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“Find Rest for Your Souls”

When you are unemployed and meeting new people, the hardest question to answer is: “So what do you do?” You know what they are expecting to hear: “I’m a teacher/doctor/lawyer/zookeeper.” But a stigma seems to exist against outright stating your unemployment. It’s as if your new acquaintance who knows nothing about you will hear instead: “I do nothing. I’m a lazy bum who can’t keep a job. I am utterly worthless for productivity and am, in fact, a leech upon society.” You are demoted to joining The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything.

Being unemployed doesn’t mean I sit on the couch staring at the ceiling every day. I have used the “unexpected vacation” to finally pick up that mental list of things I had wanted to do but had not made time for. The tally continues to grow from invitations I would have declined, opportunities I would have passed up, friends I would have missed seeing, experiences I would have refused–if I still had a full-time job. My time “out of work” has not been wasted.

I have been working, though, even if it isn’t sustainable pay just yet. Every Tuesday morning, I babysit two-year-olds during the women’s Bible study at my church. Caring for small children is a learning experience more valuable for me than the monetary compensation. I’ve also been hired to do freelance work through a couple websites. These jobs are mostly suited for people wanting extra spending money, not anyone who plans on actually living off what they earn. Again, I’m gaining experience more than anything else.

Besides the side jobs, I’ve also decided to pursue my old goal of becoming a published author. I want to write a book and have it read. Up until high school or so, I was convinced that this was my life destiny. J. K. Rowling was my role model. But reality has a habit of destroying dreams. The chances are slim of ever making it on the bestsellers lists, the literary big leagues. Even if I could write eloquent, page-turning books, I had to admit that I lack the stamina and focus to be a full-time author. Talent alone won’t get you far. But with my new free time, I’m giving it a shot, anyway. I’m “living the dream.” NaNoWriMo started yesterday, and with a bit of grace and perseverance, I will have a first draft by the end of the month. It’ll be messy, but it’s a step forward.

“So what do you do?” For now, I’m a freelance writer and editor (even if it doesn’t pay). You could say I’m self-employed and work from home. And the surprising thing is … I like it. You see, it feels like a break. The pressure is off. I don’t have to commute anywhere or spend eight hours in an office. I can focus on other things besides earning a paycheck, things that I would argue are more important.

In professional terms, I am taking a sabbatical. More than anything, I have an insatiable thirst to simply be with God and rest from all the normal concerns of the world. I want to fall into his arms and lie there like a child on her father’s lap. I’ve never been in the habit of having daily time to pray and study the Bible, but the past weeks have helped me start. When I close my bedroom door and have quality time alone with God, I wish I could stay there and ignore the rest of the world. I don’t have to say a word, and neither does he. We just enjoy each other’s company.

Credit: www.pi-e-t.com

I feel a little guilty to admit this desire. I can imagine a jury of peers accusing me of idleness. “Get a real job like the rest of us!” they criticize. If they require scriptural support, Proverbs features plenty of harsh condemnations to “inspire” the slothful.

Yet even Jesus knew the importance of rest. He told his own disciples, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while” (Mark 6:31). To the greater masses, he made the famous declaration: “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” (Matt. 11:28-29). God formerly disciplined the Israelites when they wouldn’t listen to him and rest. He told them, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength” (Isa. 30:15). Psalm 127:2 says, “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.” And, of course, there’s the well-known Psalm 23, which says of God, “He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.”

This is all straightforward. God wants us to rest. If we don’t, he will make us. Work is good and necessary, but rest is a gift we’d be ridiculous to refuse. Without physical rest, our bodies crumble. It’s easy to see the effects. Our minds and spirits need rest as well, and God tells us to find it in him.

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Posted by on November 2, 2013 in Publishers

 

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“Here I Am”

After my boss told me about the company layoffs, I realized that I have the time to write this post. For one reason or another, I made other priorities. But now that excuse is no longer valid.

My job required frequent reading and study of the Bible. Some months back, I can’t remember exactly when, I came across Isaiah’s call to be a prophet. Recorded in Isaiah 6, the prophet has a vision of God’s throne. Isaiah is overwhelmed by his unworthiness to be in the presence of God. One of the creatures worshiping the Lord purifies Isaiah with a coal from God’s altar, thus making the prophet able to stand before God’s throne without guilt. Then in verse 8, God speaks from his throne, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?”

Isaiah volunteers without hesitation, like a child eager to please his father. “Here I am! Send me.”

For the child, any opportunity to work with his father feels like a special mission just for him. It is an honor. Isaiah doesn’t know the job description yet. All he knows is that God has accepted him, and now he will take any task from his Father.

As I read this scene, it reminded me of God’s call to Samuel. He responded in a similar way even before he realized he had heard God’s voice. In 1 Samuel 3, the boy runs to his guardian, Eli, crying, “Here I am!” Confused, Eli sends the boy away. This happens twice more before Eli guesses that the Lord is the one speaking. Samuel had mistaken the voice, but he still had the right response. He got up from bed every time to obey the call. He came to Eli ready for whatever the priest had to tell him.

“Here I am.” These three words stuck with me ever since. Recently, I decided to see where else it appears in the Bible. It turns out that Abraham, Jacob, Moses, David, and lesser-known Ananias all used this simple prayer. In each case, these words mean more than, “I’m listening.” Three short words succinctly express a willingness to hear God and a submission to his direction. These are words of obedience and service. The longer version would be: “Here I am, ready and willing. What do you desire or request? Say the word. Everything I am is yours.”

This prayer is not for the faint of heart. Abraham was told to sacrifice his heir and beloved son (Gen. 22:1-2).

Jacob was sent to his homeland, which he had fled in order to escape his brother’s vengeance (Gen. 31:11, 13). Later in his life, Jacob prayed this after hearing that his son Joseph was alive and a ruler of Egypt. God tells him to not be afraid to go to Egypt, where he would die and his descendants later became a nation in slavery (Gen. 46:2-3). Several generations later, Moses prays the same way when God calls to him out of a burning bush, and God sends him into Egypt to free his people. When David’s son Absalom rebels against him, David is forced to

A reminder I made for myself

A reminder I made for myself

retreat from Jerusalem. But he trusts God’s judgment and tells his priest, “If I find favor in the eyes of the Lord, he will bring me back and let me see both it and his dwelling place. But if he says, ‘I have no pleasure in you,’ behold, here I am, let him do to me what seems good to him” (2 Sam. 15:25-26, emphasis added). Finally, there’s Ananias: the disciple in Damascus whom God chose to visit Saul of Tarsus, the Jewish militant arresting Christians (Acts 9:10-12). Ananias essentially says to God, “Are you kidding me?”

With these “encouraging” stories to guide me, I decided to take up the challenge. I re-evaluated my life and asked where God wanted me to go next. I prayed, “Here I am.” Pretty soon, God presented me with the opportunity to be a small group leader with students at my alma mater. The offer took me by surprise, and I had to stop and ask if it was really God’s voice. Sure, I had said the prayer, but this wasn’t the response I had expected.

Then this past week, my boss told me the bad news. Another surprise. Several positions, including mine, had to be cut from the company budget. Suddenly, I didn’t have work the next day. One phone call, and I had 40 extra hours of free time each week.

So here I am, Lord. Say the word.

 
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Posted by on October 8, 2013 in Other thoughts

 

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