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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Wondering and Wandering: Ah, Gentleness

“Compassion is expressed in gentleness. When I think of the persons I know who model for me the depths of the spiritual life, I am struck by their gentleness. Their eyes communicate the residue of soitary battles with angels, the costs of caring for others, the deaths of ambition and ego, and the peace that comes from having very little left to lose in this life. They are gentle because they have learned the hard way that personal survival is not the point. Their caring is gentle because their self-aggrandizement is no longer at stake. There is nothing in it for them. Their vulnerability has ben stretched to clear-eyed sensitivity to others and truly selfless love.” From Healing of Purpose by John E. Biersdorf

The older I get the more I treasure the “gentle” people around me. They are like the softness of a cashmere blanket wrapped around us, warming us with soft caresses. I sat and soaked in that image for a moment and then went back and read the quote…not an adequate image. But isn’t that just like us? We want to the softness without the process.

Right now there’s a Dick’s Sporting Goods commercial that left me needing a tissue the first time I saw it:

This of course reminded me of one of my favorite tidbits of literature: The Wisdom of the Skinhorse (“The Velveteen Rabbit” by Margery Williams)
“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.

“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”

“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

This proces and transformation are not something that we have to hunt for and try to accomplish all willy-nilly. Someone has offered to walk us through it, to teach us, to be with us all along the way:
Are you tired? Worn our? 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

Jesus, the One we preparing to meet this holy season, the One who came as Immanuel (God to be with us), invites us to journey with him, to learn from him for he is gentle and humble of heart. Nothing much more humbling than the helplessness of a baby. Helplessness at any stage we might find ourselves.

Where does gentleness come from? From learning we don’t have all the answers, that we can’t do this on our own, and from learning to wrap our brain around how okay it is to be dependent.

We’ve already considered your IQ (imitation quotient), so now I’m wondering: how’s your GQ, your gentleness quotient?