It’s cold right now. I woke this morning to a furnace struggling (unsuccessfully) to keep our house at the thermostat setting. I heard radio reports of people in the Midwest creating banana-hammers by severing the fruit in half and leaving them outside to freeze into solid, durable, nail-pounding tools. It’s really cold.
And while I’m not a scientist in any technical sense of the term, I recall from science class that cold temperatures have something to do with slow-moving molecules. The warmer it is, the faster molecules are buzzing about. When it’s cold, all the tiny things that make up our universe slow down.
That’s how I feel in the frosty conditions, too. I want to slow down, curl up, sip a hot beverage, maybe read a good book. I’m not sure if that’s a hibernation-instinct, or what. But I sure don’t want to be running about; I want a blanket and gentle cushion.
So maybe I was primed to open an unexpected invitation in the mail.
Monday began a new week in the office, and, and as you likely know all too well, there is plenty to do in the new year. As a youth minister regular youth group resumes this Sunday evening, I need to complete my message on Jesus’ baptism for The Gathering youth worship on Sunday morning, high school retreat planning needs to be finished up, summer camps and trips need communicating. There is so much that clutters a to-do list until it feels entirely unachievable. Maybe it was procrastination from that floor-length list, but I started picking through a magazine I received in my office inbox. The front-cover article of Youthworker Journal was entitled “An Invitation to the Slow Club.”
The slow club? I hope that’s a reference to life-pace and not dulled intellectual acuity. I make myself laugh sometimes.
In the article Mark Yaconelli reflects on his work promoting contemplative, restful, unhurried ministry. He claimed that the speed of God’s love is slow: patient, attentive, deliberate. He suggested ministry–and more broadly a faithful life–is receiving and sharing that “slow” love.
But how? Well, it’s not all “don’t watch TV and stop texting so much.” It wasn’t so much a critique of our plugged-in life as it was simple ideas to slow down our life, regardless of our degree of connectivity. I thought I would share:
Walk: if you’re able, walk places you might normally drive. Take a stroll with your spouse or partner or a friend. Notice the beauty and intricacy of the created world all around.
Sit: don’t just occupy a position in space, rest mindfully in a location. Notice what’s going on in a room or in the outdoors. Watch people. Pray with your eyes open. Listen for God.
Read: find a book, or the bible, or a collection of poetry and feast on it. Let it feed your soul.
Eat: take pleasure in the bounty of life. Give thanks for food and friendship. Enjoy a meal with others. Bask in the simple joy of sharing life one bit at a time.
Listen: pay attention to what people around you are saying and doing, really saying and doing. Listen with your heart, not your ears. Listen to the words of colleagues, friends, and family, and sense the words and people speaking them are gifts of a gracious God.
Play: yes, play. Laugh, sweat, holler. Play with children, with friends, with family. Play with your kids. Play with your parents. Play with your spouse or partner. Play.
One of our youth leaders began to take a half hour each week to play with her husband and son. At first this intentional family time was received with a degree of resistance: “really, mom? do we have to?” But then, as if a switch was flipped, play took over. Family ping pong tournaments are now punctuating their evenings. And life is brimming with the joy only unfettered play affords.
Me? Well, I started blogging again. My soul finds rest and joy when I take time to reflect, write, and share my thoughts. But I have to slow down to do so. I have to slow down to that divine pace of love where I can be fully present with myself and others. I have to slow down long enough to let my attention work, to notice the subtleties of life and ministry that are always around me. And when I do, I trust I’ll taste the wonder of God’s love. I think that may be what ministry is really all about: the gentle reminder–to ourselves and to those around us–to slow down long enough to receive God’s love, to be fully present with one another, to notice where love and hope are needed around us.
I hope that our youth ministry can embody that divine pace of love. I hope we are encouraging youth to walk, sit, read, eat, listen, and play so that they can be filled with God’s love and share it with the world around them. I hope I’ll live into that kind of life this year. A slow life. A good life. A life of love.