Return to Rest

One of my fondest memories of childhood is Highland Park in Kokomo, Indiana. The park—which features Old Ben, the biggest cow ever (4,700 lbs. and 6’4” tall at his death), and a huge old Sycamore stump (50’ in circumference)—is also the home to a covered bridge from Vermont. Built in 1875 and transferred to Highland Park in 1957, the bridge is a throwback to gentler days, when families took leisurely strolls down rocky roads or hitched a wagon of horses for a Sunday picnic.

To this day, I cannot look at a covered bridge without getting nostalgic and wistful for the relatively stress-free days of childhood. Some days I feel like I’m on a whirling merry-go-round-gone-mad, and I’m unable to get off. But, of course, I can. It’s a choice, isn’t it? Just as I can return in my mind to Highland Park and that beautiful covered bridge, I can return to a place of peace, rest, and joy, no matter my stressful circumstances—even when the world seems to fall apart around me.

Calm is especially important in this political season. When I watch people clamoring for our votes and willing to waffle and scheme to get them, I remember Psalm 37:7: "Be still and rest in the Lord; wait for Him and patiently lean yourself upon Him; fret not yourself because of him who prospers in his way, because of the man who brings wicked devices to pass" (Amplified). It almost seems too simple, but the answer for our stress-filled lives is found in this verse. As in a similar verse, Psalm 46:10, the Lord is our focus. When we know Him—His character and ways—and believe that He is in control, we can be still and return to rest.


A Lesson at Wal-Mart

Walking around the huge Wal-Mart parking lot—trying to get some much-needed exercise—I suddenly jumped. Rather, I jumped over. I jumped over a crack in the sidewalk. “Step on a crack; break your mother’s back.” Ever say that as a kid? I haven’t for years; yet there I was, jumping over the seam in the sidewalk.

I had to laugh. Did I really think that my dear mom in Florida would suddenly be carted off to the hospital or a chiropractor? What a silly superstition. But the habit of “jumping cracks” was so deeply ingrained that it rose to the surface when I least expected it.

As I continued walking, I thought about the habits in my life that are good. Others habits are bad and some just aren’t useful anymore. I won’t list my habits here (mostly because I’m embarrassed about the bad ones). We all have some habits that serve us well and glorify the Lord, and other habits that hinder us in our walk with God or testimony for Him. My habits arise from the thoughts I’ve fostered in my mind, and the seeds I’ve planted in my life (Proverbs 23:7; Galatians 6:7). So, to change those habits, I need to think new, biblical thoughts and plant new, godly seeds!

As I rounded the final curve of the Wal-Mart parking lot, I resolved to start a new habit. Whenever I’m out walking and become conscious of a crack in the sidewalk, I’m going to take a few moments to pray for my mom!


Standing Alone in the Fear of God

I’d just finished reading a book by Kathy Howard, Before His Throne: Discovering the Wonder of Intimacy with a Holy God, and I was all excited about learning to live in the fear of God rather than the fear of man. I knew I didn’t want to live like the world, which has no fear of God (Romans 3:18). But I didn’t expect to fall so quickly.

I was tempted to do something wrong, and instead of standing up for what I knew was right, I “went along” with my friend because I didn’t want to make my friend feel like I was being judgmental. My friend didn’t seem to have any qualms about the temptation, but God clearly was telling me to “flee,” and I didn’t. Worse yet, I actually thought, “I can ask God’s forgiveness later.” That was pride and presumption—a foolish, sinful choice (Proverbs 3:7; 8:13; 19:13).

I couldn’t sleep that night, so wracked with conviction. When I told God that I wanted to respect and honor His holiness by pursuing holiness, I underestimated the struggle. I’m thankful for God’s incredible mercy and grace, always extended—even covering my presumptuous sin. But more than ever, I knew that I wanted to dig deeper into the Word and strengthen my walk with God (Proverbs 24:10).

Standing for holiness risks the reactions of others, but if we fail to resist the pressure of temptation among our friends and family members, how can we hope to stand if true persecution comes? God give us the courage to stand, fearing Him and none else.


Back to School

I always hated it when my boys returned to school. I home schooled for much of their education, but when I think about the year they finally went to “regular” school, I remember my pain as they charged up the steps to their first classes, rolling their eyes as I tried to take a photo “to make a memory.” God’s timing for that stage of their lives was perfect, though difficult.

Later, I returned to finish my college education (when I was 49). God’s timing was perfect for that, too. But I’ve discovered that I’m a “lifelong student.” Maybe a better way to say that is—God is my lifelong teacher! Just when I think that I’ve learned an important lesson, He opens a new chapter and says, “Let Me show you something.”

I remember a childhood song: “Teach me your ways, Oh Lord, my God, / That I may walk in Your truth. / Give me a totally, undivided heart /That I may fear Your name.” One of my favorite scriptures is Psalm 25:4-5: “Show me your ways, O LORD, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.”

David wanted to know “the instruction from God’s mouth” that is precious treasure (Psalm 119:72). God’s teaching is the most valuable education we’ll ever receive. Studying in His school is an adventure. I want to be like Mary who made the good choice to sit at Jesus’ feet, listening to His wisdom (Luke 10:42). How wonderful to be taught by the Lord!