I don’t know about you, but the last few days have been like waking up from a disorienting dream as we navigate the harsh realities of a pandemic. Lent has shifted from a choice to a way of life inflicted upon us. And I’m paying attention because this penitential season is preparation for resurrection. What might God be preparing us for right now? How might walking through the wilderness of uncertainty lead to promises fulfilled? As we cross over the middle point in the 40-days of Lent, what you hear may determine how you arrive at Easter. Read on.
Sitting at the dining table in a warm swath of sunshine, I push a bite of salad onto the tines of my fork when I hear H sauntering down two flights of stairs to join me. For verbal processing, not eating lunch. The shirt tail of his button down is untucked, and palms are positioned in the pockets of his faded jeans. Wearing house slippers instead of leather Oxford’s, working from home is his new normal.
“How was your walk to Holland Park,” he asks, sliding the ladderback away from the table and sitting down across from me.
“Great! I met a delightful lady from the Middle East, and we chatted from opposite ends of a park bench for quite some time. I invited her to church. It’s gorgeous outside,” I report back to him.
In a lull between conference calls with colleagues, he begins rattling off the latest news update; recent projections on the coronavirus based on numbers of tests and deaths occurring. Before moving onto new details involving self-isolating, social distancing, hoarding, and lockdowns, I stop him mid-sentence and then swallow.
“This cannot be the focus of every conversation,” I tell him, “my heart can’t handle it.”
My H is an enneagram five information junkie. For him, it’s all about gleaning information to make wise, thoughtful decisions. But for my (sometimes) oversensitive enneagram four personality, adversity is processed through the sieve of emotions. My heart has a darkness threshold and recently, the headlines surpass that capacity. You?
Instead of the play-by-play, I’m now on a need to know basis. Not because I have my head in the sand but because I want to discern the voice of God and respond like Samuel, “Speak, your servant is listening.”
But how can people call for help if they don’t know who to trust? And how can they know who to trust if they haven’t heard of the One who can be trusted? . . . . The point is: Before you trust, you have to listen. But unless Christ’s Word is preached, there’s nothing to listen to.” Romans 14, 17 MSG
I don’t know about you but more than listening to dire news reports, I long to listen for God’s still small voice amidst the chaos. A late morning walk in the park has become a lifeline; a practice in resting my ears and allowing God to infuse my heart with hope again.
The trill of birds, laughter of a child, rustle of leaves blowing in the breeze, foreign accent of a stranger, and the playful bark of a dog—these simple things, when I pause to listen, center thoughts on God as Jehovah—I AM WHO I AM.
This is God’s Message, the God who made earth, made it livable and lasting, known everywhere as God: ‘Call to me and I will answer you. I’ll tell you marvelous and wondrous things that you could never figure out on your own.’ Jer. 33:3, MSG
Questions to Ponder
What are you listening to right now that causes your heart to fear?
What marvelous and wonderful things are you hearing from God?
How might resting your ears from the voices of people create margin for hearing Peace amidst your uncertainty?
My sheep recognize my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them real and eternal life. They are protected from the Destroyer for good. No one can steal them from out of my hand.” John 10:27 MSG
Prayer of Repentance
Lord, forgive me for all the ways I have found comfort, sought knowledge, and made decisions outside of your love, wisdom, and leadership. In the absence of the familiar, help me to reorient my heart back to your powerful presence. Show me where you are at work in the world. Even in the silence, I believe you are the Waymaker, making a way for us to bring glory to you, O Lord. Help me to make good choices in what I listen to today; choices that cultivate faith, grow belief, and remind me of the hope I have in being deeply loved and fully known by you. Amen!
Practicing a Sabbath Posture
This week, as we live into the new global norm of self-isolation and social distancing, think of resting your ears as a spiritual practice of discernment. Take some time to sit in a quiet place and write down what you hear—the roar of an airplane overhead, the coo of doves conversing, rain pelting the window, chug of water circulating through the dishwasher. Make a list and notice what you’ve been missing in busyness. Then listen to your heart and wait for God to speak to you. What marvelous things might you hear?
And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left. Isaiah 20:31, ESV
Please Partake of Things that Propagate Peace
I’ve been keeping a list of books I read this year on a secret page of my website. And I recently added a few good reads that are bringing peace and comfort amidst uncertain times. If you are looking for words that are life-giving right now, you can find that list here.
Beauty is resuscitation for the soul, and in times of uncertainty, I tend to seek beauty as if I’m flatlining. In the evenings, I’m flipping through the gorgeous pages of Eden and Vine magazine, chock full of breathtaking photographs, soul-stirring articles, yummy recipes, creative ideas, practical resources, and stories themed around Sabbath. It’s a quiet retreat available to savor any time of the day. And good news! Through the month of April, use the code SHELLY20 and receive a 20% discount. Your soul will thank you.
And don’t forget to follow me on Instagram where I share the beauty I’m collecting on my camera, keeping conversation fresh between us several times a week. Subscribe to the Sabbath Society for weekly letters of encouragement, breath prayers, poems, and resources that help make rest realistic in your world.
Share this post with your friends because we all need to remember the truth of who God is while in the heat of uncertainty, yes?
Until next week . . . I’ll be resting with you on the Sabbath Journey for Lent.
Prayed that prayer with you. And I need to get out and walk also, great idea. Wish I had a park nearby but I will walk with the Lord in my neighborhood for company. I have reached my limit of news also. Praying I can tune in more closely with the Lord instead of listening to the “news”. I think I will take a notepad with me on my walk and then think and pray on it when I get back.
Doris, I often walk with a notepad in my purse or the notes of my phone handy because so many things make sense as I walk. And I guess there is some real brain science as to the chemistry that changes when we walk. Often clarity is the result. Hope you were able to get out and enjoy different scenery.
Well, you pretty much summed up my feelings. Just last evening I spoke with Neil and said almost the same words you spoke with H. And this after preaching at our church last evening. Speaking to a extremely modest group, the minister, the two musicians, two technical people and Neil. That’s what we have come to. I’ve been sitting here writing as your email came through. Interesting enough you wrote about ” the shrill of birds”. I have been sitting hear listening to the various birds and entitled my writing, the birds still sing. I know that what is required is prayer and trust so I’m participating in prayer with you and everyone else on their knees. BTW. I ended my writing on this note, the birds still sing out in the dark. Somehow that gave me some peace.
A friend of mine and I were having this same conversation yesterday…Our husbands seem to need to process all of this through gaining information and relaying it all to us. Both of our hearts have had our fill of information and long for space from all the information. I woke up this morning with a new sense of needing to be still with the LORD; to be in his word and rest in him.
Heather, glad to know I’m not the only one!! Thanks for being here.
Celeste, the birds singing at night have really stood out to me too. I shared that thought during a time of prayer while leading a service at our church a few weeks ago. And aren’t we, as Christians, called to be like those birds, singing of God’s light and glory amidst the dark hours? Thanks for being here friend. Saying a prayer for you right now.
Yesterday as I walked with my husband , he began going over, again, some of the possible outcomes of this pandemic. I told him that I cannot listen to that type of info over and over; I want to be informed but not crushed with what might be. I encouraged him to have these discussions with another friend instead- 1st time in 38 years I’ve said that to him. He was very gracious. I am using this time to lean more heavily into the truth of WHO God is, not what circumstances might be.
“Listen to me, you descendants of Jacob, all the remnant of the people of Israel, you whom I have upheld since your birth, and have carried since you were born. Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.”
God, may we listen to your voice and hear Your word of comfort more than the cacophony of panic. It is You who has upheld each of us from the beginning, from birth to old age. You do not sleep, go on vacation, get distracted, nor forget. What You say You will do is a sure thing. You will sustain, carry and rescue us. We believe You; help our unbelief. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Thanks for that sweet prayer and verse Kim. We need words of truth more than anything right now, yes?!
Thank you, Shelly. This is helpful because you put into words how I and many others have been feeling. Psalm 27 says it too: “I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed….God sends forth his love and his faithfulness. My heart is steadfast, my heart is steadfast. I will sing and make music.” We are in this together – this whole world – and God is with us.
There is something about the disruption being corporate that makes it slightly easier to bare. It’s not like any of us are singled out but all sharing in it equally.
Shelly, you put so eloquently precisely what I’m feeling! Overload of information alerted, texted, emailed, facebooked, phoned by city officials, county and well meaning souls who feel when we bow out of Catastrophizing, that we need to know all the latest counts, statistics and fears.
I’m of the shelter at home because of age & immune suppression group, just recovering from a month of flu. My heart does not need statistics, it needs His Word and glimpses of the beauty of His work.
Amidst this chaos, His still small voice says, “Be not afraid for I am with you” Isaiah 41:10.
The Word beckons me: Psalm 42:1
”As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.” Let us thirst for Him instead of news.
Thank you for a beautiful respite from the storm.
I’ve been filling my mind with words about who God is more than what the coronavirus is projected to do and it is keeping my heart at peace. Keep resting and leaning into Him Annie! Saying a prayer for you now.
Thanks for these words …… This Sunday I was to fly to London with my husband to celebrate 40 years of marriage. So, feeling a little sad but oh so grateful that we can just be together. He has cancer but received good news this week – it is growing very slowly (quite unusual for the cancer he has – a real answer to prayer) ….. so we will be celebrating in Australia and walking along a different river.
Your words have brought a layer of comfort today – thankyou.
Debra, I’m sorry your plans were changed but pray your time in Australia is sweetly blessed and memorable. Celebrating 40 years is a big milestone. It’s 30 for me and H this year! Can’t believe it. I’m glad this post provided a layer of comfort for you. And great news about your husband’s cancer slowing down. Lots of love.
Shelly, this is a beautiful, timely, and needed post. We, too, are walking daily, albeit in our neighborhood, and not a beautiful English park or garden (I remember those well). Just we three, my husband, daughter, and I, walk, talk, and pray. We need to clear the cobwebs and our minds of the constant COVID 19 dire drone, and focus on God’s creation, Him, and each other. It’s been enriching. God was speaking to my heart yesterday about reminding me that Jesus is my Good Shepherd, and that He will care for me, His sheep–for all His sheep. The Lord gave me this comfort in 2011 when I went to the Czech Republic and was a chaperone for my daughter’s high school choir. It was a scary time, and we received dire warnings. How the Lord comforted me with that Psalm and later on my solo trip to Iona, also w/ Ps. 23. He protects us and is always with us. We also stay close and know Him and hear His voice, and He speaks: “Fear not.” I love this Psalm and He has used it powerfully, so He was saying to me He doesn’t want me to forget that and to refocus on it yet again. I think I’m a mix of you and H–needing to know how to respond morally to this virus and to protect my neighbor by protecting myself, but also bordering saturation with the news. It’s then I remember how much I love and need beauty . . . hence, the daily walks and appreciating God’s handiwork, but also playing or singing “my” Bach, singing hymns, journaling and praying for friends (like you!) and family, making phone calls to ck in on elderly (including my mother–we limit right now how often we go to protect her), and also writing cards of cheer. The magazine sounds wonderful. I will look into that. I love a beautiful, uplifting publication. Have you seen the new Alabaster Bible?
Oh, and I just thought of this comment from a letter by our pastor to his flock. I thought, given its Sabbath emphasis, you might appreciate it! 🙂
“Another aspect of the current challenge would be easy to miss completely: the blessing of sabbath and a slower pace of life. The Lord God designed the practice of rest as part of the human rhythm. He calls us to sabbath each week, for our good and for the good of creation. As we are forced to be together less and in our homes more, it can be a time to rest, reflect and regroup from the busyness of life as we wait for “normal life” to resume. It can be a time to deepen relationships with our immediate family, and the Lord himself. Read the scriptures. Pray. Encourage one another in the Lord. None of us wants to be living in a pandemic, but if we must, perhaps there is opportunity to grow in the midst of it.”
Shelly, wasn’t that lovely? We’ve had to suspend Sunday services (now online) due to a mandate by the St. Louis County government. But no need ever to abandon worship.
Love you so and am praying for all that concerns you!
Yes, I love that note from your pastor. Most people have a hard time taking 24 hours, so several weeks, even months, will be challenging. I’m seeing it as an opportunity to re-boot our priorities and return to the simple things that matter most. Thanks for you love and prayers Lynn, they are appreciated.
I happened upon Psalm 143 the other day, and verses 1 and 8 seemed highly appropriate, giving me words for praying away concerns for loved ones, the economic crisis, our leaders, and the multitude of other problems created by the coronavirus. I cry for God’s mercy, I affirm his faithfulness and righteousness,I ask him which way I should go, and finally entrust to him my life. His Word does indeed provide peace in spite of uncertainty. / Looking forward to practicing some Sabbath listening, per your inspiring suggestions! Anticipating a rich experience in the quiet. Thank you,Shelly!