Filling Your Bucket

The Minnesota State Fair started last week.  The unofficial mark to the beginning of the end.

The end of the glorious season of going “up north”, going to DQ, and not going inside til neighborhood kids stop playing tag when the sun finally fades at 9:00.  Biking the lakes, going without shoes and without makeup.

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We estimate church attendance goes down by 30-40% in the summer and we get it.  We live in a state where the only month that hasn’t had snow in recorded history is July.

People in MN play hard in the summer.  There’s a concerted effort to fill up.  To fill up with family time, sunshine, hide-n-seek playing, tubing, and kayaking.  We do summer big.

And then all of a sudden it’s school time again and we’re all about busy and schedules and no margin.  And sure, there’s a part of us that craves the order, but with it comes the stress of too much stuff and too little time.  

It’s got me thinking about the rhythms of our lives.

Bill Hybels says, “As a leader, the best thing you bring to the table every day is a filled up bucket.” 

I’m thinking you could substitute “parent”, “teacher”, “”boss”, “coach”….or just “person” for “leader”.

As a person, the best thing you bring to the world every day [of the year!] is a filled up bucket.

So how do you do that?  If you think of some the different areas of your life – spiritual, physical, relational – what rhythms do you have that keep you replenished so that you don’t just deplete, deplete, deplete, and then madly try to fill up?

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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.

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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.

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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Two Questions When You’re “Off”

Last week is was sunny and cool with big, fluffy white clouds pushing each other around in the blue sky where we were staying near Windsor in Great Britain.  (The weather was a tad different the day I took this picture).

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I had just gotten back from a run during which I asked for directions about 492 times in tiny boroughs, at pubs, hoping to find a park. I kept getting pointed different directions.  I felt a little like I was on a perpetual rural British roundabout.

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Finally a woman said, “Well, there’s a moor down that way, but I’m afraid you’d get lost on it.”  Good bet.

I turned around and shuffle/jogged back to the hotel where I jumped into the shower and realized I’d been using body lotion instead of conditioner on my hair for the past few days. That could explain a lot.  (Don’t laugh – it could happen to you.)

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All that to say, I’ve been a little …“off”.

Eating too much, sleeping too little, not paying attention, and getting lost.  A little out of my regular rhythm, both physically and spiritually.

When you travel (or when you have anything “extra”going on, or a sick kid, or out-of-town guests, or a project due…) it’s so easy to get knocked off-stride and out of your spiritual rhythm.

In these times I tend to get to the end of the day and think,

“Where am I?  Who am I?  And how did I get to the end of this day totally missing God?”

Two questions can make all the difference as to whether my day is purposeful and life-giving, or a blur of empty activity.

1.  Have I filled my mind with anything of the Spirit?  Have I sought the mind of God to orient myself?  Especially when I’m busy or in a new environment.

Ok, let’s be honest here.  I don’t mean reading and taking notes on a chapter of Ezekiel every day.  I mean anything.  Truly, I’ve found God can use even the tiniest morsel to feed me if I give Him a chance.  If I’m clueless, any part of Psalm 25 is a great “go to” at the beginning of the day.  Anything is something.

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If I listen to God in the morning, there’s a much better chance my ear will be attuned to Him during the ordinary stuff and relationships of my day.  I also have a different grid through which I experience life.

2.  Have I made Space to process with God what He’s been showing me about Himself and myself throughout the day?  Where have I seen God and where have I missed Him?

Space, margin, silence…whatever you want to call it, it’s become rare in our 24/7 world of more news, more activity, more noise (especially for extroverts like me who can easily be sucked into the “more”.

Like Mary, I need to say “no” to the good in order to  choose “what is better”.  Whether it’s journalling or taking a prayer walk, I may need to limit accessibility to the world in order to be accessible to Jesus, prioritizing time to reflect on His activity.

What about you?  What helps you to reorient and pay attention when you’re “off”?