If you keep the Sabbath, you start to see creation not as somewhere to get away from your ordinary life but a place to frame an attentiveness to your life. ~ Eugene Peterson
Most of the things we need to be most fully alive never come in busyness. They grow in rest. ~ Mark Buchanan
He looked like the actor that played the Marlboro man in those old cigarette commercials: Good looking, squared jawed, and salt and pepper hair. He had the physique of a man who knew his way around manual labor. His face was weathered with crow’s feet lines around his eyes. He had an easy smile—a very likable man.
“What do you do for a living?” he asked.
“I’m a pastor.”
“Really! My best friend is a pastor” he said.
We talked a little about our families, our churches, and our communities. He was interested in my trip last summer on Pacific Crest Trail so I told him about some of those adventures. He said his friend the pastor was easily discouraged and asked if I struggled with discouragement very much. I said that I did from time-to-time.
“I think of Church members as adopted children, but most of them think of me as a foster parent. I expect them to stay in the family, but they are only thinking about staying until they find their true home” I said.
“Wow, I never thought of it like that. I can see why it might discourage my friend so much when folks leave the flock. Makes me glad I’m a farmer” he said as he drummed his fingers on the arm of the chair.
We talked some more about his life, wife, kids and what he wants to do for the Kingdom.
We spent each evening over the next four nights talking about our souls and what God was teaching us about how to care for that part of us that is hidden. Each night we would ask each other what was beautiful about our day and what was brutal about our day. Our conversations ranged from trivial to the profound. We were at this retreat to learn to care for our souls. He confessed that it was hard for him to sit still. Said he was wound pretty tight. A driven man. Type A.
He seemed proud of this temperament.
That wasn’t hard to discern. We were assigned Benedictine work on the retreat and he took the most labor intensive assignment and soon was tracking how much work he got done each day. All the while we were trying to learn how to operate in rhythm like Jesus lived.
One evening he came to our evening discussion and said he didn’t get the ‘live in rhythm’ thing. Said it was very hard for him to accept. We talked about living that way would allow us to be present in the moment and not so distracted about what might happen in the future.
“That all sounds good but I’m not so sure it is as necessary as everyone is making it seem” he said. “I’ve done pretty well in life. I only came here for a little tweaking.”
On the last morning we were together we took the Lord’s Supper. We were instructed to break off a larger portion of the bread than we might need for ourselves and then, as the Lord prompted, go to someone in the group and give them a piece of the communion bread along with a thought, blessings or a prayer.
I went to the Marlboro Man, gave him a piece of bread, and said, “You already know how to care for your soul because you know how to care for the land that you farm. I believe God is telling you to listen to the dirt and learn how to care for the private part of your world. He wants to meet you in the dirt that you love so much. Care for your soul like you care for your soil.”
While I spoke to him these words his eyes flitted around the room when someone walked by with bread in their hands. I said a prayer for him and made to move away to someone else and he said,
“You’re welcome. I wish you peace.”
Being present is very hard for some people. They can’t seem to turn their minds off. I wonder how much they are missing from the shy member of the Trinity. It seems that the only member of the Godhead that is able to command their attention long enough to etch something on to their soul is the thunder God of Sinai. There is so much more to walking with God than the shouts from a mountain. There is the whisper of the still small voice. There is the shepherd’s voice leading me beside still waters. There’s the Father’s voice declaring that I am the beloved. But I have to slow down and turn down the noise in my life to feel his arms around me.
“Lord, make me to lay down in green pastures, lead me beside still waters and restore my soul. Sustain in me a willing spirit. Fill my cup, Lord. I am so easily distracted with what I didn’t get done yesterday and what I have yet to accomplish tomorrow that it is hard for me to sit still and enjoy your company.
And bless Dana—whoever he is.”
I sure wished you lived here so I could go to your church. Your stories are always so interesting and always lead me to examine my spiritual life. Keep up the good work Joe!
My goodness, Robert. What kind words. Thanks for reading and commenting.
Ha! I know who Dana is.