The Discipline of Wandering

Summer affords me the easy rhythms of wondering and wandering. Here in Colorado we’ve had loads of rain- so these days I’m wandering hip deep in clover. Pulling it up out of my garden and wandering it over to grateful goats and one stubborn horse.

Most mornings I wander out the kitchen door, to sit on the deck and watch the cat wander herself into my lap. After a while I wander over to a spot gone wild from neglect and rummage around for a few asparagus shoots.

Sometimes I wander alone, other times I wander with my kids. They lead; I follow.

We wander in search of spring’s new flower. We wander abandoning our sight and leaning heavily on sound in search of baby blue birds, the percussion of grass gone to seed and the syncopated cicada.

Wandering, by most accounts is aimless. The idea that anything in the Christian life is aimless might trigger some push back. I mean for crying out loud, this is a purpose driven life.

For just a minute, hold the trigger and ask yourself…

Just what would happen if I release my aim?

What would happen if I release my goal?

What would happen if I release the rat in the rat race?

In my wandering this summer, I am doing just that. Know what’s happening?

Grace. Rest. Wandering in the space of be-ing.

Hard as hell[1] for a driven person to refuse to drive. Requires the discipline of wandering.

 

What would it look like for you to submit to the Great Wanderer? He’s a pretty good guide.

Try wandering outside, leave your watch in the house, bring a child.

 

 

[1] I do not use this phrase glibly. Hell is hard. Like driving a stake in cement, like pounding our heads on brick walls. Heaven, however, is a bit like wandering into a pasture gone wild looking for asparagus shoots.

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Margin Making

This summer I have been about the work of making margin. My life was feeling overstuffed. Like a balloon that had too much air; like when you know in your soul that one more puff of air would be one too many.  And you know what they say, “It’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye.” (My husband also says, “Your nose is not a pocket,” but that’s for another discussion.)

Since there are only so many hours in a day, I had to let go of some things. I began to write in my journal each evening, recording those things that were sucking the life out of me. Not the things that left me tired, but the things that gave me little life. After a month of listening here’s my partial list. (I only share it because you might find these things on your list, too.)

I’m letting go of the work of managing my image. Trying to manage what people think of me is exhausting. (And truly it’s a facade, people are not things, they can’t be managed. They can be loved, but won’t put up with management for long.)

I’m letting go of worry. If the very worst I can imagine actually happens; still I am never abandoned. I am never alone. God is with me and his resources are endless. As Dallas Willard used to say, “The universe is a perfectly safe place to be,” and this is true because God is always with me. I have nothing to fear.

I’m letting go of outcomes. It’s a humble act to do so, and I’m growing into it. To release outcomes is to admit the limit of my reach, the end of strength and influence. It’s to actually rely on the Holy Spirit and put a stop to the smoke and mirrors of perceived control.

None of these things can be released by sheer will. But they can be replaced with things that create space instead of fill it. Here’s a short practical list of replacements that were helpful for me.

  • Add a time of silent prayer with no agenda. Once when I wake up, and once before I go to bed. Just be in God’s Presence. Bring my attention to him and smile. For a few minutes– smile, and know with certainty he smiles back. (The key to this is longevity. Benefit is found in taking the long road. Do this everyday for a month and then “see how it’s going.”)
  • Listen to my children and spouse, completely, all the way through to the end of what they have to say. Take a deep breath, and breath a prayer before I answer. I have heard it said that “Who we are at home is– who we are.”
  • Give up media (especially FB) for a set period of time.  At the end, reflect on how it made me feel. I asked the people who live with me how it changed my behavior. (I refuse to tell you what they said.)
  • Reflect on my motives behind my commitments. (This one required courage.) Ask why I (examples are not all are applicable to me)– teach Sunday School, serve on the school board, parent a certain way, read my Bible…) Bring my motives to God. Then I try to be honest and look and see if the source was image management, worry or concern with outcomes.

I have been about this work before and I’m awfully glad to enter in intentionally this summer, again. But I suspect I will be about this work for the rest of my life.

Making margin has yielded big wide open spaces. I have stepped away from some things, found the courage to change others. I have found space enough to love my neighbors in practical ways when they need it. Space enough to listen to my daughter’s concerns about adulthood. Space enough to throw a baseball with my ten-year old who desperately wants to learn to pitch. Space enough to cry with a friend through past hurts. Space enough to confront my sin. Space enough to hear God smile and smile back.

How are you making margin these days?

 

 

*The book Margin Richard A. Swenson, M.D. has been a great help.

*Lastly, I struggled with the transparency of this post. Letting readers in on a little bit of my own “crazy” is risky. I’m drawing courage from one of my favorite Saints. It is said of Columcille (also known as Saint Columba of Iona) that he “is the archetype of the ‘peregrinatus’,the wandered or pilgrim who abandons security for a journey which is extremely costly, and yet whose reward is ultimately everlasting life.” -taken from the Wisdom of Saint Columba of Iona

Sabbath Moments

Our pastor is doing a series about the 10 commandments this summer. Our children’s curriculum is following that series so the entire family hears the same thing each week. A few weeks ago was our turn to teach the kids. We even got to choose which commandment we wanted to teach on. We thought teaching the Sabbath would be easy…but to children? As we thought about it…do no work…rest…take time to do nothing and reflect…we thought about our kids…WHO DO NOTHING! Haha… don’t take that the wrong way. Our kids have and do chores. They have animals that they care for. They maintain their own rooms. They do things for our elderly grandparents. But not without being asked. Not without direction to do so. If we let our kids just go for a day they will find random devices to play on or jump on the trampoline for hours or draw/write in their rooms or just plain play/waste the day away. It irritated me that I was thinking my kids whole lives are Sabbath!

So we thought and pondered some more.  This is not a direction given to adults only. My kids have relationships with God so it is as much for them as for me. So what did we learn in trying to teach kids about keeping a Sabbath?

1. It does not have to be a certain day.

2. Kids are great Sabbath keepers. They are not bound up in the busy busy American lifestyle. They live to relax and recharge.

3. I need to watch and learn from them…there is a time for everything. A time to play, a time to dance, a time to clean, a time to let it go!

4. During certain times of the year Sabbath moments are all we can get. My kids are busy during school and more relaxed in the summer…my schedule is always full but I can find a moment to redirect my thoughts to Jesus.

5. Sabbath is not just a relax and do no work day. It is a set aside (holy) time to reflect on Jesus and HIS work and worth in our lives.

6. Kids know how to relax but need to be trained (as we all do) to be intentional about focusing on Jesus.

7. Some of my favorite Sabbath moments are…

a. Late afternoon (almost) every day Mike and I sit down together and have a glass of something and just be…if only for a few minutes.

b. I love to hang out laundry. I have been known to work from the outside in on my round clothesline. It is peaceful and smells like Jesus in the middle of that circle

c. Music…dancing with my people…pretending we are the band…singing in the kitchen

d. Mowing the lawn

e. Going to the mountains, beach, forest, canyon, lake, anywhere natural where again you can smell Jesus and see just how creative he is

f. Just that 5 minutes before we fall asleep.

I could go on and on because this taught us to look for and appreciate those moments. Those moments where we can make it an intentional Sabbath. We want to teach our kids that “down time” can be productive in our relationship with Jesus and to the kingdom of God.  So Happy Sabbath Friday!