We have reached our final week of our "mutiny against excess", and this has been an amazing week. We are talking about resting - the sabbath. Unfortunately, I couldn't take a week of sabbaths (I wish!), but we've been studying it and what the Bible has to say about it.
Click here to read the whole series.
Our challenge for this week was this: pause at seven times a day for focus and prayer. These "seven pauses" are based of of a rich tradition that monastics have followed for ages. Jen Hatmaker, the author of the Bible study we are doing, provided a brief outline of the seven pauses and a scripture and prayer for each. Prayer is something God's been teaching me a lot about lately, so I took it one step further and ordered the book she was inspired by - Seven Sacred Pauses by Macrina Wiederkehr. I have no idea how to say that name... in my head it sounds like... macarena wider car? Anyways...
This book outlines seven times a day that we are to set aside whatever we are doing and pause for prayer and reflection.
This has been such a beautiful thing, I wish I could keep it up forever. I know that it would eventually become an empty ritual to me, but I do hope to keep this new practice on hand for especially tiresome days or seasons where I need to be reminded to stop and be present where I am.
Brief outline of the pauses -
The Night Watch - Gotta admit, this one didn't happen for me. It's at midnight and I just don't even want to pretend that I'm interested in adding another interruption to my sleep, what with me being 8 months pregnant and having two other small children. Sorry, night watch, maybe in about ten years.
The Awakening Hour - This one happens around sunrise (6am each morning is when I have been doing it). This one is my favorite. I learned something very important in the prayers of this pause - don't wake up resenting the day before it's begun. Don't complain that it's time to get up. Immediately be thankful for the good coming in that day. Take time to watch the day arrive and ask God to help you focus on what he has for you that day . As a mother of small children who love to wake up with the sun, I have a terrible habit of my first emotion of the day being resentment at being woken up before I am ready. This pause helps me put it all into perspective immediately, I am so excited to see their faces and snuggle them while they are still sleepy.
The Blessing Hour - The blessing hour says "Stop in the middle of your busy morning and be thankful for the work you're doing. Remember that "work is love made visible". i just love that quote (It's by a poet named Kahlil Gibran, and it's not posted on our wall above the dinner table.) I remind myself of it when I am cleaning the high chair (again), or trying to be patient through another one of the kids' tantrums.
The hour of illumination - The noon hour. It focuses on peace and the light of God. This one's hard to squeeze in, but it's wonderful to pause for perspective and prayer.
The Wisdom Hour - LIfe. Changer. Traditionally at 3pm, this one reminds us that the day is winding down, and we should be, too. It is also a reminder that life is also running and we should live like we are temporary here - because we are. Typically, 3pm involves me looking at my to-do list, mildly panicking that the there is so much undone and running around like a banshee trying to finish it while making dinner and keeping the kids from killing each other. Now, the wisdom hour prayer time is time for me to take stock of my day. What have I done with myself? Who have I impacted? What do I need to finish? I have made it a rule to not start any new tasks after 3pm, instead I finish up what is necessary and focus on the joy of spending the evening with my family. Of course, the evening are still packed with dinner preparations and cleanup and whatever outings we have planned. Sometimes, the kids even get a bath - but only if they smell. :) The real difference is that, instead of looking around at all of the things I didn't get done that day, I'm choosing to lay it aside and be present for my family, trusting that God will provide the time for what is important. Funny, I think time is something I've never really trusted God to give me enough of.
The Twilight hour - This has always been my favorite time of day. I love to go outside for the twilight pause. It just has a supernatural feel to it. I lay down my day, and reflect on what I've done right, what I've done wrong, and what God gifted me with that day.
The Great Silence - Doesn't that just sound majestic? This is the time to be silent and listen for God's voice. Lay your day down, let it go. Remember those that live in spiritual darkness, or are in an hour of darkness. Lift them up to God.
This week, the depth of the meaning of this seven weeks of fasting from excess has finally sunk into my overcrowded head. We say we want to change our world. I say I want to do and be something meaningful. We write up schedules and multitask and juggle and think that's the best way to get it all done - but we never really manage to get it all done, do we?
FInally, in the quiet of a sunrise walk, the Spirit whispered to me - maybe the best way to change the world is to empty yourself and your life of all of the excess. Then, offer your open hands and this newly emptied space in your life as an offering up to God. Ask him to fill it with his will. Maybe it's not more that's going to help us do great things for God, maybe it's less.
Maybe that's what God knew we needed when he created the art of fasting.