31 Days: Remaining in the vine


John 15:1-4 

“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. 

May you discover the rest of remaining in the vine. Because the truth is that we can’t do anything on our own. And we don’t need to.

The Rhythm of Rest
This is Day 23 of The Rhythm of Rest series (Write 31 Days challenge).

Image credit: morguefile.com

31 Days: Putting down Roots

Photo Credit: John Pretty via Compfight cc

Today I returned to Alan Fadling’s book, An unhurried life: following Jesus’ rhythms of work and rest. In it he describes how early in his ministry Jesus visited the synagogue in Nazareth and announced his purpose by reading these verses from Isaiah 61:

Isaiah 61:1-2

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor…

And if Jesus had kept reading he would have come to these words in verse three:

They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.

I was struck by this image and Fadling’s explanation that we are “these oaks of righteousness planted by the Lord [to] put his splendour on display, a display quite different from human excitement, enthusiasm and thrills. Splendor is quieter, stronger, less hurried and more deeply rooted.”

As I read this I was reminded of a gorgeous picture book called Tina the Tree by Andrew McDonough. You can read the whole story on the Lost Sheep website, but if I may summarise here, Tina the tree lives by a life-giving river in the hot dry climate of Australia. Tina loves to show hospitality to all the living creatures around her. But soon Tina is running herself ragged trying to help everyone.

What they really need is for Tina to stay by the river and sink her roots into the water. Strong and healthy, she can provide food, safety and shelter for the creatures who need her.

We are designed to display the Lord’s splendour, and we can’t do that by constantly running around in a hurry trying to get more done. As we are planted by the Lord we need time to be still, to send down roots and to grow in him.

The Rhythm of Rest
This is Day 5 of The Rhythm of Rest series (Write 31 Days challenge).

31 Days: Slowing Down to Rest

Have you ever noticed how worry and hurry seem to be joined at the hip?

When I’m worried that I’m going to be late, I hurry. When I’m worried that I won’t get everything done that needs to be done when it needs to be done, I hurry. When I’m worried that I’m not going to meet the expectations and timeframes of others, I hurry.

When I’m in a hurry I’m only interested in the destination. When I’m in a hurry I’m tight and tense. Everything about me is hurried. I walk faster, I talk faster, my breathing is shallower (if I remember to breathe at all – sometimes I catch myself holding my breath), my movements lose their coordination and I get clumsy. When I’m in a hurry I lose my patience and my tolerance for the slowness of others.

When I’m in a hurry I only notice what I need to get to where I’m going. When I’m in a hurry I become a person I don’t much like.

But when I choose to slow down, when I start to breathe again, I look around and I start to notice the things around me. The things that help me rest.

I notice the morning sunlight illuminating blossom petals in my garden.

I notice how the muscles in my legs move as I walk (a little slower). How the rhythm returns to my stride.

I notice the expressions on the faces of the people I meet.

I notice the floating duck silhouetted against the last blush of twilight on my way home from work.

I notice how the spring air is soft on my skin.

I notice the scent of flowers in the evening.

When I slow down, I hear God whispering and I realise that he’s been speaking to me all along.

In An Unhurried lifeAlan Fadling writes, “When I found myself slowing down inside, the Lord seemed to say, ‘Don’t talk trust and live worry.’ … Jesus was inviting me to live with trust in him instead of worry.”

And that’s also the invitation of Jesus to me and to you. To slow down and walk with him, to live with trust in him instead of worry. The invitation to trust him is also an invitation to rest in him, to “learn the unforced rhythms of grace”.

The Rhythm of Rest

This is Day 3 of The Rhythm of Rest series (Write 31 Days challenge).

Write 31 Days – The Rhythm of Rest

The Rhythm of Rest

I’ve had plenty of days when I just want the world to stop so I can get off. There’s too much happening and it’s happening too fast. I can’t keep up, and I’m tired of trying.

Do you know that feeling too?

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28-30 (MSG)

When I was introduced to the Message version of these verses a few years ago it struck me in a fresh way. The invitation to learn the unforced rhythms of grace from Jesus, to live freely and lightly. Doesn’t that sound good?

One of the things I noticed in this passage is that a real rest includes walking with Jesus and working with him. Rest isn’t just about stopping. It isn’t just about sleep, or about holidays or the Sabbath, although all those things are good. There is also rest offered in the rhythms of life, in the way we walk and go about our work each day. What does it look like to rest in the Lord, to follow his unforced rhythms of grace? That’s what I want to discover.

It’s October again and that means the Write 31 Days challenge is on, and so I’ve decided to explore The Rhythm of Rest.

The irony of writing and posting everyday on the subject of rest hasn’t escaped me, but thinking, writing and sharing about it may actually help me to make space for rest. And I need some accountability. I guess we’ll find out if the experiment works.

I’m looking forward to what might happen this month. I hope you’ll join me on the journey and share some of your own experiences and insights.

I’ll be adding a link here for each day’s post, so there’s one place to find everything together. And there will also be a button on the home page so you can easily check back here any time during the month.

Day 1 – The Rhythm of Rest
Day 2 – Rest in the Beginning
Day 3 – Slowing Down to Rest
Day 4 – My Soul Finds Rest in God
Day 5 – Putting down Roots
Day 6 – Take a Moment to Breathe
Day 7 – Giving myself Permission to Rest
Day 8 – A prayer for rest and renovation
Day 9 – When only one thing is needed
Day 10 – Come away to a quiet place and rest
Day 11 – And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy
Day 12 – The gift of sleep
Day 13 – Restless
Day 14 – Nature knows how to rest
Day 15 – Learning to rest through trust
Day 16 – When I can’t ignore my need to rest
Day 17 – He lets me rest in green meadows
Day 18 – A day of delight
Day 19 – The rest of wild flowers
Day 20 – Rest in the present
Day 21 – Made for rest
Day 22 – Some practical ideas for ways to rest
Day 23 – Remaining in the vine
Day 24 – A blessing for rest
Day 25 – Refreshing the soul
Day 26 – Resting in His presence
Day 27 – no post, just sleep!
Day 28 – Rest in the rhythm of the ebbs and flows
Day 29 – Sleeping in the storm
Day 30 – Make every effort to enter God’s rest
Day 31 – Practising the Rhythm of Rest

What peanut M&Ms and the dentist have to do with flourishing

Dew and leaf

What does flourishing look like? Today it looks an orange temporary filling in my left molar and mascara stains on my cheeks. Let me explain.

My past experiences with the dental profession have not been great, and for over ten years I’ve been avoiding them altogether. That is until the other night when a chunk of my tooth broke on a peanut M&M. My avoidance days were over, and in a move of uncharacteristic decisiveness on my part I rang the next day to make an appointment.

Fast forward to this morning. I was a little anxious but thought I was holding it together quite well … until I stepped into the dental surgery.

By the time I’d filled in the new patient information card and sat down to wait I was rapidly spiralling into a hot mess. When the dental nurse called me in I had peeled off my coat, scarf and jacket and was trying to staunch a flood of tears with a tissue. I hadn’t realised I was that anxious.

Thanks to a lovely and understanding dentist, forty-five minutes later I walked out with my temporary filling and two new appointments for a permanent filling and to deal with a few other minor issues that have developed over the dentist-free years. (Note: I’m not encouraging anyone else to avoid regular dental check-ups, I’m very lucky not to have any major issues.)

So why do I call this flourishing? Because today I stopped avoiding one of my fears and faced it. And despite the anxiety and the tears, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be.

Yes, it helped to have a dentist who understood my anxiety, and who had a strategy for helping me through it. And that’s the point, I got through it instead of running away from it.

I call it flourishing because I walked out feeling a little lighter and a little stronger, as if a weight had been lifted, and it has.

I call it flourishing because today I feel just a little more like the me I was created to be.

Image sourced here.