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.

Selah!

2017-sunrise

Selah!  – Psalm 46: 3, 7, 11 NIV

If I were to choose a Scripture that best describes my life in 2016, I’d select Psalm 46. The psalm begins, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” The year was filled with many challenges, particularly health issues and family transitions.

If I were to choose a Scripture for the New Year—as a theme verse to reflect on throughout the year—I’d select a word used 74 times in the Bible, mostly in Psalms (71 times—the other three can be found in Habakkuk) and often overlooked. Perhaps we ignore it because it’s only one little word of five letters standing all by itself at the end of a verse. Perhaps we pay little attention to it because no one knows with certainty its meaning, not even biblical scholars. So we skip right over it and keep on reading.

But the word Selah is not to be ignored, even if we don’t know what it means.

Strong’s Concordance defines Selah as “to lift up, to exalt.”

So the first word I want to focus on is PRAISE.

Sometimes the phrase “Praise God!” slips through our lips almost meaninglessly and is soon forgotten. How often do we truly praise God—from the heart, not just the mouth?

On a recent drive to a doctor’s appointment, I spent nearly the entire 45 minutes praising God—aloud. It all started when I thanked Him for dry roads and good weather. One praise flowed after another. Once the pump was primed, the water of praise just gushed out.

Too often I focus on my problems, not on praise. Can it really be that much easier to list a litany of laments than all the ways God has lavished His love upon us?

Another definition for Selah is “the writer’s instruction to the reader to pause and exalt the Lord,” or “pause and calmly think of that!” (Note the exclamation point, which I didn’t add. It was already there.)

The focus here is on the word PAUSE. pause-button-3

How often do we intentionally pause and praise God? I’m ashamed to admit it, but I don’t give God the time He is due. Too often my prayer and Bible reading time is like rushing through the drive-through, gobbling junk to appease my hunger, rather than take the time to savor the banquet and sip from the overflowing cup of blessings my Lord places before me (Psalm 23: 5).

Try it. Put your day on pause and sit down and focus on the things you can praise God for. Little things. Big things. Speak them aloud—there’s power in the spoken word—or write them down. It won’t be long before the clouds of hopelessness and despair part and you feel the warmth of His sunshine flood your soul.

Pause and praise—and one more thing—PRESENCE.

Just as the meaning of Selah is uncertain, so are the days that will comprise 2017.

But of one thing I am certain: That His Presence will go with me (Exodus 33:14). For He has promised, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6).

Thank You, Lord, for being with me every moment of every day. Remind me to pause and praise You often throughout the New Year. Amen.

Read and meditate on Psalm 46

NOTE TO READERS: Have you chosen a theme verse for 2017? Please email me at michelehuey@hughes.net and tell me what your verse is and why you chose it.

Happy New Year! May the LORD bless you and keep you. May the LORD make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you. May the LORD lift up His countenance on you and give you peace throughout the new year. (Numbers 6:24–26)

(c) 2017 Michele Huey. All rights reserved. Photo by Wilbur D. Huey. (c) 2015 Wilbur D. Huey. All rights reserved.