Friday, November 18, 2016

for the souls that need rest

Jesus said, "Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest... for My yoke is easy and My burden is light." (Matthew 11:28, 30)

Feeling exhausted and overwhelmed? This is probably the first verse that comes to mind when looking for solace in scripture. If you Google "bible verses for when you are feeling exhausted" you get this verse as a result about 8 times on the first search results page. Growing up in the church, I've heard this verse all of my life - and always have His promise at the tip of my tongue when I cry out those tired mama prayers.

It's funny how you can recall a piece of scripture so easily, and yet not actually know it intimately. I call some of these scriptures "away message verses" - all of you who grew up on AIM know what I'm talking about! - the "quotable" verses (for example, "for I know the plans I have for you" - Jer. 29:11; "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength" - Phil. 4:13) that reflect a mood you're experiencing or a promise you want to remember, but you've failed to study the context or surrounding scriptures to really understand what God was speaking through the author of the words.

Earlier this week in one of those overwhelming, exhausting moments, I opened up my Bible to this all familiar passage in Matthew and was surprised to discover - I had skipped a verse! Jesus's complete thought - not just his "away message verse" - actually read:

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." (Matt. 11:28-30)

All this time, I was focused on Jesus's promise but was ignoring his instruction - in order to find rest, I must take His example of being "gentle and lowly in heart". I decided to do some "research" (well, Google...) and prayerfully consider what it means to be "gentle" and "lowly in heart".

Here are some insights that I gathered about gentleness...
- Willing to yield
- Sensitive disposition
- Kind behavior
- Prompted by love
- Connected to humility

...and about lowliness:
- Humble; not elevated
- Free from pride
- Modest; without grandeur

So lowliness is a "heart-issue" involving dropping any notions of superiority and attributing nothing to myself but the One who made me. Gentleness is a "behavior-issue", flowing from a heart of love, requiring sensitivity to those around me, not being headstrong but taking others' opinions and feelings into account. Never needing to be "right" and always needing to be kind.

Uh oh.

I haven't been willing to yield this week. I have been feeling superior. I have been proud. I have not showed my family or others around me kind behavior or a sensitive disposition. I have not been gentle or lowly in heart. While I have been harping on feelings of mental exhaustion, I have been full of myself. Rest will come when I kick "me" out so God is able to dwell in me! Almost all of the worries I have in my life right now stem from an elevated, unyielding attitude about certain things. When I let God transform that attitude and that behavior, when I give that up to God then I will be able to experience true rest for my soul, because I'll have a "peace that surpasses all understanding" (Phil. 4:7) and eyes that are fixed on Him.

By the way, notice above that I said this was Jesus's instruction. Like, these are His actual WORDS. So even if I didn't buy into this as a self-help method for my mental exhaustion, a true solution to a real problem - I would still have to follow this because He commanded me to! Who am I to argue with that. Yet another example of how God gives instruction and boundaries for me, for my own good, because He knows better than I do. When I'm seeking him with all of my heart, He makes it clear what He wants me to pay attention to, too! After I read and studied this verse on Monday, it appeared in the devotional I'm reading on Tuesday, and then again yesterday in the daily marriage prayer e-newsletter I receive each morning. Wow!

"You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." (Jer. 29:13)

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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The voices in my head...and my heart

Sadie Robertson (yes, from Duck Dynasty!) posted this list on twitter a few weeks ago:

Why is it so important to develop the skill of discerning God's voice? Because we know things go awry when we listen to Satan's voice instead of God. In Jeremiah 7:23-24, the Lord commanded his people, saying "'Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be My people. And walk in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well with you.' Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but followed the counsels and the dictates of their evil hearts, and went backward and not forward." 

Sometimes I have so many thoughts running through my head that it's tough to just STOP and determine what is real, aka GOD, and what is a lie. Unfortunately, no one is exempt from Satan's distracting voice - even Jesus, who heard Satan in the desert. (Matthew 4:1-11) Still, we are commanded to "resist the devil," and in return promised that "he will flee from" us. (James 4:7) For me, this means closely examining the voices in my head:

The voice giving me anxiety about the future...
That isn't God.
The voice telling me I'm not good enough...
That isn't God.
The voice making judgments about the people around me...
That isn't God.
The voice in my heart reminding me that "all things work together for good" if I fix my eyes on HIM...
THAT, my friends, is God.

By the way... not only is this list a reminder to listen to God's voice, it is also a reminder to emulate his voice. "Therefore, be imitators of God as dear children." (Ephesians 5:1); "He who guards his mouth preserves his life, but he who opens wide his lips shall have destruction." (Proverbs 13:3) As Christians, we should filter our words through the list above - regardless of who we are speaking to. We need to start asking ourselves:

* What is the purpose of my words?
* What will be the consequence of my words?

Who is speaking to you now? Whose voice are you emulating now?

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Friday, April 12, 2013

The "It Factor"

I've known Gail for almost my whole life, and I have never heard anyone speak a bad word about her. After all, what bad is there to say? Gail has this way of making each person she comes in contact with feel special - I believe she accomplishes this so easily because she truly cares about each and every person she becomes acquainted with. She just has that "it factor" - the quality we all aspire for - that makes it easy to put her on a pedestal. Gail is the picture of joy, strength, and most importantly, trusting God through trials and tribulations.

Photo by Jacqueline Leigh Photography
(Also, she's beautiful, right?!)

Jesus himself identified this "it factor" in Luke 11:33-36 (NKJV) when he explained, “no one, when he has lit a lamp, puts it in a secret place or under a basket, but on a lampstand, that those who come in may see the light...Therefore take heed that the light which is in you is not darkness. If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, the whole body will be full of light, as when the bright shining of a lamp gives you light.”

The enemy tries to steal our light every day. Sometimes, things get so bad that {{forget the light switch}} Satan tries to blow the entire fuse box! Gail learned about Satan's thieving ways better than anyone when she endured the tragic loss of her son a few years ago. However, the light of God - the "it factor" within Gail - still radiates from:

every word she speaks
hug she offers
and smile she passes on from across the row.

Jesus's love is contagious, when you come into contact with Gail, it's impossible not to catch it! 

Let's all aspire to be like Gail this weekend, and let the "it factor" - the light of Christ - shine through us to inspire the people around us!

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