Summer is for Listening

“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.e80ce-viewfromthebackdeckjune2012

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!

Sabbath Equation in the Garden

my perennial bed

I drag my green plastic chair across the lawn out to the garden.  The orange bucket is upended and covered with an old towel–my ‘end table.’  I place my fresh cup of warm coffee on top and settle in with my camera over my shoulder.

I am waiting for the hummingbird.

I’ve noticed her from my kitchen window, stopping at tall spikes of Cardinal Flower, relishing the nectar feast as she drinks from red trumpets.
I am determined to capture this in a photo.

There are so many other things I could be doing–organizing papers and kid files from school, entering the obligatory data in the computer program for teachers.  Computing, typing, printing, copying.  Necessary school tasks that have spilled over into the weekend.

However.

However, it is an amazing, glorious, sunny last day of summer day.  And there is this book, ‘God in the Yard’ by LL Barkat–which I’ve written about here and here.  Because of what I read…because I am learning to slow and listen, I hear a still, small voice say, “just stop.”
Get off the wheel–savor this Saturday sunshine, sit and soak in the sights and sounds. The work can wait.

The hummingbird never comes.

But oh, there’s a show–chickadees swimming through the air, breast stroking their way from the trees to my deck.  Clusters of busy bees swarming the purple asters, feasting and gathering, doing their bee-like job.

purple asters

A dragonfly zooms close to the ground, his right angle flight pattern cutting the empty space above the grass.  He’s landed and I lose him….probably on the rhododendron.

From this vantage point I can easily glance up at the trees.  My eyes register movement.  There are two young gray squirrels playing trapeze with the clusters of maple tree “helicopters.”  The seed pods provide handy hanging places for playing.  Suddenly the young’uns are stopped and stretched on a branch, their feathery tails at rest in the shadows.

My eyes drink it all in–I snap photos up close and personal of the summer-end colors in my yard.

Not once do I think of the work I must do that awaits me inside.

coreopsis (tickseed) and seed pod

 

borage

 

cotoneaster berries
I am fully in the moment, confident this Sabbath time is the rest and refueling I need for the task ahead.

There’s an equation in LL’s book which makes no mathematical sense but works ‘on the Godward side’ (Spurgeon? Murray? Edwards?).

“In a way, this is how Sabbath works.  One day out of seven, or 1=6 is an unexpected equation,
but it seems to work miracles in our lives.  Still, many of us have difficulty
granting even one day of rest to our six days of work.
Just why do we shun giving up one day? 
Are we in need of claiming all the accomplishments for ourselves,
when Sabbath suggests they might come from God and open space as well?
Sabbath relieves us of our illusion and burden
that we are the center of all our accomplishments.” “God in the Yard” p. 79

So how did all that weekend work work out in with this new math? Tasks accomplished? Jobs completed? Welllllll….
Pretty much all the t’s were crossed, all the i’s were dotted, AND I had time left over. I found the equation held true with God in my yard….and my Sabbath stop was the proof text.

How about you?

Timekeepers {a #poem}

Six o’clock sounds
say ‘hurry home’
in the rush and whoosh
of tires sliding through
the rain soaked street.
The tick, click, tick of
the clock confirms
the dinner hour
while a bird
through the window
with his “cheerup, cheerup, cheer!”
reminds any and all
listeners that
evening is approaching.

The electronic hmmzzzzzzzz….
of the flat screen TV
insists I pay attention
to the 6 o’clock news;
but I resist the tell
and welcome instead
better clocks with softer sounds—
the message bird calling,
the rainy streets telling me
day
is
done
and the slow, drowsy way I pen these 
words at the close of day.
                                           

Sabbathing

This post is second in a sporadic series on a book I’m reading that is changing my life: God in the Yard, by LL Barkat. 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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I watch the clouds drift by on this sunless day, pushed by the wind.

The only reason I notice they’re moving is because I am sitting still.

I think about the children of Israel being led by God’s presence in a cloud by day and I think:
The only way to know if God is moving in your life is to be still.

God made the Sabbath for a reason.

It makes sense that the only way to know there is a pattern or a cycle in your life is to do the same thing
once a week-take a Sabbath–to mark your days.

Light a candle, make a circle around a day, a time. Be purposeful to take a forced stop.

In your intentionality, you can say, “This is the marker where I made time to remember God.”

Otherwise, life goes in a straight line, back and forth, back and forth, 
and all we end up with instead of rest, is a rut.

I want rest.

I’m choosing Sabbath.
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This Sunday, on purpose, I will go nowhere in my car……… (other than to church).  
Seems like a small thing; but that’s my first start at stopping. How about you?
Linking with Shelly,  Sandy and Deidra this weekend.

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?
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