Taking a Vacation from God?

Baseball. Barbecues. Bathing Suits. Are you ready for a summer vacation? 

How about a vacation from God?

That sounds irreligious to say, but let’s be honest. It’s tempting to have that mindset during Summertime.

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Bible gets dusty.
Prayer life shrinks.
Selfies by the pool take priority over acts of service.

After all, the Salvation Army only rings the bell during the Christmas season, so people less fortunate than me must be having fun too, right?

It’s not just individuals who hit pause on spiritual growth.

Churches—at least the ones in my area—are less active after Memorial Day. Other than a Family Camp or Vacation Bible School, the church calendar has a lot of white space.

Women’s Bible studies take a summer break. So do children’s Awana clubs. Small community groups within a church, that meet weekly in homes, are on hiatus.

Even church attendance and tithing is lower during summer. For even if a family has a staycation instead of going out of town, who wants to wait until Sunday afternoon to go on a hike or swim in the lake?

It’s not like God’s a killjoy. The Bible mentions festivities and God’s mandate for people to celebrate life.

Didn’t Jesus say, “the Sabbath was made for man.” We’re meant to rest at least one day out of the week. So why not set aside two weeks of vacation or three months of recreation?

Have I struck a nerve, yet? I hope you know I’m playing devil’s advocate.

I’m also NOT trying to guilt anyone or tell people how to spend their summer. I’m right there with other red-blooded Americans—weaving warm memories with my loved ones this summer.

However, conviction tugged my heart when I put on my sunscreen.

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Summer break from school and normal routines are no excuse to ignore the Lord. I still need to seek God’s presence through His Word and prayer. I need to put on the armor of Christ as faithfully as my sunscreen.

I need to, but I also WANT to spend time with the Lord this summer because He doesn’t take a vacation from me.

He is ever present. And He longs to have a relationship with each of us that isn’t one-sided or confined to nine months of the year.

So why would I consider a sabbatical from the One who loves me with an everlasting love, and redeemed my soul?

The Bibles says, “Rejoice in the Lord, always!”

Always. Even in this… good ole Summertime.

 

Photos:www.JennyWredePhotography.com

 

Too Busy to Meet?

I didn’t want to go, but too much time had passed since I’d been with my friend. We’d made a date. How could I cancel at the last minute?

And if I didn’t see her that day—when? Would there ever be a perfect lull in our lives to get together?

Even so, the weight of everything I should be doing pressed me down. By the time I met my friend, I felt like a simmering pressure cooker about to blow.

She smiled and hugged me. Then she listened while I ranted about life and how I didn’t have any strength. Finally, I buttoned my lips and allowed her to speak. She understood because her life was no less hectic.

Not unlike most of my friends when I ask them, “How are you?”

They reply, “Busy.”

We’re not just busy, we live in a hurry.

We’re always driving in the fast lane to get to the next thing. Rarely engaged in the moment.

That gray afternoon, I made myself STOP for two hours. The world didn’t stop spinning, but my mind did!

My friend mentioned a devotion she’d read which helped her. She talked about the Lord’s faithfulness in her life which led to a discussion about God’s sweet grace.

Somewhere between “hello” and our goodbye hug, the weight lifted from my bent shoulders. My mind rested as though I’d had a long nap. My spirit was refreshed.

I never did what “I thought I needed to do” that day.

The Lord nudged me in a different direction. I spent the evening with my husband at an event I had no desire to attend. Turned out to be a wise choice.

If I hadn’t slowed down to meet my friend, and bring God into our conversation,  I doubt my spirit would have felt God’s nudge much less gladly obeyed Him.

My mentor Loretta told me years ago, “Slowing down is necessary to hear God’s voice.”

So why is this a lesson I keep learning?

Every morning, I have a standing date to meet with the Lord.

When I choose to skip it and hurry into my day, I’m like the ignorant child C.S. Lewis described in Weight of Glory:

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“We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

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“The words I have spoken to you, they are full of the Spirit and life.” John 6:63

 

When’s the last time you slowed down to meet with the Lord?

Photos: http://www.jennywredephotography.com

 

 

Are You Unraveling?

A single piece of thread dangles from my scarf. I tuck the lonely strand back into place. Try to hide it.

For I know if I yank the thread too hard, the scarf will bunch up. Keep pulling it and the scarf might unravel.

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Ever feel that way?

Like you’re composed of multiple strings of yarn and everyone is tugging on you? 

And each time those strings are pulled, you feel as though you’re unraveling. Bit by bit.

Until there’s nothing left of you, but a heap of yarn on the floor.

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Unless, of course, you’ve learned to hide the loose, frayed strands from other folks.

Maybe—instead of a frayed scarf—you feel more like a string puppet. Just going through the motions with each tug. Nod, smile, wave, bend, move….

Too much jerking and we lose the elasticity of our stringy nerves. Or they get tangled from hurrying in too many directions.

So how do we avoid unraveling? Untie the knots?

How do we REST in the middle of wrestling life?

Return to the Lord and let your soul find rest (Psalm 116:7).

Exalt the Lord. Praise His name and thank Him for Who He is and the great things He has done in your life (Psalm 69:30).

Submit to the circumstances in your life in which you have no control. If we can’t change our circumstances, we can change our attitude.  (Philippians 4:8)

Trust God’s promises. Knowing He use the events and people in our life for His purposes which includes molding us into the image of Christ. (Romans 8:28,29)

Even when King David’s personal sin crushed him, he returned to the Lord. For he knew his redemption and delivery had nothing to do with his own character or actions.

It had everything to do with God’s lovingkindness and compassion.

Maybe you’re on the endangered list as your inner being unravels. Desperate for God’s compassion.

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Turn off the news; the cell phone.

Go to your hiding place and show your Abba Father the knarled knots and loose strings.

Then R.E.S.T.

And like a child who waits while a parent untangles his shoestrings…

Allow the Lord to clip and mend your frayed, loose strings until you’re new again and ready to rumble.

 

Photos by Jennifer Wrede Photography

Why the Hesitation?

How’s your heart? Are you overwhelmed? Dismayed?

That’s how King David described himself in Psalm 143.  And that’s how I felt when I woke up.

Though the winter sky was baby blue, and the sun’s rays shimmied between the bare tree limbs.

I blamed my mood on a head cold. And yet, sometimes, it’s difficult to pinpoint the reason I’m anxious or depressed.

Thankfully, God knows the human propensity to allow circumstances and emotions to overwhelm us. That’s why He used King David to pen Psalm 143.

Words written centuries ago, but relevant today—in this exact moment—because God’s Word is able to clear the negative voices in a congested head. And point us to a better way of living.

My feral cat was also in a mood.

Stuck outside overnight, she sat on our front porch rail, waiting. Watching me through the kitchen window while I brewed a cup of tea.

When our eyes met, my cat arched her back and meowed. I opened the door, stumbled towards my desk as she weaved in and out between my feet.

Unlike most mornings, my feral cat wanted more than warmth and food. She paced back and forth, rolled on the wood floor. Then she sat by my desk chair, staring at my lap. It’s rare for this independent feline to cuddle, but I saw the debate within her eyes.

Meanwhile, I just “happened” to open my Bible to Psalm 143. It’s the same passage I underlined fourteen years ago when I dealt with anxiety and winter blues. Only this time, I paused at verse 5.

“I remember the days of old. I meditate on all Your doings; I muse on the work of Your hands.”

Remember. Meditate. Muse.

On what?

  • My circumstances?
  • My emotions?
  • My thoughts?

No, we’re told to…

Remember God’s Work.  Meditate on the great things the Lord has done. Not only for mankind, but in people’s lives…in my life.

“Dwell much on what I did, as well as what I said. Remember, ‘I touched her hand, and the fever left her.’ Not many words, just a moment’s contact, and all fever left her.” (God Calling)

Lord, please touch my heart so my mood melts into nothingness.

I glanced down at my cat who watched me with the same hesitation that I came before the God. Afraid to ask, as if I was unworthy, or He had greater things to tend to than “my mood.”

I tapped my robe. “Come here.”

Cat ears flinched.

“What? You don’t trust me after all these years?”

My audible words convicted me. Wasn’t this God’s attitude towards me when I hesitate to come to Him? Hesitate to ask?

What keeps folks from wanting more of God, or receiving all He wants to give?

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Before I could answer my question, the cat jumped on the desk and settled beside my Bible. Soon, she curled on my lap, purring.

Content; unafraid.

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Not unlike her mistress, now resting in God’s capable Hands.

Let me hear Thy loving kindness in the morning; for I trust in Thee...” (vs.8)

Broken Lives in Search of Glue

She told me, “The man committed suicide.”

Just couldn’t live on this planet one more day.

I didn’t know him, but a knot forms in my gut while I wonder about the people in my life.

Is someone in despair? Would I recognize the signs?

 

I’ve talked with people who tried, without success, to help a loved one…

Change his behavior. Make her happy. Seek counseling. Point them to the Lord.

Forever haunted “If only I had done this, said that.

Haven’t we all been there?

Been the person with good intentions who knows what’s best for another person. Only the other person won’t listen!

We stand there with a tube of super glue in our hands. Looking at the mess of a person; fallen and broken. Realize that even Humpty Dumpty’s men couldn’t put him back together again.

 

So how do I help a human being who doesn’t care enough to—”help me help you.”

And why do I presume to have the answers for someone else when I can still see the jagged scars where I tried to super glue my own broken pieces back together?

Fact is, there’s only one answer that will help.

One Truth that endures  when we find even ourselves in quicksand because the enemy who “seeks to lie, steal, kill, and destroy” loves to…

Chip at our self-esteem. Break our spirit. Convince us.

  • “This is good as it gets!”
  • “Who cares?”
  • “What’s the point?”

Until we’re broken, and feel beyond repair………….

That one Truth—Jesus Christ—says, “Come to Me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

Then true to His Word, Jesus lifts us from the pit of sin and self-defeat and does the IMPOSSIBLE.

Jesus picks up the broken pieces. Puts us back together again, and reassures us:

This isn’t as good as it gets.

 “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Someone cares.

In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1John 4:10)

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?” (Romans 8:35)

There is a point; an eternal purpose.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son…” (Romans 8:28-29)

Even when we don’t feel God’s love, or comprehend His purposes,

Even in this….fallen world filled with broken promises, broken marriages, broken lives that break our hearts…and makes us weep.

Jesus tells us to “Come, and find rest.”

Are you broken?

Is your heart breaking for someone else?

Then Come!

Mother May I?

“What do you want for Mother’s Day?”

In my household that means, “Do you want to eat out?” “Shall we buy you something?”

Too many people dine out that day. I’d rather not wait for a table. And I feel bad for moms who work as a waitress on Mother’s Day.

And nothing compares to the gifts my children made for me during their childhood years. My office is a museum of their arts and crafts. A hand-painted picture frame, a pencil holder made from a clay pot, a laminated card decorated with torn, colored construction paper.

Now, an act of service is my love language. Last year, my husband and teenage son spread shredded cedar in my flower beds. I was a happy mom! If my son chose to clean his closet, that could count as three Mother’s Day gifts. Dream on.

This Mother’s Day, I’ve decided to rest. I got the idea from my feline. She slept in the sun last week, oblivious to the activity around her.  Wouldn’t it be lovely to rest without a care? To do nothing, without guilt?

Don’t know that I can.

Unless I’m productive it’s not a good day. Even my reading a book, or a friendly phone call, seems like an accomplishment. God knows this about me. He’s given numerous scripture on my need for rest on multiple levels.

Sabbath Rest, rest from labor, resting in the Lord, rest for our souls, rest for the weary, entering God’s rest….

“This is what the Lord says … ‘ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.’” (Jeremiah 6:16)

Hello, Karen? Which part of rest don’t you understand?

Remember the child’s game, Mother May I? I’m told to do something by the leader, but first I must ask permission or I’m out of the game. The Lord’s Word tells me to rest. But unlike the game, I don’t have to say, “Father May I?” before proceeding.

God has given me permission. He invites me to enter His rest. He commands me to rest.  

It’s time I believe God’s Word and permit myself to rest.

Not only this Mother’s Day, but each Sunday as well.

Are You Resting?

This Mother's Day weekend, give yourself a gift...permission to relax and enjoy life.

Gotta love the weekends. a sweet reprieve.

Saturday allows me to rest from the busyness of life. Sunday Sabbath reminds me I’ve entered God’s Rest. 

take communion and remember Christ’s finished work on the Cross. And I leave church forever grateful I don’t have to work this coming week … for my eternal salvation.  

“For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His.” (Hebrews 4:10)

For years, instead of trusting Jesus for salvation,

  • I tried to be a good person.
  • Earn my way into heaven through good works.
  • Put my faith in me.

After I entered God’s Rest, I learned to stop doing things for God and rest in His presence. 

Now whenever I’m tempted to strive or play the High Priest 

  • Applaud my ‘good’ works
  • Absolve my bad behavior.
  • Justify wrong thinking.
  • Pursue my own agenda

I enter God’s Word which is “living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword…able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

What a thought! Everything within me laid bare, open for God’s scrutiny. Like Eve, I want to hide from God’s searching eyes and cover up my intentions. But, then I remember and rejoice.     

“We have a great and high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God...Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:12-16)

Have you entered God’s Rest?

What do you intend to do differently this week to draw near the throne of grace?