Some times the best way to reconnect with our spiritual selves is through a book. Talented authors have a way of guiding us into a deeper understanding of experiences, words, God, ourselves and others. We read a lot of books in our tent. Some are required and some are just for enjoyment.
One book that has been with us for a while is Soul Keeping: Caring for the Most Important Part of You by John Ortberg. It is based on a mentoring relationship he shared with Dallas Willard. His detailed writing about the soul and the deep conversations he enjoyed with Dallas Willard, shine a light on the heartbeat of our lives. Our souls are our life.
When I read, I highlight the sentences that connect with my life. Here are a few highlights:
“Hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our day.”
“What is running your life at any given moment is your soul. Not external circumstances, not your thoughts, not your intentions, not even your feelings, but your soul. The soul is that aspect of your whole being that correlates, integrates, and enlivens everything going on in the various dimensions of the self.”
“When you are connected with God and other people in life, you have a healthy soul.”
“You are an unceasing spiritual being with an eternal destiny in God’s great universe.”
“Being right is actually a very hard burden to be able to carry gracefully and humbly. That’s why nobody likes to sit next to the kid in class who’s right all the time. One of the hardest things in the world is to be right and not hurt other people with it.”
I wonder if you connect with any of these quotes? What does it feel like to think of your soul as your power house of life within you?
I wish we could visit more about it over coffee. It is a conversation worth having. If you have any good recommendations for spiritual books, I would love to hear about them too.
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and all that is within me,
bless his holy name. Psalm 103
From our Happy Tent to Yours,
We have a magic power in life with a pen and paper (a tablet/stylus or computer/keyboard) when we practice signing in and signing out. Signing in means that we are open, present, ready or prepared. Signing out says, “That’s all folks!” Drop the microphone and close the curtain because the work is done.
This week, I signed out a child from school and signed into a board meeting (x3!). I signed into my banking account and signed out of a doctor’s office. I signed up to provide refreshments and signed out of the library. In and out, in and out, all week long.
One evening during the week I signed off my phone. It was ringing, buzzing, and alerting me at such a rapid pace that it was practically creating an earthquake on the kitchen counter. Someone forgot to tell the phone that the day was winding down instead of winding up. Someone forgot to tell the phone that we were in the last act of the play that day and we needed to wrap things up. Without thinking, I sent one more text informing the sender that I was signing off for the night. It was an automatic response because my personal battery was on low and I needed to recharge before the next day. Enough work for one day.
Immediately, when I signed off for the day, I signed into being present with the people I love the most. I signed into awareness and curiosity. I relaxed and took a deep breath. (Maybe the first one all day.) Dolly Parton once said, “Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.” Meredith Bell says, “Never get so attached to a device that we forget to be present with those we love.”
My new spiritual practice is signing off. Signing off to work at the end of the day even if there is more to do. Signing off to busyness and hurry. Signing off to exhaustion day after day. I’m signing into recharging, resting and sabbath moments. God is in those moments!
Is there a place in your life that needs a signing out spiritual practice?
Six days you shall gather it; but on the seventh day, which is a sabbath, there will be none. Exodus 16:26
From our Happy Tent to yours,
I remember the day I learned about the term “running wide open.” I was in the passenger seat of my new sports car. My dad bought the car for me. (I am still not sure why that was a good idea, but I am still thankful it was my car.) He told me not to go too fast until he could ride along with me. It was a silver Pontiac Firebird. The time came for him to ride along with me, but he said he would drive it just to test it out on the road. Before I knew it, we were running wide open. He was smiling, hugging the curves and complimenting the car like it was a person. I had never gone so fast in a car in my whole life and I never have since. I guess it is true that within every grown man there is a young boy!
This week in a text a friend said he was “running wide open.” Mr. Bell and I have laughed (the other option is to cry) about that text all week! It is the best description for our lives. Like our friend, our life is running in our final gear and we are traveling at top speed. Monday through Monday…top speed. With the wind blowing in our hair (or at least my hair…he’s bald) as we run from meeting to meeting, morning to morning, fire to fire, we feel like we are running wide open.
Running wide open can be a fun experience. It creates adrenaline, excitement, busyness and purpose. Things happen. Decisions get made. It is easy when you are brand new, right off the car lot kind of person. But we are not new cars anymore. We have some miles on us. If you are like us, you are running wide open more days than you would like. It may be time to pull over and actively rest.
Take a pit stop and let your crew (Jesus, God and the Holy Spirit) work on your car a while. Inspect the engine (your body) to make sure it is still working well. Sometimes we ignore obvious signs that something is not right. Check your oil every 50 hours of work and see what the level is as you head into the next week. If you are low, do some things to fill it up like spending time with your family, friends or even time alone. Take a look at the tires to make sure you are balanced between work and play. Look for holes that are slowing you down. Clean out the interior of your life and get rid of all the trash that builds up inside. All the worries, fears, and anxieties will be better off in the garbage can.
While you are at the pit stop, if you can’t see to find anything wrong but you still aren’t running well, reach out to a mechanic (doctor, counselor, or spiritual friend) and let them help you run a diagnostic test. Don’t keep running wide open until you burn up the engine or the wheels fall off. It is easier to fix a car than it is to rebuild it. We only get one car (life) so we need to learn to take care of the one we have soon.
There is only one reason in life that we need to be running wide open and that is in our spiritual lives. So often, we ignore the one part of life that gives us the most energy. Jesus ran wide open for God AND Jesus got away to pray. Jesus models pit stops for life. He prayed on a hills, between meetings, in homes and gardens. He encourages us to be still so that we know God. He sent us a Helper when he left this earth. He created “spiritual pit stops” if you really think about it. Jesus told us to go and run wide open to make disciples for Jesus Christ. He didn’t tell us to go and wear your self out in my name!
While you are in your tent this weekend, take a moment and ask your some question. Are you running wide open? How much longer can you do it? Who are you doing it for? Is there anything you need to change in your life? We are asking ourselves the same questions often!
When he arrived and saw this evidence of God’s blessing, he was filled with joy, and he encouraged the believers to stay true to the Lord. Acts 11:23
From our reflective and Happy Tent to yours,
Sometimes you just need to sneak away from the people in your tent. This is necessary when you need a little space…a little time apart. To really get away, you need to apply all of the skills you learned as a teenager about sneaking out of the house. Walk quietly. Carry your shoes in your hands. Hold your breath. Only do what is necessary. Avoid the squeaky stair. “Borrow” the car keys. Close the door quietly behind you. And once you are out of the house and back out of the driveway, you can finally breathe.
After many hours in the car together recently, it was necessary to sneak away from the people I love one morning. My need for a good cup of coffee guided me to a local coffee shop. Over a beautiful cafe latte, I found my spiritual center again. My portable quiet time tools had traveled with me. With each sip of my coffee and each word of my quiet time tools (a.k.a. Bible and devotional), I felt me shoulders relax and my spirit wake up. All that sneaking around was worth every minute. I had been born anew for another day. I felt like Nicodemus, a Jewish leader.
Nicodemus was a sneaky guy too. His shoulders were tense from all his Sanhedrin work. His spirit probably felt unsettled as he went about his work knowing that Jesus was near by, within his reach. He knew Jesus was from God because there was no other explanation for the miracles he had heard about. He certainly needed some time way from the people around him and the only way to get it was to sneak away, under the cover of darkness. So he did. The conversation that followed was mind boggling for Nicodemus. Jesus made perfect sense even though his words made no sense at all.
My conversation with Jesus at the coffee shop was mind boggling too. It always is. Usually Jesus’ words make perfect sense even though they don’t make any sense at all from my view. They are words that stir my soul, stretch my faith and satisfy my spirit. They empower me to experience another day and experience the moments I may have missed otherwise. That is why I am like Nicodemus…I must be born anew day after day.
As the week went on, my tent people began following me to the sacred coffee shop. One at a time, they heard about the experience and the place, so they came too. At times there were two of us and other times there were five. The other faces at the shop became familiar. Strangers became friends. A whole community of people were also sneaking away from their tents temporarily to find something their soul needed…community, coffee and Jesus.
Are you in need of some time away? Find a way and make it happen. It is well worth all your efforts. Nicodemus and me will cheer you on!
From our Happy Tent to Yours,
Summer provides many opportunities for going deep. There is the deep end of the swimming pool that is inviting. You can enjoy a night out in Deep Ellum and have dinner at Deep Sushi. Deep in the heart of Texas the other night, we went back in time and watched a movie at the Drive-In with the tailgate down and our hands deep in popcorn.
Summer provides more opportunities for going deep in relationships. The days are longer and schedules are lighter. More than once our youngest has reminded us that there is no bedtime in the summer. I guess that is why we are all still awake at eleven o’clock! There is more time to talk and listen. There is more time for board games. There is more time for hugs. There is more time for exploring new places or projects. There is more time to simply be together, deeply.
There is a childhood song I learned in Sunday School years ago called, Deep and Wide. Part of the lyrics say, “Deep and wide/ Deep and wide/ There is a fountain flowing deep and wide.” This song reminds me of God’s love. God’s love for us is deep and wide. Our love for our families is deep and wide. Summer is a great time to experience both.
Before these summer months slip by, take off your life jackets in life and do some spontaneous deep diving into the lives of the people who share your tent.
Ideas for Going Deep
- Ask “I Wonder….” Questions: These are open-ended questions that you do not know the answer to before you ask it. They are beautiful questions for learning how someone sees the world around them. “I wonder who your favorite author is….” “I wonder where God showed up in your week…” “I wonder what our marriage will be like when we…”
- Spontaneous Ice Cream: One of our ninety year old friends reminds us that having a little ice cream at Braum’s at the end of the day is fun. Do something spontaneous… anything really…that is what is fun about summer.
- Family Projects: You’ve got time to go deeper into a project this summer. Drive to the nearest craft store or hardware store. Find something to sew, crochet, build, cook, paint, organize, or create. Being elbow to elbow with another person you love (who God created) will give you time to see them through different eyes. You are guaranteed to learn something about each other.
When he finished speaking to the crowds, he said to Simon, “Row out farther, into the deep water, and drop your nets for a catch.” Luke 5:4
From our Deeply Happy Tent to yours,
Social media lately is flooded with firsts and lasts. There are first communions, first dances, first cars, first steps, first solid foods. There are last recitals, last awards ceremony, last graduations, last day of school, last day to pack school lunches (Can I get an Amen?). It would be difficult not to notice all the smiling faces in the pictures or the energy in our communities. There have even been some first birthdays as new babies bounce into the world and last hugs and kisses as love ones spend their last days on earth.
Joseph Campbell once wrote, “We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.” Whether you are experiencing a first or a last this month, you are probably leaving one life and headed into a new one. You are leaving one normal and creating a new one. And if you are not experiencing this yourself, simply take a look to your left and your right, you will see someone who is. As we change from one life into the next, here are some ways to help you transition, recenter, stop, or become more aware of God’s presence:
- Sit in your God space and listen. Remember that the creator of the universe (your creator) is available. Any time. Any place. If you have a God space in your house or office…sit in it. Focus on one thing that never changes…God’s love for you!
- Make a lunch date with a friend. Spiritual friends are the best! They listen, understand, advise, support and follow up. They often know what you need before you know what you need. A lunch date will provide you with a pause between all the things you have to get done before you go to bed. Everyone can use a pause now and then.
- Plan a selfie day with just you and things you love. Watch a movie at 10am with popcorn and a coke. See two movies if you have time. Pull out your music collection and jam to you favorites. Take a nap in the middle of the day without you cell phone in the same room. Read a book just because. What brings your joy? Do it!
- Name your emotion(s). Mad, sad, angry, fearful or tender. All emotions fall under one of these top five. Once you know your emotion, you are more able to experience it and control it before it controls you. Pretending that you are not deeply experiencing one of these emotions is like pretending that nothing is changing. Pretending is exhausting.
- Plan a trip. It always helps to experience a change of scenery whether it is a day trip or a vacation. Just having one on the calendar is life giving! Shop in a new store. Visit museums in your community or close by. Reconnect with a family member or old friend and drive to their town to simply spend time together. Exploring nature in small parks or big parks like the Grand Canyon can certainly be fun! And there is always camping!!
- Take a deep breath. Sometimes when I am with my mom and I take a deep breath, she says, “Is that your first breath of the day?” Sometimes you just need to take a breath and a step, a breath and a step. Find a pace that allows your soul to catch up with your body!
- Hug your family. A one-minute hug always does the trick. (Set a timer.) One-minute to connect. One-minute to freeze time and capture the moment. One-minute of peace in the midst of chaos. Your family is experiencing many firsts and lasts together. Hugs, notes, texts, and hand-holding are all encouraged in the middle of transitions.
While you (or someone you know) is experiencing firsts and lasts this month, remember one thing. Jesus is the “author and finisher” of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made” (John 1:3). Jesus is the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last. When we see all of life through Christ eyes, we see the whole picture. There are many firsts and lasts that we experience, but in the middle we experience a full, abundant life. That is why Jesus came to this earth and why we have faith in Christ.
Keep posting those precious pictures of your abundant life, the highs and the lows. Each day and each experience serves as a reminder that we are all in this together within the loving arms of Jesus. And Jesus is ready to give us more of an abundant life!
From our Happy Tent to Yours,
Do you ever notice how God shows up in the grocery store? It happens to me often. On the days when I only have a ten-minute-window to buy a grocery cart full of food, I meet someone (God) in the grocery store. These encounters always catch me off guard. Usually I have my head down and my hair pulled back with an intentional look on my face that says…”Get out of my way…I’m on on an impossible mission once again.” I must have this look down because most people stay clear.
But the other day, I had a God encounter. I met another mom on a mission. She has five children. I have two. Both our husbands are pastors. She was on her mission with her own grocery cart and it felt as though our carts simply collided. Then we looked up. We saw each other. Before we even spoke, we were communicating. Compassion. Encouragement. Love. Understanding. These feeling were all floating between us. We saw our tired selves in each other. We saw our determination in each other. We saw God in each other. When we finally found our words we skipped pleasantries. We spoke directly into our worlds as working women, moms, and wives. “How did we over-schedule our family again?” “How are we going to get everything done for today and tomorrow?” “Where is the balance that keeps alluding us?” “Does balance even exist?” With a smile of encouragement and tired eyes, we went our separate ways.
This encounter challenged me greatly regarding balance. It seems like we desire balance in our lives. We talk about it and read about it. In my mind a balanced day is a cup-of-coffee, devotional-reading, lunches-packed, hugs-and-kisses, laundry-done, dinner-on-the-table, and bedtime-story kind of day. But most of the time we experience a where-are-my-shoes, hurry-to-school, grocery-sprint, cereal-for-dinner, study-spelling-words-in-the-bathtub, fall-into-bed kind of day.
God taught me something about balance in the grocery store. In order to find peace in the midst of our schedule storms we first need to be honest. Peace will not just happen and our schedules are not going to get much better. We are hard working Americans after all! BUT we need to be intentional about creating pockets of peace and balance within our days. Little pockets of peace that give us space to catch our breath and connect with God. Little pockets of peace that empower us to keep going. In my life, they look like a phone call to my mom, a back porch conversation at the end of the day, a little love note tucked in a lunch box, fifteen minutes in my prayer closet, a quick devotional read from a book in my purse, a cup of hot tea, a quick run, a one-minute-hug, reading two chapters in a book, a thirty minute nap before pick-up, or a phone call to a friend. I don’t do all of them every day, but they are all in my “I need some peace emergency kit!” All of these little pockets of peace add up at the end of the day and they breathe new life back into my self-imposed-high-expectation-chaotic-schedule.
Even Jesus stepped away to speak to his Father. Scripture tells us that Jesus would remove himself from the crowds for a little while even though they would follow him and come looking for him. He, of all people, had an over-packed schedule during his ministry, but he knew he could serve best by staying connected to the Creator.
As we head into the end of spring and into the summer, let’s be intentional about carving out pockets of peace in our days for ourselves and our families. They will fill us, calm us and empower us to keep going as people who love God and love others.
“Be still, and know that I am God! Psalm 46:10
From our Happy Tent to yours,
How many times a day do you shake a jar of pickles in your fridge. Around our house, it is a new activity. It began by receiving a jar of pickles from a friend who instructed us to shake the jar at least twice a day for a week to help season the pickles. (The jar contains a secret seasoning…or at least that is what he said.) We know how to follow directions so we have been shaking the pickles, daily.
No matter what is going on in our house, we shake the pickles. During homework, we shake the pickles. While cooking dinner, we shake the pickles. In the morning while drinking coffee, we shake the pickles. We have embraced the process and we are looking forward to eating the pickles at the end of the week.
God invites us to do a lot of things in life. We are called to hang out with God in prayer during the day. We are called to play God-spy by keeping our eyes open for God at work around us. We are called to “be” more and “do” less so that our religion makes more sense. But above all, we are encouraged to embrace the experiences around us. If we are too focused on the past, we miss it. If we are too worried about the future, we miss it. Only when we can embrace the moment (and shake the pickles) do we really catch a glimpse of what Jesus meant when he said, “I have come so that you may life to it’s fullest.”
Our pickles keep us present in the moment and they make us laugh. Every time someone opens the fridge door and shake the pickles, we all laugh. This silly exercise creates a moment where we forget our stress, phones, chores and challenges and we just shake the pickles. When they are placed back in the fridge and the door is closed, all our problems do not seem as challenging.
From our Happy Tent to Yours,
P.S. Delicious pickle recipe: Buy a large jar of sliced pickles (ours are Hamburger Dill Chips made with sea salt from HEB). Add one package of powder Ranch dip. Shake your pickles for a week. Store in the fridge.
P.S.S. The season of Lent begins next week. If you need a devotional guide, order your copy of Have Mercy on Me. All proceeds will be donated to Habitat for Humanity.
This is a quote my guy heard this week in a Bible study and he shared it with me. You would think that he would come home from a Bible study reciting scripture or sharing how he felt the Holy Spirit speak to him. Instead, he shared how a wise friend said, “Life is like a roll of toilet paper…the closer you get to the end the faster it goes!”
It’s funny…because it is full of truth. The brilliance is placing a common roll of toilet paper next to time. All people, no matter their race, beliefs, goals, faith, dreams, failures, degrees, successes, are able to connect with toilet paper and time. And if we can agree on the truth of these two common experiences, we can find other experiences of life to agree on as well.
For instance, Martin Buber, a philosopher and theologian, gave the world a gift when he discovered the I-Thou relationship in dialogue. In this relationship, two people turn to one another with openness and respect. This is possible because we experience this relationship with God and we can share it with others. When we encounter another person, it is possible to see them through the eyes of God. By recognizing the divine in another person, they recognize the divine in us. Buber said, “Meet the world with the fullness of your being and you shall meet God.”
At the end of the day we all struggle with the same ups and downs, gains and losses, friends and family, and personal and private events that life gives us. We are more alike than different. Toilet paper and time. Wouldn’t it be life-giving to engage the people we meet (and the people in our homes) through the blessing of an I-Thou relationship? I am pretty sure that we will be quoting scripture and sharing how we felt the Holy Spirit speak to us as we meet God there. Try it.
Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the requirements of God’s law. Romans 13:10
From our happy tent to yours,
We have one happy, happy camper in our tent this week. The candy rule is gone and the “candy queen” is so happy. There is candy all over our house. Some of it is in the obvious places and some of it is tucked away in little corners, under blankets, and in drawers. It is everywhere and our happy camper has taken inventory and knows the location of every piece. Candy is available 24/7 in our home and life is good for a little girl.
Because we are kind, loving parents, we let the “candy queen” enjoy a few days of bliss. She even enjoyed some for breakfast a few mornings along with her protein plate. But then the time came to reintroduce the rules. “Okay, now that you have enjoyed lots of candy, we are going to go back to three pieces a day.” We expected shock, surprise or rebellion. Instead we simply got an “Okay.” Well that was easy!
There is a gift hidden in rules. They make us feel safe, secure, cared for and balanced. When we have rules that guide our choices and lives, we are able to relax within their boundaries. The big decisions have already be taken care of so we can just enjoy life within the boundaries.
There once was a psychological study of children playing on a playground by a school that I learned about recently. One group of children were encouraged to go and play on a playground without a fence. Instead of playing and exploring, this group chose to just play by the entrance into school. They didn’t feel safe enough to play on the playground. Another group of children were given the same instructions and same choice. The difference was that a fence had been installed around the play equipment. The second group played on the monkey bars and slid down the slide. The take away was that the children felt more safe with the fence and were able to relax and play together.
Our creator gives us fences (or rules) to live within simply because we are loved. They are not intended to restrict us, punish us or frustrate us. They are intended to remind us that we are safe, secure, and loved. Rules for life help us draw closer to God by making space in our lives for God. They offer us balance in the pressures of life and light in darkness. We may go through times in life where we are like the “candy queen”…we have more than we could ever need and life feels blissful. But then, we may feel that we have lost direction or purpose in life. We know then that it is time to go back to “three-pieces-a-day”. And when God calls us back to our center, we experience God’s grace. Another day and another chance to live life through God’s eyes instead of our own.
Explore your rules this week or create some. What is your rule of life? Share them with someone close to you. You might find that you will enjoy God’s playground even more with a fence around it.
For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
2 Corinthians 3:17
From our Happy Tent to yours,
P.S. If you want to explore a rule of life more, check out Crafting a Rule of Life.