"God's splendor is tale that is told...without a sound, without a word, without a voice being heard, yet all the world can see its story."- Psalm 19:1, 3-4 TPT
Vast open skies glittered with stars splashed like paint flicks and a moon so yellow, so round, so perfect called my anxiety filled heart to be still. Warm Summer wind kissed the pale and bruised of my skin, and the cool water whispered a sense of peace my broken soul longed for.
The lake night was the night my heart wanted to plunge into the water’s glistening depths, where the pain of life would no longer be felt. Where the voices in my head that spoke of my rubbish existence and my used state, which was of no worth to anyone, would forever be silenced.
As I gazed at the splendor of the sky, vibrant life energy stirred up by creation was alive and awake and beckoning me to seek the face of a God I wasn’t sure existed, let alone would care for someone as broken and messy as me.
I cried out…
The lake night, the night that was intended to end my life awakened me instead to a very present God. A God who was gently speaking to me without a sound, and was guiding me in and through all things, and somehow, despite the mess and the deep dark hole that I had kept on digging, He was here now, inviting me to seek His face.
The splendor of creation was awakening this wretched girl who was soul numb and dying inside, to the glorious presence of Jesus and entwining my heart to a grander story. His creation was designed to wake us up to Him.
For the last seventeen years, God has been waking me up through His creation, breathing truth words into my soul. Beckoning me to walk this wild faith life that invites us to live wide-awake, and it has happened as His truth words whispered in the midst of living the ordinary everyday life.
I have woken up to the truth that early morning cuddles and silly songs with young ones are holy work.
My soul has come alive as the sun kisses the sea and bounces brilliant colors across the sky or when I've held my baby boys for the first time… and in these moments I've discovered you can’t help but worship Him profoundly and purely.
I come alive where trust is tested, and dreams are shattered, and life doesn’t have the perfect Instagram post because He is with me and He is faithful.
I have experienced authentic relationships over cups of hot tea, long talks, and prayer that leads to healing and restoration because I'm no longer numb and afraid inside.
I now understand that the work God has entrusted to us is the way in which He touches the world through us, where people encounter the face-to-face with God… and it's beautiful.
These life experiences with creation, humanity, and brokenness have been used to wake me up and by His grace, grow my soul into who God created me to be.
That’s what life is meant to do; it becomes the God-at-work, groundwork within that teaches us how to work with and walk with Jesus in the everyday ordinary, waking us up to His presence alive and at work within and around us. It’s like leaven permeating every part of our soul, enlarging and expanding the kingdom of God within us, teaching us, gracing us in our fumbling and stumbling to live into and be the fragrance who He created us to be. We become part of the story He is telling the world.
The invitation to wake up is not just for the select few; it’s for every single one of us. Messy and broken, rich or poor, fatherless or famous, each of us is invited to wake up and live into this wide-awake life with the Creator of the universe. As we live awake, it changes us, it changes the way we see and experience the world around us, and it wakes us up to the grander story being told… His…
She leans over yet another garment to wash and wonders at the latest whisperings of her cousin Elizabeth’s condition… whispers of a child!
"Wouldn’t that be a miracle,” Mary thought to herself, “a blessing from our One True God!”
Elizabeth had reached far beyond the childbearing age and Mary had heard the rumors about her cousin…
“She must be living in sin not to be able to have a child…”
Mary just knew this simply was not true of her cousin. Both she and her priest husband Zachariah lived an upright life in front of people and behind closed doors. They chose to live their life for God and in doing so observed all the Lord’s commandments and regulations blamelessly. Mary simply did not believe the rumors for one second!
Mary also knew that her God, the One her mother and father had taught her about since she was little, would not punish a woman’s sin by withholding children from her…
No… that was not in His nature…
He is always at work for their good…
His ways are higher than theirs, and this new whisper of her cousin’s pregnancy is proof of His perfect timing and plan. People can see that God is at work! What a testimony to His greatness!
Mary’s heart was bursting with immense joy over the very thought of a possible miracle child. That was the very nature of their God; to bless, to perform the miraculous and to breathe life into the deep places of the heart where hopeful prayer resided daily.
As she lifted the next garment to be washed into the tub, her mind wandered to Joseph. Mary felt her cheeks blush. Closing her eyes, she smiled and thanked her God for this wonderful gift. Joseph was the man she was betrothed to, and she believed he had a heart of gold and would make a great husband and father. He was a carpenter and would provide them with what they needed to live a good life.
Suddenly, a voice startled Mary out of her daydreaming, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
Mary looked up to see a glorious angel standing before her. His very presence felt as though God Himself was there. Then she was troubled. She couldn’t help but wonder what the appearance of this angel meant for her.
The angel, Gabriel, must have read the concern on Mary’s face and He continued to speak to her. Mary listened quietly in awe.
“Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end,” said Gabriel.
Mary’s mind reeled with thoughts. She was so moved that God would choose her for such an incredible act of service for Him. Yet, she did not know how this would take place as she was not married to Joseph and had no way that she could be with child.
Mary asked, “How will this be since I am a virgin?”
Gabriel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.”
It was true! Of course, it was true! God can do anything! Mary never doubted that and now He would work a miracle within her womb… one that the prophecies said would bring salvation and restoration between God and His children forever. Mary’s heart filled with deep joy.
As Mary looked up to Gabriel’s face the purity and true faith that resided within her heart spilled forth, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.”
Then Gabriel left.
Mary felt compelled to leave at once to visit her cousin Elizabeth. She knew the journey would be long and arduous, but she also knew that God would give her the strength she needed.
As she hurried towards the hill country, Mary played the moment with Gabriel over and over again in her mind. Her heart stirred within, and she couldn’t keep the smile from her lips.
She kept thinking, “I can’t believe He would choose me! I am no one of wealth or importance, yet He stooped down and chose me!”
Without even realizing it, Mary had been resting her hand affectionately on her stomach. She had already begun to sense what it means to be a protective mother watching over her child. She giggled at the thought. How quickly her world had changed.
Then it hit her with such force. What would she tell Joseph? Her parents? What would people think of her? Mary swallowed hard. She closed her eyes and remembered the Lord’s goodness and love toward her. This was a gift, and the thoughts of no one but Him mattered to her. She knew the truth, and she knew God would watch over her and provide for her and His son, even if her family would not.
Mary then thought about Elizabeth… could she share this with her? What would she say? Would she kick her out or would she understand as she too had received the gift of a son from God? Despite the rampant questions that flooded her mind, Mary sensed the peace and sovereignty of God over this visit.
When Mary greeted Elizabeth upon her arrival at Zechariah’s house, Elizabeth’s response caused her to stop in her tracks.
Elizabeth gasped, and a delighted laugh spilled forth. She was filled with the Holy Spirit, and in a loud voice, Elizabeth exclaimed, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!”
Mary was overwhelmed by Elizabeth’s words. She knew things that no one other than God and His heavenly hosts knew! What a joy to have someone to share this with! What a gift from God!
Mary sensed the Spirit of God was very present; she couldn’t help but burst out words of praise and worship to their Creator.
She began to sing, “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me and holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he promised our ancestors.”
The pair stayed up chatting about the goodness of God, dreaming of the days ahead with their heaven-breathed boys. They pondered over things like, who would they look like? What colored eyes would they have? What things would they teach them and how would they do this? Then they would fall to their knees and worship their Heavenly Father again.
Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.
When the time came to tell Joseph about all that had happened, Mary prayed he would believe her… rehearsing what she’d say to him over and over again…every time she tried to explain it, it just seemed so untrue.
She had been right in her thinking though; Joseph did not believe her and had mentioned a quiet divorce because even though they were not married, they were betrothed.
Mary was initially disheartened. However, she ran straight to her God. She trusted Him and the plans He had for her. She had peace within her that somehow it would all be ok, even though the circumstances did not look that way.
The very next day Joseph showed up at Mary's home. He spoke of an angel that had visited him and explained everything to him. He asked Mary for forgiveness; she smiled at him… it was a hard truth to believe… she understood.
Soon enough it was time for the Census to take place, which meant a long journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, Joseph’s hometown. Joseph was adamant that Mary would come with him. Though he did not say it, she knew deep down he wanted her to come so he could take her away from the emotional stress of the gossip that had spread now that she was showing. They had decided not to marry until after the birth of this son.
Although not of great wealth, Joseph surprised Mary with a donkey to help Mary endure what would be a very long and tiring passage for a woman with child. Mary was delighted and thanked Joseph; she knew this donkey came at a sacrifice to his finances.
While it was an arduous journey for the couple, the distance created a beautiful time of bonding with the child. He showed signs of his strength through kicks and movements in Mary’s womb. How they both would laugh and marvel at the joy and honor to raise the Lord’s very own son. What would he look like? What kind of man would he grow up to be? How precious the gift! They prayed for much wisdom in raising this boy.
Mary had been right about Joseph; he already was a doting husband and caring father to this unborn child. She could see how God had chosen him for her before her days had entered the world. Mary smiled to herself; she was a truly blessed woman.
One evening while they were staying in Bethlehem, Mary felt a tightening across her womb. Her eyes went wide, and an excited smile escaped her lips. She looked up to see Joseph staring at her wide-eyed. He tilted his head to say, “Now?” Mary nodded, then giggled as Joseph stumbled to his feet in excitement.
Joseph and Mary began to look for a quiet space for their baby to be born. The census was taking place in Bethlehem, and despite all their searching, every place was fully occupied. The only vacant space they could find was the animal shelter of an Inn. Joseph’s heart was saddened. He had wanted a special place for the son of God to be born, but he had to accept it straight away as he could tell Mary was just about ready to give birth.
As they entered into the shelter Mary’s eyes darted about, and at once she noticed a little manger, just big enough to be used as a cradle for the coming child. She smiled at Joseph and whispered, “It’s perfect.”
With the presence of heaven eagerly waiting, Mary gave one last push…
A beautiful baby boy was born; Mary sensed Heaven’s joy. He was perfectly pink and so very tiny. Mary looked at Joseph. He was slightly pale, and by the emotion on his face, she could see how overwhelmed he was with love and affection for this baby. He smiled at her. She smiled back as tears of pure joy spilled forth. She pulled the small child to her chest, closed her eyes, breathed him in and lifted one hand to the heavens.
“Thank you, Father… thank you… thank you for our baby Jesus,” she whispered.
After resting a while the child had his first visitors arrive, shepherds.
Joseph felt cautiously protective of his son as shepherds had been known to be a little untrustworthy at times. He couldn’t help but sense there was something incredibly significant about their visit. That somehow God had orchestrated this moment before the beginning of time. So he allowed them to come and look upon the child.
When Mary asked how they had known about their child, the shepherds began to share the most wonderful story with them both. They spoke of an angel of the Lord coming to tell them about this child whom they would find wrapped in cloths and be lying in a manger. The angel had said that the baby is Christ the Lord and then suddenly a great company of heavenly hosts appeared and began to praise God.
The shepherds recited the words the angels sang, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”
Mary, still so young in her years, so young in her faith, sat there utterly amazed! What a gift it was to be chosen for such a task. She breathed in deeply the beauty of this moment and treasured all that had taken place in her heart like she somehow knew she would need these memories to help her in the days to come.
When all had gone, Mary sat with the tiny child cradled in her knees. She searched his face over and over again delighting in every little eye-lid flicker and every small sound. She wanted to stay like this forever. She kissed him gently on his forehead and whispered, “How greatly you are loved and how great you will love…”
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” -Matthew 11, The MSG
A large part of me has been searching for a book like THE SACRED SLOW: A HOLY DEPARTURE FROM FAST FAITH my whole life... I come from a fast paced, high energy, high doing, experience seeking culture and it is its own kind of messy beautiful... It has transformed me, pointed me towards Jesus and has been exactly what I needed for a season, yet my life was missing something...
There was an unsettled emptiness...
A loneliness in the midst of the crazy busy...
And a thirst that was seemingly unquenchable...
My soul was weary and tired...
My soul needed rest and restoration...
Where would I find it?
How do I walk with, get away with and keep company with Jesus the way He invites us to in Matthew 11?
Was it space?
Did I need to be quiet more?
Wasn't I being still enough and how do I BE stiller with young children and a crazy schedule?
You get tired just trying to keep up with slowing down! Right?!
Within the pages of The Sacred Slow, Dr. Alicia Britt Chole invites us to journey daily with Jesus into a slower paced, authentic, sustainable and soul rested life where religion is stripped away and you can truly experience the richness, beauty, and fullness of life walked with Jesus.
Through a series of short devotional style nuggets of spiritual gold, Dr Alicia aquatints our hearts with the truth and then mentors us to live into these truths through a series of exercises designed to help you recover your life, to work with and walk with Jesus every moment of your day and to teach you how to take a real rest.
I believe with all my heart that the fruit of choosing to live out these ancient truths found in the pages of THE SACRED SLOW and participating in the given exercises has not only be fruitful in my life but will overflow into my children's lives and the generations to come.
Fresh courage and strength have been imparted to me through the wisdom, spiritual practices, and Dr. Alicia's heart to see us all be mentored by Jesus every day of our lives.
How incredible is it to have a book like this, a book filled with 30+ years of mentoring experience and knowledge at our fingertips, at very little cost, for the everyday journey of life!
You can grab your copy of THE SACRED SLOW: A HOLY DEPARTURE FROM FAST FAITH here.
How long has it been since you soaked in the daily presence of God?
Since you slowed down so much so that instead of busying yourself to serve Jesus, you simply sat at His feet, loved on Him and learned from Him?
Have you been afraid of what others might think? Afraid of being 'unproductive' when there is so much to do? Me too...
There is a beautiful story found in the book of Luke, chapter 10 and here we meet two sisters, Mary and Martha...
I imagine Martha as a busy woman. I see her with an honest desire to serve those in her world with great love and care as she cleans and prepares a meal. I think her love language might be acts of service. She’s a home entrepreneur, sassy, brave, bold and seemingly can handle whatever comes knocking at her door… even the Son of God. Yet, Martha somehow misses what is most important… she is simply too busy.
Gosh, I feel her burden and pain…
Too busy to lean into what is of most value in the treasured moments God gifts to us in this very short space of time in all eternity.
Mary chose what was better…
She chose what was of greatest value right now. She chose what would bear the most fruit in her life; she chose what would help her to live freely and lightly in the days to come.
Jesus was here, present, ready and willing to teach Martha things of great value, things that would help her become the woman He created her to be, to help her see what truly matters in life and how to tend generously to those things. How to find sacred in the seemingly silly...
Martha was consumed by worldly pressures of hospitality…
Mary knew what was of more value.
Mary knew that the word Jesus would speak and would become her “foundation words, words to build a life on.”
She leaned in and learned how to, “…work the words into her life,”
Mary would come to know that sitting at the feet of Jesus was not wasting time, but it was a place she would learn to be, “…like a smart carpenter, who dug deep and laid the foundation of his house on bedrock. When the river bursts it’s banks and crashed into the house, nothing could shake it; it was built to last.” – Luke 6:48 (MSG)
Mary chose what was better…
She knew what she valued most; she knew how to prioritize what was most important right now. She threw custom and schedule out the window and tended to what was of greatest value.
How many times do we forget this way of living?
How many life lessons do we miss because our schedules and to do lists are so jam-packed we don’t have time or space to look and see what is of greatest value in the moments we are in?
A couple of weeks ago I sat in the Tuscon Botanical Garden, a stunning space of beauty in the middle of the Arizona Desert. I had scheduled a day of rest after a busy book tour and thought what better place to find rest than in a garden. So I moved slowly through the space, I took time to look at, explore, read and smell all the sights and then I sensed God ask me to sit still on the dusty, stone bench seat. I sat under a tree, out of the dry Arizona heat and looked around for a short while, I breathed deep and went to go.
I sensed Him asking me to linger longer…
So I went and sat again…
This time I just sat and looked around, allowed my eyes to linger over everything. I was still. Be still the bible says, be still…
Right then my eyes became truly open, I saw small creatures I would never have seen if I hadn’t been still long enough and right there I became even more aware of how stillness opens our eyes, it helps us to see what we’d never have seen even meandering slowly through that space.
Right there, in the middle of the Arizona Desert, I was working the Word of God into my life and almost instantly seeing the fruit of that. Being still allowed me to be grounded... aware that God was present and holding all things together... being still helped me to know God as the One who holds all things and is in all things.
Work Jesus' words into your life
Mary had chosen to work Jesus’ words into her life as she sat at His feet…
Martha was missing it…
Jesus longed for her to enter in...
Pride perhaps got the better of her...
There He revealed truths and teachings that would help her to live in the fullness of all this gift of life has to offer…
Mary was learning how to walk with and work with Jesus…
There she’d learn the unforced rhythms of grace… the ability to live freely and lightly in His presence…
“learn from me…” He whispers
“…for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls…”
Learn from Me…
Learn from Jesus…
Lean into all he has to say, all he has to teach us…
Work His words into your life...
Then you will find REST for your souls.
"Listening to and learning from Jesus guides us to find rest for our souls." (See my article over at Enliven women for more on this).
Not everyone will understand your choice
Martha didn’t quite understand how sitting at the feet of Jesus would be the better choice. She didn’t see that the time spent learning from Him would benefit her more than a clean house and a meal prepared right now, in this moment of time. She lived by the, “It needs to be done now” mantra, instead of learning to take the time to listen to and learn from Jesus. She allowed outside pressures to scream louder than her inward yearnings.
He was there right now, in their home…
The Word made flesh…
Martha pushed time with Him aside to be in the kitchen… to get the stuff that needed to get done, done.
Martha failed to realize that taking the time now with Jesus would benefit her life greatly for the days ahead. She failed to see that learning His teachings while He was readily available would set her up for that life of rest. It would teach her how to live freely and lightly in her daily walk with the Lord.
You are invited to sit at His feet
The beauty of this picture is that when Martha complained, Jesus still beckons her to come to learn with them too. Yes, He is pretty blunt, but there is no judgment but an open invitation to drop what she is doing and to choose what is of greater value.
What about you?
Are you taking the time to prioritize scheduling in spending time at the feet of Jesus daily?
Are you coming to Him to learn how to live freely and lightly in your daily?
What can you do today to prioritize some time in your week to sit at the feet of Jesus and learn from Him?
But SO worth it!
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The other day I had my teacher hat on, a beautiful year two class was my given assignment and the topic talk over our morning tea break was, 'Easter and what it means to me,' AND of course, being with a class of seven year olds, the hot topic was chocolate eggs and how many, what colour, what style, how big and more! That is to be expected right? Who doesn't love an Easter egg hunt and chocolate for days?!
One little boy stood up and in a big brave voice he shared how that for him, it wasn't so much the Easter eggs that gave Easter meaning - though love them he did - and he was grateful that Jesus died on the cross and rose to life again for him and that was a big part of what Easter meant for him too, but more so, he LOVED that at Easter he was able to spend time at home with his family...
So simple and so profound...
He LOVED the opportunity to simply BE WITH those he longed to be present with. It wasn't going anywhere or doing anything big or special... it was to just BE WITH them...
And there it is...
And isn't that what the death and resurrection is all about, being able to BE WITH the One who loves us more than anything else? To spend time with Him, not always DOING but BEING with Him.
Mary got that right as she sat at the feet of Jesus. She saw an opportunity to sit at His feet and simply BE WITH Him and in the sitting and BEING, she would have been learning deep truths and simple pleasures and getting to know Him. Not just know of Him.. but to closely and intimately know Him, His character... the truth that His presence is a refuge and strong tower, that being with Him was the greatest gift, the ultimate prize...
This simple year two topic talk question slowed me down and caused me to ask it of myself...
My heart response?
Easter, to me, means that great love has been poured out and has given me the greatest gift... His forever presence... simply because He LOVES to BE WITH me...
AND His love...
It's not just for me to keep to myself, but it's to be shared out of the overflow of love He has poured into my life as I've sat at His feet and allowed His deep truths and love to be life and breath for me...
AND the eggs...
I do love those little chocolate eggs and having one with a cup of tea and Jesus.
So the year two topic talk question falls to you now, tell me sweet soul, about Easter and what it means to you...
xx PS Don't forget to sign up for my news letter and receive the first module of the Wild Faith Devotional for FREE xx