The Practice of Not Thinking

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I made a confession to the Sabbath Society in our bi-weekly email last week and thought it might be time I come clean with you too.

I haven’t learned how to rest my mind yet.

Over the past two years, leading hundreds of people through a weekly routine of Sabbath, this is what I know about resting well.

I have mastered walking past dirty dishes and a disheveled house to lay on the couch with a good book or embark on an adventure in the neighborhood with my camera. Without guilt.

I have let go of accomplishment as definition for identity.

I have learned that preparation is the key for successful rest. I have conquered organizing my week toward Sabbath instead of away from it.

I have learned that Sabbath is not about me but abiding deeply in Jesus. I know that I hear Him with clarity on the days I rest, more than any other time in the week.

I know that Sabbath isn’t a magic formula only possible for the uber spiritual. It is a gift of God available to everyone.

I have learned all these things but I have not learned how to turn off my thoughts. I am taking notes on the practice of not thinking.

Lillias Trotter writes, “It is easy to find out whether our lives are focused, and if so, where the focus lies.

Where do our thoughts settle when consciousness comes back in the morning?

Where do they swing back when the pressure is off during the day?

Does this test not give the clue?

Then dare to have it out with God – and after all, that is the shortest way.  Dare to lay bare your whole life and being before Him, and ask Him to show you whether or not all is focused on Christ and His glory. Dare to face the fact that unfocussed good and useful as it may seem, it will prove to have failed of its purpose.”

Perhaps what I am trying to achieve with the practice of not thinking is really an attempt to achieve focus.

When a hamster wheel of unproductive thoughts circle continuously, fear, worry, and doubt take me captive; stuck in the same circumstances without result.

Erwin McManus says that “imagination is the playground of God.” When the playground isn’t under spiritual supervision, all hell can break loose quickly. Wandering thoughts can be deceptive and damage the spirit when we allow the freedom.

The practice of not thinking is the discipline of resting thoughts; surrendering what can’t be controlled or figured out back under God’s authority. And the truth comes clearly into focus; Sabbath, the outcome.

Imagine that!

Happy Sabbath Friends!

Want to make rest a routine, not just something you fill in between the cracks of your busyness? Join the Sabbath Society. Follow Sabbath-keepers in community with the hashtag #sabbathsociety on Twitter and Instagram and our Pinterest board, Surrendering to Sabbath.

 

Redefining Real Friends

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We’re spending the night with a friend I met online three years ago. It’s our first time to meet in person, but all fears about our initial encounter are quickly put to rest when she runs to the door and greets us with unbridled affection.

Dea and I met through a comment she left on one of my blog posts. I don’t remember exactly what she wrote, but she reminds me that I responded to her with an invitation to continue our conversation through email. It quickly became obvious that our friendship was divinely orchestrated when we began sharing the beautiful, ugly pieces of life and praying for each other with steadfastness.

Join me for the rest of the story at The High Calling where we are ruminating about Rediscovering Community. I want to hear your definition of real friends.

When You Need Rescue from Overthinking and Forgetfulness

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We have five minutes. Five minutes of dead air – not enough time to accomplish, finish, or start anything before people walk through our house again with realtors.

Resignation stands in the hollow space of the bay window in my spotless kitchen, staring through shutter slats. I notice the empty garbage can on the curb, parked next to the mailbox and what is overlooked, next to the house. “I can’t believe you forgot to put those two PVC pipes in the trash again,” I say to my son hunched over, lacing up his boots. He looks up, eyelids half-mast, open mouth convicted.

His father sighs, shakes his head and I hold my breath. Instead of anger, H laughs at boyhood. “You can’t tell me you don’t need reminding,” he jests.

It’s an addendum to last night’s dinner conversation with a boy who sits in a swell of exasperation over being reminded, repeatedly.

Those stark white pipes lie on a slab of concrete next to the foundation of the house, right next to the trash can for months of Tuesdays. When you allow it to become familiar, trash becomes a fixture instead of an obstacle to deal with.

I stand there in resignation, point out where my son hasn’t measured up to what is being asked of him. Pass time like the minutes owe me something and miss the obvious.

My son is forgetting the trash but I am forgetting the truth.                 

I’ve allowed trash in my thoughts to suffocate the truth without realizing it.

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It starts as a whisper, the beginning of a sentence, “You aren’t” and then trash graciously allows you to fill in the blank. To think about all the ways you don’t measure up as reasons for your unwanted circumstances.

And during the wilderness of a waiting season, words stack up. Until the moment when you are most vulnerable, when you assume you are forgotten, discarded, overlooked. Resign yourself that air is dead and you are just passing through it.

I am Peter in the boat watching Jesus walk on water. I believe I can follow Him, put my toe in as long as all remains still, comfortable and certain. But when storms come, I doubt.  Turbulent seas of thoughts fueled by uncertainty threaten to sink me.

All I can muster is, “God, please rescue us.”

In desperation, weary in waiting for fulfillment, you can easily forget that Truth is standing in the window with you. Looking through the slats, making assessments, not about what you have forgotten or how you’ve failed at what is being asked, but for the ways your heart beats with childish assumptions.

Love, it isn’t proud, rude, selfish, or easily angered. Love doesn’t keep records of wrongs.

Is love what you are hearing when you talk to yourself? Or is trash taking up residence?

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Sometimes it takes a bull horn of circumstance to recognize the whisper of fear’s deception. A shocking interruption to the ways we mock truth by overthinking and forgetfulness.

Love’s hand is always near, outstretched for rescue. We need reminding of truth often so mental trash doesn’t become permanently overlooked in the landscape of our thinking.

Even if we hear it repeatedly, from people who love us, for months of Tuesdays.

But me he caught—reached all the way
    from sky to sea; he pulled me out
Of that ocean of hate, that enemy chaos,
    the void in which I was drowning.
They hit me when I was down,
    but God stuck by me.
He stood me up on a wide-open field;
    I stood there saved—surprised to be loved!

~Psalm 18:16-19