Saturday, July 5, 2008

Slowing Down on the 4th of July

I have my children with me this weekend and last night my daughter had two of her friends over as well, so the house was a lively place. The five of us did all the traditional 4th of July things - cooked on the grill, shot off fireworks and lit sparklers.

The sparklers were a particular hit and I was glad I had bought a lot of them. All four kids waved them, skipped and ran with them, danced with them. (OK, I admit it, I played too!) Afterwards we went inside and there was lots of laughter and conversation until about 11, when my ten yeara old son went down for the count and the girls retired to my daughter's room. The house went quiet.

It had been a long day, but instead of going to bed myself, I stayed up for about an hour to read and think a while.

I've been reading in The Life You've Always Wanted by John Ortberg recently. Last night I reread the chapter on "An Unhurried Life." Over and over Ortberg says the same thing - "You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life."

This is no mere wishing, or suggestion. Ortberg's book is on spiritual disciplines and he says is about as plainly as it can be said: Hurry is the great enemy of a spiritual life. That is a disturbing thought. Look around us and what do we see? Lives crammed with activity. Too many hours working. Too many things, all of which require time to maintain. Life seems to be a race to see how much we can pile into it. Is it any wonder then that Americans' spiritual life is so often thin, or even non-existent?

In the last couple of years, I have been reminded anew of the value of quiet time. Events in my life forced me to slow down. Instead of a large house with acres of land, I found myself living in a small apartment with a pair of flower beds. Instead of owning my own business, I went to work for someone else. Instead of having family around constantly, I was living alone. I changed churches and no longer held all the jobs or had all the activities that filled my life.

At the time, I thought it was a terrible thing, all this change and loss. But as he so often does in our lives, God made something very good out of it all.

And one of the reasons is that I slowed down. I made slowing down and thinking and praying a habit, a daily occurrence that left my heart open. The bible does not say "Scurry around and know I am God." No, it says "Be still, and know I am God." We're just never still.

I treasure my quiet time again. I treasure it more for the fact that I lost it for a time, and have regained it. I know the difference. When Ortberg and others talk about the need to slow down to have a spiritual life, I understand now that it's not really optional, it's required if we want to be connected to God and his loving, creative power, and we stay busy at our peril.

Now, here's the odd thing, and I have no explanation. I used to think that going slow would mean I was less productive. But I am finding that is not the case. And Ortburg's chapter on slowing down cites studies that say the same thing. Somehow, slowing down makes us more productive.

So slowing down is practical, and spiritual. Can you get any better than that?


PS - the picture is from last night. You can click on it for a larger version.

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