Matthew 11:28: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

A cardinal mistake is to believe that everything is up to us. Maybe one of the reasons why humans get so tired and burnt out is that we’re putting too much on our plate. Jesus knew, that’s why He addressed us. “Come to me” – He said, followed by another invitation (Matthew 11:29-30):

“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

A yoke is a wooden beam normally used between a pair of oxen or other animals to enable them to pull together on a load when working in pairs, as oxen usually do; Working in pair is the key ingredient here that Jesus was getting at. Paired up with the Almighty any heavy burden becomes easier to carry.

I believe that’s wonderful news. Jesus is not the type of boss who orders us around. He rolls up His sleeves and gets down to the nitty gritty. He teams up with us. Can you believe it? Pulling on a load as a loner was never meant to be. We are meant to work as a team. Jesus wants to be with us every step of the way.

Working together is not a new concept. God’s operating as Trinity suggests He invented team work in the first place, and we are blessed to follow His example because:

  • We’ll be inspired by God who works with us
  • We’ll be inspired by the people we are teaming up with

Working with God, we welcome His input. And welcoming Him is basically humility in a nutshell. Humility makes a tremendous difference in this world. It takes the pressure off of us, because we know that we’re not the ones running the show, God is. And when the time comes for us to step aside, we can do so with confidence – knowing that life will go on without us. While everyone is irreplaceable, the person picking up where we left off will bring a new perspective. Again – that’s the beauty of teamwork! Trusting in the Lord, we already know that our life on Earth is not in vain. We leave indelible footprints.

Psalm 62:1: “I wait quietly before God, for my victory comes from him.”

The other day, I had to wait 50 minutes on the phone to get connected and speak with a representative. If somebody tells me to wait, I know I have to equip myself with patience.

The mindset of wanting (and nearly getting) everything “RIGHT NOW” is what the Urban Dictionary calls a “Microwave society”:

“Microwaves cook foods faster, our society wants everything faster. We are a Microwave Society.”

Technology has made gathering or sending information extremely fast and we’ve begun to think that everything in life should be available on demand. No more waiting for a television program – now there’s ‘Television on Demand”, where we decide what to watch and when to watch it. Another coined word is “snail mail” versus “email”. The postal service is struggling because everyone wants their information right now. Letters are out, emails are in. Actually, emails are no longer in, texting is. If we want immediate attention (in most cases we do), texting is the more common approach. Since people carry their phones with them, chances are, they will open the message sooner. Emails are now the new snail mail.

Sounds a bit pathetic, doesn’t it? Are we aware of how impatient we have become?

Some things, actually a lot of things that matter to us, don’t come on demand. We have to make that distinction between a need that is met by push of a button versus a need of something that cannot be met momentarily. We know what that “something” is that we find is worth waiting for.

Obviously, there is no button pushing involved when it comes to engaging with the Almighty. Also with people the success of button pushing is short-lived. We will strain our relationships if we keep it up. Impatience can literally destroy relationships.

Sometimes it’s a good idea to just step out the door and witness some scenery. Nature runs its cycles. Flowers bloom and trees grow fruit in certain seasons, flocks of birds fly in and leave when their time comes. It’s a good reminder that our lives go through certain seasons.  Be aware and appreciate the season you are in, right now. There is a reason for every season.

Getting in touch with the Almighty is as basic a need – similar to stepping outside to take a break. We need to get out of the box. We are born to be free. Don’t get enslaved by your own life. Don’t get rushed by demand. Take the liberty to take a time out. Stand aside and wait for the Lord. You’ll be surprised.

Well I think it’s fine, building jumbo planes
Or taking a ride on a cosmic train
Switch on summer from a slot machine
Yes, get what you want to if you want
Cause you can get anything

I know we’ve come a long way
We’re changing day to day
But tell me, where do the children play?

(Yusuf Islam, aka Cat Stevens)

Proverbs 19:20-21: “Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise. Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”

Cats can hear everything! Maya, our pet, can determine by the sound of the engine who is coming home. In comparison, human ears are not as well-equipped. While cats hear sounds about as low as humans, they can hear much higher pitches than we can, and their range goes even above that of dogs.

Even if we had catlike ears, the question is, would we take advantage of our enhanced hearing? Here is another question for you: How easy is it to listen? The talkers among us will probably say it’s easier to talk than to listen. But what about the people who don’t like to talk? Do introverts have an advantage over extroverts when it comes to listening? Perhaps – but keeping silent doesn’t necessarily mean that a person keeps listening. Our thought life has a profound impact on our listening skills, maybe more than we want to admit.

I googled synonyms for the word “listen”, and here goes:

Give one’s attention to a sound, pay attention to, take heed of, heed, take notice of, take note of, mindmark, bear in mind, take into consideration, take into account, tune into

We can drown out God’s voice with our own – the voices in our head and our busy mouth; but we are missing out if we do. There is a world of knowledge and wisdom available to us if we are curious enough to take the time to stop and soak it up. God is not silent. He speaks; He communicates to us in many different ways; He speaks to our hearts.

The art of silence that takes the things of God into account has a profound impact on our lives. And who would have guessed – honing our listening skills with God also upgrades our people skills. We take the time to listen, we find that we have a better understanding of the person next to us.

In a world that’s deeply divided with angry voices competing for our attention, paradoxically, listeners who don’t join the angry choir but lend an unbiased ear have a far better reception. Listeners make this world a better place. Their wisdom contributes to solving the most tricky problems. Listeners promote peace.

Let’s take a mouth break, shall we? Let’s take time to listen today.

“And in the naked light I saw Ten thousand people, maybe more. People talking without speaking, People hearing without listening, People writing songs that voices never share And no one dared Disturb the sound of silence.”    Paul Simon

Psalm 63:1 [ A psalm of David, regarding a time when David was in the wilderness of Judah. ] O God, you are my God; I earnestly search for you. My soul thirsts for you; my whole body longs for you in this parched and weary land where there is no water.

In 2001 I moved from a rather cold and moist climate into the American Southwest and experienced firsthand how devastating droughts can be when Monsoon seasons deliver little to no rain. With water levels sinking and wild fires devouring acres upon acres of land, droughts are deadly.

Actually, one third of our global land’s surface area happens to be desert, and less than one percent of our freshwater is located in lakes, rivers, and swamps, which means 99% of freshwater resources is located underground. So, we’ve constructed dams, carved out canals, turned ocean water into drinking water and continue to do all kinds of things to secure our access to water. Our lives simply depend on it.

As much as 65% of the human body is water; and the maximum time an individual can go without it is close to a week. Three to four days is probably more typical, especially in conditions like the broiling desert heat.

If we get lost hiking through the desert with little or no water, then we know how crucial it is to get back to the trail-head, back to shade and water. We die if we don’t make it back. By the same token, humans need to get back to their roots. We need to find our trail-head, our origin in the Creator of Heaven and Earth.

Here is an open secret: Only in God are we complete. He is our fulfillment and purpose; He is our home; that’s where we are from, and to Him we must return.

“After two days in the desert sun
My skin began to turn red
After three days in the desert fun
I was looking at a river bed
And the story it told of a river that flowed
Made me sad to think it was dead”                 Songwriters: Dewey Bunnell

 

 

Isaiah 55:6: “Seek the Lord while you can find him. Call on him now while he is near.”

Call on Him now means call on Him always.  There’s always now. Right now is now. And here’s another now. If we missed an opportunity to call on the Lord, here is another now. You can do it every moment of the day.

Seeking an audition with the Lord becomes a problem when audition isn’t granted. Prophet Isaiah seems to have experienced this issue because he writes (Isaiah 55:6):

“Seek the Lord while you can find him.”

In other words, time is precious, and if we waste opportunities to meet with the Lord, there might be a day when we look for Him and He’s unavailable. To me that is quite disconcerting.

On the other hand, we all know we are mortal.

As much as our days are numbered so are our opportunities to see God come through in our lives. Waiting until we are on our death bed to have a conversation with the Lord is definitely a gamble with high stakes. How do we know that we have that luxury to contemplate before taking our last breath? We don’t really – because we don’t know the exact circumstances of our death. I believe we are best advised to seize the moment and check in with the Lord right now.

And if not now, then how about now?

“Oh God you are my God and I will ever praise you. I will seek you in the morning and I will learn to walk in your ways and step by step you’ll lead and I will follow you all of my days.” (Rich Mullins)

The Lord is near.

Proverbs 29:25: “Fearing people is a dangerous trap, but trusting the Lord means safety.”

There’s a significant difference between fearing people and fearing the Lord. It becomes evident when we replace the word “fearing” with the word “respecting”. Respecting people is certainly not a dangerous trap, however, fearing them is.

On the other hand, fearing and respecting the Lord appears to be almost synonymous, reason being, fearing the Lord always includes self-respect while fearing people does not. If we fear people, we duck. We tend to think little of ourselves and too much of the person we fear.

On that note, Jesus remarked that people’s power is limited while God’s power is limitless. Sending out the twelve apostles, His famous parting words were (Matthew 10:16-17+28):

“I am sending you out like sheep surrounded by wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of people, because they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues.” (…) “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Instead, fear the one who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”

Let’s keep that in mind if we happen to run into a “David-meets-Goliath” situation today!

Matthew 6:25-34: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”

This is the way the cookie crumbles when it comes to NOT WORRYING:

We stop worrying by trusting in God.

Have you ever noticed that as we worry, we generally feel responsible for anything that’s happening? We tend to see this as a result of being negligent in one or more areas of our lives. Because we didn’t prepare enough, didn’t plan enough, and didn’t care enough, we now have to go into emergency mode to get ourselves out of a tricky or even desperate situation. If for instance there’s not enough money to pay our bills, now we’re obsessing about how to come up with more money.  If we’re sick, we think it’s entirely our responsibility to seek out medical treatment and to come up with some solutions.

Not worrying in situations like these seems irresponsible; however, this is exactly where faith leads us, and the secret lies in the heart of the matter: our attitude towards God and what He means to us. Here are a few common approaches that will lead us into being a worry wart if we’re not careful:

  • God is my emergency break – Or: Help yourself so help you God: With this kind of attitude God is supposed to come through for us only in emergency situations, things we deem to not have any control over: for instance our house burns down, we get involved in an accident, or we’re on our deathbed. This kind of approach is prime real estate for becoming a worry wart, since we think we’re responsible for everything except what is considered an “act of God”. Good luck with that approach! Problem is that we’re really unfamiliar with God’s caring nature since we think we’re entirely in charge. We also don’t know how to let go and let God do His thing. God will not impose His help if we don’t let Him. So with this approach we’re pretty much on our own. Even the emergency break might not be working so well, since God is no emergency break.
  • God is my crutch: We need Him only in areas we feel weak, however, in areas we feel pretty proficient we tend to go solo. No need to trust in God in the area of our expertise, right? We feel we’ve got this! Really? What if we hit the wall in the so-called area of our expertise? Now we worry that we’re incompetent. God is no crutch. God is God, and we are His children. We’re supposed to do things together with Him as a lifestyle, not as a last resort.
  • God is my excuse: I don’t want to work or take any risks, so I take on a rather passive role in my life choices. Everything now is up to God. If things don’t work out, it’s definitely God’s fault. We get into the habit of blaming God for all the bad things and probably don’t give Him enough credit for the good things (or maybe we take the good things for granted). This consumer approach – God has to take care of me – obviously does not work because God is no microwave. He wants His children to grow up, explore the world and bear fruit. This does not happen with a lazy attitude. While this attitude seems to be the most trusting – since we expect everything from God – it is really the least trusting. We don’t dare God by not taking steps of faith. We don’t trust that God has our back so we don’t venture out.

Psalm 119:114 says, “You are my refuge and my shield; your word is my source of hope”.

David’s prayer says it all. Because we know that God never leaves us nor forsakes us, we plunge into the adventure called “life on earth”; we expect good things to follow us all the days of our life – regardless the circumstances, and especially in less than favorable circumstances. We trust Him no matter what happens. And most of all: WE DON’T WORRY.

This is a very healthy and responsible lifestyle. Try it, you’ll be amazed!