What Brings You Life?

Calvert Cliffs State Park, January 2, 2021

Wouldn’t it be great if turning the calendar to 2021 enabled us to leave all of the challenges of 2020 in the past? But, at least so far, that doesn’t seem to be working. Covid is still very much a thing, our politics are still very much a mess, and life is still very far from normal. Turning the calendar doesn’t seem to have magically revolutionized the culture in our home nor has it rocketed me to new intimacy with God. If anything, life seems pretty much the same. In other words, life is still hard.

Which is why I’m trying to be as intentional as possible about prioritizing the things that bring me life. I’ve noticed that I never need to go looking for the things that drain me – they have a way of finding me all by themselves. They don’t need my help. But the things that bring me life are different. They’re never urgent, nobody ever demands that I do them, nobody ever gets angry if I don’t do them (with the exception of myself!), and they all require some effort. I rarely stumble into the things that bring me life. I have to plan for them, protect them, and even fight for them. And that’s the big insight for me. The path of least resistance never brings life. It leads to a Netflix binge or mindlessly surfing the internet or one last check of my email before I go to bed.

And I want more for 2021. I want to live with passion, with vigor, with joy. I don’t want to muddle through my days in the vain hope that tomorrow will be better. I want to work really hard on things that really matter with people I really love. And I want to fight for the things that bring me life.

If you’re wanting to walk a similar path, the first step involves determining what actually brings you life. Crafting this list might end up being harder than you think but you owe it to yourself to know what truly replenishes you. For what it’s worth, here’s my list:

  • Hiking…hence the photo and how we spend just about every Sabbath as a family.
  • Long walks with Laura…it’s where we have our best conversations.
  • Travel…at least I remember it fondly!
  • Fire…fire pits, fire places, candles. Really fire in all its forms.
  • Good conversations with good friends….preferably near a fire!
  • Swimming…for fun and for exercise.
  • Reading….theology, leadership, spiritual formation, novels, biographies, and books about politics.
  • Coffee…probably should have been first.
  • Watching movies…we do this about 3 times a year but I always enjoy it.
  • Lake Ontario…DC is home but the Great Lakes are the best!

Obviously, I believe all of those activities need to be built on the foundation of a vibrant relationship with Christ.

When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you will also appear with him in glory.

Colossians 3:4 (CSB)

Christ, who is your life. Jesus doesn’t just bring life. He is life. And no list of life giving activities can ever take the place of the life of Christ in us. But you also can’t bury the life of Christ under a relentless pile of things that drain you and expect to live with joy. We’ve got to fight for the things that bring us life.

So, what’s on your list? Are there any that you can build into the ordinary routines of your life? How can you build more life into your calendar this year? However you do it, fight for the things that bring you life!

Stillness or Striving?

Be_Still

Come, behold the works of the Lord,
how he has brought desolations on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the chariots with fire.
“Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!”
The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

(Psalm 46:8-11, ESV)

Be still.  It’s the Hebrew word for a silent, motionless state.  Stop.  Say nothing.  Do nothing.  Be fully at rest – no words, no work, no worry.  There are few words my soul needs to hear more.

We live lives of constant motion, frenetic effort and unrelenting pressure.  There’s always something to check, to do, to schedule.  We run harder and harder and feel like we’re only getting more and more behind.  Emails, dishes and meetings all pile up.

The psalmist is showing us another way.  Cease striving.  Trust God.  Realize it all doesn’t rest on your shoulders.  Accept the gentle rhythms of grace.  Find stillness for your soul.

Sounds great.  If only it were possible, right?

Well, the psalmist is giving us a roadmap to genuine soul rest.  The roadmap is found in the character of God.

Past Faithfulness

Verses 8-9 recount the works of God.  The description seems jarring but it’s a reminder of God’s faithful deliverance of Israel.  Think about your past.  Can you name one time when God was unfaithful to you?  Maybe He didn’t meet your expectations and maybe He didn’t follow your script and maybe He let you down.  But unfaithful?  I don’t think so.

Future Promises

God’s faithfulness in the past gives us confidence in His promises for the future.  That’s the heart of verse 10.  We can be still because God is going to accomplish all of His purposes.  It’s a done deal.  We simply need to play our part.

Current Presence

When the Lord of hosts is with you, your soul can rest.  That’s the hope of verse 11.  He’s in your corner today.  He’s walking into the exhaustion, uncertainty and opportunities of the day with you.  You aren’t alone.  You may be in over your head but He isn’t in over His.

Stillness and hard work aren’t mutually exclusive.  Stillness often gives rise to great effort, productivity and resolve.  But it’s not frantic, scattered, flailing.  Stillness is a fountain of energy.  Striving is an energy drain.

Which are you operating from today? Stillness or Striving?