Practicing Lent: Slowing

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This post is part of my Practicing Lent series where we will explore Spiritual Disciplines that connect us with Jesus in His Word. If you want to find out more about Spiritual Disciplines you can look here. If you have signed up for the Practicing Lent Facebook group, click here to share your experience with others. If you would like to participate in the group, click here to request to join.

I once heard a story about an American traveler on an African safari. A typical type-A American, he wanted to see as much as possible in the time he had on the continent. And because he wanted to see parts of the land where travel was difficult, he hired some local people to carry his supplies.

On the first morning, they got up early and made encouraging progress. The second morning everyone once again rose with the sun and they covered a great distance. The third day the party traveled far. But on the fourth morning, the local people simply sat under the trees and refused to move on.

The American tourist became impatient, but no amount of coaxing would get the men moving again. Finally, through an interpreter, the tourist asked what the problem was.

The translator relayed their message, “They are waiting for their souls to catch up with their bodies.” [Adapted from Soul Keeping (p. 130), by John Ortberg]

Have you ever felt like that? Like you have hurried through your days, sped through your tasks, even rushed through your time with God so quickly that your soul has been left behind?

I know I have.

Our society is built on hurry. We try to pack our days like we pack for a 2-week vacation–into a carry-on suitcase. I see this in the lives of my piano students who hurry from school to piano lessons to soccer practice to math tutoring. I see it in the lives of those in ministry as they rush from church services to Bible studies to community volunteering to board meetings.

I’ll bet there are days or weeks or months when you too, live in a state of hurry. Modern lives are filled with a myriad of good things and we feel we need to rush to fit them all in.

But when we stop long enough to breathe we realize that our soul has been neglected. It’s Tuesday, but it feels like our soul has been left behind at Saturday.

Slowing

To remedy this situation, I suggest we practice the Spiritual Discipline of Slowing. Perhaps this is not a typical Spiritual Discipline. A search in the concordance confirmed that God’s Word does not say “slow down” in those exact words. Yet we see this concept in Scripture when God talks about our need for rest.

God Himself rested on the seventh day of creation. He commanded His people to rest on the Sabbath.

Through the prophet Isaiah, God told the disobedient Israelites:

For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel,
“In returning and rest you shall be saved;
    in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” (Isaiah 30:15)

And the prophet Jeremiah declared,

Thus says the Lord:
“Stand by the roads, and look,
    and ask for the ancient paths,
where the good way is; and walk in it,
    and find rest for your souls.
But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’” (Jeremiah 6:16)

God does not want us to live a life of hurry. In these passages, we see that hurry happens when we insist on relying on our own strength and knowledge. When we feel God’s way is simply too slow and we try to hurry Him along. We step out of His ancient paths in an effort to achieve our objectives–faster.

Jesus’ Example

Perhaps the best Scriptural example of slowing was Jesus Himself. His life was not one of idleness. He was always occupied with preaching, teaching, and healing. Yet in reading the Gospels, I never have the feeling that Jesus hurried. He always took the time that was needed. Even when he was on His way to a very sick twelve-year-old girl, He stopped to speak to a woman who had touched His cloak and been healed of a long, painful illness. (Mark 5:21-33)

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Jesus told His disciples:

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)

Jesus didn’t say that we should sit around and do nothing. Instead, we should work with Him. A yoke is a wooden crosspiece that is fastened over the necks of two animals and attached to a plow or cart. The yoke enables the animals to work together. Jesus invites us to take His yoke, work alongside Him.

I don’t know about you, but hurry frequently enters my life when I attempt to accomplish more than God intends. When I insist on trying to carry all the burdens of this life on my own. In the words of Matthew, I hear Jesus say, “Stop that. Work with me. Don’t take on too much. Don’t try to do it on your own. I have wonderful tasks planned for you, but when you work with Me, it won’t feel like hard labor or a heavy burden. It will be more like rest for your soul. Hurry won’t even enter into the equation.”

Practicing Slowness

So how can we practice slowness and eliminate hurry?

Here are a few suggestions:

Sabbath.The Lord commanded the Sabbath for a reason. He knew we needed it. Time to worship. Time to rest. Time to tend to our souls. If you don’t already observe the Sabbath, I encourage you to take one day a week to engage in corporate worship. To spend time with family and friends. To close the computer or put away the broom. Instead, spend time in God’s Word, read a good book, or take a walk in the woods. (Read more about observing Sabbath here.)

Examine your activities. Is your life one big hurry because you have taken on more than God intended? Take an hour to list all your activities and your family’s activities that involve your time. Prayerfully ask the Lord where you have stepped out of the yoke He has planned for you and tried to do things on your own.

Build a little margin in your day. I’ll admit this is still a hard one for me, but another suggestion for eliminating hurry is to allow more time between appointments and activities. Try not to schedule things back to back. When you need to go somewhere, estimate how long it will take to get there and then allow twice that amount of time. If the drive to the dentist’s office normally takes ten minutes, allow twenty. The extra margin gives you time to notice the lilacs on the way. Or really listen to the words of the song on the radio. If you arrive early, you have time to relax and breathe.

Modern life is fast. We feel we need to keep up. But Dallas Willard, an author who often writes about Spiritual Disciplines, reminds us:

Hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our day. You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.

God knows we need soul rest. And He will provide it.

Next step: Click here to access a free resource with a list of Scriptures about soul rest. Over the next five days, take time to read what God says about rest. Ask Him to teach you and invite Him to point out any changes that need to be made in your life. Thank Him for His promise of soul rest.

 

Practicing Lent: Examen

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This post is part of my Practicing Lent series where we will explore Spiritual Disciplines that connect us with Jesus in His Word. If you want to find out more about Spiritual Disciplines you can look here. If you have signed up for the Practicing Lent Facebook group, click here to share your experience with others. If you would like to participate in the group, click here to request to join.

Another busy day. Teaching music at the Lutheran school in the morning. Piano lessons in the afternoon. Dinner with my sweet hubby. Bible study with my small group in the evening.

I fall into bed exhausted. But before I step into dreamland, I take time to practice Examen. I close my eyes and watch a “video” replay of my day.

I thank God for the good things: a big hug from a preschooler at school, time with my husband, laughter with my awesome Bible study gals.

I ask the Holy Spirit to show me where I messed up that day–yep, I lost my patience with those antsy third-graders–forgive me. Lord.

I look for God’s presence in the ordinary moments of my day and I see Him in the unexpected warm weather in the middle of winter, in the faces of the children as they sing of God’s love, and in the words of hope in God’s Word.

I go to sleep forgiven and grateful.

The Spiritual Discipline of Examen

The practice of Examen is one of my favorite Spiritual Disciplines.

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I know intellectually that God is always with me. I grab onto God’s promise:

I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. (Joshua 1:5)

But sometimes I forget. I get caught up in my to-do list, in the hectic activities of each day. I forget that God is always with me to love me, guide me, and cheer me on. Examen helps me be more aware of Christ in the mundane moments of every day.

You too?

To practice the Spiritual Discipline of Examen, start by finding a quiet place and asking the Spirit to guide your time of reflection. Close your eyes and review the last 24 hours. Ask yourself questions like:

  • What inspired gratitude today?
  • What happened that was painful, sad, or disappointing?
  • What moment do I now regret and need to confess?
  • What moments of my day were life-giving?
  • What moments of my day were life-draining?
  • When did I sense God’s nearness?
  • When did my hectic pace of life crowd out a sense of God’s nearness?
  • When did I give and receive love?
  • When did I feel an absence of love?
  • What did God teach me today?

Spend some time thanking God for His presence throughout the day and thank Him for the things that brought joy. Confess the sins the Spirit brought to mind and receive forgiveness because of Jesus’ sacrifice.

Visual Examen

Recently, I discovered a more hands-on way to practice Examen in a book titled Praying in Color:  I have adapted this method for our Practicing Lent journey.

For this practice,

  1. Start by downloading and printing a sheet with a geometric pattern that will guide your experience.
  2. In the center of the pattern, write the words of Joshua 1:5: I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you.
  3. Then, in the spaces closest to the center, write down things for which you are grateful. Did you get a hug from a preschooler? Did you see a spectacular sunset? Write down anything from the last 24 hours that brought you joy.
  4. Next, ask yourself a few questions about your day. In the outer ring of the pattern, write a word or two that recalls these moments:
  • When did I feel closest to God?
  • When did I feel distant?
  • When did I mess up and sin? Where do I need to confess and receive forgiveness?

End with a time of confession and thanksgiving. If you like, color the spaces of the design while you pray. Many people find the act of coloring focuses their thoughts. (I suggest that you at least darken the spaces listing your sins so the words are no longer visible–symbolizing God’s cleansing mercy.)

God is with us. But sometimes we forget. Examen helps us appreciate the Lord’s presence in the ordinary and mundane. During this holy season of Lent, appreciate anew Christ’s nearness.

Examen helps us appreciate the Lord's presence in the ordinary and mundane. Click To Tweet

Next step: Download and print the Examen pattern. For a summary of the Visual Examen practice and a list of Scirptures that will guide your practice–Click here. 

 

Practicing Lent: Prayer Journaling

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This post is part of my Practicing Lent series where we will explore Spiritual Disciplines that connect us with Jesus in His Word. If you want to find out more about Spiritual Disciplines you can look here. If you have signed up for the Practicing Lent Facebook group, click here to share your experience with others. If you would like to participate in the group, click here to request to join.

Every morning I grab a cup of tea and sit in the comfy chair in my office. I settle in with my Bible for a quiet time with the Lord. I may spend the time working through a book of the Bible or completing the homework for my small group study. I have a small stack of memory verse cards that I review and a prayer list to guide my prayer time.

I love this time with the Lord, but can I be honest here? The thing I most struggle with is prayer. I’m so grateful that God hears my cries to Him. I feel so blessed that through Christ we have the privilege of approaching God in prayer.

But too often, I’m in the middle of interceding for a friend and a stray thought enters my brain asking, “What will you make for dinner tonight?” I berate myself for my lack of concentration and turn back to the prayer at hand, but the next minute my thoughts wander to the heaps of laundry that must be done or the long list of errands for the day.

Because I struggle with attention in prayer, I have found prayer journaling helpful. Putting pen to paper keeps my mind on talking to God instead of my grocery list. The physical act of writing focuses my thoughts.

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Ways to Use a Prayer Journal

There are many ways to use a prayer journal. Here are a few ways that have been helpful for me:

  • Recording an account of your prayer requests and God’s answers. Write down your request and the date you first prayed for that person or concern. When the prayer is answered, write down the date and a prayer of thanksgiving.
  • Pouring out your heart to God. When I’ve been in a particularly difficult season, I have used the pages in my journal to ask God questions, to empty out my anger, or to vent my frustration. King David’s example in the Psalms shows me that God does not seem to mind this. He listens to His children and knows that after I have poured out my problems, I am more ready to receive His peace.
  • Keeping a gratitude journal. For a season, I daily wrote down three things for which I was thankful. By intentionally seeing all that God had already given me, my whiny, discontented attitude was changed.
My Favorite Way to Journal My Prayers

But this is my favorite way to use my prayer journal:

  • Respond to Scripture. By turning what I read in God’s Word into a prayer, my mind is focused and I am able to apply what I have read.

For instance, one day I read Matthew 22 and these words from the Parable of the Wedding Feast struck me:

Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.”’ But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business. Matthew 22:4-5

And I wrote this prayer:

Lord, forgive me when I have ignored Your invitation to spend time with You. When I have gone off to my business–not giving You the time You deserve. Thank You for providing a feast for those You love. You give us all Your richest blessings–too often I ignore them. Thank You for Your love and forgiveness.

You don’t need a formula for your prayers. Just let the Holy Spirit guide you.

But if you would like a starting point, here are some questions to direct your prayers:

  • What in this passage inspires me to praise God?
  • What does this passage prompt me to confess?
  • How does the passage inspire me to pray for myself?
  • How does it inspire me to pray for others?
  • How does this passage spark thanksgiving?
  • What does this passage teach me about God?
  • How does this passage prompt me to pray over my everyday life and decisions?
Through Christ, we have the blessing and privilege of approaching God in prayer. Click To Tweet

Grab a journal or a spiral notebook. Or start a new file on your computer. Open up God’s Word and write out your prayers.

Next step: Find a place to journal your prayers: fancy journal, half-used spiral notebook, computer file. For the next 5 days journal your prayers. Click here to find inspiring Scriptures and prayer prompts.  

Practicing Lent: SACRED Reading

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This post is part of my Practicing Lent series where we will explore Spiritual Disciplines that connect us with Jesus in His Word. If you want to find out more about Spiritual Disciplines you can look here. If you have signed up for the Practicing Lent Facebook group, click here to share your experience with others. If you would like to participate in the group, click here to request to join.

One of the most memorable meals I ever had happened in Brussels, Belgium. My family and I were on a European tour–a bargain bus trip. One of those if-it’s-Tuesday-this-must-be-Germany tours.

We arrived in Brussels around 5:00 pm and were informed that we only had the evening to explore the city. Early in the morning, the bus would be on its way to Luxembourg. So my husband and two teenage kids strolled from our hotel to the city center. We had every intention of finding a nice restaurant for dinner, but then I saw it–the famous Leonidas Belgian Chocolate shop. I couldn’t resist a peek inside, thinking I would come back after dinner for dessert. But inside, I saw the hundreds of chocolate possibilities and had the bright idea: Why don’t we have chocolate for dinner?

So we all picked out a bag of our favorites and went out into the city square to savor our chocolate treasures. Each bite was so delicious I wanted it to last forever. I let each morsel melt until it was gone, enjoying each chocolatey moment.

SACRED Reading

SACRED Reading is a way to savor God’s Word like I reveled in those chocolates. It helps us to meditate on Scripture. As we savor God’s Word, it melts into our hearts and the Holy Spirit transforms us.

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To focus on Scripture in this way, I choose a short passage of no more than eight verses and use the word SACRED to guide the process:

Silence your thoughts. Begin by quieting your spirit. Call on the name of the triune God and ask the Holy Spirit to guide your time of listening. At first, your wandering thoughts may seem to crowd out any quietness, but simply bring your thoughts back to the Father and eventually the cacophony in your head will die down.

Attend to the passage. Read your chosen verses. Ideally, you will read the passage out loud. Read slowly. Pause when it seems that God is drawing your attention to a particular sentence or phrase. Let the words resonate in your heart.

Contemplate the Word. Meditate on the passage, especially on any words the Holy Spirit seems to be speaking directly to you today. Do not hurry this time. Allow the Holy Spirit to bring up any feelings, doubts, or fears buried deep in the recesses of your soul. Thoroughly explore your soul for your most genuine response to these words of God.

Respond to the text. After you have taken time to listen, speak. That is, pray, pouring out your heart to God in response to what He has just spoken to you. If the passage inspired joy, offer thanks. If it brought a sense of conviction, confess.

Exhale and rest. Read the text again and rest in the love of God. Simply wait with the Lord who loves you more than you can know.

Dwell in the Word. As you come out of this restful state, ask the Spirit, “What truth can I carry into my day?” Think about a truth or promise you received that will help you live out God’s Word.

SACRED Reading helps me slow down long enough to hear God’s voice. It’s the difference between gulping down a sandwich and letting every bit of a Belgian chocolate melt on my tongue.

Savor and Receive

Let’s savor God’s Word. God longs to speak to us. In His Word we receive His wisdom and instruction for our everyday lives. We receive His unfailing love and His transcendent joy. We receive peace and stillness for our souls.

As we savor God's Word, it melts into our hearts and the Holy Spirit transforms us. Click To Tweet

Next step: Try SACRED Reading for the next five days. Click here to access a resource that outlines the SACRED Reading process and lists some Scriptures that you could meditate on this week.

204196 - Copy (2)This post is adapted from my Bible study book: Soul Spa: 40 Days of Spiritual Renewal (CPH). This book examines Spiritual Disciplines as a way to develop intimacy with the Savior and to care for our souls. It is available here and here.

Practicing Lent: Palms Down, Palms Up Prayer

 

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This post is part of my Practicing Lent series where we will explore Spiritual Disciplines that connect us with Jesus in His Word. If you want to find out more about Spiritual Disciplines you can look here. If you have signed up for the Practicing Lent Facebook group, click here to share your experience with others. If you would like to participate in the group, click here to request to join.

In her wildly popular book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Marie Kondo encourages her readers to get rid of any belongings that no longer spark joy. That cardigan you loved, but is now worn and pilly? Discard it. Those shoes that took you all over town, but are now looking rather sad? Toss ’em. Kondo encourages us to keep only those things that bring joy. (Note: Kondo’s book is helpful, but I cannot wholeheartedly recommend it because she also talks about treating your belongings as if they are living things.)

I admit that I need to sort through my belongings. There are clothes in my closet that I wish I had never purchased and items that are well past their prime. My books outnumber the spaces on my bookshelves and documents spill out of my filing cabinets.

But even though I should tend to my overflowing possessions, this Lenten season I want to tend to my heart. I want to take the time to sit quietly with Jesus and allow Him to point out what needs to be tossed. I want to ask: Lord, is there a sinful attitude that I’ve been hanging onto? Is there some anxiety or fear that I haven’t let go? Am I still grasping onto self-sufficiency? Or an illusion of control over my life?

So I am using Spiritual Disciplines to guide my time in the Word. I’m using these ancient practices to spend time with my Savior. Spiritual Disciplines have been used by faithful Christians for centuries, even millennia. They are a way to focus our attention on our Savior and to receive His gifts.

Palms Down, Palms Up Prayer

One Spiritual Discipline that has helped me in the past is the Palms Down, Palms Up prayer. This prayer helps me sort out the stuff in my heart. To release what is sinful, harmful, or crippling. And to receive what is comforting and encouraging.

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Palms Down: I begin this prayer by sitting in a comfortable chair and placing my palms down on my legs to symbolize my desire to release my concerns to God. I ask the Holy Spirit to show me what I need to let go. Is there anything blocking my relationship with Christ? What anxieties have I unconsciously been hanging onto?

My prayer might go something like: Lord, You know that I’m concerned about John’s health and about our kids in China. I confess that I have not trusted You completely in these areas. I’m anxious about my work. I’m stressed out about my long to-do list. But I now release all of these concerns into Your loving hands.

Palms Up: After I have released my worries, confessed my sins, and unloaded my self-sufficiency, I turn my palms up to symbolize my desire to receive from God.

Now my prayer might be something like: Lord, I praise You for Your love for me and all those I care about. I thank You for the peace You so faithfully give–peace that passes understanding.

I invite you to try the Palms Down, Palms Up prayer. It’s a simple way to come humbly before God and empty our hearts of our fears and our sins. Turn your palms down and unload the burden of guilt. Let go of anxiety. Give Him whatever is bothering you and whatever is stressing you out. Then turn your palms up to receive God’s forgiveness, peace, love, truth, or rest.

Give God whatever is bothering you and receive His forgiveness, peace, love, and rest. Click To Tweet
Let Go

Maybe, like me, you need to clean out your closets. But even more important than hiring an organizational expert to sort through our closets, is asking the Holy Spirit to sort through our hearts.

Philippians 4:6-7 says:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

It is so reassuring that God invites us to give Him all our worries, anxieties, doubts, and fears. He is willing to hold them for us and give us His peace and love in return. And the more we allow Him to carry our bag of uncertainties, the more His peace will guard our hearts and minds from Satan’s attacks.

Let go of your concerns and receive God’s peace.

Next step: For the next five days, practice the Palms Down, Palms Up prayer. Click here for a resource list of Scriptures that will guide your prayers. Experience the joy that comes from unloading the burden of your fears and guilt and receiving the Savior’s love.

 

Your Top Five Posts of 2016

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2016 was quite a year! For me, it was time chock-full of family visits, writing, and volunteer work. How about you?

During January I often take time to evaluate the year before. So today I took a few minutes to check out what interested you–my readers–most in 2016. Here are your favorite five posts! Reread and be reinspired!

What to Pray When You Don’t Know What to Pray

Luke 18-13Sometimes I struggle with prayer. How to pray. What to pray. When to find time to pray. And how on earth can I accomplish prayer without ceasing? This post talks about a short prayer that I use when I don’t know what to pray. Check out this prayer that has been used for centuries.

Breathe in your Savior’s name and breathe out a desperate prayer for grace. Click To Tweet
Five Creative Ways to Encourage Someone

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Hebrews 10:24 says, Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out (The Message). I want to be an encourager, but I sometimes struggle with how to be supportive. This post gives a few ideas.

Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out. (Hebrews 10:24 MSG) Click To Tweet
7 Habits That Promote Soul Rest

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Soul rest. That’s what we all need. The kind of rest that calms our hearts. The kind of respite that obliterates restlessness in our spirits.The kind of stillness that cancels out the craziness of this world like noise-cancelling headphones wipe out any pandemonium around us.

This post introduces the concept of soul rest and the habits that can lead us into that rest by drawing us into the presence of the Lord.

Soul rest is the rest that calms our hearts. It is the rest that draws us into the presence of the Lord. Click To Tweet
When You’re Feeling Unsettled, Dissatisfied

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When I’m feeling dissatisfied with my life or when I’m feeling unsettled, it is often because I have forgotten one crucial thing. Find out what that is in this post. When we’re facing loss and discouragement, we can realize that God has already given us what we need.

Even when I'm feeling unsettled and dissatisfied, Jesus knows what I need most. Click To Tweet
How to Truly Love Yourself

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This post was inspired by a devotion I read by a tenth-century monk on the four degrees of love. Click to read about these four degrees of love and how the fourth degree allows us to love ourselves so that we can love others well.

We don’t love ourselves because we deserve love. We love ourselves because we see ourselves through God’s eyes. Click To Tweet

Next step: What do you most need today? Help with prayer, encouragement, soul rest, dissatisfaction, or loving yourself? Read the corresponding article and find hope in God’s Word.

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Feeling Overwhelmed? Build in Whitespace

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The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of activity. I attended a writers’ retreat in Door County, WI where I walked in the woods, typed on my computer, and laughed and talked with writer friends. Then I visited my mother for a few days, came home, did some laundry and repacked my suitcase. I left the next morning for Indianapolis where I attended a conference and a board meeting.

Those nine days were jam-packed. Filled with learning and working. Crammed with laughter and conversation. But there was very little whitespace.

What is whitespace?

In her book, Finding Spiritual Whitespace, author Bonnie Gray defines whitespace like this:

In art, whitespace is often referred to as “negative space.” It’s the space on the page absent of marks or images. We might consider the space as “blank,” but to the artist, whitespace holds beauty. It is the key element of design that gives balance to a composition, transforming a cluttered collection of objects into an aesthetic expression of what we do see.

She goes on to say:

My soul isn’t designed to be cluttered. It longs for space to taste beauty. To breathe. It’s always wanted what God intended for me.

My soul was designed for spiritual rest: spiritual whitespace.

We all need whitespace in our lives. Space for the soul to breathe. Time to connect with God and enjoy the gifts He’s given.

You might wonder, but how can I find this whitespace? My life is exactly as you described. It’s jam-packed with work, volunteer responsibilities, and family obligations. There simply is no whitespace!

I understand. And my words are not meant to drive you to book a guilt trip on the next train out.

Whitespace is a place of grace, not duty.

Start by remembering that Jesus longs to spend time with you. He desires to give you the peace and strength you need in your overwhelmed life. Come to Him to receive His grace, and not to check off one more thing on your overfilled to-do list.

Here are a few practical ideas to find whitespace, even in a busy season:

  • Get up fifteen minutes early to read Scripture and a devotion. Pray over your schedule for the day and ask Christ to be with you in every moment.
  • Or go to bed fifteen minutes early. Before going to sleep, review your day and thank God for His help and presence. Read a psalm and rest in God’s love and protection.
  • Set a timer to go off every hour. When you hear the buzz or the beep, pause for a few moments. Listen to a Christian song. Meditate on a Scripture that reminds you of Christ’s unfailing love.
  • Schedule some downtime. Because I knew my schedule was going to be overwhelmed for those nine days, I purposely created some whitespace before and after the hectic time. I set aside an afternoon on both ends to rest and read.

Jesus invited His disciples to experience whitespace when He said:

Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest awhile.” (Mark 6:31)

He invites you to do the same.

Create whitespace for your soul to connect with Jesus. Even if it is only for a few minutes in a busy day, come away and rest awhile.

Next step: Choose one of the four ideas above to create a little whitespace in your life this week. Which one works best for you?

 

distracted blog headerCheck out my eCourse!  If you want more answers for your overwhelmed life, check out my Distracted eCourse.

Click here for more information.

 

 

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Seven Resources to Help You Find Soul Rest

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Summer is here and it’s time to rest.

I will be taking a break from blogging for the summer. My daughter and her family have one more month here in the states before they go back to China and I want to concentrate on spending time with them. Plus, I am writing a new book (so excited about this new topic!) and I need to spend some serious writing time to get that finished.

I encourage all of you to take some time this summer to rest. To spend some time with family and friends. To do something you love to do, but don’t always have the time. To connect with Jesus.

To help you find the soul rest that comes from connecting with the Savior, I am listing some of my favorite resources for finding spiritual renewal. Pick one and use it this summer!

seven-resources-soul-restHere are the resources, with links and a favorite quote from each:

A Place of Quiet Rest, by Nancy Leigh DeMoss: “God has a never-ending supply of grace, strength, and wisdom available that He wants to flow through us to others. And we need to keep coming back into His presence to get our supply replenished…If we fail to stop and draw from His fresh, infinite supply of mercy and grace, we will find ourselves having to operate our of our own depleted, meager resources.”

Resting Place, by Jane Rubietta: “Rest helps us find meaning in our work and relationships, gives us places to evaluate what we’re doing with our hours and our hearts, what difference it all makes. Rest–reflection, meditation, breathing in God’s presence–lowers stress, calms our heartbeat and redirects our attention from the created to the Creator.”

Satisfy My Thirsty Soul, by Linda Dillow: The “Prayer of Quiet: Dear Lord Jesus, you once spoke peace to the wind and the waves. Speak Your shalom over my heart. I wait silently…patiently. I receive into the very core of my being Your loving command, ‘Peace, be still.’ Amen.”

Finding Spiritual Whitespace, by Bonnie Gray: “Finding spiritual whitespace isn’t about carving out an hour of time to escape the things that stress us. It’s getting away from everything we do to distract ourselves from all the hidden pieces–in order to nurture our soul. Spiritual rest is a journey of awakening our hearts to fully receive.”

Soul Spa, by Sharla Fritz: “The Father invites us to solitude so we can hear His whisper above the noise of the world. He asks us to come away with Him so we can pour out the messy contents of our hearts. He beckons us to time alone so he can give us what we need.”

The Father invites us to solitude so we can hear His whisper above the noise of the world. Click To Tweet

Soul Spa Kit, free download (sign up at the top of this page): “Who needs a spiritual retreat? You do. Although soul care may seem like a luxury, it is actually a necessity for your well-being. When your spirit is tired and worn, your physical self suffers too. You are less able to be the generous and kind person you want to be. Your heart cries out for more Jesus.”

7 Habits That Promote Soul RestA series of posts here on my blog that outline habits helpful for soul rest: “Ah rest, that is what I need. Soul rest. The kind of rest that would calm my heart.The kind of respite that would obliterate the restlessness in my spirit.The kind of stillness that would cancel out the craziness of this world like noise-cancelling headphones wipe out the pandemonium around me.”

Take time to rest this summer. Let the Lord restore your soul.

In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength. Isaiah 30:15

Next step: Choose one resource to explore this summer. Schedule time each week to rest in the presence of God.

 

 

7 Habits That Promote Soul Rest: Personal Retreat

Jesus invites you- Come away by yourself. Get away from the busyness. Spend time in My presence and rest in my care.

I could hardly wait to get there. My bag was packed with my Bible, journal, and pen. I placed it in the trunk of my car along with a lawn chair and a water bottle.

I drove to a park near my home. After setting up my chair in a spot under a shady tree with a view of the lake, I opened my Bible to read and opened my heart to receive God’s Word.

It was my morning for a personal spiritual retreat.

When my soul is worn thin and my spirit feels overwhelmed, I know it’s time to take a break with God. To sit quietly in His presence. To sink deep into His Word. To pour out my soul and receive His peace and rest.

7 HABITS #7Too often I ignore my heart’s cries for rest. I push through soul weariness, meeting my obligations, accomplishing necessary tasks. Taking time for a spiritual retreat seems to go against our culture’s value of accomplishment and achievement. Sitting quietly with the Savior doesn’t produce anything I can write on a resume.

But a personal retreat opens my heart to the Father’s care. The Spirit renews my soul. I come away refreshed. I can come back to my real world with its schedules and obligations with renewed strength and peace.

Jesus told His disciples, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while” (Mark 6:31). He knew they needed to get away from the crowds, the noise, the responsibilities.

Jesus offers us the same invitation to us, “Come away by yourself. Get away from the busyness, the hurry, the pressing obligations. Spend time in My presence. Rest in my care.”

Jesus says: Come away by yourself. Get away from the busyness. Spend time in My presence and rest in my care. Click To Tweet

You might be wondering: What do you do during a personal spiritual retreat?

Here’s my process. I read God’s Word and journal what I hear God speaking to me. I pour out my struggles, asking God to make sense out of everything. I get out my schedule and to-do list and pray for God to give me His perspective, His priorities. I spend time resting in God’s love for me.

Here are a couple more ideas for your spiritual retreat:

  • Meditate on the Bible story in John 8:1–11. Imagine yourself in the story. Hear the sounds, smell the smells. Look at Jesus. What does your heart experience in meeting Jesus in this story?
  • Dream. Write down your most extravagant dreams for your life. Ask God to show you if they are in line with His will.
  • Create a photo journal. Take a walk in nature and snap photos of things that remind you of God. Later, create a slide show or photo book of the photos with captions of prayers of thanksgiving.

If you would like more ideas like these, sign up to receive my Soul Spa Kit. Just enter your email address and name in the form in the upper right-hand corner.

May God bless you as You seek Him and rest in His love.

Next step: Look at your calendar and pick a three-hour block of time (or more) for a spiritual retreat. Pack up your Bible and journal and enjoy an extended time with the Savior.

7 Habits That Promote Soul Rest: Prayer Journaling

in the morning I lay my requests before and wait expectantly.

When my mind is filled with confusion and agitation, when my heart is filled with anxiety or disappointment, there is one habit that I turn to again and again: prayer journaling. Pouring out my soul to God on paper untangles my thoughts and connects with the Father who calms my soul.

Why journal my prayers instead of just voicing them or thinking them? Putting a prayer in a little book does not mean God is more attentive to it. Writing it out does not make it more spiritual. But there are three reasons that prayer journaling is helpful to me:

7 HABITS #6Using a prayer journal keeps me focused. I don’t know about you, but when I try to pray silently, it doesn’t take long for my mind to wander off. I start thinking about what I’m going to make for supper, an odd comment a friend made, or even the strange dream I had the night before. Writing out my prayers helps my mind concentrate.

Using a prayer journal helps me untangle my thoughts. When I put pen to paper, suddenly things seem less confusing. The Lord helps me see solutions and ideas that I never thought of before.

Using a prayer journal gives me a record of my prayers. When confusion starts to creep in again, I reread my prayers and regain peace. I can also use the journal of a written record of my prayers and rejoice in God’s answers.

I encourage you to try prayer journaling. You might be thinking: But where do I start?

Using the book of Psalms for inspiration, I came up with eight journaling prompts especially designed for soul rest.

  • Psalm 5:3:  Listen to my voice in the morning, LordEach morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly. Lord, today I bring my requests to You and lay them at Your feet. What I need most today is…
  • Psalm 4:1: Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have given me relief when I was in distress. Be gracious to me and hear my prayer! Father, I thank You that You hear me when I call. What I am distressed about is….
  • Psalm 22:11: Be not far from me, for trouble is near, and there is none to help. Oh Lord, trouble is near. I need Your presence now more than ever. Let me tell You about all that is happening…
  • Psalm 25:4: Make me to know your ways, O Lordteach me your paths. Father, I am feeling confused. Right now I need Your guidance about…
  • Psalm 51:1: Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Jesus, I messed up. I need Your mercy and unfailing love. Forgive me for…
  • Psalm 56:3: When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. Spirit, help me put my trust in You. Fear is threatening to take over my emotions. I am afraid…
  • Psalm 31:14-15: But I trust in you, O LordI say, “You are my God.” My times are in your hand. O God, things are not looking good. But I’ve decided to leave the matter in Your hands. Today, I give You my concerns about…
  • Psalm 31:19: Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you. Father, I thank you for the many blessings You have given me out of Your abundant goodness! Right now I thank You for…

Give prayer journaling a try. In prayer we give our burdens to the Father and the Spirit gives us peace through God’s Word.

Next step: Find a journal. Grab an empty notebook. Or open up a Word file. Pick a prayer prompt and start writing. Don’t worry about proper grammar or pretty handwriting. Just pour out your soul to a loving Father.