Permission to Rest
We sat atop some beach boulders, my friend Soozi and I, watching the foam send up sea spray in arched curls. Looking at the incoming waves crashing one after another against the rocks, Soozi announced, “I love the ocean. It keeps moving so I don’t have to!”
Isn’t it interesting how some of us feel we need “permission” to pause from our work to rest? Well, that’s just what our good God offers us! For six days, God spun the earth into existence, creating light, land, vegetation, animals, and humans. Then on the seventh day, God rested (Genesis 1:31–2:2). In the Ten Commandments, God listed His rules for healthy living to honor Him, including the command to remember the Sabbath as a day of rest (Exodus 20:8–11). In the New Testament we see Jesus healing all the sick of the town (Mark 1:29–34) and then early the next morning retreating to a solitary place to pray (v. 35). Purposefully, our God both worked and rested.
The rhythm of God’s provision in work and His invitation to rest reverberates around us. Spring’s planting yields growth in summer, harvest in autumn, and rest in winter. Morning, noon, afternoon, evening, night. God orders our lives for both work and rest, offering us permission to do both.
The Pink Coat
Brenda was walking toward the mall exit when a flush of pink from a display window caught her eye. She turned and stood spellbound before a cotton-candy colored coat. Oh, how Holly would love it! Finances had been tight for her coworker friend who was a single mother, and while Brenda knew Holly needed a warm coat, she was also confident that her friend would never lay down cash on such a purchase for herself. After wavering ever so slightly, Brenda smiled, reached for her wallet, and arranged for the coat to be shipped to Holly’s home. She added an anonymous card, “You are so very loved.” Brenda practically danced to her car.
Joy is a byproduct of God-nudged giving. As Paul instructed the Corinthians in the art of generosity, he said, “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7). He also noted, “Whoever sows generously will also reap generously” (v. 6).
Sometimes we slip cash into the offering plate. At other times we donate online to a worthy ministry. And then there are moments when God leads us to respond to the need of a friend with a tangible expression of His love. We offer a bag of groceries, a tank of gas . . . or even the gift of a perfectly pink coat.
Maria carried her fast-food lunch to an empty table. As she bit into her burger, her eyes locked on those of a young man seated several tables away. His clothes were soiled, his hair hung limply, and he clutched at an empty paper cup. Clearly, he was hungry. How could she help? A gift of cash seemed unwise. If she bought a meal and presented it to him, might he be embarrassed?
Just then Maria remembered the story of Ruth where Boaz, a wealthy landowner, invited the impoverished immigrant widow to glean from his fields. He gave orders to his men. “Let her gather among the sheaves and don’t reprimand her. Even pull out some stalks for her from the bundles and leave them for her to pick up, and don’t rebuke her” (Ruth 2:15). In a culture where women were utterly dependent on their connection to men for survival, Boaz demonstrated God’s loving provision. Eventually, Boaz married Ruth, redeeming her from her serious need (4:9–10).
As Maria rose to leave, she placed her untouched packet of fries on a nearby table, meeting the man’s eyes as she did so. If he was hungry, he might glean from her “fast-food field.” God’s heart is revealed in the stories of Scripture as they illustrate creative solutions to encourage.
A study by Robert Emmons divided volunteers into three groups that each made weekly entries in journals. One group wrote five things they were grateful for. One described five daily hassles. And a control group listed five events that had impacted them in a small way. The results of the study reveal that those in the gratitude group felt better about their lives overall, were more optimistic about the future, and reported fewer health problems.
Giving thanks has a way of changing the way we look at life. Thanks-giving can even make us happier.
The Bible has long extolled the benefits of giving thanks to God as doing so reminds us of God’s character. The Psalms repeatedly call God’s people to give God thanks because “the
As he closes his letter to the Philippians—the letter itself a kind of thank-you note to a church that had supported him—Paul links thankful prayers with the peace of God “which transcends all understanding” (4:7). When we focus on God and His goodness, we find that we can pray without anxiety, in every situation, with thanksgiving. Giving thanks brings us a peace that uniquely guards our hearts and minds and changes the way we look at life. A heart full of gratitude nurtures a spirit of joy.
A Hole in the Wall
Something was eating my flowers. The day before, blooms proudly lifted their heads. Now they were headless stems. I prowled the perimeter of my yard and discovered a rabbit-sized hole in my wooden fence. Bunnies are cute, but the pesky animals can mow down a garden of flowers in minutes.
I wonder, might there be “intruders” shearing off the blooms of God’s character in my life? Proverbs 25:28 says, “Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control.” In ancient days, the wall of the city protected it against invasion from enemies. Even a small opening in a wall meant that the entire city lay open to attack.
So many of the proverbs are about self-control. “If you find honey, eat just enough,” wrote the wise man (25:16). Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit that guards us, protecting us from losing ground to impatience, bitterness, greed, and other pests that can intrude and destroy God’s harvest in our lives (see Galatians 5:22–23). Self-control is a healthy-mindedness that watches for the holes in the walls of our lives and keeps them patched.
When I inspect the perimeter of my life, I can at times see vulnerable holes. A spot where I give in to temptation over and over. An area of impatience. Oh, how I need the healthy-minded self-control of God in my life to guard me from such intruders!
Monstro the Goldfish
Lacey Scott was at her local pet store when a sad fish at the bottom of the tank caught her eye. His scales had turned black and lesions had formed on his body. Lacey rescued the ten-year-old fish, named him “Monstro” after the whale in the fairytale Pinocchio, and placed him in a “hospital” tank, changing his water daily. Slowly, Monstro improved, began to swim, and grew in size. His black scales transformed to gold. Through Lacey’s committed care, Monstro was made new!
In Luke 10, Jesus tells the story of a traveler who was beaten, robbed, and left for dead. Both a priest and a Levite passed by, ignoring the man’s suffering. But a Samaritan—a member of a despised people group—took care of him, even paying for his needs (Luke 10:33–35). Pronouncing the Samaritan as the true “neighbor” in the story, Jesus encouraged His listeners to do the same.
What Lacey did for a dying goldfish, we can do for people in need around us. Homeless, unemployed, disabled, and lonely “neighbors” lie in our path. Let us allow their sadness to catch our eyes and draw us to respond with neighborly care. A kind greeting. A shared meal. A few dollars slipped from palm to palm. How might God use us to offer His love to others, a love which can make all things new?
Food That Says I Love You
I attended a family birthday gathering where the hostess wove the theme of “favorite things” into the decor, the gifts, and best of all, the food. Because the birthday girl loved steak and salad—and white chocolate raspberry Bundt cake—the hostess grilled steak, spun spinach, and ordered that favorite cake. Favorite foods say, “I love you.”
The Bible contains many references to banquets, feasts, and festivals, pairing the physical act of eating with celebrations of God’s faithfulness. Feasting was a part of the sacrificial system of worship practiced by the Israelites (see Numbers 28:11–31), with Passover, the festival of weeks, and new moon feasts held every month. And in Psalm 23, God prepares a table with an abundant meal and cups overflow with mercy and love. Perhaps the most lavish pairing of food and wine ever expressed was when Jesus broke a piece of bread and took a cup of wine, illustrating the gift of His death on a cross for our salvation. He then challenged us to “do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19).
As you partake of food today, take a moment to consider the God who made both mouth and stomach and offers food to you as a language of His love in celebration of His faithfulness. Ours is a God who feasts with the faithful, pairing His perfect provision with our great need, saying, “I love you.”
The Fruit Sells the Tree
A nursery owner set out to sell peach trees. She considered various approaches. Should she line up leafy saplings in burlap sacks in a beautiful display? Should she create a colorful catalog picturing peach trees in various seasons of growth? At last she realized what really sells a peach tree. It’s the peach it produces: sweet-smelling, deep orange, and fuzzy-skinned. The best way to sell a peach tree is to pluck a ripe peach, cut it open until the juice dribbles down your arm, and hand a slice to a customer. When they taste the fruit, they want the tree.
God reveals Himself in a wrapper of spiritual fruit in His followers: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22). When we believers in Jesus exhibit such fruit, others around us want that fruit as well, and therefore the Source of the fruit that is so attractive.
Fruit is the external result of an internal relationship, the influence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Fruit is the dressing that beckons others to know the God we represent. Like the bright peaches standing out against the green leaves of a tree, the fruit of the Spirit announces to a starving world, “Here is food! Here is life! Come and find a way out of exhaustion and discouragement. Come and meet God!”
Tongue-Tied in Prayer
When my baby brother underwent surgery, I was concerned. My mother explained that “tongue-tie” (ankyloglossia) was a condition he was born with and that without help, his ability to eat and eventually to speak would be hindered. Today we often apply the term to describe being at a loss for words or being too shy to speak.
Sometimes we can be tongue-tied in prayer, not knowing what to say. Our tongues tie up in spiritual clichés and repetitive phrases. We arrow our emotions heavenward, wondering if they will reach God’s ears. Our thoughts zigzag along an unfocused path.
Writing to first-century Roman Christians, the apostle Paul addresses what to do when we struggle to know how to pray, inviting us to find help from the Holy Spirit. “The Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans” (Romans 8:26). The concept of “help” here is to carry a heavy load. And “wordless groans” indicates an interceding presence as the Spirit carries our needs to God.
When we’re tongue-tied in prayer, God’s Spirit helps shape our confusion, pain, and distraction into the perfect prayer that moves from our hearts to our good God’s ears. He listens and answers, bringing the exact kind of comfort we may not have known we needed until we asked Him to pray for us.