faith · life

come away ~ part three

In come away ~ part two, I identified things in my life that create roadblocks for me in walking intimately with God.  Now I’ll look at some of the ways that I can ‘come away’ from the things that battle for my time both practically and spiritually.

The McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms says this:

Come away
v. To leave, relinquish, or abandon a place in favor of another place

Beautiful. Relinquish—give to Jesus—the stress, the burdens, the work, the weariness, the busyness—that place of life, in favour of another place—a place of rest, a place of respite, a place of refreshing at His feet.  Remember some of the key words that kept popping up these last few weeks? Abide, dwell, rest. In His presence I find blessing, refreshing, revival.  If I am not actively pursuing my relationship with Him, I will miss out on these wonderful gifts.

What might ‘coming away’ look like on the physical level?

We all know that our bodies need rest.  God set in motion, at the time of creation, a day of rest.  Work six days and rest a day.  We recently learned in history, that during the French Revolution, France, in its attempt to instill ‘reason’ over ‘religion’, tried to implement a ten-day work week.  This, of course, did not go over well with the religious collective, but it also bore a physical strain on the people.  God also created day and night.  Work by the light, sleep by the darkness.  Rest is a gift and important to our overall well-being.

I can find respite in breaking away from the busyness of our day. My break from routine will look vastly different from yours.  We all unwind in various ways.

My body feels terrible after a very long winter with little outdoor activity and excessive noshing.  I always feel better when I’m eating food that is good for me, and getting exercise and fresh air.  When the weather cooperates, I especially enjoy walks on the beach…it’s very therapeutic for mind and body.

I’ve found that other diversions also help to keep stress at bay. I’ve always found pleasure in creative pursuits like sewing, painting, and decorating.  Because we were in transition for more than a year, I took up knitting and crocheting (it’s fun to make cute things for my growing number of grandlittles and helps to pass the time on long car trips) and, as I mentioned, I branched out into painting with watercolour because it is portable and doesn’t take up much space in a Honda Civic.

In the last few years, I’ve had some trouble with my sleeping patterns.  It used to be that if I awakened in the night, I would pray about anything that came to mind and eventually I would go back to sleep.  Of late, that has not always been the case.  I’ll pray and pray and pray, my mind will go around in circles, and I become progressively more agitated that I am not falling asleep. Finally, in frustration I’ll get up and read or watch Netflix, but I’m up for hours.  I decided that, perhaps, I just need an outlet for my thoughts.  One night I created this blog.  It’s really just for fun—a little mental diversion, but perhaps the Lord will use it for His glory.

Sometimes, it’s simply saying ‘no’ to some requests or events.  Even if it’s just because I want a movie or game night with my family.  My oldest son recently told me that some of his fondest memories are of us drawing together at the kitchen table.  He sees now how difficult, but important it is to spend time with each of his children as he juggles three littles of his own. I am thankful he has memories of his mom taking time for him.

My physical and mental health needs to be nurtured, more so does my spiritual health.   As I may crash physically after a prolonged period of excessive busyness, I may crash spiritually if I am not fueling that part of my life.

How do I ‘come away’ in a spiritual sense?

Remember the life jar illustration?  I need to make time in His Word and prayer a priority.  It’s too easy to get up, and jump right into my day without taking time for personal prayer and reading.  I read this the other day as I was doing our ladies’ bible study: “If Jesus is not the first thought of your day, He’s likely to be your last thought throughout the day.”

When I had all six kids at home, keeping house, homeschooling and little ones kept me very busy and I convinced myself that because we have family devotions each day, we go to church, it’s okay if I miss out on personal time with God. Wrong.  Though in that season of life it was, perhaps, more difficult to eke out quiet time, it would have been profitable (to all of us!) if I had spent a few moments alone with God each day.  I think it may have been the mother of John and Charles Wesley (who by the way had a lot of children) put her apron over her head while she prayed. This was a signal to her children that they were not to disturb her–she was talking with her Lord.

My ‘Martha’ sometimes gets in the way of my ‘Mary’ (Luke 10:38-42).  Like Martha, I am often distracted by my duties, making them my priority, getting frustrated when things are left undone, or no one shares my vision of a clean and organized home. When Martha complained to Jesus, He gently told her that Mary had chosen the better position: at His feet, receiving His word. Martha was busy serving Him, but Mary was occupied with His Person. My fellowship with Him is vital. When I am in tune with Him, I can know His will and His work for me, and do it with peace and assurance.  Isn’t that a beautiful, symbiotic association?

Many years ago, the Lord reminded me of this very thing.  In the course of a couple weeks or so, I encountered a message from the book of Jeremiah two or three times.  (Remember…I told you I’m a slow learner.  Another side note…I’m back in Jeremiah with my reading plan!) At first I thought, “Okay, a ‘coincidence’.”  They all seemed unrelated at first glance, until I went back and read it myself.  Judah’s story looked very much like my own. I recalled my early interest in God and Christianity.  I wanted to be saved from hell, but I did not love or follow the Lord with my whole heart. I was content to do my own thing.  In one sense, I was back in that place, only this time I was saved. I was going through the motions, but my heart was not in it.  I had ‘idols’ in my life.  I was convicted once again that I did not “love the Lord with all my heart, with all my soul, with all my strength, with all my mind.  I had no personal altar. I was cold. Keith Green’s song, ‘My Eyes are Dry’ sums it up well:

My eyes are dry, my faith is old;
My heart is hard, my prayers are cold.
And I know how I ought to be:
Alive to You and dead to me.
What can be done for an old heart like mine?
Soften it up with oil and wine.
The oil is You, Your Spirit of Love.
Please wash me anew,
In the wine of Your blood.

Wash me anew…resting at His feet as Mary did, hearing His Word…

I recently discovered the SOAP method of bible study (how’s that for a segue…the unintentional correlation between wash and soap was not lost on me ;)) and Bible journaling.  Both have had a positive impact on my quiet time. I will take a break during the day, or use my early morning time to sit down and focus on Him.

When I read a passage for meditation (which may be from a reading plan, from my ladies’ Bible study material, a verse that has come from a message I’ve heard, something I’ve read online, or just something the Lord has placed on my heart), I read the scripture (S). I make observations (O), which includes looking for key words and thoughts, finding the “who, what, where, when, why and how’s.  Then I look for the application (A).  Is the Lord speaking to me about something?  Do I learn something about God?  About myself?  Finally:  prayer (P). I pray for wisdom, ears to hear and an obedient heart regarding what I’ve read.  Sometimes my meditation will lead to deeper study on words, cross-references, and such.  Once I add journaling, a creative expression of the words, personal thoughts, songs and quotes that may have come to mind, etc., I have really taken time to let His Word sink in.

Prayer time is something I really struggle with.  I mentioned before that we pray as a family, but even that sometimes gets pushed aside when our schedules are full.  I pray as I scan Facebook.  I pray regularly for my family, for our ministry, for other people and ministries.  I often pray as I create things, for the recipients or just in general.  I pray as I read news articles—we live in a sad, old world.  I pray as I do the dishes, or fold laundry.  I thank Him for my food, for good things that happen, for answered prayer. In one sense, I do ‘pray without ceasing.’ This is all well and good, but I want desperately to be a prayer warrior.  The book by Jim Cymbala, Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire, challenged and inspired me, as did the movie, War Room.  I want to go in my closet and pray for an hour without interruption, without my mind wandering to my to-do list, without falling asleep!  I want to pray for people and situations, for His work in my life, but also come before Him with thankfulness and praise and pure adoration, unhurried and dedicated. Listening to Him as He speaks to me in this time.

Prayer is my source of communion with my Father, my fountain of strength to face the day, to get through the day, and to recover from the day.

Through the years I’ve tried prayer journals, prayer files, notebooks, lists on my phone…all great ideas with fantastic beginnings, but less successful follow-through (one of my many weaknesses).  Oh, I still reference them occasionally; we have a lot of people and ministries we pray for and I don’t want to forget to pray for them.  Mostly, I desire to pray fervently and have an intentional attitude of gratitude, to take time to hear Him speak to me, to look around and see God’s hand all around me and in me.

Music is another wonderful way to ‘come away.’  I am not musical at all; I like to say I have more passion than talent.  But it’s so nice to listen to praise and worship music and sing along. I may not be able to play an instrument, but I can play the radio!  I love to listen to my love and df girl practice together, and my other kids praising Him, as well.  Music for Him refreshes my heart and blesses Him.

I wish I could tell you that I heard the good news, was saved and lived an exemplary Christian life.  Regrettably that is not so.  When I was young, I wanted to be saved, but I didn’t want to make Him Lord of my life.  Benefits without responsibility.  When I got saved at nineteen, I was on fire!  I was on a mountaintop! The years following had many ups and downs.  At times, I was in close fellowship, at others I merely coasted.  And then there were the deep valleys.  But thank God for those valleys.  It seems to me that those times of heartache, fear and uncertainty are where the Lord gives me the most precious gifts. Where I meet Him intimately. God’s wake up call to say, “Hey, Janet, you’re not where you should be,” or “Stop striving, Janet, find peace and rest in Me.”  There have been many such occasions in my life, but I’ll share just one.

My love and I experienced a family crisis.  We were devastated.  The news came to us on a Saturday evening; we had little sleep that night.  When it was time to go to church, My love and I both felt too drained to face people.  The church we attended had the Lord’s Supper service at 9:30 and a regular service at 11:00.  We skipped the first; soon, however, we both felt it was not right, that that was precisely the place we needed to be.  So off we went, our grief close to the surface.  God is so good.  The man who was speaking that particular morning brought a message from Philippians; it was exactly what we needed to hear that day.  I even wrote a note in my Bible praising God for His care in sending His special messenger that day.  Following that sermon, I again encountered several radio programs, bible studies, and devotionals that were based on the book of Philippians. (Do you see a pattern?)

The whole situation proved to be a catalyst in drawing me into an even deeper relationship with my Father.  At first, I spent countless hours in prayer, on my knees crying, asking the Spirit for words that would not come.  My love and I, together, praying earnestly for the Lord to intervene, to have mercy.  Though my walk with God was strong and quite full of purpose before this event, I was brought to a place of intimacy with God that I had not had since I was a new believer. What began as an exercise of desperation, turned into an act of love.  He was ‘working all things together for [my] good.’ It’s been a few years since, and I still cry out, yet I have a peace, too, knowing I do not go through life alone.  Knowing that He loves my dear ones even more than I do. I was reminded in that valley to abide in Him.

Friend, let’s not neglect to ‘come away’ from the busyness and burdens of life and be refreshed, dwelling in His presence.  There we find an intimate relationship with Him, a revitalized Spirit and renewed energy to complete the tasks He has for us.

It must seem that I exclusively listen to Keith Green, which is not the case, but his music is just so open and honest that it just fits so nicely with drawing near to Him.  He reminds me much of David.  He truly seemed to be one who desired to be a man after God’s own heart.  I’ll leave you with the words to ‘Rushing Wind,’ a beautiful picture of the refreshing that comes only from Him.

Rushing wind blow through this temple,
Blowing out the dust within,
Come and breathe your breath upon me,
I’ve been born again.

Holy Spirit, I surrender, take me where you want to go,
Plant me by your living water,
Plant me deep so I can grow.

Jesus, you’re the one, who sets my spirit free,
Use me Lord, glorify, your holy name through me.
Separate me from this world Lord.
Sanctify my life for you.
Daily change me to your image,
Help me bear good fruit.
Every day you’re drawing closer.

Trials come to test my faith.
But when all is said and done lord,
You know, it was worth the wait.
Jesus, you’re the one, who set my spirit free,
Use me lord, glorify, your holy name through me.

Rushing wind blow through this temple,
Blowing out the dust within,
Come and breathe you breath upon me,
For I’ve been born again.

come away 3
The Lone Shieling, found in Cape Breton Highlands National Park, Nova Scotia, is a replica of a Scottish hut called a shieling.  Crofters (tenant farmers) in the western highlands of Scotland grazed their sheep in the hills and would find warmth and shelter for themselves and oftentimes their livestock in such a place. I thought it a fitting picture for ‘come away.’
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