Friends, I’m hearing multiple questions in this Matthew 4:18-22 passage today, questions to stay present to this week.
It’s journaling time.
1. In what way am I divided and continue to go back to what’s familiar? The disciples fishing and mending their nets had already been following Jesus for at least a year. Yet, they didn’t have a vision for a total change of life, a vision which was profound enough to keep them focused. Do you think that maybe they didn’t know that the listening would be transformed into action…action they would be asked to take? So here’s another question: 2. In what way am I a passive follower of Christ?
3. What is Jesus asking me to set down in order to follow Him unencumbered? Fascinating, huh? We are weighted down by a to-do list that’s too long, expectations that are undesirable, an ego that is never satiated, fears which demand our obedience, and other people’s ideas of who and what we should be. No wonder we can’t answer His “Come Follow Me.” We’re a bit busy juggling our own heavy problems.
4 and 5.Where or to what is Christ asking me to follow Him? Perhaps you’ve been sensing a nudge into brand new territory. Perhaps you’ve seen something which you can’t unsee, something which demands you show up with intention to love, to fight, to humbly serve. Perhaps we can just simply ask the question, Jesus, what breaks Your heart? Then we follow Him there.
Finally, 6. Is there a person Jesus wants me to invite to meet this Christ?
Lord, open our ears to hear Your voice and make us brave enough to follow. Amen.
This July I was in Italy for three weeks with my people. I’m still living in the after-glow. We spent one week on the Ligurian coast, a week in the Dolomites, a quick trip through Venice, and a week with friends in the hills of Tuscany on a vineyard. A few days into mornings wandering markets and afternoons by the sea, my dad and I were chatting and this was the essence of our conversation: Italy is the anecdote to America. It’s the anecdote to America’s speed, urgency, commercialism, and constant hustle.
We rented an Air B and B four flights above a gelato shop close enough to the Mediterranean to be lulled asleep by the waves. We feasted on simple foods, ripe white peaches, and bread slathered with pesto, prosciutto and fresh buffalo mozzarella. At night we watched the sun set over the water while eating thin crust pizza and then walked along the coast with a cone of raspberry gelato made in house just that day. We were just steps from where I was born.
But we weren’t the only ones living SLOWly and lavishly. The Italians spent hours around the table every evening and came out for gelato after the sun set. Whole families walked the town of Sori and Bogliasco and pushed the wheelchairs of the elderly so they could get fresh air.
In contrast, today I’m tempted to crack the whip. We’ve just gotten back from fall break and my anxiety level is heightened. The oven top has four day old spaghetti sauce splatters (how did it get all the way up the side of the fridge?) and there’s a hurricane of boy’s clothing and soccer gear that hit the living room. I’m tempted to yell, to push, to demand. I’m tempted to make of our classroom an outer reflection of my inner life. I need a Creator to make order out of chaos. I need Jesus to put his hand over my mind and calm the inner hurricane. I need to SLOW down. I need to choose to get off the crazy train.
So today I choose SLOW. Today I choose to light a candle on the island whether it still has splashes of dried pumpkin bread on it or not.
I’m making a plan to:
say yes to Silence,
to Lower expectations,
to Open heart, Open hands,
and to stay aWake to God’s presence in the here and now.
I say yes to SLOW.
SLOW living is soul-full living.
SLOW is going to be my new miniseries right here on the blog because I sense we’re hungry for stillness and for permission to live with margin. When we live SLOW, we live out of fullness, not depleted from hustle. We fill out our planners for every activity. It’s now time to make a plan for rest.
Today, this is my SLOWdown plan: #10MinutesofStillness sprinkled through the day. I always set my alarm for ten minutes on my phone. It’s permission. I wave the children away and show them how much time I have left. Sometimes I just sit without any expectations, just enjoying the quiet and a cup of tea. Sometimes I listen to the emotions that are just on the surface and need my attention. Other times I follow this pattern from Dr. Daniel Siegel, a well-known neuroscientist who teaches us how to heal an anxious and battered brain: I open my senses one at a time without judging what they take in and then I invite Jesus into the present moment. You can read about these minirests here and here and here. It’s baby steps for the busy. Perhaps you may want to use the hashtag yourself. Show us what your experience is like on facebook or Instagram and then link right back here so we can find it.
Subscribe on the right to make sure you get all the SLOW goodness of the miniseries.
How do you plan for rest, dear friend? Perhaps this SLOW coming before the Word?
I love to set the table for people to spend time with Jesus.
As a spiritual director who spends much of my ministry creating space for people to be in the Presence of God, I know the value of setting the table for just one. And when one of my people needs a nourishing meal? I’m there. My beautiful sister Stephanie is a busy mama who runs a non-profit bringing awareness to human trafficking. When we celebrated her birthday last month over brioche at a small cafe, she leaned over and said she was feeling hungry for more of the Word. I watched her try to enjoy breakfast with a toddler whose curiosity meant she could barely carry on a conversation. She asked me for these small videos setting the table for her to be with Jesus. A few simple unpolished videos and a few days later she asked if she could start sending them to friends.
I also know that distraction is a disease, a disease I’m combatting along with every one of you. All those beeps and dings and I find it much harder to be still with the Word. Am I really getting more done or am I fracturing my attention from the ONE THING that’s needed? (Luke 10: 38-42). Distraction leads to emptiness. Listening in the Presence leads to fullness. “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly.” (Colossians 3:16)
There’s nothing new about this. Other nerdy church history types like me will recognize this Slow Word Movement as something that’s been going on for centuries: Lectio Divina. These Latin words just mean “divine reading” and was always served with stillness, with repetition, and with a slow reading carving out space for the Holy Spirit to speak.
Baron von Hügel described spending time with the Word in Lectio Divina like this: “letting a very slowly dissolving lozenge melt imperceptibly in your mouth.”
Join me in savoring the Word.
Let’s share! What word or phrase did the Lord speak? What invitation are you hearing? Join me in the comment section. Share on facebook. Encourage others right here.
(So…this is where I write a normal post and then at the end decide to take a plunge. My first Slow Word Video is embedded in the bottom. This is where brave gets real. )
We stood in line for the ferry in Vernazza, Cinque Terre and watched them jump. I held my breath and looked away. Andrew took pictures.
It was 90 degrees and perfect. No wind. No waves. Lagoon-like green water. I watched them walk to the edge and either jump or turn back. Sometimes they squealed as they dropped. Their brave came out of joy.
Heights are not my friend. Or airplanes. Or really anything up high. The last two summers I’ve had panic attacks hanging onto a wall while rock climbing outdoors with my family. Truth be told we only climb about 30 feet at one stretch. I was completely secure in a harness from a rope which could hold 200 more pounds. I had done this fifty times before. But these two times I wasn’t in a climbing gym. This time I could see 200 feet down into the valley and into the lake below. My brain knew I was secure but my heart was positive I would feel the plunge of 230 gravity laden feet. I begged very quietly and tearfully to come down and then whispered in my husband’s ear: “No more climbing. Again. Ever.” I’ve decided I’m a land animal.
This last January I prayed for a word for 2016 and BRAVE was placed in my hand. It felt like a big stretch, possibly even a message from the Lord. BRAVE surprised me. I wasn’t searching for it. I wasn’t even sure I wanted it. But every time I listened to the word, my breath caught with adrenaline. So I named a Pinterest board BRAVE and began gathering images and quotes. (Do you do this too? Am I the only one?) It was on the stage of Pinterest I explored BRAVE and began to listen to the Lord’s invitation to inch my toes forward on the rock.
Then came the internal surgery. I confronted my people pleasing and the way I was shrinking before the noisy opinions of my inner critic. I stared at my perfectionism and witnessed its stranglehold. Finally, I sat down into the basis for my true identity: “Define yourself as one radically loved by God. This is your true self. Every other identity is an illusion” (Brendan Manning.) It was also on that Pinterest board where I documented the healing of God in quiet ways, ways only He and I would know. By July I was ready for BRAVE. I was listening to where I come alive, to my love of writing and the nuclear magic that occurs when words are spliced up against each other. I began writing poetry again.
About three weeks ago I witnessed a friend’s first live facebook and her beautiful brave. Apparently Ashley didn’t know live meant LIVE and there was a moment of shock as she discovered an audience on the other side of her iphone screen. She was precious and articulate and passionate and imperfect. Unknowingly, she became my courage guru. I jumped off that high rock right after her first vulnerable, beautiful LIVE. My sister had been begging me to do some videos of lectio divina for her. She’s an auditory learner. She wanted them unpolished and imperfect and raw. I could do imperfect, I thought. She’s a busy mom with a nonprofit and craved stillness and time in the word which fit into her busy life. I’d never done video and secretly cringe whenever I hear my own voice. But my life’s focus is to position people in the presence of God for transformation. This fit but was over my growing edge. Ashley’s BRAVE gave me permission for my BRAVE. After I watched her first LIVE, I promptly made a video and sent it to my people. My three closest people. The next night I made another and sent it to a few more. Fast forward three weeks later and we’re in completely new territory. I’m saying yes both to imperfect and to God’s invitation in what feels like a crazy back flip.
Anne Halle, one of the professors from my spiritual direction certificate program, taught us on how to push out our growing edges. “You have an anxiety boundary,” she explained to us drawing a circle. “Push outside of your comfort zone in an extreme way and your anxiety will scream. Very likely you’ll never try again. But,” she said, “if you go to the edge of your comfort zone and dab your toe in the water WITH the Presence of God, you’ll continue to grow within the safety of God’s love.” Small steps will eventually mean big growth she assured us. But here’s the kicker and here’s what haunted me afterwards: if we don’t continue to push out of our comfort zone in small ways, we’ll eventually have more anxiety making smaller moves. Our circle of comfort will collapse inwards. It will take less to give us more anxiety.
I love what our professor said, we were not created to push out our growing edges alone. We do it in community with the Presence of God. And this is the necessary partnership where my BRAVE can edge up to the rock and jump. Get ready. Get set. Here we go. Use my small imperfect brave and say yes to yours!
I’m calling it the Slow Word Movement. Stay tuned in the next few weeks, this movement of stillness in the Word will have a landing page and a way to receive these weekly videos by email. Come join me on the porch for a bit of time in God’s Presence and then share what you hear in the comments: