Time, Rest, and a Family Tree

I’ve become a bit of a hermit these days. I love to connect with people, but it takes a lot out of me. Lately, time has become such a precious commodity that I have grown more careful about where and how I spend it. I try to make sure I am doing (0r NOT doing) things for the right reasons.

Yesterday, my dad’s family had a mini-reunion. Some of his cousins got together for lunch, a branch of the tree I haven’t seen since I was an early teenager. Family is one of those things… it’s embarrassing to admit, but there have been times I’ve been tempted to just snip myself right out of it. There is so much weight in the memories and shared blood.

Happily, the lessons from the Lord that life is not all about me are sinking in. I packed up my kiddos and went to support my daddy.

Who would have known such a treasure was in store for us!

What a gift to be held and pored over as the next generations of heirs. To be poured into with personal and family stories. To be barely known and yet so loved! The biggest gift, to love back. There’s a knowing deeper than what each of us as individuals have done or will do; it stems from knowing where we came from.

One of these grand-cousins (or third cousins, or cousins twice removed) shared something she wrote back in March:

Caught Up On Nothing
Eurith Marie Crook Jones

I have spent several days doing nothing and that is starting to worry me.
I feel like I should get up and do something; anything would be better than doing nothing.

Today I have given it a lot of thought and here’s what I’m thinking:

I do the dishes and then I’m caught up!
I vacuum all the rooms and then I’m caught up!
I clean the closets and then I’m caught up!
I do the washing and then I’m caught up!
I fold all the nice clean clothes and then I’m caught up!
I’m going to keep doing nothing until I’m caught up!!!!!

I don’t know about you guys, but I fall into this world’s hectic pace way more often than I like. I find myself feeling pressured to accomplish more, and guilty when I take a break. What a great reminder to build rest into my time budget, to be intentional about the Sabbath.

There are so many verses on rest in scripture. Over and over you will see that rest is a gift from the Lord (Matthew 11:28, Exodus 33:14). This verse is a favorite because it carries a promise for the future as well:

My people will live in peaceful dwelling places,
in secure homes,
in undisturbed places of rest.
Isaiah 32:18

What a sweet gift to love and be loved; to appreciate the luxury of time; to know peace; to rest.

Cleaning My Mind

This week I had a real eye-opener. I mentioned in my last blog that I caught myself getting a little too cozy with my former way of thinking. It’s true – I got a little boy crazy!

Boy crazy to the point that my face was literally numb for hours one day.  (I told you, I am very junior high right now…I couldn’t make this stuff up!)

This little crush caused a lot of distress for me. Obviously. It’s been a long time since I felt interested in entertaining thoughts of a boy in my life. And what is really weird is that I’m NOT interested. Not in this boy, and not right now.

Still, he was all I was thinking about, and that with a furled brow! One morning, it occurred to me how strange and ridiculous it was. There was no peace in this infatuation; it was a literal torment. I begged the Lord to free me from it, to cleanse my mind and help me get back to peace. He said, “YOU clean it!” Say what?

He showed me that he has already done his part – he has cleansed me, purified me, protected me, given me a new mind and new desires. It is my job to decide what goes into my heart and my mind – it’s my job to take every thought captive! (2 Corinthians 10:5)

Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.
Proverbs 4:23

Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober . . . not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance…
1 Peter 1:13-14

He reminded me the key is to constantly renew my mind, by keeping my thoughts intentionally focused on him:

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
Romans 12:2 a

Once you have experienced his peace, even the most beautiful, custom-designed temptation falls flat. We all have different weaknesses, but the message is the same for anything that is unsettling or blocking the peace in your life. It’s not one I’m super excited to share with the world, but if my silly testimony can encourage anyone else it’s worth it! And I just have to say how much I love you for walking with me on this journey.

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:7

I’m Grounded

If I had a catch phrase, it would probably be “You’re grounded!”

It’s one of my favorite fallback lines, used (too often, I admit) as the ultimate comeback and final word of any verbal jousting my kids and I engage in.

I’m really amazed that so many things I say to my middle school-age children apply directly to me. The three of us are in so many ways at the same developmental state, though mine is (mostly) on a spiritual level. So many times I will be teaching why this is not the time for (fill in the blank), and the Lord will turn the spotlight back onto me. Almost every single issue and conversation applies to me too! It’s just not the right time for so many things.

I remember those preteen years. Grasping to find and establish my identity. Wanting to be accepted. Obsessing over rock stars. Learning how to operate in real life. Longing to grow up faster. Rebelling hard against wisdom.

Oh how I pray that they will accept wisdom at my knee, without choosing to learn it the hard way.

Oh how I pray that I will accept wisdom at my Father’s knee! Please tell me I have finally learned to trust his words and wait for his best.

Those old preteen struggles and habits have reared their heads as distraction upon distraction have pelted me the last few weeks. It makes perfect sense if you think about it, because it feels like I am poised on the edge of something big. That is exciting, yes, but also scary for a girl who likes to know what’s coming next. Those old ways of thinking keep trying to appear comfortingly familiar and, the other day, I started to get a little too cozy with them.

I was wanting to be ready before I am ready. It wasn’t long before I found myself squinting into the spotlight of Truth and hearing, “Hey, ground YOURSELF!” Not just in terms of being restricted from doing certain things before their time, although that was certainly implied. In that statement was also an encouragement to be steadfast, diligent, and cautious with my thought life (1 Peter 5:8-9); a reminder of the peace that comes from being planted in truth; the promise of future fruit which will be so much sweeter if I wait for it to ripen.

For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Ephesians 3:17-18

Just like in my younger days, I am free to manipulate and cause things to happen faster than they should. This I know: There is no peace, there is no joy, without him. When I find myself bucking against his boundaries and his “WAIT”s, I only have to remember how very unfulfilling green fruit is. I am so thankful for this time of being grounded.

Tender Mercies

I am always going on about how transitions and changes throw me for a loop. I’m going through it again, but this morning I realized something very obvious. If you’re not experiencing transitions, you’re not living! It was a great attitude adjustment and a reminder to embrace these times of struggle and growth.

Sometimes I think I am the most conflicted person. I don’t know how it’s possible to struggle with such opposing emotions and feelings at the same time. In one moment, I can feel both totally exposed and totally invisible. Both treasured and avoided. There are pieces of truth in each of those feelings, but…who cares?

Why do I let my mind settle on distractions, my heart get preoccupied with circumstances, my eyes drop from heaven to earth?

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.
Hebrews 12:1-2 (NIV)

So there, I know the solution to this problem: stop wasting energy on circumstances that surround me, and stay focused on Jesus. The fact is I’ve written about this before. I’ve known the answer for a long time, but there are still times that life just hurts.

I am amazed that in these moments when pride and insecurity are vying for my attention, when I cry out to him, he answers. He will send a friend with the perfect words, not to boost my ego but to encourage me. He will even tell me himself. These are more than words – they are tender mercies!

Do not withhold Your tender mercies from me, O Lord;
Let Your lovingkindness and Your truth continually preserve me.
Psalm 40:11 (NKJV)

I want to stress how important those words we share with each other are. We are the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12), and if one of our parts is out of alignment, we are all affected.

This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other. If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad.
1 Corinthians 12:25-26 (NLT)

Our words can heal, restore, and encourage each other. Next time you feel prompted to encourage someone, do it! You may be delivering a tender mercy of the Lord.

Sitting By The Well

One of my favorite things is seeing something new in an old story. Especially one you’ve read and heard told so many times there can’t possibly be anything new in it. Today, I came across a story I’ve known my whole life and I swear it was like reading it for the first time.

The Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:1-42), in a nutshell:
Jesus goes through Samaria on his way from Judea to Galilee. At noon, he stops and sits at a well while his disciples go into town for food. A woman comes out to draw water and Jesus talks to her, tells her about her past, and shares the gospel with her and her village.

Throughout my life I have related to different pieces of her. A friendless loner, a failure in love, a woman who undervalues herself, a questioner. But today, she came alive to me in a whole new way.

First of all, we don’t know why her five marriages ended – whether she was promiscuous, widowed, or just discarded – but she seems to be drowning in shame. The lengths she went to avoid other women are exhausting. The well was outside the village walls. Women generally went there in the morning (before the heat of the day) and as a group (for social interaction and protection). She waited until noon, probably the time everyone was napping, to go alone.

For some reason, I have always pictured the well as a fairly large structure. When I read that Jesus was sitting by the well, I picture him sitting on the edge of it or leaning against a wall. Check out how little it is! It’s four feet tall; it looks like a decorative planter.

Jacob's_Well_in_2013 crop Jacob’s well, 2013

So she goes walking out to the well, probably about 75 yards away from the village, and has to see a grown man sitting there. There is nowhere for him to hide! She also knows from his appearance that he is a Jew, who typically despised Samaritans (hate crimes were being committed by both sides at this time). She walks straight up to potential danger. I get the feeling she was so disenchanted with her life circumstances that she just didn’t care.

I keep thinking how quiet it must have been. Just them. How awkward it would have been to start drawing water with him sitting right there. How shocking it must have been when he spoke to her.

Jacob's_Well_1839 painting

“Jacob’s Well at Shechem” April 17th 1839 by David Roberts

Armed with this new perspective, their conversation sounds different to me. Her responses are not meek; in fact, they are borderline disrespectful, especially for the time. These quotes are from the New Living Translation.

  • When Jesus asks her for a drink she says, “You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman. Why are you asking me for a drink?” John 4:9
  • When Jesus tells her she could ask him for “living water” she says, “But sir, you don’t have a rope or a bucket and this well is very deep. Where would you get this living water? And besides, do you think you’re greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us this well? How can you offer better water than he and his sons and his animals enjoyed?” John 4:11-12
  • When Jesus described what living water is she says, “Please, sir, give me this water! Then I’ll never be thirsty again, and I won’t have to come here to get water.” John 4:15
  • When Jesus reveals her five marriages, and that she is currently living unmarried with another man, she says, “Sir, you must be a prophet. So tell me, why is it that you Jews insist that Jerusalem is the only place of worship, while we Samaritans claim it is here at Mount Gerizim, where our ancestors worshiped?” John 4:19
  • When Jesus explains that it’s not where you worship but who and how, she says, “I know the Messiah is coming—the one who is called Christ. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” John 4:25
  • When Jesus tells her he is the Messiah, she “left her water jar beside the well and ran back to the village, telling everyone” (the very ones she took careful pains to avoid until that moment) what Jesus had said.

I don’t know how I’ve heard this story so many times without noticing both the bitterness and the boldness in her demeanor! I can picture her looking at him defiantly when she asks why he wants her water. I can picture her laughing with what she thought was hidden pain and meaning as she says she wished she didn’t have to draw water from that well anymore. Each round of their exchange seems to rip off another layer of the hardened, protective shell she is living behind. Layers of hurt.

Seeing this about her makes the freedom and restoration she experiences so much sweeter to me, and brings it so much closer to home. She went from a life of seclusion to inclusion; from hiding in shame to shouting with absolute joy. The Lord found a single, broken, hurting woman worthy of his time, his words, his healing, his love. He was sitting there, waiting for her. Her transformation and her words changed a village. So will ours!

From that city many of the Samaritans believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified…
John 4:39