O Day of Rest and Gladness

This hymn was written in 1862 by Christopher Wordsworth, nephew of the well-known poet William Wordsworth.  The author originally called it simply, “Sunday.”

One Sunday morning there was a visitor to the home of Bishop Wordsworth, a man who was to lead the service in church that day. Wordsworth put his arm around him and said, “Come upstairs with me. The ladies are going to sing a hymn to encourage you in your labour for the day.” So he went, and heard this hymn, copied on slips of paper. He didn’t know until days later that Christopher Wordsworth had written it himself.


More Rest In Nature + English Major Moment!

To see a world in a grain of sand, And a heaven in a wild flower, Hold infinity in the palm of your hand, And eternity in an hour.                                                                                                                                 From Auguries of Innocence by William Blake

Resting In Nature

Psalm 19

For the director of music. A psalm of David.

The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.
In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.
It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,
like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
It rises at one end of the heavens
and makes its circuit to the other;
nothing is deprived of its warmth

Some people feel God most strongly in the beauty of His creation.  The mountains, the ocean, the night sky — these things speak to us of the greatness of God, and the smallness of mankind.   When we lose ourselves in nature, we feel surrounded by God’s power and we can rest in it.  There is a feeling of safety and protection.  The Ruler of the Universe, the One Who made everything is in control.  We don’t have to worry.

Last week my husband and I went on a road trip.  We drove the entire Skyline Drive, something we had never done before.  I’m not really a mountain person (I prefer the beach) and I don’t usually enjoy “taking a ride” for relaxation,  but I decided this was going to be a time of rest;  not just a rest from the daily routine, but a rest in the wonders of God’s world.  Usually I read in the car, but this time I deliberately used the time to LOOK.  When you do this, you find God all around.  He’s in the deep dark night and the sunrise;  in the dappled red and gold foliage;  in the deer and the squirrels and the people admiring it all.  You just have to slow down and pay attention.

In the book of Romans, the apostle Paul tells us:

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. Romans 1:18-20

There is no excuse.  God has made Himself plain to everyone.  You can see Him in His creation.  You don’t have to drive the Skyline Drive or travel to the beach– you can walk around your neighborhood, or go to the park.  You can step outside at daybreak or sunset.  Then just LOOK — and know that you can rest in Him.



Final Rest

I’ve read several different stories about the origin of the song, Taps, but all agree that it was composed during the Civil War, about 1862.  It has become a standard at military funeral when the haunting melody is traditionally played by one bugler or trumpeter. It is also played at dusk and for flag ceremonies.

And Then There are Pilgrimages …..

Writing about retreats reminded me of another way to “rest with God.”  A pilgrimage. Have you thought of yourself as a pilgrim?  Well it’s a common idea in Christianity and other religions as well.

A pilgrim  is a traveler  who is on journey to a holy place. Typically, this is a physical journey or pilgrimage (often on foot) to some place of special significance to the adherent of a particular religion. In the spiritual literature of Christianity, the concept of pilgrim and pilgrimage may refer to the experience of physical life (considered as a period of exile) or to the inner path of the pilgrim  from a state of wretchedness to a state of beatitude.

Pilgrimages were common in the middle ages.  Remember The Canterbury Tales by Chaucer? (well if you’re an English major you do).  These pilgrims were bound for Canterbury to the Shrine of Thomas a Becket, a Christian martyr.  Today a famous pilgrimage site is the Camino de Santiago in Spain, where thousands of pilgrims each year walk to the Shrine of St. James.

Pilgrimages, like retreats, offer a break or rest from day to day life.  Often they are made with traveling companions who, like Chaucer’s pilgrims, share stories and testimonies.  Just spending time walking is a way of slowing down and relaxing.  Taking the time to listen to those we’ve never met is rare in everyday life.

You don’t have to travel to Spain or England to make a pilgrimage, and you don’t have to go with a large group.  If you are on vacation, or even in your home town, study the area and select a church or another place with religious experience.  Go to visit, walk around.  Speak with others who are there, or tour guides who know about the location.  When my husband and I went to visit friends in South Carolina, they took us to one of the oldest churches in that area.  The church was open, and we spoke with some current members who were there as hosts.  We learned about its’ history.  It was a sort of pilgrimage.

Another way to go on a pilgrimage is to walk a labyrinth.  While some think this is a new age fad, it is actually an ancient Christian tradition.  The most famous is in the Cathedral of Chartres in France.  Unlike a maze, a labyrinth has one winding path that takes you to the center and then back out again.  It was considered a substitute for those who could not make an actual pilgrimage.  Walking a labyrinth is calming and meditative.  I have done this a number of times and would recommend it as an occasional spiritual exercise.  See if there’s one in your area.  The last one I walked was in Brookgreen Gardens in South Carolina.  Sometimes churches will have these, as well.

My point is — get creative with rest!  You can go on retreat, walk a labyrinth, take a pilgrimage.  You can create your own spiritual adventure.  Rest takes many forms, so try new things and find what works for you.  Just make sure your rest is the kind that renews you spiritually as well as physically.

God loves you and so do I!



A Poem on Rest by George Herbert

The Pulley

When God first made man,                                                                                                   Having a glass of blessings standing by,                                                                      “Let us”, said he, “pour on him all we can.                                                                     Let the world’s riches, which dispersed lie,                                                                   Contract into a span.”

So strength first made a way;
Then beauty flowed, then wisdom, honour, pleasure.
When almost all was out, God made a stay,
Perceiving that, alone of all his treasure,
Rest in the bottom lay.
“For if I should,” said he,
“Bestow this jewel also on my creature,
He would adore my gifts instead of me,
And rest in Nature, not the God of Nature;
So both should losers be.
“Yet let him keep the rest,
But keep them with repining restlessness;
Let him be rich and weary, that at least,
If goodness lead him not, yet weariness
May toss him to my breast.”
by George Herbert
For more poems by George Herbert go to these posts:

And Speaking of Retreats …..

“To be on a Pilgrimage is to go through Christ to the Father under the impulse of the Holy Spirit, bringing others along with you.”

The quote above is on the first page of Pilgrim’s Guide which you will receive if you attend a Lutheran Via de Cristo Weekend.  While some retreats are quiet, maybe even silent, this one is very social.  There is singing, group discussion, and sometimes even skits and jokes.  It is definitely about Christian community and being with others.  If you’re an introvert like I am, it’s doesn’t seem particularly restful.

My husband and I made our original weekends in 1990.  Recently I was part of a group of cursillistas (this is the term for someone who has made a cursillo, or 3 day retreat of this kind — the movement originated in Spain and so many of the words used are Spanish) who showed up to help with a weekend retreat in progress.  I got to see some “significant others” from my past Christian walk, others who “came along with me.”

I’ve heard it said that every Christian needs a Paul (mentor), a Barnabas (peer/encourager) and a Timothy (someone to mentor) in their lives.  The first person I ran into was Doris — Doris is older than I am, and a Christian I have always admired her calmness, good judgement and maturity.  Definitely a Paul.  Then I saw Mary.  Mary and I are close to the same age, and our children grew up in the church together.  We shared so many experiences as we matured spiritually and became leaders in the congregation.  Mary is a Barnabas.  Finally, at the end of the evening, I got a hug from Amy, Mary’s daughter.  “My mentor” she exclaimed as we embraced.  Wow!  I never knew Amy thought of me that way.  I guess she’s my Timothy.

While helping with the weekend was not a traditional “rest” experience, it was rejuvenating to reconnect with others who have influenced my life, and who have been influenced by me. It’s a way of taking a break from the day to day and gaining some perspective by looking back.  We don’t always see what’s being accomplished while we’re in the midst of things, but God is always at work.  Whether you’re resting or relaxing, on retreat or celebrating the sabbath, remember to take someone along with you.  We’re not meant to journey alone.

For more on Via de Cristo see these posts:

Persevere Upward

A Prayer of Personal Dedication (Obedience)

My Via de Cristo Experience

Come Away and Rest

The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” Mark 6:30-31

Sometimes stopping our usual activities for an hour or even a day just doesn’t cut it.  Sometimes we need a complete change of scenery to really rest and renew our energy.  This was the case in the verses above.  The apostles had been sent out by Jesus to do his work.  They preached, drove out demons and healed.  They traveled, staying with different people in every town.  When they returned, so many people were coming and going around them they didn’t have time to eat.  They were no doubt exhausted.  Jesus instructs them to come with him to a quiet place, a place that is “remote” so they can rest.

Have you ever done this?  Today we would probably call this sort of rest a retreat.  It isn’t just a vacation, because Jesus doesn’t say — let’s each go off to our favorite spot and engage in the activities we most enjoy.  We’ll meet up again after some R&R.   He says, come with me.  A retreat is a time of rest with Christ.  Like the Sabbath, it is a way to reset and refocus our attention on the One who matters most.  The apostles has been busy doing God’s work, but they needed to sit still and remember why they were doing that work and Who they were doing it for.  All of us can benefit from this sort of periodic rest to renew us in our Christian walk.

There are different sorts of retreats.  I have been on Marriage and Engaged Encounter Retreats, Via de Cristo Retreats, silent retreats and retreats for Pastors and their wives.  Each one is different.  Some are quiet, others are very social.  They all have two things in common:  a removal from daily life and surroundings, and a program that puts Christ at the center.

If you haven’t made a retreat you might want to give it a try.  Look for retreat centers in your area;  find an organization such as Via de Cristo that sponsors retreats;  make your own retreat by going away to a “quiet place” where you can pray, read the Bible and be along with God.  You won’t regret the time you spend with Him.


What is Sabbath for you?

Then he (Jesus) said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. Mark 2:27

The verse above is a response given by Jesus when the Pharisees accused his disciples of doing what was “unlawful” on the Sabbath.  Their offense was plucking heads of grain (technically harvesting), and this was considered work and forbidden.  However, Jesus reminds his listeners that the Sabbath was created for the benefit of humankind — the many rules and regulations were added later by men in an attempt to define what a day of rest should mean.

The word Sabbath literally means “to cease.”  You might think of it as a sort of reset button.  Just as your computer sometimes freezes up and needs to shut down and be restarted, humans need a cue to stop and refocus.  The demands of weekly living pile up– we become overwhelmed and distracted.  We need to reboot and get our focus back, and that focus should be on God, the One who created and sustains us.

Naturally that means a Sabbath should include worship.  What kind of worship is up to you.  I’m a liturgical person, but not everyone is.  Maybe the worship style that suits you is more contemporary.  It really doesn’t matter, as long as it slows you down and puts God back in His proper position in your life.  Afterwards, well, once again, we relax and recharge in different ways.  I like to curl up with a good book, but for some people that’s “work.”  I have friends who find it relaxing to garden, but that’s a chore to me.  Some might enjoy going hiking, where they see God in the beauty of creation;  others feel their heart soaring when they listen to music.  Maybe you just want to cook and enjoy a wonderful meal with friends or family.  God made each of us differently, and it’s okay to enjoy the Sabbath rest in our own way.  Maybe your weekly Sabbath can’t even occur on Sunday.  That’s okay too.

God doesn’t need anything from us.  He’s God, after all.  It’s we who need to stop, to worship, to rest and remember why we’re here and to whom we belong.  Don’t neglect the Sabbath.  It’s a gift from God and he created it just for you!

For more on the Sabbath see this post:

Martin Luther on the Sabbath

Martin Luther on Fasting

Of fasting I say this: It is right to fast frequently in order to subdue and control the body. For when the stomach is full, the body does not serve for preaching, for praying, for studying, or for doing anything else that is good. Under such circumstances God’s Word cannot remain. But one should not fast with a view to meriting something by it as by a good work. (SL 19, 1017)

No commandment of the Church, no law of any order, can enhance the value of fasting, watching, and labor as means of re- pressing or mortifying the flesh and its lusts. . . . For the body is not given us for us to kill its natural life and work but merely to kill its wantonness. . . . On the other hand, care must be taken lest a lazy indifference to such suppression of the flesh grow out of this freedom; for the roguish Adam is exceedingly tricky in pleading the ruin of body and mind (as a reason for indulging his wanton desires). (SL 10, 1353f)

From Luther’s Works, St. Louis edition

My earlier post on fasting, encouraged me to look up what Martin Luther said about the topic. For what Luther said on other topics see these posts:

Martin Luther on Serving Others

Martin Luther on Married Love

Martin Luther on Growing Our Gifts