Labor Day

Once a year, we get to cease from our “manic Monday” lives, and be celebrated for the impact our working has had on our society. We mark the end of the summer with this hiatus. We light our grills, don our shopping garb and hit the sales, relax with friends and family. We get to rest. But do we really?

What about our souls? Deep within where no one can see, do you feel yourself striving? Are you striving to be more, to do more, to be a better person, to be more diligent…to be seen? We hide these inner longings with stuff. The busy trappings of a life fully lived. Work, school, kids, chores, laundry, diapers, christian service, community service, hospitality, good works. I’m not denying the value of any of these things. They are all good and should be done. But do they drive us? When our tired heads crash into the fluff of our pillows at night, do they consume us still? Are we able to rest or are we thinking about all of our stuff? Do we feel full with overflow…ready to pour out again tomorrow not of necessity, but rather abundance? Why are we striving at all?

We all know labor. The toil and motion of our days. The drive to accomplish more or be a little better. So we reach and stretch like ace bandage around the wounds of our lives, hiding the inner longing from the masses. Gaining momentum so we can do more tomorrow. We know the ache of muscles overused. The dull of a mind overspent. The fog of lack of slumber and heavy heart. We may not labor everyday. We may even enjoy it. We, hopefully, take time out to laugh and enjoy the moments of greatness. We rest a bit now and then, but is rest a lifestyle?

I contend that every day should be labor day. Jesus said this in the book of Matthew: “Come to Me, all you 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.  

The answer to our striving is always found in our following. Jesus didn’t ask us to be better. Jesus took our ‘bad’ upon himself, bore our sorrows and took our shame. Jesus provided freedom for our souls. Freedom from the burden of striving. When we come to him, we are free to be. In him we find rest. He joins us in the yoke of life, strapped in together with us and carries the burden for us. We simply walk with him.

There will always be hustle and bustle circling overhead. There will always be things to do and commotion to tame. But there will always be Jesus soothing our souls with the balm of his peace. He washes our hearts with his spirit, quiets us with his love and calls us righteous. None of this is based on what we can do or have done. Though our righteousness was as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6), he clothes us with his righteousness (Romans 3).

Today, I encourage you to rest in him. Enjoy this labor day, knowing that you were created for his good pleasure, that he delights in you and that you are loved more than you can ever imagine. Happy Labor Day!

Rest

Spiritual Common Sense

Is it my imagination or does the general populace seem a little less educated these days? I understand the need for ridiculous warning labels in our litigious society, like the one I once saw on a stroller that said “Do not close stroller with child inside” or the “Caution, Hot!” warnings on coffee cups. I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Legal Studies. I’ve read the case-law and I get the need despite how dumb it may seem to most. Still, there are some things I find hard to understand. For example, this sign is posted in the waiting room at my pediatrician’s office.

Signs

The fact that this has happened frequently enough to warrant signage is baffling!  Really?! I would think a little bit of common sense would kick in here, but we live in a world fallen. Sensibility has been lost to either convenience or blindness. People, without thinking, follow whatever desire or instruction that seems right to them in the moment. “There’s a way that seems right unto a man…” Proverbs 14:12

Some of this lack of sense can seep into our spiritual lives as well. It’s usually hard to see when it’s you who’s senseless but unfortunately, those around you see it clearly. The saddest example of this, in my opinion, are those people you meet who are overflowing with potential. You see them destined for greatness, yet there is something in their life that they always return to…that habit they just can’t kick or that stronghold and insecurity that holds them captive time and time again. You want to shake them and convince them that their destiny is so much better than the misery they continually choose. You weep for them every time they run back down the same old path. Take another lap around the mountain, Moses. We don’t have this one figured out just yet. 

When they are on, they are on! Joy exudes from them like sunshine warming the summer sky. Their smiles are contagious, their victories triumphant. Then it all starts unraveling and they are gone again. Somehow, they forget that the only joy and peace they’ve ever known was in Him. They think if they dabble a little with this or that, they won’t end up right where they always do. Then they are on the bottom once again asking what went wrong. Common sense lost at the mercy of lust and desire. 

Then there are those who desire all the benefits or God without the willingness to actually follow His precepts. This is particularly annoying to me. They can’t understand why they are broke or sick or why everything goes wrong for them, yet they are self-seeking and fully committed to do things their own way. God usually doesn’t bless the “my way” approach. When we follow Him, it works out so much better. 

Which leads me another category of senselessness, the Pharisees who judge every unpleasant thing to be a result of wrongdoing or sin on the part of the distressed party. Sometimes this is the case but not always. I don’t believe that every sniffle or backache is directly a result of my personal sin. I don’t believe death is always the result of sin. Yes, sometimes it can be. The Bible is full of sowing and reaping. However, anyone who holds strictly to this philosophy has never read the book of Job. Job was a godly man who suffered greatly. His suffering was not a result of his sin though his friends tried to insist it was. Sometimes suffering happens. We should be concentrating on what God wants to do in our lives through our sufferings rather than whining and balking against it. 

And let’s talk about death. Death is a part of life. Yes, it is a result of original sin. “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned—” Romans 5:12. We act as if death is the ultimate penalty, as if God is somehow less faithful when death occurs. This is ludicrous! Hebrews 9:27 says that it is appointed for men to die. We don’t even need that scripture to prove this to us. One out of one is going to die. Those are not the best odds. We know this and if we are believers, this shouldn’t be considered a bad thing. Eternity with the most high God sounds pretty good to me. Why do we complain about it? I’m missing something. Our lives here on Earth are but a vapor. We need to start thinking a little more broadly. Focus on what matters, the eternal, not the temporal. Just common sense. 

There is a lot of happy-go-lucky, everything should be rosy and nicey nice all of the time, theology out there. It’s fun to hear. The blessings of God are awesome!!! Spiritual common sense tells us to find a little balance. Instead of blaming God when things go wrong, how about finding a little perspective. First we should examine ourselves and see if we are merely reaping something we’ve sown. 
Whatever the reason, common sense tells us to examine the nature of God – that His plans are to prosper us, to give us a hope and a future (Jer. 28:11). I hope that in everything I can trust Him. 

One last rant and I will stop. Common sense should tell us that we will never reach the lost with the love of Christ by bullying them and being just plain mean. Common sense reads the Bible and sees that God calls us to love others, particularly the lost. Love doesn’t condemn, love doesn’t avoid, love thinks the best of others. I remember someone once telling me I should not associate with sinners because they would drag me down. That is absurd! I shouldn’t compromise my faith EVER, but Jesus diligently sought out the lost.

When Christians can say that they don’t have any ‘unsaved’ friends, I cringe. What are we doing if we are not actively loving others. Loving your neighbor doesn’t mean being nice and putting on a plastic smile when you see a stranger. Loving your neighbor means laying down your life for another, getting your hands a little dirty and finding out how you can serve another person, having people over on a Friday night when you’re tired, spending an hour on the phone with a friend whose husband disappeared again, being willing to be real. We are called to love! 

Furthermore, when Jesus or Paul condemned sin in the Bible, they were talking to the church or the religious people of the day. They condemned sin in the lives of believers! You will not find an instance where Christ condemned a non-believer. He showed them love and mercy. He brought them into relationship with himself. Paul talks in Ephesians 5 about not even associating with believers who were actively involved in sin. He is addressing believers here. Common sense says we don’t condemn sin outside the church while justifying it inside the church. 

Phew, I can breathe now. 🙂 What about you? Are there areas you notice where we could use a little more spiritual common sense? 

Everybody Talks

I hope I’m not becoming a talker. I’m sure you’ve met people who you can sit down with for any length of time and you quickly see that they can have a conversation with anyone and escape can be difficult. Before long they might even be having a conversation all by themselves while you are plotting a polite exit route and thinking about a million things that have nothing to do with the words floating in the air. Often, I realize I can’t even understand them anymore. They are suddenly speaking an entirely different language referencing things that clearly interest them, but have no meaning or value to me. I sit there nodding along, faking a smile, trying so hard to be a patient and Godly woman and praying they don’t find me callous.

I’ve never been good at making conversation so in part I’m thankful for the talkers of the world. I think this comes from my mixed heritage. My mother is a talker. My father is one of the quietest men on the planet. Together, they made me, a strange concoction of timidity and passion. I may not be able to start a conversation but if you get me going, look out! I can talk a person’s ear off and not realize I’m doing it until I recognize the blank stare forming on their face and I can read the thoughts behind their eyes saying, “Good Lord, how do I make it stop!”

It doesn’t help that I have an opinion about everything. I feel very strongly about what I believe and this passion can sometimes become a myriad of soapbox appearances that others can find amusing or annoying or a mixture of both.

Over the past few months, I’ve made a commitment to work on controlling my mouth a little better. The tongue can be an unruly little booger. I hate those moments when I say something and I instantly feel like I shouldn’t have said a word. I know that a wise woman considers the words she’s about to inflict on the earth around her before she speaks. I want to be a wise woman.

Proverbs 15:1-4 “A soft answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise uses knowledge rightly, but the mouth of fools pours forth foolishness. The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good. A wholesome tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.”

Scripture is very clear about how much of a mess we can make with our mouths. Proverbs 18:21 “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” I feel like this verse is often taken completely out of context and abused, but that’s a soapbox for another day. If you read the verses preceding this scripture, it’s speaking about offenses and strife. It can be so easy for us to say something that would offend someone or sow strife and animosity. This can cause others to fall into a spiritual state of emergency. Taming our tongue is important for us, for others and for our spiritual health.

James 3:2-11 “If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body. Indeed, we put bits in horses’ mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body. Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires. Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening?”

Lord, let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable to you. Let me learn to be quiet when I should. Help me to bite my tongue when anything unruly tries to take control. Help me to think of the effect my words have on others and be a woman of wisdom and self-control.

Christmas

Here lies a wandering world, numbed by silence and lulled to slumber in the bed of their own consequences. Hearts yearning for “something more”, frustration and longing for love and satisfaction gripping them with fists of disillusionment. “I thought my life would be different.”

Glimmer of hope, Jupiter crowned in Regulus, star to cut the darkness brightly. King of all wrapped in cloak of skin, divinity set aside in submission to meager mortal. Love beyond comprehension. Inconceivable wonder. (You keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means.)

Care and protection of the Godhead assigned to lowly frame of girl and boy. Unspeakable mystery. “Be it unto me according to your word.” Prophecies of old fulfilled in one. Odds too numerous to imagine. Proof through faith and Science of a living God who set the heavens in motion for this moment.

Christmas tree, gift of God, hanging sinless in agony for the very ones who scourged him. Forgiving and zealous for the waiting world. Accepting the blame for our mistakes. Tree of life, glorious cross. Beauty from despair, newness from death. Lasting satisfaction and peace given freely from scarred hands of mercy.

I am eternally grateful.

Photo by Gino Santa Maria

Photo by Gino Santa Maria