A Beg for Grace and a New *SLOW Word*

Dearest of SLOW Word community,

Lent is for listening and tweaking how we spend our hours and drinking full glasses of grace when we realize we just can’t get everything done.

This Lent I’m finishing up a year of study in a spiritual direction certificate program. Have I ever told you I could go to school full time and live happily ever after? And yes, I love the smell of new books, fresh rimes of paper, and “bouquets of newly sharpened pencils.” Thank you You’ve Got Mail for that fantastic line. Well, the closer I get to the center of my favorite studies, inner healing and spiritual direction, the more my foot bounces under the table through entire lectures and I have a hard time keeping my hand down and asking the appropriate number of questions. Yup, I’m that kind of sit-in-the-front-seat nerd. All out of joy, mind you.

Well, a full year of study has gone by and now it’s time to wrap up papers and a ton of loose ends. The administrator is after me to send in paper work. So I need to beg grace from you to go quiet for a few weeks.

The Slow Word will take a deep breath through April so I can pursue my studies with focus.

See you all in May when all the projects, the papers, and the verbatims have been turned in. Mwah! It’s been pure joy to listen to the word with you. But now, just one more from 1 Peter 5:5-11.

 

Enjoy your spring and keep listening,

Summer Joy Gross

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A Deeper Lent & *SLOW Word Lectio Divina*

This Lent let’s not hold onto control quite so tight. This Lent let’s go deep instead of wide.

Some years we choose on Ash Wednesday to let go of something that has had a strangle hold on our life. Some days we wrestle it into submission. Other times it slams us to the ground and knocks our breath out.

What if we had a Lent where we gave God permission to shine His light into the corners and closets of our lives and do His own lovely spring cleaning. Romans says that He leads us to repentance with kindness. In repentance we’re surrendering to His vision of our lives.

 

What if we gave up the control over which direction our repentance would turn?  

 

Have you ever done a nightly examen? It’s simple really. You spend a quiet moment at the end of the day and ask the Holy Spirit to shine a flashlight on that day’s events, bringing up the luminous thanksgivings, and the deep shadows.

 

  1. What am I most thankful for?

  2. What am I least thankful for?

  3. Where was I a part of God’s Kingdom coming in?

  4. Where have I contributed to the brokenness of the earth with my own sin?

Stop and listen, but do not fear the shame. Surrender without fear to He who is the Light. His arms are open wide for his children coming home.

Let’s dive in deep together.

Praying courage for this 40 days,
Summer Joy

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Choose Life or Choose Death, a Lenten question *SLOW Word video*

Choose life. It’s a simple question to bring into your lent.

What does choosing life mean in the middle of your day to day?

How do you choose life in your simple interactions?

How do you choose death for your soul, for your body, for your children, your spouse. It’s a way to weigh your actions.

 

Here we listen to lectio divina twice a week on Monday and Thursday. Today we’re listening to this question. Join us? Subscribe on the right to lean deeper into the Word with the word this Lent.

 

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#MondaysAtJesusFeet

Dear Friends,

Here’s a little Monday blessing:

So, what if instead of laying down our heavy hearts to enter the Word, we took them right along with us? What if we lugged our struggles, our unmet needs, our pain, our deepest cry right into our quiet with this Scripture and brought it into the Lord’s Presence, allowing this Scripture to transform it from the inside out.

 

That’s what I did last night. Last night I brought my exhaustion right into Jesus’ Presence and prayed that He would heal, that He would provide…and He did: the promise of daily bread. This morning, I’m holding onto that Word tight, setting down my anxiety over a day that feels long and deciding to lift up my head and search for the Bread. I have a feeling I’ll be following a trail of substantial crumbs all the way to the quiet of the evening.

So, this Monday, I bless you with the ability to keep those empty hands held out for an Abba who loves to provide.

I bless you with the gift of slow, deep breaths before the takeover of quick mindless action, before you speak words you wish could be put back into your mouth. #Preachingtomyself

 

Blessings on your search for more of Jesus this Monday,

Summer Joy

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Guest post by Ashley Larkin and *SLOW Word video*

Hello dear friends, it’s such a privilege for me to introduce you to one of my favorite people and fellow SLOW Word listeners, Ashley Larkin. Visit her on her blog, AshleyMLarkin.com. You won’t be sorry. Ashley, owner of a contagious smile and straight up raw vulnerability, the kind that invites others to tell their stories. She’s a writer/speaker who spins words effortlessly. Below was her beautiful response to Monday’s SLOW Word scripture, Matthew 17:1-8 and I couldn’t wait to share it with you all.  (By the way, I’d love to do this more! Do you have a response I could share with the others…a short quote or a story of sitting with the SLOW Word lectio divinas? I’d love to insert them into our emails or highlight them right here on AThirstforGod.com) And yes, remember, there’s a new SLOW Word every Monday and Thursday. Subscribe on the right to get them slipped into your inbox for time at rest in God’s presence. Find today’s SLOW Word of Isaiah 30:15-18 at the bottom of the post.

It is Wednesday.

Clementine sleeps on the edge of the blanket thrown across my lap, breathing out stinky salmon food breath in regular intervals.
As my mind runs its laps, the rise and fall of her full belly comforts me.

The meadow birds dance from tree limb to feeder, flit beside the windows along the north wall of our house, alight on the branches to the east. The white curtains are pulled to the side of the windows’ moldings, so I can see the birds’ path (and also that of the greedy squirrels) more clearly.

Their figure eights and frenetic darting awaken and calm me in a way only wild ones can. I need them.

The birds sing a plaintive song, and I presume these are calls to their kind about this food source in a front yard in the midst of a long February. I imagine trilled thank yous and notice the feeders are running low; I can’t seem to remember where I’ve put the seed.

Then I remember my family’s own need for food and our rapidly emptying refrigerator and plan the remainder of the week’s meals. I am not regular with this as I want to be, but when I prepare for and cook hot meals, I feel the gift of giver and receiver.

I am acutely aware of dependence today.

In Roots & Sky by Christie Purifoy, I read that there is everything for us to receive. I remember the open hands I prayed for a sister the other night — that she might release her grip on control and let the freedom of God’s love touch her palms.

I think how mine can remain shut, then how I open hands and mouth wide like a desperately hungry hatchling.

I am giver and taker, bouncing branches and empty feeders. I am a child needing to be fed.

On the heels of a hard series of conversations with my youngest, she brought me a bouquet of flowers. Signs of springing life tucked into a shiny camellia leaf, plucked from the mostly dormant garden where the birds eat. I watch bird wings and finger the cluster of grown things.

This morning, I sit for a while in Matthew 17 and Jesus’ transfiguration. Jesus climbs to a high place with Peter, James and John, and suddenly becomes sun and light.

On the edge of such a miracle, Peter says rather plainly, “Lord, it is good for us to be here” and asks if he can put up shelter for not only Jesus, but also Moses and Elijah, who’ve suddenly joined them.

It is good for us to be here, Peter says. No recorded exclamation points, no enthusiasm that we can read.

The only exclamation noted here is from heaven when God says, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”

This morning, I hear you, God; I am listening for you, Jesus.

You know that I forget and flit, close ears and seek to hear, hold out my hands and am fed.

Surrounded by miracle, we are utterly ordinary. Surrounded by the ordinary, we, too, are miracle.

 

Thank you Ashley for this beautiful gift!

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Praying to Heal our Land *SLOW Word Lectio video*

 

Right here every Monday and Thursday dear ones, we’re listening, we’re praying, and we’re being transformed by the word. Perhaps this is a gift you want to share, to set the feast for another weary pilgrim.

 

“If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14

What if the land that you need healed is right under your own two feet?

We pour out our heart for the healing of our nation, for the daughters stolen as possessions, for the country whose children wear scars from their first breath.

But what if a fissure has appeared right through your home from the front door to the back and ever widening?

This, dear friends, is when we sit down, light our candle and determine to stay:

“If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will heal their land.”

We humble ourselves, pour out our uncensured prayers and seek the face of the only One who knows how to knit together land.

 

We turn and turn again from our sin when we look down and find that we are the ones holding the pick-axe that broke open the scar.

Tonight I’m staying right here: Seek my Face.  These are the words that dropped weighty in my hand and I’m turning them over like rocks at the beach. I’m listening to them chink against each other, feeling their shape, their coolness.

My boy used to lay his head in the crook of my arm on Sunday nights as we watched Extreme Makeover. His sister was asleep upstairs in her crib. He was the big boy. He would sometimes fall asleep right there before the reveal and I’d listen to him as he’d catch his breath and then breathe even again.

He’s growing too fast, so fast I can’t catch up. It’s this land between us which needs to be healed.

So I’m here to seek. I’m asking his Maker, the One who had a dream of him before I did, the One who placed him in my arms, to teach me how to mother a runner. I’m seeking to know how to celebrate the tender mystery that is a young boy stretching out.

 

What are you hearing in this SLOW Word, my friend? 

 

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#MondayMorningatJesusFeet *Matthew 5:43-48 video*

It’s #MondayMorningsatJesusFeet. It’s just the perfect place to start the week, listening, leaning in close. Come with me? Let’s pray through Matthew 5:43-48 together.  And yes, my friend, every Monday and Thursday there’s a lectio divina video right here. We’re setting a feast of the Word. Perhaps there’s someone you’d like to invite?

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Speak your Servant is Listening *SLOW Word video*

{Every Monday and Thursday find a SLOW Word Lectio Divina right here. Now they’re streamlined. Shorter. A little less talk and a fast track to the Word. That’s why we’re here, right? Forget the toast. We’re hungry for the feast. If you’d like to receive these SLOW Word Lectios by email, subscribe on the right. I’m so glad you’re here. It’s such a privilege to come into the Presence together.}

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I’m still sitting in my chair by the fire. The kids are in bed but bedtime snack dishes with the sleepytime tea, the honey bear, and the graham crackers are still strewn across the table.

 

Isaiah 43:1-2 is singing a tune I can’t identify. The phrase, “they will not sweep over you,” surprised me. Have you ever listened to a lectio divina and thought you knew where the Spirit was going to lead you and then you land in an unfamiliar section of your little town?

 

“And when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.”

 

Last summer we took a backpacking trip through a corner of the Cohutta mountains of Northern GA. This fall there were fires there. I wonder what it looks like now. Our 3 mile trek in was idyllic with white rhododendron’s spilling onto the trail. We staked our tents next to a river and slept deep until the thunder and cracks of lightning and the pouring rain. The boys found themselves sleeping or not sleeping in a puddle. We were up early, drying out, and huddling around our tiny backpacking stove as it boiled water for our hot chocolate and oatmeal. It was summer in GA and so the discomfort didn’t last more than an hour and the children were soon fishing on a large rock in the middle of the river. The river was swollen when we hiked that afternoon and we had to cross it four times. Our feet slipped on the stones as we dipped up to our waist and tried to help the children to land. Andrew’s a natural. He does this for fun. I was meant to be a land animal.

As I sat with these words from Isaiah 43, “they will not sweep over you,” and this was the story that came to mind. I was struggling to cross the river. Overwhelmed. A little frightened. I was wishing I had a cord, a rope, a hand, something to hold onto. “I will be with you.” I listen. That’s definitely a part of the answer.

 

I think about how overwhelmed I get by the chaos of a daily household. I think about being a single parent when Andrew’s travels oversees and how life falls heavily right here…in my lap.

 

Another story comes into memory, a labyrinth walk this last December. I walked the large canvas labyrinth with a sense of Presence, of holding onto Christ’s hands. He was leading though turned towards me. I sensed His graciousness with my tiredness. I stopped on most turns to rest, for a breath, to enjoy the quiet. I learned to stop in the present moment, not to race, not to demand, not to push through. So much of my learning to rest comes with this verse, “He remembers that we are but dust.” (Psalm 103:14). There’s so much grace in those words, so much understanding. He knows I’m human and He holds out His hands. I can trust those hands. I can trust the pace.

 

I still don’t know where this is headed. Not really. I’m sitting with the question, a puzzle that’s spread all over the card table with colors fanned across and no larger picture. But I sense something here. I sense the call to hold these words. I sense the call to carry the words into tomorrow, through the next turn.

 

I don’t know the answer, not yet, but now I’m listening to whispers which sound like hope.

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A Long Obedience in the Same Direction? Start here. *SLOW Word*

Feel like you’re walking a long road and it doesn’t seem to be getting any easier?

Yup, you’re not alone. Today we park in Ephesians for some strength and a whole lot of encouragement.  Let’s listen together.

Have someone else who may need a cup of water from this same well? Pass it along to a friend.  Subscribe on the right to receive these twice weekly little videos straight into your email.

 

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