Practicing Lent: Slowing

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This post is part of my Practicing Lent series where we will explore Spiritual Disciplines that connect us with Jesus in His Word. If you want to find out more about Spiritual Disciplines you can look here. If you have signed up for the Practicing Lent Facebook group, click here to share your experience with others. If you would like to participate in the group, click here to request to join.

I once heard a story about an American traveler on an African safari. A typical type-A American, he wanted to see as much as possible in the time he had on the continent. And because he wanted to see parts of the land where travel was difficult, he hired some local people to carry his supplies.

On the first morning, they got up early and made encouraging progress. The second morning everyone once again rose with the sun and they covered a great distance. The third day the party traveled far. But on the fourth morning, the local people simply sat under the trees and refused to move on.

The American tourist became impatient, but no amount of coaxing would get the men moving again. Finally, through an interpreter, the tourist asked what the problem was.

The translator relayed their message, “They are waiting for their souls to catch up with their bodies.” [Adapted from Soul Keeping (p. 130), by John Ortberg]

Have you ever felt like that? Like you have hurried through your days, sped through your tasks, even rushed through your time with God so quickly that your soul has been left behind?

I know I have.

Our society is built on hurry. We try to pack our days like we pack for a 2-week vacation–into a carry-on suitcase. I see this in the lives of my piano students who hurry from school to piano lessons to soccer practice to math tutoring. I see it in the lives of those in ministry as they rush from church services to Bible studies to community volunteering to board meetings.

I’ll bet there are days or weeks or months when you too, live in a state of hurry. Modern lives are filled with a myriad of good things and we feel we need to rush to fit them all in.

But when we stop long enough to breathe we realize that our soul has been neglected. It’s Tuesday, but it feels like our soul has been left behind at Saturday.

Slowing

To remedy this situation, I suggest we practice the Spiritual Discipline of Slowing. Perhaps this is not a typical Spiritual Discipline. A search in the concordance confirmed that God’s Word does not say “slow down” in those exact words. Yet we see this concept in Scripture when God talks about our need for rest.

God Himself rested on the seventh day of creation. He commanded His people to rest on the Sabbath.

Through the prophet Isaiah, God told the disobedient Israelites:

For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel,
“In returning and rest you shall be saved;
    in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” (Isaiah 30:15)

And the prophet Jeremiah declared,

Thus says the Lord:
“Stand by the roads, and look,
    and ask for the ancient paths,
where the good way is; and walk in it,
    and find rest for your souls.
But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’” (Jeremiah 6:16)

God does not want us to live a life of hurry. In these passages, we see that hurry happens when we insist on relying on our own strength and knowledge. When we feel God’s way is simply too slow and we try to hurry Him along. We step out of His ancient paths in an effort to achieve our objectives–faster.

Jesus’ Example

Perhaps the best Scriptural example of slowing was Jesus Himself. His life was not one of idleness. He was always occupied with preaching, teaching, and healing. Yet in reading the Gospels, I never have the feeling that Jesus hurried. He always took the time that was needed. Even when he was on His way to a very sick twelve-year-old girl, He stopped to speak to a woman who had touched His cloak and been healed of a long, painful illness. (Mark 5:21-33)

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Jesus told His disciples:

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)

Jesus didn’t say that we should sit around and do nothing. Instead, we should work with Him. A yoke is a wooden crosspiece that is fastened over the necks of two animals and attached to a plow or cart. The yoke enables the animals to work together. Jesus invites us to take His yoke, work alongside Him.

I don’t know about you, but hurry frequently enters my life when I attempt to accomplish more than God intends. When I insist on trying to carry all the burdens of this life on my own. In the words of Matthew, I hear Jesus say, “Stop that. Work with me. Don’t take on too much. Don’t try to do it on your own. I have wonderful tasks planned for you, but when you work with Me, it won’t feel like hard labor or a heavy burden. It will be more like rest for your soul. Hurry won’t even enter into the equation.”

Practicing Slowness

So how can we practice slowness and eliminate hurry?

Here are a few suggestions:

Sabbath.The Lord commanded the Sabbath for a reason. He knew we needed it. Time to worship. Time to rest. Time to tend to our souls. If you don’t already observe the Sabbath, I encourage you to take one day a week to engage in corporate worship. To spend time with family and friends. To close the computer or put away the broom. Instead, spend time in God’s Word, read a good book, or take a walk in the woods. (Read more about observing Sabbath here.)

Examine your activities. Is your life one big hurry because you have taken on more than God intended? Take an hour to list all your activities and your family’s activities that involve your time. Prayerfully ask the Lord where you have stepped out of the yoke He has planned for you and tried to do things on your own.

Build a little margin in your day. I’ll admit this is still a hard one for me, but another suggestion for eliminating hurry is to allow more time between appointments and activities. Try not to schedule things back to back. When you need to go somewhere, estimate how long it will take to get there and then allow twice that amount of time. If the drive to the dentist’s office normally takes ten minutes, allow twenty. The extra margin gives you time to notice the lilacs on the way. Or really listen to the words of the song on the radio. If you arrive early, you have time to relax and breathe.

Modern life is fast. We feel we need to keep up. But Dallas Willard, an author who often writes about Spiritual Disciplines, reminds us:

Hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our day. You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.

God knows we need soul rest. And He will provide it.

Next step: Click here to access a free resource with a list of Scriptures about soul rest. Over the next five days, take time to read what God says about rest. Ask Him to teach you and invite Him to point out any changes that need to be made in your life. Thank Him for His promise of soul rest.

 

Seven Resources to Help You Find Soul Rest

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Summer is here and it’s time to rest.

I will be taking a break from blogging for the summer. My daughter and her family have one more month here in the states before they go back to China and I want to concentrate on spending time with them. Plus, I am writing a new book (so excited about this new topic!) and I need to spend some serious writing time to get that finished.

I encourage all of you to take some time this summer to rest. To spend some time with family and friends. To do something you love to do, but don’t always have the time. To connect with Jesus.

To help you find the soul rest that comes from connecting with the Savior, I am listing some of my favorite resources for finding spiritual renewal. Pick one and use it this summer!

seven-resources-soul-restHere are the resources, with links and a favorite quote from each:

A Place of Quiet Rest, by Nancy Leigh DeMoss: “God has a never-ending supply of grace, strength, and wisdom available that He wants to flow through us to others. And we need to keep coming back into His presence to get our supply replenished…If we fail to stop and draw from His fresh, infinite supply of mercy and grace, we will find ourselves having to operate our of our own depleted, meager resources.”

Resting Place, by Jane Rubietta: “Rest helps us find meaning in our work and relationships, gives us places to evaluate what we’re doing with our hours and our hearts, what difference it all makes. Rest–reflection, meditation, breathing in God’s presence–lowers stress, calms our heartbeat and redirects our attention from the created to the Creator.”

Satisfy My Thirsty Soul, by Linda Dillow: The “Prayer of Quiet: Dear Lord Jesus, you once spoke peace to the wind and the waves. Speak Your shalom over my heart. I wait silently…patiently. I receive into the very core of my being Your loving command, ‘Peace, be still.’ Amen.”

Finding Spiritual Whitespace, by Bonnie Gray: “Finding spiritual whitespace isn’t about carving out an hour of time to escape the things that stress us. It’s getting away from everything we do to distract ourselves from all the hidden pieces–in order to nurture our soul. Spiritual rest is a journey of awakening our hearts to fully receive.”

Soul Spa, by Sharla Fritz: “The Father invites us to solitude so we can hear His whisper above the noise of the world. He asks us to come away with Him so we can pour out the messy contents of our hearts. He beckons us to time alone so he can give us what we need.”

The Father invites us to solitude so we can hear His whisper above the noise of the world. Click To Tweet

Soul Spa Kit, free download (sign up at the top of this page): “Who needs a spiritual retreat? You do. Although soul care may seem like a luxury, it is actually a necessity for your well-being. When your spirit is tired and worn, your physical self suffers too. You are less able to be the generous and kind person you want to be. Your heart cries out for more Jesus.”

7 Habits That Promote Soul RestA series of posts here on my blog that outline habits helpful for soul rest: “Ah rest, that is what I need. Soul rest. The kind of rest that would calm my heart.The kind of respite that would obliterate the restlessness in my spirit.The kind of stillness that would cancel out the craziness of this world like noise-cancelling headphones wipe out the pandemonium around me.”

Take time to rest this summer. Let the Lord restore your soul.

In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength. Isaiah 30:15

Next step: Choose one resource to explore this summer. Schedule time each week to rest in the presence of God.

 

 

7 Habits That Promote Soul Rest

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I started a new habit this week: brushing my teeth while standing on one leg.

It looks silly, but the idea is to improve my balance. I heard about this practice from the book Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives, by Gretchen Rubin. Rubin is one of my favorite secular authors and I found this book fascinating. Her premise is that habits make our lives better, because once they are in place we don’t have to think about them. For instance, my overall health is better because I exercise every weekday. I don’t struggle with the decision if I should exercise or not. I just do it. (Huh. That would make a good slogan.)

While I was reading the book, I got to wondering if habits could improve my spiritual life as well. Are there things that I could do every day that would improve my relationship with God? 

7 HABITS THAT PROMOTE SOUL RESTThis idea is not new. God, in fact, instituted a few habits for His people in the Old Testament.

Every year, they were to practice the ritual of Passover–remembering God’s mighty act of bringing them out of Egypt.

Every week the Israelites were to celebrate the Sabbath–ceasing their work and instead spending time worshipping God.

Every day they were to call upon God–“Every day I call upon you, O Lord, I spread out my hands to you” (Psalm 88:9).

 

These habits were all designed to draw the Israelites out of their normal routine and into God’s presence.

God told Moses:

My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest. (Exodus 33:14)

Ah rest, that is what I need. Soul rest. The kind of rest that would calm my heart. The kind of respite that would obliterate the restlessness in my spirit.The kind of stillness that would cancel out the craziness of this world like noise-cancelling headphones wipe out the pandemonium around me.

So what habits and routines promote soul rest? It seems from Exodus 33:14 that the answer is: any routine that draws us into the presence of the Lord.

Over the next few weeks, I will explore a few spiritual habits that will help find that rest. Some will be routines you probably already have in place, like a daily quiet time. But some may be new to you, like prayer journaling. Each habit will have one purpose in mind–to connect with Jesus.

And I promise I won’t urge you to brush your teeth while standing on one leg.


 

Check out all seven habits! Click the links below.

#1 Daily Meeting With God

#2 Gratitude

#3 Perpetual Prayer

#4 One Thing

#5 Sabbath

#6 Prayer Journaling

#7 Personal Spiritual Retreat


 

Next step: Choose one of the 7 Habits that sounds intriguing. Practice it for 21 days to make it a habit. Accept God’s invitation to rest. 

 

The Key to Unlock the Chains of “Doing”

being a doer can in the way of

“What did you do today?”

It’s an innocent question. One I usually like to answer. One I often use to get a conversation going.

It’s even a question I often ask myself.

I’m a doer. You too? We doers like to accomplish things. We make massive to-do lists and find glee in placing little check marks next to completed jobs. (Sometimes we even write down tasks we’ve finished that weren’t on the list just so we can make that satisfying check mark.)

But this week while I was reading and meditating on the psalms, God spoke to me about all my “doing.”

The Key to Unlock the Chains of -Doing-I was reading Psalm 118:5:

In my anguish I cried to the Lord, and he answered by setting me free.

And the Holy Spirit highlighted the phrase “setting me free.” The phrase unsettled my soul. But I couldn’t figure out why.

The phrase conjured up images of chains falling off swollen wrists. Of bursting out of a dark dungeon into blinding sunshine. Of running through a swaying field of flowers.

I asked God why my heart needed to hear that particular phrase.

And the answer was that I have been bound to the chains of “doing.” Being a doer is not a bad thing. But it can get in the way of being a child of God if I am basing my value on my accomplishments. If I’m focusing on what I can do. If I view myself as worthless when my efforts don’t get the results I would like.

In that simple little phrase, “setting me free,” the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart: What if instead of focusing on what you have done, instead of staring at what you haven’t done (ahem where I’ve failed), you began to concentrate on what God has done?

Later in Psalm 118 there is another phrase that grabbed my heart: “proclaim what the Lord has done” (verse 17).

In fact, Psalm 118 is full of things the Lord has done: He has

  • loved me forever (verse 1)
  • set me free (verse 5)
  • helped me (verse 7)
  • protected me (verse 8)
  • done mighty things (verse 16)

And when I look back on the past few weeks of my life, I see that He has:

  • given my husband a good health report–no cancer!
  • helped me recover from a bad cold
  • given me time with my daughter and her family
  • granted me a new book contract

When I focus on “what the Lord has done” the chains of doing and the pressure of accomplishing fall away. 

I am set free.

Next step: What has the Lord done for you this week? Make a list. And as you focus on what God has done, feel the pressure of accomplishment fall away. 

 

Grace for the Overwhelmed

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Are you feeling overwhelmed? Drowning in despair? Floundering in mountains of tasks, duties, and responsibilities?

Find grace for your life in Psalm 3.

This Lenten season I’m exploring the Psalms–reading a few psalms each day and recording what God is speaking to me. (You can join me if you want. Download a free Lenten reading guide here.)

Today I’m exploring Psalm 3–a psalm for the overwhelmed.

Just a little background about this psalm.

The book of Psalms is divided into five “books” or divisions. Psalm 3 is, of course, part of Book 1 (Psalms 1-41). This first book of Psalms is sometimes called the Yahweh Psalter because Yahweh is the name for God that is used most often in this section. Most of the psalms in the “Yahweh Psalter” were written by David.

Scholars have classified the psalms into several categories including: wisdom psalms, hymns, and laments. Psalm 3 is described at a psalm of individual lament. Characteristics of lament psalms are: they often begin with an invocation such as, “Oh, Lord” and they contain a plea for help.

But what I love about this psalm is that it gives hope to the overwhelmed.

David himself was overwhelmed by his enemies when he wrote the psalm. It was written when almost the whole nation of Israel rose up against him–including his own son Absalom.

grace for theIt’s no wonder he cries out in despair:

O Lord, how many are my foes! Many are rising against me, many are saying of my soul, there is no salvation for him in God. (Psalm 3:1-2)

Don’t you love it that we can call out to God whenever we feel beaten down and crushed by life? Yes, the world may doubt that God can help, but we who know the Lord are confident of His help.

And that is what David says next:

But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. I cried aloud to the Lord, and he answered me from his holy hill. (Psalm 3:3-4)

David doesn’t stay in lament mode for long. He quickly acknowledges God’s protection and blessing. He reminds himself that Yahweh hears his prayers.

David is so confident of the Lord’s help, that he goes to sleep:

I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the Lord sustained me. I will not be afraid of many thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around. (Psalm 3:5-6)

God wants us to be so sure of His strength and love that we can rest in Him. Even though thousands of people (or dozens of problems) are against us, we don’t have to be afraid if God is on our side.

Arise, O Lord! Save me, O my God! For you strike all my enemies on the cheek; you break the teeth of the wicked. Salvation belongs to the Lord; your blessing be on your people! (Psalm 3:7-8)

In the end, David call out to God again. He reminds himself that God is the one who saves.

I have to admit that when I’m feeling overwhelmed, I don’t always turn to God first.

I often try to fix things myself. I read more self-help books about time management. I look up information on getting organized–thinking that will help overcome my problems.

Psalm 3 reminds me that God is the “lifter of my head”–the one who gives victory. He is my shield–a Protector against my troubles. He is my Savior.

Yahweh is always available to listen. He longs for me to come to Him for help. Click To TweetWhen I turn to Him the Lord gives rest even in the midst of the chaos.

Are you feeling overwhelmed? Turn to the Lord for help.

Next step: David laments about his many enemies. What or who are the enemies in your life? Difficult people? A multitude of bills? Overwhelming schedule? Write a list and then take it to God. Ask Him for wisdom and power to conquer the foes. Find rest in Him.

Join me in reading through the psalms this Lent. Click here for a free reading guide.

 

 
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Free Resource: 59 Ways to Care For Your Soul

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Have you seen the Baby Blues comic where the Baby Blues mom is driving and gets pulled over by a female cop? The policewoman says, “Ma’am, I noticed you have three small children in the car. Please step out of the vehicle.”

Mom gets out of the car and asks, “Is there a problem?”

Cop replies, “No, I just thought you could use a moment of peace and quiet.”

Once in a while, we all need to pull off the road of carpools, meetings, and errands for a bit of peace and quiet. Taking the exit off the busy highway of life for a short time enables us to experience silence and stillness. Solitary times help us connect with God and hear His voice.

Who needs a spiritual retreat? You do. Although soul care may seem like a luxury, it is actually a necessity for your well-being. When your spirit is tired and worn, your physical self suffers too. You are less able to be the generous and kind person you want to be. Your heart cries out for more of Jesus.

And that’s why I created the Soul Spa Kit: 59 Ideas For Creating Your Own Spiritual Retreat. Inside this resource you will discover the who, what, when, why, where, and how of soul care. This kit is a little like a three-day spa weekend for your soul.

Most of us seldom think about soul care. I know I didn’t. As a type-A person I was much better at making and completing to-do lists even if it meant ignoring my soul’s cries for rest. I said yes to many worthwhile activities and pursuits, but didn’t stop long enough to hear my soul cry out, “Stop!”

Finally, I listened to my soul and took the time to get off the busy highway of life long enough for Jesus to care for my soul. I discovered spiritual practices that helped me connect with my Savior in a deeper way.

What about you? Is your soul crying out for rest? Some of the symptoms of soul fatigue are a feeling of emptiness even though life is full, an almost constant sense of being overwhelmed, and, well, being more than a little snippy with the people you actually love.

We can keep on pushing through life, ignoring our souls and becoming more empty and overwhelmed or we can get off the roller-coaster of life long enough to hear the cries of our spirits and care for them. We can go to Jesus–the Healer of souls. We can take time for a spiritual retreat.

Here are a few ideas from my Soul Spa Kit:

  • Meditate on the Bible story in John 8:1–11. Imagine yourself in the story. Hear the sounds, smell the smells. Look at Jesus. What does your heart experience in meeting Jesus in this story?
  • Dream. Write down your most extravagant dreams for your life. Ask God to show you if they are in line with His will.
  • Create a photo journal. Take a walk in nature and snap photos of things that remind you of God. Later, create a slide show or photo book of the photos with captions of prayers of thanksgiving.

To get my free Soul Spa Kit and find more ideas like this, simply enter your name and email address in the form on the top right-hand corner of my blog.You will then receive a link to the Soul Spa Kit in your inbox.

Give yourself permission to take a little time off from your responsibilities and obligations. Nurture your soul.

59Ways

Time to Rest

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Our modern world rushes on. People rarely stop to rest. Bragging rights are given to those who can exist on the least amount of sleep.

But in truth God created us to need rest.

This past season has been a draining one for me. My husband has been going to chemo therapy for the past six months. He hasn’t felt terrible, but he also hasn’t felt that good.

My mother-in-law, who lived near us in an assisted-living complex, took a turn for the worse. We needed to move her out of her apartment and into full nursing care closer to my husband’s sister in Michigan.

A dear friend died this week after a nine-month battle with cancer. At only age 47, her death seems especially sad.

This summer I have had the joy of launching a new book, speaking to some amazing women, and going to a conference with 4500 other women who love our awesome God.

But now, I think it’s time to rest!

So during the month of August, I will be taking a break from blogging. I will probably do a little writing (I have a new project in mind), but I will not be posting here for awhile. Instead, I will clean out a few closets and corners (ever since I started writing I have been stuffing junk in without taking it out!). I will go on more picnics and read more books. Hopefully my husband and I will have the opportunity to travel a bit to see family.

But mostly, I will rest.

I encourage you to find a season of rest too. Maybe you won’t be able to find rest during the month of August, but look ahead in your calendar to pencil in a day or a week of rest. Sometimes we simply need to get off the roller coaster of life for awhile.

Rest your body. Rest your mind. Rest in God. 

Next step: Look ahead in your calendar to block out a day or a week for rest. Take a vacation. Use a personal day. Or try my friend’s idea to declare an ordinary Saturday “Pajama Day”–lounge in your pj’s, read, catch up on Netflix, nap.

Why We Need to Make an Effort to Rest.

Hebrews 4-11

This week I’ve needed extra rest.

Somehow my husband came down with a summer cold and though I really tried to avoid getting it, I was unsuccessful. All week long I’ve been dragging around the house, sneezing and sniffling. My body has felt very tired. So I’ve gone to bed early. I’ve slept in a little longer in the morning. All to obtain rest.

All this working to get rest got me thinking about a verse in Hebrews that has always seemed like an oxymoron to me:

 Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience. Hebrews 4:11

Make every effort to enter rest? Work hard to rest? Strive to rest?

What does that mean?

This week I read something that helped me understand it a little better. Look at this passage from Jane Rubietta’s book, Resting Place:

“Our fear factor kicks in when we consider going without work, when we contemplate actually viewing God as our Shepherd, who longs to lead us beside waters of rest, who eagerly anticipates restoring our soul, who wants nothing more than to have us lie down in green pastures. Fear looms larger, more real on the horizon of our mind than faith and reduces us to primal survival instincts: I must take care of myself. I’m my own bottom line. God doesn’t love me. God won’t care for me,”

What she is saying is the reason we keep need to make an effort to rest is that it goes against our natural tendencies to believe that God has our back. We think we have to keep working. Because salvation can’t possibly so easy . Because God won’t really provide everything I need.

The bottom line is–a lack of rest demonstrates a lack of trust in God.

Wow.

This new insight makes me realize that the reason I continually need to make an effort to enter God’s rest is that I need to push back my natural tendency to think that if I did just a little more I’d be more successful. I need to stomp down Satan’s suggestion that if I worked a little harder, God will like me more. God wants us to enjoy our work, but He also wants us to rest in Him, in His provision, in His love.

Make an effort to rest.

Question: What is your insight into Hebrews 4:11?