On Sabbath Rest

Tell the Israelites, ‘Surely you must keep my Sabbaths, for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the LORD who sanctifies you’ (Exodus 31:13).

When I was a child, my parents had strict rules about what we were permitted to do on Sunday: No work, no traveling, no board games, no knitting, no lawn-mowing, no shopping, etc. etc. We were told that we were keeping the Sabbath day holy or “set apart” as a day of worship. But when I discovered that the fourth commandment actually referred to Friday sundown to Saturday sundown, I became quite confused.

And then I read this verse in Exodus that says the Sabbaths (plural) were intended for a sign between God and the Jews. Does this mean that, as a Gentile, I need to keep the Ten Commandments, minus one?

To confuse the matter even more, we’re told in Colossians 2:16 (NIV): Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.

In 1989 when we moved into our house on 8th Street in Holland, Michigan, I noticed a drain in the center of the attached garage. One benefit of garage drains, we were told, was for Dutchmen to be able to wash their cars on Sunday without being seen by their neighbors. Apparently judgment was alive and well!

One day as I was pondering this subject, I came across this quote: “Rest is not something one does; it is Someone one knows” (Yashanet.com). Jesus is my Sabbath rest! That means that I can be in a perpetual state of rest. I don’t have to wait for Day #7 for a forced time of inactivity or cessation from work. My soul can be at rest 24-7 if I live by faith, obey the promptings of the Holy Spirit, place my cares in God’s hands, and stay connected to Him. This removes the guilt of trying to figure out what is or what isn’t classified as work.

Is there a physical law of nature that says we benefit from a day of rest? Yes, of course. My body belongs to God, and I’m to take care of it in a healthy way, not abuse it or overwork it perpetually by choice or by drive or by emotion. Working for the kingdom can be stressful but peaceful. Resting can be hard work too. A forced rest due to a broken leg or a hospital stay can be less than peaceful. It’s the heart attitude that determines how well we rest.church-in-the-middle-of-the-field_1088-86

Jesus, I am resting, resting,
In the joy of what Thou art.
I am finding out the greatness of thy loving heart.

 

The Responsibility Backpack

Responsibility (n): a moral obligation to behave correctly toward or in respect of; a thing that one is required to do as part of a job, role, or legal obligation

Responsibility is a backpack. It’s light if nothing is in it. But if another person inserts a nature-climbing-backpack-mountain-cloud_1320-154load of rocks, it feels like there’s nothing I can do, except carry it. I may release resentment, but I’m still carrying the load because the person is unable to do so right now. Tired. Tiring. Willing—because I have no choice, but hard nonetheless.

Oh, I could take the backpack off and lay it down, but that’s not really an option. Remember: “He’s not heavy; he’s my brother.” But that thought doesn’t help. The rocks are still heavy on my back. “Let Jesus carry it” doesn’t cut it either. I believe He’s the One who put them there in the first place! It’s my responsibility.

Why do I feel like I need to bow my soul in sympathy when a hurting person bares her heart to me? When a natural disaster occurs? When someone is dying or sick or depressed? I don’t want to be blasé about it, but I also can’t carry the weight and the pain for another person.

But it’s when I feel something that I spring into action. If I don’t feel, does that mean I don’t care? If I don’t care, will I spring into action? Is it a trigger or a prompting of the Holy Spirit?

What am I believing? That I need to curb my emotions and inner joy when I’m working with depressed and wounded people? It would be like joking at a funeral parlor—disrespectful of the mourners. But in the process, I weigh down my own soul.

The Scriptures say, Carry each other’s burdens (Gal. 6:2) AND Each one should carry their own load (Gal. 6:5). So which is it: carry my own or carry another’s? When I’m praying with someone, I’ve agreed to take their load for a bit, but it can get heavy after a while.

So . . . when a person I’m ministering to hands me her burden, it’s okay if it’s only a backpack or a lunch basket. But when she hands me a boulder that I’m unable to lift, I can’t just walk away and say, “Sorry, that’s your problem.” Instead, I can stop, ask the person what she wants to do with her boulder, and then pray for God to lift it for her.

Or . . . if a person hands me her backpack, after a while I can hand it back to her and say, “I can’t carry it for you anymore. You carry it, because when it’s in your hands, you can then make the choice to hand it to Jesus instead.”

As soon as I come to the end of the trail, I can put this backpack down. But then I must pick up another and start down another trail. There’s no break; no rest in between. And not many rest stops along the trail.

Jesus says, “I can carry you as well as your backpack.”

And so, dear Lord, I ask today that You carry me. I am weary, tired, worn out, weak. I need a blessing today, a miracle, some cool clear water to refresh me.

Jesus says, “I am your Sabbath rest.” And that is enough.

(From my 2007 Journal)

On Journaling

Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth;
Keep watch over the door of my lips (Psalm 141:3 NASB).

Beautiful young woman covering her mouth with hand. Isolated.

Who will read these pages when I’m dead and gone? Who will care? My family? A friend or two? Who will have access to them? Anyone? I know of one fellow journaler who lost her life’s words in a house fire. How would I feel about that?

Radio Pastor Donald Cole says that, unless you are a Billy Graham, your sphere of influence will only be toward a handful of people. That’s true, but the ripple effect and exponential possibilities make it imperative for us to be faithful in our spheres of influence.

Should I destroy some of my journals? Blot out any offensive thoughts? If I cannot be honest in my writing, I cannot be honest with myself.

Lord, I can only pray that my words will not harm anyone. Please help me keep a watch over the door of my lips.

God’s Gifting

See, I have called by name Bezalel . . . “I have filled him with the Spirit of God in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all kinds of craftsmanship, to make artistic designs for work in gold, in silver, and in bronze, and in the cutting of for settings, and in the carving of wood, that he may work in all kinds of craftsmanship. Ex. 31:2-5 (NASB)

I think when my big sister was birthed into this world, she sucked out all the creative genes from my mother’s womb and left me with nothing but stick figures for drawing ability. It seems rather unfair to me! Why should she get all the talent?

God called Bezalel by name, filled him with His spirit, and gave him amazing artistic knowledge. And only a few were chosen out of all the tribes of Israel to do this specific work for the wilderness tabernacle. The rest were chosen for other tasks. God is the one who gives the artist his/her ability. It is God who chooses who gets what. We are not to be jealous of each other’s gifts and talents. Neither are we to call God unfair in His treatment of man. I belong to God. He may gift me and use me as He wishes.

In truth, I’m immensely proud of my big sister’s accomplishments. I am delighted to be associated with a master craftswoman. Want to see some of her work? Go to Gourdsbygrace.com

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Pursuing Peace

Deep in an upstairs closet hides a large plastic tote crammed with journals I have kept since 1966. My father started this journey when he gave me a small, green diary in which I nightly recorded all the trivial events of my day. Later I discovered the power of keeping track of my inner thought life, my spiritual growth, my struggles with handling the daily life of raising three girls, teaching school, and figuring out who I was meant to be (that happened when my life turned upside down on July 3, 2001).

It seemed such a shame to bury all that experiential wisdom I’d gained, and I wanted a way to share it with my girls, but I knew they’d never have time in the busyness of their own lives to plow through all the years I’ve recorded. So here you go, girls, distilled into bite-size chunks for your edification and encouragement. And if anyone else wants to come along with us in this journey, you’re welcome to join in.

For starters, here are my two life verses. Everything I do and everything that’s meaningful to me is anchored in my pursuit of relationship with God. Be still inside, stay focused on Him, trust Him in all things, and you’ll be at peace.

Be still, and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10a).

Thou wilt keep him [her] in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he [she] trusteth in thee (Isaiah 26:3).

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