Lenten Thoughts: Rhythm

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Rhythm. I never spell that word right. Perhaps if I were a heart specialist spending my days examining and checking rhythms, or a professor of music, pounding out rhythms to students, I would find the word more natural to use and spell. As hard, though, as it is to wrap my brain around spelling it, it’s even harder for me to wrap my spirit around it.

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As I reflected upon rhythm, I was reminded of the movie, “Kate and Leopold.” In the movie a man from the past is transported to modern day. His presence changes the life of a marketing executive who is all push and drive. Late in the movie, when Kate finally believes who Leo is, she asks him what he misses from his time. He tells her he misses the pace and rhythm of life.

When Jesus looked out on the crowd, he was moved with compassion. He saw how horribly out of sync they were with the Father and he told them: “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, The Message)

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I’m a pairs junkie. I love to watch great partners dance. I am easily sucked into watching pairs figure skating. I don’t think they televise nearly enough pairs/doubles tennis. I love to see how two become one. It’s as if they transcend anticipating the other’s moves and begin to beat as one. I think that’s what Jesus was inviting the people, inviting us, to do.

I remember a night, several years ago, I got home from work and I was spent. I had put in three twelve hour days in a row. I wanted to crash, but my then three year old grandson was here. I love him. He is the most fun thing on earth. His favorite thing to do was chase. We ran through the house like race cars. That night he was lapping me because I just didn’t have the energy to keep up. After his mommy picked him up, I sat down to type a devotional. I had written most of it earlier in the day. I felt good about being ahead. When I went to save what I typed, I hit “don’t save.” And just that quickly, it was all gone. I sat in my chair, staring at the blank computer screen in disbelief. I was so tired that I erased everything. I was totally spent, completely mentally and physically weary.

We can become just as weary spiritually by keeping a pace we were not designed for. Think about it. Back in the Garden, what did God and Adam do? They weren’t practicing for a marathon. They walked together. Enoch walked with God, and was no more. Jesus walked with the two on the Emmaus Road. It seems God’s pace is very different from our own. Then when we might expect God to walk, he ran. He ran out to meet the wayward Prodigal Son to welcome him home.

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Unforced rhythms of grace. I love that phrase. As I think about it, I am aware of the rhythmic ticking of the grandfather clock across the room. Its beat is so natural and reassuring. It’s very unlike the beat when I worked at Curves. To keep people working out at a healthy clip, the music has to be within a specific beat—fast. Some of the remakes of songs make me laugh, because those songs were never intended to be sung as fast as our beat requires. Think about “O Holy Night” or “Word of God Speak” at 180 beats per minute. Ludicrous. Ridiculous. Unnatural.

So is much of our living. The problem is this: sometimes we are called to a fast paced life. The demands require much of us. I would never presume to say we need to return to the pace of the Amish (though recently, the thought held some intrigue for me). I would, however, suggest that we need to check ourselves. Can we honestly say with Paul, “’For in him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28, NIV)”? That’s what Jesus was inviting us to. When we live life at our pace, we are out of sync with the Creator of life, and we will always feel out of step.

If we are tired of being tired, perhaps the solution is to find those unforced rhythms of grace and learn how they will work in our lives.

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Resting

(This is a reposting of a Facebook Note from November 1, 2009)

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Where I work I spend most of my time in two rooms, the kitchen and dining room. They are open to each other. In those two rooms there are four clocks. Should I venture into either bathroom there’s a clock there, too. I never have to wonder or worry about what time it is.

Time. When we think about it we wonder what time it is. We wonder if we’re late or early. How much time do we have? What do we do with our time? We’re accused of wasting time, marking time, stretching time, and watching time fly by.

I used to rush through my days. I was proud of how much I could cram into a day. More was always better and therefore, resulted in a better me. When I gave up sleep to focus on saving the world (or at least my little corner), I made some of the stupidest and most dangerous decisions, decisions that nearly cost me everything, including my life. I finally came to the conclusion that there is a reason that God rested and a reason that he commands it of us, as well.

This morning was the time to change our clocks. It was time to “fall back.” While others were relishing an extra hour of sleep, I was awake and at my computer. I was reveling in the quiet. All I could hear was the rhythm of the clocks ticking around me. Now maybe if I only had that to listen to 24/7, it would become tortuous, but sitting here this morning, it was a Centering Symphony.

I was up “early” because someone imposed a time change on me. Isn’t that just how life seems to go? We grouse and complain because our time is not our own. Someone always seems to be demanding our time.

Recently, I was a t a retreat where the leaders took the watches and phones of the participants. The surrender was to free those attending from the tyranny of time. The thinking was/is to let the staff “worry” about time and schedule. Good as it was, the staff always had someplace for the participants to go or something for them to do, so there was no sense of “free time.”

Compare that to the experience of our house guest. We have a couple unoccupied rooms in our home, so we opened our space to a pastor friend who was between jobs with no place to stay. The first couple weeks she was with us, all she did was sleep, eat, and watch TV. Our interactions were minimal. Slowly, opportunities and necessities began to reenter her life and she began to go out with friends and go to some meetings. One day she came through the living room where I was reading. She sat and we chatted for a while. At the end of our talking, she shared how much she appreciated the opportunity to just be there with no expectations, just able to rest. It was the refreshing that she needed at every level of her being: heart, mind, soul, and strength.

In the great Shepherd Psalm (Psalm 23), we find so much of the care provided to and for us. One of the things we may overlook is that he who knows us and our needs makes us lie down. Thinking of this reminded me of my grandson. I can always tell when Asher needs a nap. Some days so can he. Don’t make the Shepherd bop you on the head with his crook to get you to rest. We were not created to go 24/7.

One day as Jesus was ministering, he looked out at the crowd and was moved to compassion when he saw how weary and out of synch they were. He offered them rest, to restore their rhythm. To receive this gift they needed to come to him and learn from him. Don’t you think it’s time to listen, to learn, to rest?