Strong Finish

A truly good book teaches me better than to read it. I must soon lay it down, and commence living on its hint. What I began by reading, I must finish by acting.

Henry David Thoreau

Ever taken a 30-day challenge? Did it feel like it was three months long? I am involved in two challenges for the month of July that involve different aspects of writing. My first challenge is to finish a revision of my current novel in progress, and the second is to finish setting up my website. I want to end the month strong. I want the satisfaction that comes with completing something, knowing I have done my best.

And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men

Colossians 3:23

The Christian life is made up of seasons with unique challenges and blessings. We move from season to season like a runner completing segments of a race. It is a marathon that requires endurance and perseverance. But, we don’t run this race alone. We have a great cloud of witnesses, past and present, who run alongside us toward the prize.

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hebrews 12:1-2

As we run the race, we need to remember whose name is on our jersey. As Christians we carry Christ’s name, and we shouldn’t do anything that brings Him shame or disgrace. No one is perfect, and we all fall short. God knows our hearts and our weaknesses as human beings, and He is full of grace and mercy when we come to Him.

Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, 14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3:13-14

Like, Paul, I don’t count myself as having apprehended, but I keep trying to move forward by the grace of God. One day we will all cross the finish line, and everyone who finishes gets a crown because Jesus has already won it for us.

So, to finish strong we just need to focus on the next leg of the race and on the author and finisher of our faith. Let’s help each other run the race so that we can hear God say:

Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.

Matthew 25:23

Stuck in the Middle

“If there is no struggle, there is no progress.”

Frederick Douglass

You know that excitement you get when you begin a new project? What about the sense of satisfaction when you finish one? Do you ever hear anyone say, “I’m so excited about working fifty rows of  K1 P1 ribbing?

For the non-knitters, K1 P1ribbing is knitter-speak for knit one stitch and pearl one stitch until you lose your mind. The stitch pattern makes a lovely edge for sweaters and hats, but it can be a little boring. It also takes a little attention to detail because you constantly switch the yarn from the back to the front to the back again. If you are just knitting a row, you don’t really have to think about it as your hands use muscle memory to just do it. The ribbing takes a little work.

Writing books is very similar. You are excited about the idea in your mind and start creating the character and their world. You look forward to finishing it and getting it published. In between the two lies the ribbing, aka figuring out how to get your protagonist from point A to point Z without losing your reader or your mind. It takes a little work.

Our spiritual lives are not really that different. When we first come to know Christ, we are excited and eager to dive into the Word and live the Christian life. It’s a great time. Then, we are also thinking about what it will be like when we get to Heaven and everything is complete and whole in Christ’s presence. In the meantime, life happens and we get distracted by daily tasks and demands on our time. Keeping our enthusiasm during the daily grind is difficult sometimes. It takes a little work.

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,

Hebrews 12:1

Christians are a work in progress. We have been saved, but God is still working on us. The key word is work. It requires a struggle, but nothing good ever comes easy. The good news is that it’s not all up to us. God is working on us, and God will finish what he starts.

Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:

Philippians 1:6

There is no greater example of this than the caterpillar becoming a butterfly. It takes time for the transformation to occur, and when the butterfly is ready to emerge from the cocoon, it has to struggle. The thing about the struggle is that it makes the butterflies wings strong so that when it is finally free, it can fly.

When you find yourself struggling in your daily walk, remember that God is not finished with you yet. Struggle means you are growing spiritual wings so that you can fly. Meanwhile, you can’t speed through the process like Adam Sandler’s character in Click. His remote control allowed him to fast forward through the parts of life he didn’t like, but in the end he realized that he’d fast forwarded through his life and missed a lot of great little moments. So, learn to slow down so that you can enjoy the little moments because that’s where life is really lived: in the middle.

Just Start

Part 1 of a Work in Progress (WIP)

The White Rabbit put on his spectacles. “Where shall I begin, please your Majesty?” he asked. “Begin at the beginning,” the King said gravely, “and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll

My to-do list has lists at the moment. Sitting on my desk are ideas for four non-fiction pieces, an idea for a short work of fiction to use as a giveaway, and my blog post idea turned into a blog post series idea. Not to mention, today I began work on a website for my writing which has a to-do list of its ow,n along with sub-lists of lists. My head is spinning like the little blue circle on my computer that show up when I’ve asked it to compute more than it can compute. What’s a writer to do?

Just start!

That was the command Anne Lamott gave to her writing students in the book Bird by Bird. They wanted to know how to be published authors, and she said you have to start writing first. The thought of writing a novel, the thought of having my own website, the thought of spiritual growth and revival all sound great in theory. It is the working it out that slows us down. My first question is where do I start?

Just start!

The king in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland had it right when he said start at the beginning. You have to start where you are. No matter what path lies in front of you, start from where you are and take a step forward. One of the things I learned about anxiety is that action is one of the greatest weapons against it. If you sit and think about something, you will begin to imagine all the worst case scenarios and begin a negative spiral downward until you are frozen in place. However, if you just take action, you are literally and figuratively one step ahead. It frees you to keep moving.

But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:8

If you are moving, then you are making progress, which fuels you to keep moving. Our spiritual walk is just that, a daily walk. We have to get out of bed every morning and decide to walk. We have to start from where we are: sinners saved by grace. Then, we move forward a step at a time through whatever the day holds, whatever life’s journey holds. But, we don’t walk alone.

When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.

Isaiah 43:2

We have a guide and a companion who goes alongside us. So, there is no need to fear what might lie ahead. Our job is to take it one step at a time. With Christ as our Shepherd and Leader, we can’t get lost, although we might go down a rabbit hole or two. Just like Alice we get to the same place at the journey’s end, home sweet home. In the meantime… what is it you need to do?

Just start! Take it one thing at a time and enjoy the moment. It’s all a work in progress, including me.

Coming next week: Part 2 of Work in Progress… Stuck in the Middle

Home Again

There’s no place like home.

Dorothy Gale – The Wizard of Oz

How do you pick up the threads of an old life? How do you go on, when in your heart you begin to understand…there is no going back?

Frodo
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
J. R. R. Tolkien

Yesterday I came home from a much-needed vacation in the north Georgia mountains. Everything was peaceful, calm, and green with perfect temperatures and a nice breeze. My sister and I ate what we wanted and did what we wanted. We put together a jigsaw puzzle, watched a few movies, listened to an audio book on a landing near the river, or just rocked on the porch while we listened to the river below and the birds in the trees. Then, we came home. I was glad to get back to my fur babies, but it is always a little surreal, like something is not quite right.

In 1994 I moved to Seoul, South Korea for almost two years as a missionary, teaching English at the WMU headquarters. When I went to Korea, I expected life to be different living in a foreign country, and I wasn’t disappointed. However, I was not prepared for the return home. Everything was the same but different. A tree that had been in front of my childhood home for probably a hundred years came down during a hurricane that made its way inland. My niece had grown so much from the toddler I remembered that I almost didn’t recognize her. The house was the same, but it didn’t feel quite right.

For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come.

Hebrews 13:14

The saying that you can’t go home again doesn’t mean you can’t physically go home; it means you can go but it will never be exactly the same because you have changed. My two years in Korea had changed me, matured me. For two years Seoul was my home, so returning to my childhood home was not the same anymore. It wasn’t bad, but it took several months to settle back into a routine. I understand what Frodo meant in the quotation above: there is no going back. But, that’s not a bad thing because we shouldn’t be going back; we should be moving forward.

For our conversation [citizenship] is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:

Philippians 3:20

When we become Christians, our citizenship changes. We are no longer of this world though we remain in it. Therefore, we will never really feel like we belong because we are looking forward to home inHeaven one day. When Frodo returned to the Shire, he knew he couldn’t stay. He stayed long enough to finish his last task, and then he journeyed on to the white shores. When we accept Christ as Lord, we should be looking toward Him and what He has for us to do. Then, once our assignments are complete, we will go home to our reward.

Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.

John 14:1-2

In the meantime, we have a purpose right where we are. Some days it is fighting fleas, and some days it is fighting giants. Most days it is somewhere in the middle. It is a journey down a road less taken, and you never know what will be around the next turn, but you know who walks beside you, and you know the journey’s end: Home. Like Dorothy said, “There is no place like home.”

Home is behind, the world ahead, And there are many paths to tread Through shadows to the edge of night, Until the stars are all alight. Then world behind and home ahead, We’ll wander back and home to bed. Mist and twilight, cloud and shade, Away shall fade! Away shall fade!

J. R. R. Tolkien

Stay the Course

“‘Go back?’ he thought. ‘No good at all! Go sideways? Impossible! Go forward? Only thing to do! On we go!’ So up he got, and trotted along with his little sword held in front of him and one hand feeling the wall, and his heart all of a patter and a pitter.”

The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien

In The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Bilbo Baggins sets off on an adventure with Gandalf and group of dwarves. At first he is unwilling to join the quest, but at the last minute he throws things in a bag and runs off to catch up with the group. It’s not long into the trip before he is thrown into the uncomfortable by being forced to ride a pony. It’s his first hint that the journey will be full of twists and turns, not all of them pleasant, but he keeps moving forward.

I find myself in the same boat, so to speak. I start a new knitting project so excited, picking out colors and making plans. Even casting on brings joy, but part way through the pattern we hit a snag or have problems understanding the pattern, and suddenly we want to throw the project in our bag for another day or forget it altogether.

Every April our Ladies Group does a Bible study, and this year we are studying Promises of God from Love God Greatly. The first week’s topic was God is with you. As we were discussing the lessons, a commentary mentioned that the devil uses discouragement as a favorite tool for making Christians ineffective. It keeps us from doing what God has called us to do. We also discussed that sometimes you just have to do it afraid, knowing God will be with you. Another comment was that we need to stay the course no matter what is happening because God is with us. The study suggested praying God’s words back to Him in order to combat fear and discouragement. The main verse for the week was:

So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Isaiah 41:10

This week I put that suggestion to use and I felt the power of standing on God’s Word. Today, I began a short-term extra job to help raise funds for a newer car. Fridays are the one day that I can work an 8-hour shift, so I was discouraged when I woke up to a sinus migraine. The headache began to worsen after an hour of working, so I took a break. I came back and had to do a training set. The headache was no better, so I informed my leader that I was taking medicine and a break and would hopefully be back later. The headache finally died down to a dull ache, so I went back to work around 2:30.

Within an hour, my validity dropped and I had to do a training session and pass a training set in order to continue working. At one point, I considered just signing out for the day. In the middle of the training, my practice set was only 50% valid and I got very discouraged. I thought that maybe I shouldn’t be doing the job. I read Isaiah 41:10 back to God and reminded Him that He had put this job in place and I needed to pass in order to keep working, so I needed wisdom to answer the questions. I passed. Even then I considered quitting for the day while I was ahead despite the fact that there were 2 hours left on my shift and I had lost a couple of hours with the headache. Just then the phrase stay the course caught my eye. I knew I had to keep going. Like Bilbo I had to keep going forward.

God said not to be afraid because he would be with us, strengthen us, help us and uphold us, but He never said it would all be easy. It takes rough roads sometimes to remind us who is in control and where our help comes from:

 I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.

Psalms 121:1-2

When the journey is full of twists, turns, potholes, and even an occasional detour, we know we can stay the course because God is with us. Don’t let the devil use discouragement or fear to stop you. Pray God’s Word back to Him and feel the power of the Almighty begin to work. Then just like Bilbo keep going forward and stay the course. Even greater adventures still await.

The Next Level

In the movie Groundhog Day, the main character keeps reliving the same day over and over again. He tries everything to break the cycle, but until he learns what he was meant to learn he is stuck repeating the same things over and over again. While we may not actually repeat the same exact day again and again, I bet most of us could say we have felt stuck in some way and unable to get to the next level.

When I need a break from work, I play a computer game. I had been playing the same level for what seemed like forever when I noticed something I hadn’t noticed before: a tool. When I used that tool, I was able to complete the round and move on to the next challenge. The harder the level, the more rewards you collect. I find the same thing true in my spiritual walk. As I try to grow and mature, I find myself stuck only to find that the tools I needed were there all along.

This week I have been reading two devotional books, one for writers and one on giving your dreams to God. Thursday they both had the same general message from two different angles about committing your work to the Lord. Then I listened to a podcast that talked about working from a place of rest. When I hear the same ideas or verses of scripture coming from multiple places, I have learned to take note. Here’s what I learned:

First, if we want to move to the next level spiritually, we have to do the work, but not just any work.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

Ephesians 2:10

While works won’t save us, there is still work to be done. This verse points out that God already had a plan for our lives, a work we were designed to do. When we fall in line with God and pick up his yoke, we find a satisfaction and enjoyment that exceeds anything we dreamed of even when the going is difficult or the work seems mundane.

Once we find the work God has us to do, we have to commit it to God:

Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass. Psalm 37:5

Psalms 37:5

Grant thee according to thine own heart, and fulfil all thy counsel. We will rejoice in thy salvation, and in the name of our God we will set up our banners: the Lord fulfil all thy petitions.

Psalms 20:4-5

Commit thy works unto the Lord, and thy thoughts shall be established.

Proverbs 16:3

When you dedicate your dreams to God, you have to trust Him and let go. It sounds simple and easy, but it’s not. We humans have a hard time trusting and letting go. He is a good Father who only wants the best for His children, so He is trustworthy. When we do let go, God always gives back more than we ever dreamed. Too often we try to hedge God in with our small ideas when He has much bigger things planned.

When we have committed it to God, then we can work from a place of rest.

For thus saith the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel; In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength: and ye would not.

Isaiah 30:15

When we let God set our boundaries, we can do the work that we were called to do but at a sustainable pace. Too often we allow the world to set the pace, one which is not healthy or meaningful. They call it a rat race for a reason. If we will let God show us which opportunities to take and which ones to let go, we can work from a place of rest knowing we are doing His will.

Then, we can look at each day as a chance to start fresh. Unlike the movie, we don’t have to repeat the same level. We can take the next step in our journey, the next level: we just need to remember:

This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.

Psalms 118:24

So, let’s take each day one day at a time. If nothing else, the last year taught us that while it’s good to make plans, those plans can change. When we let God have the reins and lead the way, we know we will be going in the right direction and can just enjoy the ride. We can rejoice and be glad.

When you feel overwhelmed by your To-Do List, take a step back and lift it up to the Lord. Ask Him to show you what He wants you to do. You may find that some tasks need to come off of the list, or you may find that God makes a way for everything to get done. Either way, the road is a lot smoother when we take up His yoke instead of dragging everything by ourselves. He wants to give us the life of rest we truly long for if we will only let Him.

Is there something God wants to take off of your To-Do list?

Hope is Confident

I was aggravated this morning because I couldn’t seem to get everything together to write my blog post last night or this morning before my dental appointment. I wanted it all taken care of so that I wouldn’t have to think about it when I got home. The dental appointment ran late, so it was past time for lunch when I finally left, and I still had to stop by the vet’s office for cat food. I was working my way into a pity party on the drive home because the dentist had suggested a crown to go over the filling. I was just getting caught up from last year, and I had several other debts still to pay. Would I ever get ahead?

Before I broke into tears, I decided to distract myself by thinking about what I could do, which was plan out my blog and my hope notebook project. I had somehow chosen the same verse twice for the notebook, so I was one short for my 40 days. I got an idea for the 40th day as I was driving along, and in the process I remembered that God was my hope, so I could be confident that He could handle whatever comes. All of the events of last night and this morning led me to the truth God wanted me to know: He is enough.

Day 29

The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him.

Lamentations 3:24

Day 30

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations:

1 Peter 1:3-6

Day 31

The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in those that hope in his mercy.

Psalms 147:11

Day 32

Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is.

Jeremiah 17:7

Day 33

Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:

Philippians 1:6

Day 34

For the needy shall not always be forgotten: the expectation of the poor shall not perish for ever.

Psalms 9:18

Day 35

But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

Isaiah 40:31

As I reviewed the verses from this week, I saw God planting seeds of hope all along the way. Today was kind of like a pop quiz to see if I had learned my lessons this week. In the midst of the temptation to whine, the scriptures came back to remind me that hope is confident because it comes from a God who cannot fail. While the road will not always be easy on this journey called life, we always have a good traveling companion in the Holy Spirit and the destination is worth the struggle.

When you are tempted to wallow in pity, take a moment to list the things you have to be thankful for and it will improve your mood exponentially.  Then give that list of problems to God and ask Him to show you what to do. Sometimes that might be to just “wait upon the Lord” and sometimes it might require something on your part, but if you stay in His will, it will all work out to His Glory.

Now I’m going to go slurp some tea until feeling returns to my lip and work on my hope notebook. Today’s verse is especially timely and I am excited about the finale next week. Stay tuned to #MyHopeNotebook and remember that as long as we have God, we have a hope that give us confidence.

When the Bucket Meets the Road

October was a long month in some ways and way too short in others. I wrote 4 novellas, so every day I went to my first job, and then my second job, and then I came home to write a couple thousand words. I was happy to see November and was down to correcting the last two novellas to send to the publisher.

Driving home in the dark, suddenly there appeared a bucket in the road. Not your average bucket, but a heavy duty one. I couldn’t swerve or stop because of traffic; I had to hit it straight on. I figured it would hit and bounce, maybe ding my already dinged car, but no. It had staying power. It scraped and screamed on the asphalt and refused to break loose or break up, so I finally pulled over. I couldn’t see it and the side of that particular highway was not safe due to high traffic. Since all of my tires seemed fine, I waited for all the traffic to pass and then eased onto the road and drove to the parking lot of an empty building down the hill.

I finally found the offending bucket wedged under the front of my car and managed to pull it loose and toss it to the side. Saying a quick prayer, I got back in the car and headed home, thankful not to see any warning lights on the dash. I made it home without any further ado and went inside to finish what I had started.

It occurred to me that the incident is a lot like life. We are rolling along taking care of business when suddenly life throws a bucket at us. Whether it is a unexpected bill, an illness, a death, or just a bad day, it throws a kink in our plan and slows us down. We want to pull off the road and quit, but we still have to get home, so we have to deal with the problem and carry on.

Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:

1 Peter 5:7-8

First, the Bible says to cast our cares on God. We weren’t meant to carry them around. God wants us to trust Him with our problems. The devil is trying to trip us up and throws whatever he can at us, even a bucket in the road, but God is on the throne and better equipped to deal with the obstacles at hand. God allows the obstacles and uses them to help us grow in faith and in character.

But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.

Genesis 5:20

The enemy and even people will make plans against us, but they cannot over throw the will of God. He has a plan even when it seems like nothing is going right. Joseph had to be sold into slavery in order for him to end up in the right place to save his people from starvation. We may not always know the purpose of the bucket in the road, but we do know God.

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:28

God can use even a bucket in the road to teach us something, or even protect us from something that we can’t see. There might have been a potential wreck further down the road, or it might have just been a warning to slow down. Regardless, God can use it for our good if we let him.

So, when the bucket meets the road and you can’t avoid it, know that God will be there by your side. You need only to ask for His help and carry on. It’ll work itself out eventually. Stop stress eating because of poll results and getting angry over social media posts, God will work the bucket out however He sees fit. It’s out of our hands and that’s probably a good thing because we would have tried to save Joseph from being sold into slavery and look where that would have led.

The Unknown

Unknown

I am a planner. I like to plan out things for maximum efficiency. For instance, if I know I have several errands to take care of, I will plan out what order of attack will be the most efficient based on the locations of errands in relation to home, each other, and traffic patterns (such as left-turn signals or busy roadways). I also take into consideration if I need to go to one place first, such as the bank. Then I implement my attack. I get great satisfaction in ticking off my list as I go. It makes me feel productive. What I don’t like is going into the unknown, whether it is a new grocery store or a new career. I want to know the plan and the best way to get there; however, God often has other ideas.

When I was called to serve as a short-term missionary to Seoul, South Korea, I was excited and a little nervous. There were all kinds of plans to be made, such as what to do with my car while I was gone or what to pack to take with me. I thought I had everything under control; however, there was a hiccup in the transportation plans. I wrote to the mission about my arrival, but I never received a response. I had a plane ticket and my passport, but I had no idea what would happen once I arrived at the airport, such as who, if anyone, was picking me up. The last and main leg of the journey was a 15-hour non-stop flight, and I spent 90% of that flight trying not to worry about what would happen when I got there. When I stepped through the doors of customs into the waiting area, I searched the crowd, my heart racing. At first, I only saw a mass of strangers rushing to greet other passengers, but then I spotted a group of people holding a welcome sign with my name on it and felt a wave of relief wash over me. God had provided a way even though I did not know of the plans He was making in my behalf.

When Abraham left his country in Genesis 12, he had no idea where he was going. He went by faith. When God told Noah to build a boat when it hadn’t even rained, it took faith. When the Israelites left Egypt and walked into the desert, they didn’t know where they were going either. I did not know what would happen when I got to the airport, but God did. The reason God leads us into the unknown is to build our faith and force us to trust in who He is instead of in ourselves.

We want to know the plan, but God just wants us to know Him. The goal of this life is a relationship with God, to know Him better, to trust Him. The only way to do that is to step out in faith from the known path into the unknown, to cast out into the deep away from the seeming safety of the shore, knowing that whatever He has planned for us is better than anything we can dream up.

While planning has its place, we also need to be open to following God into the unknown believing in faith that He knows what lies ahead and will be with us all the way. If we follow His lead, we will never go astray. Psalm 46:10 says “Be still, and know that I am God.” The phrase “be still” can be translated “cease striving” or “release your hold” or “relax.” God is in the driver’s seat, and He knows more than any GPS about what lies ahead, so relax and enjoy the journey. God’s got this!

Rest

In today’s society REST is a four-letter word. Everybody, and every body, needs it, but no one wants to admit they took it. People almost feel the need to apologize for taking time off. My students use a resource in class, an article titled “Toxic Work World” by Anne Marie Slaughter in The New York Times, which speaks to this issue. It talks about a work culture that requires more and more time at work even if it is not quality work in order to not only succeed, but sometimes to even keep your job. It is a culture that frowns on taking vacation days. If there is a family emergency, many people are afraid to take off time to take care of things in fear of losing their jobs. We have taken competition to an extreme level to the point stress and anxiety are at epidemic levels. What is to be done?

Isaiah 30:15 says, “For thus saith the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel; in returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength: and ye would not.”

A writer pointed out that people have written sermons and devotionals by the thousands on the subject of returning or repentance, but very few talk about the second part: “In returning and rest shall ye be saved.”Even God took a day off. On the seventh day he rested. We even take the Sabbath as a day to be busy, running from one thing to another.

We need to take time to rest at the feet of Jesus, like Mary, and just soak up His presence. We need to draw from the power of the Holy Spirit. We need to reflect on Our Father’s blessings.

The Christian walk is a journey, not a competition. Everyone who completes the race is a winner, but, like any journey, we need to take breaks along the way to sleep, to eat, and to rest. Otherwise, we will run out of fuel and be forced to stand still. So, take time to rest…mentally, physically, and spiritually. Ask God and he will give you rest for your soul. Then, you will be prepared to be his example in a world of people who long for what He has to offer.