Gathering

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The thing I like about rest is it gives me a breathing space where I can gather myself. I can step back. You don’t have to react to externals; you have to respond to an internal.

-Graham Cook

I feel sorry for the person in a crisis or otherwise dramatic moment who has a microphone thrust in her face as a reporter is asking for reactions. If that happened to me I could probably supply him or her with a choice remark off the top of my head. But that’s the problem. My first reaction is just that -my reaction.

It is, as often as not, a shallow, self-centered reaction motivated by whatever has caused inconvenience or pain. For small things, like a stubbed toe, the memory of a short loud complaint fades faster than it takes to hop across the room on one foot. For big things that involve profound disappointment in people and may even change the course of my life, I need to get away and submit my reaction to the Holy Spirit’s response before I say or do something I’ll regret later

I need to gather in angry scowls, perturbed sighs, peaceless mutterings and woe-is-me moans. I need to take catastrophizing thoughts and calls for revenge captive. Then I can present them to Jesus. After all he paid to take this stuff away. Then I need to listen and respond with his love, his joy, his peace. I need to see the way he does.

Sometimes it’s a bigger struggle than I think it should be. Sometimes I sit in his presence wishing I could take back words that flew out of my mouth before self-control showed up to edit them. Sometimes I feel as stubborn as three-year old who would rather sit at the dinner table until bedtime than eat my broccoli. I don’t want to eat my words. And sometimes I eventually hear the futility of my repetitive argument as the finer points dull in comparison to his wisdom.

I’ve changed my mind about a lot of situations and people lately. When my first reaction might be to reject them he whispers, “Look again. Do you see what I see?”

Freedom means that when a situation sticks a metaphorical microphone in front of my face demanding an immediate reaction, I don’t have to give one. I can step back, wait, listen and respond with Christ in me, the hope of glory.

It definitely beats counting to ten.

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Proclaim

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Sometimes we walk on sunny mountain tops. Sometimes we walk through stormy valleys.

Lately it feels like another storm hits before our shoes have had a chance to dry out after the last one.

Can I be honest with you? I don’t feel like I’m doing a great job in this season of my life. I’m so far behind I don’t know if I’ll ever catch up to my expectations for myself. Sometimes the closest I come to resting in the Lord is pulling the blankets over my head and ignoring the clock in the morning.

This morning I had a dream that describes what I have been feeling. I was rushing around in a house (similar to ours in real life but with more stories) that needed work and preparation for the next season. Someone came to the door. I felt grubby, dusty and sweaty and not in the mood for company, but I invited the young girl who waited there into my mess.

She whispered something about wanting to make a proclamation. Before I could say anything another person showed up who needed my attention. As I went to look for something he wanted more people arrived – all in some sort of need or crisis. My house was noisy and confusing and full of people poking into all my private not-so-impressive spaces. I wanted to be hospitable and make something for them to eat, but everywhere I looked something in the house needed to be cleaned, trimmed, painted, organized, or repaired. Too many voices asked questions at the same time.

I felt overwhelmed.

Then the girl who had arrived at my door first put her hand on my arm and said in the sweetest gentle voice, “Can we proclaim now?”

I woke up, the word “proclaim” still ringing in my ears.

All day I’ve been thinking about this. Then I stumbled on this video by a group of young singers called “Proclaim.” The first young soloist looks like the girl who came to my door in the dream.

Okay, Lord, you have my attention. I’m listening.

I will call upon your name when everything has failed.
I will lift my weary eyes to that place where my help comes from
and I will not be afraid
and I will run to you in my time of weakness
and I will remember your unfailing love for me

You are my help, Lord!
Your right hand will hold me when I stray.
You are my help, Lord.
There’s no fear in me.
I will rise again.

I proclaim the glory of the Lord.
I will remember Your unfailing love for me. There is no fear in me. I rise again!

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This Now Place

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The fog wraps itself around me
like soft flannel encircling a child who twists to see.

Mystic air muffles the crying crow,
the howling wolf.

Damp cloud strokes my cheek
and covers my brow.

I catch a glimpse of mountainside
floating like a memory of the future in the sky.

Then silence.

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Beside secret stream,
as in a dream,
I walk on wood chips,
sainted cedars,
lives laid down
to cradle my steps.

The shoulders of giants hush my footfall.

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Between fervent moss clinging to rock
the fountain flows, in unexpected joy
between somewhere and somewhere,
beauty colouring only this place,

this now place,
this here place.

I settle my soul upon Your breast and breathe Your love.

The mountains stand
shoulder to shoulder
like guardian angels around the valley.

Whether I sleep or wake,
whether You hide Yourself
or gently wake me to see Your glory.
I trust You.

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Strive to Enter His Rest

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I did it again. I fretted. Loudly. Emotionally.

“We’ve got to do something!” I told my husband. He sat there calmly and said, “I am doing something. I am praying for a miracle and resting in the Lord.”

Now my problem is I can’t tell his resting in the Lord face from his avoiding a discussion by playing solitaire on the iPad face. All I want to know is if he is taking this crisis-de-jour seriously or am I going to have to do all the pre-trusting-in-the-Lord wet hen flap dancing all by myself?

Well, yes, I am. He doesn’t flap. He’s unflappable. He knows it’s pointless. So do I, but I do it anyway, not as often as I used to, but still often enough to have to apologize to the Lord later for my lack of faith. It’s my over-developed sense of responsibility again. I know I need to pray from a place of rest and trust in the Lord, believing that he has made a provision for every problem, but… but…but…

I also need to know that somebody cares. To me that means investing in some emotional expression. I want some compassionate tears or groans or something. A little sympathy pill. Failing that it means doing something, anything — making a list, googling for information, shopping for extra batteries — some indication of extending oneself. That’s how I show caring. But not everyone communicates the same way. I know that.

There’s another trap that I have fallen into far too often. In the absence of the proper person for the job I have the bad habit of rushing into somebody’s-got-to-do-it mode, jumping in without checking with the Lord whether this is helping or enabling or just plain meddling. It’s time to change that.

I have been reading in the book of Hebrews about the importance of rest. “…whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.” (Hebrews 4:10-11 ESV)

Now I have to tell you the instruction to “strive to enter God’s rest” has always seemed a little crazy-making to me. It feels like one of those damned if you do/damned if you don’t scenarios played out with frustrating bosses or elderly relatives who cannot be pleased.  Are not “strive” and “rest” words carrying opposite meanings? What do you mean by that, Lord? Do you want me to strive or rest? Pick one. It’s another thing that has made me sputter in frustration. But this week I think I may be able to understand this passage and its importance a little better.

I was down at the Falls. I watched autumn leaves float down from the tall trees overhanging the water. Some fell into the water and were carried by the churning stream around and around the eddies then picked up by the torrents and whisked over a series of small waterfalls until they disappeared over the cliff with the big waterfall. Some of the pretty coloured foliage fell on rocks and rested there. Being inanimate objects they didn’t have the option of throwing themselves into the drama and chaos of the river and then, when they were emotionally spent, crawling back out to a resting place. They were still or they were not.

We, on the other hand, need to concentrate — strive — to remain in a place where God is our total sufficiency. It’s so easy to slide off the rock and join in the words of complaint or dismal predictions. It takes effort to stay in a place of rest.

I’m afraid I still get sucked into not only my own drama, but the drama of people around me. I think I’m showing compassion, but maybe I am just riding the currents of fear, swept away with emotion.

It’s exhausting.

I asked some people who are father along on this journey than me what they do when they genuinely care, but want to remain in a place of rest where they can hear our heavenly Father’s heart for his children. Some said they just withdraw and refuse to respond to panic. Some said they explain that they do care, and they are praying, but they believe God is good so they don’t need to verbally rehearse how bad the situation looks. He knows. They want to hear how Jesus is interceding so they can join him, and for that they need to cease from offering their own solutions and reactions and seek the Lord.

As Graham Cooke said, “We need to learn to pray as brides and not as widows.” We are not alone or abandoned to our own devices to solve a problem. If we lack wisdom we can ask, simply because he loves us.

Rest is not passivity or fatalism. It’s connecting with God first, and trusting him. It’s realizing that we can quit relying on our own efforts to save ourselves or others, and let God be God. He has a plan, and it’s a good one.