Tag Archives: rest

Sometimes the window is empty

Sometimes the lights are on but there isn’t anything to sell.

Sometimes, you catch the store between displays.

Sometimes an empty window lets you fill in what matters.

Sometimes you just need to let eyes rest.

Sometimes the blank space before the next onslaught gives perspective.

Sometimes even the mannequins need to rest.


My advent ebook is now available as a downloadable pdf, advent2008, and as a digital book on yudu.


creative tension

There is pressure that is deadly. There is stress that kills. We all know that.

There is, on the other hand, pressure that is, well, sheer music.

A piano has 88 keys. A piano has 228 strings (give or take). Those strings are under tension. They are built that way. That’s how the noise becomes music.

When a pianist presses a key, a felt-covered hammer hits the one, two, or three strings that are tuned to the same pitch, and there is a note.

There is pressure on the strings. There is pressure on the tuner to get the pitches precisely right. There is pressure on the pianist to get the notes right.

The result is music for the rest of us to delight in.

  • Sometimes we have to bring the tension down. Tim Walker talks about throwing away times from your to-do list.
  • Sometimes we have to bring the tension up.
  • Sometimes we have to find an outlet for the pressure before the strings break.
  • Sometimes we have to ask for help. (What becomes clear to everyone but us is when the strings or the tuning or the notes aren’t working.)
  • Sometimes we have to talk to the Piano Maker about why there needs to be so much pressure.
  • Sometimes we need to relax into the music. Nancy Swanson talks about letting go.

I’m not sure what the answer is for your piano right now. But between now and the end of the year, I pray that you’ll have time for tuning and practice and delight.

how much white space in your book?

Richard Swenson talks about margins. Not the stock kind. The paper kind.

He says, look at the white space on a page in a book. It helps you read the book.

Take it a step further. Look at how much white space shows up on the page in an ebook.

In our books we want the space, the room to think and reflect and write our own meaning.

So why is it that we put so little margin in our lives?

We write right up to the edges of the pages, trying to get as much data on every page, into every part of every page, as we possibly can. Our work and our families and our futures and our dreams and our obligations each get 100% of our attention all the time.

Which means that nothing gets our full attention.

Recently I was running sound for an event. It was easy. The only real need for attention were the four times when someone new walked up onto the platform to be interviewed by the speaker. I needed to turn on the extra microphone.

The first time, we missed a few words. The second time, the speaker had to ask about the mic. The third time, I was close. The last time, I got it right.

The first time, I was thinking about a text to Nancy. The second time, I was looking at an email. The third time, I had to decide to pay attention. The last time I had closed the computer.

If there isn’t enough white space in the book you are writing with your time, your life, your attention…if there isn’t enough in mine…maybe readers will give up, lacking the energy to process everything.


The kitchen sink

I should be putting a new faucet on our kitchen sink. I changed the cartridge and the leaking stopped a little. Yesterday it started spraying almost as much by the handle as out of the spout. (Not constantly, mind you, but if the handle was aligned just wrong.)

Tonight we bought a new faucet. At 8:45, I started taking things out of the cabinet. At 8:50, I decided that I didn’t really feel like starting into a project which could last longer than my patience. So I came to write.

Now I’m discovering that everything but the kitchen sink is running through my head. The list of things to do. The fatigue from the things I’ve been doing. The convergence of oughts.

And in the middle of all this, I’m trying to figure out why it is that I can’t write a simple post and wondering what’s wrong with me.

You know the feeling, too. You cannot do the task at hand and you are convinced that you are a failure, that your brain is falling apart, that you don’t measure up, that God doesn’t love you.

Let me tell you the truth.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with you.

Nothing that isn’t wrong with every mortal.

You are exhausted. No one with that schedule can think clearly. No one, after teaching that many times in one day can be expected to put together two coherent thoughts the next day. No one, after getting no sleep last night because of kids waking up, can react with calmness and clarity to waiting in line for poor customer service. No one, after trying to solve every problem for the past three months, could remember even a two item “to do” list.

You are highly connected. No one with that many friends, acquaintances, requests, feeds, and comments can be expected to scale it without slamming into a wall or two.

You are caring. You have decided that someone has to be the adult and you are the one. But being the adult is pretty thankless and so you will, without a doubt, have doubt.

You have actually done something. I know you. You have forgotten the six things that you accomplished yesterday. You are so used to moving on to the next event, the next project, the next item that you can’t accept the fact that you did get something done.

Because we are juggling everything AND the kitchen sink, we don’t have the time to remember that they aren’t all made to be juggled.

But this isn’t a post that says, “stop trying to do everything.” Because our response to those posts is to say, “See, I really am a failure, I am even failing at success.”

Instead, get up from the chair, go into the bathroom, look in the mirror, and say, “You look tired. You deserve to be exhausted. Go to bed.”

This sink will still be there in the morning.

But you might be able to turn the wrench without stripping the threads and making the leak even worse.

take a break, would you?

It happened again. I got a big project done. Not big by most standards, but it’s the test of a communication project for work. If it works, it will help us. And it was on my “by the end of the month” list and it was at the top of my “get it done today” list.

And at the end of a long day I hit send on the email.

And I walked down the hall.

And I walked back toward my office and thought, “what will be in the next edition?”

No break, no rest, no celebration. Just on to the next one.

And even when I stopped that train, I started thinking about the posts I could be writing tonight. Or the other things on the list. Or….

I understand all the work we have to get done. I understand that you have way more than I do. I understand that you have so much to get done before ____.

But you know, when we get stuff done, we need to be glad, to be relieved, to take more than a minute.

So I’m going to hit publish and go sing. And later? Make some tea. Or some other ritual.

Because we need breaks, too.


Wishful thinking

I picked up a book that was close at hand this morning. The author, John Ortberg, wrote about talking with a friend, looking for spiritual direction. After describing telling the friend what was happening in his life, John writes,

What did I need to do, I asked him, to be spiritually healthy?

Long pause.

“You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life,” he said at last.

As I was thinking about that response, I laid the book down and began to laugh at the cover of the book. According to the sticker, I could get the life I’ve always wanted for 30% off.

I wish that was true. I would rather not have to think about 100% effort, 100% attention, 100% devotion. I would love to have the life I’ve always wanted at a discount. But I think it doesn’t happen that way.

The challenge for me, for today, is that I have had three separate prompts this morning about slowing down. And just like getting things done takes 110% effort, the process of slowing down takes 100% effort. It takes ruthless elimination. And that’s hard on a day that I have to spend out of the office, with a meeting in the evening, and a project for Hope. And I know that I should give you an amazon link to the book, which would come by adding it to my store.

But you can find it yourself if you want.

Because I need to eliminate something today.

Happy Monday.

time is hard to take

When I started blogging in earnest,  just over two years ago, I was talking about time:

What counts as Sabbath rest? For a pastor, it isn’t whatever it is thathappens on Sunday, since, while energizing, that certainly isn’t resting. But is in just “not going to the office”?

If I get a call from the office, does that mean that the whole day doesn’t count or only a part of it?

If I work on the insulation in the crawlspace which hasn’t been done for 3 years, does that violate sabbath or is that actually bringing a sense of rest to the “to do” list?

What about writing a blog entry, does that count or is that working as well?

If I try to pray and I fall asleep, is that a problem?

Obviously, the sabbath is about giving God time…and the silence people that I read would say that sleeping is okay, and time with family is okay. But what about the office call…when it helps get someone money for a funeral trip…but which could have been planned for…but which only took a few minutes on the phone…

And what about the writing?

I finally got the crawlspace insulation done, a couple months ago (which means it took me five years), but I’m still struggling with rest and work cycles, with keeping peace, with balancing listening and speaking.

Tonight has illustrated the challenge well for me. I had the opportunity to be quiet, after the meetings, after the conversations, after the emails. It’s the night before a potentially busy week, with plans for Saturday in flux. It’s been a weekend with two times of teaching (with the accompanying preparation). Tomorrow night I’ll be here for another meeting which, while wonderful (really), is still time. And so tonight, this quiet evening, should have been a perfect time for grabbing a book, grabbing a Bible, grabbing a cup of tea, and sitting and reading and listening.
Instead, it has been hard to take the time. I have in me, apparently, a drivenness. It is difficult to stop and listen, to be at peace.
Ironically, it is easier to confess to you my inability to stop than it is to just stop.
Is is possible that there is in the confession a desire to receive compassion, empathy, understanding…from you? I mean, you know exactly what I’m talking about. You are, as I am, a part of a culture which, whether inside or outside church, finds stopping difficult. We feel as though we must be productive in our work, in our rest, in our play, in our wasting of time. If we can’t do something, we must at least create the facade of busyness.
And it is true, as I said, inside the church and outside the church.
No wonder those inside the church wish that we were outside, where we didn’t have all these church activities and obligations for niceness and limits. No wonder those outside the church wish, at times, they were inside, believing in something that matters, no matter how delusional.
What if, however, God were to say, come here, weary friends, and I will give you rest? I mean, if God really were the creator of everything and if that God, who had the capacity to squish us like a bug (or zap us with lightening), actually said, just rest, wouldn’t that be reason to rest?
And if we could and did, wouldn’t that be, well, time well spent?
Two years of this and I’m still trying to understand.