Foolishly, we’ve thought of blessings as sweet little things.
The blessings of the Lord flow from the white-hot radiance of his glory. They enlarge our human spirit, setting it ablaze. They enlarge our capacity to know and honor him, to become who we are in him and, from that place of identity and intimacy, to join him in bringing his ever-increasing kingdom from heaven into the earth. The blessings of the Lord enlarge our capacity to carry his glory.
I’ve been helped on this journey by surprising insights gleaned from people in Scripture – about what rest is and how it looks. One of the first insights, and one of the most crucial, came from the ancient Israelites:
Entering rest requires pressing in to go where you haven’t believed it possible to go.
Here are 11 other signposts, placed in the path by people who came before.
Also from the ancient Israelites:
Our Lord has designed rest as a place to live – and as a pause we regularly take. We enjoy either aspect of rest only as we learn to embrace both.
The enemy of rest is not busyness alone. The prime enemy of rest is unbelief.
From Jesus’ disciple, Nathanael:
Entering rest requires recognizing when I’m sitting under a fig tree that can never produce what it promises. Seeing, I refuse the lie: “Cling to the status quo, and all will be well.”
From Martha, Mary’s sister:
Rest is refusing false responsibility. It’s not doing what Jesus says is not necessary. That requires learning to recognize his voice. It requires humbling my soul, because being “worried and upset about many things” may make me feel quite important.
From Mary, Martha’s sister:
Rest is refusing false guilt. It’s calmly staying the course when I’m doing what pleases Jesus, but others disapprove.
From the tax collectors, Matthew and Zacchaeus:
Rest lies in identifying what it is I’ve believed would make me whole or happy, and laying it at Jesus’ feet.
From Mary Magdalene:
Rest is knowing my Lord and his truth, Spirit-to-spirit. It’s letting him calm me and refocus me when my mind and emotions have run, screaming, the wrong way. It’s hearing in my inmost being when he himself calls my name.
From the man called Legion:
Rest is freedom from double-mindedness. When I live from a place of rest, my words and actions match.
From Mary, the mother of Jesus:
Rest comes when I surrender to Christ. I’m not the one calling the shots; he is. That involves continually letting him show me when I’m “working him” to get what I want, and when I’m truly seeking to know and do his will.
From the shepherd-king David:
Rest? It restores.
From the Lord himself, who said in Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to me … and I will give you rest”:
If what you’re getting isn’t rest, where you’re going isn’t to Jesus.
I’m a white woman from the Deep South. Yet if I had seen Pondering Privilege 20 years ago, I wouldn’t have thought that I personally needed to read it. If I’d seen the book 10 years ago, I would have thought, “White privilege? You mean, there’s a name for what I’m just starting to see and learn?” Now, still having much to learn, I’ve read and highlighted and reread Pondering Privilege, and have started on the rich list of follow-up reading/viewing that author Jody Fernando provides.
This book is a call to cultural humility by a woman who writes with a lot of humility. It’s a call to us who are white – but who never think in those terms – to press in to see what we’ve been afraid and ashamed to see. It urges us to respond to the rest of the multi-racial world by listening, learning and valuing. It teaches us that what we count “normal” may not be others’ normal at all.
If you’re white, and trying to get a clear picture as to what in the world “white privilege” is, this book may be a bit frustrating. If so, keep in mind: Explaining white privilege to a white person is kind of like trying to describe colors to a blind person. The author defines the term more than once. She gives several examples of how white privilege can look. She asks questions that can help each of us identify our own white-oriented perspectives. She points out the primary way for a white person to begin to understand white privilege: Begin to truly listen to the nonwhite world. She references numerous places to start.
White people who are still trying to decide if such a thing as “white privilege” even exists – but who are willing to find out – may want to do as the author suggests: Skip to the appendices. Read/watch some of the other suggested resources. Listen to voices that are not white. Then, return to ponder with Jody Fernando what in the world to do.
For those who are beginning to see, and to uncover the defensiveness, fear and shame that accompany unacknowledged white privilege, this book is a gentle call, an I’ve-been-there-and-am-still-there call. It’s also a cry. It gives us a compelling reason to press in to the pain of facing what may seem so much easier to deny: What we white people don’t know about our whiteness is hurting everybody.
Pondering Privilege can help us in the scary and complex process of overcoming our white blindness. It can help us replace shame with humility, the crucial virtue that white privilege tells us we do not need.
I hadn’t previously thought it. But suddenly I knew: Psalm 23 is a song of rest.
Two years later, I learned: In the same time frame as my Spirit-to-spirit “suddenly,” Christian recording artist Matt Maher wrote a song, saying the same thing.
For me, the revelation happened in January 2014. It was a sunny Sunday morning in a valley-of-the-shadow season.
For years, I had been learning what it means to answer Jesus’ invitation, “Come to me … and I will give you rest.” Searching the Scriptures, I had explored the lives of eight people who came to Jesus while he walked the earth. I saw how rest looked for each.
But more, I saw the amazing ways the life of each intersected with mine. I saw what they who lived so long ago can teach us today about our deep need to return to rest, and the ways Christ provides it.
Writing what I was learning, I had drafted most of a book manuscript titled Return to Your Rest. However, I had no clue how to end it. What would tie together all I had learned about the rest God gives and the different ways it looks?
I’ve read or heard the world’s best-known psalm countless times. Yet, that bright-but-dark Sunday, when I read Psalm 23 in the New Living Translation, I saw what I had not previously seen. The entire psalm is David’s yes to God’s rest. In that same instant, I realized: The psalm beautifully summarizes what rest looked like for the New Testament women and men whose lives God had used to teach me so much. It could be my yes to rest too.
The past: Eight voices in harmony
Listen, as eight who said yes to God’s rest sing David’s song.
First up, Nathanael, who walked away from the status and power he might have had as a religious leader in order to follow Christ. He sings robustly: “The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need.”
Next, we hear the voices of two who once were demonized – Mary Magdalene, in duet with the man called Legion, or in The Message paraphrase, “Mob.” They sing in wonder: “He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name.”
Now, the soprano and alto of Mary and Martha ring out: “Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.”
Then Zacchaeus and Matthew, the two tax collectors who invited Jesus for dinner, announce in tenor and bass: “You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies.”
And Mary, the mother of Jesus, sings with joy: “You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings.”
Finally, in four-part harmony, all their voices rise: “Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.”
The present: Matt Maher sings “Rest”
One other thing I didn’t know in January 2014: I still had more to experience before I could finish and publish Return to Your Rest. Now, two years later, the book ends by meandering through David’s Song of Rest, embracing aspects of rest that Psalm 23 reveals.
This spring, while preparing to release Return to Your Rest as an e-book, I had another “suddenly” – a nudge to see if any contemporary songs focus on rest.
To my surprise, just a cursory search on iTunes revealed six different songs, each by a different Christian artist, and each titled, “Rest.” All but one of the songs was recorded in the last five years. What’s more, the six songs correspond in a rather startling way with the three sections of my book: “Resisting Rest,” “Snapshots of Rest” and “Song of Rest.” So I’ve happily included links on the corresponding pages of the e-book. (You’ll find a YouTube video of Matthew West’s “Rest” in my recent post, “Sort of like frog gigging.” I suspect some of the other “Rest” videos will appear in future Return to Your Rest posts.)
Most stunning to me of all: “Rest” by Matt Maher is his rendering of Psalm 23. Matt’s song is copyrighted in 2015, but as the YouTube video below reveals: He was already performing it in March 2014.
So, hmm, no less than six contemporary Christian songs reveal: We need rest, and God himself is calling us to receive it. He’s reminding us: Psalm 23 is a song of rest – a song David started, but anyone can sing.
Listen as Matt Maher echoes David’s psalm. Maybe this very ancient and very contemporary song can express your yes to God’s rest too.
First, thank you to all of you who receive KeyTruths blog posts by email. I pray these posts will bless you with insight, affirmation, courage and good hope.
Also, I want to alert you to a change. After today, when you receive a KeyTruths post, you’ll receive part of the post, with a link to click over and read the rest.
The reason for the change? Videos. I enjoy including pertinent music videos in some of my posts. Sometimes the video pretty much is the post. Other times, it supplements something I’ve written. To my dismay I’m finding: The embedded videos may or may not show up in the emailed blog posts. When absent, there’s no link, no indicator at all that you’re missing an important part of the message.
Most recently, there was a video in the post, “Sort of like frog gigging.” It’s the song, “Rest,” by Matthew West. I love it and want you to hear it. I’ve embedded other videos in pieces that will be published in upcoming weeks.
So, thank you again for inviting KeyTruths into your inbox. After today, one extra click will get you all of every post.