As a child, I loved to play outside with my friends. One of our favourite games was tag.
I would run and dodge, doing my best not to get caught. If tagged, I would become ‘it’ and have to chase the others until I got close enough to ‘catch’ someone.
It’s been a long time but I can still remember getting tired and needing a quick break to catch my breath. The only way to do this was to run to the willow tree in the front yard and have one hand touching the trunk. This was the designated safety zone.
The rules said I could only stop here for a few seconds, but that was enough to take some deep breaths in preparation for more running.
All these years later, I no longer play tag, but can still find myself running around and in need of a safe place to pause and regain my strength. Where can I find the renewal so badly needed?
My safety zone is found in the quiet time I spend with God. Rules of time don’t apply here. He provides me with what I need whether I ask a quick prayer for wisdom or spend extended time basking in his presence. However, the more time I spend with him, the more I find the rest, guidance and encouragement needed to step back into the race of life.
Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28 NLT)
This was the first major snowfall of the season. There had been a few that didn’t leave an accumulation, but this one was different.
I was attending a silent retreat and the blanket of snow seemed to also silence the land.
The sun appeared mid-afternoon, beckoning me to brave the cold and partake of the beautiful surroundings.
The only sound I could hear was the squeak of my boots on the snow. The pristine white surface sparkled with ice crystals looking like millions of pieces of glitter sprinkled before me.
I walked toward the evergreens dressed in their winter gowns.
The snow lay thick on the branches and I saw some weighed down by this heavy burden. Not only was this a photo op, it was also an analogy of life.
Too much of anything can weigh us down. A little guilt here, a touch of regret there and soon we are tired from our heavy load. We bow to the ground, unable to carry the burden. Without relief, we are in danger of breaking.
Jesus has promised to give us rest when we bring our burdens to him. First, we have to silence the noise in our minds. In the stillness will we be able to discern his voice and allow him to lighten our load.
When the sun shines on the tree branches the snow starts to fall away. In the same way, the Son of Man takes our worries, allowing us to stand straight and tall once again.
“Come to me, all who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28 GWT)
My husband and I have just returned from a mini-vacation. We travelled a little over an hour from home and spent three nights in the mountains.
In such a short distance and time frame we enjoyed a complete change of pace. No goals or expectations were set ahead of time. This proved to be key to our experience.
Jagged mountain peaks were visible from our room. We appreciated some time outdoors in the crisp mountain air, but had no desire to fill every moment with activity. Instead, we spent quiet hours relaxing in the spacious lobby area where a large rustic fireplace dominated one wall.
Any other time we would have felt guilty for not being outside exploring. On these days we relished the time to rest and recharge. This is something we would not have been able to accomplish at home where many tasks constantly call out for our attention.
There are always things we can be doing, but how often do we give ourselves permission to just be still?
Rest is a biblical concept. Jesus took time from his hectic life to withdraw to a quiet place for prayer. This was a necessity for him. After spending quiet time with God, he was better prepared to face the busy and trying days to come.
When I do the same, I am allowing the Lord to breathe new energy and focus into my life, preparing me for what lies ahead.
The news about Jesus spread even more. Large crowds gathered to hear him and have their diseases cured. But he would go away to places where he could be alone for prayer. (Luke 5:15-16 GST)
Music has much to teach us about life. I didn’t realize how much until I heard a wise woman say that the rests in a piece of music don’t contain music themselves but are an important part of the complete piece. She went on to say the melody doesn’t end when you come to the pause; instead, you take the rest, carry on as if it hadn’t happened and hit the next note with confidence.
My life contains many similarities to music. I have times when all is smooth and steady, reminiscent of the whole notes. Then, there are the times when the tempo quickens like that of quarter and eighth notes.
The most interesting music has a combination of notes as well as sharps and flats. How I put these together in my life can create harmony or discord.
The part of the musical score I hadn’t thought about was the pauses.
Sometimes I have planned these into my life as a time of refreshment and renewal. Other times they are forced on me through illness, injury, or loss.
I had always thought of the unexpected rests in my life as interruptions. Now, I see they are not wasted time but actually help to make me who I am. It all depends on what I do with them.
Jesus was a perfect example of enjoying times of rest in the middle of the stress and demands of his busy life. He offers the same opportunity to me. I need to accept the full notes and the pauses.
When I spend quiet time with him I will be able to learn the melody he has set out for my life and hit the next note with confidence.
Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28 NLT)
There are a few ponds I walk past on a regular basis. Many ducks make their homes in these bodies of water.
One morning I was out earlier than usual and observed several of the ducks were still sleeping. They looked so peaceful with their heads tucked down as they rested on the water.
One nearby was not sleeping, but busy diving for food. It was fascinating to watch the legs and tail flip out of the water. The duck looked as though it was standing on its head.
The thought occurred to me that this busy duck wanted food more than the others did at that point in time. It was willing to do the work needed to have what it wanted.
Relating this to my life I thought of the times I’ve let opportunities pass me by because I wasn’t willing to do the work required. Perhaps I was tired and decided to rest. Maybe it was just something I didn’t want badly enough to put effort into.
Today I consider the goals God has placed in my heart. In the past I thought I could achieve them on my own. The results were not what I’d hoped for. I grew weary and don’t have the strength to accomplish what the Lord desired of me. Now I know that was never his plan. Jesus wants more for me than anything I’ve dreamed of. He is the one who will strengthen me to reach the goal.
Brothers and sisters, I can’t consider myself a winner yet. This is what I do: I don’t look back, I lengthen my stride, and run straight toward the goal to win the prize that God’s heavenly call offers in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-14 GWT)
I can do everything through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:143 GWT)
We don’t live in a rural area so I was surprised when my husband said, “Did you see the wild life in our front yard?” I looked out the window to see a large rabbit sitting at the edge of our rockery flower bed. If Brian hadn’t shown me where to look, I may have missed it. The rabbit blended into the surroundings and was so still could have easily been mistaken for one of the rocks.
Other than a slight twitching of its long ears, there was no movement for quite some time. People came and went, vehicles backed out of the driveway and still the rabbit remained.
After several hours it hopped away, only to return that evening.
We came to the conclusion that it must have felt our yard was a safe place to stop and rest.
I thought about where I can go to find a safe haven amid the distractions and dangers that surround me. The answer wasn’t hard to find. Jesus is my safe haven. He calms me and gives me rest. I feel safe and secure in the shelter of his loving care.
The Lord is good. He is a fortress in the day of trouble. He knows those who seek shelter in him. (Nahum 1:7 GWT)
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28 NIV)
We had just finished dinner and I put some frozen baking in the microwave to defrost for dessert. There was a strange noise and I opened the door to check inside. Everything seemed fine so the power button was pressed again.
Instantly there was a crackle and smoke started to billow from the top. Quickly we unplugged it and removed it from the house. Our microwave had burned out.
How were we to manage? We’d become accustomed to defrosting, cooking and reheating in a fraction of the time these things once required.
Come to think of it, I’ve been living my life the same way. When I want something, I want it now. Waiting and patience had become things of the past. Shouldn’t everything have results as instant as what I experienced with the microwave?
This appliance burning out reminded me that when I do too much I can burn out as well. Racing around trying to do things at the last minute isn’t working so well for me. It’s time to slow down, think about what needs to be done and plan ahead. The challenge is to balance the busyness with rest and renewal. Both can be scheduled into my day.
Much can be learned from the example of Jesus. He led a busy life but also took time to rest. Jesus not only modeled rest for us, he is also the source of our rest. Following his teachings will ensure that I don’t burn out.
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.” (Mark 6:31 NIV)
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matthew 11:28,29 NIV)
Have you ever had low expectations for something but gone ahead with it anyway? That’s how I felt when I purchased a Christmas cactus in late May. It was blooming at the time and I was happy to pay the small asking price.
Prior experience with these plants had not been good. Previous ones had either never blossomed or had done so once and not again. Even though my hopes weren’t high, we continued to care for this plant after the flowers were finished.
Not long ago I noticed buds forming on a few of the leaves. Soon I was rewarded with one flower and the promise of more to follow. This plant that had appeared dormant for many months was showing its beauty once again.
I smiled as I gazed at the showy magenta flower and realized that I had just been presented with a good analogy for life.
After a period of productivity I have often fallen into what appears to be a dormant stage. No matter how much I struggled, it seemed that my life had been put on hold. I wondered what I was doing wrong.
What I need to remember is that God is always working in me. The periods that seem like inactivity are his way of caring for me as he prepares me for the next phase of my life. These periods of rest should be appreciated. There is more going on beneath the surface than I realize. No matter what the season, when God is working in my life, the results will be worth the wait.
Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD. (Psalm 27:14 NIV)
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: (Ecclesiastes 3:1 NIV)
I was taking towels out of the dryer when I noticed that one of my favourite sets of hand towels were frayed around the edges. When did that happen? Although I hadn’t noticed it before, the rough edges indicated that this wasn’t a new occurrence.
Thinking back to how long I’d had the towels and the fact they are used and laundered on a weekly basis, I knew I shouldn’t be surprised. The signs of wear and tear must have been so gradual that they could easily be ignored.
As I looked at them I realized that at times my life has become frayed around the edges as well. Just as with the towels, constant demands on my life have caused this. It doesn’t mean that I am no longer needed or loved. What it does mean is that I need to take a step back and think about how to mend those frayed edges before the damage becomes permanent.
Jesus offers me the perfect solution when the hectic pace of life wears me down. When he and his apostles were too busy to even take time to eat, he told them to come with him to a quiet place and rest. That advice is just as valid today. Spending quiet time with Jesus gives me the rest that binds my frayed edges.
Then Jesus said, “Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.” He said this because there were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his apostles didn’t even have time to eat. (Mark 6:31 NLT)
It was one of the last official days of summer. My husband and I both had many things to do that day. Instead, we decided to go out and enjoy the beautiful weather while we could.
Our trailer is only an hour away so we made our escape and headed to it. After a quick lunch we went for a long walk along the shore of the lake and through the trees. The sun warmed our backs as we enjoyed the stillness and the variety of bird songs. It was very peaceful and I stopped several times to capture the beautiful surroundings with my camera.
Other commitments called, not allowing us to spend the night in our little piece of paradise. However, the few hours we enjoyed away renewed us. We headed home better equipped to step back into our busy lives.
Taking the time to rest with God is biblical. This is the example we followed as we walked and talked with God in the late summer sunshine. I understand what the psalmist meant when he said:
“The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name.” Psalms 23:1-3 NLT