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A Time Apart

(I originally wrote this for my men’s accountability group (at Harpeth). We have been going through Richard Foster’s “Celebration of Discipline” a fantastic study on becoming more equipped to embrace and grow into God’s will. If you read the original version you may have had a hard time getting some of the context.) give this one a go. With interruption our group has been progressing through the Disciplines outlined in the book. Summer is had for continuity. But that might well be a good thing. Our spiritual walk is more akin to a marathon than a sprint. So as we contemplate disciplines; meditation, study, prayer, fasting, simplicity and solitude (so far) we do well to train in them before moving on to the next adventure (discipline). So our group has been weeks now with simplicity and solitude as a backdrop. Going slowly and rehashing is positive. We need not feel derailed by the things that come up but that they allow us more time to consider, to ruminate and meditate on what we have covered, a key aspect is intentionality.

Linda gave me an insight yesterday evening. Seems I picked up some virus that has caused a fever stopping me in my tracks for 3 days. Last night she complemented my restraint in how I was dealing with the imposed restriction that fever brings. For certain I have been more impetuous (nice for ornery) in the past. Some of it may be tiredness but hopefully it is more about properly assessing where I am. I feel better now but health is not mine by divine right and whether I recover well or not the world will most assuredly go on with or without my input. But while I have health (and perhaps as infirmities set in) I need to use my input/influence for God’s purposes.

I checked on Ed (a member of my group) and he called back yesterday, saying he was the old Ed (reference to how he felt, not aspects of his past) but for 2 days he had been very low. His insight was that as we age and encounter setbacks more frequently derailing our self imposed agendas we learn acceptance and accommodation to the current reality. If you are young and reading this, learn by observation of the older ones. Your time will come with years.

That is where the disciplines come alive. Without them we run the very real risk of becoming “warped frustrated old men” (Mr. Potter, It’s a wonderful life). We’ve lived long enough supposing that this world is our home, deep down we know better. Again the disciplines guide us into greater understanding. Solitude, time apart for holy purpose, gives room for meditation and prayer, space for God to speak about what’s really real. But we gotta slow down long enough to see and hear. Do we believe we can hear God, that He desires to speak to us, that He has much he wants to share if we just grant Him space.

Lastly, a word on simplicity. I don’t consider myself a very good model of this discipline. I, like Martha, am concerned with many things. Be it while cleaning a boat, mowing the yard, even working on a car I now find my mind more capable of being attuned to spiritual realities. Granted these are tasks to serve personal ‘needs’ but also they represent necessary preparation for sharing with and hopefully being a blessing to others. Here’s a key, is my time so full that I cannot make myself available to others, if so time to reevaluate. And what other aspects are available in pursuit of simplicity.

“Read not the times, read the eternities” Henry David Thoreau Insights can come from so many places. I’ve admired Thoreau for a long time, his love of walking attuned to nature, his simplicity, his apolitical nature. I will vote against the greater of the perceived evils come November, but how much of my mind do I need to clutter with the daily shenanigans of the talking class. Better is time with a good book, a walk, The good book, family, friends, drinking in a beautiful sunset, hearing good music, visiting a museum. I’ve not turned on a TV since the NCAA Final Four. An adjustment yes but it also reveals another of my crutches or mindless pleasures, yep spectator sports. I didn’t turn it off until after the final four. Not an evil in itself but it can be a tool of imbalanced mindless distraction. Maybe part of the disciplines is gaining the tools to do what I do more purposefully.

Well, I’ve enjoyed the gentle breezes, the woodpeckers, cardinals, black cap chickadees, purple finches, goldfinches et al at my feeder, coffee and neighbor kids playing while composing these thoughts this morning. Good for me and hopefully not a total waste of your time if you read to the end.

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Good words to share, David!! Well put!

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