Thursday Thoughts: Breathe

We forget so quickly that we’re human. We want to be machines who can smoothly and efficiently get up early, work, clean, and go to sleep again. Like robots. Like clocks, just ticking away the time. We forget that we have beating hearts and rushing blood and souls that need desperately to breathe. It goes against the way the world works to take time to be still and calm. To take time to rest. To take time to breathe life back into yourself, and more importantly, to have Life breathed back into you by the One who made us the way we are.

When you’re busy and tired – breathe. When you feel like you just can’t anymore – breathe. When you feel lost and confused and overwhelmed – breathe. Do the thing that makes no sense. That is what it means to love yourself, and if you can’t love yourself, you’re not going to be able to really love other people. The whole “love your neighbor as yourself” thing is a coin with two sides, and we like to ignore the second part.

So today, breathe. Just breathe.

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Wonderfully Made

Psalm-139

This morning I woke up and realized that now, this morning, for the first time in a long time, maybe for the first time since I was very small, I love myself. I’m flawed and imperfect, but I love myself. I love who I am. I love what is inside me. I respect myself, my thoughts, my feelings. I am allowed to take up space. I am allowed to feel. I am allowed to think, to be, to create, to speak, to breathe. I am excited about my future. And I now realize the importance of loving yourself, because how can you begin to love others if you don’t love yourself? It is then constantly a game of earning, earning, taking, inhaling, because in that state, the only love you can give is a needy love, a wanting love – at best, a self-conscious love. When you love yourself, you can love others. And all I can say is, praise God for bringing me to this place. It has been a hard road and a hard road still lies in front of me, but I have found my voice and allowed myself to speak, and I will speak and make and breathe until the hard road leads into another springtime and I can rest again.

Time

Photo from Nilima Home
Photo from Nilima Home

I feel like I write about this at least once a semester, but it’s important, so here it is. Everyone procrastinates. Some of us are more afflicted than others (ahem: my hand is raised), but we all do it. We laugh and joke about it, and there are hundreds if not thousands if not hundreds of thousands of articles, memes, and puns about it. Maybe this is out of sheer desperation to pretend like it’s okay, or maybe laughing about it is yet another way to procrastinate. I think that it’s a way to justify it so that we don’t feel a real need to change our habits. For crying out loud, there is a whole website called I Waste So Much Time, which I am sorry to say I visit too often. Here are some examples of procrastination memes:

from iwastesomuchtime.com
from iwastesomuchtime.com
from iwastesomuchtime.com
from iwastesomuchtime.com

It’s all good and well to joke about it, but the fact is, procrastination is horribly, horribly wrong. It most definitely goes against the Bible, so much so that there isn’t nearly enough room to put all the verses here:

“The sluggard craves and gets nothing, but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied.” Proverbs 13:4

“The sluggard does not plow in the autumn: he will seek at harvest and have nothing.” Proverbs 20:4

“Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” Ephesians 5:15-16

Procrastination is, in my life, the source of most of my stress, the reason why I don’t get the marks I am capable of getting, the reason why I haven’t finished books I am working on, and the reason for many other things. I can say I won’t go on Facebook, or that I won’t watch TV, or that I’ll only use the internet for university related things. Ironically, I have the discipline to do this, but not to stop procrastinating. If I am deprived of internet and TV, I will still find a way to procrastinate, because that’s the main issue. If we don’t deal with the root of the problem we are going to keep on struggling and wasting time when we could be achieving amazing things. It’s not as if it’s all that hard, really. All that has to be done is to start doing things right away. And the best part is, when you relax and rest then, you don’t have the stress of unfinished work hanging over your head. So really, it’s a win-win. Why on earth would we continue the self-destructive habit, then?

So. Let’s pick up our swords, and try again, shall we?

 

 

Just Do It

I am the last person I would have expected to have this problem, but apparently I do, and as of today I am determined not to have it anymore.

Saying no.

A lot of people struggle with this, but with Christians there is the whole added element of spiritualizing everything. When people ask me to help them, to take part in something, etc, I struggle to say no. This is partly because I really do just struggle to say no, and partly because I forget to be realistic. If someone asks me something while I’m in a good mood and feeling energetic, I immediately say yes, forgetting about the three essays, the build up to exams, and the other commitments I have. Only later do I regret not thinking it through.

In any kind of church setup, it’s especially difficult because it’s God’s work so it must be good, right? If someone asks me something “it’s a sign” that I should do it. NOPE. Wrong answer. People’s expectations of you are different than God’s expectations, and surprisingly God’s are way easier to handle and deal with, because He wants what is best for us in the long run and He knows exactly what we’re up to and when.

I am currently on my couch after being sick all week long and I’m on antibiotics, resting by force because I didn’t take time to do it voluntarily, with no desire to see or talk to anyone except Jesus and my parents, because I took on too many things and had a miniature burn out. I am recovering in every sense; not because other people are jerks and loaded things onto me, but because I took too many things on myself that God never intended me to. Every person is different, too. I happen to be an introvert and need rather long periods of solitude, with no people, no Facebook, no communication period; just chilling with God, whether I’m doing “God things” or not. I need to recharge, and I haven’t been doing it.

God’s yoke is easy and his burden is light (Matthew 11:30). If your burden is heavy, something isn’t right. God never intended us to be crazed energizer bunnies running around like chickens with our heads chopped off. God is all about peace in the midst of chaos, about everlasting joy, about rest that is found in Him. Psalm 23, which I blogged about a while ago, is the most obvious passage about rest and peace (I should have taken my own advice, yes?).

You have your calling, both ultimately and daily, that God wants you to do, and that He’s given you the strength to do. You can’t take someone else’s calling on your shoulders simply because God didn’t give you the strength or tools you need to do it. You also can’t take on so many things that you’re stretched thin, because God, quite frankly, doesn’t do that to people. Even as I write this I feel nagging guilt about the things I’ll have to say no to in the future, but that isn’t from God either.

As I read this morning in Come Away My Beloved: “Do not be distressed by the misunderstanding of people. Let me take care of them Myself…As you give Me My rightful place and do not allow others to intrude, you will be at peace with Me.” This is between you and God. If people don’t understand it, or get offended, or make judgments about you because you obey God and not their expectations of you, that, frankly, is their problem. The people who love you should understand and if anything should be encouraging you with much cheering and confetti to make God and His expectations your priority even when it conflicts with theirs. God will sort it out; you do what He wants you to, and the rest will be history.

Rest the World Doesn’t Know

Rest. What comes to mind when you see that word? I’m guessing the outdoors, maybe the cliche ocean-and-palm-trees scene, maybe a hammock swinging in the breeze, a book, a couch, a bed. Rest is something we either do for a few hours after work is finished, or for a longer period, like a vacation. But the point is that rest is a concept separate from the rest of our lives; we don’t ever associate work with rest, for example. It seems like an oxymoron.

God instituted the “Sabbath” rest in the Torah when He was giving His commands and the Law to the Israelites, whom He had just brought out of Egypt.The very first time any kind of rest is spoken of in the Bible is Genesis 2, when God rests after His work is finished. I seriously doubt that God needs rest at all, but I think He was setting an example for us. Although paper and ink was precious in those days and things were not written down more than once without reason, the Sabbath rest is mentioned a few times, as though God is reminding the people how important it is. This is one kind of rest, a day set aside where no work is done. Without getting legalistic about it, I think those of us Christians who think we can ignore this and just blunder on to victory are seriously mistaken. It is shocking how much difference a day of total, set aside rest makes.

But my actual point is this: although that rest is needed, it is the way the rest of the world rests, too. Anyone can set aside a day to not work, regardless of what they believe. It’s a physical, human act to decide not to work, to go on vacation, to prioritize sleep, etc. But Christ offers a different kind of rest that quite frankly blows my mind. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 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.” Matthew 11:28-30, NIV

It is already spoken about in Psalm 23. Most people I know, Christian or not, have heard and read this Psalm so many times that it has lost meaning. It’s one of those passages we never really read anymore because “we know it.” But after I finish the post I’m going to post it here, and I really hope you will read it, really read it. David is talking about how God leads him beside quiet waters and refreshes his soul. I don’t think David was only talking about a physical stream of water, since he goes on to talk about the darkest valley, which is obviously metaphorical. When you read it, it seems like David was talking about a place inside him, where he communed with God.

The rest of Christ is not necessarily a physical rest, which makes it all the more incredible. It is a quiet place of peace where His Spirit ministers to you and fills you with His peace. You can be working, you can be sleeping, you can be actually physically resting…this peace and rest that Christ give us through the Holy Spirit is not limited by what you are doing physically. It’s beautiful and wonderful and a gift He gives to us.

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
forever.

Psalm 23, NIV