Monday, January 20, 2020

A Slow Heart: Part One

*I wrote this article to submit to a magazine for the January issue and it was not a good fit for them - so I'm sharing it here instead for a little refresher on a heart of slow! Or check out my book: Slow Lane!

The last day of the month may be just like any other night, but when I wake the next morning it is not only a brand new day but also a brand new month. The white squares on the calendar are clean and fresh just like I desire for my home but pretty soon things start creeping into these white spaces and daily life picks right back up.

Instead of jumping right in with a big list of to-do items, laundry, meals and things to declutter – what if I started with my heart and cleared space there first? How do I prepare my heart at the beginning of this new season to be used for His glory and purposes?

One way I like to do this exercise is to use an acronym for the word SLOW – several years ago, slow was my word for the year and became more of a word for my life. Think about this word - slow. What does that word bring to mind? And how do I begin to embrace anything remotely resembling slow when life must go on and there are things that just have to get done?
Well, I like to think of slow as two things really. One, it is a posture and state of the heart. It is my choice to slow my heart before God and with His help. Two, it is an intentional choosing of what I write into those open squares on my calendar.

At the beginning of a new year, a new school year or even just a new season, I like to take time to sit quietly and do some reflecting, refreshing and refocusing. And for now, I will focus on the slow that is the posture of my heart before God. How do I slow my heart before Him? A favorite passage is Psalm 46:10, “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”

To get started, I will grab a journal and sit somewhere comfy – usually the slip-covered loveseat in our living room. I’ve always liked to sit right in the middle of it with cozy pillows on either side of me. Lamplight creates a peaceful and calm atmosphere and a Sunday afternoon provides a more extended time to sit and enter this time of introspection.

On the journal page, I will divide my paper into four sections using the letters of slow in each section.
Surrender: here begins my first list for the day. What are the things weighing down my heart that I need to surrender to the Lord? His Word tells me in Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Often when I hold things too tightly, they become a heavy burden that I was not meant to carry. Jesus says He will give me rest, but that rest cannot come when I’m still holding onto the burden.

My list grows and my burden lifts. This is the time to cast my burdens upon the Lord and to lighten my load. 1 Peter 5:7 further reminds me to be, “casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” What are the things in my heart that I am trying to be in control of? What are the things in my life that I am holding on too tightly to? I spend time asking God to bring to mind the things that I need to offer in surrender to Him.

Surrender shows a dependence upon another. It gives the authority and control to another and it is when I admit to stop striving in my own strength or for my own glory and give that control and power to another. There is no one more worthy than my Heavenly Father. He is capable, He is all-powerful and all-knowing, He is sovereign over all and He has His glory and my good in mind.
With my list of burdens written out in surrender, I might take a few minutes to pray through some of these things. What attitudes do I need to turn over to Him? What actions? What preconceived notions? What expectations? What sin? What areas of struggle and doubt? What areas of weakness or sorrow? What hopes and dreams? Am I fully committed to His best for me? Because make no mistake about this: He is fully committed to His best for me and that includes being in charge in my heart and life.

Listen: after spending time in clearing the clutter of burdens in my heart and mind through surrender, I can now move into a place of listening. Often when I try to listen before the surrender, those burdens clutter my mind and distract my thoughts and ability to listen and hear from the Lord. Reading His Word may find me full of distraction and with difficulty paying attention or staying focused, but once I have cleared the cobwebs and laid those things down – there is more space for receiving.

I think of the state of our living room after a busy day with my family – laundry may be piled on the couch, school books left lying about, socks stuffed between cushions, dog toys on the floor and Legos and/or craft supplies strewn everywhere from happy and creative children. These things are visual clutter in my life and it is hard to enter into a time of worship and reflection with my Lord when I am sitting in a room that looks like this. So it is with my heart, when I want to hear from Him through His word and be taught and instructed, I will need to make space to receive His insight and hear His heart.

As I enter this time of listening, I try to just sit quietly and write down things that come to mind as I now have mind space to process thoughts more fully. What has God been trying to say to me that I’ve been too busy or too scattered to hear or respond to? Is there a common thread or phrase He has brought to mind several times recently that I want to press into a bit more and think about how it applies and what it might mean in my walk with Him? These are the kinds of things I want to jot down and take note of here.

To listen also implies that I am being quiet. I need to get out of my own head and silence my own inner voice to just be and be still. Listening requires a conscious decision to open the ears of my heart and be attentive. It even allows me to hear smaller sounds around me such as a bird singing, the hum of the refrigerator, the talking of my family in another room, the breeze in the trees and the tick of the clock. About this time it dawns on me that I need to clear not only the clutter in my heart yet also the noise clutter that enters my life every day. How often do I really sit quietly with no agenda but to listen? One month I even tried sitting quietly for at least five minutes a day and it was glorious - I highly recommend it. 

To be continued tomorrow ...

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