Parked poolside, in Naples, Florida, in January, John and I were some-kind-of-happy. We’d just received reports of snow at home and here we were in bathing suits! Armed with sunscreen, sunglasses and books, we plunked down for a moment of margin before lunch.
Since we were early, not too many people were by the pool yet. Palm trees waving overhead, I thought to myself, “It just doesn’t get much better than this.”
We dove into our books and all was well….Pretty quickly I heard a very strange sound. Akin to an ultrasound swoosh (Which one would not normally encounter outside…), I thought, “What in the world is that?”
I listened intently again as the noise repeated itself. Looking over to John and across the pool, nothing seemed amiss. Looking over my other shoulder, out toward the bay, I spotted them. Two dolphins, playfully swimming, were a stone’s throw from our chairs!
The swooshing sound was the two of them taking a breath here and there out of their blowholes. Amazing. How did we hear them? Watch this: we were very still, all ears, and could’ve heard a pin drop.
Two weeks ago we discussed at length Psalm 46:10 which says, “Be still and know that I am God.” (See: A Croissant A Day…) We discussed WHY we need to be still, to cease striving in order to manage our margin and the Sabbath.
This week we’ll address listening…because we must be still in order to listen. Mark Buchanan’s book we’ve been highlighting, The Rest of God: Restoring Your Soul by Restoring Sabbath, opens our eyes to elements of listening.
Mark poses this step-on-your-toes question: “If people stop to listen to you, fill-your-name-in-the-blank, to whom are YOU stopping to listen?” Oh dear…
He adds, “Our speaking comes out of our listening. What we say comes out of what we hear. We have to be people who listen, day and night, to God.”
Author Wendell Berry (from our own state of Kentucky!) says in his poem A Purification,
“I confess my sins…
That I have not been happy enough,
Considering my good luck;
Have listened to too much noise;
Have been inattentive to wonders”; (for more on wonders, please see Wander in the Wonder…)
John and I happened upon this leaf, heart-shaped no less, along a walk over the weekend. I brought it home to show you this wonder from our wandering…
And the last sentence of Wendell Berry’s poem further confesses, “Have lusted after praise.”
Mark says after the poem, “I confess my sins; I have done these things also.” To which I add, “Yessirree, me too…again and again and again.”
While we’re basking in confession (!), let’s look at another helpful Scripture: Ephesians 4:29 says we should “not let any unwholesome talk come out of our mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
One more amazing verse is James 1:19 which tell us to be “slow to speak, quick to listen and slow to become angry.” Bet you’ve heard the saying that it’s no coincidence God gave us two ears and one mouth.
I am so busted on the topic of listening. Inevitably, the wheels in my brain are turning while someone is talking, telling me something, while I’m already formulating my response. Truth is, I’m only half-listening. Anyone else do this???
Mark Buchanan diagnoses this as a control issue. (This just keeps getting better, doesn’t it??!!!) He claims he meddles in too many things. (One-two punch!)
He says, “Part of Jesus’ regimen for me…is holding my tongue. So I hold my tongue and realize how the world hums right along without my commentary on it.”
Mark adds, “There is a deeper lesson here. God is teaching me quietness of heart…
Quietness allows room for God to speak or to be silent.
Both are gifts.
Quietness stops crowding the Holy Spirit, elbowing aside God’s gentle presence.
The end of striving makes room for dwelling.”
Proverbs 1:5a adds a benefit to listening: “Let the wise listen and add to their learning.”
As we wrap up our time on margin and The Sabbath, let’s look at the Ten Commandments. They are found in Exodus Chapter 20. The fourth commandment, all about Sabbath, begins with a frequently used word in the Bible: Remember…
Exodus 20:8 says, “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in yourtowns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”
It’s my prayer we may all be more conscience of managing our margin which will hopefully translate into observing the Sabbath. Remember we talked about how margin helps your health and well-being? (See Come With Me to France…Part 1 of 4)
I pray we may remember to:
Wander with wonder …
as God so desires for us.
One last shot of a picture of margin…the beach! This was taken in Fort Lauderdale, FL this past March. Enjoy…
I’ve only shared a handful of a multitude of helpful thoughts by Mark Buchanan in his beautiful book, The Rest of God. I recommend you perhaps have some moments of margin reading a chapter here and there in his book. You will be blessed!
If you’d like more information on margin, I wrote another series about beating busyness, which dealt a great deal about margin last year. Here are the links:
Remember, all this is a process, not a quick fix.
Do not be discouraged.
Please be enthused to challenge yourself to find the time to manage your margin.
‘Til next time!