One of my goals on a recent spiritual retreat was to laugh. While at first glance that might not sound like much of a spiritual goal for a spiritual retreat, I want to assure you it was.

As an enneagram eight, I need to play, I need to laugh, I need to enjoy. As an enneagram eight, that play, laughter, and enjoyment don’t always happen spontaneously. The toy box warns, “Some assembly required.” The eight should come with a similar warning pertaining to play, “Some cultivation required.”

So I left for my retreat ready to cultivate some play time, some laughter. My laughter cultivation had one simple tool: Netflix.

My retreat was a complete success in that I laughed until my sides hurt. I watched one episode of a show I had never before seen, the episode of Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee that featured Jim Carrey.

Laughter is good medicine. It’s about time for me to pull out the Netflix machine and watch another episode.

To Sing or Not To Sing

I still remember visiting a church in the mid 1980’s. What stands out in my memory is what I saw in their songbooks. As I flipped through the pages I saw a number of songs had been stamped with a bold, red message: “Unscriptural Song: Do Not Sing.”

While I cannot remember all the songs that had been marked, I do recall “Just a Little Talk with Jesus” was one.

Since this was the first time I had ever seen anything like this and I was curious about what could possibly be considered unscriptural about this particular song, I approached a friend of mine who was a member of the church to inquire. He expressed surprise that I would even ask about that song because it was “filled with false doctrine.”  When I asked him to be specific about the doctrinal problems included in this particular song, he unloaded.

“This song encourages people to directly address Jesus.  We are supposed to talk to God the Father in the name of Jesus. Never are we commanded to talk to Jesus.”

My intention is not to debate his response; in fact, I will just leave it right there for you to consider.

But I will tell you I remembered that “Do Not Sing” stamp this morning. The memory was triggered as I found myself singing, “I want to be a worker for the Lord. I want to love and trust his Holy Word. I want to sing and pray and be busy everyday in the kingdom of the Lord.”

I am not sure why that song came to mind this morning, but it did.  As I thought about the words I was singing I remembered that red stamp and thought for a moment that maybe it wasn’t such a bad idea.

Don’t get me wrong, I am all for being a worker for the Lord;. I am in favor of singing and prayer and trusting. But I cringed at the words:  “be busy everyday.”

Busy? Everyday?

I am convinced that we have neglected God’s teaching about Sabbath and rest. I am concerned that constant “busyness” is causing untold problems in the church — even killing the relationship some have with God. Do we really want to be busy everyday? What about days or seasons of rest? Have we forgotten this is a major emphasis in scripture?

So where can I get one of those stamps?  I’m gonna climb up there and stamp that screen.

In God Alone

“My soul finds rest in God alone;
my salvation comes from him.

He alone is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.”

Psalm 62:1-2

God my Father,
Thank You for this eternal life I am living.
Thank you for this time of rest I am enjoying.

God my fortress,
Thank You for giving me stability.
Thank you for giving me security.

God my rock,
Let me rest and let me live for You.

In Jesus’ name,

Resting, Floating, Praying

Psalms 131:1-3
My heart is not proud, O Lord, my eyes are not haughty; I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me.
But I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me.
O Israel, put your hope in the Lord both now and forevermore.

Prayer can sometimes be hard work. We gather our lists and we pray, checking off all the important things that we think God needs to be addressing. We tell God who to bless, who to heal, and who to rescue. We tell God which doors need to be opened and which need to be closed. We go to God because we need to get something done. Sometimes this whole prayer process becomes strenuous.

There are indeed times when we need to “wrestle in prayer.” But there is another kind of prayer the psalmist is alluding to in this passage. Prayer that is not strenuous or difficult or frantic or exhausting. Prayer that is best described as resting with God.

Here the psalmist approaches God for companionship and rest. He is not trying to give God advice. He is not trying to run the world. He is not trying to be deeply theological. He is not approaching God with a must-do list. He describes his relationship with God as a weaned child sitting in his mother’s lap. Notice that he doesn’t describe his experience as a nursing child sitting with his mother because he needs to nurse. The description is of a child just sitting with his mother because it’s a secure, comfortable, restful place to be.

Sometimes we just need to sit quietly with God. One writer calls this kind of experience “wasting time with God,” that is, just being together. There is great joy to be experienced when we can just totally relax in God’s presence, when we stop all of our flailing and striving and just give it all up to relaxation in God’s presence, in God’s lap.

In May following my junior year of college Lourene, and I got married. That summer I worked several jobs, one of which was teaching swimming lessons at Freed-Hardeman College. I actually enjoyed this greatly, There was something very rewarding about having a child come to you with a total fear of water and seeing him swimming in a couple of weeks. But what surprised me most was how difficult it was to teach these boys how to float in the water.

In his book When the Well Runs Dry:Prayer Beyond Beginnings Thomas Green talks about teaching people to float.

It is puzzling to see what a difficult art floating really is–difficult not because it demands much skill but because it demands much letting go. The secret of floating is in learning not to do all the things we instinctively want to do. We want to keep ourselves rigid, ready to save ourselves the moment a big wave comes along–and yet the more rigid we are the more likely we are to be swamped by the waves; if we relax in the water we can be carried up and down by the rolling sea and never be swamped (p. 143).

So I think the image of floating fits well with what the psalmist is trying to express. When we are with God we are like a weaned child who has crawled up in his mother’s lap to relax. We give up all effort that comes naturally and we…float. The waves come at us, sometimes relentlessly. And God sees us through not because we are rigid or flailing, but because we have let go.

Inspired by: Surrendering to God: Living the Covenant Prayer