Sunday, August 24, 2014

Unforced rhythms of grace

Judith Maddock Ferencz, June 2, 2001
“Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.” – Jesus, as quoted in Matthew 11:29 (The Message)
Yesterday was the eleventh anniversary of my sister’s death.
She was only 55. It was totally unexpected.
These things change you. Change the way you think about things. Change the way you live.
I’d been teaching full time and writing part time for a local newspaper for years. With the youngest in college and the older two on their own, now was the time to pursue my dreams.
While teaching was my passion, I wasn’t finding fulfillment in covering school board and county commissioners meetings and election results. And while I loved the camaraderie of the newsroom staff, getting up early Saturday mornings to drive 45 minutes in all kinds of weather to type obituaries wasn’t getting me any closer to my writing goals.
Of course I ignored the signs of dissatisfaction and pushed on. Isn’t that what we’re supposed to do?
Then a post-operative blood clot took the life of my only sister just when we were getting close again. I didn’t even have a chance to say goodbye.
I shivered on the love seat for days, in shock.
Change. It’s foisted on all of us. Whether we welcome it or not.
The key to surviving it is to look to God, knowing He has a plan and purpose for us (Jeremiah 29:11, Psalm 139:16), knowing He takes the rough draft of the chapters of our lives and revises them so they shine (Romans 8:28) and lead to the ending He has planned. And knowing that if we follow our Shepherd, we will arrive at that ending without burning ourselves out.
But I hadn’t been stopping long enough to listen to God.
My sister’s death was a wakeup call—to pause in my headlong rush to fulfill my dreams and be all things to all people, and determine where I was truly headed.
Davis Bunn, in his 40-day devotional “The Turning,” writes, “When we read, we give no notice to the spaces between the words. And yet those pauses are vital. Without them, there is nothing but a senseless jumble. With them, thoughts are unique, words are clear, ideas fashioned, lives transformed. So it is with the brief pauses we make to stop and listen. Our thoughts and actions take on new clarity.”
And so it was for me. If I were to die suddenly in my mid-fifties, I thought, would I have realized my dreams? Within a week, I resigned from the newspaper job.
I still get too busy, lose focus, and drift away from God’s path for me. It’s refreshing to pause, still the clamor of life, rest and recharge spent batteries.
“Are you tired? Worn out?” Jesus says. “Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace” (Matthew 11:28–29, The Message).
I’m a slow learner, Lord. I have to force myself to slow down. Sometimes my body, mind, and spirit are just too exhausted to push on. Remind me often to pause to reflect, rest, and recharge. Amen.

Special-Tea: Read Matthew 11:28-30; Psalm 23
Judi was a gifted classical pianist  (November 1985)


  1. Thank you for this beautiful tribute to your sister Judy and for reminding us to pause and rest. I'm in that place myself right now and it feels good. I too, have a sister I cherish (two of them actually) but the one I'm thinking of right now is three years younger than I and is slowly declining from Multiple System Atrophy for which there is no treatment or cure. We were best buds and shared a room during our growing up years so it is very painful for both of us to see our time of togetherness coming to a close--though we don't when. But we trust God for his timing and the unforced rhythm of his grace throughout the journey.

  2. I'm so sorry to hear about your sister. Karen. This is a difficult time for you, I'm sure. May His blessed peace comfort and sustain you and all who love her.

  3. Michele, a very nice tribute to your sister. Very moving. It touched my heart.