Tuesday, February 28, 2017

“…From Strength to Strength….” STOP Before You Start Your Journey!

This winter of 2016/2017 has been so unusual with much of our nation experiencing dramatic temperature swings.  In our area we’ve just experienced over a week of balmy spring-like conditions instead of the cold, wind, and icy rain or snow that would have been considered “normal” for this time. These days have produced, for the most part, a sense of energizing refreshment.  I’ve seen people washing cars in their driveways, walking and running in their neighborhoods, even breaking out the grills and eating outdoors at picnic tables.  It’s as if we’ve grabbed hold of a precious gift and made the most of it in order to be refreshed.  We’ve given ourselves permission to stop and enjoy.

As I’ve pondered this, I came upon a somewhat surprising Scripture in my study of David.  This mighty warrior king was experiencing one of the lowest points in his life.  Because of the betrayal of his beloved oldest son Absalom, the scene finds David leaving Jerusalem behind and running in humiliation for his life.
“But David went up the ascent of the Mount of Olives, weeping as he went, barefoot and with his head covered...And the king and all the people who were with him, arrived weary at the Jordan.  And there he refreshed himself.”  2 Samuel 15:30-16:14.

Wondering how David could ever have refreshed himself in light of the circumstances, I pursued the meaning of that Hebrew word.  I discovered that it actually means “to be breathed upon, to be refreshed repeatedly as if by a current of air.”  It means a deep soul rest.  There are only two other instances of this form of that word being used in the Old Testament and they are:
“Six days you shall do your work, but on the seventh day you shall rest; that your ox and your donkey may have rest, and the son of your servant woman, and the alien, may be refreshed.”  Exodus 23:12

“It is a sign forever between me and the people of Israel that in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.”  Exodus 31:17

In our culture beasts of burdens and servants are no longer relevant.  However, our lifestyles and often, work ethic, certainly affect everyone and everything around us.  I realized that Sabbath rest is more than just ceasing to work.  It involves actually turning from work and grabbing hold of precious space and time to enjoy.

Dan Allender, in his book, “Sabbath,” speaks of being invited by God to celebrate with Him in the cool of the day.  He refers to this as a “sanctuary in time” where we are invited to step out of the week’s frenzy and embrace the slowing, the fellowship with those we love, and the taking of time and space to see God’s plan for our lives with new eyes.  The refreshing comes from within.  It is the Breath of the Holy Spirit allowing us true soul play.
As we continue with our focus on the spiritual disciplines, would you consider keeping the Sabbath truly holy by embracing soul rest as a practice during the upcoming Lenten season?  Ask the Lord for His refreshment during this time.
“And He said to them, ‘The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.  So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.’”   Mark 2:27
Resources for Going Deeper:
​​"Sabbath"  by Dan Allender
"Spiritual Disciplines Handbook"  by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun
"Soul Feast"  by Marjorie Thompson

Thursday, February 9, 2017

“…From Strength to Strength…” The Journey Begins

Embarking on any journey involves planning as well as a certain amount of discipline in order to ensure success.   Yet, the word “discipline” gets a bad rap.

Isn’t it true that upon hearing it, our default thinking goes immediately to the negative and embraces a tone of harshness, severity…sometimes even chastisement?  Yet the word simply means instruction or training.  It’s the type of training that develops self-control, character, orderliness and efficiency.  Who among us would not desire those qualities in our lives and in our journeys?
There are also such things as Spiritual Disciplines.
These are tried and true practices that will forge character.  By intentionally setting them in place, we actively make space for God in our hearts and in our lives. 
These practices can be as simple as:
  • Resolving not to look at your phone in the morning until you’ve opened the Word of God;
  • Walking past that darling pair of shoes on the sale rack.  You’d love to have them.  You certainly don’t need them;
  • Refraining from giving your opinion while having lunch with the girls…even though you have one.  Holding back words that don’t need to be said is a discipline; 
  • Setting a timer on your phone mid-day to stop, listen, and just “be” aware of the Presence of God.

Or they can include ones that are more radical, such as:
  • Intentionally pulling away for a time…or times…of solitude and silence;
  • Fasting one day a week on a regular basis;
  • Putting Scripture memorization back in your life as well as setting goals and making yourself accountable to someone for that commitment; 
  • Taking the Sabbath seriously again by worshipping, resting, unplugging!
The Message paraphrase of the Bible captures Christ’s invitation in Matthew 11:28-30:
“Are you tired?  Worn out? Burned out on religion?  Come to me.  Get away with me and you’ll recover your life.  I’ll show you how to take a real rest.  Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it.  Learn the forced rhythms of grace.  I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.  Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” 
Give it some thought.   If you sense the Lord’s invitation, start small…start gradually.    You will be carving out sacred space that will create spiritual rhythms for your journey.  These will take you: “…from strength to strength.”