Come and Rest

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

There’s a settled quiet in the bedroom. An occasional car passes on the main street outside the window. I am waking from a nap, my husband, Eric, asleep on the living room couch: a merciful calm from the wild savagery that is COVID-19.

Though it’s late afternoon, dark is already deepening shadows through the apartment. I feel it in me, the cold and black beyond the curtains.

This soreness runs deep as I try to catch my bearings, breathe. Reprieve, I pray, lifting my heart to God, with no strength left. Mercy. Jesus, Your rest.

COVID-19 came for us swiftly and mercilessly. As we do what we can while waiting to be healthy again, one of the things we crave most is that elusive rest that is part of the healing process. We long for an alleviation of the virus and are reminded of the fragility of our bodies.

Craving rest is natural. We all run around and work ourselves into a frenetic pace that will eventually forcibly slow us down or cause our inner “check engine” light to turn on. Whether it’s physical, emotional or spiritual rest, we know there has to be another way.

Jesus has been imploring us for years to find this way. It’s fairly easy to find if we pause and hear the words He’s whispered for centuries:

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

He doesn’t ask us to do anything other than to simply come to Him, however burned out or burdened we are, and spend time in His presence. Who isn’t weary? Who isn’t in need of this rest? Jesus is the right refreshment and nourishment we crave. He’s well aware of our overworked hearts and stretched lifestyles and has a softer, gentler way for us.

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I’m beyond humbled and honored to share about my need for deep soul rest at Proverbs 31 today: will you join me and hear about the rest Jesus offers?

 

Appearing in the Flames

And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. 
Exodus 3:2

The Lord, appearing in the flames, the fire.

To refine, protect, to show up in the scorch of suffering.

He’s all about intimacy, desirous of deeper relationship. He will use all situations to draw us to His heart. Including a bush that burns deep in the wilderness, where there seems to be no way.

But He has been here, with me, even when it’s been intolerable, unbearably painful.

He is here with you, nestled in the bush, bearing with you in your burden.

Take off your sandals, for where you stand burns holy.

Open up your heart, bare your worry, your struggle, and let the flames purify.

He is here, with us when we can no longer feel our way through. The flames do not go out; they burn but will not consume.

God is faithful through our fears; His flame flickers holy. Be bare before Him; there is purpose in this pain. The Holy One transforms the hard to holy ground.

 

Carry My Burden

I am tired of all the exhaustion. Of all the confusion and feeling upon feeling that leaves me like I’m living underwater. I am sleep walking and long to wake up. A real wake up, where I am clear in mind and light in heart. Where I experience deep joy that wells up in me and bubbles up and out. It has been such a long winter, and the beginning of the messy March and spring still streak my soul with muck and a layer of heaviness and uncertainty.

But You are with me, even buried under the weight of my struggle. You often can do Your best work in the waiting, in the underground. Breathe in me, Lord, let Your oxygen fill my lungs and revive me again. It is not enough to long for it; I ask in faith for You to move in me. In every sinew, every cell, every stem of my brain and beat of my heart. Lift me from the mire and place me on sure ground. To whom else can I go? You hold eternal life out towards me.

//Carry my burdens, Lord. Take them from my sagging shoulders. I am weary from holding a weight I’m not meant to carry. You say to come to You and find rest, to attach to Your yoke and walk beside you, learning from You what it means to be gentle and humble in heart. Lord, I long for Your voice. I tune my ear for Your frequency; please don’t disappoint me. Please be here, in the middle of my mess, in the middle of my meltdown and confusion and strain. God, do a work. Carry me through this valley that has closed in on me in the middle of the night. Let me rest in Your arms, take comfort under the shadow of Your capable wings. There, I find my protection. There, I find my answers. There, I find my love. For You are strong, and I am weak. But Your power is made perfect in my weakness and I long to be revived by Your breath. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, make each day a little better. Be the God of hope who fills me with all joy and peace as I hope in You, by Your moving Spirit.

Carry my burdens, carry my fears. The deep-rooted fears that fester, but I now recognize for what they are. Uproot them, Lord. You are the great Gardener of my faith and heart, and replant Your truth firmly and deeply in my soul. Where there is fear, respond with love and gentleness and truth. Only You can carry this weight for me; only You know in my barest being exactly what I need.//

The wait is long, weight of it all holding me under. But God is able. Always able. And always good. Keep coming after me, Lord. Keep fighting for me, keep healing and growing me as I make my way up through the soil. It takes a long time for the sun to reach underground, but when it does, my heart and mind will spring up in the hope of Your care, unraveling the weight which I no longer carry. You have gone before me, bearing me up, carrying my burden to bring me more to life in You.

 

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Continuing my attempt at the Five Minute Friday weekly writing challenge. Five minutes to write on the assigned topic. Raw and unedited. (Yikes!) This week’s topic: Carry.   // symbolizes where five minutes started and/or stopped.

Treasures in the Dark

“I will give you hidden treasures,
riches stored in secret places,
so that you may know that I am the Lord,
the God of Israel, who summons you by name.”
-Isaiah 45:3

 
You hold treasures in the dark,
where I grope and stagger 
my hands and feet to feel those
gems you leave for me.
My faith is not from sight,
and while this valley spreads its
shadows, You shed Your light 
within these secret places
that urge and nudge me
closer to Your heart,
the murmur of Your voice
that summons me and
breathes my name.

Refiner’s Fire

Healing often hurts.
How do we withstand the pain?
How do we hold to the promise that He is for us,
seeing this suffering, but does not speak out loud or
sweep us out of the blaze?

Have faith.
Hold on.
Keep calling on His character, His promises.
The fire licks our skin, our mind, our soul.
It is agony.

But we are not overcome.

He is there within the flames,
standing guard, coming close.
No singe of ash will be found on us.
No smell of smoke.
We can endure.
We will endure.

He is refining, purifying,
near to us and aware
of how this test will shape
and form our fledgling faith
as it rises,
strengthens,
stands.

Unashamed

Do not let me be ashamed of my hope. Ashamed of my hope for more, for deeper, for richness of life. Do not let me be ashamed of wanting to climb, to reach, to unfold myself and stretch into the impossible. I am not satisfied. I am unashamed. There will always be a hunger in me to plunge into the abyss, the unexplored; the unbecoming of the old and transformed into new.

 

***

This is part of an ongoing series that will share excerpts of my book-in-progress, tentatively titled Grappling for Good: Revealing grace to light the dark. It’s my journey through a year of unexpected circumstances and soul excavation to discover the goodness of God in surprising ways.

 

Praise My Way Through

You are my Redemption Song.
I praise my way through all that’s unseen,
voice echoing from the cavern of my heart,
extracting melodies made from a lonely place,
a heartbreak place,
Your Spirit accompanying with groans
I do not yet know how to utter.
Here I am, all of me,
in the middle of this storm.
Turn this storm into song
as I wait and watch for You to move
the boulders of this mountain
in front of me.
Make a way.
Lord, please,
make a way.
Lyrics take shape,
sharp and soft,
hopeful and hesitant,
as I praise my way through.

Love Head On

“I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.”
-Jeremiah 31:3

 

What is love?

What is grace?

What does it look like? Your unmerited favor, unearned, given for the taking. How many times is it talked about by preachers, read in the Bible and one of those popular discussion topics? Told a million ways, sung to a thousand tunes. Grace. Covering my sins, easing my burden.

I don’t want the paper definition, the flat word that sits on the page like You’re stiffly sitting on Your throne, tossing out grace to beggars like loaves of bread to hungry stomachs. I want the real thing, the violent, fragrant life in what You say will set me free. Somewhere, it starts in Your love. And I need You to break apart my body so that love goes from my head to my heart. So it can course through me, hot and sticky, crash into my soul time after time, furious foam waves slashing to shore. I need it turning me inside out, knocking me over at the magnitude of Your intimacy. For You to take my hand, pull me close so I can sink into Your solid side.

I want to know what comes when I let love in. When Your presence presses in so still and beats reassurance, when Your lungs move into mine and our breath lifts and falls as one. For You to be alone with me, capturing my attention. For You to fight for me fiercely; spoils of war, I am Your prize. And I’d like to know exactly what You mean when You say You have loved me with an everlasting love. How could there have been no beginning to Your delight in me, and promise it never ending?

If truth ties my heart together, bind me with Your word. Let freedom fall from Your heart to my chains, clenched around my faith. Grace. Five little letters that contain a universe of revelation. Open me to the waterfall pouring this out unobstructed, abundantly and wildly.

What does it look like to stare You square in the face and take Your roar of love head on?

 

I am in need of understanding the life that is grace. To know what You have set before me, what You have done before me to make my life free from guilt and perfection and head knowledge. You want to reach into my heart, to blaze a light inside its chambers, and I cannot quite unlatch the lock. Show me what it looks like to be loved with an everlasting love, to hold grace in my grip and never let it go. Amen.

 

Finally

I undress my soul
in the dark.
Your razor eyes
are sharp to see
and miss nothing
as I slip each layer
quietly to the floor.

I reach the end of myself;
You smile and pierce my
shallow breathing with one word
that says it all:
“Finally.”

God in the Clouds

It’s appropriate how incredibly foggy and gray it is. The weather matches my insides.

Why do I have flare-ups of God’s goodness, and I’m grateful and feel lighter, but then I go back to gray? Why an empty, lifeless feeling?

God is there in the clouds.

I can barely muster up the strength or desire for my devotional time today, yet I pry open Streams in the Desert. It’s been a good companion for my darker treks, and today’s entry does not disappoint.

God still has His secrets–hidden from “the wise and learned” (Luke 10:21). Do not fear these unknown things, but be content to accept the things you cannot understand and wait patiently. In due time He will reveal the treasures of the unknown to you–the riches of the glory of the mystery. Recognize that the mystery is simply the veil covering God’s face.   -Streams in the Desert

This speaks to me. This is the only thing I’m able to open this morning. The mysterious veil covering His face. God in the clouds.

In a quick moment, my mind flashes to a story in Exodus. I manage to exert enough strength to find my Bible and move the pages.

When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance… The people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was.    -Exodus 20:18,21

The people were afraid and remained at a distance. But Moses chose to lean in, move closer to the smoke and dark because it brought him to You. You were in the thick darkness.

I take Streams in the Desert back onto my lap from the end table where I set it down, pull out the string bookmark and read the accompanying words:

Do not be afraid to enter the cloud descending on your life, for God is in it.

God is in the darkness, the thickness, the clouds. He is in the waiting, but tells me not to keep away. He invites me not to remain at a distance, hesitant, terrified, but to lean in and approach the gray, the cloud, the dim–He is there, He is waiting.

 

***

This is part of an ongoing series that will share excerpts of my book-in-progress, tentatively titled Grappling for Good: Revealing grace to light the dark. It’s my journey through a year of unexpected circumstances and soul excavation to discover the goodness of God in surprising ways.