In His Keeping-For His Time

A couple of months ago I wrote concerning what to do when the jolt of the unexpected shows up unannounced. It can be a wild ride.  I wrote from a deep place in my heart because one of those out the blue situations had just shown up at my doorstep. I prepared myself to deal with it, focus on God to get through it, and then get through it.

However, I hit a snag. I expected something to fall into place on my time table, which surely was God’s time table. I discovered, once again, it isn’t. Again, I am struck with this truth: Waiting on God continues to be one of the hardest things I face in life. What have I felt? Irritated, frustrated, confused, fatigued. I find I’m not alone in this.

As I accept the reality of the situation I have a choice to make. I can stay in a place of desolation or entrust all to God knowing He loves me and He really will work it all out for good. I choose to let go of what I’m holding onto so He can do His deeper transforming work in me. That’s what I desire the most anyway.

I want to become more and more shaped into becoming the person God desires me to be, whole and complete.  The way to get there sometimes includes having to go through the turbulent waters in the trial of waiting.

At least forty years ago my husband and I were in a difficult place of ministry. My heart had been deeply wounded by some people I thought were friends. I remember thinking, “How long, Lord? How long will this heartache last?”

I happened to be visiting some relatives and came upon a book in their home written by Andrew Murray. If ever I’ve known that God was there to comfort me, it was then. These are the words that jumped off one of the pages of that book. These words renewed my hope for being strengthened, healed, and brought through.

First, He brought me here, it is by His will I am in this strait place: in that fact I will rest.

Next, He will keep me here in His love, and give me grace to behave as His child.

Then, He will make the trial a blessing, teaching me the lessons He intends me to learn, and working in me the grace He means to bestow.

Last, in His good time He can bring me out again—how and when He knows.

Let me say I am here

By God’s appointment

In His keeping

Under His training

For His time.

Today I dug out my old Bible where I wrote those words many years ago. I needed them again. Maybe they’re for you, too.

What place of waiting does God have you in, today? How can you apply the words of Andrew Murray to your life, today?

We know that those who wait upon the Lord will renew their strength (Isaiah 40:31). Oh, Father, help us to trust You and wait well.

A New Look at Sabbath

Growing up, going to church every Sunday was a common practice. I loved that this was a rhythm that was deeply engrained in me. Even though I didn’t have a deep understanding of what the Biblical word Sabbath actually meant, I now realize we practiced its essence. Sabbath is a time to stop and rest. It’s a time to enjoy God, enjoy being with like-minded people in our faith community, enjoy a family meal, enjoy a nap, and anything else that was life-giving. This change of pace and shifting of focus is a gift from God that provides a way for our souls and bodies to be replenished. God knew we needed this. He established a day of Sabbath from the beginning of time.  It demonstrates God’s loving care for us. When I was growing up it was easy to set apart that day to rest and recharge since there was no cable or satellite TV, no retail stores beckoning me to shop (they were closed) and no internet. It wasn’t complicated to practice “Sabbath”.

Times began changing dramatically in the 90’s . . . but, our souls have not changed. The reason for Sabbath has not changed. We still need the weekly rhythm of practicing Sabbath which provides a way for our souls to be restored and replenished for another week. God knows our human limitations. He says in Jeremiah 31:25 that He will refresh tired bodies and restore tired souls.

A few years ago my husband and I discovered how easy it is to fall into a trap that was depleting us of joy when we allowed technology to steal peace and joy from us on the day when we could be filled up with things that satisfy. We never gave up our weekly habit of going to church, but we’d lost God’s original intention for Sabbath – a day set apart so that we can be reminded of who and what is most important, particularly our relationship with Him. The reality: you can do Sabbath. Here are some tips:  

  • Pick a day. It doesn’t have to be Saturday or Sunday. Our preference is Friday evening through Saturday evening, but you can choose what fits you and your family best.
  • On this day, with God’s help, let go of anxieties and worries that are taking up space in your hearts and minds. Give the mind a rest from troubling thoughts. This makes room for delighting in the peace, joy, and love of God.  Gwen Smith of Potter’s Inn ministries suggests writing down those things that are sucking life and energy from us and putting them in a little box she calls a Sabbath box.  
  • Take a rest from work and any kind of technology that is life-draining instead of life-giving.
  • Do something fun and playful. Allow for spontaneity.
  • If Sunday is the day you practice Sabbath, then enjoy celebrating Creator and Redeemer God with your faith community.
  • Take longer periods of time for contemplative and reflective practices such as silence and solitude, reading and praying the Scripture, journaling.  There are numerous ways to delight in the presence of Jesus. Linger in this sacred place as you enjoy time with Him soaking in His love, grace, goodness, and peace.

 I remember three years ago being in a listening group discussing ways to practice Sabbath. For most of us our Sabbath Day was always on Sundays. However, for this particular group, Sundays were a work day and that was not going to change. We realized being a legalist about the particular day had to go. Freedom came to us as we discovered that the Sabbath rest can be celebrated on another day of the week.

God desires that we become more whole in body and soul. That means He’s okay when we take our Sabbath rest on a different day than Sunday. It’s out of His care and love for us that He established the weekly rhythm of Sabbath. We’ve been intensely blessed through making this part of our Rule of Life. It’s one of the most transformative things we’ve ever done.

Rhythm > Balance

We all know music will not be pleasing to the ear if a steady beat and rhythm are not established. The composer knows what tempo is right for his/her composition. They desire to draw you into to their music. When the rhythm fits the music and it flows in an ordered way, the music draws a person into it, bringing the listener delight.

There’s another kind of rhythm that brings delight to the soul and to our God. It’s called a Rule of Life. In Latin, rule, is “regula.” It refers to a trellis that supports a grapevine, for instance. The trellis supports and guides the vine so that it produces more fruit. This rhythmic pattern is actually a way of living that helps us further develop our inner life that brings more joy, sustenance, freedom, and peace.   A rule of life is not legalistic at all. Developing a rule of life is one of the most positive things you can do.

You often hear people say, “I need to get my life in balance.” Living life in rhythm is greater than balance. It’s virtually impossible to live a “balanced life”, but we can live in rhythm. You may be asking the question, “How do I do this?”

To begin, think about your deepest and best desires and longings. Do your habits, behaviors, and attitudes support those desires and longings? Do your habits, behaviors, and attitudes bring life and help you flourish? It’s important that these practices are life-giving. Too much of life is life-draining.

Second, think about what helps you grow into becoming more of the person you know God designed you to be. What are practices and habits that will develop you into that person? Remember the trellis metaphor, it supports and guides the plant so that it grows, flourishes, and thrives.

Next, keep this rule of life as simple as possible. It needs to be sustainable and life-giving to you. Like the trellis supporting the vine, the rule of life supports and guides you.

A rule of life enhances and is applicable to every area of life:  Spiritual, Emotional, Relational, Physical, etc. But for now, let’s first think of your spiritual life. What are some daily and weekly life-giving rhythms you could establish or enhance? Good daily rhythms could include times of silence, reading, maybe a walk or other exercise, ect. Weekly rhythms: church and life group attendance, coffee with a close friend, discipleship or accountability groups.  

Please understand: Having a rule of life is not about goal setting, New Year’s resolutions, or achieving something. It’s about knowing who you are in Christ and becoming who He designed you to be. It’s not about achieving but about becoming.

Annie Dillard says, “How we spend our days, is of course how we spend our lives.” Our daily pattern of life matters and it shapes us.

Some questions to ponder:                                                

Does my current “rule of life” (my current way of living) draw me closer to God? Are my current daily habits transforming me into one who can genuinely reflect Jesus to others?  How would writing a rule of life help me to live life more abundantly? The exhausted life is not the abundant life.

Remember: “A good rule can set us free to be our true and best selves. It is a working document, a kind of spiritual budget, not carved in stone but subject to regular review and revision. It should support us, but never constrict us.” Margaret Guenther

In my next blog, I’ll share more details about my Rule of Life and why it is so important to me. Living this way is one of the best things I’ve ever done!

Living from the Inside Out

Four years ago a dear friend introduced me to the book, “Embracing Soul Care” by Stephen Smith. Everything I read resonated with me. Somehow God had already placed in me the hunger for more of Him that came through some of the themes mentioned in the book, and yet I’d only scratched the surface of what soul care really meant. My husband’s interest in soul care was also piqued. God in His goodness and sovereignty laid out a plan for us to discover together what this “caring for the soul” was all about.  

We cannot talk about Soul Care without understanding what the soul is. In its simplest form it is the total self. The total you, the total me. That includes our body, our mind, our emotions, and our spirit. These parts are all connected.

I recently visited with a friend who has dealt with chronic back pain for the last three years. She had a knee replacement 6 months ago. Much to her amazement, after that knee replacement surgery she realized her back pain was gone. I looked at her and said, “This is proof that everything in our body is really connected.” It’s the same with our soul. Every part of our soul is important and needs to be cared for. Caring for one part helps another part. I find myself more settled, more at peace, more pressing into the person God has designed me to be when I am caring for my soul. When this is happening, I understand how to love and care for others in a more healthy way. It’s a journey of becoming more whole and complete in Christ.

So what are essential components of soul care?

  • Leaning into my belovedness in Christ. I lean on these truths:  Jesus’ love for me is unconditional. He loves loving me and will never change his mind about loving me. He loves to bless me. He delights in me. He completes me. He never takes His eyes off of me. He likes me.
  • Rest – spiritual and physical. My body needs 7-8 hours of sleep every night. I do everything I can to help that happen. When my body is exhausted it is difficult for the spiritual rest to happen. Spiritual rest is being able to experience the love and peace of Jesus throughout my whole being.
  • Living life in rhythm, not balance. It’s impossible to keep everything balanced in my life. I have discovered certain rhythms which are essential to daily and weekly living in a more satisfied, settled and contented way. It’s somewhat structured but never confining. Describing some of these rhythms will comprise my next blog.
  • Practicing stillness and silence with God in solitude.

Reading “Embracing Soul Care” began the movement of soul care in our lives. Soon after reading “Embracing Soul Care” we discovered there was a retreat offered that would help us learn and experience more of the needed “how to’s” of soul care. It’s now been three years ago that my husband looked at me at the retreat center nestled in the Rocky Mountains and said, “Do you want to do Soul Care for the rest of our lives?” I said yes! The rest is history. We will never be the same.

Questions for reflection: Are you living life out of the place of your belovedness? Are you getting the amount of sleep that replenishes your soul?  Does trying to balance multiple plates at one time leave you worn out and empty? Are you regularly quieting your soul in solitude with God?

For us, this has been life changing. We are passionate about sharing with others how to care for their beautiful soul.

I would love to come alongside you in your spiritual journey. If you’re interested, check out my website. www.kristicoaching.com