The Diligent Intentionality of Slow Feet

I had coffee with a dear friend a couple of days ago and we shared about our walks with the Lord. We both discussed specific areas where we wanted to see growth, especially in recognizing His presence through the day and in being more attentive to the Holy Spirit’s nudges. Jan Johnson in Abundant Simplicity says, “Simplicity with time requires the diligent intentionality of creating enough space that I may say yes to God about treasuring God and loving people.”

Just before meeting my friend I had to stop at my church. This was an extra trip made necessary because I accidentally picked up a plastic bag that I thought was mine and did not realize my mistake until I got home. The extra trip had me agitated, my plan for the day already had too many things to do. On my drive there I told the Lord I was frustrated because it seems no matter how hard I try not to be busy, my time always shrinks because of extra things to do. And then I told Satan that my God is not a God of chaos but One of peace. I spoke out loudly against my busyness.

When I got to church my pastor greeted me and asked me how I was. I told him I was overwhelmed even though my life is quieter. My mind keeps racing with a never-ending list of things to do. He said one word, “focus,” and spoke of the importance of being present to what I am doing in the moment. I left church feeling settled, our conversation brought me back to Johnson’s words regarding the diligent intentionality of creating enough space…”

I have a lot I want to get done, but I can choose how I go about it. I can either race from one thing to another or I can slow down and be present focusing on one thing at a time. I am working at learning to focus at one thing at a time, but am obviously still struggling with it. Focus.

In Abundant Simplicity, Johnson suggests doing a “heart exam” asking yourself, “[what’s] running me?” Such a good question. Often the things that keep me racing through my day feeling overwhelmed and frustrated come down to my need to people please and to earn love. And I have mentioned that I realize I don’t get what I need from these measures, but I seem to be stuck in a habit of living this way. It is a bad habit that I am trying hard to change.

Johnson also suggest checking with the Lord about what He is calling us to do, with the emphasis being on loving Him and letting His love for me overflow to others. This definitely means a change in focus for me. Instead of focusing on my agenda, checking off the items to do, it means a constant checking in with God. How am I living out love in what I am doing? And it is an excellent reminder to help me really abide.

A few years ago I was at a women’s retreat. One afternoon we had a couple of hours of free time, so I decided to take a walk by the beach. There were lots of rock, and I love rocks! I am always trying to find one with special significance for the moment. So as I walked along this rocky path I talked with the Lord about what He wanted me to do, how I should move forward in life living out my mission. I also prayed that He would give me a special rock. I listened as I hunted. He seemed to tell me to have “slow feet.” I wrote this in my little notebook along with other snippets from the Spirit’s lead. I picked up a small rock that satisfied my desire and headed back to the retreat center. As I continued to walk there along the side of the path there was a rock that caught my attention, not because I was hunting but because it was the rock the Lord had for me. It is in the perfect shape of a foot (see featured image). So incredibly amazing is our God!

Proverbs 19:2 says, “One who moves too hurriedly misses the way.” The Lord wants me to have slow feet so that I don’t miss the way. He wants me to walk with diligent intentionality. I have circled back to those words “slow feet” often in the past few years. But it seems I always get caught up in the hurry of life. This time I am choosing diligent intentionality for the longterm future. It will definitely take focus!

Johnson suggests the importance of having margin in our days. She uses the example of Jesus. Jesus was constantly interrupted, and He allowed those interruptions to become times of blessing others. He made Himself available to the needs of others. He didn’t grumble that He had too much to do when someone begged to be healed or asked Him to meet a different need.

Johnson suggests that we need margin in our days. Time to breathe in between activities. Time for reflection and prayer. She says, [a] life of sabbath, pauses, and margin creates a stillness inside us that infuses each thought and conversation.” We need “whitespace” both in our lives and on our calendars. Making this happen may require that we set some boundaries. Johnson defines a boundary as “a practical statement of intentionality.” 

I am realizing, especially in my people pleasing, that I need to set boundaries. First, asking myself why I am saying “yes” to this as I consider it in my mind. Then, also making sure that I do not answer in a hurry, but instead taking time to prayerfully think about it. What will it require of me and my time? What will I have to give up in order to do it?

Just this morning I saw an opportunity online to learn Hebrew, and I thought about how much I would like to do it, I went to the page to sign up and I stopped. What am I doing? I had to remind myself that I cannot do everything. I can’t be in this writing group, and learn how to quilt with this group, and learn Hebrew online and keep adding more and more things. I closed the page that offered the class, and although, I’ll admit, I felt disappointed because it is something I would like to do, I realized cannot do it right now. It was acting on impulse, not walking with slow feet, not walking with diligent intentionality.

I am choosing to recalibrate my life with the diligent intentionality of slow feet. I will be sharing more of this process in future blogs. It is a process that takes time to learn, but I am determined to seek His way.

How about you, how are you being diligently intentional with your time?

 

 

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Intentional Space for God’s Grace in Your Words

Last week I shared about Living Intentionally or on Autopilot .  I want to choose to live intentionally in all of life.  In Simple Abundance, Jan Johnson devotes a chapter to talking about simplifying the way we speak; how much we talk, our motives for saying what we do, and being intentional in our words. The experiments suggested in this chapter are ones that require great intentionality. This one chapter taught me so much, not easy lessons, but very important ones. Johnson gave me questions, regarding my words, that I repeatedly ask myself throughout my days now.

Johnson says, “Simplicity of speech flows from a heart that has bonded with the heart of Jesus, compassionate and truthful, loving and good.” This statement sets the tone for what I want to share with you today. Our speech, what we say, and how we say it, has a huge impact on those who hear us.

When our tongues are on autopilot the flow of our words is often left unchecked. We may find ourselves exaggerating to gain self-importance, using words to manipulate and to get our way, telling white-lies, or even raising our voices and repeating ourselves to be heard. Do you see a pattern here? Each of these measures points back to the importance of self. Johnson says that simplicity of speech is about “[words] that are few in number but deep in fullness” these words “rise up from a heart that has examined and distilled its motives and given up trying to push itself forward or win over others.”
I am intrigued by her use of the word “distilled.” Distillation is used with water to remove the impurities by boiling the liquid. Distilling my motives means putting a fire under them to separate out the impurities in them as well. This is such an important process in being intentional. Johnson mentions in this chapter that she began to ask herself why she was talking. When my tongue is on autopilot it just goes on and on and I think very little of my motives. I have decided that her idea may be a beneficial practice and I have started asking myself “why am I talking?” Many times I cannot come up with a good reason.

Ephesians 4:29 tells us that the talk that “comes out of [our] mouths” should be “only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Are my words helping to build others up according to their needs? Are my words really benefiting the one who is listening? Maybe the distilling process would leave me with words that have these effects.
[Communication] doesn’t work if our goal is to express ourselves rather that create space for God’s grace to flow.”

I am afraid all too often my communications are more about me getting my point across than creating space for God’s grace to flow. What about you? I need to learn to create space for God’s grace to flow. Johnson tells how she chose to experiment with the practice of not giving her opinion unless she was asked for it. I tried that and it really was a struggle. It seems that my mind is always racing ahead thinking about what I want to say rather than listening to what is being said. But the occasions for my opinion to be asked for, those were definitely rare. I am not sure that I ever realized that before.

Johnson suggests that “[instead] of thinking of what we want to say, we work at silencing our thoughts and [become] fully present to the other person.” It is such an intentional practice to focus fully on what the other person is sharing. This means silencing the constant inner-chatter and just listening. It is not easy to do. Reality is that we often just want to be heard more than we want to listen. Or at least that seems to be what happens with me.

Proverbs 10:19 explains, “Sin is not ended by multiplying words but the prudent hold their tongues.”

So, as I learn a few of the practices shared in this chapter on the simplicity of speech, I realize I must work to hold my tongue. I must learn to listen more, and I must learn to create space for God’s grace to flow. This was an amazing chapter and I have only shared a few of the ideas she offered. I have shared the ones that I am trying to practice. I know I will go back to this chapter again and again, to learn to practice others, as I am now very aware of my tongue so often on autopilot.

Is simplicity in speech an area you desire to be intentional with?

Talk to the Lord and seek His directions, ask Him how you can create space for His grace to flow.

Living Intentionally or on Autopilot

Psalm 86:11 “Teach me your way O LORD and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart that I may fear your name.”

How would you describe your life — are you living intentionally or are you running through life on autopilot?

I have been working my way through the book “He Restores My Soul” by Jennifer Kennedy Dean. This past week focused on having a steadfast heart. She talked about setting our minds on things above (Colossians 3:2). A steadfast heart is an undivided heart. It is a heart with deliberate and intentionally focused on God and His Word.

In Jan Johnson’s book Abundant Simplicity, she states, “We allow purity of heart to grow by willing one thing only –an ever-expanding life with God. Our falling in love with God should be what decides everything in our lives. Johnson goes on to say that “[the] single-minded person does the next single thing that is needed in order to focus on God instead of giving into the automatic response of the past. To treasure God is to have a single-focused life (Matthew 6:19-23).”

Living in simplicity is all about focus, and as a Christian it is about focusing on God. My life to this point mostly would not be described by the word “simplicity.” I am sure busy, overwhelming, exhausting, and distracted are words that describe my life much more accurately. But on the road to recalibrating my life I am seeking simplicity in all of it. And in order to get there it will much more about being intentional, rather than living on autopilot.

So, just how do they look different? I think autopilot is all about doing what you feel you need to do, or what you know needs to be done. And sometimes that means running scattered as you put out fires. When we lack intentionality Johnson says we “[scatter] our time and energy among things that don’t fit with what we really want. And in doing so we live in frustration. Johnson attributes our frustration to not responding to God’s longing within us. In my last post I shared about how I was Learning to Long for God.

I have felt like I have lived on autopilot, racing through life with an endless to-do list and my pencil to check things off. And for the most part, without a thought about my longings or God’s longings. I only know I got to the end of most every day feeling very frustrated. I guess I always attributed that to not accomplishing everything on my list of to-do’s. But I am realizing it as more about my divided heart living with unsatisfied longings. This left me feeling discontent and restless. It always felt like there should be more. But who could fit one more thing into the day?

My endless to-do list kept me so busy that I had no time to listen to God or to the longings of my heart. But the discipline of simplicity gives us an invitation to “lay aside every weight that hinders us” (Hebrews 12:1). Sometimes the things we need to lay aside may be “good things” but they are things that lead us to be distracted and keep us from being focused. Whereas living intentionally, Johnson explains, “means replacing autopilot by living “deliberately” as Henry David Thoreau called it.”

When we choose simplicity and live with intentionality we have to take time to do some re-evaluating. I think the first step in this is taking time to soul-search deep within to better understand our longings. And from there we seek the Lord to help us learn how are longings lead us back to Him. We have to take time to hear Him speak into our hearts and lives.

Then once we have taken the time to allow our longings to lead us back to God, we can begin to choose deliberateness in life, and we can choose what we want to be intentional about. Those choices become our focus. We stop running in twenty different directions and choose a few things.

I look at our home and see closets filled with various projects left undone. Books fill my bookshelves, many I began reading and never finished. It seems life on autopilot follows any whim. But recalibrating my life now means choosing intentionality. So I am being deliberate about what fills my home, my mind, my calendar, and all of life. My longings, the ones I followed back to God’s heart lead me. I have chosen a few important points of focus for my life right now.

1- Loving my husband and those closes to my heart with the love the Lord lavishes on me.

What this means for me is that I deliberately choose what demonstrates that love, and as I do I feel the Lord feeding and satisfying my love-hunger. The Lord is love, yet I have consistently tried to earn love from people in this world by striving and manipulating and sad to say, it has mostly left me empty. So my longing for love leads me to the only One Who can satisfy my heart with His love. And He leads me in learning how to love others.

2– Writing (blogposts and hopefully, a book.)

I have loved to journal and write from little on. But again writing can become another place to strive– a place to earn accolades. And so when I take the longing of writing to the Lord it becomes about sharing His truth. I see that what so often turns into pressure to grow an audience or complete a book or just write more to say I did. But now it is no longer about those things. I am finding joy in touching one heart at a time with God-truths as He grows faith in me and helps me to know Him more and more. It goes back to letting the Spirit nudge my heart with a verse or a word that prompts a post or a chapter. It’s about learning of Him and His love and sharing that. What feeds my writing is being deliberate and intentional in spending time with Him and in His Word.

3– Making a simple life by simplifying my home.

Clutter leads to anxiety and chaos. And seeing closets full and boxes filled with old projects or unnecessary on-a-whim purchases that have gone unused leads me to long for a simpler way. I want to focus on what we need and what is easy to keep clean. I want our home to only hold within its walls things that we love which have meaning and usefulness. Overwhelm and busyness can be created in part from having to constantly organize and clean stuff.

So taking my longings for peace and quiet in life to the Lord has led me to see all I can give away. And, in doing so, it makes room for so much more. No, not more stuff, but more time to enjoy what I have and those I love and the things I want to do. Wanting more, trying to fill the empty hole inside is a sin-sickness that I am taking to the Lord. I can never fill that hole and find contentment on my own. The contentment comes from the One Who satisfies my soul as I seek Him for gifts that really matter.

As I took my surface longings to the Lord, I found that my deeper longings are about being treasured and cherished, listened to and seen, being loved and having community, and about knowing peace and contentment within. Yes, there are definitely outward things I desire but I cannot make them satisfy my deeper longings– only God can. And it is in being intentional and focused on my life in the Lord and His Word that I can grow in my day-to-day life finding joy in abundant simplicity of my own choosing.

I am trying not to live on autopilot anymore, but instead, in this season, I am trying to recalibrate my life by living intentionally. What about you, are you living in autopilot or are you living intentionally?

*Featured image photographed by Paul Varnum on Unsplash.

Learning to Long for God

Contentment, or the lack of it, is really an issue of the heart. In order to really understand our own feelings we need to look at our wants and longings. We cannot be content apart from knowing what we want or long for.

I took a long hard look at my wants and longings when I went through my first Recalibrate Life read, Sacred Rhythms by Ruth Haley Barton. And I revisited the responses of my heart again as I read Abundant Simplicity by Jan Johnson in February.

One of the questions at the end of the second chapter in Abundant Simplicity is,”How would you like to see your life progressively more organized around God and His eternal life?” This is a question that intrigued me– especially since it came near the end of a chapter about contentment, wants, and longings.

The question took me back to my responses in Sacred Rhythms on my wants and longings. The act of talking with the Lord about my hearts’ desires was very precious, it was a very tender time. I shared about this in my post last month, My Response to Sacred Rhythms. I think this was true because I finally realized that all of my longings come out of a deeper neediness for more of the Lord.

In a way that surprised me, even though I knew this truth as head-knowledge. But the things we want whether it is about money, deeper intimacy in our relationships, feeling more loved, having more or better possessions, or accomplishing certain goals, are all rooted in our hunger for God and His love. I believe our longings are God-given. But, our longings are put in us to draw us to know Him more, to depend on Him more, and to find what we need in Him more.

In looking at my personal longings and seeking to reach for them, I realized that when I am not reaching for the Lord and especially for Him to meet my hearts’ longing, I am on the wrong path. If I am instead pursuing the end product or result for my own glory or others’ acceptance or personal security, I am missing the point.

The Lord delights in meeting our needs and satisfying our hearts’ desires, but if He sees those desires leading us away from Him, He will try to turn our focus back to Him.

So, back to that question, the one that has really tugged at my heart: How would you like to see your life progressively more organized around God and His eternal life?

Simplicity and contentment of heart depend on my focus. If my focus is scattered and I am living distracted, going after all of my desires to fulfill my own longings, the Lord will intervene. He will intervene because that is the wrong path. and He knows that I will not find contentment in the chaos that brings.

When I pursue God and my focus is on my relationship with Him, when it is on pleasing Him, and living for Him and His will, then, that is where I will find the heart of simplicity. And I have found that He will grant me contentment as I recognize Him as my All in All.

So, yes, I may want to grow my blog or finish my manuscript. But what do I do with that longing? My goal is to connect with the Lord in each longing. It is about wanting to bring Him into the longing, for Him to be at work within it and within me. And in that longing, as I prayed, I realized that I want Him to work in me and my life so other lives can be touched by Him through my words. I need to know Him more. I need to see His hand and heart touching my life, so I can share the glory of His wondrous work.

This demonstrates “organizing my life around God and His eternal life.” No matter what the longing is, if my life is to be more organized around God, I have to see that He is always what I want, or Who I want more of, more than anything else.

Our longings can so easily be mixed up with wrong motives. That is why Johnson’s question is so important to explore. We can get so caught up in self and self-sufficiency. We tend to live so unaware of the relationship of our longings and our need for God. It is so very important that we take it all, each of our longings, into His presence.

As I took each of my longings and brought them back to my deep need for the Lord, I sought to see Him as the center of my longings. This process helped me to see the path to simplifying my life. I also came to learn much about my deep-ceded personal fears. Fears of rejection, fear of replacement, fear of not belonging, or of lack of acceptance, fear of being misunderstood, and the fear of not having all I think I need. I discovered lots of fears within my longings. But all of this took me back to seeking God. That is what organizing my life around God is about.

Johnson says, “If we want to want God our next step is to come to terms with our underlying fears. We start where we are. We invite God to work with us on these fears so we can begin drinking God’s living water, God’s own Spirit…”

I know that I want to want God more, I want to love Him with all of my heart, mind, soul, and strength, but I continuously fall short. So I must daily look at these inner longings and talk with Him about them. I need to look at my calendar and my planner and see what my life and my schedule really say about what I want. Where am I spending my time? How am I spending my money? Where am I seeking security and acceptance? The proof and truth will shine brightly there.

This isn’t a “one-time-and-done” response regarding how to organize life around God. It is an ongoing check and re-check of our longings and what our lives are says about how we are living them out.

So, I am learning to long more for God in all of life. And it takes time and focus and prayer and soul-searching. I want to live my life longing for God moment-by-moment. This is becoming an important part of learning to recalibrate life here in 2019.

What about you? What are you longing for? Have you looked deeply at your longings and how the Lord is such an important part of your hearts’ cries? Take some of your longings to Him today. He wants to hear about your deep desires.

 

 

*Note the featured image is a photograph by Paul Varnum on Unsplash.