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

In January of 2013 I felt God speak to me about slowing down and Sabbathing more.  About being purposeful in my restfulness in Him. (Yes, ‘sabbathing’ is a verb.)

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 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 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.

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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