Friday, August 9, 2013

When I Slowed Down...

On Monday of this week I stopped everything and ate. It was good. To be clear, "it" was not the food. Oh I am sure the food was good, and if I thought hard enough I could likely recall what leftover food from home I ate. Yet what I mean by "it was good," is the experience I had. So...what happened?

Simply stated; I ate, observed my surroundings, contemplated things, and struggled to stay "slowed down."

If you think about it, having an abundance of food is a recent luxury. Granted, throughout history the wealthy could enjoy an abundance of food. Yet the majority of the world was not wealthy, and often food was scarce. A reality is, for much of the world today, food is still a precious commodity. Indeed, it is for those of us who are not "food poor" as well. Yet in a busy pace it is easy for food to become an assumed and simple given.

As I observed my surroundings I noticed the leaves rustling with the wind. When I take the time to notice this, it is rare if my thoughts do not turn to the Spirit of God. The Spirit is always at work, desiring to bring about transformation. The question is, for followers of Jesus at least, "Are we willing counterparts to what He desires?"

I also observed the busyness all around me. I-35 was to my left (south) and Old Highway 50 was to my right (north). There was not a moment when my eyes lacked a vehicle to observe. I find this amazing given how I could only see about 200 yards of either roadway from where I sat. We live in a fast paced world. Unfortunately, it is often this fast pace that blinds us to the continual working of the Spirit. God can, and does, work quickly at times. Yet His greater work is most often a process which takes great lengths of time...sometimes an entire lifetime.

As I observed the busyness around me, I wondered about the people driving by. Were some people on vacation? Were some commuting to work? Were some working and transporting goods? I also wondered how many of those people know God's Story. I do not mean have they heard about God...but rather, do they know His Story?

As I ate, reflected, and observed what was around me...I also had to struggle to keep focused on being slowed down. More than once my mind  drifted to what I could be doing. It did not take long to think, "Hey, I could blog about has been a long time since I have written a blog."

I am convinced that living in the present is something many struggle to do. For some their present is too painful, so they think of better days gone by or blame others for their pain. For some their present is too boring, so the next new adventures fill their mind or they despair over their "pitiful" life. For some their present is filled with doubt, anxiety, worry, fear, and a host of other things - so precious time is filled with everything from workaholicism to escapism.

Yet for the follower of Jesus, the present ought to be the most joy filled place one could ever be. A Christian can face the uncertainties of the present based on the reality of an amazing future (Jesus' return which will usher in the Kingdom of God in fullness), which is assured by the past (The Christ Event - which includes Jesus' Resurrection - as Satan and all the forces of this world have been defeated). Granted, this does not make the present "easy" - but that is OK. Yet it does make the present worthwhile and manageable, and that is a huge and healthy shift for many.

Ultimately what happened when I slowed down was I opened myself up a bit more to a healthy rhythm of life. It has been said that idleness is the devil's tool in the hands of many. While there is truth to that, I think idleness (perhaps some would prefer to call it stillness...or slowing down...or downtime...) is a tool of the Holy Spirit that God's people need to allow Him to wield.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

I Slowed Down The Other Day...

It was a Monday, two days ago, and things were going well - extremely well. I was back from some time away; both time off (vacation days spent mostly around home/Emporia), and time away to work on things for New Life (at an Abbey in Athchison), and I was being productive. While being productive is not a huge accomplishment, after all, it goes with having a job. Yet being as productive as I was on my first day back from time off is a big accomplishment - at least for me.

And in the midst of all of this productivity I did something extremely out of character for me. I stopped. In the past I would have kept going, kept being productive. Yet when I got hungry for my mid-day meal I not only ate...but I stopped everything and ate.

If I am not eating with my biological family, I work through my meals. I realize I am a guy, but I can multi-task if one of the things involves eating. So I spend my meal breaks reading, doing email, or something productive. Yet Monday, for the first time in a long time, I stopped. I sat outside, in the shade, and ate. It was good. I cannot remember what I ate...but I hope I will never forget what happened.

I must be honest, I did not conclude I needed to do this (stop everything and eat) on my own. Two weeks before, during mid-day prayer while at the Abbey, one of the monks thanked God for this break from the labor of the day to enjoy a meal...this time to rest. It resonated, deeply, with me.

Meals are an increasingly big thing for me - but most of that is tied in with the Eucharist (Lord's Supper or Communion if you prefer) - and I am not going into that here. Yet at the Abbey I was struck with how I often rifle through a meal, working...and not resting and taking a break from my toil.

What happened as I ate? I will go into that next time. Yet in the meantime I encourage you to slow down, stop everything, and eat.