I was stuck in a single lane of traffic, late for a meeting, with a car in front of me from Rhode Island and a driver who couldn’t decide which way she wanted to turn (bless her heart). AAARRRRGGHHH! I found myself, once again bemoaning the fact that Christians don’t seem to have acceptable hand gestures for situations like this.
My road rage was just one of the times recently that I’ve noticed an increase in irritability, and impatience. My “one word” for this year is “choose life”, but recently I started to notice a pattern of “not life” and needed to address it.
Like my friend says, I’m more of a “jet fuel drinker” than a “candle-lighter”. I realized that in a summer of activity I had abandoned some of the spiritual practices that feed my soul. I naturally resist the slower more contemplative disciplines of life with Jesus, but desperate times call for desperate measures.
“We stop, whether by choice or through circumstance, so that we can be alert and attentive and receptive to what God is doing in and for us, in and for others, on the way. We wait for our souls to catch up with our bodies.” Eugene Peterson The Jesus Way
I started by returning to a practice at the end of each day that is helpful. It means stopping. Lighting a candle. And taking 5-10 minutes to prayerfully reflect over my day.
The clear bottle with the glitter is a little visual aid. When you shake it up it takes 5-7 minutes for all the “stuff” to settle. A reminder of all that gets stirred up inside me that needs to be settled in God. Ruth Hayley Barton writes:
Long ago, a wise spiritual director said to me, “Ruth, you are like a jar of river water all shaken up. What you need is to sit still long enough so that the sediment can settle and the water can become clear.” This was an invitation to “be still and know” beyond my addiction to noise, words, people, and performance-oriented activity.
The card you see in the picture is a guide that reads like this:
Silence and Centering
When you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent. (Psalm 4:4)
Review the day with gratitude and questions:
- When did I sense the activity of God in my life? What were the most life-giving moments?
- Where did I see the grace and activity of God?
- Were there times I felt my heart was out of alignment with God’s?
- Were there moments when I lived out of fear, anger, or bitterness?
- Were there things or people I avoided?
Concluding prayer: Have mercy on me, O God, according to Your unfailing love; according to Your great compassion blot out my transgressions…Create in my a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me…Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, & grant me a willing spirit to sustain me. (Ps. 51)
The book is a gratitude journal where I list the gifts of God I’ve noticed during the day.
This is not a natural rhythm for me! STOPPING and paying attention to the work of God in and through me can feel like I’m an extroverted toddler being punished with a time out . Even though I have the choice, it’s a discipline, but one that has huge rewards as I see God gently re-calibrating my soul and guiding me back in sync with Him.
The more I pay attention in this short time of reflection, the more I find I’m recognizing grace moments in the everyday stuff of life. And when stuck behind a confused out-of-state driver I’m able to say with more sincerity “Bless her heart”. 🙂
What spiritual practices are hard for you? Which ones are helpful? I’d love to hear from you!