The Antidote to Busyness, Part 3

Gods Antidote to Busyness

Wait for it! Wait for it! Wait for it!

Those words spark my attention when I’m watching a funny video. Like this one.

Waiting in those instances can be easy. First off, you can see how long until the payoff. I can wait 15 seconds. Now if your “wait for it” video said 30 minutes, I wouldn’t watch. But here’s the kicker. Even if I did watch, I would know the video would end by 30 minutes. Waiting in real life doesn’t often work that way, but I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know.

In my last post, we looked at how “be still” means to relax. The word also means to wait. Literally, being still means to delay action almost to the point of laziness. In one sense, the word means essentially to wait limply, to extend a period of time unduly, to be limp or slack in taking an action.*

David is teaching us to wait indefinitely on God to act. This idea frequents the pages of Scripture (Psalms 25:5, 27:14, 37:7, 123:2; Isaiah 8:17, 30:17, 40:31; Lamentations 3:24-26; Micah 7:7; James 5:7-8 alongside numerous others). Jesus himself illustrates what this type of waiting looks like. In John 11, he received word that his friend Lazarus was sick. He waited for two more days (11:6). The healer. The great physician. The one who could fix blind eyes and mend lame hands. The one who stops winds and stills waves instantly, waited. In those waiting days, Mary and Martha, Lazarus’ sisters, anxiously longed for their friend to arrive to make him better. But he didn’t, and Lazarus died. As you would expect, Mary and Martha confronted Jesus with confusion, anger, and frustration, “Why did you wait? Where were you? If you had been here, he wouldn’t have died!” (11:17-33).

He delayed to such a point as to appear lazy. He extended time unduly. He was still. Why? One reason: that they might know he was God. Jesus had the ultimate “wait for it” moment. Instead of settling for just healing a sick friend, Jesus asked to be ushered to his gravesite. There, he called Lazarus from the dead and resurrected him (11:43). What might have been a mere routine healing now became the most dramatic example of miraculous power each onlooker had ever experienced. He wasn’t a mere healer. He turned back the clock on death itself!

Back to Psalm 46:10. If we’re not careful, we may think David is encouraging us to practice a careless or pointless waiting, but he’s not. This waiting is a willful wait. It’s intentional. It’s deliberate. It’s purposeful. As we see in Jesus’ delay to allow Lazarus to die, the waiting looks forward to the display of God’s glory and power (read John 11:40-43 to see this exact truth in Jesus’ own words). It’s exactly what David was teaching, “Be still and know that I am God” or “Wait and know that I am God.” God is saying, “Wait expectantly and I will work.”

What about you? What have you learned from God in times of waiting? How has he displayed his power when you attentively waited on him to move? Share your thoughts or experiences in the comments section below.

*Swanson, J. (1997). Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament) (electronic ed.). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

Other Posts in this Series:

The Antidote to Busyness, Part 1

The Antidote to Busyness, Part 2

Thanks Mom (and Thanks to Many of You too)

Over the past week, I have been held up, strengthened, encouraged, and kept well by the invisible yet very real power of prayer. It’s fitting. My mom taught me and showed me the power of desperate prayer. She also first modeled for me the beauty of daily, routine (even mundane) praying. My Mom, Elaine Hefner, passed away last week from a heart attack and the many multifaceted health complications that had kept her at the doctor and in great pain for years. In one sense, her death was a shock. She hadn’t reached 70 years old. In another, it was anticipated. Our family knew what she was going though and the severe limitations on her quality of life.

My Mom wasn’t perfect. Far from it. She was quirky, flawed, and sinful. Just like you. Just like me. That’s part of what makes her prayer life stand out. She knew she needed God. Often. So she prayed. Often. At major crossroads, she prayed for wisdom because in her human shortsightedness, she couldn’t see. At mounting problems, she prayed for intervention because she knew only God could meet her situation and fix it. At trying life transitions, she prayed for help because she knew only God’s strength could get her and my dad through. Over this past week, I heard people tell me that my Mom was like a spiritual guru, Christian guide, or godly encourager to them. Why? She could give out to others because she knew she needed to drink deeply and regularly from the well of God’s wisdom and provision.

When I found out about her passing, my family and I began trying to make plans to leave to be with my Dad and other family in Kentucky. Only, my wife and son were both in the midst of fighting the flu. So we prayed. First, we prayed they would get better so we could go. Second, we prayed I wouldn’t get the flu so I could be with my family and speak at my Mom’s memorial. God answered both.

All week, my family wrestled with the lingering effects of the flu, the deep sadness at this painful loss, the constant weight of dealing with the aftermath of her death, and the navigation of each event, conversation, and reunion with family and friends. I can’t remember feeling more emotionally or physically exhausted.

But here’s the more important truth. Please don’t miss this. I have never in my life felt more carried along by the prayers of God’s people than I did this past week. That’s where many of you come in. I know you prayed for me. On Tuesday morning after she passed, I stood to preach at Fruitland Baptist College. In that sermon, I was privileged to honor my Mom in tribute. As I did, some of your prayers held me up. On Wednesday, as we wrestled to fight the flu out of our home, God took some of your prayers and kept that sickness from me and pulled it out of my wife and son. On Thursday as we traveled on slick, snowy roads to be with my family, God took some of your prayers and ushered us safely each mile of the journey. On Friday as we visited with family and began to untangle my parents’ finances and my dad’s next steps, God took some of your prayers and granted wisdom. On Saturday, as our family took to visit with friends and speak at her memorial service, God took some of your prayers and empowered us with dramatic strength and his joyous presence. I could keep going. But I think you get it.

In her life, my Mom taught and modeled for me a heritage of prayer. In her death, God honored many of her prayers among us. And, he heard and answered many of your prayers on our behalf. I believe in the power of prayer more than I ever have.

The grieving and wrestling and navigating isn’t over. I have my moments. So does my Dad. And my family. But I know God will walk us through. Because my Mom prayed. Because I’m praying. Because you are praying too. And God hears them. And he’s still hearing them. And he’s answering. And I expect, he will keep answering them. That’s what he does when his people pray.

Thanks Mom for the prayers. And thank you too. Each and every one of you. I’m more grateful than you may ever know.

The Antidote to Busyness, Part 2

Gods Antidote to Busyness

Words have nuanced meanings.  Take “take” for instance. Take can mean to buy or chose, “I’ll take one large coffee.”  Take can mean going with someone to show them where to go or how to get there, “I’ll take you to the coffee shop.”  Take can also mean a certain amount of time to do something, “Our coffee maker only takes a few minutes to brew.”  I think I need a cup of coffee now.

In the Bible, words are also like that.  The same word can have nuanced or varied meanings.  That’s exactly the case with the Hebrew verb translated, “Be still,” in Psalm 46:10.

Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!

The word has three distinct yet related meanings: relax, wait, and let go.* Each one of these meanings has tremendous spiritual implications for each of us.  And each meaning teaches us another step in applying this simple command.   That first meaning, relax, offers specific direction against our busyness.  Emotionally, spiritually, physically, or socially, busyness tends to tighten our tensions rather than relax them.

As a pastor, obeying this meaning is often the hardest part of being still for me.  So much about what I end up doing in ministry seems to require a tension, a determination.  I  set my focus and plow forward. I see a need and move to meet it quickly. I have a message and prepare it (and preach it) intensely. I see a problem and attempt solve it aggressively.  I find a sin and work to root it out tirelessly.  The great commission looms over my head. The un-reached cry out from our communities, states, and mission fields urging me to press.

Ministry can seem to beg you, woo you, plead with you to do anything but relax.  Ministry isn’t the only culprit though.  Any of our callings, careers, or ongoing duties can speed us up into a frenzy tempting us to think that busier s better. But right here, in David’s psalm recalling the authority, power, and magnificence of God’s sovereignty, he commands us to relax.  To relent our grasp. To essentially lay down, still, in a posture of restful resignation to God’s power.

Recently, my wife and I were discussing something before us in our lives together. With my often restless eagerness and busyness, I was bouncing verbally around and around this issue.  As I was speaking, I looked over to see her smile, and gently remind me, “God’s got that.”  Her words shattered my restless moment with calming confidence.  I thought to myself, “Yes, he does.”  And for those next few moments, I befriended David’s instruction here.  The stillness of relaxing in God’s control enveloped me in settled assurance.

In your late night toils awake in frustration, God wants you to relax in his power.  In your people tensions with some you would rather not have to constantly face, God wants you to relax.  In your health anxiousness awaiting a doctor’s phone call to give you the test results, God wants you to relax.  He’s commanded it. Be still.  Stop squirming.  Stop grasping.  Stop flexing.  Relax.

What lessons have you learned about relaxing along the way? What tools or habits help you practice this command? I’m curious to read your responses.

*Swanson, J. (1997). Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament) (electronic ed.). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

Other Posts in this Series:

The Antidote to Busyness, Part 1

The Antidote to Busyness, Part 1

Gods Antidote to Busyness

Busy.  I am busy.  Sometimes, I’m busy because I’ve got a lot to do.  Sometimes, I’m busy because I’ve put some things off too long.  Sometimes, honestly, I’m busy because I don’t know how not to be.  In our western culture in the US, life moves at a breakneck pace.  We rush and rush and rush to cram one more appointment into the day, take care of the to-do list we made too long in the first place, or return that pressing phone call.  If we aren’t taking an appointment, or making one, we are responding to emails or sending text messages. I know some people who seem to constantly get in over their heads to feel a sense of accomplishment.  Time is money, isn’t it?  I recently read this article from Dr. Stephanie Brown in the New York Post chronicling just what I am describing.

Other parts of the world, thankfully, haven’t caught up with our busyness addiction.  In the last few years, I have been able to serve on mission in Haiti, Honduras, and Kenya.  All three of these nations operate much, much slower than we do.  When my family and I were in Honduras together on a mission trip, our host pastor was taking us to a wedding he was leading one evening after our work was done.  We arrived back from a hot day in the villages around 5:00 pm to get ready for the wedding that was scheduled to begin at 6:00 pm.  When we asked our host pastor what time we should be ready to leave for the wedding, he said, “6:15.”  You read that right.  The preacher of the wedding said we didn’t need to leave until 15 minutes after the wedding was supposed to start. Cue three brides-to-be hyperventilating, two mothers-of-the bride immediately calling their pastor to make sure this doesn’t happen to them, and at least one preacher chuckling and snickering while reading this.  That’s life lived at a different pace.

Coming back stateside from parts of the world that creep along much more slowly has felt like trying to jump onto a running treadmill going full speed.  It’s reminded me of just how fast, and maybe just how wrongly fast, we sometimes try to go here.  I’m finding that if I will slow down and dig deeper into the words of God, he has a different pace for us to be living by.

35 And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. 36 And Simon and those who were with him searched for him, 37 and they found him and said to him, “Everyone is looking for you.” 38 And he said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” 39 And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.

Mark 1:35-39

Jesus, in the midst of the pressure of all those who needed him–even desperately needed him–found his way to rest, slow down, and pray.  We would do well to follow in those footsteps.

A few years ago, another verse of Scripture began to hammer this same lesson into me.  As 2017 neared an end, I found myself gravitating back to it.  Over the next few posts, I will be unpacking four key truths from Psalm 46:10 that have been helping me still my busyness.

Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!

As we navigate these simple, powerful words together, it’s my hope we all will find rest from our busyness in stillness before God.  But I’m curious.  What antidotes to over-busyness have worked for you? What’s God used to help you slow down?  What lessons could you pass along to myself or others?  I look forward to your posts in the comments section.

The Precious Jewel I Almost Missed

A busy Sunday morning at church in my staff pastor role means I’m typically heading in a number of directions. Sometimes simultaneously. At least in my head. If I’m not careful, I can tend to get tunnel-focused on what I’ve got to do next or where I’m supposed to be that I can miss what’s right in front of me. Like the people right in front of me. Literally.  In front of my face.

Such was the case one Sunday early on in my position at Mud Creek Baptist Church. That day, I Jewel Waters_1.jpglearned an invaluable lesson about the importance of people, a lesson I’ll treasure for the rest of my life. While bustling through the hall at church, at breakneck pace I might add, a dear older lady by the name of Jewel Waters kindly reached out and grasped my arm. She then said with the sweetest smile, “Robert, don’t you dare walk past me one more time without giving me a hug!” Jewel was truly a “jewel” to our church. She carried herself with a beautiful elegance and joy. She faithfully sang in the choir, but her manner and smile sang even more often. I’m not sure I’ve ever been around someone who exuded the love of Jesus more than Jewel Waters.

Back to that Sunday. Apparently, this wasn’t the first time I had walked past her. That day, with more sweetness in her correction than many have in their compliments, she spoke gracious truth into my life. Her words changed me that morning. I never walked past her again without giving her a hug, not one time from that day until her passing a few years later. Every time I had a chance, I thanked her for her intervention in my life that day.

When she passed away, I was privileged to speak at her funeral. As we honored her walk with Christ and the beautiful display of his goodness in and through her life, I reflected publicly again my appreciation to her for the day she said those life-changing words. Those words have become a “jewel” to me. A precious, irreplaceable, unforgettable Jewel!

What about you? Whose well timed and thoughtful words have impacted you? What’s the conversation or situation you will never forget?  What’s the jewel you’ll always treasure?