The Man with the Tweed Coat

Drying my tears, I stood up. My name had been called. I had been instructed not to cry. It would make everyone else too emotional. It was an unrealistic request under the circumstances, mind you. Why were we afraid to cry, again? Why was it inappropriate? Isn’t that healthy right now? I suppose tears would have only prolonged a moment that everyone wanted to honor and end at the same time. Maybe the thought was the sadness would pass quicker if we simply paid it little attention.

I walked forward. I had been introduced. I was Catherine’s granddaughter, here to read a story I wrote for her before she passed away. Attending her memorial service was a room full of people, most of whom I did not know. Their blue and white hair cast a sobriety to the room of how life is full of stories and short on time. Towards the front sat my entire family, tissues in hand. One look at them and the whole day seemed unreal. Weren’t we all just playing pinochle around Nana’s kitchen table last week? Wasn’t that just the other day that she sang us lullabies to sleep? I’m sure it wasn’t long ago that she tucked us in bed, waved a hand, and said, “See you in the funny papers”? I’m sure her fudge is still in the fridge, and she still has something to tell us about all that’s happening in her “stories”.

Time and illness had worn her down the last time I had seen her. She sat smiling in the wheelchair, always pleased to welcome visitors. This time it was my mother, cousin, and myself she was blessed with. We sat with her as she asked all the questions she normally would about how life was. Then she began to share about her fears of dying; what it would be like, and how much she ached for those who didn’t know the comfort of Jesus. My senses went into overdrive trying to remember everything about that moment, because whether I wanted to believe it or not, I knew this might be the last conversation we’d have on this side of things. Have I mentioned how much I hate cancer, yet? I tried as I could to remind her of the promises of God, to encourage her He was here and there was nothing to be afraid of. I asked her if we could pray for her, and the three of us women laid hands on Nana and prayed -that all the fear and pain would wash away and that Nana would continue to be a light and blessing to all around her. I gave her my book and told her there was a story in it for her, but time and circumstance did not permit me the opportunity to read it to her. (My mom would have that honor later). We rose to leave and I told her, “I’ll see you in the funny papers.” I looked at her as we left the room, and gave her the traditional Rust “oinky-oinky” two-handed wave. We walked down the hall of the nursing wing and by the chapel of the retirement home.

There I stood, a little over a month later, at the front of the chapel, with the book in front of me, opened to her story. I had practiced the night before, after I had collected myself from a waterfall of tears. Interestingly enough, the moment I started practicing, I was overwhelmed with strength – and peace. I hoped the same would happen again. I took a deep breath and started to open my mouth, but emotions met me there. I knew the pastor was about to have a minor coronary – I was losing it, and that was the last thing he wanted anyone to do up front. We were supposed to be cool and collected – demure and efficient. I knew where he was coming from, but I could’ve cared less. Sometimes the heart just needs to leak a little when it aches. I took another deep breath.

“I wrote this story for my grandma,” I began, “It’s a story of how much God loves her.” I knew the story was special, and I knew it wasn’t just for my grandma, and everything in my heart hoped it would do what I felt God might let it do, “I want to share this story today, that you too might know God’s love for you.”

I took another deep breath, “She couldn’t help but dance. Reaching her arms to the left and the right, Fearless twirled with her head thrown back, eyes marveling at the great height of the ceiling.” Strength had found me again. And so had peace and joy. I read the story with every ounce of love and not one tear, much to the pastor’s delight, I’m sure.

I’ve never felt so alive, ironically. One of the joys of my grandma’s story is incased within, is the gospel. Reading her story felt like preaching good news and sharing the deepest part of who I am with people I didn’t know and the people I loved most.

It was the thing I was most afraid to do, to be honest – sharing this story in front of a live audience. They were about to gain entrance to a place in my heart and mind that had been set aside for just me and Him for so long. I suppose you could say when Nana overcame her fear, it opened the door for me to overcome mine.

After the service, our family lined up at the front forming a receiving line. Hand shakes and hugs flowed down the line. I remember looking at each family member, remarking at their strength, tears, and kindness towards Nana’s friends spanning the years.

One gentleman entered the line. He was tallish and lanky. Time had chiseled its marks in his face and weathered away his white hair. He wore a tweed coat, which I will forever remember. His smile beamed as he reached over to give me a hug.

“You are a writer,” he whispered in my ear. He gently unwrapped me from his hug, ”You know that, don’t you?”

I nodded with some assurance.

He repeated himself, hoping I would be fully assured, “You are a writer. Do what you need to do to pay the bills. But you must write. You are a writer.” He smiled once more and he and his tweed coat moved down the line.

I don’t remember his name. But I will forever remember his words. They were a little gift to me that day, in the midst of such sorrow. It was as if the Lord was reminding me to live – to live more bravely than I had dared to before, for writing had always made me feel so alive, but I thought it would be that little hobby I did on the side to amuse myself. And maybe it always will be to a certain extent, but his words felt like a call to come out of hiding a bit – to know that what’s been brewing within is powerful. And hobby or not, it’s who I am, and I must write – for the audience of One or many.

Nana, I’m remembering you today, on your birthday. I thank you for teaching me so much about love and family – about always telling people you’re proud of them and that you love them, and hugging them like it might be your last time. You have done more to change this world than you know (or maybe you already do!) P.S. I’m learning to dance a little. I’m not sure if I’ll ever be as good as you and Paw, but It makes me smile and always think of you.

Miss you still.

Love,

The one growing in courage.

“So courageous, Fearless.” Papa held her face in His hands. “So brave. You were created for this- to dance in freedom and joy atop the waves of life.” He took a step back and grabbed her hand. “This is what I see when I think of you, Fearless – a great dancer, who has learned how to take my hand, and simply dance to the tunes I whistle. There is no other like you.”

Fearless smiled bashfully. “Papa, I haven’t always felt so courageous,” she admitted.

“Sometimes, Fearless, courage is subtle. Sometimes it’s a quiet prayer, a simple knowing, a simple trusting that I am who I say I am, and deciding to dance with me when there are no clear answers. I think you are far braver than you know.”

-“The Dance Card” (Nana’s story), The Invitation

Sneak Peek

I must be in the right place, she thought. The invitation Desired One held in her hands had begun to glow. In front of her was a small stone cathedral nestled in the wood. Upon closer inspection, however, she discovered the building to be equal parts branch and vine and flower. She marveled at the intricate architecture as trees and vines wove elegantly around the stone walls. Above her hung an aromatic display of brightly colored flowers. Desired One brushed the stone work gently with her fingers and pressed her nose amongst the sweet flowering vines, drinking it all in. Holding the invitation to her heart, she sighed, He’s done it again.

– “Tea for Two”, The Invitation

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Rest

My recent blog series from The Daily Fast Fuel.

For years I have been on the hunt. Hebrews 4 alludes to its existence, so I trust it’s real. And yet, I often wonder why it hides away – or where it hides away. Striving I find easily. Rest, however, moves about my life with stealth and agility.

According to “etymological theory”, I should know a thing or two about rest. My last name means “rest”, after all. Well, technically it means “beside a place of rest, or beside an elm tree.” But in pre-colonial German, I can only assume this is what they meant – that place where little German travelers used to kick back while they adjusted their lederhosen and took solace in some shade. And yet, even my heritage has not gifted me with expertise in this area. On the unfortunate contrary, I am an award-winning striver. I wonder if you can identify.

This week we will be taking a spin through God’s word in pursuit of one of His most sought after and mysterious gifts: rest.

Matt 11:28 “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

The Land of Rest

Rest met me at his gate. I rolled down my driver’s side window as he tipped his cowboy hat.

“Howdy, there. Good to have you here.” He welcomed with a toothy grin. “Pull around to the cottage over there. I’ll meet you on the front porch.

I did as instructed and soon met Rest at the cottage. He held a tray with two glasses of ice-cold lemonade and motioned me to sit on the porch swing. Classic. This is the Rest I knew.

“So, I hear you have some questions for me?”

I nodded swallowing a delicious sip of lemonade. “I want to know who you really are – how you really work. “

Rest smiled. I think he was enjoying our visit already. He leaned back in his rocker putting his hands behind his head, “Who I am and how I work, hmm?” He looked out on his land. It appeared to extend endlessly to the left and right of the cottage.

“Is this what you do?” I asked watching him rock, sitting on his front porch sipping lemonade.

“Partly,” he leaned forward folding his hands in his lap. “These are the Sabbath lands, the outer limits of the land of rest. Here you find physical rest. For some it looks like sitting on a front porch sipping lemonade, for others it’s a meal with their family, a nap, sleeping in, a walk through the park… Your Father knows your body needs rest. A people who rest reveal the glory of God.”

“The outer lands?” I questioned looking over my shoulder to more and more land behind us.

“Welcome to the house at the front gate.” He handed me a hat, and motioned to two horses tied up in the field directly left of the house,”Shall we?”

“They must realize that the Sabbath is the Lord’s gift to you.” Exodus 16:29

“Tell the people of Israel: ‘Be careful to keep my Sabbath day, for the Sabbath is a sign of the covenant between me and you from generation to generation. It is given so you may know that I am the Lord, who makes you holy. Exodus 31:13

Ancient Paths

I adjusted my hat to shade my eyes while admiring the fields of rolling grass on either side of us. The land of rest was beautiful. So peaceful. So majestic. The horses came to a halt beside a dry riverbed.

“Here we are,” Rest announced.

“Where are we exactly?” I asked.

“We are drawing closer. We have come inland from the lands of Sabbath – where your body finds rest – to the place where you find rest for your soul.”

Rest dismounted. I followed suit. He walked into the riverbed, hooking his thumbs in his belt loops. “Thus says the LORD,” He began, “Stand by the roads, and look and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls. Jeremiah 6:16.”

I was clueless. What in the world was he talking about?

He looked at me again and instructed, ”Stand by the roads,” he motioned me towards the banks of the old river. “Ask for the ancient paths,” he continued, “where the good way is.”

I shrugged my shoulders, “So, I ask for the ancient path?”

He nodded, “Good, now walk in it.” He pointed to where he stood in the riverbed.

I walked out to meet him. “So, this is the ancient path, then? This riverbed? This is the good way?” I had many questions, though asking them ceased when I felt water begin to flow around my feet. Moments later, Rest and I stood knee deep in a river.

“Out of your mouth will flow rivers of living water,” He explained, “The soul finds its rest in reminding itself of where the water has flowed before- the ancient path – the promises of God and the testimonies of his faithfulness. Here, who He was meets who He is, and reveals who He will always be. The soul, prone to wander and prone to worry, finds rest in standing in and speaking of the tried and true flow of the goodness of God. “

It was still a bit much to get my head around. Rest could see that written on my face.

“Why don’t we follow the river, and see what it reveals?” He invited.

I nodded.


Trading Yokes

I didn’t mind getting wet. It was refreshing under the hot sun. Sloshing through the river with Rest was kind of enchanting really. I mean, how often do you get to do such a thing?

“Rest?” I bid him pause.

“Yes?” He turned.

I reached into my back pocket and pulled out a folded piece of lined paper. “There’s something I need to ask you.”

“Anything.” He smiled.

“Well, there’s this verse.” I unfolded my paper.

He nodded as if he already knew what was coming.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lovely in heart, and you will find rest for you souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matt. 11:28)” I studied the verse on my paper again wondering if the answer might leap out at me under the circumstances, “How is it that His yoke is easy, again?” I shook my head in confusion, “I recall His life and that even the government rests on His shoulders? Just sounds like a little more than I could carry.”

“Who has the easier yoke – the slave or the freeman?” Rest responded.

I could only stare at him in want of an explanation.

“The slave will never find rest. The freeman will have it in abundance, though it comes with great responsibility. Christ came to break the yoke of slavery and invite you to take His yoke – one that simultaneously gives you access to rest and great impact. Following Christ invites rest and peace into your very soul. Slavery invites restlessness. I suppose the question is – which is easier for you to live under?”

I sighed.

Rest gently took my hand and led me on down the river. “There is more to see. We must go deeper.”

The Epicenter

The river flowed into a great lake as if it had done so for ages. Odd, of course, since it only began flowing two (blog) posts ago.

Rest and I made our way toward the bank of the river, finding dry ground to view the scene. Blue skies and gentle breezes soaked my soul with thankfulness for life and breath and good company.

Rest sighed. I grinned.

“This is some land you have here.” I whispered.

“The deeper you go, the better it gets.” He raised his hand and motioned to a large sailboat in the middle of the lake. “The epicenter.”

What was he talking about? I just stared at the boat, watching it careen over the waves in the lake. Though its size was large, its movement in the water was nimble. The large white sails danced with the wind.

“God spoke to Moses, ‘My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.’ (Exodus 33:14). Rest, you see, flows from His presence.”

“He is the epicenter.” I acknowledged.

“Rest for your body, rest for you soul, all of it flows from Him. When you operate from His presence, you are like the boat, posturing yourself to be moved by the unseen power of the Spirit. You must learn how to partner with Him, you must learn how to be with Him through the ebb and flow of life, because He is your source of rest.”

Rest walked towards the lake, “This is where we enter.”

Are we swimming to the boat? I watched Rest continue his pace towards the water. I was filled with so many thoughts and questions I didn’t realize five steps into the water, Rest was actually standing on top of it. My eyes widened.

He turned and held his hand out towards me, “ You can not enter without faith.”

When Strivings Cease

It didn’t take very long to walk to the boat and Rest was kind enough to hold my hand the whole way. Getting into the boat might have been the hardest part, in fact. A leg up and some strained upper body strength then I was on the deck of the boat. Rest spryly made his way up the side and joined me. I looked around curiously. Where is He?

“What are you looking for?” Rest asked.

“Him,” I said plainly, “this is the epicenter, yes?”

Rest nodded and then pointed to a small table by a pair of deck chairs. Atop the table unassumingly sat my Bible, full of random pieces of paper, notes, and old church bulletins like it always is. Interesting. I approached the table and reached for my Bible.

The moment my fingertips touched the cover – the parable vanished.

At once, I was sitting in the brown chair of our sunroom with a Bible open on my lap. The sound of water and sails were gone; the river and lemonade just imprints on my mind. And I sat, as I had begun, staring at Hebrews 4.

“Let us therefore strive to enter that rest… (Hebrews 4:11).”

The great oxymoron. There is a striving in entering into rest. It requires focus and faith – and a renewed mind. Sometimes life is a raging sea and you have to walk on water to find it. Rest, I was finding, was more than kicking my feet up. Rest was being with Him.

Rest was when real striving ceased – the striving to please man or perform or make everyone around me happy. Rest was moving with God and knowing He had already made a way for me to be completely accepted and loved and cared for without my need to achieve anything. Ironically, rest could look every bit as active as striving – moving “great ships in the water”, but operated from a completely different motivation of the heart.

Rest was a welcome companion and a knowledgeable guide. I had enjoyed our journey together. But I was most thankful that pursuing Rest had led me right where I needed to be –to the presence of the King.