Happy Ash Wednesday, Everyone!

 

At least…as happy as a holiday can be where someone smears ashes on your head and says “remember, you are dust, and to dust, you will return.”  What a strange “celebration,” but in some weird way, I totally dig it

 

Yesterday was Mardi Gras! Which means all of you that went eating, partying, and staying up late probably woke up today to the start of a 40-day fast from sodas, chocolate, meat, or TV (or you may be like my brother and choose to fast from…well…fasting).

Instead of using Lent as a reason shed some pounds or overcome your small sugar addiction, what if we did something that was a sacrifice, but actually paid huge dividends for us spiritually?

 

What if in choosing to give up something, we gained much more than just a slimmer waistline?

 

This Lent, I and some of my reader friends (that’s you guys) are committing to giving up our time and our attention. For the next six weeks, we will be participating in regular pauses throughout the day to connect with God for just a few minutes at a time, a few times a day.

 

We are doing the Seven Sacred Pauses.

 

Now, rather than overwhelm you by asking you to stop and turn to God seven times every day from this day forward, I think it’s best if we ease into the practice. After all, habits build upon one another, so for the sake of actually seeing this thing through and discovering some real spiritual growth, I will only be introducing one a week with each week building upon the last.

 

You  may be asking, “what the heck are the Seven Sacred Pauses?”

 

It is simple. The Seven Sacred Pauses are a way of tuning into God throughout the entire day in very simple, guided moments of pausing and paying attention.

It has grown and morphed over the years into several different forms. Some call it the Daily Office, some call it the Canonical Hours or Liturgy of the Hours. They all vary in form, but essentially they have the same goal:

 

To stop existing on autopilot through our busy, tiring, daily lives and give just a little bit of ourselves to God, for only a few moments.

 

The Seven Sacred Pauses have been a huge part of my life, and have really helped me see and encounter a living, loving God in every aspect of life;

especially in the boring, frustrating, difficult day-to-day struggle of going to work, paying the bills, and living to work another day.

 

It never fails to bring grace, peace, and purpose to anything I do, even if it’s just stocking the shelves of Costco.

 

So, without further ado, here is the first of the Sacred Pauses

(it’s really the second but we’re skipping the one that occurs in the middle of the night because, to be honest, I’m way too lazy and tired for that right now!):

 

Pause at Dawn

 

The Dawn pause is one of my favorites.

 

It is the practice of celebrating the early morning hours, which I know sounds like torture to some of you.

 

With the pause at dawn, before we are tempted to rush headlong into our to-do lists and ALL the “have tos” this new day brings, we have an opportunity to stop, breathe, and remember the beauty of light, the gift of warmth, and the promise of another day to experience true, everlasting life.

I believe it is no coincidence that with the rising of the sun, we have a fresh new opportunity to meet and receive life from the Son, and I think it is paramount that we do so every morning.

 

According to Macrina Wiederkehr’s book, Seven Sacred Pauses, the themes for the morning breath includes:

  • Praise and resurrection
  • Joy and delight
  • And the coming of the light

 

One of the most impactful parts of Wiederkehr’s book for me is when she discusses the interplay between light and dark.

 

It is easy to fall into dualistic categories and view the light as good and dark as bad, but the truth of our world is that light and dark are not actually in opposition to one another!

 

In fact, the darkness of night is a perfect companion to the day and a good friend to our sanity. If it weren’t for the dark, we would not find the rest our bodies, our minds, and our souls desperately need in order to live life well.

So not only is the Dawn pause a celebration of the light, but it is an opportunity to express gratitude for the rest and peace we experience through the night, and to see that everything in our world that was created by God has a place at the table.

The early dawn hours are merely the time when the dark “makes way for morning light,” and being awake for it allows me to “join in the dance of creation” (Wiederkehr 47).

 

And as the dark recedes and submits to the light, the dawn pause is also an opportunity to let our past give way to the present day. Whether successes or failures, joy or sadness, anger or peace, yesterday had its place, but it is now gone, and we cannot get it back. So each dawn we stop to look forward to the great possibilities that only this day could provide.

 

It is a perfect opportunity to experience the new life of Jesus, simply by speaking and affirming to ourselves that we will pay attention an receive the opportunity God is giving us.

 

So what do you need this day?

 

What are you needing to “wake up to?”

 

Is it a day where you need peace in the storm?

Hope instead of despair?

Forgiveness for others? Perhaps for yourself?

 

Each morning for the next 6 weeks, let’s commit to God, to ourselves, and to one another to wake up seeking God’s resurrection in our own lives and attitudes on this new day!

 

Here are my favorite prayers from the Seven Sacred Pauses by Macrina Wiederkehr and from Common Prayer for Ordinary Radicals. (You can find these books here to give you more guidance and more depth into the practice of pausing).

 

Seven Sacred Pauses:

 

“O Light of God…

Anointed by Your morning light, I lift my spirit to receive the gift of this new day. Open my eyes to the beauty that surrounds me that I may walk through this day with the kind of awareness that calls forth grateful living. In all of creation, let me see the brightness of Your face. Shine in my heart and on my life, filling me with joy, creativity, hope, and laughter. Draw me into the radiant glory of Your presence and into the small lights of those with whom I live and work. Inspire me to take time for those who are discouraged. May I live with the kind of presence that enables others to feel at home. Great Dawn of God, hear my prayer.”

 

Read  Psalm 19, 95, or 147

 

Common Prayer for Ordinary Radicals:

 

These prayers are liturgical, meaning one person would pray the normal text and the congregation would all pray the bold words together. Since I mostly do this alone, I read the normal text and imagine all Christians dead or alive praying the bold texts with me. It really helps me feel like I am not alone in my desire to love and serve God this day. It reminds me I am part of the greatest team throughout all of history, and that they are in it with me.

 

O Lord, let my soul rise up to meet you

As the day rises to meet the sun.

 

Glory to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit,

As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever

Amen.

 

Come, let us bow down and bend the knee: let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.

 

(Play a song that reminds you of God’s goodness and love, or you can purchase the book and use the songs list they provide)

 

In our lives and in our prayers: may Your kingdom come.

 

(Read a psalm)

 

In our lives and in our prayers: may Your kingdom come.

 

(Read from scripture. They recommend a passage from the old and one from the new testaments. I like to use whatever I happen to be reading currently, or it is always good to use a daily reading guide. They have one for you in the pocket edition of the book)

 

In our lives and in our prayers: may Your kingdom come.

 

(Now spend some time praying for others. You can go through a list if you like, but I prefer to pray for the 3-5 people that come to mind first or the most prevalently. There is no right or wrong way to pray for others, as long as you are praying for God and His love to bless them, friend or enemy).

 

(Recite the Lord’s Prayer. I prefer to rewrite the Lord’s prayer in my own words so it comes from a place of genuine longing for God instead of simply going through the motions)

 

Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, You have brought us in safety to this new day. Preserve us bow by Your mighty power that we may not fall into sin nor be overcome by adversity, and in all that we o direct us to the fulfillment of Your purposes, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

 

May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you: wherever He may send you;

May He guide you through the wilderness: protect you through the storm;

May He bring you home rejoicing: at the wonders He has shown you;

May He bring you home rejoicing: once again into our doors.

 

 

Now, once you are done with your prayers, make sure to spend at least 60 seconds in total silence, just breathing deeply. It is important to remember that you are loved and cared for by God long before you ever accomplish anything. So make sure to live this out by taking a moment to breathe, relax, and feel His presence before you rush into the day.

 

I hope this blesses you.

 


As always, if you would like more direction or have any questions regarding the Dawn Pause, please do not hesitate to contact me personally at kurtis@kurtisvanderpool.com or check out one of the books I have recommended for more guidance, more prayers, and more scriptures to aid you in your pausing.

 

Love you,

 

Kurtis