Dried Grapevine

vine-tendril

Solitary dried vine tendril,
plucked of its fruit, rests
at the bottom of the bowl
where orbs of stains show
where grapes used to be.
Just outside the bowl—
a mango.

vine-tendril-with-mango

This week’s topic at The High Calling: Burnout. Visit The High Calling throughout the week for articles on burnout. Here’s an excerpt from today’s article by Kimberly Coyle: “Seek rest if you must. Regroup and realign your measurement of success with that of a God who wrote its true definition.”

Also linking with Laura Boggess:

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A Theory on Rest

How does Tim Keller conclude his book on work? With a section on rest, in a chapter called “New Power for Work.” Brilliant. Perfect.

For The High Calling book club on
Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work
by Timothy Keller
Join us this week as Byron Borger leads us in discussing Part Three: The Gospel and Work.

TheHighCalling.org Christian Blog Network

“Spring Break” comes too late for my liking, so every year we take a week off in the winter. A winter break helps to avert the annual spring almost-burnout I used to experience.

Every Febrary or March, we spend a week at Grandma and Grandpa’s. It’s the ideal vacation spot: free lodging; the boys get grandparent time (one highlight is getting to do the horse-poop chores with Grandpa); I get to cook without having to do dishes; and they live near The Black Canyon of the Gunnison, one of my favorite cross-country skiing places. On top of that, Ouray with its Hot Springs pool is only forty minutes away.

On day four of vacation I awoke in my in-laws’ guest bed, always warm with heavy blankets. The grandfather clock ding-donged seven o’clock in the morning. Grandma was making sourdough waffles (I could tell just by the sounds) while our boys played with Lincoln Logs and Legos (again, I could tell by the sounds). Yet in spite of these things, my spirit felt stressed.

This was not supposed to happen. More than halfway through my longed-for winter break, I still felt an inner unrest and stress. Why this restlessness in an ideal setting for rest?

I first went to what is probably the most commonly quoted New Testament passage on rest for the weary:

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, 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)

This seems counterintuitive. Jesus said to take His burden and yoke, and then I will find rest? The result of a burden is rest?

Still in mental process, I noticed that my copy of the New American Standard Bible gives a footnote indicating that Jesus was quoting “and you will find rest for your souls” from Jeremiah 6:16.

Thus says the LORD,
“Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths,
Where the good way is, and walk in it;
And you shall find rest for your souls.”

The promise is that I will find rest for my soul if I walk in the right and good way. That is, obedience results in soul-rest. And Jesus’ said His yoke is easy, His burden light. “His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3).

This explains the paradox that taking Jesus’ burden results in rest (from Matthew 11) and that walking results in rest (from Jeremiah 6:16).

I do notice that neither of these passages gives a formula or recipe for rest. Jesus didn’t say, “To get rest, take my burden” but “Take my burden, and you will find rest.” The Lord, through Jeremiah, didn’t say, “To get rest, walk in the good way” but “Walk in the good way, and you shall find rest.” The difference is a world of difference.

If I make rest a goal that I need to work for, then the rest will never come. If I simply follow Jesus without worrying about rest at all, true rest will follow—because the work was already finished.

In chapter 12, Keller brilliantly speaks of “the rest under the rest.”

The very definition of a Christian is someone who not only admires Jesus, emulates Jesus, and obeys Jesus, but who “rests in the finished work of Christ” instead of his or her own. Remember, God was able to rest in Genesis 2, verses 1-3 only because his creative work was finished. And a Christian is able to rest only because God’s redemptive work is likewise finished in Christ.

– Keller, page 238

Just as our insecurity and desire to chase away (work away) our insignificance is “the work under the work,” driving us to prove ourselves through performance and turning work into an idol, so redemption is “the rest under the rest” which makes healthy work satisfying and true rest possible.

Here are my favorite quotes from the book about Sabbath:

Exodus 20 ties the observance of a Sabbath day to God’s creation. . . . Sabbath is therefore a celebration of our design. (235)

Deuteronomy 5 goes on to tie the observance of Sabbath to God’s redemption. Verse 15 says, “Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.” . . . Anyone who cannot obey God’s command to observe the Sabbath is a slave, even a self-imposed one. . . . Sabbath is therefore a declaration of our freedom. (236)

We are also to think of Sabbath as an act of trust. . . . To practice Sabbath is a disciplined and faithful way to remember that you are not the one who keeps the world running, who provides for your family, not even the one who keeps your work projects moving forward. (236)

And, to finish off our book club on this book, I’ll share my favorite song about rest. The words are straight out of Matthew 11:28-30. (You’ll find rest just listening!)

Like a Boy and His Rat

Tear stains on a Bible tell us that someone in grief fled to the God of all comfort.

Coffee stains on a Bible tell us that she sat with the Word over morning coffee—a date with God.

Rat-urine stains on a Bible tell us that . . .

Well, this is a story that tells how I find spiritual rest.


A fifth-grade boy arrived to Sunday School early, so we had time to chat.

“My rat peed on my Bible again,” he shared.

My first thought: Again? I imagined the scenario: he took the rat from its cage to play with and pet it. The rat, free to roam, then wandered onto the bookshelf and had an accident on the Bible.

Trying to be helpful, I suggested, “Maybe you shouldn’t let your rat on your Bible anymore.” (That just made sense to me.)

“Yeah, I guess I need to quit having quiet times with my rat.”

In my spirit, party-noisemakers rattled in loud celebration! Internal fireworks brought a joyful rush to my heart rate, for I thought not of the rank odor nor of the defaced, unsanitary reading material. I thought of the fact that this boy has quiet times! This boy feeds his hunger for God’s Word!

Rat urine on a Bible. I never knew the thought could thrill me so, but I was thrilled! That boy is well on his way, for even now he is getting to know God better through His Word.

(Don’t worry, he said the rat thing won’t happen again.)

I come to God every afternoon, sitting at His feet, eager for His Word in the Book open before me. This is how I find spiritual rest (just like the boy—minus the rat).


Fast-forward to several weeks later. I remembered this conversation again but this time wondered: What if this happened not with another person’s child in a church classroom, but with my own child in my own home? Would I have rejoiced?

I live with myself, and I know how it would have been. I would have been angry. I would have been annoyed at the mess. I would have been in a rage at the ruined Bible, the very special one that we presented to him upon entering first grade.

Thank God—truth hurts, but it also makes aware and, perhaps surprisingly, is another way to find rest for my soul. When I’m on the wrong path and God shows me the right one (and I follow), I go from inner tension and angst to peacefull stillness and rest. Obedience leads to rest.

Father, help me as I want to be the parent you want me to be. Help me rejoice in the blessings and to see the causes for celebration, even in the midst of ugly messes. Thank you for your mercy on me. Help me to see with Christlike vision.

And Father, thank You for the blessing of Your Word revealed to me, and for the fact that I can own and read the Bible openly and without fear. Thank you for the ways You give me rest.

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Resting in Obedience

“Spring Break” comes too late for my liking, so every year we take a week off in the winter. A winter break is one strategy to avoid the annual spring almost-burnout I used to experience.

Every year, we always take one week off in Febrary/March, and we always go to Grandma and Grandpa’s. It’s the ideal vacation spot: the price is right (free food and lodging); the boys get grandparent time (one highlight is getting to do the horse-poop chores with Grandpa!); I get to cook to my heart’s content and not do any dishes; and they live near The Black Canyon of the Gunnison (cross-country skiing!). On top of that, Ouray with its Hot Springs pool is only forty minutes away.

On day four of vacation I awoke in my in-laws’ guest bed, always nice and heavy with the warmest of blankets. The grandfather clock ding-donged 7:00 in the morning. Grandma was making her famous sourdough waffles (I could tell just by the sounds) while our boys played with Lincoln Logs and Legos (again, I could tell by the sounds). Yet in spite of these things, somehow my spirit felt stressed. How could this be? More than halfway through my longed-for winter break, I still felt an inner unrest. What was going on? Why the restlessness in an ideal situation of rest?

Thus says the LORD,
“Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths,
Where the good way is, and walk in it;
And you shall find rest for your souls.”

(Jeremiah 6:16)

The promise is that I will find rest for my soul if I walk in the right and good way. That is, obedience results in soul-rest. The deepest rest follows obedience.

This, like much of what I find in the Bible, seems counterintuitive. Jesus said to take His burden and yoke, and then I will find rest. The result of a burden is rest?

Rest is not always what I think it is. Rest does not automatically happen when I remove myself from daily responsibilites and go to Mom and Dad’s. Rest does not require a getaway but can happen right in the middle of day-to-day tasks. My soul finds rest when I walk in God’s paths. I know, because thus says the Lord.

Father, I stand by Your ways. I see Your movings and doings. I ask for the eternal paths, where Your good way is. What is Your path, Your way? Father, I take the steps on that path. I will walk in it. Thank You for Your promised rest for my soul.

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Fighting Naptime

In college we used to say, “Study, party, sleep—but you only have time for two of the three.” Win (short for Winston), a biology major, was as sleep-deprived as the rest of us. He said that when he was little, he resisted naps but his mother made him take them. Now, as a student staying up past midnight to count fruit flies for research, and later as an MD/PhD candidate, and later still during medical residency, he wanted naps more than ever but couldn’t have them.

As a five-year-old, Win once escaped his bedroom window during naptime. Somehow, he had matches. His mother (dear woman!) thought he was napping, but actually he was testing matches in the hill behind his house—the La Canada foothills of Southern California’s San Gabriel Mountains. (Think hot, brown, and dry.) In the end, they had to call the fire department but did avoid an out-of-control wildfire. If only little Win had taken his nap.

When I was a child, I fought naps like a child. Now I am an adult, and I take my rest.

Or do I?

God has told his people,
“Here is a place of rest;
let the weary rest here.
This is a place of quiet rest.”
But they would not listen.

(Isaiah 28:12)

God invites His worn and weary people to rest. He even specifies: “This is a resting place!” He offers, invites, even commands us to His rest and refreshment. Yet how often do I refuse what my weary soul and tired body needs? Like a stubborn toddler refusing nap time in a tantrum, I “would not listen.” Then I continue throughout the day (or days) even crankier than before because, having deprived myself of rest, I am running on low and running out.

Why does the toddler refuse and scorn rest? He doesn’t want to “miss out” on the day or its activities. Am I like this child? In my pride and illusion of self-sufficiency, do I think I don’t need the rest?

Father, forgive me for scorning the rest you provide and invite me into. Teach me to receive Your rest.

Byron Sharman, age 4 days

(Next week: Where is this place of quiet rest?)

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Pacing

I consistently experience a slowing when I am in nature’s midst. Two and a half years ago I was, like a toddler, squatting knees-on-hands in the Napili tidepools, Maui. Still as the black rock under me, I needed no urging to slow down. I waited and looked for a tiny lattice butterflyfish or three-spot damselfish to emerge and then re-emerge. After a long while my sons, done with the tidepools, began to say things like, “Can we go now?” But I wasn’t ready to go. For hours more I could have stayed there, peering into this rock crevice and that one to see if another new island treasure would come swimming out to surprise me. I could have remained there all day.

But this is outdoor wilderness—bubbled lava rock frozen in a wave…

lava rock wave

…or a maripose lily seen for the first time, or frosted autumn grass. You say I should slow down in the wild, where there is the wonder of things created? Easy. I respond, I receive, I readily welcome nature’s slowing with the warmest hospitality.

The tricky part is slowing in the other realm, that inner landscape. In the wild wilderness of me, there is no responsive hospitality to slowing but rather the opposite. Untamed, I do not easily slow; I want to maximize my energy output. I want the high of unreined zeal, operating at 110% with adrenaline coming out my ears.

Besides, it’s all ministry, right? All my frenetic schedule-filling is for good, helpful stuff. God’s work for me. Isn’t it?

But my mind and body can only handle so much. After the crest of the wave must come the trough. After the exhilarating Mount Carmel Showdown comes the Post-Mount-Carmel Nosedive. It’s not pretty.

How often have I felt—known—that God wanted me to slow down. Most of the time, I have ignored Him.

But God in His care of me has strategically placed slowing influences in my inner wilderness. These influences usually come in the form of people. But, unlike nature’s slowing to which I easily respond, I put up an iron resistance to the people who lovingly encourage me to slow, to operate at below 100% capacity. (So far, they have not had to pin me down with a five-point harness.)

But I am learning. Really, I am. For my journal I made a bookmark. I printed in big, filled-in letters, PACE. Then I wrote a quote by a man with The Navigators (sadly, I do not know his name):

“Increase your focus; slow your pace.”

It has become a kind of mantra for me. Little by little, I am (slowly) learning to slow my pace—even when I am not swimming with a green sea turtle or hiking by an aspen grove—but it will be a (life)long journey. It is my journey toward rest.


Related: Ready, Set . . . Rest!

(Join Bonnie who, for this month, is hosting a community of those who share about Rest!)

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