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.

Weekend Walk, 06/23/2012

Hiding the Word:

Last night, our kids colored their last craft, ran around the gym for the last game, and tasted their last snack of Vacation Bible School.  All week long, we taught the kids to trust God . . . no matter what.

Whoever they are . . .
However they feel . . .
Even when people hurt them . . .
Even when bad things happen . .  .
And anywhere they go . . .
Trust God

Sounds so simple.  Sounds so childlike.  Sounds so easy.

But of course we know the truth.  Most of us need the constant reminder, encouragement and challenge to trust Him.  We need a perpetual bright red string tied around our finger.

So, this week I’m choosing to meditate on a verse that speaks truth about that trust.

It’s not based on anything I do or whatever I muster up in my own strength.  We trust God because of His steadfast, unfailing, loyal, everlasting covenant love for us.

But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
    my heart shall rejoice in your salvation (Psalm 13:5)

Weekend Rerun:

After a week of lessons on Group’s Sky VBS!, I’m reminded of the lessons I wrote last year on the Group PandaMania VBS.  This was one of my favorites that week:

God Loves You, No Matter What
Originally posted June 23, 2011

After a conversation with a friend this week, I recalled the first time I had to turn over my green card on the classroom behavior chart and leave the yellow card on top.  I was in third grade and had forgotten my math homework.  The teacher asked us to hand it in and I quickly zipped open my backpack to grab up my finished paper.

Only it wasn’t there.  So, I pushed things around gently and then more energetically.  I scrambled through the papers and then yanked everything out.  Slowly I realized my paper wasn’t in there.  I had nothing to turn in.

So, I had to shuffle over to the behavior bulletin board and take my punishment.  A yellow card for Heather.  Bright yellow so everyone in the class could see I messed up.  I forgot.  I was careless and irresponsible.

Embarrassed, I slinked back to my desk and slumped down hoping to become invisible in my chair.  My face was burning red hot, the kind of shame that makes your ears sear into the sides of your head.

But, when I sheepishly glanced at the bulletin board the next morning, I saw a green card next to my name again.  It was a new day and with it came a rush of joy that the mistakes of yesterday could be so simply erased and forgotten.

It was the astonishing grace of a fresh start.

That’s what Christ did for us.  Raising us up from the dead.  Taking our place on the cross and erasing the record of our wrongs so that we could stand before the Most Holy God and look . . . holy and pure.

He saw you and me as worth saving even when we were splattered with the mud of sins and caked in the foul dirt of this world. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

So, what should we do with this amazing grace?

I know what I do most of the time—forget it, take it for granted, or, even worse, nullify it by trying to be perfect.  I begin to live in a spiritual world of musts, shoulds, do’s, don’ts, shalls and shall nots.

The Psalmist wrote, “If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand?  But with you there is forgiveness; therefore, You are feared” (Psalm 130:3-4).

Yes, we would be pounded into the ground if we carried the weight of our sins on our wimpy shoulders.  We couldn’t stand in His presence much less crawl face to the ground before His throne.

But.

But with Him there is forgiveness.  Praise God!

The Psalmist ends that thought with, “Therefore, You are feared.”  Not the fright of might, though.  Not the run and hide kind of fear.  Not obeying God to escape His wrath.  Not surrendering to Him in order to earn His love.

The Old Testament Bible Knowledge Commentary says this is the fear of “worship and obedience.  The Scriptures state that many results come from fearing the Lord; the most notable is that the person keeps himself from sin.”

In January of this year, I felt the heavy nudging of the Holy Spirit asking me two questions, one of which was, “Are you ready for where I want to take you next?”  The God who loved me passionately was asking me to walk in worship and obedience—holy fear in response to abundant grace.

“That depends,” I answered.  “Where are we going?  How long will it take?  What is the expense-to-benefit ratio?”

It sounds mercenary, but those are the questions that rumbled around in my head and heart for weeks.  Was it safer to stay where I was?  Was safer necessarily better?

His question sounds so simple and easy when we belt out “I surrender all” in a church service.  Then there’s that moment when God takes you up on your offer and asks you to surrender your plans for the future, your comfort, your life, and you wonder how much “all” actually is.

And then I felt it, the pull of performance and the tug on my heart to just do what God wants so He’ll love me, so I won’t let Him down, so I can live up to what a Bible Study girl should do.  It was a works-based response of duty rather than the bride’s response of affection to the overwhelming passion and love of her Groom.

So I waited to answer God.  I waited until I truly believed that God would love me no matter what.  That the choices I make here may affect God’s plans for me, may affect my impact on others, may affect how I am blessed, but they will never affect His unconditional and unending love.

Only then, in the light of so much grace, knowing that I answered Him out of love and not duty, I bashfully answered, “I do.”  I do want to go with You.  I do want whatever you desire for me.

Why do we obey Him?  Why do we whisper “I do” when He asks us to surrender?  Why do we choose the difficult right over the much easier wrong?

So He will love us?  No—because He loves us. 

We ask Him to “lead me along the path of everlasting life”  because there’s no other place where we can walk next to Him, our tiny palm nestled inside His nail-scarred hand (Psalm 139:24).

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com 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.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Who’s In Charge Here?

I drafted the letter carefully.

Nope, that’s not the word.

I drafted the letter meticulously, cautiously, prayerfully, thoughtfully, and s-l-o-w-l-y. I read it over in my head at least 20 times.  It took me about an hour to type out two paragraphs on my computer and I drank a whole cup of tea in the process.

Then I walked away.  Than I came back and read it again.  I changed some things.  Then I walked away.  Then I impulsively printed it up and signed my name, slipped it into an envelope, and addressed it.

Then I placed it in my dayplanner instead of the mailbox and carried it around for a while.

It was a letter to the principal of my daughter’s new school.  I wrote it last August and finally threw it away last September.

To say that I was stressed and worried over my daughter’s first year in the public school would be an award-winning understatement.  I asked every mom I knew with kids at that school who they thought should be my daughter’s first grade teacher.

Nine out of ten moms agreed that I needed to request one particular teacher to ensure my girl’s success and happiness.

In fact, I wasn’t really just thinking about first grade.  I was thinking about the power of this one teacher to encourage or destroy a love for learning FOR LIFE.  She could ruin my daughter’s entire educational future, career path, and self-esteem or she could positively influence my girl in ways that led to life-time motivation and success.

So, I explained in my letter to the principal how special my daughter was and how smart and how sensitive and how based on this teacher’s reputation in the community, I thought she would be the best fit to guide my daughter in her first grade year.

I kept trying to send the letter, really and truly.  But then I’d get that same nagging feeling—Did I trust God to take care of my girl or not?  Who did I really think was in charge of her development, character and future?  Me?  A principal?

Or God?

It was terrible to feel powerless over a decision of such magnitude.  I hate when the future of me or my family seems to depend on the choices of someone else.

And it so often seems that way, doesn’t it?  How much of your life seems to rest in the hands of others?

The human resources lady who decides whether to offer you the job.
The boss who determines whether you get a raise or promotion.
The lawyer who decides how to argue your case.
The judge who decides how much time you spend with your kids and how much time your ex does.
The church leadership who decide how you minister.
The committee that accepts or rejects your idea.
The loan officer who determines if your credit is good enough.

And so it goes.  Everyone making decisions everyday about our own personal life, and not arbitrary meaningless decisions either.  Big decisions that have real impact.

I finally decided to trust that if God wanted my daughter in a particular classroom, He could make that happen.  He could even direct the decisions of the principal.

So, we arrived at Open House at the end of August, all of us a little jittery and overwhelmed.  Stepping up to the table for people with last names starting with A through K, we waited to hear the big news.  Who was going to be the magical first grade teacher who would hold my daughter’s future in her hands?

The very teacher I wanted.  There was never any need to write that letter.  God had already made the decision for me and directed the path of those in charge.

Now that the school year is ending, I’ve already begun the inevitable fretting over next year’s teacher.  This never gets easy, does it?  The lesson that God is in control is a perpetual one.

David asked a tough question in the Psalms:

  The Lord is on my side; I will not fear.
    What can man do to me? (Psalm 118:6 ESV).

What can man do to me?  I’ll tell you what!  Fire me.  Pick the wrong teacher for my kids.  Pass judgment against me in a courtroom.  Put me on a bad work schedule.  Make my life miserable.  Cut off my funding.  Shut down my ministry.  Slice my paycheck.

It may seem that way at times, but David was right–there’s no need to fear.  Solomon explained why when he wrote that:

The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord;
    he turns it wherever he will (Proverbs 21:1).

God can direct the heart of a king if He chooses and set the course of a principal and open the eyes of a judge.

Because He alone is God.  No one else is or should be lord over our lives or god over our circumstances.  Scripture admonishes us to:

“know therefore today, and lay it to your heart, that the Lord is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other” (Psalm 118:6 ESV).

He is God.  There is no other.  Your life isn’t in the hands of anyone but Him and while life isn’t always easy or perfect, we can trust that He’s in control and He’ll care for us and guide us at all times.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com 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.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King