Welcome to the season of ceaseless striving!
Of course, Thanksgiving and Christmas are never billed that way, and I truly hope that it’s NOT your experience! However, if you’re paying close attention to all the flickering candles and peaceful white twinkly lights on your Instagram feed, it’s entirely possible that you’re getting a different version of the season than the one you’re actually living.
Augustine of Hippo, an early-church philosopher and theologian, started life as an expert in the desperate search. He chased fulfillment in all the wrong places available to a young man in 4th century North Africa. In The Confessions, he documents his dissolute life of chasing joy through philosophy, endless distractions, and illicit pleasures, until he finally crashed into the reality of God.
You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless, until they can find rest in you.”
He reported, from experience, the only source of rest that lasts.
God invites you into that same rest, a supernatural ability to replace the adrenalin rush that keeps you going with peace that allows you to stop.
Rest: The supernatural ability to replace the adrenalin rush that keeps you going with peace that allows you to stop.Tweet
Begin with a request for rest. God will always provide what he requires.
Moving toward Thanksgiving with Advent following closely on its heels, trust for grace to pivot from anxiety. Jesus promised to teach his followers “how to take a real rest.” Rather than submitting to the requirements of religion or the tyranny of tradition, he invited them–and he invites you today– to “learn the unforced rhythms of grace.”
In the business of rest, I will be a life-long learner, but that’s the invitation! Jesus is the Grace-Teacher, the Rest-Teacher, and we are his learners, his disciples who need to begin with a request for rest.
What will this look like for you?
A daily reading of Jesus’s invitation in Matthew 11?
Eliminating something from your usual holiday routine to make room for rest?
Starting a gratitude journal to hold your heart in Thanksgiving throughout the busy months ahead?
Immersing your heart in Truth from God’s Word by memorizing and meditating on Scripture? (Keep reading for your invitation to my Advent Scripture Memory Challenge!)
Next week, before you pull your turkey out of its nasty wrappings, before you peel the vegetables, form the yeast rolls by hand, fill the house with delicious aromas, hover over your Black Friday phone screen, and then light the first Advent candle, BEGIN with a request for rest. Then let Jesus begin to teach you the wisdom of his “unforced rhythms of grace.”
Begin your preparation for the holiday season with a request for rest. God will always provide what he requires.Tweet
And now, let’s talk about a book in which the main character maintains a list (perhaps unconsciously?) of the things she ISN’T grateful for:
Let’s Talk Books…
Writing a book set during the pandemic takes courage–and maybe even unquenchable optimism. In Lucy By the Sea, Elizabeth Strout plunks her protagonist, an author from New York City, smack dab in rural Maine to sit out the pandemic. This is a stroke of genius because it serves as an apt metaphor for the utter dissonance COVID inflicted upon the world.
Lucy’s ex-husband is the mastermind behind their exile on the Maine coast. Lucy and William have been divorced (and even remarried to other people!) but concern for their adult children and mutual kindness continue to bind them together. Lucy is caught completely off guard by the need to shelter in place, but, like the rest of us, she was sure it would all be over in a few weeks.
With apologies to T. S. Eliot, March in Maine is actually “the cruelest month,” for all is brown and bleak. Thus began Lucy’s long list of things she did not like which included staying in someone else’s house, the specific house they were borrowing (but also her NYC apartment), cold weather, snow, and doing puzzles.
For anyone with a history of trauma, the lockdown may have been doubly traumatizing, as Lucy captured so well: “My whole childhood was a lockdown. I never saw anyone or went anywhere.”
Lucy’s anxiety and her need for clarity require her to back up sometimes in order to go forward in her careful narration of the events. Distressed by the fairly recent death of her second husband and the conviction that she would “never write another word again,” Lucy weathers her circumstances by leaning into the comfort of routine and a daily walk. With the tides, her sadness rose and fell, and like it or hate it, something like normal begins to emerge in the midst of COVID chaos.
Lucy was, quite unexpectedly, very good company. I found myself sympathetic toward her frailty and amused by her quirky overthinking. If I were her friend, I would encourage her to talk about her deprived childhood when she was always cold–and then to grab a blanket. “Be warm now, Lucy. Be warm, today.”
Holding you in the Light,
Writing a book set during the pandemic requires unquenchable optimism. In Lucy by the Sea, @LizStrout portrays COVID-dissonance by plunking her protagonist, an author from New York City, smack dab in rural Maine. @ramdomhouseTweet
Take Action Now to Resist Chaos in Your Advent Celebration!
This is your invitation to join me and my newsletter subscribers in memorizing and meditating on Isaiah 9:6 during the Advent season. Obviously, all you really need in order to do this is a Bible and the willingness to put in the work. However, if you’re interested in some help and encouragement, I’ve created a PDF for you that includes printable resources:
- The text of Isaiah 9:6 as pictured above
- First letters of the verse to push you along in your memory work (Have you ever tried this method? It really helps me!) The first letter of each word triggers your brain to say the right word without actually giving you the word in print.
- A Meditation Guide for each name of Jesus: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace. Each little card invites you to think about the Name in terms of who Jesus promises to be for you and what he wants to do in your life.
If this sounds helpful to you, get your copy by simply entering your email and then clicking on the button below…
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Many thanks to NetGalley for providing a copy of this book to facilitate my review, which is, of course, offered freely and with honesty.