12 Bible Verses for a Spiritual Retreat

  •  Psalm 23:1-6 NASB
    The Lord is my shepherd,
    I shall not want.
    2 He makes me lie down in green pastures;
    He leads me beside quiet waters.
    He restores my soul;
    He guides me in the paths of righteousness
    For His name’s sake.
    Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
    I fear no evil, for You are with me;
    Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
    You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
    You have anointed my head with oil;
    My cup overflows.
    Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life,
    And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
  • Psalm 42:1-2 NIV
    As the deer pants for streams of water,
        so my soul pants for you, my God.
     My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
    When can I go and meet with God?
  • Psalm 62:5 NIV
    Yes, my soul, find rest in God;
        my hope comes from him.
  • Psalm 80:18-19 ESV
    Then we shall not turn back from you;
        give us life, and we will call upon your name!
    Restore us, O Lord God of hosts
    Let your face shine, that we may be saved!
  • Psalm 116:7 NIV
    Return to your rest, my soul,
        for the Lord has been good to you.
  • Proverbs 11:25 NIV
    A generous person will prosper;
        whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.
  • Song of Solomon 2:10 NKJV
    My beloved spoke, and said to me:
    Rise up, my love, my fair one,And come away.
  • Isaiah 28:12-13 NIV
    to whom he said,
        “This is the resting place, let the weary rest”;
    and, “This is the place of repose”—
        but they would not listen.
    13 So then, the word of the Lord to them will become:
        Do this, do that,
        a rule for this, a rule for that;
        a little here, a little there—
    so that as they go they will fall backward;
        they will be injured and snared and captured.
  • Jeremiah 31:25 NASB
     For I satisfy the weary ones and refresh everyone who languishes.
  • Hosea 2:14-16 ESV
    Therefore, behold, I will allure her,
        and bring her into the wilderness,
        and speak tenderly to her.
    15 And there I will give her her vineyards
        and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.
    And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth,
        as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt.
  • Matthew 11:28 NIV
    Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
  • Mark 6:31 NIV
    Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”

An invitation for those who thirst

Just when I needed it most, my friend invited me to “come have a cup of tea.”  It was fifteen years ago, but I still remember, and not because the tea was fancy or the venue impressive. Not at all.  She was a fellow teacher who saw me about to have a mega-meltdown in the school office one day.  I was a young newlywed making my first out-of-state move and just when everything seemed to fall apart with our moving plans, she asked me to tea.

She gently took my hand and led me to her classroom where she had a “peace corner” set up with a small electric kettle, pretty cups and saucers, a variety of tea choices and sugar all laid out on top of her filing cabinet.

The tiny cup of tea she poured for me helped me pause enough to breathe and breathe enough to remember God could handle my need.

Now, I’m the one pouring cups of tea.

When a friend messages me because she’s scared, this is what I ask: Can we meet for tea (or coffee if you choose, but tea for me!)?

When my tween daughter stresses over a bad day, I put the kettle on the stove and set out the teacups.

It’s not the tea, of course, that soothes the soul.  It’s the invitation to be still, to breathe and rest and refresh.  It’s drinking in slowly and sharing it with someone who cares, someone who will listen, pray, and just be there, fully present in the moment, not scattered, distracted, rushed, and busy.

The beauty is in the offer itself:   Come as you are.   Come weary and come thirsty.  Come overwhelmed and beaten down.  Come frightened and anxious.

Just come, rest here, and drink.

It’s an invitation that echoes God’s heart for us.  After all, our God is an inviting God. He beckons us and draws us in when we’re broken, emptyhanded, exhausted, and when we’re thirsty.

The prophet Isaiah shares God’s invitation:

Come, everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters;
and he who has no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price. (Isaiah 55:1)

When we’re filled with fear that nothing is going to work out because all our plans have fallen apart and when it feels like perhaps God has forgotten or abandoned us, we might wonder if God is even listening.  It can feel as if we’re banging uselessly on heaven’s door with our prayers, shouting in desperation, “God, hear me!  See me!  Answer me!”

Right in that place of emptiness and need, we can take comfort because we don’t have to fight for God’s attention.  He has already invited us to come, to bring that parched, dry, and empty soul right to Him.  He is the One, the only One who could fill us anyway.

So we can stop frantically doing.  Stop searching for the perfect solution and attacking the problem with all our personal might and resources.  Stop trying to make it all work out on paper or Google-searching our way out of the mess we’re in.

Isaiah tells us the invitation is for those who have no resources of their own anyway.  It’s for those who “have no money” and it’s the same invitation in Revelation:

The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. Revelation 22:17 ESV

Let the one who is thirsty come but also let us drink.

Max Lucado writes:

“You can stand waist deep in the Colorado River and still die of thirst. Until you scoop and swallow, the water does your system no good. Until we gulp Christ, the same is true” (Come Thirsty, p.  14).

So, when He invites us to come and drink, let His peace seep down into the cracked places in our heart.  Let it saturate our fearfulness and drench our worry with the reminder of His might, His goodness, and His salvation.

Bible Verses for the nights you can’t sleep

  • Psalm 3:5 ESV
    I lay down and slept;
        I woke again, for the Lord sustained me.
  • Psalm 4:8 ESV
    In peace I will both lie down and sleep;
        for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.
  • Psalm 121:3-4 ESV
    He will not let your foot be moved;
        he who keeps you will not slumber.
    Behold, he who keeps Israel
        will neither slumber nor sleep.
  • Psalm  123:1-2 ESV
    The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
        He makes me lie down in green pastures.
    He leads me beside still waters.
  • Psalm 127:2 ESV
    It is in vain that you rise up early
        and go late to rest,
    eating the bread of anxious toil;
        for he gives to his beloved sleep.
  • Proverbs 3:24 ESV
    If you lie down, you will not be afraid;
        when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.
  • Isaiah 26:3-4 ESV
    You keep him in perfect peace
        whose mind is stayed on you,
        because he trusts in you.
    Trust in the Lord forever,
        for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.
  • Matthew 11:28-30 ESV
     Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Green pastures don’t happen by chance

My son would like his Batman house back.

We’ve been packing in waves here in preparation for our move.

Several  months ago, I started putting books and toys into boxes that we wanted to keep, but didn’t need right away, and then we hauled all of that to a storage facility for safe-keeping.

Then, the weekend before we listed our house for sale, we made another storage blitz and that’s when we packed up his Batman playhouse.

This was no problem until the day he pulled down his superhero toys and  he had Batman and Robin and Green Lantern and Superman…..but no superhero lair to put them in.

I’ve tried to explain the process of moving to him and he understands bits and pieces of it, but when you’re three and you know you have a Batman house but your mom can’t pull it out for you to play with, that’s fairly tragic.

There’s one thing he knows for sure, though.

His Batman house will be at the new house for him, and he is holding onto that promise.

If we drive by the new house or stop in for an inspection, he reminds me, “My Batman house is at the new house.”  Right, mom?  Then I can play with it.”

Yes, baby, it will be there.  Not yet, but soon.

This moving is a journey of preparation, stages and stages of letting go and moving on.

It will all  be fresh and new and exciting, but it’s also an adjustment at times .

After all, he’s only known this one little house for his whole little life and he’s happy right here.

And he’s innocently unaware of most of the change on the horizon, just happily accepting the boxes stacking up and the repairs we’ve made.  Mostly, he simply trusts us and keeps holding on to the hope and the promise that he’ll be playing with his Batman house again soon.

And I admire that about him.

I take it to heart as a girl who chafes against change and holds onto the old and familiar with all her might.  I love how he sets his heart on hope, focuses his vision on the good, and trusts those who love him enough to lead him.

That should be me.

That should be us, trusting our Shepherd, the God who loves us so.

Not worrying over the journey or fretting over the unknown, but enjoying the beautiful unfolding of His perfect plans for us.

In Psalm 23, it says,

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
 He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.

I love to think about those green pastures and still waters, but I’ve never considered before how the shepherd prepares nourishment, rest, provision, and blessing for his sheep.

He doesn’t just meander along, stumbling upon some green grass periodically.

Oh, here’s a little place to rest.  Who knows when we’ll find such a place again!  Enjoy, sheep!

Instead, Phillip Keller, the author of A Shepard Looks at Psalm 23, writes:

Green pastures don’t happen by chance. They are a product of tremendous labor, time, and skill in land use. They were the result of clearing rough rocky land, of tearing out brush and roots and stumps, of deep plowing and careful soil preparation, of seeding and planting special grains and legume, or irrigating with water and husbanding with care the crops and forage that would feed the sheep.

The Shepherd plans and prepares the future for His sheep.

Max Lucado puts it this way:

“Hence, when David says, ‘He makes me to lie down in green pastures,’ he is saying, ‘My Shepherd makes me lie down in his finished work” (Safe in the Shepherd’s Arms).

Wherever we find ourselves,  God has prepared us for what we face….and prepared for us hope….and prepared for us calling….and prepared for us rest.  

He prepares these green pastures and He prepares “a table before me in the presence  of my enemies” (Psalm 23:5) because He knows there are times of rest and times of opposition.

He prepares good  works for us to do here on earth (Ephesians 2:10) and is even now preparing our eternal home (John 14:3).

Scripture says:

The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.  Deut. 31:8 ESV

God does both.  He goes before us, preparing the way for us and preparing us for the way.

And He walks alongside us, never abandoning us along the way, always leading us to our home in Him where we can find rest in the work He’s finished.

 

 

Seeing the world from God’s shoulders

After having three girls, when I found out I was having a son, other moms chimed in with tons of wisdom.

They told me to be quick with the diaper changes or I’m bound to get peed on.  (I did.  At least twice.)

They told me to prepare for climbing, running, growling, and dirt (lots of it).

They told me no one would love me like a son, not ever.   “It’s different than with a girl,” they said.

One mom told me how her son would cradle her face in his tiny palms and say, “You’re bootiful, Mommy.”

And another mom told me her son announced he was going to marry Mommy when he grew up.   When she explained that Daddy had already married her, the little boy scowled and said “Dad is lucky.”

Mom after mom told me that no one treasured her as unconditionally or completely as her son had when he was little.

And then.

Then older moms started warning me.  They still occasionally offer forebodings of doom.

“When you have a daughter, you have a friend for life,” they say, “but a son ditches you as soon as he finds a wife.”

I get it.  “Leave and cleave.” I don’t want my son to be a stunted mama’s boy.  I don’t want to break up his marriage by pitting myself against his wife or refusing to let go.

But I wouldn’t mind if he chooses a wife I could get along with or if he calls me once in a while.  I wouldn’t mind a visit here and there and I’d hate it if he only hung out with ‘her’ family instead of sitting around our holiday table sometimes, too.

I’ve been enjoying this season with my son, loving and loving it.

I love train shirts and train toys and train books and conversations about trains.

I love airplanes and bulldozers and how we have to point out the fire trucks every time we walk past the fire station on Main Street.

I love making faces at him in the mirror and growling out funny voices.

I love toting along a few trucks everywhere we go.

I love superheroes.

This is my great joy.

But when other moms tell me to enjoy it now because I might as well kiss my son goodbye in a few years, I get more than a little sentimental and emotional.

 

Fearful even.

And then I read Jacob’s blessing for his son, Benjamin:

‘Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in Him, for he shields him all day long, and the one the Lord loves rests between His shoulders.”  Deut. 33:12 NIV

I don’t know what may have your heart turning somersaults of fear instead of clinging to hope this week, but worries over my kids’ future surely does that to me.

But this verse offers me security and peace.

This isn’t the season for me of farewells or parenting adult children and worrying over their not-so-adult decisions at times.

This is my season of early morning snuggles on the sofa before everyone else awakes and making pancakes in the shape of Mickey Mouse.

It’s my season of listening to all of their news about their day at school, laughing at funny lunch escapades and wiping away tears when another girl gets mean.

It’s my season of bedtime hugs and bedtime stories.

And it’s my season of lifting children up….up into my arms, snuggled into my chest….up onto my shoulders, high so they can see, high so they can be carried and so they can rest.

That’s what God does for His beloved.

He lifts us right up out of the mess and the weariness and sets us between His shoulders and tells us to ‘rest.’

Don’t strive.  Don’t fight.  Don’t wear yourself out trying to keep moving forward on your own.

Let Him carry you.

High up there on the shoulders of our God, our perspective shifts.

STOP FRETTING ABOUT THE FUTURE.

LIFE DOESN’T DEPEND ON US TO FIX IT AND MAKE IT HAPPEN; OUR FUTURE DEPENDS ONLY ON HIM AND HE IS SO DEPENDABLE.

When we’re on God’s shoulders, we are safe from danger.

We can cease striving.

We see the big picture.  All that trouble we were in below looks so small when He is lifting us up high.

So I choose to rest here with the Lord, enjoying safety, enjoying this season, enjoying His presence, enjoying being His beloved–handing over fear and holding on to hope.

Originally published October 28, 2015

Return, O My Soul, To Your Rest

psalm-116-7

My daughter and I settled  onto the bus for our overnight trip to New York City.

We each pulled out our books and book lights and enjoyed some reading time as we pulled away from the parking lot and headed out onto the road for our grand adventure.

About an hour into the trip, I pulled out my blanket and little travel pillow and asked my daughter to do the same.  We were, after all, supposed to be sleeping on this bus and we were certainly going to need that sleep since we were hitting the streets of New York City by 6 a.m.

Only, she hadn’t brought her pillow.  She’d left it back at the house.

Oops!

So, I handed mine over (because I love her and I’m her mom) and tried to sleep without it.

Now, I do not sleep in moving vehicles, and this night the odds were particularly against me.

I was in a completely, wonderfully comfortable bus for daytime travel.   Nevertheless, I was still mostly upright, with highway noise for my soundtrack, surrounded by 50 people, and without a pillow.

We shuffled this way and that through the night.  None of us on the bus slept more than an hour or two , and even that was in fits and starts.

At 3:40 that morning, the bus lights flicked on to full strength and we pulled into the New Jersey rest stop where we were scheduled to start the day.  Everyone filed out to use the bathrooms, change our clothes, brush our teeth, and buy coffee (or tea!) from the 24-hour Starbucks.

From then on, it was go, go, go.  Drive around the city.  Eat breakfast at the diner.  Walk through Central Park.  Stroll through the Museum of Art.  Subway back to our bus for lunch and the ride to the hotel.  Quick showers and changes.  Back onto the bus for the ride to the Lincoln Center for a ballet performance.

We had the best time!

Finally, we settled back at the hotel around midnight after being awake for about 35 hours of the last 36 hours.

A bed never felt so good.  The pillows were luxury and the sheets were heaven.

Normally, I hate sleeping away from home and restlessly fidget all night long.

Not that night.  I slept the deep sleep of the truly exhausted.

That same weekend, I read this verse from the Psalmist:

Return, O my soul, to your rest;
    for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you (Psalm 116:7 ESV).

Return to rest.

Right there when I was pushed to the max physically, I needed to know that rest doesn’t entirely depend on circumstances.

Some seasons are stressful and full of huge crises or petty daily annoyances.  Life demands so much of us–sleepless nights while we rock the baby, or work the job, or care for the loved one, or nurse the sick, or more.

Our hearts can be tumbled into pits of anxiety with one phone call, one nasty email, one ridiculous Facebook post, one bank statement or unexpected bill.

Maybe we’re running at full-speed because of blessing and not burden.   We’re packing for the big move or working hard on the big project.

Rest can seem elusive until we remember the truth:

Our rest isn’t in peaceful circumstances or ideal conditions; our rest is in Jesus.

He doesn’t just bring us peace; He is our Peace.

Like the dove that Noah sent out from the ark, we can seek rest in so many places in the big wide world but never find it.  The dove searched throughout the earth for a dry place to set down and only found water, water, and more water.

The bird only found rest when it returned to Noah.

The same is true for us, as well.

Charles Spurgeon wrote:

Noah’s dove found no rest outside the ark, so she returned to it.  In a similar way, my soul has learned today, more fully than ever, that there is no satisfaction to be found in earthly things–only God can give rest to my spirit…they cannot fulfill the desires of my immortal spirit” (Morning and Evening, January 29th).

We may search and search, looking for rest and finding only stormy seas.

Ultimately, we truly find rest by returning not just to the ark, but to our Master.  We return to Jesus.

Like the dove,  we can’t face the night on our own, flapping our wings in the darkness until we’re exhausted.  On our own strength, we’ll drown.

When night looms, when we’re deeply tired, when we realize that nothing else satisfies, we stop trying so hard on our own and release control into His hands.  That is the rest our weary souls need—trusting Jesus because He is so trustworthy.

Bible Verses and a Prayer for Rest

versesrest.jpg

Well, friends, our family pushed through the month of July with all of its busyness and made it to the other side.  To August.  And to rest.

And we’re ready for rest.

I’ll be taking some time to relax with my family, to regroup and refresh.  Here are 25 verses and a prayer for rest to share with you while I’m away.

Be Back Soon!

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  • Genesis 2:2-3 ESV
    And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done.  So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.
  • Exodus 20:8-10 NIV
     “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.  Six days you shall labor and do all your work,  but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns.
  • Exodus 23:12 ESV
    “Six days you shall do your work, but on the seventh day you shall rest; that your ox and your donkey may have rest, and the son of your servant woman, and the alien, may be refreshed.
  • Exodus 33:14 ESV
    And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”
  • Deuteronomy 5:12-15 ESV
     “‘Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter or your male servant or your female servant, or your ox or your donkey or any of your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you.  You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.
  • Psalm 4:8 ESV
    In peace I will both lie down and sleep;
        for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.
  • Psalm 23:1-2 ESV
    The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures.
    He leads me beside still waters.
  • Psalm 62:1-2 ESV
    For God alone my soul waits in silence;
        from him comes my salvation.
    He alone is my rock and my salvation,
        my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken.
  • Psalm 62:5 NIV
    Yes, my soul, find rest in God;
        my hope comes from him.
  • Psalm 116:7 NIV
    Return to your rest, my soul,
        for the Lord has been good to you.
  • Psalm 127:2 ESV
    It is in vain that you rise up early
        and go late to rest,
    eating the bread of anxious toil;
        for he gives to his beloved sleep.
  • Psalm 131:2 NIV
    But I have calmed and quieted myself,
        I am like a weaned child with its mother;
        like a weaned child I am content.
  • Proverbs 19:23 NIV
    The fear of the Lord leads to life;
        then one rests content, untouched by trouble.
  • Isaiah 26:3 ESV
    You keep him in perfect peace
        whose mind is stayed on you,
        because he trusts in you.
  • Isaiah 30:15 NIV
    This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says:
    “In repentance and rest is your salvation
    in quietness and trust is your strength
    but you would have none of it.
  • Isaiah 40:28-31 ESV
    Have you not known? Have you not heard?
    The Lord is the everlasting God,
        the Creator of the ends of the earth.
    He does not faint or grow weary;
        his understanding is unsearchable.
     He gives power to the faint,
        and to him who has no might he increases strength.
     Even youths shall faint and be weary,
        and young men shall fall exhausted;
     but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
        they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
    they shall run and not be weary;
        they shall walk and not faint.
  • Jeremiah 6:16 ESV
    Thus says the Lord:
    “Stand by the roads, and look,
        and ask for the ancient paths,
    where the good way is; and walk in it,
        and find rest for your souls.
    But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’
  • Ezekiel 20:12 ESV
    Moreover, I gave them my Sabbaths, as a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord who sanctifies them.
  • Matthew 11:28-30 ESV
    Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
  • Matthew 12:12 ESV
    Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”
  • Mark 2:27 ESV
    And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.
  • Mark 6:31 ESV
     And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.
  • Colossians 2:16-17 ESV
     Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. 17 These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ
  • Hebrews 4:9-11 ESV
    So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, 10 for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.  Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.
  • 1 John 3:19-20 NIV
    This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence:20 If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.prayerrest

Rebooting the Calendar in August

psalm 143-8

“Mom, I saw the Boy Scouts float in the Christmas parade.”

This is how my oldest daughter started that conversation about six years ago.

“Uh huh.”  I said hesitantly.  She clearly had an agenda for this conversation and I couldn’t tell what it was yet.

“Well, if there are Boy Scouts, does that mean there are Girl Scouts?”

Oh, now I understood.  She saw those Boy Scouts and she thought surely if there are Girl Scouts she should join them.

But of course she also wanted art lessons and horseback riding lessons and swim lessons on top of the church activities and ballet classes she was already taking.

“Babe, yes there are Girl Scouts.  But, you can’t do everything.  You are doing ballet.  Do you want to stop doing ballet?”

“Nope.”

Okay then.

We had that conversation about six years ago and we had something like it again this week and the week before that and probably every single week of her life since she turned five.

My husband tells her that she’d have to live a hundred lifetimes in order to do all the things she wants to do.

That sounds about right.

I consider this now as I step into August and begin my annual prayer season over our fall family schedule.

Every August, I reboot the family calendar.

In the past week, I’ve received several requests to join and lead, to volunteer and help out.  They are coming at me in email messages, newsletters, and meetings.

So, just like my daughter, I need the time to evaluate and prioritize.  I need to know God’s will, His plan, and His heart for me in the year ahead before I jump into anything.

I’m imperfect and a work in progress on this.  Sometimes, we still end up weighed down with too much.  Sometimes the balance is just right.

But here’s where I begin:

  1. Spend the first part of August praying and not committing (if possible)Ask God to give you His heart for this season and ask Him to give you a sense of purpose and priority.  I pray through these verses:

    If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him (James 1:5 ESV)

    Teach me the way in which I should walk;
    For to You I lift up my soul (Psalm 143:8 NASB).

  2.  Ask Him if there’s anything you need to step down from or let go of.   Don’t do just because you’ve always done.  Submit your current activities to Him in prayer and seek His guidance.
  3. In mid-August, mark a calendar or sketch out in a notebook what your non-negotiables are.   This might be the school calendar, your work schedule, or church activities.
  4.  If you have kids, pray with them and make decisions about fall activities.  Decide what to keep and what to eliminate.
  5. Pray over any possible new activity or commitment and ask if it fits in with God’s plan and purpose for you in this season.  If He’s been teaching you about prayer, the prayer group might be “yes” and the small group discussion time a “no.”  If He has given you a heart for kids, perhaps it’s “yes” for the kids’ ministry and “no” for the food ministry.
  6. Be accountable.  Before you say “yes” or “no,” pray about it with your spouse or seek counsel from someone you trust.
  7. Do leave blank space on the calendar for the unexpected, the last-minute, and the chance to rest. 

When it’s all sketched out, I pray again for God to make any necessary changes, and to stop me, move me, guide me as He sees fit.

People may disagree with your schedule and that’s okay.

You may hear how if you’re a good Christian….a good wife….a good mom…then clearly you’d sign up for another program or event.

On the other hand, others might tell you that you’re doing too much and you need to focus more at home.

This is why the August reboot is personal and prayerful.  It is between you and God.

He knows whether you function better with lots of activity or little activity and this is not the same for everyone!

Mark 3 tells us:

And he appointed twelve…so that they might be with him and he might send them out… (Mark 3:14 ESV).

Jesus’ first priority for the disciples was that they be with Him.  It’s the same for us.  We can’t let busyness strangle and suffocate us and leave us with no time to be in His presence.

Our first priority must be to be with Him.

But He also sent them out and we should be willing to go out also, out of our homes, outside of our families, our comfy cliques, our routines, and our comfort zones.  We go where He leads us to go.

So we personally and prayerfully seek Him and His plan for our year–to be with Him and to be sent out for Him.

 

When I Don’t Get My Way

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My one girl gets grumpy.

I arrive to pick her up at the end of an activity and I find her huddled on the floor, back turned to the crowd, face hidden on her knees.  Or maybe she’s hiding under a table or in the back of a bathroom stall.

She’s not screaming or crying, but she’s definitely pouting.

With arms crossed, with feet stomping, with loud harumphs for emphasis at the end of her sentences, she tells me the crisis: Others disagreed, someone else wanted the same thing, another person got to go first, that person got something better.

But this is the bottom line: She didn’t get her way.

And now, she’s grumpy.

I understand.  I can be grumpy when I don’t get my way, too, wanting to sit out and let everybody know that I disagree with the decision and I’m sure not happy about it.

Another of my girls argues her case when she doesn’t get her way.  She argues….and argues….and argues her point until you’re knocked over by the powerful wave of her emotions and opinions.

And I understand this.  When I don’t get my way, I want to form protest marches and fight, fight, fight, too!  Instantly I think of who I can rally to “my side” and how I can convince others that my way is the right way, the best way, the only way.

Maybe if I just give the best speech, argue the best (or loudest, or longest, or most convincingly), use the best evidence and form the largest coalition I’ll win the day after all.

And my youngest girl simply cries over disappointment, not a temperamental tantrum on the scale of the hurricane tantrums we’ve seen in this family.  More like the desperately sad wail of a child who realizes the world doesn’t revolve around her…doesn’t always do what she wants or turn out the way she expects.

That’s a lesson that always stings and I’ve mourned myself with frustrated hurt that the world doesn’t bend to my whim or orbit around my convenience or comfort.

I don’t always get my way.

And, selfish creature that I am, I sometimes react all ugly.

But while faith allows us to stand up for what is right and to speak truth in love, it demands something else.

Faith means trusting God even when things don’t go our way, when plans don’t work out, when others make decisions we disagree with, when life isn’t perfect or even when life is hard and obstacles loom large and hope doesn’t come easy.

Believing in God’s providential care isn’t faith until we’re blinded by circumstances and still choose to trust.

Hebrews 11:1 tells us this:

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

Faith: That’s when we can’t see the end, can’t see how God could possibly work this out for our blessing and benefit, can’t imagine what God could possibly do to make this better much less make this the best.

But we trust Him anyway.

Faith means resting in the knowledge of God’s power over everything we face, even when our senses and circumstances tell us that people are in control, not God.

It seems like others have control of over us, a committee, a judge, a boss, a leader…but faith declares that it’s God, always God, only God who directs our lives.

God is my Good Shepherd, trustworthy, wise, caring, knowing, powerful.  I read the familiar promises:

God, my Shepherd!  I don’t need a thing.
You have bedded me down in lush meadows,
you find me quiet pools to drink from.
True to your word,
you let me catch my breath
and send me in the right direction.
Even when the way goes through Death Valley,
I’m not afraid
when you walk by my side (Psalm 23 MSG).

Yes, God my Shepherd leads me to places of rest and sustenance, providing what I need, sending me in the right direction, walking by my side even in the shadowy depths of the valley.

And my response can be fighting or pouting…but all my grumpiness, my protesting, my tears reveal where I’m not trusting God’s ability to control the tiniest detail of my life.

Isaiah tells me,

In repentance and rest is your salvation
in quietness and trust is your strength…  (Isaiah 30:15)

Enough of the ugly reactions, the crisis, the conflict.  Better to seek my God—-what now, Lord?  What is your will here in this place?  What will you have me do and how would You have me respond?

My salvation is in repentance and rest.

My strength is in quietness and trust.

I choose Faith.

Originally posted August 16, 2013

What other moms say when they find out you are having a boy

Deuteronomy 33

After having three girls, when I found out I was having a son, other moms chimed in with tons of wisdom.

They told me to be quick with the diaper changes or I’m bound to get peed on.  (I did.  At least twice.)

They told me to prepare for climbing, running, growling, and dirt (lots of it).

They told me no one would love me like a son, not ever.   “It’s different than with a girl,” they said.

One mom told me how her son would cradle her face in his tiny palms and say, “You’re bootiful, Mommy.”

And another mom told me her son announced he was going to marry Mommy when he grew up.   When she explained that Daddy had already married her, the little boy scowled and said “Dad’s lucky.”

Mom after mom told me that no one treasured her as unconditionally or completely as her son had when he was little.

And then.

Then older moms started warning me.  They are still offering forebodings of doom.  I’ve had several depressing conversations just this week about my future.

“When you have a daughter, you have a friend for life,” they say, “but a son ditches you as soon as he finds a wife.”

I get it.  “Leave and cleave.” I don’t want my son to be a stunted mama’s boy.  I don’t want to break up his marriage by pitting myself against his wife or refusing to let go.

But I wouldn’t mind if he chooses a wife I could get along with or calls me once in a while.  I wouldn’t mind a visit here and there and I’d hate it if he only hung out with ‘her’ family instead of sitting around our holiday table sometimes, too.

I’ve been enjoying this season with my son, loving and loving it.

I love train shirts and train toys and train books and conversations about trains.

I love airplanes and bulldozers and how we have to point out the fire trucks every time we walk past the fire station on Main Street.

I love making faces at him in the mirror and growling out funny voices.

I love toting along a few trucks everywhere we go.

This is my great joy.

But this week, other women have been telling me to enjoy it now because I might as well kiss my son goodbye in a few years. So I’ve been more than a little sentimental and emotional.

It’s my nature and my way to pray about my kids’ future, their choices, their passions, their careers, their spouses, and my son is no different.

A week of prophetic doom, though, has my heart more fearful than hopeful or prayerful.

And then I read Jacob’s blessing for his son, Benjamin:

‘Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in Him, for he shields him all day long, and the one the Lord loves rests between His shoulders.”  Deut. 33:12 NIV

I don’t know what may have your heart turning somersaults of fear instead of clinging to hope this week, but my kids’ future has done it for me.  It’s made me clingy and tearful.

Yet, this verse offers me security and peace.

This isn’t the season for me of farewells or parenting adult children and worrying over their not-so-adult decisions at times.

This is my season of early morning snuggles on the sofa before everyone else awakes and making pancakes in the shape of Mickey Mouse.

It’s my season of listening to all of their news about their day at school, laughing at funny lunch escapades and wiping away tears when another girl gets mean.

It’s my season of bedtime hugs and bedtime stories.

And it’s my season of lifting children up….up into my arms, snuggled into my chest….up onto my shoulders, high so they can see, high so they can be carried and so they can rest.

That’s what God does for His beloved.

He lifts us right up out of the mess and the weariness and sets us between His shoulders and tells us to ‘rest.’

Don’t strive.  Don’t fight.  Don’t wear yourself out trying to keep moving forward on your own.

Let Him carry you.

High up there on the shoulders of our God, our perspective shifts.

Stop fretting about the future.

Life doesn’t depend on us to fix it and make it happen; our future depends only on Him and He is so dependable.

We are safe from danger.

We can cease striving.

We see the big picture.  All that trouble we were in below looks so small from our new spot on the shoulders of the Lord.

So I choose to rest here with the Lord, enjoying safety, enjoying this season, enjoying His presence, enjoying being His beloved–handing over fear and holding on to hope.

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Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2015 Heather King