Archive for the ‘Rest’ Tag

Come and Rest   Leave a comment

I drove home from work this evening with my windshield wipers swishing away the dreariness and plotting how to ease my weary soul: instrumental music, a cinnamon scented candle, a DVD fire on the TV screen, a cup of coffee and a chocolate chip cookie topped with birthday cake ice cream, while nestling into my sofa to love on my two dogs.  So here I sit with Mazie curled up beside me and Mitts stretched out on my lap, lending me their peace.

I have things to do, things easier done in the daylight, but I’ve set them aside as the shadows settle in.  Through the back french doors I can just make out the black tree trunks and branches against the dark grey sky on the hill above our home.  It is okay.  There will always be one more thing to do.  My inbox will always be overflowing.  Rest is so important to God that it made his top ten list.  It is an act of holiness so basic to our well-being that it was the capstone of the world’s creation.  Even more than my body, my soul needs to let go, relax, settle in, harbor from the blasts life blows throughout the day.

Come join me.  Find your place of calm.  Leave the lists and obligations, the insistent tasks and expectations in the hands of the One who can carry it for you and come away to Sabbath for a time until the weariness slowly drains off and washes away.  Every person and task in your life is benefited by your self-care.  Breathe easy.  It is an act of holy obedience.


Posted January 9, 2016 by janathangrace in thoughts

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Sitting Still Is Hard Work   2 comments

I’ve been missing here for a month, not from depression or busyness or low energy as in the past, but from fence sitting.

doggie on fence

Not by choice.  I’m too weak to jump out of the yard and do anything useful–I’ve glanced at projects countless times, even started some, only to realize they would drain my soul.  in the other direction, the emotional gravity dragging me back down hasn’t found a grip as long as I’ve kept my shaky equilibrium.  I’m in a holding pattern on a narrow platform, and I sense that it is my task to wait and gather strength.

donkey airedThis is not easy for me.  My internal voices are always shouting for me to get busy, and ignoring them has always led me into a place of shame.  They drove me into more and more Christian service until it broke me. When I discovered the potholes this pounded into my soul, I thought I had turned onto the road to recovery, but the voices just switched goals, whipping me towards personal development, “figure out NOW what is holding you back and FIX it!”  I feel ashamed for not healing faster.  Patience with myself is rarely an item in stock.

I have lived all my life on the principle that rest must be earned.  After all, God worked six days and rested on the seventh.  I thought the Sabbath was simply a concession to our weaknesses: “Okay, you’ve worked hard enough, so now you get to rest.”   In fact, there was no command to work six days… that was simply a necessity for survival and advancement.  The duty, the order, the commandment  (one of the Big Ten), was not to stay busy, but to stop busy.  The Sabbath is not a reward for working all week.  The reward for working all week is the material benefits we reap.  The Sabbath was certainly a blessing, but it was a command, not a reward.  It had its own justification and importance quite independent of the other six.

The Fourth Commandment was also not a prohibition (“thou shalt not work”) but a prescription: “Remember the Sabbath to keep it Holy.”  It offered positive power and creative purpose for our lives, the one day to focus care on our spirits instead of our bodies (for food, shelter, etc.).  If anything, it was not the work week that justified the Sabbath, but the Sabbath that justified and gave meaning to the work week.  I was raised on the “Protestant Work Ethic,” but what I really need is a strong dose of the “Protestant Rest Ethic.”  The first has often pulled me from faith in God to dependence on myself, but the second forces me back to faith… and though it is shaky and insecure, it is a faith I am committed to.weak faith

Posted October 27, 2013 by janathangrace in Personal

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It is night after a long day.

What has been done has been done;

What has not been done has not been done;

Let it be.


Posted February 24, 2013 by janathangrace in Poems

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The Ups After the Downs   Leave a comment

Things were going fairly badly this last weekend.  My several hundred dollar chain saw died before Friday’s storm, which not only was a loss of that amount, but prevented me from making money clearing trees for the thousands who had trees down (about every other house on our street, for instance).  A huge tree from our yard was uprooted and crushed our neighbor’s shed, and I was trying to find out our home-owner’s insurance deductible (but the insurance company was closed for the weekend).  Our power went out, and hundreds of dollars of food was spoiling in our fridge and freezer.  We had no air conditioner or fans or ice on the very week the tempurature decided to climb above 100F.  My mower stopped working in the middle of cutting a lawn on Saturday, and I had no way of getting it up the steep ramp into the back of my truck (it weighs 500 lbs.).  I had to finish the 1 acre lot with my push mower (in said heat).  We had no internet to know what was going on (when the power would be back on, for instance), and my brother, undeterred by our lack of electricity, suddenly showed up in town for a visit (from the West coast)… we offered him warm orange juice and a candle to use the bathroom.  In this sweltering heat, we soon found out the electricity would be out for a week.

The financial hit was troubling me most as I have been unable to drum up enough clients to make my summer mowing economically feasible for us.  On Monday, I reached State Farm and found out that since this was an “act of God,” my neighbor’s insurance would be responsible to cover the costs.  My wife and I had been planning to visit a nearby friend (her “step-aunt” I guess) to celebrate the 4th and spend the night.  When they found out our electricity was down, they very graciously opened their home to us and allowed us to pack our refrigerated food into their fridge and freezer.  So here we sit in a beautiful lakeside house for the week, forced to have a vacation we could never afford.  As we were packing up to drive down here, Kimberly brought out a netbook she had but never uses.  I forgot it was around, and suddenly I realized I have the replacement for my laptop (which I’ve been badly missing for 2 months) only smaller and so much handier.  I figured out how to get the mower onto my truck (backing it up to a bank where I had towed my mower and pushing it in on the level ramp), and on Monday I was able to fix it with a $6 spring.  All in all, the week has been a wonderful refresher.

Posted July 4, 2012 by janathangrace in Life

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“You’re Weird”   7 comments

Kimberly and I have started reading a book on “Sabbath” each Sunday morning.  It suddenly occurred to me today that we are called to follow not only God’s example of rest, but his example of spending 6 days in creativity, like him expressing who we are to the world (for our gifts are simply an outflow of the unique creation each of us is).  If we could discover and have the courage to be our true selves before the world, offering it what we have rather than what we do not have, the world would be marvelous.  If we could only value each one for who she truly is and what her being means to my life and the life of the world as a whole.  If we could only live in a spirit of curiosity and receptivity for (and therefore blessing from) the uniqueness of each.


Instead, we live out of who we are not, pushed into acting in ways for which we were not created, living a lie.  We hide our shame with pretenses and cover-ups, unable to encourage others to be themselves (and delighting in it) because of the fear out of which we live.  We find the uniqueness of others to be threatening, confusing, irritating, dividing, and so we push for them to conform to our ways of thinking and doing and being.  It is unsafe for any of us to be himself, since being rejected for our essence is the ultimate disgrace.  Sadly such shame disables and distorts God’s own creation as he designed each to be, with both our limitations and our abilities.  May we all learn to welcome and relish the beauty of differences.


Posted June 24, 2012 by janathangrace in thoughts

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Finding Grace By Doing Less   4 comments

I have been fighting with fear for a month now, and a sense of being overwhelmed.  It partly comes from my anxiety of having to survive this summer on my lawn-mowing income (along with my inability to pick up sufficient regular clients) and partly from forgetting (as a result) my 2012 commitment to rest.  It has made me think afresh of the Biblical command, not to keep the Sabbath, but to remember to keep the Sabbath.  Apparently I’m not alone in having fear and busyness crowd out the vital place of rest for my soul.   I notice that, remarkably, I accomplish less, not more, when I neglect the rest my soul needs… the fear and drivenness drain away my energy.  This has not always been the case.

Most of my life I lived by overriding my own needs.  I thought I was meeting my soul’s needs by spending hours in prayer, meditation and Bible study, going to church, self-examination and the like.  But in fact these were just more activities to which I drove myself.  They were not “means of grace,” but means of accomplishment, of spiritual advancement.  In those days I measured success by how much I changed the world for the better, not realizing that I was denying with my life the very gospel I preached.  It is hard for the fruits of grace to spring from the drivenness of legalism.  I was getting more tasks done (being successful) because of my unceasing labor, but grace would have had so much more space to work had I learned to do much less while acting from a spirit of unconditional love (in both receiving it and sharing it).

My conception of success has changed so drastically since those days.  The ghost of ‘failures past’ still haunts me at times.  I have not been able to fully shake off those old definitions (mostly because the whole world seems to speak that language), but I realize now that my soul’s health and thereby the health of the hearts around me is my new measure of success.  It has little to do with numbers of tasks completed or people fixed.  I would rather accomplish one thing a day graciously than a dozen without grace, and because of my unhealthy proclivities, the more I try to fit into the day, the more likely I will shortchange grace.  As I grow in grace, I believe I will be able to do more good, but for now I must live within my limits and refuse the shame that shouts at me for doing too little, learning to trust more in God’s grace.

Posted June 10, 2012 by janathangrace in Personal, thoughts

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The Strange Turn   3 comments

I can’t do another thing!

The Lenten season is past, but not my Lenten blessing.  I committed to fasting from haste and hurry, and this became a remarkable source of peace for me, as I eased back on my sense of should.  I started this process over the last decade as I gradually realized that most of the duties to which I felt driven were not from God, and that I could choose grace over obligation.  As I ignored these duties, I felt the sting of shame and clung to grace rather than works as a remedy.

But my Lenten exercise did something very unexpected for me.  Since I committed to the spiritual exercise of slowing down (and therefore accomplishing less), I was struck by the conclusion that God wanted me to rest.  It was not only that I could choose to ignore the pressure of obligation, that God would be patient with me in doing less, but that God wanted me to do less, he willed for me to offload these unnecessary burdens.  Grace demanded that I stop forcing my soul and start listening to it and choosing for its needs.  God was not impatiently waiting for me to “hurry up and get with it,” but he was calling me to be as patient with myself as he was with me.  For some time my mind has been convinced theologically that God is more patient with my rate of growth than I am, but after focusing 40 days on rest as a direction from God rather than a concession to my weakness, my emotions were also convinced.  God has designed growth as a life principle to go at a slow pace, and if I try to push harder and faster, I will make things worse instead of better, like too much water and fertilizer on my squash.  I have always been an overzealous fellow.

No doubt many folks go too easy, and would help themselves by picking up the pace, not on the trail of duty, but of grace, stirred by the anticipation and joy and wonder of being transformed, of discovering how rich and full life can be.  Grace removes the drive of obligation not to make us spiritually comotose, but to set us free to find and embrace the richness of grace, its inspiration and glory and power and freedom and joy.  I still have a long way to go, but I am laying one more foundation stone of grace in making this my Year of Rest.

Posted April 10, 2012 by janathangrace in Personal

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Hope in the Storm   Leave a comment

For the last few days things have been looking up, I have felt more positive than negative, more times of calm than of anxiety.  I would even say I have been happy.  But I have been reluctant to share for fear that folks will suppose me “back on my feet.”  We all give a break to those who are going through a hard time–we give them more patience, gentleness and concern, and a lighter load.  But once they have “recovered,” we suppose their strength has returned and put them back in the harness.  My personal experience is very different from this picture of energy simply lost and regained.

I once  had armor so thick nothing could touch my soul, including real and deep love.  Those defenses by which I kept the world at bay I laid aside to seek my true self and connect vulnerably with others.  And once I stepped into the wind of my fears, the wounds that had been festering for decades were exposed.  I have been attending to them now for ten years, but they are forty years deep and my soul is still quiveringly sensitive to any scrape against them.  

Kimberly and I talk about our personal and marital “bubble.”  When I am in my own bubble, untouched by the storms of life, I can eventually come to a place of peace as I have in the last few days.  When Berly and I are on the same page, which is most of the time, we share a bubble and reinforce that sense of security.  I can nestle into God’s love.  But the bubble is easily burst as the wind and sleet dash against our nest–a phone call or email, a memory, a bill, a frown… even a sunny day (like yesterday) can depress me, reminding me how dependent we are on lawn mowing jobs that I have no energy to hunt down.


I can be content and even happy inside our bubble, but it is a very fragile peace, constantly threatened and often breached. Without some refuge from the world’s criticisms, disparagements, impatience, and harshness, I am simply battered relentlessly. And my spirit can find no air to breathe, no space to move, no pause to rest.  I am reduced to emotional survival.  So I withdraw to my nest to build up strength to face  the next nor’easter.  This, to my mind, is the biblical “fight of faith.”  Unfortunately, the storm can reach inside my little knothole, and often does.  Sometimes all my energy is used to keep it out.  It is always threatening to strike, and the closer it gets, the more difficult it is to find a place of peace, a gentle space in which to rest and heal.

But in the last few days, I sense a change. an ability to keep the storm outside and God and me inside the bubble of faith that keeps the shame and doubts at bay, a potential to respond in healthy ways to shame-driven tasks of the past.  I am able to see God as on my side regardless of my weaknesses, blunders, myopia, and erratic progress.  Perhaps I am finding a new way through the hurricane, though it is a strange direction to take as I will soon share.

Posted March 20, 2012 by janathangrace in Personal

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Be Still My Soul   4 comments

The truth is that my soul asks for very little.  It mostly just needs to be heard and affirmed.  It is sad that I have spent my life denying it this small benefit, that my automatic response is still to shame it into compliance.  My Lenten fast from haste has inclined me to be gentle with my soul, and with the support of my wife, it seems to be making a real difference.  I think I may make this my year’s resolution, “be gentle to your soul, listen to it and affirm it.”

This afternoon with many tasks pressing for attention, my soul said, “I need a little care.”  So I left the tasks aside and followed my heart.  After an hour with a soft puppy, a soft pillow, soft music, and gliding birds on our wide-screen, my spirit relaxed and set me free to be “productive” without choosing against my own needs.  Forcing my soul to comply to the demands of duty tears at its very fabric.  My soul is far more important than the leaky faucet, dirty living room, or ragged lawn.


My heart is even more important (dare I say it?) than satisfying others with birthday gifts, a lift to the airport, or help painting.  If I wound my soul by caring for someone else, I not only harm myself, but prevent God from using alternative means to meet that need (or get in God’s way of teaching them an even greater truth).  My giving to others must come from genuine resources that I have to offer.  If it is squeezed from me by obligation, fear, shame, or the like, it will hurt both me and the one I am intending to help.  Giving sacrificially is a part of genuine love, even to the point of giving my life for another.  But God forbids me to sacrifice my soul.

This year I really need to give up my role as Savior of the world… or even of this particular situation or person.  I need to learn to trust God with others’ needs and respect myself even if others blame me, reject me, or try to otherwise manipulate me to meet their expectations.   That is a very tough thing to do without strong human backing, especially since my emotions are quick to agree with their evaluations.  Thankfully, I always have Kimberly’s support (not on every occasion, but always in the set of her heart towards me… I think she is more supportive of me than I am of myself).

If I feel pressured by the expectations of others, I will try not to protect myself by minimizing their need (shaming or blaming them in return).  Their need is legitimate and significant whether or not I can meet it.  Caring about their need does not mean I must care for their need.  What a heavy yoke I have been dragging around most of my life.  In spite of how I imagined it, Jesus did not say, “Come unto me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you more to do,” but he said to the weary, “I will give you rest.”

Posted March 16, 2012 by janathangrace in thoughts

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Lent for a Tired Soul   3 comments

Coming from a non-liturgical religious upbringing, I didn’t even know about lent until well into my adult years.  As my whole life was lived in self sacrifice, I didn’t feel the need to dedicate one particular season to it, and once I started to heal from this self-flagellating outlook, I could not really practice sacrifice in any sort of healthy, spiritually beneficial way.  This is the first year I chose to give lent a whirl, looking for the kind of focus that would be a meaningful blessing to my soul.  For lent I decided to give up hurry and haste.


Driving was my first focus.  I have stopped trying to make yellow lights, I leave earlier for work, and I look for things along the road I have missed in the past in my rush to get somewhere… to actually find pleasure in the trip itself.  I have started to work on tasks at a more deliberate, even slow, pace.  I have given myself the right to accomplish things on a calmer schedule, or even to leave them undone…  to walk thoughtfully, absorbing the moment rather than focusing on the goal, destination, or end product. It requires a good deal of trust to depend less on myself, my efforts, and allow God to cover for me.  Giving myself permission to rest is a vital spiritual exercise, one of the oldest life principles in the book, the intentional counterpart to creative work (as the Genesis story of beginnings recounts).  My guess is that work is neither creative nor blessed (to ourselves as well as others) if it does not arise from a rested heart.  Life isn’t waiting for me at the destination. Life is what happens while getting there.

Posted March 3, 2012 by janathangrace in Life, Personal, thoughts

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