The Wonder of Slowing
Probably one of the more astonishing things I’ve encountered over the past 9 months of the covid crisis is the difficulty…lets say near impossibility…I have when it comes to slowing down.
Just this Spring I was waking up feeling really anxious and worried for no apparent reason – I had nowhere to go. Eeveryone in my life was healthy & safe.
But my spinning mind and racing heart and fatigued body felt behind, rushed and overwhelmed.
What I’ve discovered is that most often it isn’t my circumstances or activities that make me feel this way (though they can definitely contribute). It is actually my heart and my mind that need to slow down so that I can feel peaceful and be present.
As Pastor Vijay mentioned in his sermon this week (if you haven’t heard it, have a listen) the wonder or mystery of this season of advent is in the waiting.
The slowing down.
Whatever we do, we can NOT hurry the calendar or the clock forward.
We can’t rush to get to December 25th or in this case, to the new year.
We just have to wait.
Waiting seems slow. And painful at times (drive-thru lines anyone?!?!?). We usually avoid it at all costs.
But what if the mystery of the season lies at least in part in the slowness of Jesus – not only in His arrival, but in the way He carried himself throughout His life, ministry, death and resurrection.
This week, we’ll be looking at different meals Jesus had with people over the course of His ministry and you’ll notice that though He was never the chef, He always ended up being the one to feed the guests.
And the invitation still stands – Jesus longs to have a meal with you too.
So as you engage with the readings this week, allow Jesus to feed you. Do your best to slow down, linger with Him so that you can listen and be filled. There are also questions and activities you can do with the people you love and live with – Jesus loved a party and He loves being at one with you and your people.
Come, lets bask in the the wonder of slow together.
Day 1: Slowing your Space
Read Luke 22:7-20
In our reading today we see that the day before Jesus was going to be betrayed He arranged for his disciples to celebrate the Passover meal with Him in a guest room at a home in Jerusalem. He arranged for Peter and John to go ahead to prepare the space, and it says that “when the hour came Jesus reclined” at the table with his disciples as they ate together.
This meal would be the last one He was going to have with His disciples, and He knew He was about to suffer indescribably. Yet He was calm, meticulous in his planning and relaxed enough to recline with His friends as they celebrated.
Jesus wasn’t rushing or worrying about getting to the garden on time to pray…instead He reveled and relaxed in the space He was in.
What does that have to do with advent?
Have you ever thought that maybe the space you are in when you try to spend time with Jesus makes you feel rushed or hurried?
Today, spend some time slowing your space to enter into the presence of Jesus.
- Choose a favourite spot – it could be in your favourite chair, or going for a walk in the woods, or laying on the couch.
- Wherever you are, stop and close your eyes and pay attention to your breathing for at least 2 minutes (but for as long as you would like).
As you inhale say/whisper “Come”. As you exhale say/whisper “Lord Jesus”
Notice your heart rate slow as you invite Jesus into this space with you.
Now listen to this old carol and meditate on the lyrics:
Come, thou long expected Jesus, Born to set thy people free
From our fears and sins release us, Let us find our rest in thee
Israel’s strength and consolation, Hope of all the earth thou art
Dear desire of every nation, Joy of every longing heart
Born thy people to deliver, Born a child and yet a king
Born to reign in us forever, Now thy gracious kingdom bring
By thine own eternal spirit, Rule in all our hearts alone
By thine own sufficient merit, Raise us to thy glorious throne
Some questions to ponder yourself:
1. What do you feel like you are tired of waiting for? Where are you feeling this weariness most acutely?
2. Where do you feel like you are looking for hope, other than Jesus?
3. What fears are nagging at your spirit?
Now, recite the lyrics to this old hymn as your own prayer – inviting Jesus to come into your space this season to recline with you.
Day 2: Slowing your Mind
Read Luke 10: 38-42
I’ve listened to many sermons and Bible studies about this passage – and many times I was left feeling a little reprimanded and even belittled.
I’ll admit it – I’m a bit of a Martha. Maybe you are too?
And by Martha I mean I tend to keep myself pretty busy – I love to host, and lead and organize and entertain – and to be successful at many things speed is usually pretty helpful.
Essentially, Martha’s don’t tend to embrace slow very well. Or sitting still in general.
But as Pastor Vijay explained this week, Jesus wasn’t necessarily worried about Martha’s tasks, or that she wasn’t sitting at His feet at that very moment.
(I imagine Him and His 12 buddies who showed up at her door were grateful for her ability to whip up a meal for them).
Jesus was actually concerned about Martha being “worried and upset about many things”.
Jesus cared that her mind was consumed and racing with things that she couldn’t control. He was saddened that her worried thoughts were ultimately preventing her from finding joy and peace in His presence.
What about you?
Is this season filled with to-do lists, and relationships to manage, bills to pay, protocols to be followed? Is your mind “worried and upset about many things”?
You know, hundreds of years before Jesus’ birth, the prophet Isaiah spoke about the promised Messiah. Here is what he said:
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.
One of the names Isaiah used to describe Jesus is “Prince of Peace” and he said that the peace that Jesus brings will never end.
So let’s invite Jesus to bring His peace into our lives and hearts and minds this season.
Some questions to ponder with a friend:
- What made you feel worried, upset or anxious over the last 24 hours?(Share out loud…even if it feels silly! Sometimes when we hear out loud what is consuming our thoughts it takes the power out of it!)
2. When do you feel the most peaceful and at ease in your mind?
This song by Hillsong is called “Peace has Come” – and it reminds us that we don’t have to wait until a magical time in the future for peace in our lives.
Peace is already here in the person of Jesus. Now.
So after listening, spend some time praying for a slowing in your mind to experience the peace of Jesus in this season.
And if you’re with someone – give each other the gift of praying for one another!
Day 3: Slowing Your Mouth
Read Luke 7: 36-50
The most common comment on my report cards growing up was that I talked too much. Some teachers said it more nicely than others – “Melissa is overly enthusiastic when sharing her thoughts and ideas”, others were a little blunter and just kicked me out of the class when they got tired of me “sharing” those ideas.
Though my quick tongue has served me well at times, it’s also contributed to misunderstanding and hurt more times than I can count.
I’m learning that to listen and really connect with people and with Jesus I need to reign it in.
In our passage today we find Jesus sharing a meal with some Pharisees when an uninvited guest showed up. This guest, described as a “sinful” woman, was looking to be in Jesus’ presence to experience his warmth, forgiveness, acceptance and love.
Instead of pleading her case, or defending herself from the Pharisee’s accusations and disgust she let her actions – not her mouth – do the talking.
What could that mean for you, especially in this season of advent?
In the account of the story of Jesus’ arrival on earth 2000 years ago there is another women who, instead of speaking, chose to revel in the awe of God incarnate quietly.
It says that after a grueling journey, labour & delivery, a newborn son swaddled in her arms while angels and shepherds and livestock rejoiced Jesus’ mother “..Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” (Lk 2:19)
Today, let’s slow our mouths and listen for what Jesus has to say to us through this listening prayer exercise. You can do this alone, or with a friend or your family. Then share what you’ve heard!
- Begin by sitting with both your feet on the floor. You may or may not want to have instrumental music playing softly, but silence would be ideal.
- Spend 2 minutes concentrating on your breathing. Try to be fully present, and each time your mind becomes distracted just gently come back to thinking about your breathing. You may want to count, or whisper something like “Jesus, come”.
- Invite the Lord to speak to you. The Bible says that “The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him. It is good that he waits silently . . . Let him sit alone and be silent” (Lamentations 3:25,26,29 NASB)
- Ask Him to be gracious and good to you by eliminating the distracting thoughts and worries that often plague your mind. Ask him to help you be silent (if you struggle with this) so that you can hear from him.
- Wait quietly. Trust the thoughts and ideas that come. You’ve invited the Holy Spirit to speak, so you can trust He will.
If you are finding your own distracting thoughts creeping in write them down on a scrap of paper and return to your silence. Be gentle with yourself.
Do this for as long as you want.
- Thank God for this time with him. If you heard something from Him write it down and save it. It is his gift to you this Christmas.
If you didn’t, don’t worry! This is a practice and if you are more accustomed to speaking than listening in prayer (like me!) this is a new, strange phenomenon. Perhaps you may want to start incorporating listening prayer more regularly to how to do this.
Day 4: Slowing your body
Read Luke 11:37-40
Now more than ever, we understand the need to wash our hands don’t we? I have a 3 year old nephew who could do instructional videos – he’s so thorough it’s adorable.
But Jesus, when being invited over to dinner this time, went straight into relaxation mode, reclining at the table before washing his dusty, dirty hands.
What’s that about? Does Jesus not care about germs?
It seems to me that Jesus knew He needed to wash His hands, but He decided that this was a good time to teach about another important element of His upside down kingdom.
Right actions are only righteous when they come from a clean heart.
We can scrub and clean and serve and do but if it doesn’t come from a transformed heart then it will be tainted by our own motives, our own desire for glory and honour and credit rather than to truly bless others. All the doing can make us bitter and irritable and judgemental and unkind otherwise.
How much of this season is about doing for you?
Shopping and baking and hosting (maybe only virtually this year) and decorating can feel like a huge burden if it isn’t coming from an authentic generous heart.
How do we not only manage the outside of our lives, but also keep the insides clean so that whatever we do it is life-giving and not life-draining?
Like I said before, Jesus’ ways are upside down.
And I think at least one way he wants us to clean our insides is by actually slowing down to rest.
Which seems nuts! How do we do all these things we need to by not doing?
The good news is, that’s His miracle to perform. Not ours. We just get to trust Him with it.
When Mary was pregnant she went and stayed with her cousin Elizabeth for about three months. It doesn’t say what she did there – and I’m sure she didn’t rest the entire time. But while she was there Luke records the song of her heart that I believe welled up in her as she rested and waited on the birth of her baby boy. (Luke 1:46-56)
Imagine what God can birth in you this season as you carve out time to rest in His presence as we wait to celebrate the arrival of Jesus.
Questions to ponder (with a friends/your family!):
- When you look at the month before you have you prioritized rest? How can you revise your calendar to make sure you’ll be keeping both your outside and your inside clean?
- What are some things you find restful and life-giving? Discuss with your family/people you have plans with to see how you can rest together!
Day 5: Slowing the Season
Read Luke 24:13 – 35
Everything about this encounter with Jesus makes me smile.
Two disciples, walking with Jesus, not recognizing Him at all. Totally consumed by their own lives and losses.
Jesus explaining that everything they’ve ever been taught about God and His love for them was actually made complete in Him. They didn’t need to look for any other answers anymore.
That they had no idea they were WITH JESUS for the entire 3.5 hour walk!
When Jesus “acted as if” he were going farther, but seemed to be easily convinced to change his plans to have dinner with them. By now we know Jesus loves a good meal.
And then the best part – that while they were eating with Jesus their eyes were opened and they truly saw Him – their risen Saviour and friend.
I love that Jesus wasn’t in a hurry that day – that he walked and talked and ate and explained. I can imagine that for the rest of their lives those 2 disciples relived and replayed that day over and over again in their minds and told everyone about what they had experienced.
I believe that is what Jesus wants for us this Christmas season.
A life-changing encounter with Him as we walk and talk and eat and savour all that Christmas season is.
Have you ever realized that even the Christmas “story” is a slow one? All of our nativity scenes have the Wise Men visiting the stable with their gifts but actually historians and theologians don’t know exactly when they met Jesus. Some believe it could be as early 10 days after he was born, others are sure they didn’t meet Jesus until he was probably 2 years old!
Regardless of the actual date, I think we can agree that Christmas and our time with Jesus is meant to be slowly savoured.
A question to ponder and discuss with your family/friends: What does your calendar look like this December? How can you slow down to savour the season?
Let’s finish this week with an imaginative prayer exercise. Again, if you’re comfortable, do this with your people and share what you hear and see!
- Close your eyes.
- Picture something you have planned for this holiday season. It may be watching your favourite Christmas movie, it might be going to church, it might be going for a drive looking at Christmas lights, or baking or shopping.
- Whatever comes to mind, just be in that space. A busy mall. Your kitchen.
- Now look for Jesus. Where is he in that space? Ask for the faith to believe that He is there with you.
If you are having trouble finding him, don’t worry. Ask him to show Himself to you. He’s there. I promise. Be patient…don’t rush.
- If he’s close to you, thank Him for that. If He seems too far away, ask Him to come closer. Or move closer to him if you can.
- Ask Jesus to slow down this moment that you have together. Invite him into whatever activity you were doing. Maybe He can mix the batter and chat with you. Maybe he can stoke the fire in the fireplace while the movie plays in the background. Try to notice all the small things He is doing to show you His delight in being there with you.
- Thank Him for his presence. Ask Him to make you more aware of it throughout each day this advent season. If you have worries or stresses, talk to Him about it. Trust that He loves you so very much and is happy to hear about all your thoughts.
Merry Christmas dear friends! xo