When Rest Won’t Come

Sometimes we cannot find rest because of our own choices and activities. 

At other times, however, rest eludes us for seemingly no reason: nothing we have done or have not done has “caused” the grinding fatigue and exhaustion. 

You wander the night hours—sometimes literally—and wake up confused, tired, and angry. 

The rest that you have taken for granted for decades now seems like some kind of puzzle that you cannot assemble. That there’s some kind of key or set of instructions that you used to have, and now it’s been taken from you, and you don’t know why. 

When rest doesn’t come, it’s easy to be angry. 

But just because something is easy doesn’t legitimize it. 

So guard your anger. 

Ask for insight. 

Furthermore, there ARE things you can do: you know what to do to be healthy and to look for whatever “key” there may be. 

Do those things, and accept the consequences, knowing that you have done what you’ve been called to do, and prayed everything you’ve been called to pray. 

After that, the results are out of your hands. 

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The New, The Old, and Fear

Sometimes to embrace newness means coming to terms with the passing away—or at the very least the changing—of the old. 

And sometimes this brings about a deep-seated fear inside you. You look at the established patterns and structures of your life: the activities and accomplishments that to some extent defined you and gave your life meaning. You look at these, and, in the face of an in-breaking newness you realize that they are changing, or even possibly fading away. 

In a way, to be afraid of this level of change is to be entirely human. This is really DNA-level change, or at least it appears so. 

On first glance, The New can affect every aspect of your status quo: the activities you through yourself into, the achievements that gave you meaning and a sense of purpose and growth, and even the resources and tools that you have acquired to do the work. 

All of that is now “in play” and are candidates for irrelevancy. 

In other words, it feels like there’s potential for The New to shake and change your entire world. 

On the one hand, don’t be afraid to feel this and to name it. To declare that the fear is real and if affecting you. 

On the other hand, The New is also a message of next, of new beginnings, of unforeseen opportunities for both blessing and meaning, for both significance and purpose and craft. 

So, work hard to stay in the flow. To cling to the old—the activities, the accomplishments, the resources—is not ultimately helpful. And yet, there may not be a “hard stop.” It may be an evolving process, one where you leave one frontier and have journey through a wilderness or desert before you encounter the new land. 

There is no recipe, and not even a clear road map for the journey, but if you walk with a sense of watchfulness and humility and ask for help from other pilgrims along the way, you can navigate your way into the place to which The New is beckoning. 

Newness and Fear

You’d like to think that all this “newness” would be easy to embrace. You’d think that you would rush and run to throw yourself into the realm of possibility. 

And yet, this isn’t really the record of human beings. 

In fact, human beings—you included—tend to shy away from the new, even to resist it. 

In the gospels, immediately after Jesus feeds thousands upon thousands with only a meager amount of food—something “new” indeed—his followers fail in their faith, finding themselves terrified, first in the midst of a storm and then terrified even more when Jesus shows up and calms it!

In fact, Mark adds that “their hearts were hardened.” (And yes: that is the exact Biblical phrase that describes Pharaoh during the debates with Moses in the midst of the plagues.)

So give yourself a break: maybe the more typical human response to newness is to hesitate, to resist. Don’t beat yourself up because of it. 

What the disciples do manage to do is to keep on following Jesus in spite of their own failures and resistance. They overcome their shame of failure and just keep on doing their best, stumbling and fumbling until they encounter within themselves just enough faith to get by, to get out of the boat, to embrace the newness. 

So, maybe today, treat yourself gently and with compassion. Even if (especially if) you are failing to meet your own standards of responding to the newness of God. 

Classroom

Life is a classroom. You hear it over and over again. 

And yet, you get frustrated (and who wouldn’t?) when you have to learn seemingly the same lessons over and over again. 

It’s at this point where you have to be aware of the pitfall of pride, that may trap you and threaten to cut off your ability to learn and grow. 

You’d like to think that you have some graduated from this part of the program. It’s always tempting to believe that somehow you are immune from the “basics”, or the fundamentals. 

You want to believe that you are beyond these lessons, that they are below you. 

It is better for you if you resist these thoughts, and humbly accept the teaching and the lesson, as if for the first time. 

If you can embrace what life wants to teach you, you can always keep growing. Stay open, stay humble. Learn and move on. 

Newness, Part Two

A flip side of “newness”, and life with the God of the New, is that this newness is also meant to challenge the status quo. 

It doesn’t always have to ELIMINATE or DESTROY the present, but the very essence of “new” contrasts with “old”. 

As loving and adventurous and embracing as God is, He is also challenging. 

Mostly because you seem to have a preference for status quo, for stasis, for solid ground and comfort. 

Even this season right now—“Advent”, or waiting and anticipating the arrival of Jesus into the world—should be a time of asking yourself, “Where in my life do I prefer the old and the established?” 

Life constantly entraps you in cycles of consumerism, nationalism, violence, desire, and destructive self-centered living.

Life constantly entraps you in these cycles and convinces you that “this is the way the world works,” and it is important to admit to yourself THAT SOME PART OF YOU FINDS THIS COMFORTING. 

Then let the God of the new speak to that part. 

What cycle does God want to break you out of? Where does He desire your escape? 

Don’t be deceived, the old is not the way of salvation. The in-breaking, the new word, the new song, break with the past, this is the embrace to receive. 

Newness is Near

Some days are harder than others. 

Maybe you wake up late, maybe you lose your temper, maybe you spill your coffee, or get stuck behind too many red lights on your way to work. 

Whatever it is, some days you just get sideways. 

Maybe it’s a longer-term issue: maybe it’s a chronic illness, or sadness, or pain that just will not go away. Maybe it’s an ongoing addiction or struggle or cycle that you just cannot seem to break free from. 

Whatever it is, some days are just difficult. 

And when you feel those walls close in, or you feel yourself start to get out of wack, when you begin to feel your center begin to sway and dissipate, it is very, very easy to just go with that feeling, and to resign yourself to the “fact” that “this is the way it will be today.”

But that’s not necessarily true. 

Deep inside your mind, you know that faith and spirituality and life with this God is very much centered around “newness.” From an Exodus escape story of slaves to a baby born to Joseph and Mary, newness and innovation seem to be part of this God’s DNA, part of his method of operations. At one point in his story, he even flat out tells his people (in the middle of one of the darkest parts of their collective story), “Something new is happening, even now it is springing up.” 

This newness should serve as a reminder to you that some days actually do NOT have to twist you sideways and bring you down. Regardless of your morning, or your week, or your year, newness is always JUST RIGHT THERE. 

In fact, it’s really already present with you, inside your heart. 

Start with remembering the reality of the story of the God of newness. Receive it without skepticism, and choose to believe it. Then follow from there. 

Possibility

What is truly possible in your life? 

What new thing could happen? 

It will always be tempting—easy, even—to fall into complacency about your journey. There are things, damaged goods and broken toys, that have accompanied you for seemingly your whole life. You’ve asked yourself repeatedly, “When will I be free from these?” and then that question often leads you to another, more troubling one: “WILL I ever be free from these?”

After so many years, it is understandable that you would look on newness and possibility with a cynical, pessimistic eye. 

And yet…

And yet Advent—these weeks of contemplating, anticipating, and waiting for God’s incarnate presence on Earth—is truly about the unexpected surprise of possibility. 

Something NEW enters our world. 

And newness always changes the rules of the game. The old ways no longer quite apply; paradigms change, and equilibrium is moved. 

So regardless of how long you have struggled, regardless of the mountain of disappointment and the sea of cynicism, Advent—and the Christmas that follows—is a reminder that NEW is always possible. 

How can you look towards newness today? How can you embrace the potentially unheard of innovation in your life? 

Behold the light is coming.