God has been speaking to me, a lot lately, about striving. I am so driven by the things that I have to do or the things I want to accomplish or change in my life that I am constantly running from one thing to the next.
Typically, my day starts with the alarm at 6 am, at which point I hit snooze 3 to 7 times and finally drag myself out of bed. During that 30 - 60 minutes of waking up every 9 minutes, I try to convince myself that I need to get up and exercise, shower, etc. Then it's on to shower, get dressed, do my hair and makeup, and so forth. Depending on how few times I hit snooze I may have time to sit and offer a quick prayer to God (or more likely check my email and Facebook and then maybe listen to a few worship songs).
Then a green smoothie for breakfast and out the door and on to work. A day spent in a blur of phone calls, ordering, receiving books, helping customers, answering questions, and so on. Somedays, I'm done receiving shipments early and then have to try to figure out what to do next before lunch time. Other days, I'm lucky to get part of the receiving done before rushing off to lunch 20 minutes late, rushing to get something to eat and rushing back to work.
Then after work, racing to pick up any groceries that I need to make dinner and racing home to get dinner made, eaten, and cleaned up after. Then whatever else is on the schedule for the evening: laundry, school, or whatever. Finally, collapsing onto my bed to watch TV or play computer games while listening to music so I can decompress from the day. All the while telling myself I need to get to bed early because I need to get up the next morning and not hit snooze.
Wake up the next day to start the whole cycle over.
I value healthy living. I desire balance. I long for fitness and energy. I pursue these things. I strive to accomplish them. But I succeed in more guilt and stress than actual results.
I strive to get up in the morning. I strive to get myself to exercise (and often don't). I strive to get ready quickly. I strive to get to work. I strive to get to lunch. I strive to plan meals, grocery shop, and cook. I strive to clean. I strive to make enough money to do the things I want to do or buy the things I want to buy. I strive, strive, strive and barely survive.
But then God reminds me that is not why he created me. I am created to work out of rest. That His desire is to go with me throughout the day and just enjoy each other's presence. That I accomplish more with less effort when I include Him in my activities. The pace of the day slows and I start to notice all the little delights He has woven into my day.
A meal plan develops for the week, time to grocery shop fits into my weekend, and after work each day I get to head home and eat a nice meal (sometimes in the crock pot, other times fixed after work). At work, I get to listen to music while I receive shipments the backroom and then interact with customers to help them find the things they need or to be an encouragement in their day. I bring my lunch to work each day and take a little time to sit down and enjoy it. Laundry gets done when it needs to; I have time to spend with friends and family and, most importantly, with God.
It isn't so much about organization but about perspective and priorities. The more I pursue God's presence, the easier the rest of life becomes. He is much better at figuring out what I need to do to get the results I want and He is patient with me to implement these changes and ideas at my pace. I've learned that every time I try to make a major overhaul in a particular area of life: food, entertainment, exercise, etc. it generally doesn't last. However, if I make small changes here and there over a longer period of time I develop new habits (which become lifestyle) that transform my health and life for the best.
I become so much less focused on what comes next and getting it all done that I get to enjoy the moment I'm actually living in at the time. I get to rejoice in my niece and nephew's artwork and tell them what a great job they did. I get to take the time to pray with someone facing tough challenges. I can finally stop looking into the future for all the things I want to happen, meanwhile missing out on what is happening in the present. Instead, I get to live life, here and now.
Delight is a balanced lifestyle. You can't delight in a dessert if you eat too much of it. Delight ceases in excess only to be replaced with guilt, illness, and/or addiction. To be able to delight in something we need balance.
Monday, April 1, 2013
I was privileged to be able to participate in a women's worship night at another church by painting during that time. This is the painting that came forth:
It is titled, "Awake My Soul" and it portrays the presence of God in the colors above, the soul coming to life in the center surrounded by God's hands of peace as it is lifted out of the chaos of the world below. It illustrates the moment of birth or rebirth as our spirit is refreshed and renewed in Christ Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Chris Tomlin has a song by the same title centered around the passage in Ezekiel 37 about the army of dry bones being brought to life. I believe that scripture is also represented in this painting.
With the hand of ADONAI upon me, ADONAI carried me out by his Spirit and set me down in the middle of the valley, and it was full of bones. He had me pass by all around them--there were so many bones lying in the valley, and they were so dry! He asked me, "Human being, can these bones live?"
I answered, "Adonai ELOHIM! Only you know that!"
Then he said to me, "Prophesy over these bones! Say to them, 'Dry bones! Hear what ADONAI has to say! To these bones Adonai ELOHIM says, "I will make breath enter you, and you will live. I will attach ligaments to you, make flesh grow on you, cover you with skin and put breath in you. You will live, and you will know that I am ADONAI."'"
So I prophesied as ordered; and while I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound; it was the bones coming together, each bone in its proper place. As I watched, ligaments grew on them, flesh appeared and skin covered them; but there was no breath in them.
Next he said to me, "Prophesy to the breath! Prophesy, human being! Say to the breath that Adonai ELOHIM says, 'Come from the four winds, breath; and breathe on these slain, so that they can live.'"
So I prophesied as ordered, and the breath came into them, and they were alive! They stood up on their feet, a huge army!
Then he said to me, "Human being! These bones are the whole house of Israel; and they are saying, 'Our bones have dried up, our hope is gone, and we are completely cut off.' Therefore prophesy; say to them that Adonai ELOHIM says, 'My people! I will open your graves and make you get up out of your graves, and I will bring you into the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am ADONAI--when I have opened your graves and made you get up out of your graves, my people! I will put my Spirit in you; and you will be alive. Then I will place you in your own land; and you will know that I, ADONAI, have spoken, and that I have done it,' says ADONAI."
Ezekiel 37:1-14 CJB
I find it fascinating that God raised a whole army to life just to illustrate a point. It was an elaborate object lesson for Ezekiel to give him a word for Israel. God is so amazing! He showed in the natural, physical world (by way of the miraculous) what he was about to do in the supernatural--he raised dry bones to life just to help explain what he would do for the people of Israel in their spirits. Wow! That is so awesome!
I truly believe that this passage is relevant and alive for us today as well. Anytime that we (or someone else we know or encounter) are filled with despair and have lost all hope, we can command life into that situation. Are you facing divorce? "Breathe!" Is a loved one addicted to drugs? "Breathe!" Do you have a friend struggling under the suffocating weight of depression? "Breathe!" It is a prayer of strength and hope that God enables us to pray over ourselves or others.
May God put his Spirit in you so that you may be alive. Awake our souls, O Lord. Awake . . . our . . . souls.