Unforced Rhythms of Grace

Image by Gary Cunliffe from Pixabay

“Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.” – Jesus, as quoted in Matthew 11:29 (The Message)

This month marks the sixteenth anniversary of my sister’s death.

She was only 55. It was totally unexpected.

These things change you. Change the way you think about things. Change the way you live.

At the time I was teaching full time and writing part time for a local newspaper. With the youngest in college and the older two on their own, it was time to pursue those dreams I’d put on the back burner to raise a family.

While teaching was my passion, I wasn’t finding fulfillment in covering school board and county commissioners meetings and election results. And while I loved the camaraderie of the newsroom staff, getting up early Saturday mornings to drive 45 minutes in all kinds of weather to type obituaries wasn’t getting me any closer to my writing goals.

Of course I ignored the signs of dissatisfaction and pushed on. Isn’t that what we’re supposed to do?

Then a post-operative blood clot took the life of my only sister just when we were getting close again. I didn’t even have a chance to say goodbye.

I shivered on the love seat for days, in shock.

Change. It’s foisted on all of us. Whether we welcome it or not.

The key to surviving it is to look to God, knowing He has a plan and purpose for us (Jeremiah 29:11, Psalm 139:16), knowing He takes the rough draft of the chapters of our lives and revises them so they shine (Romans 8:28) and lead to the ending He has planned. And knowing that if we follow our Shepherd, we will arrive at that ending without burning ourselves out.

But I hadn’t been stopping long enough to listen to God.

My sister’s death was a wakeup call—to pause in my headlong rush to fulfill my dreams and be all things to all people, and determine where I was truly headed.

Davis Bunn, in his 40-day devotional “The Turning,” writes, “When we read, we give no notice to the spaces between the words. And yet those pauses are vital. Without them, there is nothing but a senseless jumble. With them, thoughts are unique, words are clear, ideas fashioned, lives transformed. So it is with the brief pauses we make to stop and listen. Our thoughts and actions take on new clarity.”

And so it was for me. If I were to die suddenly in my mid-fifties, I thought, would I have realized my dreams? Within a week, I resigned from the newspaper job.

I still get too busy, lose focus, and drift away from God’s path for me. It’s refreshing to pause, still the clamor of life, rest and recharge spent batteries.

“Are you tired? Worn out?” Jesus says. “Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace” (Matthew 11:28–29, The Message).

I’m a slow learner, Lord. I have to force myself to slow down. Sometimes my body, mind, and spirit are just too exhausted to push on. Remind me often to pause to reflect, rest, and recharge. Amen.

Read and reflect on Psalm 23

From God, Me & a Cup of Tea: 101 devotional readings to savor during your time with God. © 2017 Michele Huey. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Eye Troubles

Open my eyes to see wonderful things in your Word. – Psalm 119:18 TLB

I haven’t had a prescription change for my glasses for years, so when my vision became increasingly blurry, I thought that was the problem.

But no.

“I can change your prescription,” my eye doctor told me recently, “but that will improve your vision only 20 to 30 percent. The problem is cataracts.”

Oh, the joys of growing old.

While I knew I had cataracts for several years, they weren’t bad enough cause any problems besides a slight blurring of my vision, which my glasses corrected – to a point. But as the cataracts progressively worsened and blocked more and more light, they began to interfere with my everyday life. Simple things I took for granted became a struggle.

For example, I can’t recognize faces until the person is almost right in front of me. So if you see me and it appears that I’m ignoring you, I’m not. I just can’t recognize you or see the smile on your face.

Seeing words clearly on the computer monitor is another challenge. I’m a perfectionist, and the number of typos getting past these once eagle eyes irks me to no end. (Yes, I edit emails, text messages, Facebook posts, and other casual forms of written communication.)

I won’t drive at night these days, as the glare of oncoming headlights makes it even more difficult to see. Driving during the day isn’t much better, since I can’t read the road signs until I’m up upon them.

Reading the scoreboard at my grandson’s baseball games is just as frustrating. And you know how big those are.

But this will all change after surgery. I’ll be able to see clearly again! Hallelujah!

We can have spiritual cataracts. They, too, grow slowly, over time. At first we aren’t aware anything is clouding our spiritual vision, but eventually everything that was once clear becomes blurry.

What causes spiritual cataracts?

Many things – and they all block God’s light from entering your spirit.

First on the list is sin. Sin causes us to see things as we want to see them, not as God does. We lose our divine perspective. The cataract gets worse when we deny sin’s existence, continue to do what we know we shouldn’t, and when we justify our wrongdoing (wrong actions, wrong thoughts wrong attitudes).

Another cause of spiritual cataracts is doubt. Doubt, put simply, is not believing God, His Word, His promises, His goodness. When you doubt, God, you are saying, in effect, “I don’t trust You.”

Close to this is the cataract of cynicism. Life has slammed you once too many times, and you’ve lost the ability to see good in any person, situation, or experience. Bitterness builds up, and you erect a wall around your heart, refusing to let anyone in for fear of getting hurt again.

Lack of passion for God and His Word is another cause of spiritual cataracts. When I first became a believer, I was on fire for God. When I read His Word, understanding, excitement, and enthusiasm filled me. Joy overflowed. But as time went on and life happened, the fire sputtered.

Like with any fire, you can’t expect it to burn on its own. A fire needs fuel. And that fuel is taking the time for God – to talk to Him in prayer, to read His Word whether or not I understand it, to consciously be aware of His abiding presence in my life.

This leads to my final cause of spiritual cataracts: busyness. I must carve out time to sit down, read the Word, and talk to God. While it could be any time, I find morning, before I begin my day, is best. Because if I don’t, I get so caught up crossing things off my to-do list, the day is over and I haven’t taken time with God.

I keep a quote by Hudson Taylor on the front page of my prayer journal: “Do not have your concert first and tune your instruments afterward. Begin the day with God.”

The remedy for spiritual cataracts is the same as for physical ones: Removal. Confess sin, dispel doubt, squash cynicism, starve apathy, and boot out busyness.

Eye trouble? Here are some Scriptures to help you:

“Fix my eyes on Your ways” (Ps. 119:15 ESV).

“Open my eyes to see wonderful things in your Word” (Ps. 119:18 TLB).

“Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things” (Ps. 119:37 ESV).

Open the eyes of my heart, Lord. I want to see You. Amen.

Read and meditate on Psalm 119:10–40

© 2018 Michele Huey. All rights reserved. Image in public domain.