God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear,
Even though the earth be removed,
And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;
Though its waters roar and be troubled,
Though the mountains shake with its swelling. Selah
There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God,
The holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved;
God shall help her, just at the break of dawn.
The nations raged, the kingdoms were moved;
He uttered His voice, the earth melted.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah
Come, behold the works of the Lord,
Who has made desolations in the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two;
He burns the chariot in the fire.
Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!
The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah
I don’t know about you, but I often have a very hard time slowing down. World news, an over-dependence on my distracting cell phone, and bouncing between to-dos can leave me feeling like I’m in constant motion. In Psalm 46, the Lord tells us to be still, but He doesn’t pretend that achieving stillness is easy. The psalm paints pictures of roaring waters, shaking mountains, and raging nations—images that call current events to mind a little too easily. And yet, amid all of these troubles, the Lord calls us to be still. And in that stillness, He says, we have the blessed opportunity to know Him.
Continue reading Be Still
In Sunday School recently, my kids learned about the manna that the Lord provided for the children of Israel while they wandered the wilderness (Exodus 16). They got to glue puffed rice “manna” to their coloring pages and got to gather this same manna into cups to enjoy as a snack. I noticed that my son had not one, but two cups full of manna, and I gently scolded him for taking more than he needed—which was exactly what the children of Israel were told NOT to do. He grinned at me and said, “But I’m pretending tomorrow is the Sabbath. That means I had to gather twice as much.” Clever kiddo.
This sweet and somewhat silly interaction with my son reminded me of my personal struggles with excess. I have serious FOMO (fear of missing out) when it comes to a number of opportunities. Sales are one example. I can’t stand missing a good deal. I also struggle with eating more than I need. I don’t just have a sweet tooth—I have a mouthful of sweet teeth. I also tend to pile too much on my plate in a more figurative sense: sometimes I have a really hard time saying “no” to things I want (or believe I need) to do.
I think this is a normal pitfall for a lot of us. After all, the Lord urges us to pursue a life of use. That often translates to a desire to jump on any service project that comes along. The school play needs costumes? I’ll make them! A working parent needs help with child care? Add your kid to my zoo—the more the merrier! My local congregation needs after-church refreshments? I can make cookies! Life offers so many chances to help our neighbors—but we simply can’t juggle all of them single or even double-handedly.
Continue reading Managing Manna
I know we are well into January, but I’d like to talk about New Year’s resolutions.
I don’t know about you, but I always feel a lot of pressure around New Years. I feel like I’m supposed to come up with some grand goal and then be on the perfect path to achieving that goal as soon as January makes its midnight debut. In spite of the pressure, it’s tempting to make these glittering promises of self-improvement to myself, because such promises look and feel really good. They’re pretty, shiny pledges and I’m convinced I will look so good wearing them to the ball, or rather, as I watch the ball drop. But if I’m honest, I usually decide to pull a Cinderella and run out the door before the clock strikes twelve. Each retreating foot step seems to shriek: “Just kidding! I can’t handle any big life changes right now! I’m still recovering from Christmas! Even little changes feel huge these days! Maybe next year!”
I’m not sharing this to be self-deprecating or to pooh-pooh New Year’s resolutions. They really seem to work for some people and that’s wonderful. But what I keep realizing is that we can’t plunge into a meaningful life shift without being ready. It doesn’t matter what time of year it is. We have to be truly ready. And the only way to get ready is to identify what we need spiritually. If we’re not prepared to make spiritual improvements, we won’t see any natural world results. For example, if we want to commit to eating better in the new year, we might first need to really face the fact that junk food has become a false god in our lives. It’s not enough to stock the fridge with celery. We must first acknowledging the spiritual issue at stake or we are setting ourselves up to trip up on the next powdered donut that crosses our path.
Continue reading Higher Resolutions
There is an affection in every employment, and it strains the mind, and keeps it intent upon its work or study. This, if it be not relaxed, becomes dull, and its desire flags, as salt that has lost its savor, so that it has no pungency or relish; or as a bended [bow], which, unless it be unbent, loses the power that it derives from its elasticity. Just so the mind, kept from day to day in the same ideas, without variety (Charity 190).
As a busy mom of young children, my windows of free time are rare and of varying and unpredictable lengths. Sometimes I am given the precious gift of “me time” and instead of seizing it with glee, I panic. I look at this glimmering opportunity and feel paralyzed with the fear of wasting it. Then I wind up realizing that fear by wasting my time trying to decide what I should do instead of actually doing something. Does this sound familiar?
I find that the hells love to exploit these opportunities by tangling my healthy wants and needs in a web of coulds, woulds, shoulds, and what ifs. The Lord clearly wants us to be happy and to have moments in which to recharge so that we can best serve the uses He has in mind for us. But the hells like to make us feel guilty for taking care of ourselves. They call us selfish. They call us lazy. They distract us with our never-ending to do lists. They point to the ticking clock and play the Jeopardy theme music in our heads, reminding us that this opportunity is fleeting so we had better come up with something amazing to do NOW. The overwhelming tangle can get so sticky that I often end up just doing a typical chore or mindlessly scrolling through my social media feed or rewatching some silly show instead of doing anything that actually refreshes me.
Continue reading Unselfish Self-Care