The old house at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Everybody needs a safe haven

I don’t like admitting that I need help. Admitting that I need help is showing weakness, and I never want people to think I’m weak. Similarly, I don’t like admitting when I need to rest. I’d rather live in denial and push forward until I collapse instead of being proactive and planning for the need to slow down every so often.

That’s probably my pride and my stubbornness showing through.

But realizing that you need to rest doesn’t make you weak. It makes you human. No one has super powers. None of us can push forward through life without needing rest or at least a quiet place to recharge. If we try it, we’ll burn out. And once you burn out, lighting the fire again is ten times as difficult.

I’m just coming off one of the busiest weeks of my year, and as I lay awake in bed this morning, my brain was buzzing with everything else I have to do. April is so full, part of me is scared to even look at my calendar. And May is worse. It’s all great, wonderful things. Tremendous opportunities. Fun challenges. Exciting events. But it does take time and energy and emotion, and at the moment, not yet recovered from National Sales Meeting, I can’t imagine being ready for any of it.

The old house at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

The old house at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Psalm 46

God is our refuge and strength,
    always ready to help in times of trouble.
So we will not fear when earthquakes come
    and the mountains crumble into the sea.
Let the oceans roar and foam.
    Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge! Interlude

A river brings joy to the city of our God,
    the sacred home of the Most High.
God dwells in that city; it cannot be destroyed.
    From the very break of day, God will protect it.
The nations are in chaos,
    and their kingdoms crumble!
God’s voice thunders,
    and the earth melts!
The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is here among us;
    the God of Israel is our fortress. Interlude

Come, see the glorious works of the Lord:
    See how he brings destruction upon the world.
He causes wars to end throughout the earth.
    He breaks the bow and snaps the spear;
    he burns the shields with fire.

 “Be still, and know that I am God!
    I will be honored by every nation.
    I will be honored throughout the world.”

The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is here among us;
    the God of Israel is our fortress.

I need to read this Psalm every day. I need to remember everything in this Psalm every moment of every day and maybe twice a day in the stressful times.

Needing a refuge isn’t weak. Everyone needs a refuge, a safe place to go when life gets too crazy.

I’d been away from home since very early Sunday morning, and I walked through my door last night where my roomie was waiting for me. She made dinner, and we watched The Desolation of Smaug and ate pasta. I could relax and not worry about tomorrow and just be.

I’m so fortunate to have a safe place I can go, but not everyone has that. So where do you go when you don’t have a comfortable couch with an awesome roomie?

Maybe it sounds clichéd to talk about resting in God, but that’s what we need to learn to do. That’s what I need to learn to do, especially in those moments when I’ve overworked myself and I don’t have time (or the ability) to run home and hide in my basement with a movie and a cup of tea.

Finding rest in God can be difficult because it requires a change of perspective, and when you’re exhausted anyway, expending the effort to change the way you see the world seems like too much trouble. But the truth is, my safe haven isn’t safe because of my movies and my hot tea and my comfy chair and my awesome roomie. My safe haven is a refuge because it helps me slow down and remember who God is.

That’s the key to resting. It’s not being lazy. It’s not being weak. It’s slowing down enough to regain the right perspective on God, and when you do that, you’ll get the right perspective on everything else.  Remember who God is. Recognize what He’s done for you. Realign your thinking to match His. And you’ll be amazed at how refreshed you feel afterward.

So where is your safe place? Where can you go to slow down and remember who God is? If you don’t have a place like that, you really need to find one. Life won’t slow down, so you have to.

Shoveled versus unshoveled at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

God saves people who rest in Him

Have you ever sacrificed rest for productivity? You needed to get something done and even though you really needed to recharge before you started it, you plowed ahead anyway? How did that turn out? Were you as productive as you could have been?

I do this more often than I’m comfortable admitting, and even though I usually do accomplish most everything on my to-do list, most of it wouldn’t quality as excellent. And in other situations, especially at work, when I need to revise something over and over again, I get really frustrated. Not at the project, not at the person asking for revisions, but at myself.

Performance-driven perfectionist, remember? If I don’t get something perfect on the first go-round, I can manage, if I can fix it immediately and exceed all expectations. But if it goes through a second round? Or a third round? Or a fourth round? My brain can barely handle it. And if I’m trying to do all of that when I haven’t rested properly, I can pretty much guarantee I’ll hit the irrational level where I convince myself that I’m not any good at what I’m doing.

But when you’re busy and stressed and overwhelmed with things that need to get done, how can you step back and rest? Won’t that make it impossible to accomplish anything?

 

Shoveled versus unshoveled at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Shoveled versus unshoveled at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Isaiah 30:15.

This is what the Sovereign Lord,
    the Holy One of Israel, says:
“Only in returning to me
    and resting in me will you be saved.
In quietness and confidence is your strength.

This is the part of faith that I have the most trouble with–not believing but accepting. I always feel like I have to do something. I can’t just sit and wait for God to act. I need to be the one with the initiative. I need to be the one driving the project. I need to be the one making the decisions. But that’s not how God works all the time.

Sometimes He does. Sometimes He wants you to get off your blessed assurance and do something, but not always. And I’m working on paying more attention to those times.

I’ve had the privilege of growing up around so many wonderful Christians, the hardcore dedicated believers who love Christ with everything they are. As a child, I remembered marveling at what God could do through them, and I wanted to be one of those people. And like the crazy person I am, I always take everything one step further. I can’t just meet expectations, I have to exceed them or I’m not happy. I can’t just perform well, I have to perform perfectly or it’s not worth it.

As a result, I run myself ragged. I do everything. I’ve gotten better about it in the past year or so, not saying yes to everything that comes around and actually consulting with God about what I agree to do. And it’s helped. But I still hit those exhausted moments where I really need to rest. And I don’t.

I don’t know where we get the idea that God needs our help. I’m not sure where we got that. Why do we think that God can’t accomplish something unless we run ourselves into the ground? There’s some ridiculous part of me that thinks if I’m enjoying life I’m not working for God hard enough, and that’s a lie. No, this life isn’t permanent for us, and, no, this world isn’t our home. But God put us here, and there are parts of this world and this life that He gave us to enjoy. So why don’t we? Why do we stress ourselves out? Why do we deny ourselves rest?

Our salvation doesn’t come through anything we have done. We aren’t saved by anything we can do. And I’m not just talking spiritually. That’s true in our everyday lives at work and at home and at school. The only choice we need to make is to do follow the Bible, to do what Christ would have done, to live like He did. And God opens the doors for us. We don’t have to wear ourselves out worrying.

Granted, we need to willing to work. We need to be willing to get our hands dirty and go where God tells us and do what He says when He says it. But He already has a plan, and it’s a good plan. So why do we try to take over? The only thing our taking over will accomplish is to confuse things because we can’t see the big picture.

Trying to tackle a huge job when you’re already exhausted will lead to disaster and emotional meltdowns, and that’s not how our lives are supposed to be. God didn’t create us for that.

So, whatever you’re facing today, sit back. Relax. Trust God and rest. Really, truly rest. It’s hard. It’s harder than anything I’ve ever had to do. But God saves people who rest in Him. You’ll find strength in quiet confidence in Him. He’s got a plan, and it’s a good plan. So let Him work it out.

The Pink House - Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Rest doesn’t equal indolence

I believe in putting my whole heart and soul into everything I do. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well; that’s what I believe. Life is too short to do things half heartedly. So whether I’m working at my job or doing ministry of some kind, I am always doing it 110%.

But I’ll be the first to tell you that people weren’t designed to run at that kind of pace for an extended period of time with no rest. And that’s where I have been for the last six weeks. Maybe even longer than that. Probably since January.

I’m exhausted. And run down. And worn out. But even though I recognize that I need rest, there’s still some part of me that feels guilty for doing it.

The Pink House - Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

The Pink House – Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verse is Mark 6:31.

Then Jesus said, “Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.” He said this because there were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his apostles didn’t even have time to eat.

It’s difficult to remember sometimes that Jesus rested too. And no one believed in ministry more than Jesus did.

Resting is necessary. It’s not being lazy.

That’s what I have to convince myself more often than anything else: that taking a break doesn’t make me lazy. It just makes me human.

In any case, it’s important to remember that you can’t make it through life with your nose to the grindstone constantly. I mean, you can try. But if you deny yourself the rest you need on a regular basis, you’ll lose your perspective.

If you bury yourself in your work, whether it’s job or ministry, pretty soon you’ll be so buried that you can’t dig yourself out. And by then, your work or your ministry will be all that matters to you anyway.

And, yes, it’s important to care about your job. And it’s important to care about your ministry. But not at the expense of your relationship with God.

Even Jesus recognized that He needed a break to reset His relationship with His Father. And He knew that His disciples needed a chance to breathe, where He could spend time with them and encourage them.

So that’s what I’m doing this weekend. I’m resting. I have my camera. I have three of my favorite people in the world in one of the most beautiful places on earth. And I have my netbook with a novel I’m working on (which I may or may not work on).

But beyond all of those wonderful things, I’m being quiet. I’m slowing down. And I’m listening. Because I have been so busy for so long that I’ve not taken the time to listen to the things that God is trying to tell me. And I’m excited for what He has to say.

If you are like me and are so overwhelmed with life and work and ministry, do yourself a favor. Take a break. Step back. Do something else for a weekend, and listen to what God is telling you.

You might be surprised at what you hear.

Sunset on the wheat field

Unforced rhythms of grace

Do you ever get bogged down with work? Boy, I do. And most of it is self-imposed. I have a list of things I need to accomplish because if I don’t complete them, I won’t be able to view myself as a worthwhile person. But my value isn’t dependant on how much I accomplish in my life. That’s hard for me to wrap my head around, but it’s the truth.
 
Granted, understanding that my value isn’t based on my accomplishments doesn’t mean that I can just stop working. But it does mean that I don’t have to do things all by myself anymore.  And it means that there has to be a balance between laziness and the performance-driven mentality of the overworked. But what is it?
 
I live in a rural area, and there is always so much to do to keep the house up, to keep the orchard alive, to keep the outbuildings standing. I also work full time as a copywriter and web guru for a global corporation. I also am in the middle of writing three novels and a short story a month in pursuit of having a job where I can work from home so I’ll have time to take care of my house and keep the orchard alive and the outbuildings standing. And on top of all that, I’m involved in my church, in the technical ministry and in the drama ministry. And I also try to have a life, keeping up with friends, with a book club, with family.
 
I’m not a Type A person. But I’m beginning to think that I live like one, flitting from one thing to the next, so busy and so overwhelmed with life and living that I’m little more than a zombie. So when I read today’s verse, it resonated with me.
 
Sunset on the wheat field

Sunset on the wheat field, Haven, KS

Matthew 11:28-30

 
28 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”
 
That’s a pretty major claim. Notice that it isn’t really physical rest that Jesus is offering here, though. See that? This is soul rest.
 
And there’s a lot of other cultural statements in this verse that we could take hours to dissect. There’s so much more being said here than what is obvious. But this morning I’m going to focus on the obvious.
 
Everyone needs rest. We weren’t created to run 100 miles per hour all day every day. We need a Sabbath. And we need time for people, but if you’re the sort of person who never stops serving people, you need to get away from them.
 
This is the same passage in the Message.
 
28-30“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? 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. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
 
What are the unforced rhythms of grace? What does that mean? It’s very poetic, but how is it applicable?
 
It’s living by grace. It’s believing that God has covered all your actions with Christ’s blood so there’s nothing you can do that will ruin His plan — there’s nothing you can’t no do either. It’s not trusting your accomplishments to make you worthwhile. And when you live by grace, nothing is obligatory. Service isn’t mandatory. Worship isn’t something you just do on Sunday mornings. And loving God becomes natural, just like breathing.
 
We aren’t supposed to run ourselves into the ground. We weren’t designed for that.
 
And this is the lesson I need to learn for 2012. I’m tired. I’m worn out. Not on religion, necessarily. I don’t really have religion, so I don’t get burned out on it. But I am burned out on everything else.
 
The key is keeping company with Christ. Oftentimes, I neglect Him for other friends or other duties or other plans. I know He’s always there, but I rarely take the time to actually sit and talk to Him. No wonder I’m exhausted. I need Him to teach me how to live, how to work, how to walk.
 
So that’s one my other goals for 2012, getting to know Christ better and learning to live by grace and not just by faith.

Living in a shelter might be a good idea this year

People who live in Kansas are intimately familiar with storm shelters. Especially this year. We’ve had some crazy storms in the last month. So when I read the verse this morning, I thought first of tornado shelters, but then I thought of one of my favorite movies.

Have you ever seen Blast from the Past? I don’t like romances, but that’s an older romantic comedy . . . with Brendan Fraser . . . so it’s really funny and goofy and I actually enjoy it very much. It’s about this crazy inventor and his family who are terrified that someone is going to drop nuclear weapons on the U.S. back in the late-60s. I think. I can’t really remember the dates. So this guy builds a huge bomb shelter under his house. Well, one night a plane crashes on their house. The guy thinks it’s a nuke and drags his pregnant wife down into the shelter and sets the locks for 30 years. His wife has the baby, and the three of them live in the shelter for 30 years until the locks open and the son returns to the surface looking for a wife. It’s a great movie.

In that movie, these three people lived in their bomb shelter. And it’s kind of funny to say, it made them a close family. The parents were completed invested in the son, and the son grew up adoring his parents. They loved each other. They were a little weird, but their family was strong. So you can imagine what happened when the son returned to the surface in the late 90s. The US wasn’t exactly the stronghold of family values anymore.

Obviously, something like that doesn’t happen in real life. I mean maybe people have tried living in a bomb shelter before. I don’t know. I haven’t researched it, so maybe I shouldn’t be saying it doesn’t happen. But generally speaking, people don’t live like that. If you take Blast from the Past literally . . . . maybe we should.

I thought about this when I read the verse this morning.

Psalm 91:1

1 Those who live in the shelter of the Most High
      will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

The family in the movie was a little off, yes. But they were loving and compassionate and considerate. The parents loved each other. The child respected the parents. The parents wanted the best for the child. They stuck together because they were everything to each other.

So . . . what is the shelther of the Most High? It’s beautiful language, but poetic metaphor doesn’t do very much for us practically speaking. And if God is telling me that I need to live in the shelter of the Most High, I want to know what it is.

Honestly, I don’t know. And I’m not a biblical scholar so I can’t decipher Hebrew or Aramaic. But I can share what I have discovered over my few years of life that I think is pretty close.

The shelter of the Most High isn’t a building or a cave underground, I don’t think. (Maybe it is. That would be funny.) But it’s a way of living life. It’s a perspective on life. It’s understanding that God is God, that He is sovereign, that He really does know what He’s doing, that He never makes mistakes, and that He always keeps His promises. It’s living your life with that knowledge being central to your every thought.

If you can live your life truly believing that, it changes everything. If you can live your life believing that, it doesn’t matter if you lose your job or your family or if you have to leave everything you’ve ever known or if you can’t ever seem to accomplish your dreams. If you can believe that God is God, that He is sovereign, that He really does know what He’s doing, that He never makes mistakes, and that He always keeps His promises, you understand that nothing ever happens by accident. You can wrap your head around the fact that even though things in your life seem to be going nuts, God still has a plan. And it’s a good plan too.

So when you can live in that knowledge, it becomes obvious how you can rest. You can take it easy. You don’t have to worry about your life or your food or your clothes or anything because God has your back. You can rest because God’s got you covered.

So am I advocating that you build a giant bomb shelter under your house and live there? In Kansas, it might not be a bad idea. That way you don’t have to run for shelter; you’re already there.

But no.

I think a lot of American Christians have forgotten–or never knew–what it’s like to live in God’s shelter. We’ve ventured out so far on our own we’ve either lost sight of it or we never knew it existed in the first place. And now that the storms are hitting us, we don’t have a safe place to take refuge. And that’s why we’re being blown around.

I bet all those people in Alabama and Missouri wish that they’d had a shelter to go to when the tornadoes hit them. Well, the storms of life are stronger, harsher and more frightening than any tornado. And we were never expected to weather them in our own strength.

If you’re tired and weary of all the wind this morning, go back to the shelter. It’s not being weak. It’s the smart thing to do.