My Response to GodSpace: Time for Peace in the Rhythms of Life

My recalibrate life read for March was GodSpace: Time for Peace in the Rhythms of Life, by Christine Sine, M.D.

The focus of this book is to invite its readers to “make space for God” and “discover a Christlike pace that liberates us from the frenzy of a culture enslaved by time.”

She begins the book by leading the reader to see the problem of chaotic busyness in life and how it “constantly leaves us gasping for breath.” She helps us to recognize that God desires rest for both our bodies and our souls.

As Christians our lives should look different, we should be living with different priorities. Our life rhythm should be fulfilling, yet it seems that many believers live a life of frustration in the same kind of rat-race as everyone else.

Sine encourages her readers to be intentional about putting forth effort to “develop spiritual practices that put our faith and its rhythms at the center of all we are and do.”  This immediately caught my attention, as I know that I have not lived this way. I have only started to make a few changes in this direction as I work to recalibrate my life this year.  She says that “we need spiritual rituals to anchor our lives and give them meaning.”

I initially cringed at the word “rituals” because I usually equate a ritual as a go-through-the motions activity that lacks whole-heartedness. But I came to a new understanding, and am beginning to look at this word a little differently. I see rituals now more like “pillars” in our days, pillars that lead us back into the doorway of deeper relationship with the Lord.

When we set in place a plan of spiritual rhythm and set aside specific times throughout our days to find our way back to Him in the busyness of our day, we find there the reality of His loving-presence.

These “pillars” can look different in each of our lives. It may be times of short prayers, like breath prayers, or meditating on a section of Scripture at various times during the day. Or maybe you choose a different attribute of the Lord to concentrate on each day at lunchtime. It could be setting aside time for a weekly prayer-walk or planning for Sabbath rest, even just a few hours during the week. It may mean that you attend an annual spiritual conference or plan for quarterly personal prayer retreats. There are so many options! Sine suggests many different ideas.

Most importantly, you must decide what nourishes your heart and feeds your soul as it draws you into deeper intimacy with the Lord. What quiets the chaos that races through your mind? What brings you back to center?

Sine explains that although we recognize our need for prayer and Scripture reading in our lives, it seems that in the midst of our busyness these spiritual practices that are the first things we let go of. Life begins to feel out-of-control and we try to gain control by cutting back on a few things. Unfortunately, we cut back on the ones that are most necessary.

So, it comes down to, once again, this matter of being intentional. You start out by choosing to set aside the time and make some important choices of spritual practices. I am trying to do this, and it takes time to see what fits. I am starting out by finding a daily/weekly spiritual rhythm. My quiet time has been a set part of that rhythm, but I want more “pillars” in my day. Right now some of my “pillars” are as follows:

  • I am writing a breath prayer out of my Scripture reading to take with me through the day. And I am trying to remember to say it at times when I feel anxiety building. It takes repeated practice to make that happen, I often forget, but it is definitely a pillar I want in place.
  • I am choosing one to three Psalms to pray each day. My goal is one for morning, one for noon and one in the evening, but I am not there yet. I am getting one or two in on some days. But I know that benefits of praying Scripture and I love the Psalms, so it is something I will continue  to work at.
  • I am working through the book Whispers of Rest by Bonnie Gray. She has a beautiful way of leading you into the presence of the Lord through her writing. It is all about learning to rest in His love (something I definitely need and want to do). During this time, I respond to questions, journal, and pray. She has a one-word theme for each day to help draw you into the Lord’s presence.

The practices I have chosen are not direct suggestions from GodSpace, but I am seeking to find what works for me. I need practices, or “pillars” as I choose to call them, that invite me into God’s presence. The ideas that you choose for your own spiritual rhythm can be directly from Sine’s suggestions (if you choose to read her book), or they can be different ones you find and decide on. It is not about the “what” you use. The importance of all of this is being drawn back to the Lord and deepening the intimacy of your relationship with Him.

So, I have to admit, I have not read all of Sine’s book yet. I still have a few chapters to read, and I am working through the questions at the end of each chapter as I go. The questions are thought-provoking, they are helping me to take a closer look at where I have been and where I want to go in my walk with the Lord.

In the past I probably would have rushed through the book in order to say that I am finished in time to write this post, but finishing the book isn’t my goal, living a recalibrated life is. Seeking to know the Lord’s presence more in my day, being intentional about, both, remembering to breathe deeply and to have slow feet; those are some of my goals in this process. This journey will be one of trial-and-error as I try different practices and see if they are successful in helping me meet my goals.

Sabbath rest is another one of the spiritual rhythms Sine discusses in her book. It is a practice I want to learn to live, and I have been choosing certain practices of Sabbath that work in my life. Next month’s blog posts will center around the subjects of Sabbath-keeping and Sabbath rest. I hope you will continue this journey of recalibrating life next week as we delve into that.

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The Catalyst

Too busy, I have been too busy. And although I have been planning and thinking about how to work towards recalibrating my life, taking steps toward doing so have been small.

One thing I have noticed in my busyness, is that my stress and exhaustion have kept me from praying consistently. I think about taking time to pray, and then I get distracted. Or I feel too tired to pray, and I choose to do something mindless, something that I don’t have to think about.

I have been becoming frustrated with myself. I felt stuck as if I wanted to pray but just couldn’t. And then on Christmas Day my heart was touched. We were visiting Mom in her new home and she had some things that she had gone through and was deciding if she should get rid of them. So, I was looking through some containers of jewelry, just checking to see if there was anything I might want to keep. Something silver sparkled in the menagerie of pins and necklaces. I pulled it from amongst the other pieces, it was a silver necklace with a small oval pendant hanging on it. The oval part had folded hands, not etched in the silver, but raised. I flipped the oval over to look at the back, and etched in fine print were the words, “God answers prayer.”

Tears filled my eyes and emotion caught in my throat. How had I let life become so overwhelming that I no longer had time or energy to pray or spend with the Lord? How had I forgotten His faithfulness?

I put the necklace on and fingered the praying hands. My heart felt a tug and something inside released. I had felt as if in a vice grip of anger, frustration, and overwhelm. Resentful! And in the midst of it all I think I pushed God away. It really makes very little sense to me, because He has been working in amazing ways in my life, making things happen that only He could do. Ye I think I felt buried under all that was and is left undone. And somehow I still felt left very much alone. But I didn’t cry out to Him, I didn’t seem to have the focus or the energy to say anything.

This necklace, the folded hands, the words of promise on the back, encouraged my heart and made me feel my need again. My need for the Lord, my need to pray and to share my heart.

It feels like He reached for my hand, for my heart, and reminded me, hey, I’m still here, you don’t have to continue to carry that alone. How had I forgotten?

How very tender and sweet is my Heavenly Father who knows my wayward heart when it feels stuck in quicksand and reaches for me in such an unexpected way. He can use anything as a catalyst to pull us close, to help us feel His love and desire for our intimacy with Him.

Since that day I have been learning of some changes needed in my heart. The Lord is showing me daily where growth needs to take place.

I got together with a dear friend for coffee, to share our responses from a study we are doing together, to exchange Christmas presents, and to chat. We had a beautiful time. Just before we got ready to leave we shared pour personal prayer requests. She shared her struggles and need, then I shared mine. I told her through my responses to the questions and as I verbalized my requests how I had been so overwhelmed and preoccupied that my prayer life had been suffering. I shared how I needed to be quiet before the Lord instead of frantic and rushed.

The next day as I read in my Recalibrate Life read for January, I found myself in a chapter on prayer. Here in Ruth Haley Barton’s book, Sacred Rhythms I learned a little more about “breath prayers.” I saw what I had previously underlined and wrote in the margin. I noticed the breath prayer I had chosen. As I reread a few paragraphs giving instruction in deciding on your personal breath prayer, I noticed that I had missed an important part in how I wrote mine. I had not voiced a need, instead I had just made a statement. The self-sufficiency of that so-called prayer glared at me. How could I have missed that? I knew the need was the same, but this time I would voice the neediness. I wrote my new breath prayer in my prayer journal. “My Sweet Abba, Help me abide.”

I can’t do it alone. In order to continue to grow in my relationship with the Lord I need to find that quiet place of abiding on a regular basis. I need that place of intimacy and rest.

I closed my eyes and whispered my breath-prayer, tears immediately filled my eyes. At first it seemed puzzling to me, but a picture came to my mind. When a small child is in need of a nap but is fighting you as you attempt put him down, and the chase is on. Then, at last, when you catch the little one and hold them tight, usually tears ensue in the midst of the wrestling for calm. The child recognizes the comfort they have found, and their exhaustion catches up with them. They finally find rest.

There I was, tears sliding down my cheeks, recognizing I was where I needed to be. My tears came because I have wrestled so long with self-sufficiency and at last there in the abiding I found what I needed. A peacefulness settled over me. And the Lord brought a few verses to my mind.

Psalm 91:4 NLT “He will cover you with His feathers, He will shelter you with His wings, His faithful promises are your armor and protection.”

Psalm 63:7-8 NLT “Because You are my helper, I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings. I cling to You; Your strong right hand holds me securely.”

When I abide in the shadow of His wings, in His loving presence, I find there I can stop striving. I can just be there without words. A sweet place to rest. It is my hope to find this place often throughout my coming days. To just sit with my Lord. I have known this place before, but busyness caused me to lose my way.

The verses above are now printed in my planner on a page just before my daily pages. A small reminder of my neediness. I see the folded hands necklace every day, and choose to where it some. It has been a precious catalyst to help me find my way back from the chaos. And my breath prayer is only a whisper away to lead me into the Lord’s presence as He draws my heart to know it’s neediness for Him more and more.

How sweet and gentle is the Lover of my soul! How is He drawing you? What is He showing you that you need? Draw near to Him today to know His love for you more!

Interruptions: Invitations to Rest

Have you ever pondered how the Lord gets your attention?

When He does get your attention what has your response been? Did you stop? Did it lead you to change?

It seem there are many circumstances and situations that come into our lives and seem to interrupt our days. Oftentimes we get irritated, we muddle through, and go on without giving the incident a second thought. But the Lord is intentional.

I am finding that when I take time to stop and pay attention to the interruption, I then see how the Lord wants to use that moment to teach me something. The interruptions are often invitations to rest. They are His way of calling us aside from our busyness, our hyper-focus on our lives and what we are trying to make happen.

The Lord uses these interruptions for many different reasons. Some that I have come to notice are these:

  1. To call me to Him
  2. To lead me to listen to Him
  3. To look at what He wants us to see
  4. To help me find a new way to perceive a situation
  5. To give me new understanding
  6. To help me find the road to deepening trust in Him.

When we answer the call, when we draw near to Him, when we put down our busyness, when we look into His Word, then we are able to really learn what He has for us. It is there we find rest. We see our smallness, our lack of control, and power, and we see His ability to move mountains.

I am constantly struggling with my own striving, my drivenness, my way of control, my busyness, and I am realizing that it is through God’s interruptions I’m given an invitation to rest. The invitation tells me to stop what I am doing, to pay attention to what is happening, to be present, and aware of what God is saying and doing. I am called aside to consider it all.

When interruptions come into my day, rather than trying to push through or rush through to accomplish what I want done, I must stop. It seems that these interruptions happen most often when I am stressed and frantic, frustrated and overwhelmed. It is in those moments that something will consistently not go right, or someone will request something of me, or a truth will shoot through my mind like a bullet. It will be something that I cannot ignore.

And then when I finally decide that there is no getting past it, I stop and the Lord teaches me. He may teach me to seek and find:

  • Rest from trying to do too much
  • Rest from attempting to control outcomes
  • Rest from worrying about something
  • Rest from trying to earn love

He’s shown me that as I am intentional about setting time aside for Him, He will help me move through the remainder of my day in a better way. He’s shown me that when I choose to abandon the outcome of a situation to Him, He will open the door to an answer that I hadn’t thought of and never would have been able to make happen. He’s shown me that my worry accomplishes nothing except for making me sick inside and that He truly is trustworthy to work on my behalf.

The interruptions seem to tell me to, “Be still and know that (I am) He is God.”

Cease.
Cease striving.
Cease trying to control outcomes.
Cease worrying.
Be at rest.
Be at peace.

We must pay attention to the interruptions that come into our days.  They very well may be calls from God to stop and take notice. When your plans get interrupted, talk with the Lord about it, find out if He wants to use that moment to change how you are perceiving the situation or how you’re thinking in general. Ask Him if He is trying to show you a new direction He wants you to take.

I have learned that the lessons He has for me are very helpful and important. So I am learning to stop when interruptions come, I am learning to slow down and pay more attention. He has given me valuable insight and granted me wisdom as I have heeded His call. Don’t miss the special invitations He may have for you!

The Importance of Connection

How are your relationships with those most important to you?

We can become so over-focused and busy that our deepest connections are set aside. We personally end up hidden in the charades of performance, in the busyness of accomplishing, and the real self is lost. We become people-pleasers. We work hard to get ahead, seeking to get the accolades. But this only leads to our being unavailable to give to those we desire intimacy with.

Shauna Niequist, in her book Present Over Perfect, says that when you begin to say yes to everyone indiscriminately, you actually end up saying no to some very important people and things. It usually means that you have less to give to those you are closest to you, like your immediate family and dearest friends.

I know, as a teacher for many years, I spent endless hours at home preparing things and doing work that I did not have time for during the school day. I realize how “over-focused” I was on getting the job done. This left very little time for relaxing with and really being with my husband. Back then, it seemed like a must, like it just had to be that way, but now as I am prompted to think about it again, I know I would want to do it differently.

What is swallowing up you and your life so much that you are missing out on the important relationships in your life?

Change begins by answering that question honestly, and from there you must decide if it is worth it to you to have your life consumed in that way.

Shauna starts out by simply drawing concentric circles with herself in the center and then putting people within the circles according to the depth of relationship. When you take time to do this and look carefully at what you see on your paper, you can evaluate where your focus is and decide where it should be.

We all need connection in our lives but we personally decide who gets more of us. Intimacy doesn’t grow without making your heart and true self available. It takes time and effort. When we are physically and emotionally depleted by what we have given away, we become unavailable to those closest. Unavailable because of being too tired or too busy.

I recognized this when I was working a lot, but didn’t see anything that I could do different, and truthfully didn’t have the energy to change it. Now, looking back and seeing how my relationship with my husband has grown since I do have time to give to the relationship, I regret not having done it sooner. I always would want to do my best job, but when it is at the expense of those I love it becomes of question of choices.

When we look at Jesus we see that we could make concentric circles to show His relationships. He was, of course, closest to His Heavenly Father. But, here on earth, we see that He had an inner circle of three, those being Peter, James, and John. Those three were the men He had deeper relationships with and spent a lot of time with. He was in their lives. From there we see that He gave of Himself to the 12 disciples; teaching, leading, and befriending them. And then we see, beyond that, there were the 70, these had access to Jesus on occasions briefly, they weren’t consistently in His life. There were multitudes of people clamoring for Jesus’ attention, with needs and desires, and Jesus had to make choices. His choices were made through prayer. He spoke with His Heavenly Father about who the 12 should be. It wasn’t left to chance. Yet, He showed a level of love and compassion to all.

It is important to know in our hearts where we are going to be willing to put our energy so that we can be deeply connected to those we love. We need to make a heart commitment to a few and give ourselves mostly to them. When we spread ourselves too thin we become unavailable in important ways.

Connection, relationship, and intimacy are necessary parts to all of our lives, but we must make important choices throughout life. No matter what stage we are in, we need to make sure that we are available to those who should matter most.

Are you deeply connected to a few or are you in the charades of perfection and busyness giving yourself away indiscriminately? Talk to your Heavenly Father, ask Him to lead you in the decisions you need to make regarding your connections and relationships. Jesus demonstrates a perfect example for us. Follow Him!

Finding Refreshment in Being Present

My purpose in writing the SoulRefreshed blog posts is to help my readers see that the Lord’s love is the soil for us to grow in. All too often we lose sight of His amazing love, we can so easily get lost in all the weeds of life; weeds of busyness, heaviness, work, and performance.

I recently both listened to and read Shauna Niequist’s book Present over Perfect. It is another book that I found myself greatly impacted by. This month I am going to share some of the concepts that have helped me make some important changes in my life, mind, and heart.

This month I will be sharing about:

1. The Weight of Life

Some questions I will be considering are: Do you feel like your life is a cart filled with bricks that you must drag through life. Is that cart overloaded and too heavy? Are you too busy? What are you willing to change?

2. The Importance of Connection

Who are you connecting with?  Who are you available to? Are they the people that really matter? Is the real you so hidden in the charades of performance that you have lost yourself as well as the deep connection you long for?

3. Sharing Your Fragile

What do you share? Not just with those people in your life whom you feel safe with but specifically with the Lord? Can you be real with Him? Does He know your heart because you have given Him your fragility? Or are you faking perfection, trying to hold it all together?

4. What’s in Your Treasure Chest?

Do you know God’s love in your heart? Is it a treasure you store deep in your soul? Or what are you hanging onto for assurance and hope?

5.  Finding Quiet and Learning to Play

Where in your day can you find quiet? Is there any time for solitude? Do you find time to play? Do you even know how? Is there time in your life for enjoyment and fun? What needs to change to make this happen?

6. Choosing Simplicity

All that we will talk about comes down to choosing simplicity. Choosing to say no to some things, choosing to let the go of some and knowing what the important things are. Inside and outside.

This is a quick peek at some of what we will be looking at in April. Soul searching is good especially when we can learn soul refreshment in what the Lord has for us. I hope you’ll join me in finding refreshment in being present rather than lost in the charades of performance and doing. It is in the performance and doing that we often end up feeling lost, alone, and on overload.