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Jen Pollock Michel

( author + writer + speaker )

Filtering by Tag: solitude

A Necessary Slowing

I stand in front of the cashier yesterday, panicked momentarily when she asks, "Credit or Debit?" I can't think of my pin, rummage my mental space, and breathe when I remember I had it recorded in my phone for this moment I must have anticipated. I was a week removed from this world of transactions. With the exception of our one night over beers at Gordo's, my friends and I spent the better part of our week's writing retreat disentangled from the normal currencies with which we secure and spend our lives: time and money. There was never, as there almost perpetually is for me in my  routines of everyday life, the sense that either was scarce or running out. The days stretched on endlessly in the best sort of way. And nothing needed to be bought or sold: the exchanges we made were of conversation and prayer.

Our rhythms were unhurried and good. And if solitude does anything, it does this: it gives us the necessary distance for seeing and sensing what it is our "normal" life has become. Mine, I would soon see, was unnecessarily hurried, and I knew it, both when I stepped into new rhythms last Monday and when I re-entered life as it normally is at week's end. The week had been a gentle slowing, a "dialing down" as Dave liked to call it. Our days held only a slight necessary structure: regular meals, prayers before those meals, evenings of sharing laughter and ideas. But we were released from the intense pressure of having to get something done.

Or I should say, the invitation was ours into that freedom, were we to receive it. For some of us (eh-hem), that pressure is hardly external. It's the sound of our own voice and the pressure of our own expectations that weights on us heaviest most days. But five days is even sufficient time to do a bit of quieting of one's own internal murmuring.

It's Wednesday now, and I'm midway into life as normal. The alarm wakes me early, and the day's responsibilities, when I let them, do a heavy sitting on my chest. But I the trick is, I believe now, to bring to bear the rhythms of last week's retreat into this week of work, especially the rhythmic prayer throughout the day, which slows and forces the remembering of just exactly who it was that made this world and sustains its being, whose job it is to give us just the right amount of time for the responsibilities we'll take up today.

A verse from this morning's reading seems especially fitting:

You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.

Revelation 4:11


Come Away with Me

You'll spend less than 10 seconds on this page. For all the good they've done us, our technologies have made us distractible, an entire culture suffering from A.D.D.

I read that the future of travel lies in "black-hole resorts," rooms privileged to offer no internet service. It seems we're running from our screens, taking cover from the constant barrage of information and noise.

Maybe I'm not the only one hungry for quiet.

Photo Credit

Come away with me. These are words with which to begin a New Year.

What might arguably be the most difficult of all spiritual disciplines is the commitment to sit still and pay attention.

One voice has called the world into being, stilled the seas, and healed the lame. A shepherd calls his sheep. But are they paying attention?

Come away with me. These are the words with which to begin a New Year.

What will it mean for you to begin committing some part of your day to attending to the voice of Jesus? What fears keep you from trying? And if you've tried and failed, what distractions have kept you from sustaining the listening? Can it be that you don't yet recognize just how hungry you are to come away? Have you misunderstood this restlessness of your own soul?

Keeping company with Jesus every day has been the most important discipline of my life. I was 16 when someone challenged by to spend 5-10 minutes with Jesus every day for 6 months. The point, of course, is that anything you do for 6 months becomes a habit.

The 5-10 minutes did become the best habit I've ever formed - through college, career and babies - my mornings beginning with coffee and Jesus (and in that order). The method changes and evolves. I don't let myself get stuck with many "have-tos". The only obligation I force myself to meet is reading Scripture from cover-to-cover, usually in the course of a year. I know my propensity for reading what it is I want to hear. I force myself to get into the uncomfortable parts of Scripture, Old Testament and New.

But I also let myself follow curiosities and questions. I keep a prayer journal. And no matter what I'm reading or praying about, I try to stay as authentic as possible, bringing to Jesus who it is I really am, not who I'm supposed to be. You're heard me say it before: I put the bloody guts of it all on the table.

There have been seasons when I've indulged more time for quiet. There have also been seasons I've slept in, gotten busy, and deliberately neglected my well-worn habit. But eventually, I find my way back to the quiet, to the Voice, to stilling myself and listening. I know what it feels like to be rooted.

New habits are impossibly hard, aren't they? Especially when your hair is greying. Here are some suggestions if you want to make keeping daily company with Jesus your new habit this year.

1. Commit a realistic amount of time each day. Don't say you'll pray an hour every day or read three chapters of Scripture. Start small. But do it every day. Seriously. Be a fanatic. Don't skip a day for six months, even if you're falling into bed exhausted.

2. Get a plan. I read the One-Year Bible. I don't always force myself to finish it in a year. But there's something remarkably comforting (and brainless) about not having to choose what I read each day. I think sometimes the most impossible thing about establishing a habit of reading Scripture is not knowing what to read. There are SO MANY plans out there, especially for all your devices (ironic, huh?).

3. Find accountability. Tell someone what it is you want to do. Have them check up on you, beat you, hound you, call you, scream at you, whatever it takes so that you don't give up.

4. Remember your purpose. The real point is hearing Jesus' voice and getting your spiritual guts on the table. Whatever system you choose is or isn't working based on those two criteria. Don't expect fireworks every day. But do expect a growing sense that God is present in your life, attentive to the details of your heart, your family, your desires, your fears.

Come away with me. These are words with which to begin a New Year.