It all began a couple of weeks ago. Leaving my parents’ house one evening I glimpsed up and saw the beginnings of a sunset. I decided that on reaching home I’d take the opportunity to pause and watch it. Unfortunately by the time I arrived home the sunset had faded into dusk. A few days later on farewelling friends at the door I once again saw the beginnings of a sunset. All I had to do was go inside and step out onto our balcony to enjoy the view. But once inside I was distracted and missed my chance. It appears with a sunset you have to seize the moment!
During our days we have moments when an encounter with God awaits. But we need to press in then and there. They’re fleeting opportunities to turn aside and be aware of His presence in our day. It’s the song on the radio that stirs our spirit, the line in a book the speaks to our soul, it’s the prompting to listen in to what a friend is sharing, or to simply pause and exhale during our busy day. It is the inclining of our ear to the still small voice of the Holy Spirit.
For all of us, each day holds the promise of many God encounters. And like how we have to take the time to look up to see the sun’s rays paint the sky glorious hues of pink and red, our soul too needs to lean into these moments with God.
I’m yet to see my sunset. But while away on holiday, up early on a cold winter morning feeding my littlest chap, I had the opportunity to sit and savour the sunrise over a crystal sea.
“The Pause that refreshes“. A marketing slogan for Coca-Cola in the 1920’s with wisdom for us in 2015. In the busyness of our days we should apply the same. Not so much the reaching for the carbonated soft drink but the pausing – the taking time, taking moments to pause, to let our soul breathe.
Maybe, just maybe it’s as simple as pausing and listening to the birds when collecting the mail. Maybe in the rush of the morning it’s taking your littlest for a coffee for you and a gingerbread man for him before his preschool starts. Or it’s actually drinking the cup of tea that you brewed instead of allowing it to go cold as you send that important email or put on the next load of washing right then and there. Perhaps it’s allowing yourself a few moments to just sit in the sun.
Learning to pause allows space to be, to breathe. Wayne Muller in his book “Sabbath” writes about a South American Tribe that would go on a march that would last days, when all of a sudden they would stop walking, sit down and rest for a couple of days. Their explanation – “they needed the time of rest so that their souls could catch up with them.”
Has you life been marching for too long without a rest? A pause? An opportunity for refreshment? The taking of time so perhaps a soul can catch up?
“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He refreshes my soul.”
“And the heart must pause to breathe” (Lord Bryon)
In our fast paced and busy days we need to carve out time. Time to let our heart, our soul breathe. Time when we intentionally slow down – when we take ourselves away from our to-do lists, our phone notifications and the chatter of life. Quietness creates a space where our hearts can pause, can breathe, can be. The stillness creates space for God to speak to us. When we take the time to step aside from our busyness, our agendas, we find refreshment in God. We find rest. We are recharged and refuelled to go again. It is what sustains us. We don’t have to perform, strive or pretend. In the presence of the God who created us, who knew us before we were born, who knows our past, our future and our present, we can just be.
It’s the sitting in the sun in a comfy chair, the walk along the water’s edge. It’s the mountain top or the park bench. It’s the corner nook of a favourite café. Wherever it is, it is the pausing of the heart. It’s the waiting on God and the receiving of His grace.
“Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense His grace.” (Matthew 6:6 MSG)
“You’re my place of quiet retreat; I wait for your Word to renew me.” (Psalm 119:114)
The heart pauses. The heart gives a sigh of relief. The heart breathes.
“To see the world in a grain of sand
and to see Heaven in a wild flower
hold infinity in the palm of your hands
and eternity in an hour.”
I’m grateful that today mobile phones have photography capability. I often find myself reaching for my phone to capture a view, a moment as I go about my day. And while some make their way to instagram or facebook for the most part they stay saved on my phone. Snapshots. Recognition of a moment in time. A picture of beauty. A still of a precious time, a significant moment. An album of memories.
In some ways it is not so much about the photo but about the stepping back to appreciate the view or the moment. Taking the photo causes me to pause, to appreciate the sight before me. Just the other day as I was doing the dishes my eyes rested on the flowers on my kitchen window sill. Drying my hands and reaching for the phone caused me to pause longer from my chores to enjoy looking at the flowers and appreciating the beauty before me. Yes I could have done that without my handy phone. But the action of taking the photo is sometimes for me my prompt to recognise and appreciate the beauty before me. And yes sometimes it is a photo of a coffee!
Scrolling through my photos I see happy boys at mini golf, kindy mates hanging together at a party, sunsets and frost, architecture and rolling hills. flowers and birds. I see beauty and happy memories. I see much to be grateful for.
I wonder how much beauty God scatters across our path waiting for us to look up and see? To pause? To linger and then to see His glory revealed.
To those in the Interior Design World a vignette is a small arrangement or display in a home. A small, pleasing picture formed by grouped objects. They are little tableaus that make you stop and appreciate the collection of items gathered together as if a piece of art. They are the encouragement to pause and take in their detail, their beauty. They add richness and depth to a room. And like the correct definition of vignette they are like a small illustration or a brief evocative description.
In our homes, the vignette is the personal collection of curated treasures atop our fireplace or bookcase – photos maybe, souvenirs. It’s my collection of perfume bottles and mercury glass tea lights on a vintage tray. It’s my glass cloches with silver treasures and trinkets. It is my son’s collection of paper creations atop his dresser.
In our lives, God place many vignettes along our path. Sights for us to pause at, to savour and to stir our heart towards God. We can rush past them without seeing as much as we overlook the vignettes in our home, or we can stop and see the beauty before us. The rainbow on our drive to work, the birds feeding on a tree outside. This week for me it was the small Chapel beside my son’s kindergarten that caught my soul’s attention and caused me to pause, to breathe and to cease the rush and still my heart before God.
God’s vignettes can also be found in a single Scripture or Psalm. One that captivates us and engages our heart causing us to pause, to see the detail and the depth in a few words. And as we pause we can hear God encourage us and speak refreshment to us.
“Life is loud. You need to search out the quiet.” (Holly Gerth)
Life is noisy! It’s busy and it’s fast. There’s always something to be done, people to see, places to go. But in the rush of 21st Century living we need to learn to search out the quiet. We need to give our souls the opportunity to breathe. To find the peace, to find the rest and embrace it.
It is in the quiet places that we can hear the tenderest of whispers from God. It is in the quiet that we learn that life is more about being than doing. In the stillness we discover afresh that God’s love for us is for who we are not what we do. It is in the quiet that our soul finds rest. And it is God’s intention that in our daily lives we would find it.
It says in Psalm 23 that “He leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.” Or as the Message Bible puts it “You let me catch my breath.” God wants us to pause, to rest. To relax into His protection and comfort.
In the quiet our soul is restored.
“Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.” (Psalm 116:7)
Sitting here now at my desk I can hear a plane flying overhead, the hum of the dishwasher. If I incline my ear though I can hear the birds outside, the rustling of the wind through the trees and the wind itself. And as I continue to pause, to embrace the quiet I become aware of the Presence of the Lord around me. And I know “surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life.” (Psalm 23:6)
It is in the quiet that our soul finds its equilibrium again – it finds its rest in God.
“Yes, my soul, find rest in God” (Psalm 62:5)
Have you ever found yourself driving on autopilot? You reach home and realise that you can’t remember much of the drive you took to get there. Or you don’t notice significant changes on your street – the “for sale” sign that has gone up or the tree that has been cut down. Your mind was occupied on some other trail of thought. We can do the same with life – running on autopilot. Rising in the morning, doing chores, going about our day without really paying attention to what is going on around us. As a result we can even miss what God is doing in our lives.
Yet in our every day God is very much present. Renee Swope wrote recently “Evidence of God’s presence surrounds me. But I have to decide if I will look for, listen to: and notice Him.” If we want to see what God is doing in our lives – around our lives – we need to be attentive to what is going on around us. We need to be attentive to the whisper and gentle signs from God.
Once on an ordinary day Moses saw a burning bush. But more than he took time out from his job – tending the sheep – to look more closely at it. And that proved to be a game changer.
“So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight – why the bush does not burn up.” When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from with the bush, “Moses! Moses!” And Moses said “Here I am.” “ (Exodus 3:3-4)
Moses then went on to have a powerful encounter with God that not only changed his life but also the life of the Israelites. Moses’ encounter with God was precipitated by him pausing and intentionally taking a closer look. He took time from his day to stop and see.
In an ordinary day was an extraordinary encounter waiting for him to notice and see.
Take time in your day to pause, to ponder, to look and to see what God is doing.
“Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new. It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it? There it is!” (Isaiah 43:19)
Life for many of us is lived in the fast lane! We have full schedules, long lists of must do’s and very little time to pause. Often our hearts are responding more to the beat of our smart phone notifications than to the heartbeat of our Lord. But when we take time to respond to the prompting of God on our hearts and not the prompt of our calendars we find opportunities of being a blessing and for blessings.
It’s the putting aside of a busy schedule to make room to listen to a friend in need. It is the pausing at the school drop off instead of rushing to the first appointment of the day and letting our children show us their artwork in their classroom. It’s the taking time at work to look up from our computer and encourage a colleague.
When we allow space in our days we create opportunities to be in tune with God’s heart and His purposes. It means that we have the capacity and grace to go off schedule in response to God. We live open to God interrupting our day with His plans instead of brushing them off or ignoring them. Maybe it’s taking time to provide someone with a meal or to write a letter encouraging someone. Maybe it’s putting aside our agenda in a conversation to really listen to the other person. Or maybe it is allowing God to minister to you – to give you encouragement, to demonstrate His love for you.
Pause. Breathe. And respond to God’s heartbeat.
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28-30 MSG)