Three Years of Rest #2: The Lost Art of Pondering

IMG_1677Are we losing the ability to ponder?

I think we are. Life in the 21st century is busy, and incredibly noisy. Even when we aren’t glued to the screen, television blares in the background of our homes. Our smart phones call out to us all day long, telling us where we need to be and who is trying to get in touch with us. We have constant electronic access to the non-stop party of social media. We willingly risk a traffic ticket by reaching for our phones while waiting for a red light to turn green, because we feel the urge to fill even those 30 seconds with something, anything. It’s as if we were afraid of being alone with our thoughts.

All of this is toxic to the art of pondering. It takes time to ponder, and not just any time. Silent time, contemplative time, significant time, are required. That kind of time doesn’t happen by accident.

God’s word is clear on the subject, and in many ways counter-cultural in our day. Psalm 4:4 tells us to ponder in our hearts, on our beds, and to be silent. In Psalm 143, David ponders the work of God’s hands. Mary treasured the events of the birth of Christ, “pondering them in her heart” (Luke 2:19).

There is no doubt about it – God likes us to think, to contemplate, to meditate. He loves it when we take time to connect the scattered dots of our lives, to try to make sense of them in the light of His goodness. He wants us to think deep thoughts about Him, to turn down the noise and recognize His presence and His work in us and around us.

He is honored when we take to heart the advice of the old hymn: “Ponder anew what the Almighty can do if with His love He befriend thee.”

As I start my fourth year in the diligent pursuit of God’s gift of Sabbath rest, I find myself as motivated as I was in the Fall of 2011 – in some ways even more so. I began this pursuit in the hope that I would enjoy and benefit from the rest itself, and I have. But I didn’t anticipate how delightful it would be to see pondering become a regular part of my life. I’m surprised at how wonderful it is to turn down the noise, set aside the craziness, and let my thoughts flow in the direction of the God with whom I walk.

I didn’t realize how much I missed the ability to ponder until I intentionally set aside time do it. And when I did, I wished that I had started sooner.

Can I invite you to commit to the art of pondering? It will require you to make some changes, to become intentional, to turn off the TV and the phone, to close a door, to open your Bible, take a drive, go for a walk. But I guarantee you will find this a small price to pay in comparison to what you will receive.

Asaph said to God, “I will ponder all Your work, and meditate on Your mighty deeds” (Psalm 77:12). Wouldn’t it be great to be able to say it with him?

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About Sabbath Thoughts

My name is Mike Gaston. I am a former missionary, a Shepherding Pastor at Heights Church in Prescott, AZ, a happy husband, a spoiled father of two daughters, a proud grandfather, and a recently-convinced pursuer of the benefits of intentional, regular, contemplative, Christ-centered rest. This blog will allow me to share thoughts about Sabbath, as well as thoughts about God and the Christian life that come out of my restful Sabbath moments.
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7 Responses to Three Years of Rest #2: The Lost Art of Pondering

  1. Bill McNeil says:

    I have visions of Rodin’s famous sculpture – The Thinker – A casting of which sits in front of the Detroit Art Museum on the campus of my Alma Mater(’71), Wayne State University.

  2. Holly Rogers says:

    I feel like I just got a Gibbs head smack! Thanks for the thoughts and the challenge – accepted!

  3. Thanks for the reminder!!! I just caught myself thinking today…why haven’t I been sitting outside just thinking while I enjoy the cool fall weather?

  4. Cris says:

    This blog (sent by my friend, Dave Lewis, who baptized me in 1976) was an answer to prayer. I’ve just become a Sabbath keeper, following gentle nudges and an invitation from the Spirit. In the last 5 weeks, I’ve grabbed the Lord’s hand, trusting Him to lead me through this great Unknown.
    Before I started, I talked to a Jewish/Christian friend who has kept Shabbat for years. She was very gracious- “Don’t work, don’t go to places that make other people work, it’s a family day, have deeper longer quiet times. Nap. I cook, even though I probably shouldn’t.”
    So the first Saturday, I slept most of the day and read. The second week, I pulled a veggie tray out of the fridge to take to Bible study, and it EXPLODED all over the counter. I heard God’s quiet voice say “Rest from serving.” Okay Lord, good idea. The 3rd day, I spent all day connecting with family and friends via Skype. I live alone, so it was the best way I could make it a “family day.” The 4th day, I was on a camping trip. I read, slept, enjoyed the blue sky and clear water, and talked with my best friend.
    Every week, I do some research on Google about “How does a Christian celebrate the Sabbath?”
    This week, I came across an article on Chabad.org, with a 4-PAGE LIST of things to do to prepare for every Sabbath- everything from get your hair cut, pick up things from dry cleaners, mend clothes, have all laundry clean, folded, put away, sweep and mop floors and vacuum, do an act of charity, have silver polished, send out dinner invitations early in the week….. it was so impossible!! I could NEVER do that. But that is common in the things I’ve read.
    Today is the 5th week, and God lead me to your blog. Such a breath of fresh air- God’s gracious care!! So today, I will PONDER!! Thankfully, that’s easy for me. I’ve been a ponderer since reading Richard Foster’s book on Spiritual Disciplines. Silence comes easily to me, and meditation is natural. So I feel like I’ve been given a double gift today- Direction and JOY!! Thank you! I look forward to receiving your emails on Sabbath rest.

    • Cris, I’m so glad you found the blog helpful. And welcome to the world of regular, intentional, contemplative Christ-centered rest. I’m confident you will find it refreshing, and I’m glad to be of service as you explore sabbath. Blessings on you!

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