Archive for the “Rest” Category

Ask God for His Strategy - Then Implement ItFaith is the confidence, assurance and substance of things hoped for – things we confidently expect to happen. It is the conviction and evidence of things not yet seen.
Hebrews 11:1 (expanded translation using NLT, NASB, NKJV, NRSV and Strong’s Talking Greek & Hebrew Dictionary)

This series is about moving from discouragement to faith. We’ve discussed three faith building actions that each of us can take to move our journey forward:

Let’s move on to the exciting, two-part fourth action.

Faith Building Action 4 – Ask God for His Strategy – Then Implement It!
Discouragement can come from many sources. Logically, then, Rebuilding our faith might take the shape of any of a number of different strategies. Here are some examples:

Rest – If your discouragement came from overdoing, you need rest. If you’re a fan of the Bourne Trilogy by Robert Ludlum you’ll recognize the quote “Rest is a weapon.” It is a true statement.

Becoming overtired or overworked, opens a door that the enemy loves to run through. Often, havoc comes into our life and in our condition of being overtired, we can’t stand against it and we become discouraged. So if you’ve just finished a season of extraordinary effort for the Kingdom (whether from obeying God or simply taken more than He required upon yourself), a period of rest may be the best strategy to return to full faith strength.

Change – Sometimes discouragement comes simply because we’ve become bored with our routine. God can use such a time to nudge us into starting something new. Faith, by definition, means moving before we see God’s whole plan laid out before us. God’s strategy to rebuild your strength may be to point you in a new direction, giving you opportunities to trust Him. Experiencing the result of that trust builds your faith to trust Him more.

Persevere – There are faith lessons to be learned when we are required to simply persevere – which basically means to gut it out! Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines persevere as “to persist in a state, enterprise, or undertaking in spite of counterinfluences, opposition, or discouragement.” Perseverance is defined as “continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition.” Despite failures, opposition and difficulties, sometimes we’re called simply to persevere.

Paul speaks of persevering in many different ways, but most notably as finishing well.

6As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God. The time of my death is near. 7I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. 8And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return.
2 Timothy 4:6-8a (NLT)

Persevere, friends – a crown of righteousness awaits you!

Seek healing in some other way – God’s plan for healing often takes us on a path to deal with past hurts and woundedness and He often uses others to help in our healing. His strategy for you might be to see a Christian counselor or sit under the teaching of a specific minister for a period of time or attend a specific conference. He might have you get involved in a small group outside your church. Or he may take you on a more personal journey to wholeness by having you write a book, create an art series or pursue one or more spiritual discipline more intentionally.

Our God is a creative God and He knows you better than you know yourself. Seek God for His strategy during this time. Once you have a hint at the first step in His strategy, implement it! Don’t wait around until you have the whole plan. Many, many people get stuck in this stage of their healing. All that accomplishes is the prolonging of their discouragement. You won’t fully see God move in your life until you begin to move as He directs.

Let me add that if you have fallen from discouragement into depression, you may not hear God speak. Your emotions are so overshadowing your ability to hear God that you may need to rely on someone else to hear God for you! I am not saying that God is not able to speak to you. I am saying that no matter how loudly God speaks you may not hear Him. If you stubbornly wait until you hear Him, you may hinder your own healing. So when a trusted advisor or friend suggests something that makes no sense to you but is witnessed to by another trusted advisor or friend – do it! (By the way, stubbornly waiting until you hear God is the equivalent of requiring that God speak to you in the way you want Him to. That’s called placing your own wisdom/desires above God’s. That’s called pride. That’s called sin and it’s putting yourself in opposition to God. Don’t go there!)

To stagnate in the place of discouragement as you wait to hear new things from God puts you perilously close to becoming lukewarm. God is not pleased with those who are lukewarm (Revelation 3:16). So don’t get stuck – step out in faith!

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Remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy.
Exodus 20:8

Yesterday’s blog introduced the Biblical injunction for Israelites to “honor the Sabbath and keep it holy.” While many believe it is not a requirement for Christians to observe a weekly Sabbath, I believe there is great blessing when we live as God designed us to live. Today, I give my six most compelling reasons to observe a weekly Sabbath. Tomorrow’s blog will address some practical issues surrounding observing a Sabbath without falling into legalism.

1. It is the Fourth Commandment
I have difficulty moving away from the fact that honoring the Sabbath is a part of the Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments were given as a covenant between the Lord and His people, the Israelites. As Christians, we have become a part of that covenant community, grafted in, as it says in Romans 11. Yet, we are also not a part of it. The covenant we have with the same Lord is no longer based upon the Law as providing a means for our righteousness, but upon our faith in Christ’s substitutionary death – His blood (once for all) instead of the blood of an annual animal sacrifice makes atonement for our sin and enables us to be righteous in God’s eyes. Hence, we are not under the same covenant. We are no longer under the Law, but the spirit of the law is still relevant. (In fact, it is the supremacy of the spirit of the law that Jesus repeatedly stressed in His teachings.) The spirit of the fourth commandment is a day in which we end our work (our striving), and enjoy God and His good gifts.

God’s covenant with the Israelites offers both a blessing for obedience and a curse for disobedience. A review of Israel’s history illustrates not only that God was true to His word in both cases, blessing and punishing Israel for her obedience and disobedience, but also that He was long-suffering – He didn’t bring immediate punishment. So while we might not see an immediate affect from not honoring the Sabbath, we can be sure that it is building, that the long-suffering God we serve will reach a point when He removes His hand of protection and we experience the results of our non-stop lifestyle. (Is it not arrogance and pride on our part that disagrees with our Creator that we need a Sabbath?)

2. The Purposes for the Sabbath Still Exist
A study of Old Testament Scriptures shows that God had three purposes for the Sabbath: (1) serving as a day of remembrance, (2) establishing a testimony that we are God’s people, and (3) to provide a day of rest from our labors. Can anyone argue that there is still need for each of these things today? Each purpose continues to have validity in today’s world. With the many sounds and voices clamoring for our attention 24/7, setting aside a day each week when we intentionally remember the goodness of the One who set us free is more needed than ever. In a world that sees little difference between the people of God and everyone else, choosing a lifestyle change that focuses on God one day out of seven might begin to be a change that people notice. While research shows that the average American gets less sleep than they require, few of us need research to convince us of the truth. We need a day set aside each week for the specific purpose of “resting the body…replenishing the spirit…[and] restoring the soul.”[1]

3. Observing the Sabbath Demonstrates My Trust in God
Further, I find that observing the Sabbath (specifically, committing to setting aside one day each week in which we will not work) to be very similar to tithing in that it demonstrates my trust in God to provide for my needs rather than in my own efforts. When observing the Sabbath, the primary activity that we are to abstain from is work, whether paid or unpaid labor. To honor God, then, I must choose a lifestyle that can be lived within the limits of the six available days I have for working. When life gets crazy and I need the seventh day to “catch up” on work, I face a choice much like the choice I face when there are more bills than my 90% will cover. I can trust God and keep our covenant or I can choose to accomplish all that needs to be done in my own strength. I am reminded of Psalm 20 in which David says “some trust in horses and chariots, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.”

Note that trusting God does not mean that I continue to accept deadlines at work and schedule too many activities in my life, trusting that God will allow me to accomplish in six days the same things I’ve been doing in seven days. Trusting God means that I change my work habits, working less hours if necessary, trusting that God will meet my needs. Trusting God in this situation means saying “no” to some activities, believing that God will find others to accomplish whatever needs to be done.

4. Observing the Sabbath Enables Me to Focus on What’s Most Important
When asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus replied “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31) In Matthew 22:40, he expands this teaching by adding, “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” In other words, if we do only these two things, we will have met all the demands of the law and the prophets. Observing a weekly Sabbath enables me to do these two things better by giving my heart, soul, mind and strength a respite from toil and an opportunity to be refreshed and restored.

Sabbath keeping requires that we stop everything that might be considered work, pulling ourselves away from the toil and burden of it physically and emotionally. During the time of Jesus, the Jewish rules for keeping the Sabbath included not even being allowed to talk about work. The wisdom in this is that to talk about work brings it into one’s reality, even if one isn’t actually doing the work. Much of the work that is done in modern businesses is conducted in meetings. Talking about work is essentially just another business meeting. Accommodating these discussions on the Sabbath opens the door for any other kind of work as well.

I find that such discussions almost immediately change the atmosphere in the room and the focus of the day. By definition, it is no longer a day of rest. It is some hours of rest. My experience shows that there is a very large difference between a day and some hours. The interruption of even a short conversation about work is far greater than the time spent talking about it. For most people, their minds and bodies shift slowly into Sabbath and quickly back to the rest of the week. In other words, that short conversation can very easily trigger our minds and bodies back into “work mode.” The conversation may have been ten minutes, but the mind and body don’t return to their “Sabbath” state for another hour.

My husband and I learned many years ago that there were some subjects we should not discuss on the way to church. It’s not that these subjects would cause arguments, but that they would put us in too “earthly” of a mindset. It becomes too easy for those thoughts to encroach on our worship if we’ve discussed them on the way to church. It might seem like an innocent question that pops into our mind on the way to church but if it has any potential of carrying additional baggage, it is best left for another time. (Any question beginning with “did you remember to…” almost always falls in this category.) Sabbath keeping honors those kinds of rules for the entire day

5. My Heart and Soul are Transformed by the Sabbath
Entering into regular rest allows one to appreciate the “little” things of God – a beautiful sky, the wonder of nature, the nuances of His Word, or even His goodness in providing the life He’s given us. When in “work” mode, these things often go unnoticed and unappreciated. They are often an interruption or even an annoyance. But on a day when all we are supposed to do is enjoy God, we have time for these things and they refresh our souls. Mark Buchanan writes:

“When we get too busy everything becomes either a trudge or a scramble, the doldrums or sheer mayhem. We get bored with the familiar, threatened by the unfamiliar. Our capacity for both steadfastness and adventure shrivels…Busyness makes us stop caring about the things we care about.”[2]

Those things include God, family and the world around us.

Slowing down calms my heart and enables me to love God with my whole (healthier) heart, and to love my neighbor because neither is an “inconvenience” in my otherwise busy life. Instead, slowing down, loving God, and being kind to my neighbor are exactly the things I’m supposed to be doing on the Sabbath.

Ruth Haley Barton describes the “sabbath transformation” as follows:

“I know what it is like to rest for hours until I have energy to delight in something – good food, a good book, a leisurely walk, a long awaited conversation with someone I love. I know what it’s like to feel joy and hope and peace flow back into my body and soul though I had thought it might never come again. I know what it’s like to see my home and my children through the sabbath eyes of enjoyment.”[3]

How vital these things are for the Christian! How dramatically they impact our ability to show Christ to those around us. Sometimes it seems that few people truly enjoy their children today. Perhaps it is because they never experience a Sabbath that allows them the rest needed to care about the things that are most important to them.

6. My Mind and Strength are Transformed by the Sabbath
Only the most hardened against rest would argue that being over-tired weakens both our mind and our physical bodies. Nevertheless, let me cite a recent German study that provides:

“hard evidence…that creativity and problem solving appear to be directly linked to adequate sleep… Scientists at the University of Luebeck in Germany found that volunteers taking a simple math test were three times more likely than sleep-deprived participants to figure out a hidden rule for converting the numbers into the right answer if they had eight hours of sleep…the results support biochemical studies of the brain that indicate memories are restructured before they are stored. Creativity also appears to be enhanced in the process.”[4]

Dr. Nilesh Davé, medical director of the Sleep and Breathing Disorders Center at UT Southwestern Medical Center was quoted in the Dallas News explaining that being awake “longer than you should be for a few days” causes stress to your body. This stress leads to higher levels of cortisol, which “leads to higher blood pressure, more sugar in your blood…and an increased appetite.”[5] Notice that he says “for a few days.” Sleep deprivation does not mean living on four hours of sleep for days or weeks on end. It can mean getting only six or seven hours of sleep a few days in a row. God has provided a “backstop” to counteract the stress on our bodies. It’s called a Sabbath, a day in which we rest physically and emotionally and in which we allow God to restore and revive us spiritually.

7. Observing the Sabbath is the Only Way I Can Enjoy God’s Gift of the Sabbath
Both in yesterday’s blog and in today’s, I have used the word “gift” when referring to the Sabbath – it is God’s gift to His people, as are all the Commandments. The Sabbath can only be received and enjoyed as God’s gift when it is observed. This might seem so basic as to have no need of being included in this list, but were it so, we would be spending more time Sabbathing and less time rushing from church to work or meetings or even leisure commitments. One can only enjoy a Sabbath by placing oneself under the Sabbath’s authority – by saying the Sabbath has priority today, nothing else. The root of the Hebrew word for “sanctify” means “to betroth.” “When we betrothed – pledged to be married – it is a pledge that we honor whether it is convenient or not. Just as in a marriage, it is the honoring of that pledge in times when it is not convenient that strengthens the relationship and love between spouses. Honoring the Sabbath, the day God sanctified at the creation of the world, when it is not convenient makes its observance all the more special (and all the more needed).

That is quite a compelling list to me. How about you? Let me know what your thoughts are, and  join me again tomorrow for a discussion about observing a weekly Sabbath without becoming legalistic.

[1] Ruth Haley Barton, Sacred Rhythms, Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation, 142-143.

[2] Mark Buchanan, The Rest of God, Restoring Your Soul by Restoring Sabbath (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2006), 47, 48.

[3] Ruth Haley Barton, Sacred Rhythms, Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation, 137.

[4] _____ (AP article), “Study Confirms Sleep Essential for Creativity,” posted on on Wednesday, January 21, 2004 (

[5] Leslie Garcia, “How Getting a Good Night’s Sleep Helps During the Day,” posted on on Tuesday, July 22, 2008 (

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Not without design does God write the music of our lives. Be it ours to learn the time, and not be discouraged at the rests. They are not to be slurred over, not to be omitted, not to destroy the melody, not to change the keynote. If we look up, God himself will beat the time for us. With the eye on him, we shall strike the next note full and clear.
John Ruskin

There is no music in a rest, but there is the making of music in it.
John Ruskin

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I love it when God is clear! I don’t  always love the message I receive clearly, but I love it when “coincidences” make it evident that He is teaching me something. In the past thirty hours, God has spoken the same message to me three times, from three different sources. In each case, I was doing something that I hadn’t planned to do.

Punch 1) Yesterday, Phil & I drove to Cleveland. As we often do, we picked up a book before we left so that we could spend the travel time reading to one another and discussing what we had read. We picked up a book we had started during our Emergency Room visits and hospital stays while Phil was recovering from his heart attacks. When we returned to a more normal life, the book was laid aside, never finished.

The book is called Worthy Vessels, Clay in the Hands of the Master Potter. The author, Nell Kennedy, spent years learning about pottery from master potters. She then applies those lessons to the relationship between the Master Potter and His clay. We are finding it fascinating reading. It turned out that the last time we read, we left off at the beginning of a chapter about rest and solitude. The chapter included a long narrative about George Washington Carver. Carver spent long periods of time in solitude out in nature and it was during that time that God spoke to him and essentially used him to turn the US economy around in 1921. 

“Rest is a stabilizer that gives balance to life. It is often in the resting that the remainder of life takes on meaning.”
          Worthy Vessels, p. 52

“There is power in being still…It is in the stillness that we hear the voice or God. Through times in which we are forced to rest, God shapes us and uses us.”
          Worthy Vessels, pps. 61-62.

Punch 2) That was yesterday. Today, I went to have my hair cut and colored. Again, I picked up a book to read while waiting. It was a book I had started a long time ago but, like Worthy Vessels, it had been set aside for some time. The book is titled Sacred Rhythms: Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation and was written by Ruth Haley Barton. When I opened it to my bookmark, I found myself at a chapter titled “Solitude, Creating Space for God.” In writing about her first experience with extended solitude, Barton says:

“All of a sudden I was awake and alert to a level of overstimulation and exhaustion that I had come to associate with normal Christian living.”
          Sacred Rhythms, p. 30

She goes on to discuss the great toll that technology has on us. She’s not against technology, she simply recognizes that constantly being “available” via cell phones, e-mail, texting, twittering, etc., takes its toll: 

“Constant noise, interruption and drevenness to be more productive cut us off from or at least interrupt the direct experience of God and other human beings, and this is more isolating than we realize. Because we are experiencing less meaningful human and divine connection, we are emptier relationally, and we try harder and harder to fill that loneliness with even more noise and stimulation. In so doing we lose touch with the quieter and more subtle experiences of God within…Solitude is an opportunity to interrupt this cycle by turning off the noise and stimulation of our lives so that we can hear our loneliness and our longing calling us deeper into the only relationship that can satisfy our longing.”
          Sacred Rhythms, p. 36

Do you see the relationship between rest and solitude? Both books addressed both issues, and they are interwoven such that you or I cannot fully experience one without the other.

Punch 3) So feeling a little bruised this evening, I wanted to read a Psalm. I looked at the Resting at the River’s Edge schedule and saw that we are slated to return to Psalms on Wednesday, beginning with Psalm 90. Great! I thought. I’ll just read ahead a little. I came to the following verse in Psalm 90:

Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
          Psalm 90:12 (NIV)

 Teach us to make the most of our time, so that we may grow in wisdom.
          Psalm 90:12 (NLT)

I am convinced that in the heart of God, numbering our days aright, making the most of our time, doesn’t just mean planning how we are to accomplish everything on our To Do lists and following that plan well. It doesn’t even mean planning how we are to accomplish everything we understand to be God’s plan for our lives. 

The heart of wisdom is gained not so much by doing for God as it is from being with God.

The heart of wisdom is gained through rest and solitude, when God can speak into the silence and we can hear without distraction.

Lord, I long for more of you that can only be found in solitude and rest. Lord, teach ME to number my days aright, so that I might gain a heart of wisdom.

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40The people of Israel had lived in Egypt for 430 years.41In fact, it was on the last day of the 430th year that all the LORD’S forces left the land.42This night had been reserved by the LORD to bring his people out from the land of Egypt, so this same night now belongs to him. It must be celebrated every year, from generation to generation, to remember the LORD’S deliverance.
Exodus 12:40-42 (NLT)

“So this same night now belongs to Him.” God establishes times that belong to Him. His word says that the Sabbath, the seventh day, belongs to Him. Do you observe one day a week as belonging to the Lord? I don’t want to be legalist and say that it has to be any specific day because we live in a different world than the Israelites did. Our society doesn’t stop on one day of the week to allow everyone to observe a Sabbath on that day. Not being legalistic, being flexible brings both freedom and a need for discipline: freedom to observe a Sabbath on the day of the week that best fits your lifestyle and schedule, and discipline to not let the day go by unrecognized.

The day already belongs to Him. Will you take time this week to recognize the One who owns it?

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The Thanksgiving and Christmas season offers so many opportunities to crash and burn! Over Thanksgiving weekend I was in a department store and saw the holiday decorations and I promised myself that this year I would NOT over plan. I promised myself that I would build in time to enjoy the season. Almost immediately things began to pop up that want to take a bigger bite out of my time than I thought they would. Many are good things. More work is good. Visiting with friends is good. Leading a New Year’s Eve worship time is good. But I am resolved to be like Mary and choose the “better part,” not just the good part.

So I am building in “holiday enjoyment” time this year. Some of that will be just plain fun. Some of it will be spending more time with God, reflecting on His message for me this season. I’m not going to feel guilty about what I’m NOT doing so that I can do these things because I believe that doing these things will honor God MORE than being harried and hassled all season. That’s what choosing the better part means.

Resist Stress

One of the things I’m doing is actively resisting stress (is that in and of itself stress-creating? it can be if you’re not careful) and practicing enjoying the season. But I don’t always get it right. Last week one day I said to Phil “I’m really stressed about meeting this deadline.” His response was priceless (if not original). He said “And how’s that working for you?” In other words, “is being stressed about meeting the deadline helping in any way?” Of course, the answer was “no.” So I took a deep breath and asked God to help me release the outcome to Him as I did my best to meet the deadline. I’m working on “apprehending” or “taking hold of” the grace that God has for me each day (but that’s a blog for another day).

Stop Grumbling

Our pastor has helped, as he’s preached 2 messages on being grateful and not grumbling. I need to be reminded of that from time to time and I appreciated the messages. When I’m overly busy or tired, it’s easy to fall into the trap of complaining. And once fallen in, it can be hard to snap out of it. Something inside of me actually enjoys grumbling! Isn’t that horrible? But I bet you’re like that too. I’ve found that most people are. Yet when we can get out of the trap, life is SO much more enjoyable. And of course we are much more a reflection of God’s grace and peace to the world.
Say “Thank You” to God…In Writing

Here’s one activity I recommend. Find a time (or make a time) to sit down and actually write a Thank You letter to God. I find that writing it down makes me think more and makes the whole process more “real” or “true” than just praying silently or aloud. I was amazed at how quickly I was able to create a Thank You letter to God that was 2 typed pages. I was also amazed at how far-reaching it was. I thanked Him for things that I don’t routinely thank Him for (because quite frankly my thank You’s are often quick and a prelude to what’s next — Ouch!). What that really means is that I was thankful for things I don’t usually reflect on. And what that means is that I am more thankful after writing the letter than I was before writing it because I am more aware of the things I have to be thankful for.

Try it…you’ll like it…and you’ll glorify God more.

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A small group of us are studying the book of Philippians. Last night we did chapter 1. So much good stuff, I had to blog a little about it. Today I’ll share briefly about Paul’s greeting. Tomorrow (or at least some day soon), I’ll share about “abounding in love.”

Paul’s greeting in the letter is twofold — a salutation and a blessing. The blessing is “grace and peace to you.” Pretty simple. But we looked at the words.

Grace — The word for grace is “charis” which means not just the unmerited favor we receive from God, but also it’s “reflection in [our] life” according to Strong’s Greek Dictionary. I don’t often think of that when I think of grace. When I pray “grace,” I’m not just praying for God’s favor to be shown to someone (or myself), I’m also praying for the reflection of that grace — the outward expression of it in our lives. That’s pretty cool! It’s like the prayer is doing double-duty or has double power. I’m not sure why, but this has me pretty jazzed.

Peace — Not the absence of conflict, but a restoration to oneness, quietness and rest. That sounds a whole lot more like a spiritual thing to me than a relational thing. My spirit so often needs to be restored to oneness with God, to experience quietness and rest in the midst of a crazy world. I’m reminded of the spiritual formation “exercises” or practices that I’ve largely allowed to fall by the wayside.

Paul blessed the Philippians with grace and peace at a time when they were experiencing persecution — being falsely accused, arrested and thrown in prison. He was saying “may your soul be at rest with the Father and your life be a reflection of His grace in your life.” Wow! all that in just 3 words — “grace and peace.”

Grace and peace, friends.

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Psalm 139: 3a You chart the path ahead of me and tell me where to stop and rest.

Scripture is so full of “resting” and we so often miss it. We pray about and assure ourselves that God will lead and guide us, and of course He does. But our prayers are always leading and guiding us to action.

Scripture also teaches us that he leads and guides us to rest. I wonder how often we miss that lead? And I wonder what the price is?

In the Old Testament, the Hebrews were taken into the Babylonian captivity for 70 years. God didn’t just make up that timeframe — 2 Chronicles 36:20-21 explains to us that during the captivity “the land finally enjoyed it’s Sabbath rest, lying desolate for seventy years, just as as the prophet had said.”

I’m convinced that practicing a Sabbath is a discipline that honors God and from which we gain immeasurable benefits, but that’s the subject for another blog. For today, I am just surprised at Psalm 139. God tells us where to stop and rest.

Lord, let me hear you when you tell me to stop and rest.

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