Word of the Week

BreatheI am sitting here in a chair with my computer in my lap. There's at least one clean bottle. My hair is clean. I did eat something for breakfast (though at 11 am). Baby girl smiled for the first time last night.

I'm calling this a winning Friday.

Yet, the kitchen counter isn't clean (the clutter is driving me crazy!). Nor is all of the laundry folded (my favorite household chore). And I think there is a giant milk stain on the carpet upstairs and I need to scrub out (it's starting to smell). This is not to mention that there's more than a dozen thank you notes that are long over due to be written all sprawled out on the kitchen table (I seem to write one every other day). There's a gift we got a double of that I need to return to the store before I can't anymore. And I think I need to pay the electric bill . . .

But, right here right now I am letting that expectation of "to do" go. I want to write something about life as it all feels so very different now in the past two months. How I don't sleep anymore but amazingly I am ok. How much I love holding baby girl in the rocking chair. And how much I am thankful for times when she falls asleep near me.

This moment of reflection I'm having right now may not last for more than 5 minutes. I may not type more than just this one sentence before having to hit save and come back to it another time (in an hour, tomorrow or next week?)

The baby will probably soon cry announcing that's it's time to eat again.

Or, the phone will ring about something I forgot to do.

Or, I'll remember that if I don't make it to the dry cleaners in an hour then . . .

Yet, in all of these new pushes and pulls, this is what I most know. I have to make time for soul. For my soul. My soul can't be all consumed in caring for another human being.

I really love my daughter. This is not a conversation about love.

But it is a conversation about temptation of loosing ourselves in another person and calling it love. It isn't.

And us women can easily go into overdrive when it comes to our children, can't we? I've seen it happen to so many of my friends . . . It really easy to allow the work right in front of us crying the loudest (and in my case literally true) to be what is ALWAYS most important. But it's not. 

To be a good caregiver, at least as I am learning, I can't lose the parts of me that make me, me. I have to ask for help. 

So I must have time to really catch up with friends. To visit friends. To write. To preach. To go on dates with my husband. And to dream about my next project.

The way I do these things, of course I know won't be the same volume or pace as they were before baby girl came into our lives, but I can't let joy of vocation, of friendship  or the future be wrapped up in one other person. It's just not good for her. And it's not good for me either.

And I believe no matter what stage of life you find yourself in-- young children at home or not-- there's a lesson in this for all of us. How are we doing to take care of our souls? How are we going to put what we love at the top of the priority list? How are we saying no to good things so that even greater joys can find us?

Sure, now I'm "her" mother. But I'm also a lot of other things. Pastor. Advocate. Wife and Friend. Thank goodness for the community of support around us right now that gives me time and space to lean into so many of life's gifts. I'm hoping today that you find space for this too.

This daily grind is about wholeness after all, isn't it?

This Sunday as I preached, I stayed close to the text of Exodus 24-- the story of Moses' sitting with God and being surrounded by God's glory so that he could receive the law. Though there were many ways I could go with the text, verse 16 is what I couldn't get off my mind.

"The glory of the Lord settled on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days.”death of moses

Can you imagine it? Moses sitting for 6 days before the Lord with nothing else going on but just waiting on something to happen! Six whole night and days. If you count it up that would be 144 hours. 8,640 minutes. 518,400 seconds. What a long time!

Have you ever sat in silence for this long?

I have not.

However, when I try to take intentional Sabbaths, turning off my phone (gasp, I know!), not making plans with friends it's ALWAYS harder to disconnect than I think. On these days, I often start making lists in my head of what I will do when it over! And if it gets really bad, I trade in mediation for counting the minutes until I can get up. When can I talk again is what I want to know . . .

Anybody with me on this?

Henri Nouwen, Catholic priest and spirituality teacher, in the book Inner Voice of Love writes this about this tendency: “We like to occupy-fill up-every empty time and space. We want to be occupied. And if we are not occupied we easily become preoccupied; that is, we fill the empty spaces before we have even reached them. We fill them with our worries, saying, but what if ....”

I loved what Nowuen offers because he goes on to remind us that: “God wants to dwell in our emptiness.” We don’t have to bring a thing to be with God. We just have to show up for it and allow the Spirit to help us be still.

And as we are still:

It’s about letting go of fear—the fear of all of the what ifs?

It’s about letting go of shame—oh what will so and so think of they saw how I was spending my time!

It’s about letting go of what we’ve constructed around us: comfort foods, normal routines and making plans for next summer and beyond . . .

For in true quiet, we can't lean on anything or anyone else but God.

Want to give it a try?

It might be as simple as turning off the radio on the car and not making phone calls while you're driving. Just being still.

It might be as simple as telling your kids or grandkids that you've put yourself into "adult time out" for a while and you'll check in with them later. Just being still.

It might be as simple as going to your garden alone to plant, weed and water. Just being still.

For me, it's as simple as going to a particular place. It's my place to be still.

I love our oversized green chair in a my room surrounded by my favorite books with a great view of the trees in the yard from the second floor. As I sit and gaze at the trees out the windows I feel like I’m in a little treehouse made just for me. I love going to this chair as many mornings as I can (though not too early). If I'm alone in the house, I often bring my breakfast to this chair. I sometimes read, sometimes write but often am just still with no agenda. I especially love how the brightness of the morning light finds me in the winter time. IMG_6534

It’s often a battle to get myself there (for as much as I love it) because my spirit fights the urge to think it’s not important.

But, in my heart, I know it’s the only way for my communion with God. And I know finding a quiet place is only way for you too.

Can we live with out it? Sure we can. Will God still love us if we're busy all the time? Of course. But without finding quiet, we won’t know God the way God wants to really know us!

Entertainer Will Rogers once said this about quiet: “Never miss a good chance to shut up.”

And I couldn't have said it any better myself. May God teach us to be still.

Do you remember the last time you experienced a quiet place?

I’m coming off of a really busy week as I shared in meetings at the White House, in the halls of Congress and as a Oklahoma delegate at the National Prayer breakfast as part of my work with Feed the Children.

To make all of these things happen, the pace was crazy around our house. We got up too early. We went to bed too late. And we didn't eat at home every night (if any night at all).

And, it was a week where the title of the sermon I’d knew I’d be preaching last Sunday called, "Finding a Quiet Place" simultaneously felt like just the message I craved to hear and convicted me at the same time.

Mark 1:29-39 had a word for me.

For Jesus, in his early days of ministry, he “hit the ground running” as the expression goes and “there was no rest for the weary.”

He recruited his disciples. He organized them into a group. Together they, attended services at a synagogue and Jesus healed a person with an “unclean spirit” on the Sabbath.

And by Mark 1:29, Jesus leaves the synagogue and goes to the house of Simon where he lives with his wife and his mother-in-law. We learn that Simon’s mother-in-law is sick with a fever. Verse 31 says that Jesus takes her woman by the hand and lifts her up to healing.

So, without taking a breath, Jesus is at it again. Word spreads about this miracle. Other sick ones or possessed with evil spirits come to find Jesus. They seek healing too. Everybody wants something.

And: “the whole city was gathered around the door.”

Was Jesus claustrophobic? I hope not!

People gathering for miles and miles, desperate to see him, desperate for a cure, desperate most of all for seeing, knowing and believing they were loved.

They come at sundown.

And we get no indication that Jesus turns any way. They stay for hours. Burning the midnight oil . . .

Can you imagine how Jesus felt after the last one left his door?

Sure, it was exciting.

Sure, it was full of the power of God. Lives were changed forever!

Sure, it was what he came to earth to do.

But, remember Jesus came to earth with a body like yours and mine—a body that required food and water and rest, especially after long days.

And, so I know Jesus must have been exhausted.

The kind of exhaustion that would have made anyone want to sleep in the next day or take the rest of the week off or not answer the door the next time someone knocked on it.

But this is not what Jesus does.

No, verse 35 tells us this, “In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place and there he prayed.”

Jesus counteracts the pace of life that might have reflected back to him: “Go, go. Do more. Do more. You’re only going to be on earth for a short time. Make every minute with people count.” And seeks out a quiet place.


And in this quiet place, Jesus centers his life on its greater purpose.


Do you remember the last time you were on an airplane? There’s the standard, the plane is about to take off, speech, isn’t there?

Buckle seatbelts. Put up your tray tables. Store away your carry-on bags.

And then, if there’s a loss of cabin pressure, oxygen masks will drop from the ceiling.

But, this part of the speech comes with it’s own unusual instructions. When it comes to the oxygen masks, what are we told to do?

If we are sitting with children, we’re supposed to put our own masks on before putting on theirs. And such seems so counterintuitive to our protective love, doesn’t it?

Yet, we learn we’re asked to do this because if we’re running out of air, there’s no way we’d have breath to assist them.

And in the same way, such is the principal Jesus modeled for us.

He says: put on your own oxygen mask first.

Find your quiet place. Find your deserted place.

Slow down. Reflect. Renew. Do all of this before you charge forward into another commitment, another to do list or another email.

It’s so much easier to ignore that tug of the Spirit on our hearts.

We make one more phone call. We read one more chapter in a book. We watch one more hour of TV.

And by the end, there’s not space for a quiet place.


But, if we are going to follow in the way of Jesus, then finding our quiet place is a must.

Though some churches might tell you otherwise, I don’t think there’s some magic formula for finding quiet places to be with God.

For some of us, it might be rising before the sun, sitting on the couch by a window watching the sunrise with prayer list in hand.

For others of us, it might be taking a walk in our neighborhood midday with the dog, breathing in and out deeply being still enough to know that God is God.

Or, for others it might be simply pausing before you let your toes touch the floor to say “Thank you God for this day. Use me in it.”

For me, one of my favorite quiet places is in an oversized chair in a room surrounded by my favorite books with a great view of the trees in the yard with the squirrels who run up and down the branches at rapid pace, depending on the season.

I love going to this chair as many mornings as I can (though not too early).

I bring my breakfast to this chair. I sometimes read, sometimes write but often am just still.

It’s often a battle to get myself there—as much as I love it! Oh, I can come up with thousand excuses NOT to be quiet.

But, in my heart, I know it’s the only way for me to find communion with God.

Where's your quiet space?