“Most of the things we need to be most fully alive never come in busyness. They grow in rest.”
— Mark Buchanan
“Sabbath observance invites us to stop. It invites us to rest. It asks us to notice that while we rest, the world continues without our help. It invites us to delight in the world’s beauty and abundance.”
— Wendell Berry
This week we talked about work, and rest, about slowing down, and breathing deep, and trust. We talked about why our work matters, really matters, in a place where nothing much seems to matter, and how, ultimately, everything matters–from our tedious chores to our grand accomplishments.
Join us? And let us know–what would the long term effect be, year after year, if you learned the secret of real rest? How would it change you? How would it change your family?
What can we do when we’re lost in the dark? How can we confront the absurdities of life on a fallen planet? What does it mean to choose light?
Last night we talked about this idea of choosing light, setting our hearts on things above, consciously turning away from darkness that could swallow us whole. We talked at our tables about those moments when darkness has a strong pull, and choosing joy takes all of our strength. “If you have no words to give thanks,” I’d written, “borrow some.” Here, then, are a few words I frequently borrow to keep my soul lit up.
From Isaiah 43,
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. 2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. 3 For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I give Egypt as your ransom, Cush and Seba in exchange for you. 4 Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you, I give men in return for you, peoples in exchange for your life. 5 Fear not, for I am with you….”
So enjoyed our conversation about spiritual battle Sunday night! It went right along with this gem from Charles Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening…
Stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord. (Exodus 14:13)
“These words contain God’s command to the believer when he is reduced to great straits and brought into extraordinary difficulties. He cannot retreat; he cannot go forward; he is shut up on the right hand and on the left; what is he now to do? The Master’s word to him is, “Stand firm.” It will be well for him if at such times he listens only to his Master’s word, for other and evil advisers come with their suggestions.
“Despair whispers, “Lie down and die; give it all up.” But God would have us put on a cheerful courage and even in our worst times rejoice in His love and faithfulness. Cowardice says, “Retreat; go back to the worldling’s way of action; you cannot play the Christian’s part-it is too difficult. Relinquish your principles.” But however much Satan may urge this course upon you, you cannot follow it if you are a child of God. His divine decree has bid you go from strength to strength, and so you shall, and neither death nor hell shall turn you from your course. Even if you are called to stand firm for a while, this is in order to renew your strength for some greater advance in due time.
“Precipitancy cries, “Do something. Stir yourself; to stand still and wait is sheer idleness.” We must be doing something at once-we must do it, so we think-instead of looking to the Lord, who will not only do something but will do everything. Presumption boasts, “If the sea is before you, march into it and expect a miracle.”
“But faith listens neither to presumption, nor to despair, nor to cowardice, nor to precipitancy, but it hears God say, “Stand firm,” and immovable as a rock it stands. “Stand firm”-keep the posture of an upright man, ready for action, expecting further orders, cheerfully and patiently awaiting the directing voice; and it will not be long before God shall say to you, as distinctly as Moses said it to the people of Israel, “Go forward.”
Chapter 7 of Ecclesiastes–another fascinating bit of ancient wisdom! While it did contain a sprinkling of sound relationship advice (especially what to avoid), it wasn’t a perfect match for our chapter of Thirty Thousand Days, “Love Deeply.” The closest fit for that idea would have come from Ecclesiastes chapter 9, where the Preacher exuberantly says, “Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart… Enjoy life with the wife whom you love.” As far as loving those Extra Grace Required folks in church, Ecclesiastes is pretty mum. We’d do better to look to the New Testament for that topic. So how to tie the two books together? Or should we treat them as two entirely separate things? We went with the second approach.
Erika walked us through this week’s chapter of Ecclesiastes with an eye to what the main theme of the text is–wisdom. It’s so critical when we study the Bible to practice the discipline of letting it speak for itself, not forcing our agenda onto it. Erika did just that last night. Here ya go!
Miss Erika brought it again this week as she shared with us her thoughts on holding loosely. It led to an interesting discussion of idolatry — what is an idol? how would you know if you had one? how would you go about getting rid of it — or would you want to? Hope you are reading along with us as we dig into Ecclesiastes. Next week’s topic is loving deeply, and Ecclesiastes chapter 7.
We’re halfway there! So far we have talked about the meaning of life (meaningless, meaningless– or is it?), seeing eternally, wholeheartedness, walking with purpose, compassion, and generosity. Next on the docket, Hold Loosely. (Feel free to sing the 38 Special version if you grew up rollerskating to it.)
Last night we peered into chapter 5 of Ecclesiastes, which ends with this little pearl: “Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil—this is the gift of God.For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart.”
This week we tackled suffering. How do we care passionately in a broken world? What does it mean to have “an abundant life” in the midst of the oppression and injustice around us? How do we get our minds around that? Here are Erika’s thoughts — so encouraging! If you know someone whose life is dedicated to compassionate ministry, battling for justice, or serving Christ in a persecuted place, I encourage you to call them up this week. Ask what it has meant for them to love “the least of these” and how they have seen God work in dark places.