Holding My Breath

It’s summertime, which for me conjures up memories of being at the “Lake House” with my cousins, perpetually in a wet swim suit, rarely out of the lake.  One of the many games we would play was “who-can-hold-their-breath-longest-without-dying”.

Ok, it wasn’t a real active game, but you know…simple pleasures.  And nobody actually died so our parents considered it a win.

Sometimes, as adults, without even thinking about it, we play life like the  “who-can-hold-their-breath-longest-without-dying” game.

When I started running, I became much more aware of the importance of rhythm and rest, and basics. Like breathing.  And not holding our breath til we, you know, pass out.

This is not about Sabbath, but Selah. Selah is a term used mostly in the Psalms and a few times in Habbakuk that is a bit of a mystery.  Scholars aren’t positive what it means, but they think it means “rest” or “pause”.

Mark Batterson says, like in music, if Sabbath is a full rest, maybe Selah is a sixteenth rest.  A chance to catch your breath.

Or maybe Selah is the life jacket that helps us pop up above the water of everyday stress.

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If, as Eugene Peterson says, Sabbath is a day of “shutting down and shutting up.” maybe Selah moments are those in your day where you stop to think about breathing.  Reorient, and remember that you’re not in control, but you know the One who is. Continue reading

Two Reasons You Need a Snow Day

This is what we, in Minneapolis woke up to this morning.

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If you’re reading this in some exotic place like Bora Bora sitting by a palm tree on the beach and sipping drinks with little umbrellas, well,…we’re sooooooo happy for you.

In Minnesota schools statewide are closed, and activities cancelled.  It’s not a “snow day”, but a “if-you-go-outside-for-even-a-nano-second-your-lips-will-freeze-together-permanently-and-your-eyelashes-will-break-off-day”.  Last night the forecaster said, “We’ve moved from ‘stupid cold’ to ‘dangerous cold.'”

People (especially those without kids!) are relishing the idea of having to stay home and do nothing but curl up with cocoa and a good book…the treat of being forced to rest from normal activity.

On days like these, John and I like to look at each other, and say “You know what we have to do today??”  Then we grin and say, “Absolutely nothing!

I remember hearing someone say once that God wants to give us a “snow day” every week with Sabbath.  Why do we resist?  Why do we seem so addicted to “doing”… to being recognized for what we accomplish?  Is it born out of a fear that being God’s beloved child isn’t enough? Continue reading

When God Calls You to Stop Doing Stuff and Let go of Your Balloons

Anyone who knows me knows I don’t sit still well.  I love a high goal and lots of action.  Lots of people and passion.  “Not somehow, but triumphantly!” is a refrain in our family.

But with some of the people closest to me, lately I find myself saying, “I think you need to be gentle with yourself.  Give yourself grace.  Stop. Rest.”  Easier advice to give than to take.

There’s a friend who experienced an adoption nightmare while trying to be faithful to God’s leading is left reeling, confused, wounded.

A friend battling pancreatic cancer, wondering “What can I do?”

And another who’s been through a season of conflict and unfair criticism at work.

We all go through different spiritual seasons.  Some where we’re growing, others where we’re re-orienting, but often the most neglected are those seasons of rest, when God says, “Sit awhile with Me.  The world will keep spinning without you.” Continue reading

Holding my Breath

It’s summertime, which for me conjures up memories of being at the Lake House with my cousins, perpetually in a wet swim suit, rarely out of the lake.  One of the many games we would play was “who-can-hold-their-breath-longest-without-dying”.

Ok, it wasn’t a real active game, but you know…simple pleasures.  And nobody actually died so our parents considered it a win.

Sometimes without even thinking about it, we play life like this  “who-can-hold-their-breath-longest-without-dying” game.

I don’t write much about Sabbath.  And I’ve never written about Selah.  But as I’ve started running, I’ve become much more aware of the importance of rhythm and rest, and basics. Like breathing.  And not holding our breath til we pass out.

Selah is a term used mostly in the Psalms and a few times in Habbakuk that is a bit of a mystery.  Scholars aren’t positive what it means, but they think it means “rest” or “pause”.

Mark Batterson says, like in music, if Sabbath is a full rest, maybe Selah is a sixteenth rest.  A chance to catch your breath.

Or maybe Selah is the life jacket that helps us pop up above the water of everyday stress.

lake2

If, as Eugene Peterson says, Sabbath is a day of “shutting down and shutting up.” maybe Selah moments are those in your day where you stop to think about breathing.  Reorient, and remember that you’re not in control, but you know the One who is.

Through history, some have been intentional about this by “praying the hours”.

But even if you don’t pray the hours, maybe Selah is a chance to

  • Let go.  Unclench your hands and surrender to the one who is God since we are not.  I have to pray the Welcoming Prayer as a reminder to myself:  “Holy Spirit, I let go of my need for approval.  Welcome.  I let go of my need for power and control.  Welcome.  I let go of my need to change any person, circumstance or emotion.  Welcome.”
  • Look. “Look at the birds of the air…” Pay attention to the miracles all around.   I’m trying to be disciplined in stopping, standing still outside and looking around, praying:  “Creator God, thank you for…”

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  • Listen.  Our speaking comes out of our listening.  What we say comes out of what we hear.  We can pray: “Lord, what do you have to say to me about Yourself and myself today?”  Listen to words about God’s character in Psalm 46 where Selah is written in the margin in most translations after verse 3.

Mark Buchanan put it this way: When we don’t rest we’re in danger of letting ourselves be “consumed by the things that feed the ego but starve the soul.

Stopping to breathe in the goodness and sufficiency of God gives oxygen to our souls.

Selah.

You don’t have to hold your breath all day.  Consider setting an alarm on your phone to remind you to stop and breathe.

What does Selah look like for you?

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Waiting at Gate C6, C9, E10, H5…

I’ve spent a lot of time in airports this past week.  And this was not a happy thing.

It’s not like I was going someplace exotic like Bora Bora, or ran into Mumford and Sons on their way to the Grammys.

With the mega snowstorm that hit plus, normal mechanical stuff, It was just a matter of multiple delayed flights where each update means a gate change and a later departure.

And so it meant sitting.

And waiting.  Hours and hours of waiting.

Years ago John and I heard a motivational speaker who, in these situations used the refrain “You can cancel my flight, but you can’t cancel my day!” 

That sounds so…positive!  So cheery.  So empowering. 

But it’s just an annoying quote when your life is about being productive and on the go and you’re sitting in an airport, missing the event you’re scheduled for, or waiting to get home and your husband texts that line to you.  Are you with me?

When your plans are upended and you feel upended like Charlie Brown, once more having the football snatched away just as he was kicking, and you’re out of control, how do you control what you can – your attitude?

I’d like to be super spiritual and tell you all the Scripture that came to mind, but here’s how it went.

First I tried the practice of thanksgiving.  I was very thankful they aborted the first take off of one of my flights half-way down the runway, throwing on the brakes when an emergency light came on.  Safety is always good in my book.

And I was thankful for the cute little girl in the terminal with the Tinkerbell peeking out of her backpack.  And then I was pretty much done with thankfulness (with apologies to Anne Voskamp :)).  Still unproductive and waiting…

Next I tried praying while unclenching my hands, letting go of my need for power and control.  Very unproductive and still waiting (but it felt like the right thing to do)

Then, I tried to see Jesus.  To be present and aware of passengers around me who I might encourage. But every head was down, every eye seemed to be glued to Iphones while mine was dead (This was not on my “things I’m thankful for” list!).

Lastly I tried to smile.  I had just heard about a new study out that shows that smiling affects your attitude, reduces stress, and increases heart health.  Sounded good to me.

I tried, but I felt kind of like a Stepford Wife, plastic and robotic.  And I think people wondered if I was a little “off” shall we say.  I was unproductive, still waiting, and my mouth muscles hurt.

In the end I bought a Chik-fil-A sandwich and a People magazine.

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I remember hearing someone say once that God wants to give us a “snow day” every week with Sabbath Why do we resist?  Why do we seem so addicted to “doing”… to being recognized for what we accomplish?  Is it born out of a fear that being God’s beloved child isn’t enough?

Maybe, we need to relax and remember God’s ok with unproductive.  Having Chik-fil-A and a little Sabbath at Gate C6 was not a bad thing.

How do you handle interruptions to your plans and out-of-controledness?

Snow Days and Sabbath

I wrote Wednesday that we’re back home from a long trip that was intense…full of new information, new relationships, hard stuff and steep learning curves.  I feel like I should be full of energy and productivity, catching up on all that I missed while we were out of the country.  But I’ve got nothing.  The truth is, that with travel our spiritual and physical rhythms of health got all out of whack and what I feel like God is saying to me is “Sabbath”.  So on this “Spirit Stretch Friday” I thought I’d repost some thoughts on Sabbath from February 2011 when Minnesota was having a more typical winter than we did this year.

This past week as the mega snowstorm swept across the country it was fun to read all the Facebook posts from people delighted with “snow days” – school, work, activities all cancelled. People were giddy about the gift to having to stay home and do nothing but curl up with cocoa and a good book…the treat of being forced to rest from normal activity.

I remember hearing someone say once that God wants to give us a “snow day” every week with Sabbath.  Why do we resist?  Why do we seem so addicted to “doing”… to being recognized for what we accomplish?  Is it born out of a fear that being God’s beloved child isn’t enough?

I love what Mark Buchanan writes in The Rest of God

“…God, knowing both our need and our folly, took the lead.  He set the example.  Like a parent who coaxes a cranky toddler to lie down for an afternoon nap by lying down beside her, God woos us into rest by resting.

‘For in six days the Lord the heavens and the earth and the sea, and all that is in them, but He rested on the 7th day.  Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.’

God commands that we imitate Him in order to discover again that we’re not Him and that we need Him.”

He’s right.  When I do Sabbath, I’m reminded of 2 things:

  1. I’m not God and the world won’t stop spinning if I’m unplugged (how sad is THAT – needing to be reminded- but I’m guessing I’m not alone). God’s got the God thing covered and doesn’t need me.
  2. I’m not defined by my roles, or titles, or responsibilities. I am a beloved child of God and that’s enough.

Observing Sabbath, I also notice I’m able to be more fully present.  My Sabbath heart is better able to pay attention to God and others.

Mark Buchanan writes that when we don’t Sabbath we’re in danger of letting ourselves be “consumed by the things that feed the ego but starve the soul.

Eugene Peterson defines Sabbath as “shutting up and shutting down”.

What about you?  Are you intentional about observing a Sabbath?  What does it look like for you?

The Rest of God…Oxymoron at Christmas?

Years ago we lent my mom a book entitled, “When I Relax I Feel Guilty” by Tim Hansel.  She returned it a year later saying she was sorry she just hadn’t found time to read it.  Love that woman!  But why do I tell you this?

Well at the end of each year, my husband, John and I spend some time looking back, re-reading our journals.  In addition to helping us notice the faithfulness of God, and helping us pay attention to the stuff He’s been trying to teach us, we are also reminded of good books we’ve read.

One of the best books we read was called The Rest of God about Sabbath by Mark Buchanan.  I thought during this busy, stressful season it might be helpful to rememeber what impacted me almost a year ago.  Here’s some of what I wrote…(can you relate?)

Continue reading