Christian authors are often stuck between a rock and a hard place. We are supposed to promote our books (publishers are sort of unhappy when we don't), but we also want to be humble and never appear self-promoting. Besides that, most of us are introverts who love the quiet space writing affords us, and don't really care much about cavorting with crowds in order to sell our resources. Like I said...a rock and a hard place.
But I have to be really honest with you--I feel like shouting from the rooftops right now about the new updated version of my book The Soul at Rest: A Forty Day Journey into a Life of Prayer. Why? Because I know how it has changed lives. When I rewrote it last year, I was pretty humbled at how poor my writing skills were almost a quarter of a century ago (it was my first book, after all). And yet, it is the one book that has had more of these kinds of responses than any other:
This book turned my life around...
This book is designed to take you on a journey of intimacy with Jesus and that will change anyone's life. So the truth is, even though this feels like a hard place for me, if I don't promote this book, then I'm dishonoring the God who called me and gave me the grace to write it. He so passionately wants intimacy with you that He will use anything to draw you to himself!
Therefore, I'm going to be relentless in trying to get you and everyone I know not only to buy it, but to take the time to actually DO the practices it shows you how to do. I'll even go so far as to offer a guarantee that if you work through the chapters and your life isn't changed, I will personally refund your money.
The most exciting part of this is the new version has a group guide so you don't have to go through it alone! Groups of any size --book clubs, Bible studies, Women's groups, Men's groups, Missional Communities--it is a great way to spend several weeks helping each other grow deeper in intimacy with Jesus. What could be more fulfilling? Let me know if you are going through it--I have a couple of videos to launch and end the 10-week study. (email me for the link at email@example.com)
ORDER YOURS NOW--click here!!! For more information and watch the trailer, click the link at the top where it says "Soul at Rest Book".
In just a few short weeks, the new, revised and updated edition of my very first book, The Soul at Rest: A Forty Day Journey into a Life of Prayer will be released. I am so excited about this, it keeps me awake at night! So I am here asking for your help. I need everyone I know to help me get the word out about this book, because I know it changes lives--thousands of people developed a deeper relationship with Jesus through the first edition and I believe this one, with the small group guide, will impact even more. Here's what you need to know:
Who can apply for the Launch Team? Ask yourself these questions:
Launch Team Benefits (What you’ll get from me)
Launch Team Requirements (What I need from you):
I WOULD TRULY LOVE TO HAVE YOU ON MY TEAM--AND I'M NOT KIDDING!
I've been silent around here because technically I'm on a sabbatical. Watch the video below to find out how that's going for me. Then scroll to the bottom for some exciting news!
The new edition of my very first book, The Soul at Rest, will be released this November. While it is still the same book that thousands relied on to help them explore their journey with God, I think this version is so much better. Here are a few changes:
New subtitle: The Soul at Rest: A Forty Day Journey into a Life of Prayer
Billy Graham’s body now lies in the Capitol rotunda, an honor shared by only three others in history. Some of the most powerful people in the world are paying tribute, even as I write this, with their presence and proclamations, all broadcast on a live feed you can follow here. In his life, the evangelist, who once practiced preaching to birds as he sat on a creek in a canoe near his country home, ended up sharing with over 215 million people worldwide, visited with no less than 12 sitting presidents and attended a record-setting number of eight inaugurations. Thousands have already paid their respects, filing by the coffin in his Charlotte home, including former presidents such as George Bush and Bill Clinton, and now thousands more will do so in Washington before the funeral on Saturday. At this moment, President Donald Trump is speaking of how Billy Graham changed our lives and indeed, changed the entire world.
the evangelist, who once practiced preaching to birds as he sat on a creek in a canoe near his country home, ended up sharing with over 215 million people worldwide
I have watched these things with some sadness, but more gratitude, not only for Billy Graham’s ministry, but for the consistency of character he demonstrated, a rare phenomenon, that in this day and time, perhaps speaks louder than his lifetime of powerful sermons. I was privileged to hear Graham at two different stadium events—once as a child and another as an adult, but in this past week, I have been captivated by a video of his “last words” that is circulating in various forms across social media, with this youtube link alone having over two million views. Among other things, he said the following:
Of all the things that I’ve seen and heard, there’s only one message that will change people’s lives and hearts. I want to tell people about the meaning of the cross.
I want to tell people about the meaning of the cross. When I heard that, I wept.
Over a quarter of a century ago, I set out to prepare for Easter by pondering the cross and Jesus’ final days for a month. That journey ended up taking almost a year and I have never been the same. Every year since, I have spent the Lenten season reliving those days with Jesus, meditating on the message of the Cross, being overwhelmed by the paradox of its utter simplicity and profound power.
Every need I have ever faced, every struggle I’ve endured, every painful question I’ve asked, every confusing season I’ve experienced, and every heart wound others inflicted has taken me to Jesus in those final days, where again and again I taste a fellowship of his suffering that soothes and settles and restores my soul like nothing else ever can.
The reality that Jesus paid the price for me to not only experience hope and joy and peace in this world, but to live in His presence for eternity is still an unfathomable mystery to me. In some small measure, I feel I’ve barely begun to understand Paul’s passion to know nothing but Jesus and him crucified.
I want to tell people about the meaning of the cross.
The opening service in the rotunda is ending now, with Michael W. Smith singing the song that invited broken souls to come and receive the gift of new life at every Graham event:
Just as I am without one plea, but that thy blood was shed for me,
And that thou bidst me come to thee, O Lamb of God, I come.
This is the message of the Cross in all its simplicity—we come with nothing in our hands, but the promise that 2000 years ago Jesus died for sinners, the perfect Lamb of God shed his blood so that you and I could come to him. When Billy Graham took his final breath last week, I know he was singing that line--O Lamb of God, I come—with joy inexpressible as he beheld his risen King face to face.
When Billy Graham took his final breath last week, I know he was singing that line--O Lamb of God, I come—with joy inexpressible as he beheld his risen King face to face.
Today and every day, and every minute of the day, I too say, O Lamb of God, I come. Emboldened by the price you paid Jesus, and the righteousness you purchased on my behalf, O Lamb of God I Come. And in my heart of hearts, I hope one day that I too can summarize my entire life’s purpose as Billy Graham did with that one simple line: I want to tell people about the meaning of the cross.
Today is Day 13 of Lent--if you haven't begun focusing on the Cross, you still have 27 more days! Pick up Contemplating the Cross here-click on the book below.
Yesterday I moved my brother’s meager hospital belongings into a different room for the fourth time since he checked into a rehab and skilled nursing facility after a massive stroke in October. They seem to schlep patients around there like pawns, but this time we carried his things to the wing they call custodial, where elderly or disabled people are shuffled off when their mounting needs can no longer be met at home. Most of these residents live their final years there, rarely seeing a visitor. As my brother is only 62, the enormous sadness of it all settled on my 87-year-old mom and me like a shroud. I found myself sitting in the public bathroom crying like a baby, trying to pull myself together. Writing about it now brings me to tears all over again.
My brother, on the other hand, took it all in stride. In fact, he has patiently endured an incredible amount of suffering these past months—left-side paralysis, excruciating nerve pain, invasive stomach-wrenching bacterial infections, painful catheters, careless and insensitive attendants, and mushy meat-like substances served as meals, this as a vegetarian—for starters. Yet through it all, even on his sickest days, he has accepted whatever came with few complaints.
It’s hard to imagine that before this stroke, even the slightest change in his routine could send this guy into high anxiety. Last week a neurologist explained why. The stroke’s effect on my brother’s brain has left him with a condition they call “La Belle Indifference,” which lacks a clear definition, but is described by various experts with words like a naïve lack of emotion…inappropriate calmness…unconcern with symptoms. In general, it means that my brother is far less concerned with his daily condition than the rest of us—there are times he can almost seem indifferent to it all.
La Belle means the beautiful, and that is the paradox.
La Belle means the beautiful and that is the paradox. From the start I have tried to drive my brother to work at his rehabilitation, to do the arduous therapy needed to enable him to come home. But because he doesn’t connect the daily grind with his future, it makes no sense to him to endure the pain that therapy requires. The neurologist told us we shouldn’t even try to get him to connect dots he cannot grasp. I have to say that beautiful sure doesn't describe the way this condition sabotages his recovery. And yet, I have seen beauty.
It was beautiful when a couple of his former nurses came by just to hang out and assure him they would be back to visit. He has endeared himself to them and others simply because he connects so well with the present moment. He knows janitors, aides, therapists, nurses and doctors well enough to ask about their children or their dogs by name, something he never forgets to do, even in his sickest moments. He pats them on the hand, asks to see pictures on their phones, encourages them in their struggles and makes them laugh with his uncanny wit. This altered state, as his wife calls it, is beautiful because he has no fear for his future and no bitterness about the cards he’s been dealt. He seems blissfully unaware of how bad things really are most of the time, and this indifference is a grace, a beautiful grace.
to rest means to learn to sit with the now, and no one does that better than my brother.
I’ve thought a lot about this as I’ve tried to press into my word for the year--rest. As I wrote in my last blog, to rest means to learn to sit with the now, and no one does that better than my brother. Because he cannot connect the present to the future, he has an almost hyper-sensitivity to the now. He sees and hears everything, and is so keenly in tune with people’s emotional needs as a result, that he continually asks discerning questions so he can offer meaningful encouragement. Today I tried to wash his hair, insisting he get into his wheelchair so we could go to the sink. After a harrowing ordeal that nearly left him prostrate on the floor, I reluctantly let the nurse put him back to bed, dirty hair and all. As I left a little a bit later, he took my hand and reassured me, saying: “That was a valiant effort, Tricia.”
I read of one journalist whose husband demonstrated La Belle Indifference in his final weeks, and she described her experience with these words: “It is a phenomenon of naive or inappropriate lack of concern about one’s illness or disability, also called a conversion disorder. I call it heaven.”
I get that now. La Belle Indifference—the beautiful indifference—sitting in the now—rest. I still have a lot to learn, but I know someone who can teach me.
Last week Joe went to Ethiopia and I binge watched three seasons of cooking shows on Netflix and devoured three pints of Haagen-Dazs Vanilla Swiss Almond Ice Cream. That’s just for starters. They say confession is good for the soul, so there you go. Embarrassing? Well, yes, but there was a redemptive quality to my downfall that I hope I can articulate here.
People at times ask me how our transition is going, but as I noted in my last blog, the word God gave me for this year isn’t transition, but rest. How is my rest going? That’s a tricky one. First, I am a planner by nature, hard-wired to envision the future, to lay down tracks for myself and others who might appreciate the guidance. When I’m not planning, I’m looking back, learning from the past so I can regroup to do better next time. But in this moment, there is nothing to plan or organize, no ministries to oversee, no messages to prepare. I am in transition, which seems like a perfect time to rest, right? Not so simple.
The sluggish pace surfaces insecurities about who I am when the doing stops.
Rest, it seems, means learning to sit with the now, to embrace, experience, and enjoy it for all its worth. But something in me resists. The sluggish pace surfaces insecurities about who I am when the doing stops. Empty spaces loom large, like a bottomless pit I must avoid. It’s hard to rest when you’re on the run, even if from your own demons.
The passage on rest that has spoken deeply to me these past few days is a warning the prophet Isaiah gave the Israelites. The story was that Assyria was going to destroy them, and the best outcome they could hope for was years of captivity. Their national identity was about to be obliterated, so it only makes sense they would look for solutions—like getting help from Egypt, Assyria’s enemy. I can imagine how outrageous God’s idea sounded to them: “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” (Isaiah 30:15)
Four simple words: return, rest, quietness, trust—this was their mandate and the one I’m learning to immerse myself in as well. Here’s my paraphrase:
Do you want to experience wholeness? Then for now you must pull away and embrace the quiet. Do you want to become stronger through the struggle? Then you must learn to embrace the sobering stillness, and put your confidence in me alone.
So, while my default is to pack every minute I can with busywork, to prop up my identity with productivity, God is calling me instead to sit with the now...
So, while my default is to pack every minute I can with busywork, to prop up my identity with productivity, God is calling me instead to sit with the now, to trust what is rather than what will be, to ignore the niggling doubts about my future and resist the futile assessing of my past. This rest may be the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but in some weird way, I can’t wait to see how it plays out.
More about that later, but first, the back story. Every January I pray for a word or phrase God might want to be my focus for the year. This year I was pretty sure I knew the answer without asking--transition. So many pieces of my life are in upheaval, not the least of which is that Joe and I are letting go of our shepherding role for the church we planted over 36 years ago. We are in what feels like the greatest transition of our lives.
...letting go of our shepherding role for the church we planted over 36 years ago. We are in what feels like the greatest transition of our lives.
But as I prayed, I heard a different word--rest. I resisted—reminding God that this transition is front and center for me every single day, along with all the other changes in my life. Still, I heard rest, so I set out to contemplate that notion, and what it might mean for me in 2018.
There are so many great truths about rest in Scripture, but the one that intrigues me most is the instruction in Hebrews to strive to enter into rest (Hebrews 4:11). This oxymoronic admonition—striving to rest—is where I found myself a few days into 2018.
As I sat with this, the image of swaddling babies came to mind—of how they often resist at first, but once they give into the constriction, they are able to rest. That’s when I began to grasp that for me, rest and transition are synonymous; that this upending of my life is God’s way of wrapping me so tight I have no other choice but to rest.
God is swaddling me with circumstances I cannot control, with a future afloat with uncertainty
God is swaddling me with circumstances I cannot control, with a future afloat with uncertainty, with days and weeks and months of ambiguity ahead, and a sense of loss so profoundly unfamiliar that I cannot find the edges.
Everything in me wants to resist—to throw off these constricting circumstances and return to what is sure, what is known, to a life that I have loved and never really wanted to change. But in resisting, I cannot find rest, so instead I must strive to trust God’s ways—day in and day out, moment by moment.
How is God swaddling you these days? What are the circumstances that constrict you, that threaten your faith, that make you waver in unbelief? What does resisting look like for you? What would it mean to strive for rest? I’d love to hear from you.
The song below is sustaining me with its truth day by day. So thankful to Jason Upton--Click here to get his latest album free and be blessed!!!
READ: LUKE 2: 1-7, ISAIAH 9:6-7, ISAIAH 53:3-11, REVELATION 4:1-11 (CLICK ON VERSES TO READ)
CLICK HERE FOR A FAMILY VERSION OF THIS DEVOTIONAL
CLICK HERE FOR CHILDREN'S ACTIVITY PAGE FOR DEVOTIONAL
Have you ever taken the time to think deeply about what happened when the Almighty entered into the womb of a woman? When the Son of God became the Son of man -- flesh and blood, bones and joints, muscle and sinew? I love the picture Daniel Fuller paints in his book, Unity of the Bible, in which he describes the incarnation as a winding staircase, stretching from the glory of heaven down into a battered and broken planet. While God's redemptive plan was in His heart before the foundation of the world, humankind's first glimpse of it is in the stable that reeked of animal dung and moldy straw, where a newborn babe lay shivering in the chill of night, vulnerable in every possible way.
To me, the most stunning thing about Christ’s descent from glory was His choice to let go of His role in sharing equality with God. Though in essence He retained His Deity, in experience He chose to give up His rights as God, meaning He had to depend upon His heavenly Father for power or wisdom or guidance or even sustenance. What must it have been like for the all-sufficient Son of God to know that in coming to earth He would be at the mercy of weak and sinful human beings? Can you see Him there, standing on that staircase just before the Spirit placed Him in Mary’s womb? What kinds of thoughts went through His mind?
Can you see Him there, standing on that staircase just before the Spirit placed Him in Mary’s womb?
From that manger in Bethlehem, Christ’s descent from glory soon continued. His parents became vagabonds, settling as strangers in a foreign land where their livelihood depended upon Egyptians who probably detested them. Later Mary and Joseph would establish their family in Nazareth, a place of derision for its lack of any distinguishing mark, even among the Jews. As Jesus prepared for public ministry in the wilderness fast, the god of the world He’d come to save taunted Him for His fall from power, daring Him to reclaim His rights as the Almighty. He refused, and the descent went on.
For the next three years the Son of Man sought to do His Father’s will while sleeping in fields and hills, looking to benevolent women for financial support, seeking solace through prayer in the wee hours of His dark and lonely nights. Scorned by heathens, rejected by the religious elite, living under constant threat of death, the drumbeat of descent pounded out its rhythm day after difficult day.
Down and down and down the winding staircase Jesus went, as His closest followers denied and abandoned Him upon His arrest. Then mocked, spat upon, slapped, and scourged to a bloody pulp, He was paraded through the streets like a criminal and hung to die, while His earthly mother looked on in despair. And for six hours on Calvary, the Son of Man descended to the very depths of depravity as He took on the sins of the world, leading to the most painful predicament of all – a severing of relationship with His Father.
We will perhaps only grasp the scope of it when we see Him one day on His throne, radiant in splendor, attended by angels and worshipped by saints from every tribe and tongue.
This is just a smattering of the descent from glory that awaitd the baby Jesus when He entered our world . We will perhaps only grasp the scope of it when we see Him one day on His throne, radiant in splendor, attended by angels and worshipped by saints from every tribe and tongue. But there could be no better time to ponder such a thing than on Christmas Day, as we celebrate our Lord’s birth.
So as we read the Christmas story and exchange our gifts and share our meals, let us take time to remember what it really cost to redeem fallen humankind. May we muse on that manger scene through the prism of glory, where our King reigns over all; His beauty filling the temple of the heavens and splashing out across our world in wonders we are privileged to behold. And as we do, let us bow and worship the One who planned that descent to make us His own long before this world was formed. Worthy are you Oh Lord.
Today is one of celebration, family, sharing, and fellowship. Take a few minutes to give thanks for all of these things as you ponder that staircase. See Jesus going down it step by step. Read the following passage slowly and prayerfully, asking the Spirit to give you fresh revelation of what it meant for Jesus to humble Himself and become a man.
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:6-8)
Now read the rest of the passage, turning into a prayer of praise and worship for the King of kings and Lord of lords whose birth we celebrate today.
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11)
A CHRISTMAS ACTIVITY
Enjoy the day!
READ: LUKE 2:36-38, MATTHEW 5:6, JOHN 6:35 (CLICK ON VERSES TO READ)
Her name was Anna and she was the talk of the town. First there was that temple insanity. Day in and day out she’d practically lived there for as long as anyone could remember. Some claimed her pretense of piety had gone on for decades, ever since her husband died, leaving her a young widow. Praying and fasting, fasting and praying, ignoring priests and prophets, even wellborn Pharisees, who wagged their heads at her foolishness.
And now…well it was beyond belief. Just like that, they say she flew out of the temple laughing like a lunatic, cornering anyone crazy enough to listen to her babbling about some baby destined to be the Messiah. What in the world had gotten into her?
I find the story of Anna fascinating– three short verses that resonate with joy and intrigue. Luke tells us little about this woman he calls a prophetess, except that she’d been widowed at a young age and had given herself to temple prayer and fasting ever since. She was most likely well into her 60’s or 70’s at the time of her encounter with the infant Messiah.
The question that I can’t get away from when I read of this woman’s devotion, is why? What was it that kept Anna coming back day after day, praying… fasting… trusting that what she was doing was not in vain, though it had been centuries since Malachi had uttered the final prophecy about the Christ to come? Perhaps in the beginning it was a way to heal her heart at her husband’s loss, but wouldn’t a year or two have been sufficient to assuage her grief? And surely any ill-placed religious zeal or efforts to earn God’s approval with her piety would have petered out long before as well.
The answer might be found in bit of this woman’s heritage. Anna’s father’s name was Phanuel, derived from the altar Jacob built after wrestling all night with an angel. The name meant I have seen God face to face and I have lived (Genesis 32:30). Because names held great significance in the Hebrew culture, family members would have known well the meaning behind that of their patriarch’s. I can just imagine Phanuel holding little Anna on his lap and telling her the story of their forefather Jacob; of how he wrestled with God all night, refusing to let go until he blessed him. Perhaps Phanuel related the tale to the entire family with great dramatic flair, unfolding the details of the interaction that was so intense it put Jacob’s hip out of joint, causing him to limp for the rest of his life.
I have seen God face to face...and I have lived.
I have seen God face to face and I have lived. The meaning behind Anna's father’s name could well have been a seed that was planted in her young heart, captivating her with the idea that God in heaven sometimes peeled back the veil and allowed mere mortals to encounter Him and be transformed in the process. Perhaps in her most quiet moments as a child, she’d pondered that thought and prayed that one day she too could experience a divine visitation. Then, when she lost her husband at such a young age, her grief may have become like oil thrown upon the flame of desire, igniting her passion to see God like never before.
But what had caused it to continue burning so brightly those tens of years later when Mary and Joseph arrived in the Temple that day? I believe it was because there in the shadow of the holy of holies, Anna had tasted of God’s presence and knew from experience that nothing else would ever satisfy her soul. Her life became a testimony of a paradox all Christ’s lovers eventually learn, which is that we can both hunger for the Bread of Life and be filled by His tender touch, all at the same time. This is, in fact, our very destiny – to be both satisfied and yet driven by desire for more of Him, until the day we too see Jesus face to face.
Her life became a testimony of a paradox all Christ’s lovers eventually learn, which is that we can both hunger for the Bread of Life and be filled by His tender touch, all at the same time.
So as we look at this unique moment in the Christmas narrative, let us remember the woman who wouldn’t let go, the saint whose hunger for God shaped her entire life. May her zeal inspire us with fresh faith once again that God is a rewarder of those who seek Him. And with each foretaste of glory He imparts, let us be reminded that our hunger for Him is a promise of a greater fulfillment yet to come.
Jesus used the words hunger and thirst to describe the condition of our souls without Him. Why are these metaphors so powerful? Have you ever considered that when you feel a dissatisfaction with the fact that God doesn’t seem as near as you’d like, that this is hunger to drive you to Him even more? That He will both fill you and leave you with hunger at the same time?
Write a note to God seeking to describe your own hunger level for Him.
Now write a prayer of affirmation based upon these words of Jesus: He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.
A CHRISTMAS ACTIVITY
As you snack on Christmas goodies and prepare for special meals – shopping, cooking etc. – think about the meaning of food and what Jesus wants it to teach you about His relationship with you.
CLICK HERE FOR A FAMILY VERSION OF THE CHRISTMAS DAY DEVOTIONAL
CLICK HERE FOR COLORING PAGE FOR FAMILY CHRISTMAS DEVOTIONAL.
Contact Tricia here.
Tricia McCary Rhodes
Author of 7 books and a professor for Fuller Theological Seminary, Tricia specializes in helping others experience God’s presence through practicing soul-care.