at being a good parent feel this pain, how much more does God when we are suffering because of our own choices? Does He feel that ache in His heart when His children that He loves more than life experience the discomfort?
In Judges 16:10, it says this: “Then they got rid of the foreign gods among them and served the LORD. And He could bear Israel’s misery no longer.” (NIV)
There was never a single moment in the aftermath of it all that I didn’t want to draw near to my son. Truth is, that car ride home was painfully long. I couldn’t get to him soon enough, and not because I wanted to scold him. I think about this as we walk through a crowded field a few days later at an independence day event. He lagged behind, much like me in my non-celebratory mood, my heart still felt heavy from the week we had faced and the concern I felt over him. Yet, even in the moment of receiving the phone call and even when I was listening to him make excuses to justify his actions and avoid punishment, I only wanted to be near him. In spite of it all, I only wanted his presence and his smile and his humor.
Perhaps our incorrect view of God causes our tendency to hide, to withdraw, to isolate, and attempt to cover ourselves when we feel like we’ve messed up. But we have a Father who only wants us to come closer. He is the One who pursued us first. He is the One who loved us even in spite of us, and who searches us out in our fleeing and our hiding.
That’s what the Father does when we draw closer. Never shaming or condemning. He never reminds us of all of the ways we have failed or fallen short. Does He allow us to experience the pain of our choices? Absolutely. As a good Father should. But He also reminds us of who we are and what we are made for. He tells us that we are made for so much more and that we are meant to be a voice on the earth.
FOR FURTHER THOUGHT I know firsthand in my life that discipline is a painful thing to experience. What made it even more painful at the time was the shame that was attached to it. The feeling that I had disappointed God or that He didn’t want relationship or closeness with me because I had failed. Proverbs 3:12 says, “Because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.” Just as I want the best for my children, the Lord also knows that discipline is good for me. He allows it because He loves me. He also knows the end from the beginning and promises, “that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus ” Philippians 1:6 (NIV). If you are in a season of discipline, never forget it comes from a place of love for you and a desire to allow your voice to be clear and true on this earth until we move on to the next one.
PRAYER Father, help me to be a parent who reflects Your love and discipline because it is the loving thing to do, even when it doesn’t feel like it. I pray that the perfect love of the Father will be reflected through me. In my own moments of failure, help me to turn to You rather than distancing myself from You. Thank You for Your love and patience. Amen.
By KRISTAN DOOELY
I’ve been doing some corrective realignment with my back at the Chiropractor for the past year. In the midst of healing from damage caused over the years, I sense the Lord teaching me a powerful lesson. This in between place is rough; being in the middle comes with complications. I have a plan in place and a picture of what healthy looks and feels like, but I am not there yet. I am much closer today than I was six months ago, but inevitably, there’s still a lot of work to do.
The tension of healing is hard. My back is shifting and the muscles surrounding my spine are reacting. They don’t want to change. They have grown complacent in their dysfunctional existence. This is actually where they’ve learned to be comfortable. It doesn’t matter it’s not the best place for them to function. It’s just the place they know.
The lie I can’t believe in the middle of the shifting is that my healing is harder than my not healing. In the short, not healing means I don’t have to live with the tension of the middle, the unknown pain and triggers, while my muscles get stronger in a new posture. But in the long haul, not healing means, I’m robbed of life the way it was meant to be lived. I’m continually stuck icing unnecessary wounds and missing promised activites.
Here’s what I’ve noticed…
- It’s very easy to slip back into old postures. It actually happens naturally and without even noticing.
- It’s necessary to be consistent in my adjustment appointments becuase it it’s too far between adjustments, my muscles really struggle to stay aligned.
- This is something I cannot do on my own. I need the help of professionsals who have studied and practiced the process of realignment in deeper ways than I have.
- Home care is a must. I feel better on the days I do it than on the days I don’t.
- Other things have to take a back seat while I give time for this healing. It’s time I don’t have but time I must fight to find.
There are probably many more lessons I could point out. This is just some of the mess in the middle. For those of us following Jesus, we should recognize the middle all too well. We live daily in the here but not yet promises of His Kingdom.
There are things in our faith that need healing. Our hearts have slipped and we live un-centered. Misalignment when it comes to the love of the Father often leaves us living for love rather than living from love. It’s so subtle, you may not even recongize it at first, but over time it becomes more and more defined and your actions more and more noticible. If you recongize the need to recalibrate the muscles of your heart, it’s as simple as the five steps above.
Like the Israelites in the desert, you have a decision to make: will you embrace the tension of the middle and trust? He who brought you to it will also bring you through it. Or will you refuse to find hope in the healing and spend your life back in the dysfunction of what you’ve grown to find comfortable?
FOR FURTHER THOUGHT Jesus has so much healing available to us. It doesn’t matter what has bought on your pain, your sickess, your brokenness. All that matters is who holds it. Are you allowing the Father to tend to your wounds? Have you made time to be with Him more in this season of healing? Are you setting aside other things so you can participate in the necessary things? What might you do today to put yourself in a place of healing?
PRAYER Thank you Father for your healing. Thank you for your presence. I am so aware of the way you’ve made yourself available to me in the mess of the middle. I am so in love with how you piece things back together. Continue to do your work in my life Father. Do whatever it takes to stand me up faithfully and securely in you. Amen.