Seven R’s of Restful Living: Receive Kindly Spoken Truth

As I said in part one of this series on restful living,  my doctor recently told me that I needed to reduce my stress.He was very kind in the way he spoke, but he let me know that I needed to make changes–he told me the truth.  In a firm yet gentle voice, he gave me what the writer of  Proverbs calls, “a timely reprimand” (Proverbs 25:11)  I love the Message paraphrase of  this verse: “The right word at the right time is like a custom-made piece of jewelry, and a wise friend’s timely reprimand is like a gold ring slipped on your finger.” (verses 11 and 12)

I’ve slowed down some and noticed that more often during the day, I am singing. By reducing the expectations I have for myself, I’ve begun to make progress on another stress-producing problem–the clutter in my house. Because I am a visual person, clutter distracts me from the work I am doing and slows me down. Consequently, at the end of the day, I often end up with quite a few unfinished tasks. 

In the past, I’ve made some very ineffective attempts to reduce my clutter–usually just stuffing everything in bags and boxes. This made it look like I was a very neat and organized person, but it produced a bigger problem–that of not being able to find things. For example, I often couldn’t find a pair of reading glasses. Last week,underneath piles of papers in my office, I found five pair. 

Clutter has not only distracted me and reduced my efficiency, it also has made me feel frustrated and angry toward myself. I’m getting some help from my friend Liana George, a professional organizer. I joined her FB Clutter Wars group  and I’m learning how to be gentle with myself, while clearing away clutter one small step at a time. 

I enjoy watching Liana’s online videos because she has such a cheerful voice. She’s a very accepting person and speaks words of encouragement for every small bit of progress. Like my doctor, she kindly speaks the truth. Her group is about making war on clutter not on yourself. 

(If you are interested in joining her group,  search “Clutter Wars” in the FB search bar and then just ask to join.)

Throughout my life, God has given me kindly-speaking-truth friends. I treasure their friendship. But  it’s God, himself, through the words of the Holy Spirit, who best speaks the truth in a gentle way. I have no words to adequately express how thankful I am for his presence in my life. I’m sharing a little of what this means in the following song.

The Spirit of God So Gently Speaks

The Spirit of God so gently speaks
When we go wrong, when we are weak
Not with judgment, not to condemn
He, with kindness, turns us again

Back to the path we know that’s right
He gives more grace; he gives insight.
Then with deep joy and confidence
We change our course; yes, we repent

The Spirit of God prays for us.
He sees our frame, knows we are dust.
He keeps watch all day and all night
We are, forever, in his sight.

So let’s not worry; let’s not fear
About the things that will disappear;
Our life consists of something unseen,
For God has washed our spirits clean

The Spirit of God has made us alive
Under his counsel, we now thrive
He brings to us the Word of Christ—
The Message of Truth–unrevised;

Not mixed with lies, not altered to please
Indulgent hearts, preferring ease.
Let’s receive his correction with joy
And in our lives, his wisdom employ.

The Spirit of God will seldom shout;
With all our noise, we can block him out.
That, my friends, is a very sad choice.
We need to hear his gentle voice.

We need his wisdom and his power
We need his grace, every hour
Apart from him, we will not succeed
In doing any worthwhile deed

The Spirit of God is our Comforter
And with his help, we can endure
Grief and pain of every kind
He gives to us a peaceful mind

And we give up our addictive stuff–
His gracious Presence is enough.
He gives to us his strength and love;
Someday, we’ll join the Saints above.

The Spirit of God so gently speaks,
So gently speaks,
So gently speaks . . .

Seven R’s of Restful Living: Remember Your Frame–Body, Soul, and Spirit

Last week, I talked about the first “R” of restful living—remaining with Jesus. This week, I’m talking about the second  “R” of restful living: remember your frame–body, soul and spirit.

One of the songs, popular when I was teenager, was “This Old House.” The lyrics describe what it’s like to age— live in a body that like an old house is falling apart. As a teen, I was clueless about the meaning of phrases in the song such as, “getting feeble” or being “tuckered out.” Now, I have a better understanding.

According to my doctor, my body is not yet in the “falling apart” category; still, like an old house with creaky floors, some parts of it groan and complain.

The lyrics of  “This Old House” are based on the twelfth chapter of Ecclesiastes  . The song (but not the Bible passage) implies that it’s okay to neglect physical pain because someday, in heaven, we will exchange our bodies for better ones. That was my viewpoint for quite a few years.

I’ve learned that neglecting the needs of our physical bodies—abusing them in any way—is not a Christian virtue. They  are God’s gift to us through which we serve others, in ways that honor him.

Jesus, perfect in every way, had a human body. Just like us, he felt thirst and hunger. Just like us, he became tired and felt physical pain. Just like us, he had emotions—felt anger, sadness, and joy. 

He took care of his body by sleeping, eating and drinking, walking, and taking time off—enjoying a Sabbath rest. He paid attention to his emotions and expressed them in appropriate ways.

Jesus remembered his “frame.” Frame is one of the words used in Scripture to refer to our bodies. The psalmist says that God “knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:14).  

Thinking about this makes me feel humble and honored—humbled, because dust isn’t much; yet, honored, because God so deeply loves me.

God took a simple speck of dust
And with his breath fashioned us;

With joy, he viewed his finished task—
Created beauty—pure, unmasked.

Though we’ve fallen from that place
God remolds us with saving grace.

In hope, our wounded spirits rise
As he, with faith, anoints our eyes.

Calling my frame “beautiful and pure” is for me, an act of faith—especially, as I’ve become older. It’s so easy to get distracted by messages in the media that focus on things such as, covering up wrinkles, forever staying at that impossible-to-attain, Barbie shape, and conforming to current hair or clothing styles.

It’s easier to stay focused on truth when I think about the marvelous complexity of my frame. This word refers to more than my body. It refers to my whole self, which, according to Scripture, is designed in the image of God.

God is a three-in-one Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Part of what it means to be designed in God’s image is to understand that we, also, have a three-in-one nature—body, soul, and spirit.

I’m not going to try to explain all of this. Instead, if you want some very good teaching on it, I recommend Jack Hayford’s book, Rebuilding the Real You .

In  this book, based on the book of Nehemiah, he uses the symbol of a three-part temple to represent our three-part nature–body, soul, and spirit. He says, 

“At the core, we have a spirit. It is the relational worshipful, living center of the human personality.

Surrounding the spirit, we have a soul. It is the command center of the human personality, which includes intellect, emotions, and will.

Supporting and supported by both spirit and soul, each of us has a body; the body is usually the only part we are familiar with.” (p. 36)

God cares about our entire selves–body, soul, and spirit. Listen to this wonderful Scriptural blessing: “May the God of peace make you holy in every way, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again” (1 Thessalonians 5:23 NLT).

I hope that this blessing motivates you, as it does me, to do your part in caring for your whole self-body, soul, and spirit–because in these falling-apart frames of ours (these temples)–the Holy Spirit lives. 


Seven R’s of Restful Living: Remain with Jesus

A few weeks ago during one of my yearly medical appointments, my doctor told me that I needed to reduce my stress. At first he was going to prescribe a medication (which I was willing to accept); then, he changed his mind and said,” I am not giving you the medication; you know what to do and I believe you can do it.” This conversation made me feel humbled, thankful, and honored—

  •  humbled, because I wasn’t doing what I knew I needed to be doing;
  • thankful, because in a very kind way my doctor pointed that out to me
  • honored, because he recognized that I have the knowledge and ability to make changes.

 God spoke to me through my doctors words. I thanked him, as well as my doctor, and told him that I wanted to exchange my stressful lifestyle for a restful lifestyle. I asked him to show me more clearly what a restful lifestyle looks like.

He gave me the following seven-point guideline which I’m calling “The 7 R’s of Restful Living.”

  • Remain with Jesus
  • Remember your frame—body, soul, and spirit
  • Receive kindly-spoken truth
  • Resist Resentment
  • Reduce your commitments
  • Rid yourself of clutter
  • Rejoice with friends

By following these guidelines for seven weeks, I’m confident that my stress level will decrease. Each week, I will be sharing what I’m learning in my blog post. Today, my topic is: Remain with Jesus.

What does it mean to remain with Jesus? Remaining with him is just like remaining with any other person. It means staying rather than leaving. I married my husband in 1967;  in a few weeks, I will have remained (stayed) with him for fifty years.

John never forced me to live with him; I chose to do so. Before we got married he told me that he loved me. If that was the one and only time that he said “I love you”, I would not have wanted to stay with him for fifty years. Frequently he’s told me. Just as importantly, frequently, he’s shown me that he loves me.

If I ‘d never acknowledged his love and responded to it by returning his love, I don’t think that he would have wanted to stay with me. Because he is such a faithful person, I’m confident that he would have remained, anyway. But neither of us would have enjoyed very much.

What has it taken for us to stay together and enjoy our togetherness? One very obvious but easily neglected thing is that we talk with one another. Even after fifty years, we cannot read one another’s minds. It’s through our words that we discover what one another thinks, feels, and desires. He wants to give me what I desire, and I want to give him what he desires.   

It’s the same with Jesus.  He never forced me into a relationship with him. When I heard that he loved me (I was convinced of it by his words, that is—Scripture), I chose to enter into a life-long relationship with him. I’ve remained with him because he continues to love me. And my love for him continues to grow.

What keeps the love flowing between Jesus and me?  The same thing that keeps the love flowing between my husband and me—frequent conversations.  As I read Scripture, Jesus tells me more and more about himself—he shares his desires his thoughts, his plans; I feel honored and loved.  

Because I’m confident of his love, I listen to his words; I feel blessed not only by his affirmations but by his kindly-spoken words of correction. And I’m finding out the truth of this statement:”Those who love your instructions have great peace and do not stumble” (Psalm 119:165 NLT)

You can find much more about what it means to remain with Jesus in the Gospel of John, chapter 15. In some translations the word that’s used for “remain” is “abide.” 

What I recently heard from Jesus (while mediating on John 15 and Psalm 119: 165) I express in the following poem/song.


Verse One
If I love God, I will love his instructions.
Listen to him and do what he says—
Live a life of intentional obedience,
Making plans and following through.

Remain with Jesus;
Remain with Jesus;
Remain with Jesus!

Verse Two
I will do my best on all his assignments,
Trusting in the wisdom he gives—
Always remain in touch with the Spirit
So from his purpose, I do not shift.

Verse Three
Often, I’ll need to make an adjustment
Not from his purpose, just to my plan.
If I’m resentful of all interruptions,
I’ll miss what Jesus is saying to me.

Verse Four
Some of my phone calls, I need to answer
Blocking them all reduces my sight;
Without help from brothers and sisters,
My vision of Love will be incomplete.

Verse Five
Remaining with Jesus, I have discovered,
Also means remaining with them.
For this is his most basic instruction–
Love one another as I have loved you.

Remembering Mother

On this Mother’s Day weekend, I’m sharing a poem that I wrote and gave to my mother the year before she died. She’s been gone for fourteen years but I still miss her—especially on this holiday. Remembering her specific actions of love is my way of honoring her.

Dad planted rosebushes along the side of our house. Mom loved them and cared for them with diligence.

Sharing about my mom stirs up a lot of emotions—loneliness, because I miss her; sadness, because I’m not able to send her flowers, make a meal or buy a gift; a little bit of regret, because of  things I wish had done or not done; but, thankfully, no anger, because I’ve accepted who she was and let go of my demand for her to be a “perfect” mother.

Learning to let go of my demand for perfection from Mom and accepting her as she was has progressively freed me from the demand for perfection that I placed on myself. I’ve discovered that accepting my mother is inseparably connected to accepting myself—because, in many ways, I am just like her.  

Today, remembering my mother stirs up mostly positive emotions—gratitude, for her kindness and generosity; admiration, for her talents and creative use of them; deep thankfulness, for her sacrifices of love; and joy, because I know that someday I will be reunited with her. 

Thank you, Mother–

For keeping me in clean, dry diapers–in the days before disposable ones.
You washed them with hand-made soap and water heated in a boiler on the wood-stove.

For keeping me well-clothed;
You made beautiful hand-smocked dresses and warm coats from hand-me-downs.

For making sure I had fresh milk to drink.
You got up before dawn to milk the cow in an unheated barn, and you fed the kittens, too.

For introducing me to poetry;
I can still “hear” your voice reciting:”In winter I get up by night” and “I have a little shadow.”

For teaching me to read so early in life;
In second grade, I won the prize for reading the most books that one-room, eight-grade school.

For making sure I got piano lessons–
Even though I hated the way my teacher spit through her teeth when she counted the measures.

For giving me an allowance
(When you did not have extra money on hand) and not telling me how I must spend it.

For buying me a shiny blue music box one Christmas.
You found the gift you knew I wanted more than anything else.

For sewing tiny pearl buttons on the back of my wedding dress and making loops to hold them;
You re-designed the entire skirt so that it would fit me.

For coming for a visit after your granddaughter was born–
Traveling 1000 miles on the Greyhound bus and transferring buses in an unfamiliar city at midnight.

For coming, again, when I was recovering from surgery;
You fixed spinach greens, and served them with apple cider vinegar from Aunt Mary’s antique cruet.

For taking me and my family to Virginia;
It was the last time you and Dad traveled in your motor home.

For climbing the stairs to reach my upstairs bedroom;
Never in the time you spent with me did you complain about your painful hip.

For stitching and re-stitching quilts,
Especially the one on which you embroidered a cardinal, a red-winged blackbird and other songbirds.

For continuing to pray and write letters.
When my letters were few, yours kept coming. At age ninety, your penmanship is still beautiful.

Thank you, Mother for expressing your love for me in so many ways.

Comfortable Shoes and “Comfortable” Thinking

When I find a comfortable pair of shoes, 
I wear them,
And wear them,
And wear them,
And wear them.

I never want them to wear out;
But after awhile
They do wear out.

Then I look for a pair of shoes exactly like those comfortable old shoes.
I look,
And look,
And look,
And look.

I’ve never been able to find a pair of shoes exactly like my comfortable old shoes.
I’ve always been told,
“No one makes them anymore.”

But today was different!
I found a pair of shoes that looked
Not exactly,
But almost exactly,
Like my comfortable old shoes.

I tried them on. I bought them. I went home as fast as I could.
I went in the house.
I took my new shoes out of the box.
I looked at them, and then—

I put my comfortable old shoes back on my feet.

 @ 2001 Jane Ault 

It’s time for spring cleaning, and my clothes closet is one of the things that I intend to declutter. As my poem suggests, I do have a few pairs of old shoes—among them are black suede sandals and tan leather slip-ons.

Both pairs look unsightly, to say the least. The suede has been water-soaked and it’s stained beyond recovery. The leather is scuffed, wrinkled, and faded.

Yet, because they are so comfortable, I don’t want to throw out these shoes. Maybe I won’t. I’ve put them in the trash can before, but they somehow creep back into the house when I’m not looking.

I don’t think I want to keep them around much longer, because (as my husband reminded me, in his say-it-like-it-is fashion) old shoes have one characteristic in common: They stink! However, we might be so used to the noxious odor that we no longer notice it.

That reminds me of our thinking. Thoughts that we’ve carried around in our heads for a long time usually feel comfortable. At first they might not have been. They didn’t seem to fit us. They might even have felt painful. But we’ve “worn” them a long time and now they feel like comfortable old shoes. Even if they stink— they’re unhealthy and untrue—we don’t notice it. And we resist giving them up.

Types of comfortable (but stinking) old thoughts include—

  • Thoughts about ourselves that are out-of-line with who God created us to be and declares that we are; for example, I’m unlovable; I’m not talented; I’m not creative
  • Thoughts about God that prevent us from receiving the good things he wants to give us; for example, God isn’t fair; God doesn’t like me; God is against me or I don’t deserve ______________because . . .
  • Thoughts that prevent us from accomplishing the good things God’s designed for us to do—things that will bring us joy and fulfillment; for example, I’m not smart enough; I don’t have enough faith; I tried and failed

 Here are some examples of healthy and true thoughts regarding

1) Who God created us to be

  You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
    and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
    Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it. (Psalm 139: 13-15 NLT)

2) What his attitude toward us is

God is sheer mercy and grace;
    not easily angered, he’s rich in love.
He doesn’t endlessly nag and scold,
    nor hold grudges forever.
He doesn’t treat us as our sins deserve,
    nor pay us back in full for our wrongs. (Psalm 103:8-10 MSG)

3) How we can accomplish the things that will bring us joy and fulfillment.

  And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. (2 Corinthians 9:8 NIV)                                                              


 Invite God to show you these things:

1) One comfortable old thought that is unhealthy and untrue.

2) How that thought is preventing you from obtaining a good thing.

3) What healthy and true thought you could replace that thought with.

Then, if you want to, ask God to give you the courage to “throw out” that stinking thought and receive in its place the healthy and true thought.

Like stinking shoes that sometimes mysteriously creep back into the closets of our house, those comfortable stinking thoughts also mysteriously creep back into our minds. So, we might need to throw them out more than once.