• Shanley McConnell

Devotion: Practice Rest

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Beginning a new devotional week with the story of Jesus' birth. Luke 2:1-7. But let us look at one verse, five words: "And while they were there, the time came for Mary to give birth," v6.


In those days a decree had been sent out across the kingdom that all peoples should be registered, and registered in his home town. Joseph and Mary were to travel from Galilee, the town of Nazareth, to Judea, in a place called Bethlehem; because he was of the house and lineage of King David (from the Old Testament). This journey, about eighty or ninety miles, must have been so difficult for Mary; she was far from the comfort of her family, of all that she had grown to know. That, and she was carrying the child of God inside. Was she afraid that she might end up giving birth somewhere along the way?


We know what comes next. No inns were available. She found herself in a place where animals were kept. A small space filled with hay, dirt and sheep. But while they were there, the son of God was born. Even there. So do not be discourage if you feel as though you are stuck in a place that is uncomfortable, unfamiliar. In a loveless relationship, in an overwhelming/underwhelming job, in a new town. Stuck in a cycle of habits that feel unescapable. Know this. God is with you even there. Even there God is doing miraculous things in, through and around you.


Romans 8, "And we know that God works all things together for the good of those who love. He brings about what is good," v28.


♪ P E A C E - Amanda Cook | Moment



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I have a lot of writing to finish by the end of next week. Two writing deadlines (a placement report) and short story (as well as the reading of four novels sitting on my desk).


There's other commitments too. The SolidariTee Dance on Friday, the Praxis Lab on Tuesday, the Poet's Essay and Graduate Discussions on Wednesday. The life-admin & emails. The magazine cover. The dear meet-ups with friends I haven't seen since the beginning of 2020. The Facetimes, blog uploads and random assignments that arrive to the inbox on early mornings.


Truth is, I've been having difficulty writing. Sometimes it's hard to schedule time, but mostly, it's the fact that I feel as if words have escaped me as soon as I reach the page. Maybe I'm not entirely sure where the story is meant to go, and this feels a little like flailing, reaching around for action.


They say: write. write. even if it makes no sense, and feels lost. then, then, return and edit.


I've never been good at following this. I like it when what I write makes sense, first-----I know editing is inevitable, but I want to feel as though the words on the page are perfect in their own first draft sense. Because of this, I often find myself in front of a half-finished project for hours. Sometimes eight or more at a time.


Life isn't like this. We can't pause everything until we have (or feel that we have) a clarity for moving forward. It isn't so understanding. It follows the pattern above in all ways except that we cannot return to the past and edit forward again.


Malachi 3 reads: "God will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, so that they may present to the Lord offerings in righteousness," v3.


God does this with our lives-----editing, renewing, clarifying----until, even in the moments we feel lost at where to walk next, His will for our lives is at the forefront: To love, wholeheartedly (Matthew 22v37). To pursue him in worship and seek after holiness (Isaiah 58).


We often try to write life for ourselves, with details muddled and misarranged. Sometimes this narrative feels empty, as if, as the author, we come to a place we don't know where to take the story next. Middleplaces like this are common. Like the space between one step and the next. From relationship, career, location.


Our choices in life do have consequences; they affect us and mark directions. Still, if we ask the divine to come make a home in us, we find that the pressure to detail our education, involvement, reputation-----our time on earth----subsides a little. God will establish our way (Proverbs 16v9). He scratches through a number of plot lines, rewrites the unnecessary and works all things out for glory. His rewritten text is simple and extravagant. Life looks so different now. Original themes have changed, chapters lengthened and the message becomes clear.


Ask him to do this for you. Let his direction be your peace.


♪ Be Still, Hillsong Worship | There Is More (Studio Sessions)



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Remember the rescue of Israel? How God led the Israelites from the land of Egypt by parting the Red Sea? Guided them cloud by day, fire by night? Feed them manna every morning; manna, the "bread of angels" (Psalm 78v25).


Exodus 16: On the sixth day of each week God gave the Israelites a double portion of manna for their morning supply so that they wouldn't have to glean again the following dawn. The Sabbath was a time to rest. A day set aside as a day of worship and reflection on the times that God kept his covenant to protect and provide for them. This day was meant to remind them that He alone was the source of comfort, strength and praise.


Exodus 16v27 tells readers that "some people went out to collect" manna anyway. Why? God had given them enough to last them the two days long. Why do we often do the same? In thhe cycle of gather, collect, produce, send, etc.


Sometimes we gather more than we need. We overlook the fact that God has given us a piece of heaven, of his kingdom here on earth. Manna, bread of angels. We are frightened by the lack we see in the world, and this can lead us to gluttony. In all areas of our lives.


God promised to sustain you, and his word is steadfast and sure. There is peace in accepting/honouring his boundaries. Resting in what he has already given.


Our cyclical aim to gather up treasure after greater treasure will only exhaust us. Trust that God's portion goes beyond what we can cultivate, grow and follow on this earth.


Let us live in diligence and strive to collect the things that are of God, knowing that He calls us to rest in them. Sometimes we feel we need permission to settle. To sleep. To take time aside to just sit in silence and be.


It is ok. Here, even in the Bible, God encourages us to practice this.


♪ Vivaldi Recomposed by Max Richter

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