The pace of it all seems a curse; doesn’t it?
Slap the alarm at 6:30. Toss up a prayer. Throw down a quick cup of coffee. Throw three turkey sandwiches together. Dress the baby. Shower. Match socks for the boys. Find the missing shoe. It’s ten till eight; shoot! Load the boys into the minivan. Hustle to school, then to daycare. Go to the office. Tend to the work-a-day emergencies. Choke down lunch at the desk. Take appointments. Don’t stop; don’t stop; earn that salary. It’s ten till six; shoot! Speed home. Eat dinner with the family. Speed through a bedtime story. Tuck the kids in. Fold the clothes. Put the kids down again. Sweep the floors. Serve a glass of water and a warning—don’t get out of bed again; I mean it! Wash the dishes. It’s ten till 10; shoot!
This is the rhythm of our modern lives, always striving, always on the hustle. There are things to do, opportunities to seize. We’re moving at breakneck speed, and the pace gives us precious little time for silence, meditation, and prayer. We drift from inner examination, from contemplating the things that matter. No one rests anymore. It’s a sign of weakness.
In 2012, the pace of my life buried me. Burning the candle at both ends, times of rest, meditation, and prayer were sparse. Everything was held together by the thinnest of threads stretched taught. And then, the knife fell.
Our youngest son’s health began to falter. Unable to hold down a meal, he shed weight, turned into a small bag of animated bones. His eye-sockets turned into shadows. His ribs were countable. The veins throbbed in his temples.
We were rushed to the hospital, and the doctors poked and prodded, wondering why Titus could not seem to gain weight. They ran test after test—they were in the midst of their own hustle—and we waited for results.
There, in the forced break from the busyness of my daily routine, I found myself restlessness and off-kilter. I found that I was estranged from God.
I suppose there are ways to handle this sort of estrangement. One could turn into the quiet, could hope to find the rest promised by Jesus amidst the tyranny of the pace and pains of life. On the other hand, one could pick up the addiction du jour–the bottle, the food, the credit card, the porn habit. One could avoid the Still Small rest and create salves from the stuff of earth.
I chose the latter.
Gin was my bottle of choice, and it took too long to realize it had its claws in me. But as is the patient way of the Spirit, He speaks, begs us to come clean from our busyness, from our addiction. He begs us to rest.
In the greener days of first sobriety, I heard it—come into my rest. It was October 3rd, 2013, and this is how I recorded the moment in my daily journal:
Unable to sleep, I woke this morning at 4:30 and made my way to my living room chair. I read passages in small chunks, stopped and listened until my mind wandered, till I started thinking about work obligations, or family engagements, or about the time Jude got a pencil eraser stuck up his nose. This morning, I heard the distracting voice of the gin calling, calling, always calling. In this prone-to-wander place, I stopped. I re-centered, and then I prayed.
“I am sorry, Lord. Help my unbelief.” I looked back down to scripture in my lap, and I took another small helping of words to heart. It was the bit about coming to Jesus, the easy-yoked Messiah.
“Come to me,” he said, “and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
(Excerpt from Coming Clean, Zondervan, 2015.)
I’ve read these words countless times over the course of my life, but this morning, they came to life in a new way. They were meant as a promise, I sense, the hope of a present and abiding glory. This assurance comes fast and without warning. Perhaps this it the Still Small Voice speaking?
There, before hustle and bustle of obligations gathered a day’s worth of steam, I sat in the stillness. I slowed long enough to hear the promise—I will give you rest—long enough to take ingest it, to contemplate it. The promise rang true.
There is rest from addiction, rest from frenetic spirit compromised by the world around us. There is rest from anxiety, from living in an upended peace. There is rest from the endless money-churn, from the expectations that loom. There is rest if we trust it; I know this.
“Come into my rest,” he says—today, if only.
We were walking out of the hotel early Sunday morning, October 25th, 2014, catching the crack-of-dawn shuttle back to the airport. A rag-tag group of writers who had all come to Allume with an agenda: We planned to build our platforms, build connections, build our individual brand. But leaving together at the end of the weekend, 18 women crammed into one small bus, it was obvious that God was more concerned about building our faith, building relationships, building up hearts.
Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails. (Proverbs 19:21)
I’m not saying that it’s wrong to have an agenda, as long as we come to each new day and opportunity remembering who’s plan always prevails… if we’re soft enough to yield.
Last year I was a newbie, a first timer, an Allume virgin, so to speak. I flew into South Carolina knowing one whole person there. Still, I had it all planned out – how I’d bring my beautiful business cards and tantalize people with my dynamic personality and conversation, I’d meet with agents and publishers, take copious notes, and leave with knowledge and connections that would benefit me in the future. That last line really sums it up.
I hope you don’t all hate me for being honest up front. I’m just taking a risk and painting this picture incase some of you are prone to the same first time hopes and dreams. And like I said, they’re not all bad… as long as we’re quick to bend in the direction God has planned for us to go. Yielding to His push, His pulse, His prodding.
When I first arrived at the hotel last year, the Lord immediately started orchestrating His plan for me. I settled into my hotel room, slipped into my first fun outfit, grabbed my first cute handbag, and rummaged through my things to make sure I had everything I needed to achieve my agenda. Only… where was my little orange business card case that perfectly matched my branding? NOT THERE – That’s where! And the only cards I had, were half a dozen rumpled ones stuffed in the backside of my wallet.
My roommate promised me that very few people even bring business cards and fewer still hand them out, and told me to just hold onto them if I ended up meeting with any agents or publishers. So I shoved them back into my wallet, and walked out of that hotel room telling the Lord that I was open to whatever He had planned for me.
The elevators announced the ground floor with a loud and happy “Ding” and the doors opened. Right off, I recognized a woman that I had connected with online and cautiously walked toward her group. I introduced myself to them and was astounded by the immediate welcome of so many like-minded women. There in that very moment I started relationships with Jacque Watkins, Brooke McGlothlin, Stacey Thacker, Heather MacFadyen, Diane Bailey and Wynter Evans Pitts. Enveloped in the instant familiarity and open-armed welcome of community, my agenda fell limp and purposeless to the ground – and I knew that God had something bigger and better in store for me than I had planned.
On the last night of our time together, God was kind enough to speak directly to my heart through our keynote speaker, Sophie Hudson. She had us laughing from the start, but then suddenly leaned into the microphone and started talking about relationships. This is what she said:
“We have got to choose building relationships over building anything else.”
I knew her words were God’s Word for me, for I had bought my ticket to Allume that year, thinking that I was going to learn how to build my blog. But God wanted me to catch the vision of building something even better… relationships. Sophie encouraged us to be a safe place for one another. She challenged us, “What you’ve been called to, does not diminish what the Lord has called me to.” And then she told the familiar story of Mary, the mother Jesus, arriving at her cousin Elizabeth’s home.
Sophie reminded us that Elizabeth was carrying an honest to goodness miracle inside of her! (And aren’t we all? Full of miracle stories, miracle families, miracle dreams, miracle callings?) Yet still, when Elizabeth saw young Mary, the child in her womb leapt, and she knew instantly that she was hugging another of God’s miracles! In that moment she wasn’t thinking about herself at all!
Elizabeth made no attempt to promote herself, steal the thunder, or show off her own miracle. Instead she announced in a loud voice: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!” (Luke 1:42-45)
I was seated in the very back of the room that night. As Sophie closed her message and the worship team took the stage I looked around the enormous dinning room and felt compelled to lift my hands. I prayed God’s blessing on each and every woman there. Then I thanked the Holy Spirit for gently shifting my gaze from my own agenda to His agenda, and then on from there to the plans He has for others around me.
This year as I prepare for Allume, I am praying the words that I had scribbled at the bottom of my note taking page that last night:
Dear Lord, Give me the eyes to see who I might encourage, support, and promote, rather than being on the lookout for others who might encourage, support, and promote me!”
Hello Allume friends! We are so excited to explore “building bridges” with you! Our particular passion at Seed Company is to see more lives transformed through Bible translation. In many ways, Bible translation is like a bridge — God’s Word brings His people together. Together, we can build bridges and end Bible poverty.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. — John 1:14 (ESV)
As we pray and meditate upon God’s Word, our perspective is transformed. We begin to see things anew. We start to realize where and how we can be bridges and light.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it. — John 1:5 (NLT)
Join us in the Prayer Room during the Allume Conference. Experience the presence of God and the power of prayer. Come to the Prayer Room to relax and meditate upon God’s call. Come with expectation to be filled with the Spirit as you meditate on His Word. Pray with — and for — your fellow bridge-builders. Hear His voice. Be transformed by His love. Commit to making a difference. We will be praying for you to be empowered to take action for God’s purposes. And we joyfully invite you to learn more about building bridges for the Bibleless.
Has God called you to wild obedience?
We’ve learned a lot from the people we serve — people like the Yawa (Yawa woman pictured above). The Yawa live on a remote Pacific island. Generations of Yawa have been subject to a traditional, animistic religion. Can you imagine? But after years of perseverance and dependence upon God, the Yawa can read God’s Word for themselves! They are pursuing a relationship with Jesus through His Word.
Today more than 1 billion people are without God’s Word. But like the Yawa, as we encounter His unfathomable love for us, our hearts develop a passion for people groups Jesus came to save. People who have families. People who belong to neighborhoods. Even strangers. We see their faces. We hear their voices. We feel their hunger. And we experience God’s call to serve — a call to wild obedience.
No matter what your particular passion is, living with wild obedience will change your life — and influence the lives of others! Until we see each other in August, may our hearts be prepared for what is sure to be an amazing God-glorifying gathering.
P.S. Feel free to use the #EndBiblePoverty hashtag throughout the Allume Conference to ask questions or simply to say hello.