Category Archives: life

Permission to rest

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I don’t know about you but I think in the western work ethic culture, rest has become a bit of a dirty word, connected with laziness and even worthlessness. People value each other by what they do and achieve. The most common response to the compulsory question ‘how are you?’ is now ‘busy’ more often than the innocuous and often dishonest ‘fine’. It’s as if busyness is a badge of honour and worth.

But what if we can only be sustainable in what we do, who we are and how much we can love others if we take time to rest? What if the creator of the universe knew how he’s made us well enough to know that the principle of Sabbath rest he introduced is not only beneficial but is in fact essential to us functioning well and being the best we can be? What if the principle of sabbath is not about what we do or don’t do on a Sunday but about rhythms of rest that nurture who we are?

Sometimes we feel we need permission to rest. But what if the person with the authority to give that permission is only ourselves and waiting for permission basically equates to withholding it?

Maybe in this coming year we need to be intentional about setting up healthy rhythms of rest in advance, giving ourselves permission not to fix, solve and keep everyone happy? Not to meet everyone’s expectations or even our own?

What might rhythms of rest look like? Maybe a night in a week to catch up with yourself. Maybe half a day on a weekend that has no engagements or other people. Maybe putting a few days in the diary for a personal retreat, once or twice a year.* Maybe finding out what makes you joyful and peaceful (going for walks, painting, knitting, journaling in a coffee shop, photography, reading… what is it for you?) and making time for those things without apology.

Maybe if we put those rhythms of rest in place in advance we can live a more sustainable life and have more to give others within our work, family and social contexts. Maybe now is the best time to make those advance decisions.

What do you want rest to look like in this coming year? What do you need to do (or say no to) in order to make that happen?


* You can find a few ideas of places to go to on retreat in the UK here, or in the US here or in South Africa here.

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In the air

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Cardboard boxes

Rolls and rolls of brown tape

Stuff of life contained

Packed away

Paused

Held.

To be reclaimed

one day

timing to be confirmed

hopefully not too far away.

Unpacked into a new season.

Connections re-established

Life resumed.

So much stuff.

How much does one really need?

Very little if we’re honest.

But we keep it

as a security blanket.

There’s a freedom and lightness in simplicity

but I’m rarely brave enough

to shed enough

to experience it.

In the air

literally

between places

between lives

and yet living my life

in this moment.

I’m not alone

flying with my constant companion.

Knowing I’m loved and known

held in hearts

in both places I call home.

Copyright © 2014 Hilary Murdoch. All rights reserved.

Plane over Cape Town image: Reuters

Emergence

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black mole hungry

 

Emergence

from where I was.

From the fragile, emotional, frustrating space

of being broken

of being under a cloud

a weight of physical and emotional tiredness

a fog of confusion and weakness

stubborn against the wind

and my futile efforts to push it away.

And one day

it lifts.

No explanation,

no obvious reason.

It’s just not there anymore.

And as it leaves

it reveals

me.

I feel myself again

restored joy, fun, peace, energy.

Me being me.

I’m back.

Not sure how that happened

but I’m grateful.

I’d really like to know.

But not knowing

just emphasizes how little control I had over it anyway.

Which is good but frustrating.

Thank you for your prayers if you’ve been praying.

Thank you God for the shift in the invisible unknown

which changes my visible known world.

And now the cloud has lifted

I can see clearly again.

I have eyes to see

the potential for hopes and dreams to come to pass,

to see past my restricted vision of what’s possible

to the God possibilities beyond my imagination.

I can see the rich blessings around me.

I can confidently step into

the opportunities He gives

with fresh dependency on Him,

frequently returning

to the refreshing

of the deep place of intimacy

we’ve dug together

in that time of struggle,

when dependency on Him

was truly my only option.

It’s still true, “I can do nothing without Him.” *

Nothing. Nothing of worth.

And I need to remember that

more consciously now.

As energy levels waver

and muscle pain catches me off guard,

I’m reluctantly aware

that this might be a reprieve

rather than a permanent release.

So it’s even more important that now

as I’m tempted

to rush in and onwards,

to pour out with enthusiasm,

with renewed energy:

it’s now that I must be sure

to keep retreating to the secret place

to respond

to the invitation

that’s still held out to me

of deep intimacy

and total dependence on Him.

A place of safety.

A place of infilling.

So I can give freely from overflow.

So I can pour out

with no fear of burn out.

Because I’m more aware than ever

of the importance of ensuring

I give time and space

to receive the abundantly offered inflow

so that the outflow is sustainable, overflow

and not a depleting resource.

* John 15: 5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

Copyright Hilary Murdoch 2014. All rights reserved.

Photo credit: MolePro

 

Everything

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Photo by 'chickpeafiend' on Deviant Art

I was just thinking and musing.

And then I realised that I was having a silent conversation with God and it was important.

 

When my earthly father can’t be everything I need a dad to be,

(and other ‘father figures’ move away or even pass away)

will you be my dad?

When leaders can’t be a perfect ‘covering’,

will you cover me?

When my house can’t always be safe,

will you be my place of safety?

When relationships with men evade me or don’t work out,

will you be my husband?

When my friends sometimes let me down and many are far away,

will you be my best friend?

When I’m no longer sure where home is,

will you be my home?

When I feel lonely and alone,

will you be my constant companion?

Tears run down my face as I silently articulate these questions

and as the answer comes immediately, clearly and so tenderly.

“I thought you’d never ask.”

– How extraordinary that He seemed to be lovingly waiting for me to ask.

“I will and that’s a promise.”

Can I take him at His word?

Can it be more than just song lyrics, can He really ‘be my everything’? Really?

Amazing that He doesn’t seem to mind me only really asking, really seeking when the first more visible and tangible options seem to fail. He knows I’m only human.

“They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” (Jeremiah 2:13)

God, please forgive me for all the endless times I’ve looked to other things and people to meet my needs before I look to you.

How come I’m so slow to understand it in my heart? – that you are the only spring of living water and everything and everyone else are just broken cisterns that can’t hold water.

So then I guess His challenge to me is:

Even when your relationship with your earthly father is good,

will you still look to me as Dad?

Even when leaders provide good and wise ‘covering’,

will you still place yourself under my ultimate covering?

Even when you feel secure in your home,

will you still rest in me as your safe place?

Even when you are married,

will you still turn to me as your first love?

Even when you feel well loved by your friends,

will you still know me as your best friend?

Even when you feel at home somewhere,

will you still find your home in me?

Even when you feel content and connected,

will you still connect with me, your constant companion?

So that’s the “I will” I need to answer,

the bride’s response He’s waiting for.

I’m not as good at keeping promises as He is but I can try.

Amazingly, mysteriously my answer seems to matter to Him.

How can a mere mortal’s love and commitment impact the heart of the eternal God of time and space?

I have no idea how. But it does seem to.

And that’s the beauty of mystery.

So I say “I will” and I feel His delight and sense His smile.

Copyright © Hilary Murdoch 2014. All Rights Reserved.

Photo by ‘chickpeafiend’ on Deviant Art

Moon-lit Seascape

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As dusk falls, the sky turns rose pink and dove grey
and the moon, a big round orange orb, rises from the sea,
through the milky clouds and shines bright,
dropping a path of shimmering silver towards us, across the sea.
A sliver of the scene lit up, as the rest recedes into darkness.
The air is filled with the rumble of waves and the damp of sea spray.

It reminds me of a painting that belonged to my granny that always fascinated me.

A moon-lit seascape with a lonely boat, barely lit.

It seemed mysterious and sad. Alien to my life experience at that time.

Such happy memories of spending time in her home,
when life seemed so simple and uncomplicated,
no big issues, fears or concerns.
Plenty of time to play, imagine, create.
The brokenness and evil of the world hadn’t invaded my little world.
Yet.
Naive some would say. Blessed I guess. Protected for sure.

But now back in my current moonlit seascape
the world doesn’t seem so safe, certainly not as simple.
Sometimes I feel like that little boat in the painting.
In the dark, cast adrift, disconnected, desperate for the clarity of dawn.

And yet in my good moments I know what, or who,
is the anchor of my little boat.
The anchor which will hold me still until dawn breaks.

And I find I’m not alone in my boat after all.
Even when life feels unsafe,
when my little world is invaded
by the brokenness and evil in the big world out there,
even when I don’t understand.
God is with me in the boat
and that makes all the difference.

And so maybe I can dare
to take time to play, imagine and create again,
trusting His presence is better than an answer.

 

© Hilary Murdoch 2014. All rights reserved.