This is not my day: on pausing to pour the oil

olive oil

“Then Moses took the anointing oil and anointed the Tabernacle and everything in it, making them holy…then he poured some of the anointing oil on Aaron’s head, anointing him and making him holy for his work.”

Leviticus 8:10-12


Moses walked through the Sanctuary spilling out oil to signify that each place, each item was set apart to God: special and holy and marked for His use and His purposes. He offered each carefully crafted article to God’s service and worship and thus they transformed from common to holy.

Oil slid over the surface of the altar, the tools, the washbasin, the washbasin stand, and finally, it trickled down the face, neck, and chest of a man.

Moses took the time to label with oil all that was sacred, and he included Aaron.

Every morning, as I wake up and decide to how to order my day, a battle takes place between my craving for self-sufficiency and the call to surrender.

God once asked ancient Israel to give to Him the “first fruits,” (AKA the very first and very best fruit of the harvest), as a way of recognizing that He had provided for them, and He would continue to meet their needs, even if they gave up the best of the harvest when they were tempted to keep it for themselves. In the same way, I have been challenged to lay down what “must” be done and submit my “first fruits,” the “first time” of my day to His agenda, instead of my own. And His agenda holds a lot more “wait” and “be still” than mine does.

I can launch into my day, chasing after the desire to get things done! I can try to force my day into submission and spend the entire twenty-four hours trailing behind and lugging a hefty list of all I am trying to squeeze in. I can scurry along frantic under the massive weight of how to manage and control and plan for all of my responsibilities.

Or, like Moses in the tabernacle, I can pause and mark my time, my day, my resources, and myself as belonging to God and set apart for His purposes. I can surrender it to Him and find myself breathing easy, ahead of my day, taking it as it comes and trusting that someone way smarter than me is running this thing and I’m going to end up where I need to be.

This does not come naturally for me. Hurry is my theme song and stress is my default. I don’t ever wake up NOT needing re-orientation.

This first stopping, right at the start, even while urgent tasks fight for my attention, this Sabbath in my morning, acknowledges that this is the day that the Lord has made, and it is holy. It helps me to shift into step with His plan instead of straining after mine. It reminds me that I am HIS workmanship, created for good things, and good things are in store, even if I can’t guess or plan for what they are.

And my soul feels sorely the restlessness when the pause is missing.

I can choose to skip meals because I just don’t have time, or I can choose to MAKE THE TIME for a lunch break, because I NEED TO EAT. I can choose to skip the pause because I just don’t have time, or I can choose to MAKE TIME for the quiet, because MY SOUL NEEDS HIM. Anxiety, disillusionment, overload, and burnout are the predictable hunger pangs of the soul that let me know I have gone too long without pause. It is not a side-ritual to squeeze into my spare time, it is a daily rhythm, and I must decide to protect its place. I must pause to pour the oil.


Like smooth oil slowly claiming every inch of the High Priest, may this time before you, this first pause of the day be my way of allowing you to re-claim my heart.

I am yours.

I am set apart for your purposes.

I am specially made for your worship.

And this is not my day. It is yours.

This is not my time, my money, my energy, my gifting. I am not cast by myself into the world to come up with where I will go and what I will be on my own. I have a Good Shepherd.

I belong to you. I am holy unto you.

And this morning, I see it.

Help me, Lord, to rest in your leading, and not to take off on my own as I try to manage this day. Help me to stop, even as I’m just beginning, to think on you and let your truth trickle over my face, my neck, my chest, transforming me again, renewing how I think.

Every single morning, I need the re-orientation. The permission to pause in the silence. The slow, cool, sensation of oil spilling over the sacred.


And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”

Romans 12:1-2

The Roses Must Die: on people-pleasing and choosing empty ground


“Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu…disobeyed the Lord by burning the wrong kind of fire, different than He had commanded…and they died before the Lord…And Aaron was silent.

Moses then asked them what had happened…“Why didn’t you eat…? He demanded.

…Then Aaron answered Moses, “…If I had eaten the people’s sin offering on such a tragic day as this, would the Lord have been pleased?” And when Moses heard this, he was satisfied.

Leviticus 10excerpts

Aaron didn’t eat that day. He was silent at the death of his sons. He didn’t tear his clothes or run away. He and his other sons completed the offerings and carried on. But when Moses challenged him for not eating, Aaron spoke.

The sacrifices are done. The instructions have been obeyed. But on a day like this, would it REALLY please the Lord for me to eat as if nothing has happened??

And Moses was satisfied.

God wanted Aaron’s obedience, regardless, but it does not please Him to pretend. It is the same with me. God wants my obedience, but He does not want my lies. And I am treading water between the two, finally sorting out what in my life has been an act; trying to be honest with Him, with myself.

There is a real tension to work through: God asks that I submit to His instructions, even as he invites me to pour out my heart to Him.  He teaches me to be holy. He asks me to tell it like it is when my heart is full of unholy. He asks that I obey, but He does not ask me to pretend.

I can claim the dignity of real reactions to the hard stuff, the irritations, the discouraging, but I cannot ignore His claim on me. I am not supposed to ignore my feelings, but I am not supposed to run wild after them either. And this tension is front and center in my interactions with other people.

So here I am, caught between:

“…Let everything you say be good and helpful so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.”   –Ephesians 4:29


“Obviously, I am not trying to win the approval of people…”    Galatians 1:10

Don’t try to get people’s approval, but do use EVERYTHING you say to encourage them. Don’t let them rule you, but DO choose to serve them. The line is almost invisible, and I am the pendulum between.

Here is my litmus test: Who is it I look to when I ask “did that go okay?”

Is it Him, or is it someone else?

Paul finishes Galatians 1:10 with: “I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant.”



Where people-pleasing inhabits my way of life, there’s an issue. Those ways are an act, where I push down what I really think and try to meet all the heavy expectations out there. Those ways prevent and distract me from being fully your servant. Those ways must die.

But, Lord, I must look to you to bring life through the disrupted soil I leave in place of those ways when uproot them. People-pleasing is a thornbush, but it is still prettier than what is left when I rip it out. And I sit, exhausted from the effort of pulling and pulling at this area. I stare at the fractured ground and think

Oh no, oh no, what have I done! What if I needed that? What if some part of that kept me in check and made me a better person?? What will I become now?

That’s how I feel: gritty, abrasive, unkind, uncaring, dry, cracked, where once there stood a prize-winning rose. But I am not the domesticated, predictable and perfectly-shaped blossom bred by man to look “just so” on a Homes & Gardens magazine cover. I am the rich and stunning life of cascading wildflowers sweeping over grassy hillsides and tousled in the wind. I have always preferred the gardening of God. So the roses must die.

Help me, Lord, to be patient with your process in my own life, as I wait, teeth clenched, pacing nervously, scanning for something to break through the surface in the space I have held for it.

Grow your sincere kindness in me, Lord, to replace the pretending. Help me to end this show where I do what’s expected of me with a painted-on smile and a restless heart. Teach me to give you room to garden as you see fit, to pull out whatever you choose, no matter how carefully I have tended it, and to water even the seemingly empty ground, as ugly and undeserving as it seems.

I cannot grow what I want to see in my life, but it flows from you without pretending. So help me to stay and to water and to watch what will break through. Your beautiful life is forming here.

So displace my pretending

and help me wait

for grace and truth to grow.