The Paperwhite in the Middle

Bulbs are magic.  They are real life magic that you can hold and touch and feel. They are little balls of promise and wonder, hope wrapped up in a papery brown skin, fooling everyone who isn’t willing to wait.  They have absolutely no beauty on their own, but planted in the right dirt at the right time, they surprise the world with a gift no one could have imagined.  No one, that is but God.Paperwhile bulbs

Every Winter I plant paperwhite bulbs in various containers around our home with the hope that they will be in full bloom by Christmas and lend a bit of natural life to the, often, flashy trappings of the season. So this year, as the Fall decorations were taken down and the Christmas bins were hauled in, I grabbed my paper sack of bulbs, found some old potting soil left over from summer, and buried several bulbs in pots on my entry way table.  Everyday I noticed how the tiny green stems started to emerge from the dirt, then grow taller and taller until finally the tip of each was bursting delicate, fragrant, white flowers.

All except the the paperwhite in the middle.

While her neighbors on either side were showing off, growing quickly, and then blooming for all to see, she seemed to be asleep, dormant, dysfunctional even.  What was the problem with the paperwhite in the middle?  Admittedly, I became frustrated with her.  I mean there she was, right there in the middle, not doing her job, not producing anything of beauty, not bringing anything to the (entry) table if you will.  And then early one morning, as I relished in the slowness of Christmas break from my favorite spot on the couch, appreciating the twinkling lights of the tree, the taste of my coffee, the smell of my candle, the time I had to sit and pray and read the Word without the push and rush of normal life, the paperwhite in the middle caught my eye.  And instead of shaking my head in disgust like I had been doing for days, I felt a profound kinship to her.  So much so that I pulled the blanket back, set my Bible and coffee aside, and walked across the room to snap a picture of her and her overachieving neighbors.

Have you ever felt like the paper white in the middle?

Has it ever appeared to you that, as you look around, everyone else is growing, blooming, reaching for the sky, and you are still just stuck in the dirt?  Man, it has for me.  In fact, I’ve probably spent years being the paperwhite in the middle, and honestly just now at 40, On The Other Side of Middle, do I feel like I am finally starting to push through the soil.

Comparison.  It’s been called the thief of joy.  It’s been called the thief of everything.  Either way, it’s a thief.  And we know from John 10:10 that, “The thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy.”  So where is the thief of comparison sneaking into your life?  What is it trying to steal, kill, and destroy in you?

Young women, perhaps Young Mommas, I am thinking of  you today, looking across the room to the paperwhite in the middle.  I’m not so far in front of you.  I still have 4 children at home to feed, and educate, and train.  I have been doing the mommy thing for 12 years now and since my youngest is 5, I figure I have about 13 more to go in this capacity.  So, altogether, God willing, I will have children under my roof, parenting them on a daily basis for 25 years of my life.  25 years of my time here on earth will be spent with them being the main focus of not only my heart, but my days, my gas consumption, my grocery lists, and certainly my prayers.  Now, if I live to be 80 years old, that is 55 years that will not be spent with them under my roof in this daily, weighty way.  I just wonder, could some things wait?

Here is the thing we all know at nausea, and yet the sneaky thief keeps coming for us:

We may be able to do it all but we will not be able to do it all well and at the same time.

If you try, you will not be well.  There is a reason that Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall do not happen simultaneously.  What chaos that would be; pumpkins and tulips, swim parties and snow days all at once.  And how much we would miss, all the little things that make each season distinct and beautiful in it’s own way!  And yet, why do we think we can have it all at once in our own lives?  Perfectly Pinterest nurseries and thriving social lives?  Booming careers and intentional marriages?  Fruitful ministries and star athletes?  Something is going to give.  Can we let it be comparison we kick to the curb, rather than our sanity, our joy, our identity?

Do you know that I planned my wedding, and decorated all 4 of my children’s nurseries without Pinterest.  Honestly, I’m kinda bitter about it.  Because I love Pinterest.  And I love Instagram.  And currently I am planning a  6-year-old Star Wars party, an 8-year-old make over slumber party, and my next dinner party menu with their help.  It’s fun as long as it’s fun.  Here is the sneaky thief part, sometimes those scroll sessions can turn dark.  You know it and I know it.  All of a sudden you find yourself beneath the pressure of the perfection you are looking at on the screen, comparing your worst days, rooms, plans, meals, outfits, and self to someone else’s best.  Because we all know we only post our best.  It’s okay, until it isn’t.

In Matthew 6:22-23 Jesus says, “The eye is the lamp of the body.  If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light.  But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness.  If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness.”  Getting rid of this thief may start as simply as healthy eyes.  What we look at.  What we gaze upon.  What we let in.  There was a season in my life that I couldn’t pick up a magazine.  I couldn’t read any book but the Word of God.  I couldn’t watch a moment of television or a single movie.  Do you know why?  My eyes were unhealthy.  All they saw were people better off than me, with perfect marriages and hair.  With loads of money to take perfect family vacations and gorgeous homes to entertain their fabulous friends.  I shut it down because my whole body, my whole being, was turning dark simply by looking at the wrong things.

If comparison is the thief of joy and contentment, right expectations is their best friend, holding their hands, walking them right in your front door.  And right expectations, for yourself, your life, your kids, your home, your relationships, your bank account is not found out there, they are found within.  When you still yourself and your hustle to be perfect, or at least to be more, and listen to the still small voice of the Holy Spirit, He will set those right expectations for you.  Isaiah 30:21 says, “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, ”This is the way; walk in it.”.  In Proverbs 4:25, 27 we read, “Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you… Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.”  What is comparison if it is not looking to the right and left, looking around at how everyone else is doing it?  Do you trust the Holy Spirit’s voice in your life saying, “This is the way.  This is your way.  This is all I am asking of you right now, in this season.  Walk in this, not that or that or that.  There will be time later.  For now, look straight ahead and walk on Girl.”

It’s hard.  I know.  It’s noisy here too.  The still small voice sure can get drown out quickly by the volume of life, kids, laundry and to do’s.  It’s a lot easier to scroll Pinterest or Instagram or Facebook than it is to do the work of listening.  But a little intentional listening in the beginning can bring clarity and peace while that lazy scroll, that looking to the right and left, may end up heaping the kind of expectations and pressures you were never meant to carry.

Young mommas, I used to be so very limited in my view of what my relationship with Jesus had to look like.  When my days did not start before dawn with uninterrupted scripture reading, journaling, prayer time and Beth Moore because the baby had been up all night, or woke up too early, or my body just couldn’t sacrifice one more moment of sleep, well I had failed!  My days became a snowball of failure.  If my mornings didn’t begin right, how could my days, my attempts at this mommy thing, my marriage, my homemaking, the things the Lord was calling me to in that season go right?  A snow ball is interesting, isn’t it?  It starts off soft and harmless but as it rolls on, gaining speed, picking up rocks and debris on the way, in the end it is downright dangerous.  And so it was with my days, picking up all the bad and letting the thing knock me over every night with all the ways I had failed.

Let me tell you a golden secret that may save you from snowball days:  Let your relationship with Jesus adjust to your season.

Just like there is a season to till, plant, grow, reap, there is a season to gain knowledge and there is a season to use it!   If you know the Bible at all, you probably know the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23, “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”  STOP.  If you never did another Bible study, you have plenty to work on right there.  You don’t master things like the fruit of the Spirit by gaining more knowledge, you only master them by the the power of the Holy Spirit.  And He is always listening, speaking, spurring you on towards Christ-likeness, whether you were up all night with a sick kid, or you had an hour in the Word this morning.  Here are a few scriptures that rocked my world in my snowball days:

“You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life.  These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.”  John 5:39-40

“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.”                                  I Corinthians 4:20

They are the kind who work their way into people’s homes and win the confidence of vulnerable women who are burdened with the guilt of sin and controlled by various desires.  Such women are forever following new teachings but they are never able to understand the the truth.”            II Timothy 3:6-7

GIRLS, LET THAT NEVER BE SAID OF US!

We find life in our relationship with Jesus, and our study and knowledge of the Scripture only serve to lead us into His presence and power.  I’ll let you in on another secret: you can get there, into His presence and His power, no matter what your days look like, no matter what your hands are doing, no matter the season you are in.  You can be folding laundry and communing with God at the same time.  You can be fixing dinner, driving someone to basketball, watching PAW Patrol, and wiping a booty and be in the presence of God.  I decided a long time ago that the only way I was going to be able to be obedient to the command to “pray without ceasing” (I Thessalonians 5:17) was to shift all of my thoughts and self-talk into prayers.  My busy hands and worn-out body can be about the very unglamorous work of my life while my spirit is in heavenly places, in the presence of Jesus, always being ministered to.

So here is my question to you, Young Momma… Do you trust Him?  When He says things like, “But seek first the kingdom of God and ALL THESE THINGS WILL BE ADDED UNTO YOU” (Matthew 6:33) do you believe Him?  Do you believe that the sacrifices you make today will kill your dreams for the future, or that ALL THESE THINGS WILL BE ADDED UNTO YOU, in due season?  Do you trust I Thessalonians 5:24 when it says “The one who calls you is faithful and He will do it?”  It’s not your hustle, Girl.  Pinterest perfect expectations are a thief.  Settle down into the soil and stop looking to the right or left and trust the still small voice of the Holy Spirit.

Here is what I know from my own life.  All those years I felt like the paperwhite in the middle were not wasted.  Oh, I know you couldn’t see the growth and progress from out there.  I know it looked like I wasn’t bringing much to the table, wasn’t producing much beauty or value.  But my neighbors’ standards weren’t mine.  They bloomed when they were supposed to and so did I.  The soil of these years, isn’t merely dirt.  If you let it, if you spend these years rooted in right expectations, enjoying the slowness of the season and getting healthy eyes on everything from homemaking to Bible study, the soil will be the rich, fertile ground you will emerge from.  No one can see the roots growing strong.  Trust the season.  Trust the process.  Trust the Word.

The Paperwhite in the Middle

My paperwhite in the middle eventually grew as proud and tall as her neighbors.  Just about the time their flowers were beginning to drop, she bloomed.  Her perfect timing added beauty right when the arrangement needed new life.  She wasn’t dead or dormant down in that soil, she just knew her season.  Do you trust yours?  Comparison is a sneaky thief, but a bulb is sneaky too. One is out to steal, kill, and destroy the joy of this season, and one is just below the surface poised to burst through with abundant life in her time.  Settle in, Young Momma, your time is coming and you’re going to be gorgeous!

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Back to School Prayer Gathering

I hate things out of season.  It makes me feel irritated, sad, and confused.  Like last week when my daughter insisted on watching Elf- in her Grinch PJ’s- wearing a Santa hat- in Texas- in July… I obliged until she began playing Christmas music and asked if she could cut snowflakes from my coffee filters.  NO!  It’s 104 degrees outside!  Go sing Jingle Bells in the pool!  I can hardly handle Hobby Lobby right now either with their aisles of pumpkins and scarecrows, followed by row after row of Christmas ornaments.  I feel like the moment the kids get out of school for the summer I start receiving Pottery Barn Kids catalogs filled with monogrammed backpacks on children dressed in sweaters and boots.  Target has been filled with school supplies since early June neatly stacked underneath giant pencils boasting “Back to School.”  Shut up, Target.

FOR THE LOVE OF SUMMER, PLEASE CHILL OUT!

Honestly, I won’t even let anyone say the “S-word” in my presence until August.  You know the one… It comes with earlier mornings, busier schedules,  extra curricular activities, increased taxi duty, homework drama, and a million things to keep up with.  Obviously I do not have the best attitude about the “S-word” and you can pray for me as it comes crashing into my summer like a locomotive of stress.   I know that It’s Always a Beautiful Season and with all of those hard things there comes blessings as well.  Earlier bedtimes around here won’t be terrible.  A couple of days a week of quiet will probably serve my search for selah well.  The kids have been routine-free since May 5th and are getting a little bored and restless. Confesh- I have had my days of feeling…. um….crazy?  I do love school supplies and good grief –  It.  Is.  HOT!!   I find myself saying, “go find something to do that does not include standing there looking at me/following me around while I talk on the phone/eating one more snack” more and more.  I’m trying really hard to look at the positives.  And, because the calendar has officially been flipped to August, I guess we need to talk about the “S-word.”

Since mentioning it in Somewhere Between Pizza-Hut and Pinterest, I have had several ladies ask me about our “Wine, Cheese, and Prayer Night.”  Because this is one of my tribe’s favorite traditions, I thought I would devote an entire post to it and invite you all to join in.  Also, I thought the name of this important event needed a little make-over for the sake of the blog, so today we shall call it a “Back to School Prayer Gathering,” although I highly recommend the wine and cheese.

For a limited time, when you subscribe you’ll receive a set of our Back to School Prayer Prompts {We’ve included a set of printable cards for Parents, Students and Teachers!}

First of all, the WHAT?  As a tribe (Bible study/Life/Community/Discipleship group), we dedicate one night a year, usually the week before school starts, to praying for all of our children by name.  This is a night of focus.  This is a night of intentionally speaking words of life over our kids.  This is a night of standing shoulder to shoulder as mothers in agreement for answered prayer in the lives of each other’s children.  This is a night of dedicating the coming school year to the Lord.  This is an Ebenezer Stone in the life of our group, in the lives of our kids.  Remember ‘ole Ebenezer from 1 Samuel 7:12?  “Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen.  He named it Ebenezer saying, ‘Thus far the Lord has helped us.”  It is like a monument to look back on for the next nine, hectic, crazy, rushing months to remember “thus far the Lord has helped us.”

So, next is the WHY?  Prayer is my jam.  At least I desperately want it to be.  Is there anything in the Christian life more important, yet more neglected than prayer?  Is there anything that can unite people like prayer can?  In her book Restless, Jennie Allen says, “If we only had an inkling of all we miss because we do not pray, because we do not believe the Spirit in us is able to do impossible things, we would shudder.

It seems harsh to say that “we do not believe the Spirit is able” but when our life is marked by the sin of prayerlessness, that is exactly what we are proclaiming to both the natural and spiritual realm.

If we could really get the picture,  the idea, the truth, that God has invited us to “approach His throne of grace with confidence so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need ” (Hebrews 4:16), I don’t believe we would ever leave.  If we really understood what it meant for Jesus to be “at the right hand of God also interceding for us”  (Romans 8:34), we would see how anything outside of prayer, anything within our own power, is ridiculous.  Need a few more why’s?

Pray without ceasing. 1 Thessalonians 5:17

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:6-7

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.  James 1:5

The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man [Mom] avails much.  James 5:16

Pour out your heart like water before the face of the Lord.  Lift your hands toward Him for the life of your young children.  Lamentations 2:19

So, what does this gathering look like?  The HOW is really up to you.  Invite your tribe over one night and ask everyone to bring a yummy appetizer, or put out a lovely fruit and cheese board and provide a couple of bottles of wine.

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Maybe you would prefer desserts and coffee. A little ‘ole fashioned pot-luck dinner, anyone? We have always just gathered as moms but I can see real power in inviting the dads to be a part of covering their children in prayer.  (And to you grandparents, I can think of no greater gift you could give to both your kids and grandkids than to host an evening like this.  What a legacy!)  The setting doesn’t really matter but I always look for the opportunity to have a little party!

And now for the prayer.  A few years back I was really convicted about “prayer requests.”  I absolutely believe in “bearing one another’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2), and voicing our hearts’ cry to our community but praying together had really just turned into a big vent session.  Heavy on the griping, light on the praying.  Anyone else?   So now, when my tribe gathers weekly for prayer, we hear each other’s requests when they are voiced out lout to the Father.

We actually pray about our own junk rather than just talk about it.

Obviously, we agree with one another in those moments, there are times we lay hands on someone and all pray together, we take those prayers home and intercede for our sisters throughout the week. But there is some ownership in presenting our own requests to God.

So, when it comes to this special Back to School Prayer gathering, we all take the days and weeks before to search scripture and ask God to highlight a promise, an appeal, a need, a place of growth for each of our children.  I highly recommend The Power of a Praying Parent by Stormie O’Martin and Praying the Scriptures For Your Children by Jodie Berndt as amazing resources in both identifying places of prayer and providing scriptures for them.  I have the most highlighted, dog-eared copy of both of these books and I go back to them time after time when I need wisdom in articulating a hope I have for my children and help in finding an appropriate promise or verse to declare.  So for me, after pressing in closely to Jesus and being still to listen to His heart for my kids, I end up with 4 notecards with verses for each of my children on them.   I insert their names in them.  I highlight them in my Bible and write next to it, “for (name of kid), 2016-2017.”  I write it in each of their prayer journals and come back to it weekly to proclaim it, to stand on it, to sometimes beg it of the Lord in their lives.  Now that 3 out of 4 of mine are readers, I also give them a copy of the verse I am believing for them over and over.  It finds its way into lunchboxes, on notecards tucked inside of pillow cases, or written with dry-erase markers on bathroom mirrors.

When we all gather on that night, fresh notecards in hand, a fresh Word in our hearts, Bible’s opened to new promises with kids’ names written in, we just speak it all aloud.  We take turns to pray these verses over each of our children.  We carry our babies, whether they are 2 or 20, to the throne room and place them at the feet of Jesus.  We stand on the promises and we stand together.   We declare that “no weapon formed against them shall prosper” (Isaiah 54:17), as they enter this next school year.  We say of them, “The Lord will keep you from all harm – He will watch over your life,” (Psalms 121:7).  We proclaim that our kids will be “like a tree planted by streams of water which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither- whatever they do prospers.” (Psalms 1:3). We lift their teachers up as well, the physical buildings they will be learning in. We agree in spirit saying, “May the favor of the Lord our God rest on them; establish the work of their hands for them,” (Psalms 90:17).  Well, you get the idea.

I am humbled every time I go home to my parents house to find a copy of Stormie O’Martin’s book The Power of Praying for Your Adult Children sitting by my mom’s chair on her sun-porch.  It is every bit as dog-eared as my copy of The Power of a Praying Parent.  It reminds me that this part of parenting is never finished…prayer.  It is the greatest gift we can give our kids.

So, as the “S-word” approaches and you are outfitting your kids (or grandkids) with backpacks and new shoes and school supplies, don’t forget the thing that they will need the most as they set out that first day- prayer.  It is powerful.  Whether you gather to “rejoice with those who rejoice,” or “mourn with those who mourn,” over school starting back, consider rallying your tribe for a prayer night like this and watch God be so very faithful to you and your children.  I would love to hear about your Back to School Prayer Gathering so I can say with you, “thus far the Lord has helped us [all].”  #BTSprayergathering  Blessings to you and yours this school year.

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Searching for Selah

I am going to let you in on a secret goal I have.  I dream of being a “day reader.”  I aspire to carve out a half hour a day to sit in my rocker on the front porch and indulge in a bit of fiction, or a lovely home magazine, or some breezy, funny biography.   It sounds as luxurious as a day at the spa (almost).  Oh, I read books constantly but I limit myself to Bible Studies (or the like) during my early morning quiet time, and any fluff stuff after the kids are in bed.  I can throw a novel down sitting on the beach or driving in the car on long road trips like a starving person will devour a cheeseburger.  But, here at home I just can’t do it.  Summer is dangerously close to winding down with a mere month left and I am failing.  I cannot “day-read.”

It should be simple right?  I have all the necessary tools.  I have books coming out of my ears.  I have said rocking chair.  I actually have the 30 minutes most days.  I just can’t make the shift in my brain.  I feel a bit like the character in the book, “If You Give a Pig a Pancake.”  You know the one, Moms.  I start out with the intention of a little porch time but then…. I go to grab the book and I realize the shelf needs dusting, I go into the laundry room to get the Pledge, I see the laundry is ready to be switched and folded, I take a clean pile to a kid’s room, I realize that the dresser is in desperate need of a good clean out, I head to the pantry to get a garbage bag and remember that I need to take the chicken out to defrost for dinner, as I am thinking about the meal preparations I realize I am missing an ingredient so I am off to the store….. And so on, and so one.  See?  I can’t just sit and read/relax/enjoy because there is always a shelf that needs dusting, a load that needs folding, a closet that needs cleaning out, a floor that need sweeping, a mouth that needs feeding.

I think what I need to confess is that I worship the god of productivity.

It can look like endless business, a cleaner house, another party thrown, the next week carefully planned, weeds pulled, meals cooked, forever…. I have to be productive.  I’m not sure if I was always this way.  Let’s face it, being momma to 4, part-time homeschooler, wannabe homesteader takes a lot of work, organization, and productivity.  I have to run a pretty tight ship or mayhem will ensue.  Laundry will pile up, the house will get out of control, the kids will eat crap, assignments will be missed, etc.  I do it to my children too.  The second I see one of them sitting down for a moment I inevitably ask, “What does your room look like?”  I might as well say, “Why are you sitting, you lazy kid?  You are not producing anything of value sitting there.  I’m sure you could find something more productive to be doing!” I hate it but I say it every time.  And I hurry.  I hate that too.  Like I am going to be put in “Mommy Jail” if every stitch of ironing isn’t finished by the end of the hour, or all of the meals are not planned and groceries bought by 10 am Monday, or if the yard is not Southern Living ready by dinner on Sunday.  I continually sacrifice my peace to an invisible deadline no one knows about but me.  I remember once when my oldest two children were babies and I was at the store with my dad alone.  At some point he asked me, “Why are you running?”  Ummm, I didn’t know that I was.  But then all of the justifications and excuses started, “The baby will need to eat, I have to get back before she wakes up from her nap, I have to start on dinner… etc.” I mean, we have to hurry to get all the things done faster and more efficiently.  We have to be productive!  The justifications rolled but the conviction stuck.  Anne Voskamp says that “only amateurs hurry.”  Ouch.

At the beginning of every January, I pray for a word to focus on for the coming year.  It’s a bit like a spiritual “New Year’s Resolution.”  I study it, declare it, come back to it over and over throughout the year.  It’s like an anchor for my prayer life, a filter for my attitude.  So, for 2016, the word I received was “Selah.”  Now, at the time I did not know that this was the name of a Christian band as well but my studies have educated me on this point.  Selah.  It is believed that this word was a musical term used by the Hebrew Psalmists.  Although the exact translation is unclear, Selah is associated with a musical interlude or a pause in the voices singing while the instruments perform alone.  When this direction was given in a song it meant to “stop and listen, pause and think, hang and measure, to praise and lift up.”  Basically, take a breath.  Relax.  Chill out.  REST.  Here are a few of the scriptures the Lord brought me too in my quest for Selah:

His place of rest will be glorious.  Isaiah 11:10

Anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from His.  Hebrews 4:10

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Matthew 11:28

My presence will go with you and I will give you rest.  Exodus 33:14

Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain, Unless the Lord guards the city, the guard keeps watch in vain,  It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for He gives sleep to His beloved.  Psalm 127:1-2

So, toil.  That has been my anti-word for this year.  Or at least it was suppost to be.  The definition of toil is: to labor, to work, to exert strength with pain and fatigue of body or mind, particularly of the body with effort of some continuance of duration.  Obviously there is legitimate toil, worthy work, necessary labor.  God called us to work before the fall in Genesis 2:15.  It is not a four-letter word.  But, something about the term toil feels fruitless.  I picture a treadmill that takes so much effort but gets you nowhere.  A toil of the mind is the worst.  A toil of spirit.  Honestly, this summer has not been my favorite.  It has been a season of toil of the mind and spirit.  Have you been there?  Are you there now?  Could you use a little Selah?  Me too.

Remember my boyfriend Brother Lawrence from It’s Amazing What A Little Son Can Do?  He refers to this idea of rest or Selah as “Holy Inactivity.”  In adding this vocabulary to my filter of Selah and my confession of idolatry in regards to productivity, The Lord has taught me a couple of lessons.  The first is that what may seems restful may really be more draining.   Have you ever sat down to just “veg” in front of the TV, or for a good scroll session on your phone because you needed a break, only to look up an hour later not feeling rested at all?  Feeling fitful?  Unsatisfied?  Irritated?   Have you ever withdrawn to catch your breath only to find yourself feeling isolated?  Have you ever given your morning to sleeping in rather than getting up with a quiet time or some exercise just to find yourself dragging all day?   There is an aspect of Selah, or Holy Inactivity that is life-giving and restorative.  It is not always about tuning everything out, but about tuning in more intentionally to what really matters.  Can we produce peace rather than just activity?  Produce margin rather than checklists?  Produce a fullness of spirit rather than a fullness of schedule?  Real rest and peace, true Selah, is found only with the Prince of Peace and the Author of Rest.  For His “yoke is easy and burden is light.” (Matthew 11:20).   Don’t look to the world for your Selah, look to Jesus.

The second lesson I have learned is without toil there can be no Selah.  Without Selah the toil is in vain.  It is a constant push and pull, isn’t it?  Even within the very definition of Selah we find this tension: stop and listen, pause and think, hang and measure.  There has to be a pause from something.  A listening to something.  A measuring of something.  To those who land on the opposite end of the spectrum from me and tend to worship idleness rather than productivity I would say that “God is not a God of disorder but of peace” (1 Cor. 14:33). We all know the disorder that comes when we lift leisure out of place as well.   Proverbs is full of warnings to the “sluggard” about laziness.  There must be Selah and rest from something, not just a general neglectfulness in disguise as “simplicity,” “calmness,” or “peace.”   Ecclesiastes 3 is the classic scripture on seasons.  It tells us that there is a “time for everything under heaven,” and then goes on to give us endless and wise examples of “a time to’s.”  In verses 12-13 we are bestowed with this prize: “I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live.  That each of them may eat and drink and find satisfaction in all their toil- this is the gift of God.” 

So now I find myself back at that rocker on the front porch.  It is freshly sanded and has just received a new coat of paint.  The herb garden located on the porch is weeded.  The floor is blown clear of leaves.  The windows to the kitchen are clean.  The lawn in front is perfectly mowed (by the hubs), and the potted flowers have been watered.  The work has been done.  sunset-porchWhat good is it if I never pause, breathe, listen, enjoy?  The toil really will be in vain if it is not followed by the Selah.  Can I stop bowing to the god of productivity and lay my toil down to appreciate God’s gifts?  Can inactivity really be holy?  These are the lessons I am trying to learn as the twilight of summer is on the horizon.  I have a couple of extra rocking chairs… Are you up for a little Selah too?