Why Pondering is For Chaotic Times Too {The Grove: Ponder}

The word ponder holds a special place for me.

Years ago when I had come home from my first summer trip to a foreign land in the name of One who loved all, I needed to write a newsletter to supporters.

I could not adequately express how the weeks had touched me. Changed me. Confirmed the trajectory of my future. What clip art (yes, I’m that old) should I use? I looked at a page of images our organization sent to be cut out and taped into blank spots in our newsletters— what picture could capture the mysterious way you can change forever in a summer? In ways that make no sense, even to you? Of how a heart can explode and be more whole by a world never known before?

I did the only thing I knew to do. I said I was like Mary pondering all these things in my heart.

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This week I pulled out the familiar text from Luke to read it more slowly, to wait and see what Jesus might have for us as a community.

You know the text well. The decree is issued so Joseph takes his pregnant betrothed, Mary, to his home town. The time came and she gave birth, wrapping her son in clothes and placing him in a manger.

Nearby, the shepherds were trying to stay awake, keeping the flocks safe. When, much to their surprise, an angel of the Lord appeared and, picture it with me, the glory of the Lord shone around them. The glory of the Lord in the night sky, the glory of the Lord around sheep, glory bouncing off of rocks, glory up to the angel.

The glory of the Lord.

“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy.”

And without warning a great company of angels appeared. “Glory to God in highest heavens!” Here I wonder what it was really like, the text simply says, “When the angels had left them.” How did they leave? Floating up? Flying away? One-by-one? Did they vanish or say goodbye? Does it matter? I’m just curious.

Let’s go! So they do.

They found Mary, Joseph, and the baby. “When they had seen them, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child,and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said.”

I picture Mary, still bleeding, sweaty, exhausted, but also exhilarated and feeling the mama bear she now is, greeting these strangers. These coarse men, full of joy and unable to stop talking over each other, standing there, in all their excited energy and then they were off. Like the glory of the Lord, the story of the Lord began to spread, unable to be contained in that small space.

Here is where the text surprised me. I looked at multiple commentaries to see if any offered insight and not one of them mentioned it. So, I don’t want to stray too far or read into the text. Why is Mary treasuring and pondering mentioned in the midst of all the shepherd activity and not saved until the end, as a nice quiet conclusion? We get the pondering line and then “The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they head heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.”

As the text continues, eight days pass and it is time to circumcise the baby.

Ponder offers us two lessons from this text.

First, treasuring and pondering seem to be related. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. Pondering slows us down and helps us to focus on what is worth treasuring.

But more importantly, pondering can happen in the midst of chaos. In the midst of the story, when strangers show up and you’re sweaty and tired. When activity swirls. I think this is why treasuring and pondering are mentioned, more like an off handed comment, in the midst of all the shepherd activity. Pondering is such a calming, private word, that I can be lulled into thinking it can only occur in calming private moments.

Don’t get me wrong, I find it easier to ponder at the edges of the day, when the light is changing. Or when I have a moment alone. But I wonder if that’s because I haven’t practiced treasuring and pondering in the midst of the activity of my day. When the kids are loud or the internet isn’t working or plans have to altered . . . again. When the begging won’t stop and the needs seem endless and the funding has fallen through . . . again. When the whispers in your heart wonder if God is good and the disappointment comes as regularly as the tides crashing on the beaches and no one sees your misery.

Perhaps I have confused external circumstances with internal ones.

Perhaps you have too.

Perhaps, we as a community have as well. We’ve slowed down this month with a quiet Thursday (or Wednesday depending where you are in the world). Sometimes, it’s true, we need our external circumstance to help teach our internal states. So we’re trying; we’re trying together to treasure and ponder.

Lord help us. May we be your children who treasure and ponder your goodness to us, in the midst of the chaos of our days.

What have you been treasuring and pondering this season?

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17 Comments

  1. Michele Womble December 17, 2015

    Hi Amy!  Only able to read half your post so far but I have to leave for a meeting – but I will read the rest when I get back…

    just wanted to mention this line, though, right away..

    “the mysterious way you can change forever in a summer”

    oh, yeah.  Me, too.  Years ago, now, but – forever.

    1. T December 18, 2015

      Michele–I just clicked on your link above.  Whoa.  So, honestly, I don’t usually get to the point of clicking the links, esp if there are several comments down here.  People:  go read Michele’s poem.  It is “1. Did you ever wake and wonder where you were”.  Thanks for sharing it, Michele!

      1. Amy Young December 18, 2015

        T, I love this comment :). I think you have voiced what others wonder (ponder? ha!) — why have the links and the comments. The links are for bloggers who want more space than a comment. For others, you can also upload a picture if you want. Our hope is that there are many ways to participate so you all can participate whatever way works for you and your personality. Obviously the “upload a picture” hasn’t really taken off :). Which is not a problem! Just if someone wants to upload a picture, you can!!

      2. Michele Womble December 18, 2015

        T, I’m so glad you liked it! I’d be interested to know what spoke to you. I write it in part because I’ve been waking up in the night not sure where I am – we’ve been in the states for several weeks now.

        Thank you SO much for letting me know you liked it.

        I highly recommend mend clicking on the links… I don’t always have time, either, but I try to open them all and bookmark them and come back to them later in the day or later in the week – sometimes I’ll read one a day. I’ve gotten so much out of people’s different perspectives and thoughts on ONE word… It’s really amazing. Of course, I’m not always able to, but it’s really a blessing when I can. It’s one of the things I LOVE about Velvet Ashes!

         

         

         

         

         

        1. Michele Womble December 18, 2015

          Sorry for above mistakes. “Wrote” and then several times it looks like I’m stuttering. Posting comments from mobile for the first time and I’m having a little trouble. 🙂

    2. Amy Young December 18, 2015

      I think more of us have that as a part of our stories 🙂

      1. Michele Womble December 19, 2015

        Yeah, it’s funny how that works.  Go for the summer – turns into rest of your life.  So far anyway. I think it’s a conspiracy.:-)

  2. Spring December 18, 2015

    Thanks for your thoughts on what it means to ponder in the midst of life.  I think pondering can help one to live in the moment no matter what is going on.

  3. T December 18, 2015

    So, this is maybe a little head-knowledgy, but Mary was most likely a oral learner.  I’d put out there that she was carefully memorizing everything that the angels had said to everybody, and rehearsing those things to herself, so that later, she could teach them to Jesus, retell them to herself (and others) and we ended up with them in Scripture!  I need to do this, too.  As I have clear words and touches of God in my life, I want to remember them well and recount them to my kids and others around me.  My kids love hearing the stories of my life when I can point out how God intervened or told me it would be fine and it was.  As I’m not a journaler or blogger, it is the oral method for me!

    1. Amy Young December 18, 2015

      I love head knowledgyness :)! (Even though spell check does not.) – this is a helpful insight. Thank you for reminding us that pondering can come in so many different forms. I hadn’t thought of the comment feature on many blogs, FB, Instagram, etc. etc. being a modern form of pondering. As I type this, I see it a fresh. Not as merely adding to the noise of the internet, but a way to ponder. And I’m also a BIG fan of story telling! I wish I could hear you tell stories of your families — oral is so powerful for weaving people together.

  4. Sarah H December 18, 2015

    Amy, thank you for this insight! I live in a chaotic place right now, both physically in a noisy, crazy border town, and emotionally in the midst of a hard season and lots of transition. I haven’t stopped to treasure or ponder because I keep thinking, “When things slow down, when I’m far away from kareoke music blasting and trucks rumbling past, when the dust settles (both literally and figuratively)…” But I’m grateful for your post and the reminder to build those pauses in my day and heart even in the midst of the craziness of life surrounding me.

    1. Amy Young December 18, 2015

      Sarah, I need this too :). The reminder to build moments into my days . . . I forget that intentionality is just that, being intentional.

      May the Lord bless you, Sarah with moments where you reflect on this journey you’re on. May the Lord calm you in this season of transition. Sarah, may God settle your soul in ways that make not sense in light of the noise and chaos. May God wash you afresh in his love for you. Today and tomorrow and the rest of the days of your steps. Amen.

  5. Leslie Verner December 18, 2015

    Amy, I think you are so right that we can’t always wait for our external circumstances to match our internal ones.  And, like you, I picture Mary as a contemplative in the chaos of it all (see my blog link–Keeping Secrets With God;-)  ).  This is definitely what I am learning right now as a mom–that I can’t wait to have hours of quiet time to meet with the Lord, but to utilize the the slivers of time He is giving me and pause for just a minute if that’s all I have to ponder His goodness, blessings and even His majesty.  I love that God is still whispering in the chaos.  Thank you as always for sharing your wisdom and insight.  I always love reading anything you have written!

    1. Amy Young December 18, 2015

      Leslie, I so enjoyed your post and the comment from the person who mentioned that pondering is going to vary with the seasons of life. Which makes so much sense! I’d also say that location with strongly influence it. I’m thinking of friend who lived overseas and her first assignment was in a very quiet town and figured out what “quiet times” and “pondering” looked like and fed her soul. She then moved to a location where she lived on a VERY NOISY, never sleeping, always something happening street. These lessons on pondering are not a once and done. Yay for growth, sigh for how we’re all in process :)!

  6. Michele Womble December 18, 2015

    I’m back!

    I like this word, ponder. And I heartily appreciate that you brought out that Mary was pondering in the midst of activity and people (shepherds).  I’ve NEVER thought about that before.

    I’ve been talking to some of the girls this fall about reading a shorter amount of verses, a smaller selection in the Bible, and basically pondering it in “stolen” moments throughout the day, rather than feeling like they have to read a whole chapter or even a whole passage and then have some sort of conclusion or application before closing the Bible and praying or generally go on with the day…that those verses and how the Lord wants to speak to us through them can be pondered that whole day and (maybe even that whole week or month).  We’re either in such a hurry to “get to the point” or we feel like – well, why have a quiet time this morning if I only have 10 minutes – but 10 minutes is plenty  IF I see it as just reminding myself about what I’m pondering or getting started pondering something and then just keep turning my mind back in those moments during the day walking to the store (and yes, even in the bathroom!) and doing dishes and even during conversation with those folks who popped by – to ponder and mull over whatever caught my attention.  I’d love to spend hours in the morning before my day starts, pondering, and I actually ponder better with a pencil and notebook because I think best when writing – but  – but life tends to not stop for me like that.  And often what’s going on in life throughout the day will also kind of interact more with whatever I’m pondering on, instead of being sort of…separate.

    of course, this is why I’ve been blogging my time in Mark for 2 years and am only on chapter 3.  😉  Might be taking it a little too far.

    But anyway, really appreciate your post and your insight on Mary pondering in the midst of everything else.

    1. Amy Young December 18, 2015

      Michele, this is so helpful! Several of the commentaries mentioned how juxtaposing the Shepherds and Mary shows how we need both — the activity of life AND the pondering. The going and doing, and the reflecting on. And I like the example you share of chewing on a smaller passage of scripture. Yes! I probably should incorporate more of that into my life :).

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