Tag Archives: work

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(continued from part 1)

God is the God who says, "Come away with me to a quiet place and rest." He is the God who told Martha that Mary had chosen the better way. He is the God who said, "Let the little children come to me." Jesus said, "If you have seen me, you have seen the Father." When Jesus said these things, the Father said these things. In the prophets, God cried out that He longs to hear us call Him Father. But even reading these things, I didn't understand.

One day, one of our daughters was asking why the word LORD is often in all caps in the Bible. My husband loves that kind of question, so he began to explain to our children how the Hebrew names of God are translated. Now two days before, a Kenyan friend had told me that her husband was having some time off work and had asked her to let their houseworker off so that they could have some family time. I understood. We do the same thing. Well my husband got to the name Lord GOD, and said that it could be translated Lord LORD.

In that moment, I heard God speak. He said, "You've always been afraid of the 'Lord, Lord' passage." Well, that was certainly true. He continued, "You have always thought that I was saying, 'You haven't worked hard enough; get away from me.' That is not true. I am saying, 'It is family time; let the slaves and servants go.' I knew that He was saying, 'If all you ever do with me is ask me for a list of things to do, then leave. This is family time, play time, I want the people who have gotten to know me.' He was also saying, "You've always tried to be my slave, but you're not a very good one. You aren't meant to be a slave. You are meant to be a child. Be my child."

It is hard to put into words exactly what God says. Sometimes, I hear words and other times, thoughts; sometimes, I see a picture or have a story come to mind. One thought that began to come to mind is that I try to earn my rest. After my work is done, I can rest. But I started to see that we have to work from rest. I had this thought, "You don't say to a car, earn your petrol (gas)." We can never earn our rest. It is a gift.

I also began to understand the Hebrew day, which begins at sundown. What happens in families at sundown? The evening meal, the family fun time, bedtime. All restful. In the Hebrew week, there are six days, each beginning with rest followed by work, which culminate in the seventh day, the weekly Sabbath, a day of complete rest and celebration.

One day, my friend Joyce told me a story. She had asked God, "Do you play?" and God told her to watch her husband. At that time, Joyce opened her front door to go out but saw something that made her shut it immediately. She said, "Don't open the door. The cat has a mouse and wants to hide it in the house." William, Joyce's husband, whispered to her, "Watch this." He opened the door and shut it quickly while tossing a small ball across the floor. He yelled, "A mouse!" Their daughters began to shriek. At that moment, God leaned over to Joyce and said, "I am a Father."

One of the hardest things I have done has been sitting on top of my children's toys to play, without saying anything about the room. The interesting thing to me has been that as I play with them, the children are much more willing to work with me. Also interesting is that I am more rested and able to work as well.

(read part 1)

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"Mommy, will you play with me?"  I hear this frequently.  "I'm busy." or "In a minute."  My children hear these statements with equal frequency.  You see, I tend to think that work is the priority; fun is for when the work is done.  There are beds to be made, dishes to wash, laundry to do, ... I have a long list.  And of course, just when I think I'm about done, I find that the children, who were left alone too long while I worked, have dumped out all their toys so you can't walk through their room.  I sigh and think, "More work."

Right about then, I hear, "You said in a minute.  Can you play with me now?"  I suggest, "How about I help you clean your room?"  While we, make that I, clean their room, complete with lots of prodding, some yelling, and some accusation, I point out that if they would help me more around the house, I would have time to play with them.   Though I didn't put it into these words at the time, I was trying to motivate them by guilt.  I thought if they just felt bad enough, they would help.  It didn't work, of course.

In the sermon on the mount, Jesus asked a lot of questions to challenge our wrong thinking about God.  One of the questions He asked was whether we parents would give our children a rock when they ask for bread, or a snake when they ask for fish.  I think I have, many, many times, but I thought I was supposed to.  I thought I was being like my Father.

I knew God has purposes He absolutely wants to accomplish -- the saving of the lost and the care of the needy.  I thought He was single-minded in His pursuit of these purposes.  I didn't think that He could be bothered about anything else until these purposes are accomplished.  I saw Him as a parent who is so busy with work that He doesn't have time for His children.

In my mind, He had been concerned about me when I was "lost."  It seemed to me that as soon as I came to Him, no longer needing to be "saved," I basically moved to His blind spot.  His single-minded focus was on the lost and the needy.  I was no longer lost, and need is relative.  I might think I have needs, but not compared to others.  I was one of the ninety-nine left in the sheep fold.  Only, I wasn't just left there while He went looking for one sheep.  He was out looking for many lost sheep, and consequently, He had no time for me, not even time to take me to the pasture.

I felt that the only way to get the Father's attention was to work hard, to help Him.  I needed to be blind to need in myself and to focus all my attention on the needs of others.  Anything else would be selfish.

I did not understand Isaiah 43:4, "For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.  I give Egypt as your ransom, Cush and Seba in exchange for you.  Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you, I give men in return for you, peoples in exchange for your life."  I didn't understand that He was willing to pause on this work of seeking the lost, this most important task, just to spend time with me.  These others, the lost ones, are valuable to God, but not so valuable that He forgets me for them.  He will pause in the middle of His work just to spend time with me.

...

(continued in part 2)

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I have always liked the movie Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.  The story starts with the main character, Adam, looking for a wife.  He wants a wife who is "young and strong and had a lot of work in her."  He wants her to be beautiful.  Other than that, in his mind, one woman is pretty much like another.  Of course, by the end of the movie, his heart changes.

This Adam was definitely made in the image of God as I saw Him.  I could say God loved me, but the only supporting evidence I knew for that was that He had died for me.   However, what I perceived was that God wanted me for my work, for what I had to give.  Of course, I didn't think God was selfish.  He didn't want me to give for His own sake; He wanted me to give for the sake of the world.

The first reason I had for believing this is sheer need.  People are in deep need.  There are the lost, those who haven't heard and believed in God.  There are the poor.  There are those who don't have water and food.  There are the orphans and the widows.  I saw an immense amount of need, so I perceived God as a Father who is never satisfied.  Again, I didn't think this was wrong of God, though my heart did.  I felt that the need was so great and urgent that even when I give, it is never enough, and I should give more.

I was very tired.  I didn't spend money on myself.  I didn't rest.  I labored for the Lord.  I kept giving and giving and giving to God.  My prayer list grew longer and longer.  I didn't read just for fun.  Instead I read devotional books.  I rarely watched movies.  I fasted.  I was both proud of everything I had given up for God and jealous of others because they had the things for which I couldn't stop longing.  I remember being so hungry (not physically hungry, but longing hungry) that I prayed desperately, "Please, God, I just want something nice.  Please give me something nice."  Almost immediately, a friend called.  That was about the only nice thing I thought pleased God.

God began to untangle this.  First, He made me buy china.  I had been looking at the china online for four years.  I was proud of my sacrificing the china for God.  I had given it up for the kingdom.   But somehow, I began to feel that God wanted me to buy the china.  I argued with Him, then I understood God to say, "You can't give to me anymore if you won't let me give to you."  We (my husband and I) bought the china.  It is beautiful, and it has helped me to see God's love for me.

God also told me I needed to learn to feast, to rejoice.  Then He asked me whether my self-restrictions were working to remove desire.  I had to admit they weren't.  I still longed for the things I was denying myself.  He told me, "I did not put desires in your heart in order for you to prove how much you love me by sacrificing them.  I put desires in your heart so that I can delight you.  I delight to delight you."

This astounded me.  I had thought all the desires of my heart were bad, and my heart deceitfully wicked.  But the God who created us very good created us with a delight in good things, both tangible and intangible.  Just like I love to hear my children giggle as I tickle them, God loves to delight us.  He created us with tickle spots!

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One night in April, four years ago, I stood under a cold, windy Nebraska sky and looked up at the stars.  My husband and I were on furlough from a fairly successful two year term in Kenya.  We were missionaries in residence at Nebraska Christian College.  Our ministry there was also fairly successful.  My husband and I were fasting and praying twice a week.  We had a prayer ministry with the NCC students.  We were committed to "Here I am, God, send me."

That night, I had stood under the stars for over an hour, talking and praying with a student.  It was one of the days when I had been fasting.  Usually, I would have already broken fast, but I was still at work.  After the student left, I stayed outside looking up at the stars, and I asked God, "May I go in and eat some ice cream, or is there more work that you would like me to do?"

I don't know my exact words.  All I know is that I wanted to eat something nice, but I had a question in my heart, "What if God has more He wishes I were willing to do?  I have been working hard, but there is so much more to be done.  If I rest now, will God be disappointed?  Will some task be left undone?  Will God's plans be thwarted all because I stopped and rested?"

As I stood looking up at the beauty of the stars, God answered, "You think I am a hard man who reaps where I didn't sow.  In other words, you think I will demand of you what I haven't already worked in you."  The answer seemed rather odd, almost ill-fitting, but I understood that I was free to go break my fast and enjoy some ice cream, so I did.

At the time, I understood that God was saying, "I will work willingness in you before I call you to do something."  I had already been pondering the verse, "For it is He who works in you to will and to do, according to His good pleasure."  But my questions were still deeply rooted.  "What if God is trying to make me be willing, but I'm too bad?  Is He disappointed in me?  Is He just being patient because He has to be?  Is He sighing and taking a deep breath while restraining His fury?  When will He finally lose patience with me?"

These questions have caused me to ponder God's answer, trying to understand what it means.  But I couldn't find an answer to my questions.  Recently, I started looking at the answer in both its context in the moment I asked and in its Biblical story.  In the Biblical story, a servant believes his master is a hard man who reaps where he doesn't sow, so when his master entrusts him with money, the servant buries the money and doesn't use it to gain interest.  We tend to think of the money as our spiritual gifts and burying the money is our unwillingness and refusal to use the gifts for God's work.  But this didn’t fit my context.  I was using my spiritual gifts.  I was offering to do more work.  I was offering to be the servant who comes in from the fields not to rest, but to wait on the table.

So why is He saying I'm the one burying the money because I think He's a hard man who reaps where He doesn't sow?  Maybe I've been looking at the passage incorrectly.  Maybe this is instead a Mary/Martha passage.  Maybe the goal of the parable is not to get me out there, spending my money, using my gifts, doing more.  Maybe the goal of the parable is to point out that I need to sit at His feet more, rest with Him, get to know Him.  Instead of a slave, who works for Him without ceasing, and who is just breaking even on my profits, He is wanting a child who just climbs onto His lap and gets to know Him as He is.  He wants me to come to Him and let every thought of Him being a hard man be swept away by the strength of His love.  Stop doing, and start being.  "Be still, and know that I am God."  "It is God who works in me to will and to do according to His good pleasure."  What I am willing to do is what God has for me to do, and it is enough.  After all, five loaves and two fish fed five thousand.

Oh, I hope that is what He is saying, because it is beautiful!  So far, each time I have tentatively rested from work when I'm tired and can't work without a sense of burden, God has blessed the rest.  May I grow confident to rest.