Feeling Frazzled? Frenzied? Stick This in the Back Pocket of Your Wrangler’s.

My grandpa was too old, and I was too young

To buck hay bales in the hot July sun,

So we sat by the truck in a puddle of shade,

And he taught me to weave the balin’ twine braid.

Welcome to my front porch. Campfire coffee’s perking over coals. Prop your feet up and join me gazing at the two hawks soaring in a cloudless, powder blue sky, circling in sync over the freshly planted Spring barley field. They’re in no particular hurry. Neither are we. If Eugene Peterson was with us, he’d say:

“Rescue us from a life in which the wonder has leaked out.”

We both take a Deep Breath of Remember, then swap stories ‘bout things that help us grow in our relationship with the Triune God we both love and serve. Here’s mine:

The balin’ twine braid is simple. You take three strands of baling twine, tie a knot in one end and start weaving the strands by crossing the outside one over the middle one, first left over middle, then right over middle, repeat.

Girls grasp this early as they braid their hair for beauty and practicality. For me, growing up without sisters, it took some training. But by age 12, with this simple routine passed down by my Grandpa Fred, I was creating lassoes, climbing ropes, bridles and halters for my horse, and a myriad of other cool farm-boy stuff.

It’s my go-to activity for remembering. Remembering is the crux of my faith. Ever notice how prominent remembering is on the pages of scripture? David rehearses the wonders and acts of God on behalf of His people repeatedly. So does Jesus. How marvelous it is that God remembers His covenant with us and acts accordingly to save, protect, and lead us through the trials and joys of life as He ushers in His kingdom!

There’s something intimate about remembering. Remembering slows us down. Weaving the balin’ twine braid creates a rhythm that breaks through the seductive pull of frenetic, heart-numbing activity.

We both take a few minutes to braid a foot-long strand of rope and tuck it in our back pocket.

Later, we pull out the intertwined rope, fondly notice wrap by wrap, and practice the healing rhythm called remember. Remember where we really need to go for affirmation. We see our Father wrapping Himself around us, calling us His own, telling us He loves us. We see Jesus wrapping Himself around us, smiling, pouring grace into our wounds like balm. We notice the Holy Spirit delighting in us, talking with us, listening to us, understanding us, and never leaving.

There’s another place to encounter this beautiful rhythm. At the end of each church service, our pastor sends us out with a benediction. We, the congregation, extend our hands to receive a blessing from God. It’s the final movement of God’s liturgy. God Commissions Us.

The benediction varies, but here’s an example:

“May the grace of Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you always.”

A good thing to tuck into your back pocket. Maybe your purse. Or, better yet, your heart.

Photo by Ron Silflow
Here’s another perspective on the Balin’ Twine Braid.

 

Okay to Lament?

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Got things in your life that are raw and painful?  Memories of events?  Unmet deep and legitimate longings?  Patterns of sin?  Loss or absence of a loved one?  Maybe just difficult everyday circumstances that make life feel like ‘wilderness?’  Yeah, me too.  Sometimes it’s simply okay to grieve.  Okay to lament.

Well, I have a friend.  Bill the ‘milker.’  We swap our stories and get alongside each other as we walk our paths, drink our cup.

Every Saturday morning, Bill the ‘milker’ milks the herd.  I show up later to feed them.  Somewhere around the barnyard (or when I was injured and couldn’t work, on my front porch) I will find a gift from Bill.  It’s a handful of the sweetest smelling grass hay that he’s plucked from the feed bunk and fashioned into a knot.  It may be covered with fresh falling snow, soaked in early morning dew, or tucked into a door handle.  I know what to do.  Something he’s already done.  I gently lift it to my nostrils, inhale, and remember.  Remember the Lord’s mercies.  A good thing to do in the midst of lament.

“It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed because His compassion’s fail not.  They are new every morning:  Great is his faithfulness.  (Lamentations 3:22-23)

Deep Breath of Remember (Part 1)

“Pssst, Hey you.”

Halfway to the milking parlor for a 2 AM shift, I stop and gaze up.  Constellations dazzle.

“Hey you, wanna worship?”

“Uh, it’s 2 AM.”

“I know, just checking if you want to worship.”

“Well, I guess so.  Hadn’t really thought about it, but I’m not exactly decked out in my Sunday best.”

“That’s OK.”

“Uh, alright, but it’s not just the muck on my boots and Wranglers, if you’re who I think you are, you know there’s a muck-filled heart in my chest right now.  Kinda disqualifies me, don’t you think?”

“Nope.  That’s what I’m looking for.”

“I gotta hunch I’m hearing the one that spoke that Milky Way over there into being.  Pretty compelling.  But, between you and me, I’m just a messed up, can’t stop sinning cow milker.”

“True, and your reputation as such extends beyond just me and you.”

“Gulp.”

“Take a deep breath.”

I inhale slowly and deeply.  My lungs fill with the biting cold, crisp and invigorating, high elevation Montana, winter night air.

“Now.  Remember!”

“OK, yes go ahead and exhale, but I want you to Remember.”

Unsure of what I was to remember, I waited inside of that brief, peaceful, blissful moment after exhale in which the compulsion to inhale hasn’t kicked in yet.  Something beautiful was going on.  Some sort of gentle movement, a barely perceivable shift, down so deep in my soul it seemed strange.

Gasp!  The urgent need for another breath kicked in.  I didn’t even know I needed it, but it happened with a jolt.  Turns out, I needed it.

I noticed for a short moment a beautiful rhythm.  Inhale life.  Exhale death.  Repeat.  I stumbled on to the liturgy of breathing.  Something initiated from beyond my choosing that is both mysterious and mundane.  Both stimulating and routine.  Whether conscious of it or not, a good thing to get invited into.

Welcome to the dairy.  Hope you like to hear stories.  Stories of Barnyard Liturgy.

Liturgy, like breathing, is less something you do than it is something done to you.  It’s God’s liturgy.  It’s gospel-driven.  He invites.  GOD CALLS US TO WORSHIP.   “Pssst, Hey you.”