Unforced Rhythms of Grace

My sister Judi in 2001

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

I’d been teaching full time and writing part time for a local newspaper for years. With the youngest in college and the older two on their own, now was the time to pursue my dreams.

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. She was only 55.

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

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

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.

This Little Light of Mine

Hide-Under-Bushel.jpg (876×602)

 … let your light shine … – Jesus, as quoted in Matthew 5:16 NIV

I remember the moment clearly. A spanking new student teacher, I stood in front of a classroom for the first time. Perhaps I was a bit nervous. I don’t remember. What I do remember is, at that moment, a light went on inside me—and has never gone out.

I’d found my calling—the purpose for which I was created—and joy flooded my soul.

The road to that moment wasn’t easy. Growing up in the shadow of a gifted and popular older sister, I struggled with self-confidence and wormed my way through an identity crisis before the term was even coined. It didn’t help that I looked and sounded like my older sister Judy (I didn’t think so, but everyone else did).

In school, teachers wondered why I didn’t get the grades Judy did. And I wondered why my classmates didn’t like me as much her classmates liked her. Mine mockingly called me “Miss Popularity.” When we got older and the boys started coming around—not for me, of course—I found it to my advantage that our voices sounded alike over the phone.

It wasn’t until college—and nearly a hundred miles from my hometown, where no one knew Judy existed—that I finally found myself. I didn’t have to bask in anyone else’s light. I was free to shine my own.

But old habits die hard. In the let’s-mock-Michele years, I’d learned it was better to hide in a corner than risk attention if I let my light shine too brightly. People have a way of putting you in what they think is your place—and it isn’t to outshine them. I found that if I was too good at what I did, people would get envious and not like me. And I wanted to be liked. Besides, I thought hiding in a corner, not letting my light shine, was being humble.

Is that why God created me? Or you? To hide in a corner? Has He not given each person at least a seed of talent that we are to develop and use for Him (Matthew 25:14–30)? And hasn’t He given each of us a special place in His kingdom? A unique job to do? And hasn’t He given us what we need to accomplish that job? (1 Corinthians 12:7; Ephesians 4:7-13)

“You are the light of the world,” He said.

Wait a minute—isn’t Jesus the Light of the World? Yes, He is. But His physical presence is no longer on this earth. Instead, He shines through each of His followers, who are to take His light to a world where moral decay and selfish lifestyles create an ever-increasing darkness.

We are not to hide the light He has put in us under busyness (the jar/vessel in Luke 8:16 represents work) or beneath idleness (the bed). Nor are we to bury the special abilities He has planted in us.

So don’t be afraid to let your light shine, Child of God. That’s why He created you.

Dear God, let Your light shine in and through me. Amen.

Read and reflect on Matthew 5:14–16.

From God, Me, & a Cup of Tea, Vol. 3, © 2019 Michele Huey. All rights reserved. Used with permission.