This is our last blog entry for 2011–we’ll be back, moving forward, in 2012. But, this Monday, amid last-minute (or first minute, in my case) shopping and Christmas card writing, we’re still going to fast and pray for: marriages for those who are made for it, courage for men to walk upright and into marriage, and courage for women to see where we need to be changed and then to change.
This afternoon I got together with Caitlin, Amy and Sue, all of whom have been involved with this fast.pray movement. One of us was late, one of us had forgotten about it, all of us were fitting in this cup of coffee between other pressing, Christmastime events! With too much on my plate, I tried to pass off the writing to Amy, who deftly drew her boundaries and passed it back. “What am I going to write about?” I mused. “Anne did such a great job with her ‘Christmas Ache’ piece; what else is there let to say? I’ve got nothing,” I sighed. “Why, just this morning,” I continued, “I realized it was taking work simply to take my true heart into the presence of Jesus. I can lay in bed contemplating concepts like ‘these two different men I’m talking to these days,’ or ‘that conversation which didn’t quite feel right at last night’s party’ or ‘my hesitancy about Christmas given the loss of my nephew this past year.’ But actually praying? Way too hard with a mind jumping to unanswered e-mails, unbought presents, and loose ends yearning for ties before I head out of town.”
As the four of us talked, it became clear we were and are all in the same place. Slowing down and coming present to our own hearts, let alone the heart of Jesus has just felt for each of us….well, almost impossible.
So, as we head into the height of this season, I (really, we) want to encourage you to join us in our effort to slow down and come present to our own hearts and the heart of our Lord. Sitting in the Silver Diner (the hipster coffee shop across the street was too crowded for us to get a 4 top), we came up with these ideas of how we might do it:
Commit to chunks of time throughout the Christmas holiday to be with the Lord. Whether Christmas is a much treasured time of the year spent with beloved family or a “to be endured” holiday where most of the time is spent comparing your insides to everyone else’s outsides, the truth is: we all need Jesus’ presence. So, even if the tide of parties and shopping is carrying you out of your routine, dig in your heels and say, “Lord, I’d like you to help me be with you this season” and then, as Sue said, “I just decide to open the Bible and start reading.”
But as Amy added, when our brains are spinning with too many tasks to do, let alone a flood of emotions, sometimes opening that Bible alone is not enough. Even journaling doesn’t always do the trick (“My thoughts keep coming so quickly–my hand would fall off before I got it all processed.”). So, try to do practical things like taking 10 deep breaths (it really helps); getting exercise; lighting a candle or two; playing some Jesus-centric Christmas music; journaling with your left hand (it helps access the right brain and slows the mind and process way down for right-handers), or meditating on just one verse or phrase or word. Today my advent reading included Psalm 23, and I asked the Lord to please show up with his rod & staff, whatever that means in practical real life. “Let me feel your nudge, your redirect, your pull on my heart.” And I just sat in silence for a while, meditating on what it might be to be a sheep whose shepherd is really there. Finally, I came to the place where I realized: He gives me a ton more attention than I give him. “Lord,” I said, “I realize that you are a lot kinder to me than I am to you–but I’d like to grow.” It was strange–simply saying those real words to our real God caused something in me to exhale.
Whatever it takes for you to be still and know in your heart that God is God, would you consider committing to that practice for the next week? Towards the end of our cups of coffee, we were talking about how men’s relational/sexual energy is often spent in all kinds of wacky ways (porn, endless texts, gmail chats, etc.) and how this oftentimes demotivates their move towards us. But we began to wonder if we, in not being good stewards of our own hearts (too much busyness, analysis, drama, etc.) maybe do a version of the same thing–ignoring and thereby shrinking the heart space available to Jesus, other people (including single men, too?), and ourselves.
We want hearts that are alive, for women and men alike. And that’s what we’ll be praying for tomorrow. Please pray with us that we’d all be able to slow down and come present to our own hearts and to the Lord of the Universe, the One whose heart–in the form of a baby and then later through his Holy Spirit–has come present to us.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! We’ll reconnect in 2012~