Several years ago I felt God speak to me about slowing down and Sabbathing more. About being purposeful in my restfulness in Him. This is a story of what I discovered.
In January of 2013, I ordered a book, God in the Yard by L.L. Barkat (TSPoetry Press) I had “met” the author online in the Christian writing community. We connected, I emailed her and 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. I was completely new to the idea of ‘Spiritual Practices’; somehow it conjured up ideas of hard work. My previous many, many years in the world of Evangelical/Charismatic practices probably had something to do with it.
I put off reading it as long as possible.
I pondered: twelve weeks is like 3 months. I had a full time job. I didn’t have ‘extra time’ to go sit in the yard and listen for God. But a still, small voice said ‘just begin’, so I did.
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.
But this spiritual practice turned out much differently than I expected.
Instead of feeling pressured to produce something–I found joy in the discipline of letting go and receiving. Learning to stop, look and listen. I learned to rest more in the realization of wonder right in front of me.
God’s timing is always perfect, which Barkat illustrates with the picture of God as a ‘divine librarian’ orchestrating the volumes we find on our shelves to speak 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.”
There are a couple of keys right there about how God might want to change up my thinking. 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).
- Why do trees’ branches grow up?
- Where do the birds hide in the rain?
- No wonder God wants us to get outside and play–look at this world He’s made!
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….’ (Vinita Hampton Wright).
I have been pleasantly surprised when I take the leap (well, sit) and look and listen, that observations flow more easily. 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?