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June begins

June, the month of summer. Children are out of school, and I hear them across the fields at their play.

I remember being a kid in summer, constantly outside in play and adventure. We swam until we got hungry. We played board games on the porch at my aunt and uncle’s house when the sun got too hot. I don’t remember ever getting bored. There were fields to roam, projects to construct, neighbors to call for ball games in empty lots, and dinner with the family each evening.

There was church on Sundays and mid-week when one of my friends could come stay with us a few days and then return at next service time. Our annual church convention brought an overnight stay in a motel, a sort of vacation for us. And there was a week at youth camp, up in the mountains where the days were sweltering and nights made us pull on the blankets. Open aired cabins with bunk beds were the places for making friends. The girls wore their hair in curlers all day long, our heads wrapped in scarves, so we could look pretty for church at night.

They were wonderful days.

Some call it the lazy days of summer. Having grown into an adult, I’ve not lived a lazy life. Circumstances beyond my control loaded me with responsibility. It has been my lot to move, to get things done. I stayed on task and accomplished as much as possible in a day, often falling into bed exhausted just to set the alarm to begin it all over again tomorrow.

This month of June seems like an invitation, like a Sabbath calling me.  There are no piano lessons this month. An upcoming procedure will keep us close to home. No travel plans ahead. My calendar is looking strangely blank.

Something calls to me to rest, to sit idle, to be still. My body feels it, the pull to nurture myself; to wander instead of power walk; to tread gently in the gardens and enjoy the summer beauty without focusing on the weeds; to spend time with books and to play the piano for the pure pleasure of it.

I am reading Wendell Berry’s New Collected Poems. He is a Kentucky native and a lover of the land, like I am. He writes:

“The aged voices of a few crickets thread the silence. It is a quiet I love, though my life too often drives me through it deaf. Busy with costs and losses, I waste the time I have to be here–a time blessed beyond my deserts, and I know, if only I would keep aware. The leaves rest in the air, perfectly still. I would like them to rest in my mind as still, as simply spaced.”     — The Sorrel Filly

This is what I am craving – the quiet I love. I’ve lived under pressure many days. I’ve rushed from one appointment to another, driving in the fast lane. I’ve made the long lists of things that needed to be done, and I’ve checked them off one by one.

It will be challenging for me to slow. I hesitate to even write it here, like I’m making a promise, a promise to myself. It is my nature to do things, and there is always, always something to do. But I am compelled to pursue what pursues me. Perhaps it is the Spirit calling me to come away, to listen for the hushed calm, to be still and know my God.

[Jesus] said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a little while”—for there were many people who were continually coming and going, and they could not even find time to eat.”  — Mark 6:31, AMP

I can linger on the deck in the early morning, before the thermostate rises high enough to send me indoors. I can sip my coffee slowly, because it never get too hot for coffee. I can listen carefully without distration. I can be observant, looking deeply at the flower or at the face in front of me. I can hear what my heart has to say.  I can ponder the questions that mystify me. I can be quiet.

I can choose to make June a month of rest, a Sabbath. And I shall see what joy awaits me that I might have missed in my hurrying.

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Sunday grace

God planned rest for the weary soul, the one whose energy is spent, whose mind is full to the brim with responsibilities, cares and burdens, and a to-do list that runneth over.

He gives us Sabbath.

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For the Jewish people, preparations are made the day before; work will be laid aside. The candles will be lit at sundown and Sabbath declared as the prayer is recited:

Blessed are you, Adonai our God, Sovereign of the universe, who hallows us with mitzvot [commands of God], commanding us to kindle the light of Shabbat.

Sometimes the running to and fro, the busy schedules, the work that simply never gets finished become more than we can bear.

Sometimes the cares of life, the search for happiness, the seeking after something else, something more, pulls our minds into the darkness, and the road ahead looks fearful.

Sometimes the effort to be perfect or, at the very least acceptable, and the striving to be all things to all people weighs us down.

We realize we cannot finish the tasks. We are depleted.

We forget Adonai our God is Sovereign Lord of the universe. And Sovereign Lord over us.

And so Sabbath comes to offer rest.

This day, take off the backpack of overload. Rest in the completed grace of Jesus’s full salvation. Trust the Father with the ones you love. Believe He has a plan and is working all things for your good and His glory.

He is the Shepherd and we shall not want. He is our Peace and our Righteousness and offers Himself to us. He is the God who sees us right where we are. He is the One who loves us with a tender compassion and mercies inexhaustible.

Rest today, dear one. Rest in Him.

 Come to me and I will give you rest—all of you who work so hard beneath a heavy yoke. Wear my yoke—for it fits perfectly—and let me teach you; for I am gentle and humble, and you shall find rest for your souls; for I give you only light burdens. –Matthew 11:28-30, Living New Testament

Sunday grace.

 

Sunday grace

Early Sunday morning is quiet as we leisurely walk the lane, Maisie and I. The bird song is all we hear. I hesitate to speak and break the sacred silence.

I notice things in the slowness of this morning. Random spider webs, a night’s endeavors, lie low in the grass or higher up in the bushes. The mist rises from the lake, moving gently across its surface, in no hurry to go. The coolness of the morning is relief after sweltering days.

In my hurry, I easily miss the moments.

Children teach us. They dawdle. They keep no time schedules. They “waste time” with what draws their attention, until an adult says, “Hurry up. We’ll be late.”

We really do need to be more like children.

Our mantra shouts to us. Be productive. Get more done. Work harder. Fill the schedule with one more activity. We can do it!

Wasting time is not on the agenda.

 

Rhythms of Rest by Shelly Miller (coming in October)

Time is spent one way or another. The finite number of moments we have can be used how we choose. We can hurry it away with activity, or we can slow down, see and hear. We can enjoy and find joy.

It may seem like wasting time when we rest, when we stop, when we do nothing. But perhaps it is the best use of time at the particular juncture. Perhaps it gives our souls time to catch up.

“Teach us to number our days carefully,” Moses prayed, “so that we may develop wisdom in our hearts.”

The people of Israel moved when the pillars of fire or cloud called them to go. Then they stopped because God’s sign of His presence rested.

God knows we need that.

Take time, some of your valuable, precious time to waste away and enjoy the rest He gives.

Sunday grace.

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Sunday grace

The roller coaster ride of activity is exciting, the adrenaline pumping hard, heart rate accelerating, and we fly. Keep going. Stay on the coaster for another round.

But sometimes we need to get off, sit on the bench and eat ice cream.

God gave the Sabbath as a gift to man.

Rest is good. It is necessary. Sleep is restorative. Our bodies, our health depend on the stops we take.

Let your mind rest. Jesus completed all the work necessary for your salvation. He said, “It is finished.”

Let your soul rest. You are greatly loved and accepted through the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Let your body rest. We are three in one, and what happens in our flesh affects the whole of us.

Honor the Sabbath somehow today, this week, and acknowledge the gift of God. He is the one who never slumbers or sleeps. He is the one who carries the weight of the world. He is the one who plans and brings those things into  existence.

Exodus 33:14 “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

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Recovering

Since my little hand surgery, I’ve been practicing recovery.

The shoe has been on the other foot for one who has been caregiver more than care receiver. I’ve experienced gifts of grace and kindness from hither and yon.

It’s been a long time since I was on this side of the sick-bed. I’ve learned some valuable lessons about pre-surgery and after.

My preparations were beneficial. I got a haircut, put food in the freezer, had a full refrigerator and a relatively clean house. The haircut was especially helpful because it is a challenge to fix my hair with one hand.

I had to relax and let things go. The weeds in the garden are flourishing along with the flowers. Let them fight it out. I just can’t garden now. The yard is not so pretty this year. I will work the soil again and reclaim it.

Food was always a welcome kindness. While being one-handed, having a meal that was already prepared was a relief for the chief-cook-and-bottle-washer. Sweet William was very glad too.

A card and a call are simple gestures but they meant a lot.

I said “yes” when someone offered help. One friend said she was coming on a Wednesday and would do whatever I needed. What a blessing that was.

While I wished to be able to do things on my own, I could not always. Those who gave themselves revived my soul and ministered in a way I cannot quite explain. It was like having sweet incense poured on my head.

Sometimes I had to ask for help. It is humbling, yes. But I found people were more than willing to lend a hand.

I realized jewelry was not necessary. It was difficult to put on and I was comfortable without the added embellishment.

My elastic-waist pants were my friends, so much easier to maneuver as I tried to be as independent as possible.

I gave into my inner creative self, sitting at the table for a couple of hours working with paper, markers, buttons, and a frame. The finished piece continues to speak the message to me, “Quiet your heart.”

I rested a lot during this month, and I almost began to feel lazy. No, I did begin to feel lazy. I’ve been a mover and a shaker for so many years. During recovery I allowed myself to rest, read, sit quietly, watch the birds, take leisurely walks. I’ve not started or completed any major projects or unnecessary tasks. It has been good. And the world kept right on turning without all my hurry and flurry.

I became more attentive while not speeding through the day. I noticed wild flowers growing and remembered sitting in the grass as a child making clover chains for my neck and wrist.

I saw bees buzzing around flowers and a wren building a nest in the bird house on our deck. I watched rabbits nibbling grass in the evening. I bent to admire the beauty in flowers and plants that thrive in spite of my neglect.

I heard the wind in the leaves of the great oaks and enjoyed their shade. I stopped underneath during the rain and was sheltered.

I stayed connected with people but I fought the impulse of too much social media. When there is nothing on the list for the day, the temptation to waste it online is real.

It’s been relatively calm at the Wright House for a month now. I feel strength coming to my hand and arm and the urge to get on with it, to pick up the pace a little and get back into the game.

This time of quiet reflection and rest has been a gift in lovely ways. It’s been a vacation at home, an extended Sabbath rest for me. I was like a boat on the river, turning loose of oars and rudder, floating where the little craft would take me. Where the Spirit led.

It’s been a beautiful excursion.

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February waning

The end of the month is close at hand.  Except this year we get an extra day.

It sounds good in theory, like being handed 24 more hours to enjoy.  But I expect most of us already have plans laid out for February 29, and it will be just another day in our lives.

But what if . . . what if you were given 24 more hours to spend wildly in some unplanned way, uncommitted, unstructured to the minute?  Not the way we usually do life.

What would you do with that time?  What would I?

Perhaps get one of those 2016 projects completed, or at least started.  Maybe organize the pantry or the garage or the walk-in closet.  Maybe veg out on a movie marathon day, i.e. Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, or any number of serial flicks.  Maybe shop ’til you drop or prepare your taxes.

Would we work or play?

What if . . . we spent a day in retreat?  What if . . . we spent a day in silence?  What if . . . we looked deep inside ourselves and reflected our heart against the backdrop of Scripture?

I tried a day of retreat years ago.  Such a day is hard to come by because there are people around who need me.  Or so I think.

Maybe I could take half a day or a quarter of a day, or even a few hours spent intentionally in God’s Word, in prayer and meditation, journaling my swirling thoughts and somehow make some sense of what troubles me.

Because you see, there are things that trouble me.  I don’t share them freely.  They are in the deepest parts of my soul, the secret place of my heart.

He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.’ “

My secret thoughts and worries are safest when brought to the secret place of the Most High God.  It is an ascended place of rest, above the noises and voices of the world, out of reach of what troubles me.

In the secret place of God I find refuge and peace.  My deepest secrets are safe with Him.  And He knows what I need before I even ask.

Perhaps it is impossible at this late date to schedule the last day of February or even hours of uninterrupted quiet time, away from the fray of this world.

But I could get up an hour earlier on the 29th.  I could steal away during the lunch break.  I could take a leisurely walk down my lane.  I could find the time if I really want to.

And I want to.  How about you?

winter 11photo by Elena Walls

I am resting

Jesus, I am resting, resting, in the joy of what Thou art;
I am finding out the greatness of Thy loving heart.
Thou hast bid me gaze upon Thee, and Thy beauty fills my soul,
For by Thy transforming power, Thou hast made me whole.

O, how great Thy loving kindness, vaster, broader than the sea!
O, how marvelous Thy goodness, lavished all on me!
Yes, I rest in Thee, Belovèd, know what wealth of grace is Thine,
Know Thy certainty of promise, and have made it mine.

Simply trusting Thee, Lord Jesus, I behold Thee as Thou art,
And Thy love, so pure, so changeless, satisfies my heart;
Satisfies its deepest longings, meets, supplies its every need,
Compasseth me round with blessings: Thine is love indeed!

                                                     — Words: Jean S. Pigott, 1876.

Rest in the complete, perfect and unconditional love of the Father shown to us by the Son.  There is nothing else.

Sunday Grace, friends.

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