Healthy Rhythms pt. 1

“For since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made so that men are without excuse.” Romans 1:20

I’ve been thinking recently about rhythms. God obviously loves a good beat. He spun the earth to the rat tat, rat tat of morning evening, morning evening. Then He threw in some swing with winter spring summer fall, winter spring summer fall. On top of that, He layered 6 days on, one day off, 6 days on, one day off. He sprinkled in the steady repetition of monthly moon phases and tides. One of natures most soothing sounds is the whoosh, whoosh of waves meeting the shore, one after another in a steady rhythm. He threw astronomical bodies into elliptical orbits, almost as if they were dancing with each other. Electrons and quartz rocks pulse so regularly we keep time by them. In our bodies He gives us life with the lub dub of heartbeats and the in and out of our breathing. Animals and women follow reproductive seasons that come and go predictably.  Sex is all about rhythm. When we hold our babies we can’t help ourselves: we rock back and forth to a rhythm only mothers hear. Who doesn’t get sleepy on a boat rising and falling in gentle swells? We clap when we are happy. Some people sneeze in threes. We don’t teach our children to dance. They just know to wiggle and move their bodies in time, as do all people throughout history and across all cultures.

There is a rhythm, an underlying beat woven into the very fabric of creation that speaks of order and harmony. It points to a Creator who loves to clap, dance, move and paint His portrait on the canvas of nature and into the most intimate places in our lives. Everyone sees it. Everyone feels it.

I think about this and begin to wonder about other rhythms in my life. External rhythms of what I do and how I express my faith that determine so much of the quality of my life. Internal rhythms that invite the Creator deep into my soul. I tend to live by a calendar and a schedule, which is sort of rhythmic, but doesn’t feel nearly as life-giving or enjoyable. Could it be that there are some things that fall naturally into an organic and gentle rhythm, like waves on the shore or seasons passing over the course of a year?

Rhythms of rest, study, prayer, disciplines, community. Rhythms in healthy relationships and the practicalities of being a Christ-follower. I’d like to explore this theme with a few blog posts.

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The Dilemma of Saddling A Horse


While I am not a regular horse rider, I have on occasion over the years found myself on a horse’s back. And I’ve learned something that I think even horses know.

A horse reaches its true potential only when it is saddled properly – when it is capable of carrying someone – who knows, loves and wants to go places with him/her.

Getting a horse to wear his saddle properly can be a bit of a challenge, however. I know this because one time I rode a horse whose saddle was too loose. Let’s just say, it didn’t end well for me. I began tilting to the side till I was almost parallel to the ground and then…well, at least the ground stopped the tilting.

I’ve seen a number of folks attempt to saddle a horse and evidently this is a common problem. Most horses don’t want a saddle to fit as tightly as it needs to in order to support the rider. And who can blame them? It squeezes. Evidently, the smart ones  (which, I’ve found, is most of them…) will hold their breath to spread their gut. Then, as they walk away and can relax, the saddle fits looser.

How to solve this dilemma? I’ve seen two strategies. A saddler can repeatedly ram his knee into the horse’s side, forcing them to exhale, while they tighten the straps. The first time I saw this done, it looked exactly like it sounds – harsh. The horse and the person did not appear to have a very personal relationship. It was definitely a working one.

There is another way though.

The saddler can tighten up the saddle as much as it will go…and then stay close and wait. When they hear and see the horse exhale, they pull the straps a bit. Then they repeat this until the saddle fits properly. This method takes a bit more time. It requires the person to be attentive, patient…compassionate. In touch with the horse’s natural rhythms. To be willing to wait till the time is right and not force the issue. And the horse must learn to trust the saddler, that he has her best interests at heart.

Of course I’m painting a picture here of something of how God works in our lives. We, like horses, are created beings with great potential. And that potential must be harnessed. Saddled. For us to go places, we need a rider. And the rider needs a place to sit, a place to be close and in sync with us.

Discipleship is the process where we learn to wear our saddle properly. The spiritual disciplines are ways in which we give God a place to ‘sit’ in our lives. To lead us, to speak to us, to be present with us, to empower us to go places and do things we couldn’t or wouldn’t on our own. When done well, it enables us to become who we were created to be. It brings joy and relationship.

And yet, our first response to the process is usually resistance. We spread our gut and stubbornly refuse to cooperate. We don’t naturally like the squeezing that is required.

Which presents two options to God and the spiritual leaders in our lives, whose responsibility it is to help us learn to wear our saddle. A swift kick in the gut…or a relationship based on proximity, trust, affection and common purpose. In my experience, God almost always uses the gentle method. He even assures us that His yoke is easy and that He is gentle.

I’ve worked in discipleship ministries for a number of years and I’ve seen His people use both strategies. I’ve been the recipient of both. In my experience, banging on people may work for a little while, but it only breeds more resistance. Distrust. And this usually prefaces some sliding and an eventual crash of some sort.

And I’ve had a number of older women come alongside me for a season and love me. Encouraged me to trust them. Our relationship wasn’t always easy, but it always had an element of affection to it. I knew they had my best interest at heart and I was willing to go along with them because of that. They have been some of the most profound influences in my life – they are the reason God sits in my life like He does today.

Discipleship works best from a place of relationship, proximity, trust, affection, gentleness. For both the disciples and the disciple. 

“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matt. 11:29

Sometimes Mothers Get Crushed – A Very Non-Traditional, Somber and Almost Dark Mother’s Day Post

I was pulling up in our driveway one morning when I saw her. A large box turtle. Since we all enjoy the ‘wild kingdom’ vibe of our yard, I got out to take a photo of her to show the kids for later.  As I got close I noticed. The left corner of her shell had been crushed. Either Jeff or I had run over her on our way out in the darkness of morning. She was now dead.

To make matters worse, several almost-done, but still intact turtle eggs had spilled out.

It was an accident and accidents happen. Nature is cruel. Things die all the time and it is a part of life. I try to guard my heart with these truths whenever I’m faced with the reality of suffering and death – almost always unsuccessfully, as in this case. I was moved. And so sad. I took some time that morning to talk with God about what I’d seen and why I knew it was important for me to stop and pay attention.

I don’t know how turtles do motherhood. Because they are reptiles, I suspect they aren’t too attentive or affectionate. But this mother, because of events beyond her control, would not be there for her babies. She’d been crushed.

And from what I know of people, this happens to us all the time. Oh, the mother may not literally die, but because of an accident, because of events beyond her control, because of sin – either hers or the effects of someone else’s on her life – she’s had a weight land on her that was too heavy to bear. It left her wounded. Damaged. Unable to fully do what her babies needed her to do. And those babies had to learn to fend for themselves way too early, perpetuating the line of wounded mothers into the next generation.

Surely you’ve seen this. Probably experienced it. A mother… in a painful, loveless or soul-killing marriage. Broken in the separation from a destructive man. Supporting something very unhealthy, addictive or secret, and not knowing any alternative. Enduring a life burden that is too much for one person to hold. Carrying pain in verbal silence but screaming it within the quality of her relationships. Suffering from a crippling depression or physical struggle. Damaged by her mother, who was damaged also. Wearing soul wounds from abuse, words, disappointment, neglect, trauma and all the other things that were never meant to happen to us in Eden.

The children of mothers like this know. Because the weight of it has crushed them too.

We so rarely get the mother we want. We only get the mother we’ve got. Making peace with that is a major passage of life. It is a passage many never make.

Motherhood is etched on the hearts of most women, calling to us in a visceral way we cannot fully explain. Yet it is this dynamic, how our woundedness has the capacity to wound our children, that has the potential to make a day like today, one of sorrow and not joy. Of fear. Of regret – either for our mothers, or for our children.

My greatest motherhood fear is damaging my beloved children with my own damage. If there was ever a reason for me to cling for dear life to my Healer, to my Jesus, surely this is it.