©2017 Lynn Abbott
Each holiday season, I long to paint Norman Rockwell settings: brightly festooned, Christmas trees; beautiful bedecked and holly laden mantles; candles lighting snow-smothered paths; and the jing-jangling of sleigh bells…
Such traditions delineate picture perfect days.
My life? Not so much. Yet, I give it my feeble best.
You’d think I’d learn.
However, like a modern-day Don Quixote, I stubbornly persist.
You betcha. My family will attest; I transform into a Holiday Tasmanian devil, spinning wildly as I attempt to recreate every holiday tradition.
Quite honestly? I’ve never been particularly good at juggling.
And so it was…
One fateful evening, I felt especially rushed. An upcoming deadline for a landscape painting had consumed my time that day, and dinnertime caught me unprepared.
I juggle a large number of holiday platters.
Yet, in the spirit of all things Martha Stewart, I threw together a pot of homemade, cream of tomato soup and set it on my gas range. As dinner simmered, I put a few finishing touches on my landscape.
I felt confident. After all, with the exception of one multi-tasking mishap (I had absent-mindedly dipped a pigment-filled paintbrush in my teacup instead of my paint bucket), I had escaped my usual disasters.
Given the lateness of the hour, I decided to streamline meal preparation and to eliminate one step in my “gourmet” ritual. With cheese grater in hand, I stood tippy-toe over a pot of soup.
As the sharp cheddar flakes fluttered from grater to the bubbling tomato base, I suddenly asked, “What’s that smell?”
“It smells as though something is burning,”I added, to no one in particular.
As I put the grater down, I discovered the source of the malodorous affront. My baggy, favorite sweatshirt smoldered.
Indeed, the flames were growing by the moment.
Apparently, I had leaned rather too closely to the open gas flame.
“Oh, help,” I whimpered rather piteously. “Oh, dear. Oh, help.”
“What is it?” said my son, finally looking up from the computer. With two sparse words, he assessed the situation: “Not Again…”
He rolled his eyes, and then, launched his holiday homily.
He recounted all my epic kitchen fails–my close encounters with gas flames–and he finally concluded, “You shouldn’t hurry, Mom. You’re no good at multitasking. It always ends in disaster.”
“What’s that smell?” I said to no one in particular. “It smells as though something is burning.”
I had no time to consider his wise words. Instead, I madly dashed for the kitchen sink.
In a matter of moments, while my son pontificated so articulately, I successfully doused myself and the kitchen floor…
And lived to see another day.
That’s right. Consumed with frantic activity, my days from November through December nearly go up in flames.
In fact, I have learned that the busier I become, the more prayer becomes a necessity… for the sake of my family’s safety.
Nevertheless, if truth be told, I must admit that I often put off time with Abba when I get overly focused on my “to-do” list.
Thus, the necessity of a good fire-extinguisher in my kitchen.
But my Savior teaches a better way… After all, if anyone ever had a massive “to-do” list and limited time, it was Christ.
Enormous crowds demanded Christ’s time. Human hearts desired comfort, broken bodies needed redemption, and souls longed for God.
Yet, He took time away to sit with His Father. For example, I read in Mark 6:46 that after feeding the five thousand, Jesus sent his disciples to Bethsaida by boat.
Mark significantly writes, “After leaving them, He went up on a mountainside to pray.”
Even as the tasks increased, Christ did not neglect time with His Father.
It seems counter-intuitive, doesn’t it? To set aside quiet time during an extremely busy season runs contrary to human reason.
“I don’t have time for that today,” I frequently tell myself.
Yet, in the midst of frenetic activity, human need for God is all the greater.
Jesus, God incarnate, knew this to be true not only for himself but also for us. Just prior to feeding the five thousand, He invited His disciples to “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest,” (Mark 6:30).
With such an incredibly vast ministry to fit into three short years, Christ certainly could have justified working ’round the clock.
Yes, Abba knows us. He understands that we fray around the edges if we neglect our time with Him.
In fact, without Him, my life can easily devolve into a simple list of traditions, obligations and “must do’s.”
I forget that without Christ’s strength, my human efforts invariably go up in flames.
Grace, however, offers another way: a relationship with the Father supersedes and ultimately frees me from platter juggling.
Instead, He calls, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls,” (Matt. 11:28-29).
Like a weary Elijah, I unload my cares before my loving and compassionate Father. I imagine He smiles tenderly when I echo Elijah, “I have had enough, Lord,” (1 Kings 19:3b).
Abba is like that. He gives grace upon grace.
In fact, when Elijah awakened from well-earned sleep after the victory on Mt. Carmel, an angel provided him nourishment.
Then, scripture records an event that captures the tenderness and grace that God offers His children.
In the midst of frenetic activity, human need for God is all the greater.
You see, Elijah was not reprimanded for his weariness nor was he scolded for his complaints. Rather, God met him where he was.
Just outside the mountainside cave where Elijah hid from his enemies, a mighty wind passed; an earthquake and fire followed.
Yet, God did not speak to Elijah through the wind, earthquake, or fire.
Instead, a gentle whisper restored Elijah’s weary soul (1 Kings 19:12). And God provided for His prophet, rest and support for the remainder of Elijah’s journey.
Abba’s yoke is that of grace.
Yes, in the quiet, Elijah heard Abba’s gentle and compassionate whisper. In the stillness, the child finds God’s gracious plan.
For this reason, when tasks and responsibilities overwhelm, I run to the heavenly throne room and climb into Abba’s lap. I give Him my Christmas lists.
Abba’s yoke is that of grace.
He transforms tasks into treasured time.
And that is why–no matter what the season–I have found that still moments with my heavenly Father are an absolute necessity.
“Commit your way to the LORD; trust in Him and He will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of our cause like the noonday sun. Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for Him…” ~Psalm 37:5-7a