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.

Kindle Crash

“Come with Me to a quiet place and get some rest.” – Jesus, as quoted in Mark 6:31 (NIV)

One of the things I enjoy doing in the evenings after supper (besides watch the Pirates game) is putting a jigsaw puzzle together on my Kindle.

Yes, you read that right—there are jigsaw puzzle apps that can be downloaded to mobile devices. I downloaded only one puzzle app (a free one) on my Kindle, but it’s so much fun, I’ll put together three puzzles in one evening.

Now, working on a jigsaw puzzle is a good mind-stimulating activity, and such activities have been proven to sharpen the brains of us senior citizens. The problem with that is I don’t need my mind to be stimulated in the evening when I’m wanting—needing—to unwind, physically and mentally, after a full day’s work. And the glow from electronic screens, it’s been found, can interfere with the body’s production of the sleep hormone melatonin, causing insomnia.

After a couple of weeks of restless, broken sleep, I removed the jigsaw puzzle app from my Kindle, not only so I could get a better night’s rest, but also because the app was causing my Kindle to crash.

For those of you who blissfully aren’t into technology, a crash occurs when the device, whether a mobile phone, Kindle, or computer, stops working. Sometimes only the program being used stops. Other times, the whole thing freezes up and you have to shut it off and turn it on again. That’s called “rebooting.”

My Kindle also crashes when I get too many apps going at the same time or the battery gets low. And that jigsaw puzzle app sure drains the battery fast.

I’m just like my Kindle—there are times I “crash” too. Like when I take on a project that eats up precious time and energy but has little or no real value. Or when I get too many things going at the same time (I’m not a good multi-tasker). Or when I don’t give my batteries enough time to recharge before I’m up and running again.

Like my Kindle, I need to reboot—shut off the busyness and plug in to the Power Source long enough to recharge sufficiently.

Image courtesy of duron123 at FreeeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of duron123 at FreeeDigitalPhotos.net

Studies have found that spending a week in the great outdoors camping and getting away from electronic devices and the too noisy, too bright world we live in can reset our biological clocks, restoring the natural rhythms our Creator gave us.

Too often we rush through day after day after day, we burn the midnight oil to get more done, and we exhaust ourselves in the process. There’s a reason God established the Sabbath rest: We need it—physically, mentally, and spiritually—or we, too, will “crash.”

“Come away with Me to a quiet place and get some rest,” Jesus told His disciples after a busy time of ministry.

He beckons to us today: “Come to Me all you who are weary, and I will give you rest. Let Me lead you beside quiet waters. Rest in verdant, peaceful pastures.” (Matthew 11:28,Psalm 23)

Do you feel as though you’re heading for a crash?

It’s time, my friend, to reboot.

When I’m heading for a crash, O Lord, unplug me! Amen.

Extra tea: Read and meditate on Genesis 2:1–3; 1 Kings 17:2–4