True confession: I am not a contemplative person by nature. I am an extrovert that is energized by giving life away to other people, interacting, listening, pouring out.
But I do need my down time, away-from-the-madding-crowd time. (In my day job as an elementary school substitute, it is often a very madding crowd. Not only do I need time away from the crowd, I quite often need a nap.)
It is in these stopping and stilling times when I’m filled up by God’s presence, where I connect with the Source of all that I need, where I’m refreshed to give out again.
I’ve written about the discipline of listening and the power of taking a ‘Sabbath on the Page’ here and here.
I’m passionate about the practice; it’s a message I will never tire of spreading because of the discoveries I made as I stopped to listen.
However, finding the space and time for these mini-Sabbaths has become more and more difficult the last year or so.
I think it is the age we live in.
I think it is MY age.
I think there’s just.too.much of everything.
But when I’ve got a lot on my plate, Holy Spirit says, “step away from the table and take a walk outside.” The more I have to do in a day or a week, the more I need a time out, away. Even if it’s just to walk down the street or out in the backyard.
I heard a ‘sacred echo’ of that call when I read Seth Haines’ Tiny Letter #17,An Exercise in Disconnection. (Would you like to subscribe? Here’s the link.)
Seth’s book ‘Coming Clean’ was released last week (my review is here.) You would think if you’d gone through the agonizing process of writing a book, spent hours and miles to talk about the book, then looked forward to the day it would be launched into the world, you wouldn’t take an entire week away from the world and go fishing.
But that’s exactly what he did. As he shares in his Tiny Letter, it was definitely the right decision.
Why? He met God there in the middle of the river and the sky and gained a new perspective about what really matters.
This is not a practice of ‘getting back to nature and becoming one with the earth.’
Trees and sky and rivers are not God. But they speak of God.
And we need to slow down to listen.
A line from my favorite book, ‘God in the Yard’ (L.L.Barkat), “Smallness permits attention” echoed in my brain.
“Yes! Yes!” I cried inside as I read Seth’s words.
I cried outside, too, weeping tears from the beauty on the page, God’s voice confirming, “This is still my message. When you’re too busy and it doesn’t make sense,
take an intentional Sabbath and rest. Truly, my upside down ways are best.
So what did I do?
Turned my back on my disheveled Sunday house and the chores ahead piled up from a busy weekend, put on my boots and garden gloves, and walked outside to the deck and the yard.
I felt like I hadn’t been out there for months. I’ve admired the view and remarked about the birds, glanced at the changing colors of the trees as I glanced through the kitchen window. But I hadn’t actually had my feet on the muddy ground and saturated lawn for weeks.
It’s amazing what I found.
Johnny jump ups in the garden, next to the blue borage.
A nasturtium that was still threatening to take over the flower bed.
A crumbling log turning to cold chocolate cinders,hiding behind the rhubarb.
The parsley was still producing(exploding)
the chocolate cosmos still blooming.
I pulled out spent plants and tossed them into the compost heap, trimmed back the licorice-colored stalks of the peonies, stacked rusted, wiry tomato frames. True, this wasn’t a do-nothing, sit still kind of rest, but to me it was medicine for my soul.
You don’t have to be resting to be restored–sometimes it means getting dirt under your fingers and mud on your boots.
I clipped the last few zinnias for a small bouquet, breathing in the fresh, rain-dampened air, slowly reviving my tired lungs and frazzled brain.
Making the steps back to our patio, I noticed spent flowers from an old bouquet that had missed the garbage can.
Mindful to ask God what he wanted me to hear (or see) I was immediately drawn to the flutter of fallen alstromeria petals that lay on the ground, speckling the rain-darkened concrete.
Bending down to inspect more closely, I noticed the delicate streaks on the petals, shocks of magenta against pale white. Laying them out in alternate up/down patterns, I took a stray yellow mum that had been tossed aside and placed it at 12 o’clock above the flowery row.
Green and yellow birch leaves were scattered in piles alongside the house and layered like decals on the concrete. I picked up a few and set them around the petals in a kind of sunburst (leaf burst?) pattern, constructing a collage of flora fragments.
It wasn’t anything breathtaking, just artwork from cast off debris.
A bit of beauty and order from disorder.
Color on a cold and dreary November day….
I smiled and thought,
Look what I’d found.
(No, look what God enabled me to see because I was looking.)
Look what I made.
(this was fun! partnering in a bit of creating from God’s own Creation.)
Look what I gained.
A respite in the rain, with a view to life and beauty right under my nose (and my feet).
A God-made slice of peace in my own backyard that wasn’t buzzing or glowing or humming or Plugged Into Something.
A slice of peace….
If I can’t have the whole pie—a day or an hour—I’ll take the minutes I have—and pause to be refreshed in God’s presence whenever I can, however I can.
Even if it makes no sense to do so.
Especially when it makes no sense.
How about you?