Wait Training {a #poem}

P1200354I want to fly these dumbbells

up, down, up, down

quick! The momentum of each

lift rising at my side pushing past

perhaps what’s safe or wise

in the name of what? Speed

or yes, the checklist-exercise-

done! When I slow instead,

face the window and raise

these weighted arms slow,

slow, slow-up; slow, slow, slow-

down-the strain increases but the

work muscle-wise is longer lasting.

I feel the wait and wonder if speed

is highly overrated. Aware of the

answer, I rest into the process

lifting again, lowering at my leisure.

Repeat.Relax.Rest.Return.

And find a lesson in these weights,

an exercise written over taut skin,

reaching to my soul.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I’m heading to the Cascade Mountains of Washington for a weeklong writing project (first draft of my little book!). I covet your prayers for this process–I’d like to speed it up, but God keeps reminding me He’s with me while I wait on Him for the words.

Summer is for Listening

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“My soul, wait silently for God alone; for my expectation is from Him.”

Psalm 62:5

“How slow many are to learn that quietness is blessing, that quietness is strength, that quietness is the source of the highest activity–the secret of all true abiding in Christ! Let us try to learn it and watch out for whatever interferes with it.  The dangers that threaten the soul’s rest are many.”  Andrew Murray, “Abiding in Christ”

I suppose it is a foolishness to think things are quieter in the Summer–school is out and children romp and play outside my window, noise floats in as games are won and lost in the streets below our house. But Summer vacation also means less push and stress, less have-to and more want to. My want-to includes some quiet (er) time of listening to God in this season.

The push back is all the noise–even good “Christian” noise.

Don’t get me wrong but I think we (by “we” here I’m including myself) are quick to crank up the praise music before we spend time with our own words praising God in the silence. Bible studies and Christian living books are a way to learn, but sometimes I think we lean on them instead of the Holy Spirit to speak directly to us.  The internet is a 24/7 stream of everybody else’s opinions on what is godly, but it often draws us away from the Source–the voice of Jesus and God’s word.

Why not, instead, make this season a time of doing nothing, reading nothing (I know–sacrilege!) and just spend time listening and recording in a journal what you hear God say?

There might be revelation or resolution of an issue percolating below the surface that you’ve carried around and worried about for months. Years.  Perhaps there will be a healing touch from God’s Spirit, or simply a wonder-filled moment as you catch the joy of God in His creation.

Perhaps they will help you discover some glory of your own in God’s word to your heart.

Listening as a spiritual practice (inspired by “God in the Yard”, L.L. Barkat, TSPoetry Press)

Stop and make a space to listen 2-3 times a week, 20 or 30 minutes—start small  NOTE: Listening as a Spiritual Practice or Discipline is really about letting go & making room, more about absorbing & receiving from God than about my outcome or producing something. More being, less doing.

  • Examples of Spiritual Practice
  • PERSONAL WORSHIP, PRAYER, praying in the Spirit, BIBLE READING
  • SIT where your eyes can be still, preferably outside with a view to something living; resting your eyes brings peace to your mind and soul and you can LISTEN BETTER
  • Don’t Read your Bible-this is not devotional time, it is time to listen…you can talk to Jesus, sing, but resist the temptation to DO SOMETHING; just WAIT
  • Remember: You have the Holy Spirit as your teacher and guide (Jn. 14:26)
    • If you ask God to speak, He will. If you ask Him to show you something, He will.
  • Here are some prompts for thought:
    • What is your deepest source of current pain, and how is God trying to meet you there?
    • Where are you finding joy with God?
    • What does the world around you say about God’s relation to you and your relation to Him?
    • Here’s what the Holy Spirit might do as you listen:
    • First, you’ll discover something—(see it—‘wow, I didn’t know I felt/knew that’!)
    • Then uncover it—(name it—‘oh, THAT’S what that is…’)
    • Then recover it—(live into it, like new skin) NOT fix it (as in patch it up)

      Don’t worry about what to do with your discoveries. Simply listen to what the sounds are telling you and offer them as an expression of truth to God then write them down.

      If you are not a person who keeps a journal, this might be a good time to start.

Writing down your story can bring healing to you and life to others. Our stories are a way for others to hear where God is meeting us now & where He has met us in the past, especially when we share them.

And most of all, when you look back over the entries, whether several weeks or several months or years, there is powerful encouragement of God’s faithfulness and care to you as His child.

      I hope you take the time to get away from the noise and ask Jesus to speak to you in way that’s like no other. He is so happy when we ask!

God in the Yard-Spiritual Practice for the Rest of Us (L.L.Barkat)

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?
~~~~~~~~

Leave this Land and Go!

Cascade Mountains on the Eastern horizon, WA State  j l c.

My friend Debbie and I were talking about downsizing the other day.  Our husbands and we are all around the same age–60-ish–and the seasons of our life are definitely changing. 
It’s time to spend with grandkids, time to care for aging parents, deal with retirement, employment changes.  Income changes.

And did I mention downsizing?
As in, making the most of the small space you have so that your life can contain more of the bigger that God has in mind.

Debbie and her husband are moving from a 2 story split-level home to a 1000 sq. foot apartment.  “It’s time to be ruthless”, she said. ” No more hanging on to sentimental stuff–I just have to sacrifice some things.”

That’d be brutal for me; our home is not large, but the space I have is full of mementos: photos and rocks and shells and pictures and well, things that all MEAN something to me.  They’re markers, anchors to hang my life on, icons that define my life.

It’s funny how our phone conversation turned to this subject–God had been speaking to me about cleaning up clutter this Summer.
Clean up my desk space, sort through files, organize my writing, clean out my Daytimer, go through old business cards, index my journals (ditch some of my journals?) 

Much of what I have to sort through, being a writer, are all the scraps of paper and notecards and bulletin covers I have with Scriptures God has used over the years to speak to me during different times of my life.

About 25 years’ worth:
Bible verses from Women’s Retreats, from my quiet time and devotions, from a book I read, or a word from someone else during a prayer.  Notecards from Bible Studies. 
They all mean something. Yes, they are benchmarks, many of them with a date, noting for me a time when God did something in my life or a season when He was speaking a particular word to me.
But still….

God, do you really just want me to recycle all these?  Toss them in the ‘Paper’ only pile?  I mean, some of these notes are from Beth Moore Bible Studies, for Pete’s sake…
It’s Scripture–holy, sacred, pregnant with purpose….

‘Throw them away?’

“Yes.”

‘Really?’

“Yes, I’m getting ready to do new a thing in your life. 
A new season of ministry, a new season in the word, a new land. 
Get rid of the old.
Leave it.”
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
That’s just what the pastor was talking about this morning, sharing the word to Abram when God said ‘Go.’
Say goodbye to your family, your familiar countryside, your way of life and set out on a journey.
To a new land.  I’ll tell you about it on the way, Abraham, so you’re going to have to trust me.
But believe me, it’ll be grander and more amazing than you can imagine.
So leave………..

I especially noted verse 4 in Genesis 12,
“So Abram left, as the LORD had told him…….”

Abe just did it.  Left for another land, sight unseen.  By faith.
And the Word of God records later (in Romans Chapter 4) that ‘it was credited to him as righteousness.’

What was the ‘it’? 

The ‘it’ is faith–believing in what you can’t see.  This is what pleased God.
Just trusting in Him. 
The pastor also pointed out that many people questioning Christianity and the idea of Jesus’ Lordship in their lives often say, “That is far too easy.  Just declare Jesus as my Savior and receive His forgiveness and simply walk by faith?  You sure there’s nothing I need to DO?  Nothing to add?”
No, nothing to add. 

So, a proper response might be to those who are seeking,
“You think it’s easy?  Try following God by faith for a week.  See how easy that is.”

And of course it’s the hardest thing in the world to do
without God’s grace and power.
Why? I thought.
Because it involves the invisible
and
eliminates my efforts.

It takes faith to trust when God says “Go,” that He does have another land in mind for us, a land of promise, blessing and amazing largeness.

To trust in his ideas–to  l e a v e  and  l e t  g o
Are you in?