To Gather Around the Table

To Gather Around the Table

When we sit down next to loved ones and strangers and acquaintances and break bread, we are building love. We are building community.

SELAH // Three Months In

Selah. Pause and praise. Be still and know. Stop, wait, rest, worship.

2015 has been wild so far. Three months in (how...) and I've found myself seeking selah more and more and more. My soul needs it. My heart longs for it. Everything within me yearns to just stop and be still, to pause and to praise.

Schedules are crazy, hours fly by, and the pressure to hurry mounts with each passing second as the stress builds. I don't want that.

I want selah.

Evenings where the to-do list is a mile long, but I know it can wait until morning, so I stand in the front yard just to watch the sunset. Mornings where emails crowd my inbox, begging for my reply,  but I keep the screens off and soak up Scripture instead. Commutes in the car with music just a click of a button away, but instead driving in silence, my heart spilling prayers and worries and wants to my listening Lord.

I want selah.

It's a choice, this selah thing. It's a choice to be still. It's a choice to be silent. It's a choice to worship. It's a choice to find joy. 

I choose selah. I loosen my white-knuckled grip on control. I let go of the tasks and the to-dos. I exhale all the pent-up stress that's kept my breath shallow and shaky.

I choose selah. I sink into the true rest my weary bones desperately need. I let my heartbeat calm, surrendering to its Maker, as I let His words flood me and His mercy comfort me. I let my words be few. I let my spirit soar with His. I choose to pause and praise. I choose selah.

Though the cities will always be chaotic, though people will always hurry, though the world flies by in a mess of noise and motion, creation reflects the Creator. Beautiful. Still. Indescribable. This video shows the contrast wonderfully.

After an exhausting day of nannying combined with stress about deadlines and a dozen things that needed to get done yesterday, this sunset was ahead of me the entire drive home. And instead of worrying about the things I needed to do, instead of stressing, instead of drowning out my thoughts with the latest Mat Kearney album, I drove home in silence, just watching. Just staring at the glory of God on display before me. Just choosing selah.

This playlist was on the top of my Spotify page when I opened it up, and I turned it on as I started to work on some writing and blog updates. I expected songs with lyrics, but there were none. Before long, I felt calm and at peace. Before long, I felt my eyes welling up with tears. The simple melodies were all my soul needed to finally breathe, to finally let go, to finally release. I stopped working and just sat and listened as the music filled the room and filled my heart. Who knew a simple "Stress Relief" playlist could bring such sweet selah?

It helps me to get out of the house, to be in a place where there are people around and the smell of roasting coffee beans and the white noise of conversations and clanking plates. It helps me to change my surroundings. It helps me to sit at a new table, pull out my Bible and journal, and pour my heart out onto paper. For an hour or so before the real work of my day begins, this helps me. Intentionally making an effort to pause. Intentionally making an effort to praise. Intentionally carving out room and choosing to devote my time to selah.

May the next three months (and the rest of this year) be even more devoted to selah. May I choose to pause and choose to praise, no matter what comes. May I choose to make the Lord the focus of my days, today and every day. 

One Year In College vs. One Year Out: How We've Seen Jesus

This post is in collaboration with the wonderful Erica Boden. A few months ago, I got a message through my site from Erica. She told me she had stumbled on my blog and that she loved it. Let me just tell you how absolutely heart-warming it is to hear that from a total stranger-- it absolutely made my day and encouraged my heart so much. Since then, Erica has written for Rethink and become someone I call a friend! I'm so excited to bring you this post written partly by her and partly by me.

After one year at college, how have you seen Jesus move?

Erica Boden  is from Cincinnati, Ohio and is a current student at the University of Alabama. She     loves work-out clothes, breakfast, and flaws. Few things bring her more joy than being able to talk about Jesus with friends, family, and strangers. Proudly Type A, you can catch her blunt and semi-humorous tweets at  @e_bodes .

Erica Boden is from Cincinnati, Ohio and is a current student at the University of Alabama. She loves work-out clothes, breakfast, and flaws. Few things bring her more joy than being able to talk about Jesus with friends, family, and strangers. Proudly Type A, you can catch her blunt and semi-humorous tweets at @e_bodes.

How have I seen Jesus my freshman year? That’s kind of a long list. How have I not seen Jesus my freshman year? Well, that list would be nonexistent.

For starters, I see Jesus in the sky. No, not in the cliché sense of seeing and feeling The Lord physically watching over me, but I see His creation. Being from Cincinnati, it is truly not a myth what you hear about the Alabama skies—sometimes I swear to you Jesus just squeezed an entire bottle of blue food coloring out amongst the clouds.

I see Jesus in the way that my parents let me go to a college eight hours away. I see His grace in the fact that they would love to have me closer, but they trust and care about me enough to know that what’s best for me and my well-being may take precedence over proximity.

I felt God holding me during the first few weeks of confusion. He dried my tears and made me feel less alone, as I sobbed in a dorm room after watching my parents drive away. He made the days easy and the home sickness disperse. He was next to me as I stood there awkwardly when I learned I got 130 new sorority sisters; He reassured me that you do not miss out on the college experience by not going out every night. On the occasions when I did, however, He was supporting me as I turned down drink after drink, half-smiling and acting like I wasn’t drained.

He’s provided people in my life who love Him, challenge me, and inspire my heart. With every leap I took, He met me halfway; every stumble I encountered, He picked me up.

When I was sick and extremely stubborn, I saw Jesus in my friends and the way they forced me to go to the Student Health Center. I saw His truth in their words and the way they shoved me headfirst in their car as I was resisting; I saw His love in the sacrificial way they gave up their Saturday, gas, love and energy for me. Jesus was found in the car rides, late-night ice cream runs, and the “thanks-for-saving-me” moments. His reliance has been found in the way that friends have graciously allowed me to borrow their cars, and His selflessness in the way they spend hours curling my hair and about ten minutes on their own.

When I busted through the office doors crying, Jesus was in the words of my favorite Dean, reassuring me that no one would die if I got a B in a course, and that nothing is ever final until it’s finished.

When Jesus said “It is finished,” you guys, it is finished. Whether it’s my freshman or senior year, my first or last breath, it is finished. Jesus finished it all and that is the truth I rest in and have seen play out, my entire year. Glory to Him for a freshman year that was fulfilling and fantastic.

After one year out of college, how have you seen Jesus move?

Rachel Dawson  is a writer, believer, adventurer and passion-follower. She gets to be an unwavering champion at her day job at  UMFS  and a world-changer with  Rethink Creative Group . She loves taking naps, cooking gluten-free vegan food and constantly doodling.

Rachel Dawson is a writer, believer, adventurer and passion-follower. She gets to be an unwavering champion at her day job at UMFS and a world-changer with Rethink Creative Group. She loves taking naps, cooking gluten-free vegan food and constantly doodling.

When I left the university everyone calls the happiest place on earth a year ahead of schedule, leaving behind a ministry I had absolutely immersed myself in and countless rich and meaningful friendships I had deeply invested in, I wondered how Jesus would top that. I wondered how I would encounter Him more than I did at that school with those people.

I graduated, and I came back to a town I never liked, a town full of ghosts of old memories and broken relationships. I expected to find people I didn't like in the stores I frequented, I expected to get stuck without a job, I expected to never find true friendships. What I didn't expect, though, was to Jesus move like He did.

I've seen Jesus in the loving hands and care of my parents after a big knee surgery, showing me that I'm never alone. I've seen my flesh fail, but I've seen Him remain constant and unfailing. 

I've seen Jesus open doors I had only ever dreamed about, and I've seen Him hold my hand and lead me through them. I've seen Jesus create opportunities for me that I was never even remotely qualified for, and I've seen Him work through my weaknesses and be my strength. 

I've seen Him near me, felt His closeness, and rested in His intimacy as I moved into a new apartment and found how to be independent and rely fully on Him. I've seen Him move in my heart in the stillness and the aloneness. I've seen Him work to create beauty in things that feel a lot like ashes sometimes.

I've seen Him in the beauty of a town I had almost given up on. I've seen Him in the city skyline from the overlook. I've seen Him in the fiery sunsets after a day of clouds and rain. I've seen Him in the buds and blooms and new life sprouting all around me this spring. 

I've seen Him in communities that are different from any I've ever known, but that are also rich with hearts that are seeking and asking and yearning for more. I've seen Him in not just the physical body of the church, but the selfless and authentic living and growing body of the Church. I've seen Him in the attention of those who are older and wiser than me, yet want to pour in to me and walk beside me as I grow.

I've seen Him in the Easter story like I've never seen Him before. I felt more wrecked by the way He sacrificed everything for me on Good Friday, I felt more desire for nearness in the waiting of that Saturday, and I felt more complete joy and total gladness on that glorious Easter Sunday than ever before. I've seen the Spirit make Scripture come to life and my Abba captivate my soul with His truth and love.

Glory to Him for giving undeserved grace and unending love.

We want to hear from you! Comment with how you've seen Jesus move in your own story; we would love to celebrate that with you.

Entering in to the Good Friday Story

When I was a kid, if I did something wrong or broke a rule or said something out of spite and got in trouble for it, I wanted physical punishment. I wanted a spanking with that wooden Home Depot paint stirrer (there in case a necessary situation arose, so my parents would never cause pain with their own hands). I wanted the sting of what I had done wrong to smart and burn on my skin and remind me in the throbbing pain that I deserved that because of what I had done.

I never got that. There were times I would even cry and beg for it, but it never came.

I think about today-- Good Friday-- and I flash back to feeling like I did as a kid. I've done wrong, I've messed up, I've said harsh and ugly things out of spite and pain.

I come into the Good Friday story, and I see myself in the crowd.

I deserve that whip slashing through my skin. I deserve the mockery. I deserve the shame. I deserve the humiliation. I should be the one they're hurling insults at, heaven knows I've given them enough ammo to work with. Every thing they could say, even the very worst, would be true of me, I think. Liar, hypocrite, cheater, sinner. 

I should be the one not only being beaten, but also blindfolded so the agony of not knowing what's coming or when could hurt me too. I deserve the sting of all I've done to smart on my skin.

But it's not me in the middle of the crowd. It's You, Jesus. You, perfect and spotless and blameless and holy, You are taking my place. You wouldn't let me get that pain and punishment I not only deserve, but earned and met all of the requirements for. 

I know all that I've done. I know that sentence is mine and I'm guilty. 

But the eyes aren't on me in this story. Nobody is pointing a finger in my direction, calling me out for the things I've done.

You, Jesus, have intervened. In the middle of this story, my mind wanders as if to a daydream.

You come to me, in the middle of all the chaos. You hold my face gently in your warm hands. You tell me in a voice just above a whisper, Your eyes on mine, that I'm beloved. I'm Yours. You tell me you've come here to protect me, to save me, You won't let me get hurt. You soothe my anxious soul with your sweet words of truth. Tears are in your eyes and mine as You start to unwrap all the burdens strapped to my back, weighing me down. You take them off carefully, one by one, freeing me. When they're all released, You cover me in a blanket that is soft and light and white. I've never felt more seen, more loved, more radiant...pure. I look to You, speechless at how You've just transformed me in that moment, and I'm shocked at what I see.

All the load You just took from my back is now on yours, and it's in the shape of a massive wooden cross. You're doubled over in pain at the weight of it all as You walk from me up to that hill. Blood drips from your back, beads of red on the ground, marking each step You take.

I can barely stand to see what happens next, as I watch You, in all your perfect glory, take my punishment. It's brutal, it's horrible, it's the worst torture I could ever imagine. I'm on my knees, begging and crying for it all to be on me instead-- I deserve it! I earned it!

But at the foot of the cross, You're red and I'm wrapped in white. I'm free of my burdens because You bore them. 

In these hours, I mourn. Tears flow from me as I stare at the immensity of the exchange before me. I'm doubled over in incredulous wonder and unbelievable heartache. How can this be? Why was it not me? Why did He, holy and mighty and everything good, take that on for me?

It's Friday, but Sunday is coming.