Tag Archives: Silence

Your Plate

You are about to fill your plate at the party or potluck dinner. You tell yourself, like you always do, that you will not over do it. Little by little, with only a bit of this and that, it happens. The empty plate you started with is soon over-filled with small amounts of good things. If you really didn’t plan ahead you may require a whole other plate for salad and dessert. Worst case scenario, it is a paper plate that does not stand up to all your good choices.

We are entering the back to school and fall season of lots of good choices. Summer is winding down and families and individuals are gearing up for the fun and activity of fall. What’s on your plate?

I’m in a season of too much right now. I did it to myself. I said yes to some great things a long time ago and they are now all on my plate at once. That happens sometimes. What do you do when it does?

Here are some coping mechanisms in a season of too much. I’m implementing these myself right now. I’m sharing just in case you also are walking through life with a too full plate.

  1. Remember it is okay to subtract something. Just scrape it right off the plate. You do not have to explain why to anyone. I’m unable to do that will work just fine. Our family once just said no to all select baseball, for example. We just scraped it away and guess what? We have all been just fine without it. One time my middle child asked if he could join a very good organization. I said, No, you can’t. He later thanked me for that.
  2. Your plate has to have white space. White space is margin; space between activities; unscheduled time for breathing, resting, regrouping. You need white space every day.
  3. When evaluating the fullness of your plate, count everything. You need sleep on your plate. You need meal time. You need exercise time. You need time to do the basics like laundry and taking out the trash. The most dangerous time for mental health begins when people start sacrificing these basic tasks in order to get other things done. If your home is filled with trash you don’t have time to take out, you are in trouble. If you don’t have time to wash your hair, body or clothes, you are in trouble.
  4. You also need to count those things you wish weren’t on your plate like grief, chronic problems or new challenges you are facing. These all take time and emotional energy too. You have to be able to be honest with yourself and admit you are in a season of dealing with extra items on your plate before you ever arrived at the potluck.
  5. If your plate is full, turn down some other noise. In my seasons of stress, I end up with a loud tv on or too many podcasts in my ear, when what I need is some silence or soothing faith music instead while I’m carrying around the full plate.
  6. Lean on your spiritual resources. Martin Luther once famously said, I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer. I think he is maybe overdoing it on the time allotted there, but I now understand the point. When I have a full day, I get up earlier to pray, journal and read scripture. I do not skip it. We’ve been commanded to honor a weekly sabbath, to see our bodies as God’s temple and to guard the gift of life that we’ve been given. I wonder why we ignore all that and instead worship our busyness? I have had to learn to stop leaning on my own understanding and my own capabilities and instead depend on God for prioritizing and giving me the energy for all the good things in my life. My inability to manage my plate has kept me dependent on God and I am grateful for that.
  7. Practice gratitude. When juggling too much, it is hard to be grateful. With less, it seems easier. Simplify in order to enhance your gratitude. Create white space and quiet so you can see what you have and hear God’s whispers of guidance.

Personally, as families and even as spiritual beings our life depends on good plate management skills. It is a balancing act for sure. What’s on your plate?

Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, wife, mother of three, Mimosa to Keller and Pace and breast cancer survivor. 

Advertisements

Sanctuary Places and People

Holy spaces, sanctuary places, safe people are already embedded into our real lives. On my morning walk through a nearby wooded area, there is a particular stretch of the walk that I call my sanctuary. The trees form an arch. Light filters through the trees in a way that takes my eyes up every time. No one is usually around. It feels peaceful, holy, set apart and full of God’s presence to me. I worship there regularly.

I have another sanctuary place or two at home. One is my red chair right beside my journals, Bible and devotional materials. In the warm weather, I can see the patio plants, hear the fountain and the birds out there. In the cold weather, I’m close to my fireplace.

I’m fortunate to have access to some dear friends’ lake home where I have another few sanctuary places…a screened-in porch, a deck with a lake view, another wooded walking place.    I’m headed there this week to work on an upcoming retreat I’m speaking at. I can’t tell you the anticipation I feel at the thought of five days of nature, silence, prayer, reading, walking, resting and writing.

I also have sanctuary people. Lovely people who I feel safe and open with. People who have shared lots of layers of life with me. These are the ones who don’t require small talk…we can spend time together that flies by and still not quite have said all that needs saying.

When I was younger and much busier, I wish I would have spent more time recognizing my sanctuary places and people and savoring them sooner. I wish I would have written them all down in a list and put a big “S” by each one. I wish I would have intentionally gleaned out the non-sanctuary places and toxic people or at least minimized my time with them.

In Jesus Always by Sarah Young, today’s entry, she imagines Jesus telling us to look for My unseen presence around you. The beauty of nature and the pleasures of loved ones are reminders, pointing you to Me. What does it mean to look for Christ’s unseen presence?

As I head to the lake sanctuary, I challenge you to make a list of your sanctuary places and people and schedule more time in those holy spaces.

  

That Silent Saturday

In Christianity, there’s not really even a name for that Saturday. No one seems to know what to do with the day in between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. It is such an awful, awkward, painful day.

I’ve heard it called Holy Saturday, but not much. Even the Bible doesn’t have much to say about that day. Matthew’s gospel has Pilate demanding that the tomb be sealed and guards watch it around the clock, just in case someone tries to steal the body. All the other gospels are silent on the topic.

The torture of the agony of Friday ending in death’s finality. The tears, the earthquake, the ripping of the heavens, life over as they knew it. Hopes and dreams crushed. And, then, can you imagine? Saturday happens and it is just silent. God is silent. Time, I imagine, agonizingly slow. There are no answers, no revelations, no angels. Just nothing.

What I want to say today is this, don’t gloss over that horrible Saturday while you are getting ready for Easter. Don’t use it as only a day of gathering Easter supplies and food for tomorrow. Don’t just use it to pull together your Easter fashion ensemble.

Stay in it. Pray through it. Try to feel it because the Silent Saturday is as much a part of the Christian faith as all our other milestone days. In fact, I believe most of our Christian life is lived in the silent, awkward Saturday seasons.

Like when death has been pronounced and the body taken away; or when the divorce papers are signed and submitted; when the diagnosis comes and you have no clue how it will unfold. Hospital waiting room moments or right after you hear them say that you are no longer employed. Our faith lives are full of silent Saturdays.

What we do in the silent, painful, awful moments of life is as important as what we do on Easter.  Actually, maybe how we handle Saturday matters more than how we do when the angel assures us that “He is not here. He has risen just as he said” Matthew 28:6

This awkward, awful, no name, no information Saturday has something to teach us about life and faith. Stay in it and learn.

Attention

If you read my last entry, you are aware that last week I had to move almost everything from inside the house to the garage to get ready for ceiling and floor work at our home. I ended the week sore, bruised and really sick of my stuff. It was particularly difficult in the pantry, finding foods that were at “their best if eaten by 2012.” Yeah.

The man overseeing phase one coached me on how to get the house ready. When I asked him what I should do while they are working he politely said, “Go on vacation?” He laughed but I can take a hint. Thankfully, we have friends that are very generous with their lovely lake house in Oklahoma. They let me squat there whenever I need silence or time away. I once asked them what they would do if I never left. They only laughed nervously and said “You are welcome to stay as long as you want.” Yes, these are the best of friends.

I’ve been here since last Saturday just soaking in fall at the lake. The leaves are contemplating their fall colors: red, gold or orange. The weather is crisp at night and never hot in the daytime. I’ve seen lots of deer, all kinds of birds and of course the squirrels are having the time of their life with a generous helping of acorns everywhere. Right now, I’m on a screened in porch while it rains and gently thunders all around me. It is delicious. Oh, and also I have coffee.

The election is really scarring/scaring me. I’ve been beside myself, addicted to Twitter in a “gawking at an accident kind of way.” My husband even told me, “you’ve got to disconnect from this stuff.” Here, it is easier. First, the wi-fi is non-existent. Secondly, my focus has changed. Here, it is more about the rhythm of the day than of the news cycle. Sunrise and sunset anchor the morning and evening. Walks are longer and without headphones. I’m reading actual books, on my fifth now. My journal entries and prayer time are elongated in a slow and gentle way.

I’ve been reading a book called “Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age” by Sherry Turkle, a technology professor at MIT. She is like a voice in the wilderness lamenting our addiction to our phones and all things electronic. Our attention is fractured, splintered, shot. We are losing the art of long slow talks and just being able to sit in silence or watch the sky or look out over a body of water.

I’m no better than anyone else. I’m addicted. I can’t seem to pull away from my phone, even here. But, I am aware that I want something different. I am aware that my soul is fed and even anchored by nature, by quiet, by stillness. When I put my attention in the right place I’m assured in powerful ways of God’s goodness and nearness. This morning I was comforted by this old hymn line running through my mind, “Though the wrongs seem oft so strong, God is the Ruler yet.”

I have no answers for anything except this: what we attend to matters. I’m going to do my best to attend to creation and the One who creates.

Re-Entry

So, we arrived home last night.  My husband had to work first thing this morning.  I luckily, have a cushion day in which do buy groceries, do laundry and such.  I also took some time to answer a few emails, get a few things on the calendar for this week and next week.

My boys both left for other activities today so finally, back to silence.  What I learned from my silent time:

I really do need it.

It is really refreshing.

I like having long spans of time with nothing I have to do.

I really enjoy God’s handiwork out there.

Silence and solitude ought not to be a once every decade or so thing…it ought to be something I figure out a way to weave into the daily fabric of things. 

I have much to be grateful for…much.

Solitude Day 2 1/2

Still enjoying my own company. I had no idea I was so pleasant to be around. Except for that part of me that works at the church 24/7. She woke up at two a.m. pondering church things that could surely wait.

I amuse myself in solitude. Even though I purposely planned these unstructured days, I keep a to-do list:

write

rest

hang out at lake

walk

read

I still check things off too. How much solitude would I need to be able to give up my list?

I talk to myself in solitude. And, I’m funny. This morning on my walk I saw a deer. I said, “I see you!.” She was rude and didn’t say anything. I also thanked a tree for some shade. She also did not reply. See how funny I am? Seriously I’m fine.

Yesterday I got to sit on the screened in porch-actually I was reclining -there’s a bed there. I know, I’m blessed. Anyway I got to watch a storm roll in.  It took about two hours and was like a good movie with almost all my senses engaged. I’ve never done that before. Even my bird friends got quiet for awhile-everyone seemed to be watching the same movie.

I’ve read three full books already, plenty of magazines too. I’ve worked lots of crosswords. I still have my phone and of course Words With Friends. In true solitude, I think you are to let go of all of that. Thank goodness I’m not that nutsy radical yet. 

So far, I still like myself. Maybe tomorrow I will get on my own nerves but not today. I have way too much solitude on my to-do list to enjoy now.

Silence Isn’t Silent

We have friends with a lakehouse. We were friends long before the lakehouse by the way. Recently they offered me a gift, “Come stay by yourself at the lakehouse for a few days before our families gather here.”

I could not resist. I crave quiet. I enjoy solitude. I think better, relax better, write better, pray better in the quiet.

As I packed up for my days alone, a tiny bit of anxiety emerged. What if I didn’t like silence as much as I thought? What if I’m not as enjoyable to be with as I think I am?

I reasoned with myself, that is the point of the spiritual discipline, to stick it out even when it isn’t comfortable.

I arrived last night. Temps are in the 70’s. I sat staring at the lake all evening; watched the sunset in pinks and blues. Just looking at a waterline is reported to reduce stress. I believe it.

This morning, I’m back to staring but also listening. Silence isn’t silent. I hear:

Birds singing all kinds of songs with a duck chiming in at awkward times.

WindImage

 

 

Hummingbirds gripe at each other as they fly.

Fishermen way down on the water, talking softly as they fish.

A woodpecker.

Squirrels arguing.

And this is funny, the only neighbor in the near vacinity, either learning to play the violin or listening to a cd of someone learning to play the violin. And I am struck by my ability to be annoyed by the one person within my hearing range.

Today’s  revelation: silence isn’t silent. It is layer after layer of God’s created ones doing their thing-singing, arguing, talking, playing the violin badly. Creation, noise, and in it and through it, God.

I’m blessed today to be able to listen for a change.

And my favorite sound, the gripey hummingbirds. Who knew?