Dec 2, 2014

The Leisure of Advent

It was a favorite theme of C.S. Lewis that only lazy people work hard. Great. I'm so encouraged. Per definition I am a lazy slob.  Eugene Peterson clears it up with this quote: "By lazily abdicating the essential work of deciding and directing, establishing values and setting goals, other people do it for us;  then we find ourselves frantically, at the last minute, trying to satisfy half a dozen different demands on our time, none of which is essential to our vocation, to stave off the disaster of disappointing someone."

Oh for the love of Pete.  Guilty as charged.  And by other people, this usually means the little people aged 10 and under that live in this house.  Just WHY do they need to eat 3 times a day and just HOW do they destroy rooms in 10 minutes flat and then draaaaag around taking 2 hours to put it back?  Just yesterday I discovered that while I put away all the Christmas decor bins I'd just emptied, the girl's idea of playing quietly in their play kitchen meant turning on the outside hose, creating mud, putting it in their play dishes, carrying it into the house in little pots, and then taking my jar of peanut butter and adding spoonfuls to the "stew".  Just how did that EVEN sound like a plan with which I would say "Oh sure, go right ahead kids.  I just love it when you are creative with mud and pantry items IN THE HOUSE."?
We are approaching what many call the busiest season of the year.  The perpetual motion of this season seems to be a great churning spin cycle leading up to Christmas Day.   I have three children and we celebrate advent each night with three different activities because we attempt equal opportunity culture over here.  Oh sure, it sounds all cute and cozy, but last night saw one child throwing a fit on the floor because it wasn't her night to flip the calendar. For the love of holy advent, child. Really?! We purposely do little activities to build excitement and anticipation of celebrating our Lord's coming.  All the activities, advent, parties, traditions and gift giving are all meant to build excitement for our Lord's day of birth but they also create a phenomenal amount of business and occasional fits on the floor apparently.  Some years I just want to crash and spend a week doing absolutely NOTHING after the holiday because there was no rest or leisure in that slow build of anticipation.  I feel I have to do all the THINGS or I'll crush the "magic" for my children. (Although this year, I say crush it, two out of three have figured out Santa is a dud, though we press on: Santa's coming! ). And this season rich in tradition and gift-giving can surely crush that's for sure.  "Leisure" during the Christmas season?  Bwahahaha!

Switching gears a little, have you ever felt that time with the Lord was an additional item on your plate, or is it just me?  Have you heard of people talking about carving out time to do an advent devotion, putting it on their schedule as another "have to"? Sometimes spending time with God is like blasting myself with a fire hose in the face with scripture, trying to stuff a biblical meal down quickly, and doing a quick blast of of prayer requests.  Check, done.  If I'm honest, sometimes getting my devotion in is a source of guilt if I don't, and dryness when I do.  I've come away thinking, well, that was good I guess but it's not really changing me that I can see.  Going back to the quote at the top, was that devotion essential to my vocation?  Just what is my vocation anyways? Maid, wife, short order cook, teacher, bum wiper?

Having gone through seasons of this, I have been approaching my time with the Lord differently.  I've been approaching it as unhurried leisure and rest.  Hey wait, don't stop reading, you'll like this next part! It's a conscious detachment from the business of the day with giving my soul and body permission to do so.  It is a time to be silent in His presence. Leisure doesn't have to do with length of time but rather the kind of time I am spending.  This is not a mental blast of scripture, but time to read it and let God speak.  It is an enjoyment with the company of God.  It's a time to crash mentally and let God take over.

Every year my kids quote Isaiah 9:6 as part of our advent. "For unto us a child is born, for unto us a son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulders.  And his name shall be called, wonderful counselor, The mighty God, the everlasting father, the prince of peace."  My favorite part of this was two years ago when Ainsley thought that He was the "prince of quiche" and joyfully shouted it every time. It was so good I let her do that for a week before I finally corrected her.  And poooossibly even got that on video. Better than quiche though, which once gave me the worst case of food poisoning I have ever had, He is the prince of peace.
Advent is a time for coming into this marvelous God's peaceful presence.  He is a wise counselor, mighty, a father and gives rest.  Advent is a time leisurely savoring His life among us.  And if He truly is all that, it's listening more than talking.  I want to know what the wise, peaceful, mighty counselor has to say to ME, as my father.  

Truly, Christmas is the best season to reflect on "Christ among us" and therefore, the enjoyment and unhurried time in His presence.  I am not blasting a devotion down my throat, I am sitting enjoying His companionship, even if I only sneak five minutes.  Some ideas to get that whole silence thing going:
1.  First sit for a couple minutes thinking of nothing else but Christ with me and me with Him.  Nothing else.   Banish all thoughts of what you will possibly feed the minions from the bare pantry, and which room is currently being destroyed by them.  Give yourself permission to bask in his peace.  Be a fat cat in a ray of sunshine.  Be silent before the Lord himself.  You can do it.
2.  Take a small chunk of scripture and read it slowly.  Ask God to speak and reread.  Perhaps stop on a  phrase.  Listen. Ponder.  Meditate.  Savor it.  Along the leisure lines, this is metaphorical chocolate and fine wine for the soul.
3.  If you have a thoughtful devotional reading this might be the time to break it out, but don't read for knowledge.  Read for the enjoyment of being with Him and being able to listen to Him. As you would to a friend who is telling you a story.
4.  Pray.  Don't pray to get something.  Pray and listen.  I really want the wise counselor to speak to me, but sometimes I do all the talking. Mmm hmmm.  Fat, crazy, diarrhea of the mouth talker sometimes right here. Forget perfect phrases and "right" words.  Just tell him your jumble of thoughts and let Him sort them out.  Don't worry about presenting whatever is in your head in the right way or with the right emotion.  Dump them out.  Be messy and take off the filter.  I'm pretty sure He can handle it.  If He really knows me as well as I think an all knowing God would, I'm also pretty sure I'm not shocking him with my thoughts.  And then BE QUIET.  Yes. Be silent again in your thoughts and let Him be your companion.  This is a back and forth conversation, be careful not to do all the talking.  Rest in the peace that you have given it all to Him and He is trusted to sort out your thoughts and the events of the day.  Fist pump.  He's got this.  

Other ideas might be to light a candle to symbolize God's presence with you as you pray.  Pray with your hands open in your lap as you physically show you accept what He gives and give up what you have.

Those are simply ideas but you see how that works there?  The intent is a leisurely rest in His companionship and peace.  I truly want this season to be "Immanuel, God with us".  While the season won't slow down, I can.  I don't know if I can promise that you will be as rested as enjoying a sunny beach trip to Cancun reading your favorite "Jesus Calling" and "1000 gifts" book with a week to journal with your perfect slim point felt black pen and the perfect blue Bible highlighter. I can only do so much for you. I suggest five to fifteen minutes at a time.  Busy holiday person, that's all you get, but it can be enough.  It can be your lifeline. 
Go. Be blessed and leisurely.

1 comment:

  1. Yes. This resonates in my heart completely. While this season of Advent should be full of leisure, we have to create the space for it, and it is a heart matter to make it feel less of an item on our to-do list and more like a craving for time with God. And I absolutely love the cooking experiment which is a sign that you have fostered a love of creativity in your home! I am sure the girls never once thought that they were being disobedient! HA!