Deep Breath: A Sabbath Practice

God is always trying to give good things to us, but our hands are too full

to receive them.    St. Augustine

 

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Our work this week has piled up heavy and we’re sure we won’t be able to climb out from under it all. I still have two loads of laundry glaring at me to be put away and a writing deadline looming. Sabbath rest feels awkward after a week like this. What if we were to sit still with all that’s weighing heavy, look at each piece clearly, and one by one place each concern in Jesus’ capable hands? He’s got big hands. He’s got this.

Sometimes we need Sabbath rituals to mark a new type of time: a fragrant cup of tea on the porch in the early morning, an afternoon nap on the couch, a slow walk by the creek hearing the trickle of water rush by. Maybe this simple prayer would open up a little breathing space until you can “Come to Him and rest.” Matthew 11:28a

 

May you find not just places of worship this Sabbath and and moments to realign your heart to His True North, but time to be refreshed in His Presence.

Summer

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Day 9: Play

Moving is hard, slogging work: new relationships, new rules, new horizons, and the daily mixture of grief and joy. You have been hard at work, my friend.

 

Today toss “have to” aside and travel on over to the side of your brain where play resides.

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Put on your favorite dance tunes and slide over the hardwood floors in your socks. Go to the art store and pick up new watercolor supplies. Go to a concert and lose yourself in the string section, saunter slowly around the paths of a park, or just pile magazines on your bed to peruse with a warm cafe au lait in your hands. Push a canoe paddle through the water, make a new recipe, pick up forgotten handiwork, take in a new movie (one acclaimed for children). Go to the dollar store and buy bubbles.

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Enter in.  Often go to the park with your kids and sit on a bench, perusing your facebook while the children play? Today, enter in. Swing beside your little guy. Follow her up the ladder into a world up in the trees. Put on your tennis shoes get out onto the field and kick the ball.

 

Enter in with all your senses. Plant your feet in the sand. Make bread. Visit a gardening store, smell and dream.

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crawfish water play

134creative threadsmud play Caedmon

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Today, you have permission to forget the boxes still piled in the corner of the living room and walk out the door. Today we play.

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We’re on a 31 day journey toward falling in love with our zip code. Our family just moved down five states south and are loving the warm October. Would you like to come along? Slip your email address (I’ll guard it with my life) into the CONNECT box on the front page and we’ll journey together.

 

 

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Sabbath: An Invitation to Cease Striving

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Hello you…heavy-laden one.

You know that tug-of-war you’ve been straining with? All of your spirit pulling, begging, striving in the dust of a well-worn path?

Today is an invitation to open your fingers’ maniacal grip.

Feel the heavy frayed and frazzled rope of it slide through your palms. Hear the short scramble, the backwards jolt, the weight of it falling backwards with a thud.

Then listen (Matthew 11:28):

“Come to Me weary and heavy-laden…

Come out-of-breath Sprinters and faltering Marathoners,

Overworked and Malnourished bread-givers,

Empty Lovers and Thirsty chalice-holders,

 

Come Passion Seekers and Perfection Strivers,

Burnt out and Cut straight down,

Hope-less and Fear-full,

Visionless reCreators and puffed up Kingdom-builders,

Come to Me and Rest.”

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Sit right down here on the earth in front of Jesus.

Or feel free in exhaustion to prostrate right over, touch forehead to ground.

Then let it begin to rise, that longing, that fear that keeps you pulling at life hard. Listen until the chaos quiets and you hear the hoarse whisper…your heart’s deepest cry.

Name it. Speak it. Place it in His hands wide open.

And with a large intake of air He will fill your longing with pure breath of life. He’ll grant life and mercifully blow the chaff away.

Today, you are invited to rest, weary one.

Remember, it’s in His hands.

Then come Monday morning?

Ask Him how much of the battle He requires you to pick back up.

“Take My yoke upon you and learn from me for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Mt 11:29-30).

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Welcome Home, A Sabbath Blessing

We have been racing and filling and schlepping heavy loads and now…

it is a deep breath kind of day,

a put up your feet kind of Sabbath,

a stop and watch the water flow kind of day.

 

Praying for you…praying for me…May we stop spinning, stop producing,

stop pretending perfect long enough

to hear Him say

come on in,

my beloved,

welcome home.

Have you found these lovely lullabies? We sometimes put them on around bedtime snack time…the perfect transition.

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Permission to Rest

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You are allowed to rest. This is permission. Invitation.

 

It had been a busy day, full of teetering stacks of laundry and ministry and the kind of slow exhaustion that makes one desperate for another cup of coffee…at 8…just to make it through the bedtime routine.  I laid on the couch utterly finished, trying to talk myself into walking downstairs to wash my face. The kids were finally asleep and in their own beds. I clicked the tv off. My show was over but my mind still spun. Then, out of the quiet I finally heard the invitation, “You, my child, are allowed to rest.”

 

The verses I had done Lectio Divina with that morning in my group came back to me in pushed open space of silence:

As a father has compassion on his children,
    so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;
for he knows how we are formed,
    he remembers that we are dust.
But from everlasting to everlasting
    the Lord’s love is with those who fear him” (Psalm 103:13, 17a).

 

He never expected a cape wearing supermom. He never expected me to take a flying leap from motherhood to ministry and back again without getting out of breath. He never expected me to soar into this move with all its constant anxious newness without the whiplash of the triggers. He remembers that I am dust and instead of being repelled by that fact, He offers me rest.

 

And you too.

 

You, my friend, are given permission to rest, a commandment to rest. This weekend, lets peel off these velcroed  capes and lean into the truth of our own frailty.

 

Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28) Yes, that sounds good about now.

Come pilgrimage with me into rest and into His heart. Place your email (always protected) in the Connect box on the front page and we’ll gently ramble there together.

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Sabbath playfulness

May you enjoy a Sabbath full of letting go of heavy things.  Play with color. Dance. Lie down on the carpet and listen to a gorgeous piece of music. Walk through the neighborhood feasting on the flowers pushing up. Perhaps this is what our creative play looks like to God?  Perhaps it is we who take it too seriously.

I dance and dance! Zephaniah 3:17 English Standard Version (ESV) 17 The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.

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Sabbath: Delight

Don’t you get the feeling that in those six days God created straight out of unbounded delight?

 

The red-eyed frog, the blue morpho butterfly, the elephant? Only someone with a serious sense of humor could have come up with an elephant.

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Yesterday I wept and my spiritual director watched me thrash about talking about discipline and trying harder. She wondered aloud if I could sit back and rest into God knowing that He’d already found me. We talked about joy. I shook my head saying I truly wanted that.

 

We talked about Sabbaths full of the search for beauty. We talked about taking our shoes off in the wet morning grass and watching butterflies flit from bush to flower around a garden. No one tells the butterflies to try harder.

 

Butterflies are delighted in for who they are, not for what they do…and you, my friend, you are too.

 

This morning I slipped away in the morning, cleaned inches of snow off the minivan and escaped to a coffee house for quiet.

 

I read this poem of Gerard Manly Hopkins, God’s Grandeur like I was remembering how to drink water:

THE WORLD is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

 

Soon I found myself walking slowly through the aisles of an art store touching coral silk strands, packs of watercolors, and picking up gold pens wondering how fine a tip they had. Just because. Just because joy creates. Just because we are creators made in His image. Just because today, in a world coated with white, where the dearest, freshness deep down things are blanketed, I want to watch the colors bleed and meld…aqua and peach and Kelly green.

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And you, my friend, how will you delight in this day?

May I pray a prayer of blessing for your Sabbath?

Creator God, You dreamed up this dear one because you delight in her. Will You grant her the gift of sitting back into Your rest? Can she join You on this journey of walking through her world wild with wonder touching the ordinary things and echoing your “it is good”?

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Sabbath: The Gift of Fallow Ground

Sabbath is a theme around here…you’ll find a new invitation to set down the load, drink deep of the week here every weekend.

 

I’ve had an extended Sabbath…a slow continual feast.  A hope-infused retreat. That’s how it goes with us. I come through my mom and dad’s door weary, carrying life heavy and arrive back home energized.  You would too if you knew them. They are a double tag-team of inspiration. They build back the broken places so I can move forward with courage. More about this amazing event later in the month. You won’t want to miss their redemptive story (that’s me on the far right with my beautiful girl):

 

 

And back in the cocoon of home, desire has risen fresh with the morning and here I am clicking on the computer with last week’s glittery gold nail polish half worn off.

 

I’ve been completely separated from the demands of everyday life and it’s been healthy.

 

Life has a way of sifting itself out when you set the heavy things down for a time.

 

And that’s just what happened. Somewhere along the two weeks of continual holidays, I set down my phone beside the bed and it migrated under the mattress where only fingers could shimmy it out and for days it lay there forgotten, undemanding.

 

What had gripped me hard in an escape from isolation during Advent had been lost until it was time to go home and you know what?

 

I just lived.  Facebook stilled.  Twitter grew quiet and emails piled up unanswered.  But I lived. I whipped up countless batches of scrambled eggs, stole moments by the fire to read, and played countless games of Ticket to Ride with my brothers, Andrew and dad into dark hours. I raced my children down the hill on sleds and my only striving was making baby Ulee break out in those smiles that would wave full through his entire body.

 

I lived full of feasting, taking large gulps of joy.

 

Everything else lay fallow.

 

Whatever a Sabbath might be, a stillness or a feasting. Sabbath always includes setting down our ordinary and letting work lie fallow.

 

Someday I want to pack Andrew’s camera and take a trip back to Malabar Farm in Mansfield, OH.  There in the middle of the farm fields a screen writer, Louis Bromfield, would stop tapping on his typewriter to move the mouths of Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall and pull himself up on a tractor.  He had a hobby farm in a large way and would allow the Hollywood elite to come home with him as long as they would pick up a hoe during the day or sell vegetables at the stand at the end of the lane. (photo by Tom Batchelder)

 

But what I love about him most is that along with his stack of screen writes on his desk, he unrolled charts of crop rotations.  He studied his small plot of earth, was highly concerned with soil depletion and even when it wasn’t popular, learned the art of letting the earth lay fallow.

Check out this newsreel from the 40’s of Louis’ farm:

 

And this is the gift of Sabbath.

 

When our little section of earth lies fallow, we soak, rebuild, renourish, regenerate what has been lost.

 

We must die in order to Live.

 

And what is it that the Wise One says: There is a time for everything under heaven…a time to plant, and a time to uproot…a time to speak and a time to be silent.  (Ecclesiastes 3)

 

And in that fallow, replenished ground, the dying seed can be planted in the dark soft turned-over loam and bloom a hundred fold.

 

And this is my prayer for you today, my friend.  For fallow ground.

 

Lord of the Harvest,

we pray for a rhythm of rest,

a stilling of the reaching hand,

a setting down of our clumsy burdens.

Amen

 

And for the comment section: What does becoming fallow ground mean for you today?

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For Your Sabbath Quiet Hours: A Clearing in the Wild lyrics

Dear One, you’ve been spinning, making magic out of straw. You’ve loved with fierceness and lived strong. You’ve struggled tired and flailed.  Now it’s time to rest, breathe deep. Refill. Put a pot of orange slices, cinnamon sticks and cloves on the stove to simmer. Set out cheese and crackers out for dinner, light a fire in the fireplace, open a book that makes you sit still, drink deep.

 

For you, my friend, I’m praying for a clearing in the wild.

 

I’m praying for space to reconnect, where you can come into His Presence, curl up and get strong again.

 

This is our favorite Sunday afternoon music: A Clearing in the Wild. We saw Red Tail Ring by accident at Salt of the Earth, a small local-food restaurant/music venue in Fennville, MI. We walked in on a Saturday afternoon, slid into a booth after a hike in the Allegan State Game area and together consumed a huge homemade s’more. Red Tail Ring, a husband a wife team from Kalamazoo, MI were picking banjos in the next room and we took turn standing with a child in the shadows, transported. Upon arriving home, we immediately downloaded this song from itunes and now it’s the song we play on repeat to mark our entrance to the quiet hours. Check it out here.

 

Today as the sun begins to set on your year, I pray for quiet hours to allow the blessing to settle in.  I pray for you to “rest heavy, my Love.”

 

A Clearing in the Wild:

Verse:

Rest heavy my Love.

Turn it all off.

Slow it all down while the sun’s far away.

Cause we mark the pages of every new day

and I want your first steps to be strong.

 

Let yourself go,

sigh like the rapids,

breathe down your body

let the dam overflow

and release the day like a thunder of sparrows

and lie in the stillness when everything’s gone.

 

I love you the fullest

when everything’s stripped

when nothing’ else is with us a clearing in the wild

leave no strings trailing

your sword is still flailing

so no thorns can grab on

as we float til’ the dawn.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Sabbath: Time to Witness Heaven Touching Earth

I’m at the end of Emily Freeman’s lovely book, A Million Little Ways, on life and art and an art filled ordinary and also carrying the heaviness of my Nona’s passing.

(Isn’t she stunning?

Classy. That’s the word I keep hearing. Inside and out. She never gossiped, risked everything for love and dressed as if today she could be invited to tea with the queen. Today is visiting hours. Tomorrow Andrew and I have the privilege of leading the funeral service.)

This quote from Emily on page 185 rang authentic for these days:

 

“When we stepped off the elevator for the first time on the Palliative Care Unit to visit Frank, I had the distinct feeling of the presence of God. This is a place where heaven touches earth. It was real, palpable, comforting. But heaven touches earth in my living room too. In my bedroom and in my front yard and on top of the Empire State Building and on an island in the middle of the sea and in the cardboard houses in Manila and on my front porch. Heaven touches earth every minute, when I touch my husband’s hand and look into his eyes, when the girls whisper good nights and I love you and the boy makes a mess with toy airplanes and crayons. Heaven is touching earth right now. But sometimes it takes endings for us to see it.”

 

I pray that today the dust of earth will be washed from your eyes. That you will see heaven touching earth, His glory spread like a soft blanket of light into your everyday.

 

Take time to look, taste, touch, smell, hear and breathe deeply of this God-made life. Feast on the present. Blessings, my friends.

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