Monday, February 23, 2015

A Rushed Spirit (or, What I Learned from Gallup, NM)

I’ve been stuck somewhere in Sabbath the last few weeks. Observing. Learning. Enjoying. I keep trying to leave, but can’t seem to get my car started. The ignition won’t turn over. So, it’s apparent there’s more to explore, and so I’ll stay a little longer. It’s rather reminiscent of the many times our car simply broke down (multiple times, I might add) on road trips to or from Phoenix in Gallup, NM. We’d have to find cheap motels and hole up (note the emphasis on cheap!), while some mechanic or another ordered parts, and repaired our car. Gotta say, the Valley of Sabbath is much more inviting than Gallup, NM (even if you love Gallup, you would have to admit this to be true!). 

One thing I know when it comes to truths the Lord teaches: Lessons aren’t meant to just sit in my brain as information, they are meant to work their way to my heart, and come out as transformation. Generally, this means I must put into practice what I’m being taught. I’ve labeled this, “Doing the work.” Some people don’t like that phrase, because it has a scent of legalism to it. In answer to that, I would say this. It’s not legalism when the “work” that’s done is from a heart of love and a want to be like the one who sacrificially graced me with NEW LIFE. So, yes, grace works. I mean that on many levels.

OK, I digressed. Back to practicing Sabbath. I have. Bay’s been on the road traveling, so while he’s been gone, I organized my work schedule in order to take a “Sabbath day.” I knew if I stayed at home, everything from laundry to dust bunnies that live in the corners would be calling my name, distracting me. As a result, I picked a place I LOVE, and decided I would go there to Sabbath. It’s a special place in the heart of the Phoenix Zoo (I happened to be in Phoenix, and not Colorado during this brief time-period). My special place is a bench in an area that no one would visit, unless they wanted to do what I was doing, be alone. My plan was to read, to sit, to ponder, to walk, and to to write (in no particular order). My goal was to simply be present with Jesus (in His presence is fulness of joy)

 Here’s what I noted. I do not Sabbath well. I simply struggle to rest. There is a restlessness inside me that can not be silenced. It screams. It wrestles. It struggles. It’s not unlike the lemurs that are on a nearby island. They don’t seem to rest either; and, have you ever heard a lemur scream? Enough said. I have a lemur-mind, that makes it DIFFICULT (not impossible) to Sabbath. So, I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, and about then, I heard the Lord whisper five words. Well, they just popped into my mind, and they sounded so much like the Lord, that I took it as His voice. “You are a rushed-spirit!” There it is. Guilty, Lord!

Over the years, I’ve mastered multi-tasking; making every minute count; producing much even out of little. My calendar has been full. I’ve counted my value based on the events on a calendar (I got that from my mom who felt it necessary to fill every day of the week with words, even though she may have nothing of significance to attend). MY BEHAVIORS turned me into a rushed-spirit. So rushed that life just whizzed by, and I missed a lot of Selah-Moments that should have been meaningful. 

So, back to Gallup, NM (I know you wondered if I had a point with that!). Seriously, we broke down so many times in Gallup, we stopped going that direction. Instead, we decided to go a different route (we also have newer cars, which might help). Here's the point. Follow a different road. There in the middle of Sabbath, I realized one of the reasons I’ve been stuck; it’s time to heed the warning signs of the rushed-spirit, and go a different direction. This may sound I bit mystical, but after confessing that to the Lord, I took another deep breath, turned my hands over on my knees (palms up) and told the Lord I was symbolically giving Him that rushed-ness, and now was open to receive whatever He had for me. 

Palms up: a sign of vulnerability and surrender. 
Palms up: I’m “letting go” to “take in”.
Palms up: I’m no longer in control, not even of my rest.
Palms up: I trust you.
Palms up: My invitation to be still and to know…You.

The biggest hurdle to Sabbath-rest and the Joy of Jesus is a rushed-spirit! 

I’m to remember this: Structured pauses are essential to prevent being overcome and overwhelmed by the true rest of God that can be experienced DAILY.  


A P.S. As our son, Adam, then a lieutenant in the US Army, was entering Baghdad, Iraq for the first time in 2004 (on his birthday, no less), he noticed some graffiti written on a wall. It read, "I (heart) Gallup, New Mexico"! Having been with us during those multiple break-down seasons of life, and having broken down there himself on drives home from college, Adam’s first thought was this, “I must be in hell…” For us, Gallup was not a fun place. Just so, Iraq was not either. However, for the record, sometimes those not-so-fun places are a gift. They offer us a chance to slow down and remember what’s important. When we remember, we begin to Sabbath. That’s a another good lesson.


Take aways this week:

Monday, February 16, 2015

Remember! Remember!

The last few weeks Bay and I have been staying down in Phoenix. We’ve found in the middle of winter, it is much easier to fly in and out of the Valley of the Sun (duh!), than to attempt to get out of Durango, or Denver for that matter. Phoenix is filled with memories, just as the little town in Oregon where I grew up. Every time we drive somewhere, this event or that particular opportunity fills my mind. Sometimes, mentally reliving the past makes me sad. Example: just yesterday I drove past the McDonald’s where I spent numerous Tuesday, and sometimes, Thursday nights with one of my little grandson’s while his mama taught night classes. It was part of our routine. As soon as he got to our house, we’d hop in the car and go to “Donald’s.” Of course, it wasn’t because the dining was extraordinary, they just happened to have a marvelous play area. He’d play; I’d watch and read, alternately. Did I mention, we did this A LOT! The memories of his little-boy-cuteness made me smile. Then I got sad - I miss those special times with him. We don’t get them quite like that anymore (although we are making new memories). So, the pros and cons of that kind of nostalgia have been working their way through my mind. Here’s where I’ve settled:

I used to think focusing on the past dangerously drew us toward depression, now I know we need “remembering” in order to rest fully in the Sovereignty of God.

There’s more. As I rest, I fully Sabbath. As I fully Sabbath, I find joy.

However, I’m focusing this morning on the first statement, which is true, by the way (and, while I still think that focusing too much on the past can nostalgically put us into a place for depression to do its work), I now understand the importance of remembering. Besides, it’s mandated as a part of Sabbath. If Sabbath has a Golden Rule to rest, Sabbath also has a secondary rule to remember. 

The book of Deuteronomy repeats God’s great commandments. But there is a difference four verses into the passage:
“You shall remember (emphasis mine) that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore, the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day (5:15).”

This mandate of remembering is not contradicting the apostle, Paul’s words, that say this:

“Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:13b-14).”

Some things we remember will simply bog us down - they may be good things; or, they may be tragic. Yet, they are those things which, for lack of a better word, stifle us. Like quicksand, they cause us to be stuck and swallowed up. That’s the kind of remembering Paul warns about. What the Lord wants is for us to remember HIM in our past. Where has He been the hero of our stories? How has He rescued us? Where has He proven faithful? What has He done in our lives that only He could have done? How did we make it through the tough-stuff because He had to have been involved? Where has God been, well, God in the middle of my story, even when I may not have seen Him there at the moment? 

I need to remember my history with God, so I can walk boldly into my future without fear!  

That is the BIG IDEA of Sabbath remembering. I remember with hope! Maybe that’s also why God instructed Moses in this way:

“Write this (the story of the mighty Amalekite army being overcome by the minuscule Israelite warriors) on a scroll as something to be remembered and make sure that Joshua hears it…(Exodus 17:14).”

Make sure Joshua hears it! Write it down for him. Oh, how we need each other’s stories. How we need to REMEMBER the faithfulness of God, in order to boldly walk forward into tomorrow. I’m challenged. Keep remembering. Keep telling. Keep writing. Keep on…it’s the key to HOPE!

Monday, February 9, 2015

Whoopsie! Another Giant!

A couple of weeks ago, I sat in the Denver airport, waiting on a delayed flight, catching up on some work, as well as reflecting on this journey toward joy that I’ve been researching, reading up on, and reflecting over. I decided I feel a little bit like Lewis and Clark, exploring the West, and mapping as they traveled. So, as I sat in the Woody Creek Cafe, I grabbed a napkin and began to “map” where I’ve been, as well as where I thought I was heading. I probably got ahead of myself. Actually, I know I did. Yet, the map I created has had me a little antsy to move forward. Still, I find myself wandering about in the Valley of Sabbath. It’s a very large place, and the map I made, definitely needs to be revisited another time. In the meantime, I may be here a week or two more.

Last week I mentioned the giant named Fear, whom I ran into on my exploration. No more had I settled his argument with me, than I turned around to discover yet another giant. This one named Unbelief. I discovered he has no small number of offspring in the valley, as well. Here’s my story with Unbelief, and, for the record, if you have trouble truly “sabbathing” (Ok! I know this is not a word, but it works here), you may be in a wrestling match with Unbelief and not even know it. He’s a subtle giant.

For me, when I’m not speaking, Sunday is my Sabbath. I’ve chosen it to be my Day of Rest. I incorporate into Sunday, those things that help me to sabbath and to renew. Yet, I have also fallen into this pattern of doing things on my Sabbath afternoon that help me catch up, and even get ahead, for the new week. This happened just yesterday…again. It’s been a busy few weeks. Between travel, board meetings, being with our oldest daughter who just had surgery, some company, and a kazillion little things, I am BEHIND! So, when yesterday rolled around, and it was a free day, I began seriously considering what my “to do” list might look like for the day. I even sat down and created said list, which included this morning’s blog and ten more items. It seemed easier to sit down and do the work, than to Sabbath. 

Here’s the thing about subtle giants, like Unbelief: they are great at rationalizing and justifying. They don’t rant or rave, they just lie and guide you away from the goal. “If I get these things done today, tomorrow will be so much more doable,” I excused. “If I do this now, I’ll really be able to have peace of mind, and that will be my way to rest,” I reasoned. However, all the while, there was a still small voice saying, “If you are truly going to Sabbath, you need to trust my Sovereignty.” 

Seriously, Lord? What does marking a few things off my list have to do with your Sovereignty? Yet, that is what the Isaiah 58 passage I began with is all about. It’s a warning. Here it is again:

“If you keep your feet from breaking Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day; if you call Sabbath a delight, and the Lord’s day honorable; and if you honor it by not going your own way, and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, THEN YOU WILL FIND YOUR JOY IN THE LORD (emphasis mine), and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land, and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob!” The mouth of the Lord has spoken.
Isaiah 58:13-14, NIV

It’s about not breaking Sabbath. It’s about not doing business as usual (“doing as you please”). It’s about trusting that God is bigger than this thing called “chronos” (ordered time), and wants us to enjoy “kairos” (an experience in time). Yet, I wasn’t trusting God to be God of my Chronos. I wasn’t taking Him at His Word for the promise that follows His specific directions regarding Sabbath. The sad part of all this is that this isn’t the first time. It’s a pattern of behavior, I have fallen into, regularly. Without realizing it, I had submitted to the giant of Unbelief.

The children of Israel fell into the same pattern of behavior. They submitted to Unbelief, as well. Have you read Hebrews, chapters 3 and 4, recently (I’ve attached a link for you, if you want to take a look). Here’s the gist. There is a Sabbath Rest for the people of God. It’s not just a suggestion, it’s a command. To disregard the command is (gulp) disobedience. To disregard the command prevents us from entering/experiencing that Rest. The more it is disregarded, the more the hearts of God’s people harden. The Lord says this, “So, we see that they were unable to enter because of Unbelief (3:19).” 

Sabbath isn’t a follow-the-rule-day. But God…He knows the hearts of His kids. We won’t truly Sabbath because trusting Him, even with little things, like time, is hard. We won’t Sabbath on our own. So, He gives us a day, and He asks us to take it. Taking it is a faith-stretching-opportunity to grow in restoration, and BELIEF...and joy!

That’s why this morning’s blog is late…but I’m better for it! I definitely woke up with a heart of joy!

Monday, February 2, 2015

A Giant in the Land!

On my journey for joy, I've been waylaid by Sabbath. The two are intricately connected...joined at the hip, married... In fact, in Buchanan's book, The Rest of God, he says, "We're called to sanctify Sabbath, literally to betroth it, to think of it as our treat it with an extra measure of reverence and to live in it with a higher degree of attentiveness." In other words, believer, we can't enjoy one without the other! If anything, this has been a most valuable lesson on this most recent adventure.

Sabbath has been a wonderful place to visit: enjoyable...enlightening...refreshing...RESTFUL! I've also discovered right there in the middle of Sabbath Valley, tucked away behind Peaceful River and Green Pastures, a playground to rival Disneyland. It is filled with fun and laughter, and flies in the face of the practical. Sabbath's play yard has no taskmasters; it is, plain and simple, a place to simply romp (something I haven't done freely, or without guilt, since, oh, maybe kindergarten). It makes sense that there would be a play ground in Sabbath Valley, since Sabbath's first Golden Rule is to get out of the everyday rut and move away from the Ought-to of life. Playfulness ensures this Golden Rule is accomplished.

HOWEVER, as I began to explore this fun-zone of restoration, I ran into the UNEXPECTED: a giant. I've met this big, ugly oaf before in battle. However, unlike young David, I failed to cut off his head...or perhaps it was a look-alike offspring. I'm not sure. Either way, he knew me, and knew he had me. His name? Not Goliath. No, Fear! Let me explain with an illustration.


It was a gorgeous fall Sunday in Montana. We had just spent a wonderful day worshipping with an unfamiliar body of believers, who quickly became new "family" in Jesus. 

We'd celebrated and enjoyed a meal with real relatives, we hadn't fellowshipped with in years due to distance. 

We'd rested on a flower-potted-patio overlooking a gorgeous lake with incredible mountain views. There, we'd read for fun, not for learning anything. 

Then, as the sun began to lower, our gracious hosts invited us down to the lake to enjoy the refreshing water in either kayak or wave runner, or both. Without hesitation off we went, me thinking I'd enjoy the fun from the dock. Safe. Not risky. No chance of falling in or falling off. 

Fear began sneaking up behind me. By the time we reached the dock, and a kayak had been pulled out for me to "just try it," he was beating me up, this big bully. He was winning. I knew it. He knew it. No one else seemed to notice or have my back. 

Into the kayak I went. (Maybe the others did notice, and just refused to let Fear win, for in spite of all my hesitation and all my excuses, they pushed me on...Hmmmm!). A few lessons later, a paddle in hand, my little one-man boat was shoved out into the lake. It was a do or die moment. So, in spite of heart racing, and pounding erratically, and a kazillion "what ifs" running through my brain, I did....and, loved it! With Fear close on my tail, continuing to ridicule me, I simply ignored him, until he finally gave up and went away. Gotta say, I enjoyed every minute. Bay and I floated, and paddled, and enjoyed the beauty, as well as the experience together. By the time we returned to the safety of the dock, Sabbath had her full effect on me. REFRESHED! RESTED! So RENEWED, my soul soared in rejuvenation. 

Some of you fearless players may laugh at my dilemma. Who would have thought that Fear would inhabit any part of Sabbath Valley...or The Lord-of-the Sabbath's playground? Yet, he does. He will use anything at anytime. Why? Because this big old bully wants to steal away our joy. I never was good on playgrounds. I always played it safe, never took risks, because I was always too afraid of what might happen. My experience with Fear has been all too real, and many times over, he has won. Here's what I learned that afternoon on a calm mountain lake: Looking Fear in the face, ignoring his threats, disallowing his control over me, awakened something new in me. It awakened a long lost ability to play, to risk imperfection, and ridicule, for JOY'S SAKE. 

...and, I wonder, how many "Sabbath moments" have I missed because I allowed Fear to overcome? I don't want to do that any more! I want to experience what Jesus promised:

Though "the thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy; I have come that you might have life more abundant (John 10:10)"

I never want to miss one Sabbath moment of pure joy!


P.S. Just to qualify - I'm not talking about "don't try this at home" type events where only professional stunt men should attempt daredevil acts of defiance. No, I'm not talking about throwing caution to the wind. I'm talking about those ordinary moments that I might miss because of unrealistic, toxic fears that hold me back from experiencing LIFE-to-the-FULL, simply because of Fear. Fear of being hurt. Fear of being imperfect. Fear of being made fun of. Fear that simply paralyzes when I could be set free. It's God's invitation to let him indulge us with the gift of fun! After all, "the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath (Mark 2:27)!"