Category Archives: sundays

the rest of God …

“Cease from what is necessary. Embrace that which gives life.”

This is the golden rule of Sabbath according to Mark Buchanan, author of The Rest of God: Restoring your Soul by Restoring Sabbath. Have you read these words, this extraordinary book that feels less like obligation and more like privilege, like a daily walk in the garden with Jesus?

It arrived on my doorstep as required reading because of my participation in Alicia Chole’s 7th Year, mentoring encounter in 2013. I see the wisdom in Alicia’s choice to include it on our selected reading list. It should be required reading. It is pure, liquid grace—life-giving and life-extending with every chapter absorbed. I run the risk of feeling somewhat covetous of Mark’s pen if it weren’t for the absolute gratitude I feel in my heart for the gift of his words. There are very few books that I’ll read a second, even third time, very few books that I keep on the bookshelf long-term. This will be one of them. Why?

Because The Rest of God grants me understanding and permission to rest with God so that I might more fully understand the rest of God—that which remains hidden to me. His vastness. His closeness. His willingness to be known. His willingness to fill me with eternity to the uttermost. Rest to restore the body and rest to restore the soul. This is sacred treasure.

And so as it pertains to Mark’s golden rule for Sabbath rest (ceasing from what is necessary and embracing that which gives life) this is what gives life to me today:

  •  The Sunday school hour with James 1:19-27 on the table, saints gathered around for discussion.
  •  The Communion hour with bread and wine on the table, saints kneeling down for prayer.
  •  The lunch hour with fish and chicken, saints sitting down for sustenance.
  •  The afternoon hours with bed and blankets, saints lying down for sleep.
  •  The evening hours, two saints holding hands for love.

This is Sabbath rest for me. Nothing necessary. No “have tos” in the mix. Only “get tos”. I get to keep Sabbath with the saints on Sundays. Some folks may tag it as obligation; I name it as privilege – the life-giving, life-extending rest of God.

I pray you’ve known a similar portion. If not, then these next moments can belong to just you and Jesus. As long as today is still called today, there is time to take a walk with God in his garden, to know him more fully, and to rest most assuredly in his love.

Keep Sabbath, friends. It is God’s gift to you. As always …

Peace for the journey,

PS: If you think The Rest of God might be a good fit with your heart, please leave a comment below, and I will select one winner to receive a copy of Mark’s book. 

Also, I’m having a final sale on my books, Peace for the Journey and Beyond Cancer’s Scars. Click here to learn more. I greatly appreciate your support as I walk through this transition in my writing ministry.

Sabbath Sunrise – a prayer for my son

Paint my boy a Sabbath sunrise, Father – one filled with the color of hope, not the cover of despair.

Take the pain that’s been smeared onto his canvas at night and replace it with splashes of your morning grace.

What she has taken from him, replace it with what you have given to him. A hope. A future. A plan that includes something best, not something less.

His are deep wounds, bleeding red, hot, and furious. Stop the hemorrhaging with your hands—the very ones that bled and shed red for our sin and our pain.

I can no longer cradle him in my arms. My lullabies sing harshly, and I have few words to fix the ache within. Only scattered thoughts to fill the awkward pause in between his despair and his healing.

So Father, would you paint him a Sabbath sunrise? Would you paint me one as well?

How we need the color. The warmth. The reminder that all has not been lost in the night.

Your sun still rises. This is gain. This is resurrection. This is Sabbath.

Give us eyes to see it, minds to conceive it, and hearts to believe that you painted it just for us—your perfect peace in the midst of a perfect storm.

For him, my boy with a broken heart. For me, his mom whose heart breaks alongside.

Amen.

Sabbath Light

In this light. In these colors reflected on brick walls. This is where I worshiped this morning.

Simply here in a rainbow display of God’s love. It leaped from the walls and into my heart, moving my soul to a posture of faith – a knee-bending, heart-yielding, humbling belief in a God who has not left the building. A God who, instead, makes himself manifest in the building despite dimmed eyes and dulled hearts.

Those who have eyes to see, minds to conceive, and a heart to believe couldn’t miss the Light of God’s witness this Sunday morning. He was just that brilliant.

And then these words, chorused in response:

Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;

Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art;

Thou my best thought, by day or by night,

Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

My best thought.

Day or night.

Awake or asleep.

God’s presence …

My Light.

Enough to dispel the darkness. Enough to revive my faith.

This is where I worship. This is why I worship. To see the Light is to see eternally. How grateful I am for the glimpses of glory that color themselves onto brick walls so that I might celebrate, once again, the love of Jesus that colors grace onto my heart.

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.” (Isaiah 9:2)

Brilliant Sabbath Light. Perfect Sabbath rest. Blessed …

Peace for the journey,

 

let the evening come . . .

“Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Haran. When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set.” –Genesis 28:10-11

 

Certain places. We’ve reached a new one—a God-ordained assignment just an hour south of our last one. My number nineteen; pastorally speaking, our fifth appointment with the United Methodist Church.

Like Jacob on a night so long ago in Bethel, we’re stopping here for a season. The sun has set on our previous day’s traveling (our six months’ worth of running), and now we have the great privilege of rest, of living and breathing in this new place landscaped by open fields, few stoplights, fresh peaches, and neighbors who drop by with fresh vegetables . . . just because.

Certain places. We’re well-suited for this one. Sometimes a heart just knows when it’s home. And this morning as we worshiped alongside new friends in filled church pews, my soul was stirred at the deepest level. First Sundays rarely go as planned; there are always a few hiccups and a few whispers, but none of that mattered to me on this first Sunday of my number nineteen.

What mattered?

The peace of knowing that I am home. That I can rest my head upon this stone named Saint Luke and can find a stairway that stretches straight forward to the heart of God. Like Jacob, my soul proclaims, “Surely the Lord is in this place …” (Gen. 28:16).

It’s not that the Lord hasn’t been present in my preceding eighteen places; it’s simply a great soul-relief knowing that he resides here as well. That God has already graced this place with the present of his presence long before my arrival.

I’m grateful for the setting sun, for a tangible sign that a previous day’s laboring is finished. It’s a good thing to shut my eyes and pull down the shades on the struggles of recent days, knowing that even as I rest, God is at work . . . ascending and descending on his ladder of mercy, making certain that I don’t miss his whispers of grace. I imagine he will tell me great and unsearchable things in this night’s pause (Jer. 33:3). Divine disclosure is a guarantee for the children of God. As we are faithful to rest in God’s house, our Father is faithful to entertain our hearts with his.

I want nothing more.

I just want to know God and then, out of that knowing, lead others to know the same. This certain place is the right place to do both. With God’s help and because of the heavenly generosity afforded my soul, I pledge my affection to this new ministry soil. I’ll put my hand to the plow, alongside my husband’s; together we’ll sow kingdom seed, and we’ll trust God for the harvest.

And so I pray,

Let the evening come, Lord. Let the stars shine brightly in this night’s rest. Slow me down and show me your glory. May the labors of my yesterdays serve as a strong foundation for my today, as well as an anchoring remembrance for my tomorrows. I thank you for this stay in Bethel and for this stone upon which I lay my head, my heart, and my faith. Make this pause in my journey count for your kingdom. Keep me on my knees, and awaken my heart to yours. Thank you for the struggle that has brought me thus far, and thank you for the grace that has kept me moving forward. Home is within reach. I can see it from here. This certain place is the right place for my heart. Amen. So be it.

PS: There was a beautiful flower arrangement on the altar this morning, given in honor of our arrival. Thanks to Mr. Bill, I have fresh cut flowers all around my house. It’s good to be welcomed!

a girl, her pink guitar, and a Sunday morning learnin’…

a girl, her pink guitar, and a Sunday morning learnin’…

I had a moment this past Sunday. Just a small one, but one big enough to linger throughout the rest of the day.
It happened while I was teaching a new song to the kids in my Sunday school class, Victory Chant. Per usual, I had written the words on newsprint and pinned them to the bulletin board. We talked through the song before hearing it for the first time, going over the pronunciation of unfamiliar words and the meaning behind the song. Satisfied that enough background had been covered, I cued the music and listened for their participation—those students who came with their parents to church that morning.
My students. The only kids under the age of eighteen in attendance. My kids… the only two sitting as audience to my instruction, well three if you count Preacher Billy. And I thought to myself,
Why in the world am I doing this, Lord? What’s the point? They get all of this at home. Besides, they’re not really listening. Why am I working so hard during the week to prepare a lesson when the only kids that come are mine and, sometimes, an occasional few others? Where are the crowds of yesterday, the audiences of many… my Tuesday night girls, my Sunday morning “ancients”? Why so few? Remind me again why this is important because right now, it feels more like obligation rather than adulation.
Like I said, a moment or two. A thought or two. A question or five… all cradled up within a single pause, and it was all I could do to finish the lesson. A lesson (oddly enough) about a doubting disciple requiring the proof of nail-scarred hands and a few words about “seeing as believing but blessed are those people who’ve never seen yet still believe.” People like us, living 2000 years beyond Christ’s resurrection moment—a people who’ve never “seen” the physical flesh of Jesus but who are devoutly tied to the truth of that moment in history.
The class ended. The earth didn’t shake beneath anyone’s feet, and my family moved downstairs for corporate worship where slightly more gathered in the pews for the 11:00 AM service. And there was a big hurt in my heart… an ample ache for previous ministry seasons now seemingly hidden, buried beneath the burden of hopes dreamed but not yet realized.
Did I miss it, Lord, what you seemed to be saying to me a few years ago? Did we miss it, Lord, what you seemed to be saying to us a season back? Where am I, where are we headed with this? This is hard faith, Father. This has been a hard year for us. How can I keep hope alive when all around me seems to be giving way to despair?
I wish I could say that God’s peace entered immediately into my soul, but it didn’t. Questions of faith usually initiate a wrestling out of thoughts before the Father prior to a peaceful conclusion being reached. This was the reality for most of my remaining Sunday. Wrestling. Struggling. Being mad and being sad. Feeling down and giving up. Wishing for more; expecting less. Thinking about yesterday; living in today. Wondering what’s the point of service if no one comes to be served?
And then I heard it… the point of my seemingly small, morning commitment.
Quiet at first, muffled behind wooden walls and closed doors. A strum of a pink guitar, and the voice of a pure angel named Amelia… trying her best make the out-of-tune strings fit the melody of a recently learned song.
“Hail Jesus you’re my King.
Your life frees me to sing.
I will praise you all my days.
You’re perfect in all your ways.

Hail, hail Lion of Judah.
How powerful you are.
Hail, hail Lion of Judah.
How wonderful you are.”
Her words weren’t perfectly matched with the correct ones, but her heart was… perfectly matched with the correct Word. She wanted to put some feet to her morning learnin’; in doing so, she put some feet to mine. She reminded me, again, of something Alicia Chole said a few seasons ago regarding all levels of Christian leadership:
“Focus on what is small not big; near not far.”
Small and near. My Sunday school class, my two kids, qualify. If they are the only ones who show up on Sunday mornings (per strong persuasion from their parents), then their hearts are ample, fertile soil to seed kingdom increase. When seen through those lenses, my teaching becomes less about mass production and more about investment into detail that will, eventually, harvest in larger proportion. I’ve got to believe this is what is at work here. Something I can’t see, but something that God sees. Something that is far beyond my current perception; something that roots at a higher level and that says,
No investment made on behalf of the kingdom is ever wasted. Every seed planted is a choice made for sacred increase.
I do believe this; I do fervently hold to the idea that our every interaction with another human being is an occasion for depositing the kindness, love, and truth of Jesus Christ. I try and adhere to this understanding, but there are times when reasoning gets cloudy. When God’s leading in the past—his thoughts regarding my “next”—seems slow in coming to fruition in my present.
So I step back today, again. I take a look around, breathe in the landscape of my life, and lean into the learnin’ of my Sunday. I hear the voice of a little girl in my mind; her name is Miss Amelia, but it might as well be Faith Elaine. Sometimes it’s hard to differentiate between the two of us.
A girl and her pink guitar and a God who is willing to be “sung” despite strings that are out of tune and words that sometimes get mixed up.
The melody is still the same. The heart is just as pure. And the Lion of Judah? Just as powerful and wonderful as he’s always been. Indeed, a moment this past Sunday. Just a small one, but one big enough to linger throughout the rest of the day.
I pray for the rest of my life.
Some of life’s most important ministry moments aren’t meant for the stage, friends. Sometimes, they’re best taught and lived in the smallness of a Sunday morning song. Perhaps you understand. Keep to it… keep seeding and living your difficult obedience, and I will do the same. God is faithful to grow the holy rest of it. As always…
Peace for the journey,
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