It’s official, adult colouring books in and are doing a roaring trade. Colouring books are the latest phenomonem and booksellers are consistently listing them in their top 10 bestsellers. They have even hit number one on Amazon. Gone are the days when you needed to apprehend your child’s colouring book for some time out (yes that would be me!), now you can own your own. Delightful options too, from Enchanted Forest to Secret Paris, even a Chanel Couture one.
The colouring books are apparently the latest weapon against stress. Indeed take up your crayons people! Taking time to colour in is about relieving stress, inspiring creativity and relaxing. It’s downtime, relaxing time. Health trend even, promoted for colouring your way to peace. Well for everyone that is except me! I must confess I leapt at the opportunity to have a grown up colouring book. I delighted in my newly acquired tools of the trade (aka colouring pencils). I enjoyed sitting colouring in with nothing more pressing to decide than which shade of green to use or which page to choose next.
But then somehow along the way, I lost that joy, that calm. I put pressure on myself to achieve, to complete! I’d finish work for the day, look at my watch and decide yes just enough time to get this page finished. Deadlines in my head started appearing and colouring was no longer relaxing but something to be included on my to-do list. I felt the need to make progress.
We can do the same with our walk with God. What is meant for our enjoyment and pleasure – reading the Bible, worship, prayer – we can sometimes reduce down to something to be ticked off our to-do list. We forget that the purpose, the intent of it in the first place is for relationship with God, something that we can enjoy. Spending time with someone who loves us. Instead we can find ourselves frustrated or demotivated when we get behind on our reading plans. It’s not about perfection or achievement in reading plans completed it is about relationship with the one who created us and loved us first.
Meanwhile, I’m taking a chill pill with the colouring in and remembering that this was meant for fun and enjoyment. I’m remembering too it doesn’t need to be perfect.
“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.
Apparently in French you don’t say “I miss you.” You say “tu me manques” which means “you are missing from me.” I love that. It has so much more depth than just “I miss you.” It suggests that you aren’t complete without the other person. That they are of real significance to you and their absence has an impact on your life.
It makes me think that my 4 year old may have a little French in him. Earlier this year I went on a week long business trip to the States (that’s a long time for a little 4 year old). Ever since then interchangeably with him saying “I love you” he started saying and still often says “I missed you in America”. To him it’s one and the same. When he says I missed you, he is saying I love you.
St Augustine wrote at the start of his confessions, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.” For me it is a perfect translation of sorts of “tu me manques.’ We are restless when God is missing from our lives. We have a God shaped hole that we seek to fill. It is a yearning that is infinite and unable to be quenched through worldly means. Peace comes, rest comes, completeness comes when we find God.
“My soul is yearning for you, my God” (Psalm 42:1)
“O God, you are my God, for you I long” (Psalm 63:1)
“We need to let the pace of our lives be set to the metronome of Heaven” (Kalley Heiligenthal)
As a child I learned to play the piano. Not with much in the way of aptitude I must confess, but definitely with great diligence. And as such I remember the times when the metronome would be used. It helped me learn and keep to the right time. Over the sound of the music the steady beat of the metronome could be heard. It stopped me from rushing through sections and also from letting the music drag. The metronome was the heartbeat of the song. Steady, calm, consistent.
When our daily rhythm is aligned to Heaven’s we find peace. Peace in our daily lives – peace between our outer world and our inner world. We need to pay attention to what God is saying for our lives. It could be leaving a season behind, the end to a project or task – like the break between movements in a symphony. Perhaps it is time to add a layer to our lives, rather like the introduction of an additional instrument in a symphony – an outworking of the call of God for us. A stepping up, a stepping out. It’s about being in rhythm to what is important to God – what or who are on His heart for today and responding to that.
One thing we can be sure of, when we set our lives to the heartbeat of Heaven it grounds us and provides harmony to our days whether at andante or allegro speed. When we live within the call of God and His direction for our lives we find it is sustainable, enjoyable.
A Sacred Rhythm is one when Heaven is the baseline beat for our lives – our metronome.
21st Century life is the busy life. The making most of every moment. Expectations are high and sometimes relentless. Work is demanding. We try and cram as much life as possible into our lives. We add in alarm clocks and other devices to schedule our way to a fulfilled life. We can’t stop, sometimes won’t stop and we forget to slow down. We find it hard to schedule in rest across our days, weeks and months even.
Yet Jesus sees us pouring out, anxious to meet the myriad of expectations that come our way. He sees our hard efforts at work. He sees the countless times we are up to sick children, our helping out friends in need. He sees our serving in our churches and communities. And He has compassion and love for us.
And so, in amongst our busyness Jesus calls to us. Out of love and out of care, He says come with me and rest. We see that demonstrated by His concern for His disciples, when He would allow them to pull back from the multitude of people in need and rest.
“The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” ” (Mark 6:30-31)
If there is one thing we all need to add to our schedules, it is intentional rest. To have the deterimination to make space in our calendars for us to pause and be still. But the rest that Jesus calls us to is not just a rest doing nothing but rather one that beckons us to refocus our hearts, quiet our minds and enjoy the presence of God. It is a rest that allows space for God to restore our souls so we can embrace life with all that is in it.
“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.” (Psalm 23:1-3)
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.