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Monk in the World Guest Post: Nicole Keisler

I am delighted to share another beautiful submission for the Monk in the World guest post series from the community. Read on for Nicole Keisler’s reflection titled Rhythms of Life.

Everything here takes time.

Even a simple task of washing dishes seem to grow into an event; part of a daily ritual that is as much a part of life here as the rising and setting of the sun.

Make the not-so-long-walk to the “kitchen.”  Fill the basin. Carry the water. Wash the dishes. Rinse. Then rinse again.

As I slowly wash off the remainders of yesterday morsels in the lean-to that is the scullery, I am aware that I am not bombarded by a stream of constant thought of what to do, and then what to do after that.  I find instead that my ear is catching a rhythmic pattern of the rain water that had gathered on the corrugated iron sheets overhead and was now adventuring through a break in the metal, land with a constant tam ti tam on the base of an overturned aluminum pot that had been left previously by a fellow dish washer.  I listen to its music as the after-rain breeze of this equator bordering village pushes gently through the tall, wheat colored Kenyan grasses.  Despite my preconceived notions, the weather here surprises me and verges on cool, making me grateful for the long sleeved chambray that I don.  The rhythm of the pot changes to a ti ti tam and I notice a base line as yet another pool overhead finds its way straight to the red tinged mud surrounding the lean to.  I hear the song of the birds with the iridescent blue wings and rust colored breast.  I am fully present in this moment, listening to the sound of song erupting all around me, these rhythms of life that capture and enrapture me.

I wonder: have these songs been here the whole time? Maybe not this particular one, inspired today by the wind and rain, but the songs of winds blowing through dried reeds and ripe maize stalks, the songs of red soil on metal and stone as the currents of the day relocate it to a nearby path or perhaps a field, the song of the distant Mombasa/ Nairobi highway and the motorbikes and taxis and buses and freight trucks make their way to and fro, busy little ants scurrying between the bustling colonies.

As I appreciate the song and remain present I realize that these tasks that slow me, that “take” me from whatever “more important” activity I can fill my time with, are not TAKING time at all. Rather they are time re-orienting, time appreciating. These things that cause me to slow my pace and move with intentionality and purpose are more time giving than time consuming.

It causes me to reflect on what the Message translation describes in Matthew 11:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace . . . ”

No one tells you how uncomfortable these “unforced rhythms” can be.  They sound so alluring until you are fetching water, and it seems like all you have accomplished was retrieving the water and in the end brushing your teeth.  When you come from a time oriented, task driven culture, unhurried rhythms feel unnatural and, initially, wasteful.

There is a better, more efficient way to do this! we exclaim. And in our rush to make more time available we find that we simultaneously fill it with more, more, more! Until we are exhausted and wondering why there is no time for anything.

But this unhurried rhythm that sounds and feels so wasteful, this one that Jesus invites me, a weary and tired sojourner, into is exactly that: wasteful. By all appearances it will go against the grain of human nature to busy ourselves so that we feel productive and fruitful. To carve out time for stillness, mindfully present of His Presence, to allow a clearing of the mental pollution as the thick fog of thought dissipates, revealing a reality that was once unrecognizable but now suddenly and beautifully clear . . . And suddenly there is time to breathe and simply BE.  This “takes” time in the sense that it will not happen immediately. But it gives time back as I am able to connect more with people along my unhurried path; as I discover holy thoughts and dreams and desires lost under the weight of obligatory business; as I commune in the stillness of my God that desires to know me and be known by me.  Jesus invites me to waste my time and and even my very life, that I may gain it back and even more abundantly so.  This upside down kingdom principal that takes me forward as I willingly fall backward into the arms of unforced rhythms of grace redeems time seemingly lost when I submit to the unhurried stride of my Rabbi.

It remains a process for me: unlearning busyness and embracing unforced rhythms. At times it is enjoyable. Other times it is frustrating to the point of outright boredom and defeatism.  But it is in the learning, this process of training my mind and heart to live out of fullness in The Infinite that I am discovering freedom, rest, connection with God and self and others, and in fact even more time than what I once thought was wasted and lost.  Indeed, time has been redeemed, as all things are, in the unforced rhythms of grace.  THESE are the rhythms that beckon to all of us, inviting us to yielded, unhurried living leading to full days and full hearts; teaching us that to gain means that first we must lay down so that we may have open hands to embrace every good and perfect gift our Father wants to bestow upon us if only we will make time to receive.  THESE are the rhythms of LIFE.

image1Nicole Keisler is a nomad currently embracing the unhurried “art of being” while traveling a spiritual highway from South Africa to Israel. She is a wife, mother, daughter, lover, dancer, painter, and contemplative, song-writing her way through the nations. She is on the move in North Africa.

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