God in the Yard

This post will begin a sporadic series on a book I’m reading that is changing my life. I will post my discoveries as I process them. This is not a book review, per se, but perhaps a book invitation…
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In January of this year I felt God telling me to think about slowing down and Sabbathing more.  About being purposeful in my restfulness in Him.

I ordered a book, God in the Yard by Laura Barkat (TSPoetry Press) for this purpose; she graciously sent me a signed copy (and a pressed fern leaf from her yard.)

I’ll admit I was wary–“Spiritual Practice for the Rest of us” is the subtitle.  The words ‘A 12 week course in discovery and playing towards God’ grace the bottom of the cover.  

The phrase ‘Spiritual Practice’ conjured up ‘hard work’ in my mind. 
I put off reading it as long as possible.
Twelve weeks is like 3 months. I have a full time job.  I don’t have ‘extra time’ to go sit in the yard and listen for God.
But a still small voice said ‘just begin’, so I dove in.
It occurred to me while I can’t take an hour every day to stop and sit, I can stitch together fifteen minutes here and 30 minutes there. I could seek to build a place for a Sabbath rest and wait for God. So I’m stitching together my Sabbaths.
It is a brave adventure, this.  Committing to just sit outside and Do Nothing. 

In my mind, ‘spiritual practice’ is Bible reading, Scripture memorization, prayer, journaling. Something purposeful, planned, contained…you know, disciplined.

To give you somehow idea of how frenetic a pace in which I process things, the date I have next to Chapter One in the Table of Contents is January 19th, 2013.
The date I have next to Chapter Two is January 20th…..
Yes, I went through a week in a day.
Do you think I might be speeding through things a wee bit?
Like maybe I should slow down?
This ‘spiritual practice’ is turning out much different than I expected.
Instead of me feeling pressured to produce something–I’m finding joy in the discipline of letting go and receiving.
Learning to stop, look and listen.  For God. 
I am learning to rest more in the realization of wonder right in front of me.

God’s timing is perfect in all of this.  Barkat mentions the idea of God as a  ‘divine librarian’ orchestrating the volumes we find on our shelves to speak or sing a song to us just when we need it.

“Saying, ‘I ordered,’ implies some kind of control. But I have doubts. (The) book arrived in my life with rather suspicious timing.  This suggests there is a divine librarian who puts things on hold at the library, for people who need a particular book at a particular time.” (Ch. One, ‘Invitation’, p.3).
Barkat’s chapter prompts have questions that surprise me when I commit my answers to paper.  She encourages the reader to take a ‘Sabbath on the page’ as often as possible throughout the week and just free write.  The ‘free’ part of that originally left me unsettled—”wow, where could that lead, without any direction? Doesn’t sound very disciplined to me,” I thought.

Here is a discovery I made via the ‘And you?’ questions in the first chapter.

 “I shouldn’t bother with 12 weeks of this because….”
“No. 1, I’m afraid I won’t follow through and God will be mad at me and 
no. 2, ‘just chilling’ isn’t very spiritual.”

I think there are a couple of keys right there about how God might want to change up my thinking. Hmmm?

Forcing myself to sit and look and listen has focused my observation on things I’ve never noticed. Phrases, pictures, words I didn’t know I had in me are welling to the surface. As I stare out at the greening world before me, parked in my chair on the deck, I’ve noticed all kinds of things:  the palette of greens (there are over 10 in the trees and shrubs within view).
I’ve wondered all kinds of things: Why do trees’ branches grow up?  Where do the birds hide in the rain?
I’ve thought all kinds of God thoughts: No wonder He wants us to get outside and play–look at this world He’s made!

In Chapter One, Barkat shares this quote, via another writer, ‘Your well (of your soul)contains the true end of the poem, and you simply won’t know it until your creativity draws it up….’
I have been pleasantly surprised when I take the leap (well, sit) and look and listen that observations just flow. I’m capturing words I know come from somewhere else, and the release of them seems to happen when I pick up my pencil and commit thoughts to paper.

Is my pencil the rope and pulley that brings the thoughts to the surface?
I have been building a temple, a place for contemplation, and I long for my appointments with God each day.

Stitching together my Sabbaths to sit, rest, receive is becoming a practice I look forward to, a discipline that is refreshing and completing me.

How about you? How is God refreshing you in your life?
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Linking with 
Michelle 
Laura 
Jen 
and Soli Deo Gloria
(And grateful to Shelly Miller for stirring things up.)
More blessed words in each of those places.

21 thoughts on “God in the Yard

  1. Okay, that is it, I am getting this book. Love the way her words have shaped and changed you, caused you to think differently. Thanks for linking up with BibleDude this week Jody.

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  2. Did you know that Playdates with God emerged out of my time with Laura's God in the Yard? Such a wonderful book. I'm excited to see what God does with your time of reading it, Jodi.

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  3. “Just chilling isn't very spiritual.” Loved that!

    I loved this book. Reading it really helped me begin to think about and see things differently. I love the playfulness of it. It cracked me up thinking about you making a schedule for yourself–I tend to do the very same things. One of the things I loved about the book was Barkat's sense of playfulness, the suggestion that maybe we don't have to be so serious all the time.

    Look forward to hearing more thoughts as you go.

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  4. love, love, love this post, Jody.
    i'm all about listening as worship. sometimes we miss so much by our addiction to over-production, i think.
    thanks for sharing at BibleDude. nice to see you there.

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  5. I, too, take great pleasure in Bible study, journaling, etc.–the discovery process. But you're whetting my appetite, Jody, to practice the discipline of being still out in nature, to make discoveries of a different kind. Thank you for your honesty, and your gentle challenge!

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  6. Dear Jody Lee
    She call it spiritual practice, but come to think of it, just like any relationship. Just like the relationship for example with your hubbie, it takes time just being together to get to know one another. Why would it be any different with God? And besides, what can be better than touching His heart!!
    Blessings from Michele's.
    Mia

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  7. I didn't know I was looking for something to guide my solitude, but I may have found something I need, something geared to a writer and encouraging the poet's voice. Yes, yes. Thank you, friend!

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  8. Jody, I so enjoyed reading this, especially after I got to the “I put off reading it as long as possible.” And chuckled, knowingly. Because, even though I didn't have a copy of the whole book, I thought I'd start out anyway with the first two “days,” which I found online. My reaction was just like yours: “I can't just go *sit* for a whole hour! I've got things to do!” But maybe exactly *that* is the discipline. Now I've got to quit procrastinating, and get that book—and follow through! I have the feeling it's going to teach me a lot!

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  9. Jody- I shall watch with interest to see how you go ! I bought this book 2-3 years ago, and still haven't ” done it”- but your idea of stitching together some shorter times appeals- you may be the catalyst I have been awaiting in order to get started! There are a huge collection of other bloggers notes on this book from when it first came out- and I have these saved on file- should you wish to explore some other people's interpretations? mgemmill@xtra.co.nz

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