Giving

There are so many opportunities to give this time of year.

How do you decide what and to whom to give?

I long to be generous, yet also a good steward.

2 Corinthians 9:7 says “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart”

There is beauty in that – we all care about different things.

There is challenge in that – none of us can rely on our hearts to be pure.

How can we help each other dialogue about giving? What are some organizations you’d like to invite others into? Perhaps some ways you can give that require more time or service than money? What are your favorite gifts to give? to receive?

 

 

Life Revisions (Chapter 4)

So far, I’ve spoken a lot about the idea of Sabbath, but the subtitle of the book Rest is “Living in Sabbath Simplicity.” This chapter emphasize that as Sabbath becomes something that you look forward to, you have to prepare for it, which in turn affects the other days of the week. As you begin to make more conscious choices about your time, you will begin to create some rhythms.

Kent emphasizes that a life lived in restful simplicity is a journey and says to begin where you are. She says you can’t force those around you to rest, but you can choose to rest yourself, modeling and inviting others into it. She also says to have grace with the process, that some weeks will be harder than others as will certain seasons. It is ok for Sabbath to be something you “fail” at, that is the beauty of freedom, we are free to mess up. She says Sabbath is about trusting, believing that if you rest for a day the world will keep spinning.

She also encourages creating some rituals, choosing some things that are restful to you and building them into your Sabbath day. So maybe every Sabbath doesn’t look the same, but maybe it has some similar elements and you decide what works for that week. Sharing a meal as a family might be one element you start with and then gradually add others in. She says to be practical and consider what would work in your real life!

So, do you know what things are restful to you? If Sabbath is primarily about loving God and loving others, what would this look like in your weekend? What day would work? Would you take time to prepare your heart to connect with God and others at your church? Would you need to use words like “no” and “not today” more often?

If you are curious to learn more, read chapter 4 of Keri Wyatt Kent’s book Rest, available here. Join us next week for chapter 5 !

 

Ancient Roots & Purpose of a Weekly Rest (Chapter 3, part 2)

Roots

In ancient Judaism, Sabbath was a day anticipated, and then reflected on.  Sabbath followers would spend 3 days preparing, 1 day observing and remembering, and 3 days looking back in gratitude for a day in which they were allowed to rest. At this time in history, people worked 7 days a week so some cultures viewed them as lazy for taking a day off. Other cultures, such as the Romans, similarly adopted a day off.

Thus, while the Jewish & Roman calendars aligned, Sabbath has been practiced in many ways by different people groups throughout time. The early Christians emphasized a day of gathering in celebration, as opposed to the Jewish Shabbat rest, and the day of the week shifted from Saturday to Sunday after the time of Christ (hint: think Resurrection Day).

As far back as creation in the Old Testament, we see the idea of Sabbath mentioned. With the giving of the 10 Commandments, there were 3 instructions about relating to God, 1 about the Sabbath and 6 about relating to others.  After the Exodus, the more detailed law was given to the Israelites to show them how to live as free people and included instructions about how to Sabbath. In the New Testament, Jesus seems to model a new approach to the law, again Sabbath is still included.

Purpose

It seems the original purpose of Sabbath was for the people to remember two things. First, that God worked for 6 days and then rested for 1, and so by living as He did we remember Him (and simultaneously remember we are not Him!). Second, the people who were slaves and never allowed a day off were now free. The symbols of the Sabbath meal included reminders of God’s provision and opportunity to thank Him.

In what other ways did people observe the Sabbath? Is there any relevance to today? Does it matter which day it is, what we do, or don’t do? I would agree with Kent that the Sabbath is more about freedom than rules, that it is an opportunity to receive the gift of rest and to remember that we are loved, but I also find it interesting to research. In studying and practicing the Sabbath today, we connect to an ancient past, remembering that the story is bigger and older than we are and that rest, freedom and love are available for all.

If you are curious to learn more, read chapter 3 of Keri Wyatt Kent’s book Rest, available here. Join us next week for chapter 4!

Learning to Rest (Chapter 3, part 1)

When I first read the book Rest, maybe 7 years ago, I was tired of running the rat race. I was desperate for permission to rest and I had observed that some people I knew actively chose a day of rest. I was uncertain howto apply the idea of weekly rest to my life and Kent’s book gave me a starting place to build some pause in my crazy week-to-week.

Regular, weekly rest?

The word and idea of weekly rest continued to grow when I met Jeremy, for whom Saturday was an intentional, specific and important rest day.  He is a disciplined person and had many routines in his week, but Sabbath had celebratory, almost sacred rituals. This practice intrigued me, and in fact, the desire and ability to rest together was key for both of us in valuing our relationship early on.

I chose to re-read Rest this past Spring because the roots and observation of Sabbath had been on my mind. Resting seems vague, what is Sabbath really about? Is it fair to plan to take a day of rest on a day when others usually want to hang out? In other words, is there still reason to Sabbath, and what does that look like in our actual lives, especially as we enter a new season?

As I read, once again, I learned and was re-affirmed in my desire for a weekly rest. I also saw ways that we could grow in our practice of it. Kent describes Sabbath as a day more focused on loving God and loving others. We see it as a day resting from giving to others so we can be refueled to focus on loving God and others the other six days.

An interesting tension that I don’t think we’ve reconciled so much as recognized that we want both in our weeks. Re-reading Rest challenged and encouraged me to consider the details of the Koziols observation of Sabbath in 2017 and beyond, so to speak. What is my hope for Sabbath in 10 years? What can I incorporate now?

What does regular, weekly rest look like?

I really like some of the ancient Jewish ways of practicing, such as welcoming the Sabbath with a family meal, candles, best dishes and words of thanksgiving, blessing, remembrance. This idea is not something I feel I have to do or that everyone should do, it is something that I am fascinated by and want to observe in our home. Since Saturday seems to be the day that works best for us, starting with a Friday evening meal at sunset is one way I can revise our lives to emphasize Sabbath.

Doing so will mean preparation during the week and more challenge on the Fridays I work, but I am grateful that there is freedom both to make a special feast or to order take-out. I hope that my family will want to participate in this time, but there are many options for a Friday night! The details of what follows – talking a walk, telling stories, or playing games – are less important to me than the time for family to gather and share a meal, and then spend time making memories together.

Our Saturdays will in some ways remain unchanged, but I think there are revisions we can make here as well. We’d like Saturday to include time for me to rest, for Jeremy to rest and for us to rest together. We may not rest in the same ways or at the same time. We may choose to not go shopping and be available relationally, or we may need some time to simply be. Saturday evenings are usually date night for us.

Sundays are usually a time to gather and celebrate with our larger family. As teachers, Sunday afternoons are usually spent preparing for the week ahead, doing chores, or as a catch-up day. There is something unique about creating and maintaining a weekly rest and there are challenges.

The good news? Sabbath is a practice and a journey, and I’m in the middle of it. Also, I’m not alone in it. Can’t wait to hear your thoughts!

If you are curious to learn more, read chapter 3 of Keri Wyatt Kent’s book Rest, available here. Join us next week for part 2 of Chapter 3!

 

How to create some Daily & Weekly Rest Rhythms (Chapter 2, part 2)

In regard to Sabbath-keeping, Kent says, “There are no rules, except this: just stop.” When God sentenced the Israelites to 40 years of wilderness wandering, He said, “they shall never enter my rest.” Doesn’t that sound awful? Perpetual wandering. We are invited into His rest.

Kent says, “rest is a gift, but we can’t receive it if we don’t stop to open it.” Sabbath-keeping is not about checking a list. It is a way of asking yourself and those closest to you, what does it look like to stop? How can we receive the gift of His rest?

today?

this week?

this month?

Daily

Our bodies are amazing in many ways and one of these I’ve lately been discovering is connected to our circadian rhythm. Light, time and hormones work together to cue us in to when it is day and when it is night. We have times that we are more or less alert throughout the day, times we are more ready to work, to eat or to relax.

While we sleep, our bodies also have rhythms or cycles that have different purposes. Scientists believe that one part of our sleep pattern helps to restore our bodies, while another helps to restore our minds. Isn’t that amazing?

Research shows that going to bed, and especially getting up at a consistent time can help you to feel more physically and mentally alert. There have also been countless magazine articles written to suggest routines before going to bed or upon waking. These are one way to rest regularly.

Are there also ways to integrate rest into your day? Maybe a 10-minute walk on your coffee break? Maybe turning the radio on while you are getting ready for the day?

Weekly

Sabbath, specifically, is about setting apart a day, a 24-hour period of rest. Which day and what “stopping” looks like may vary, but here is one example. We see in the Creation story and the Jewish tradition that the day actually began with sunset.

According to Kent, traditionally the Hebrew day was broken apart like this:

  • 6pm-10pm: 4 hours available for relationships
  • 10pm-6am: 8 hours available for sleep
  • 6am-6pm: 12 hours available for productivity and work

How does that compare with how we spend our time today?

Most of us are not farmers, use electricity and depend on technology for everything from entertainment to relational connection. I’m not suggesting we return to the past, but I challenge you to consider the rhythm of your week-to-week.

Do you have any rest built in? Is there one thing you could do to create some rest today? 

If you are curious to learn more, read chapter 2 of Keri Wyatt Kent’s book Rest, available here. Join us next week for chapter 3, part 1!

Why we need Rest as a Rhythm (chapter 2, part 1)

I missed chapter 1! Read here

In chapter 2 of Rest, Keri shares how performance experts have noticed that tennis games between top performers are usually won based on how effectively players use their time in between points. So, rather than one player having more perfect strokes, the game is often determined based on routines that allow one player to recover better during the seconds between. Does that surprise you?

Similarly, Keri shares her husband’s perspective on what happens to muscles when they are at work and in rest: “When you work to failure, the muscle fibers actually break down… Then when you rest, blood flows into the muscles and they rebuild themselves.” Did you know that your muscles have to rest in order to grow?

Growing mental strength works similarly. By taking risks, you actually re-train your brain in the face of fear. So every time Jeremy and I climb we are exercising not only physically, but also engaging our mind in fear-fighting and problem-solving.

Keri suggests that soul rest is equally necessary for growth. She says many of us “are never fully engaged, and we never take time to disengage.” Keeping Sabbath is about living life to almost the point of “muscle failure” and then stopping to rest. Because we stop, we can go fully.

At first, stopping to rest seems like it will make us busier, but then we realize that it feels like a luxury and it is indeed a gift. It is “actually the secret to getting more done, to understanding and living our true priorities, to enjoying our lives, and to experiencing the presence of God.” What do you think? Would you be willing to rest in order to be more productive?

If you are curious to learn more, read chapter 2 of Keri Wyatt Kent’s book Rest, available here. Join us next week for chapter 2, part 2!

Washed in the Word

Get Washed

The insights from today’s post are taken from a chapter in John Ortberg’s book The Life You’ve Always Wanted. They were an encouragement to me and something I’m constantly needing to remember so I hope this post will clarify some vocabulary and encourages your heart as well.

The phrase “washed in the word” always seemed vague and unclear to me until I read it in context in Ortberg’s book. The phrase comes from Ephesians 5 where it says husbands are to to imitate Christ who “cleansed” His bride, the church “by the washing of water with the word.” Weird.

I mean, I get the importance of the Word, but what does it have to do with washing? Ortberg boiled it down to the quite literal and it was a lightbulb moment. He asks why do we wash something and what happens if we don’t?

So often, we think we have to clean ourselves up so we can go to confession, attend church, read a Bible. Ortberg says the reason we come to God is the exact opposite – because we need Him to cleanse us! He says our minds our full of everything other than truth – dirt and darkness.

The effects of getting washed

When we read the Word, it cleanses our thoughts and our hearts. It reminds us to “seek his kingdom first.” A concept Ortberg describes as purity of heart or “a singleness of purpose and focus that gives consistency to [one’s] choices and commitments.”

In contrast to this, Ortberg references James’ description of “a life of divided loyalties” or double-mindedness. He contrasts single-mindedness as being connected to simplicity, while double-mindedness is connected to multiplicity and duplicity. He defines multiplicity as “ambivalence – pulled and pushed… we both desire intimacy with God and flee from it,” and he defines duplicity is “falseness… a discrepancy between the reasons we give… and the real reasons.”

These are the thoughts we all battle and he suggests the way to recalibrate, to re-orient is simpler than we think. It is not about what we do or don’t do, rather it is about bringing what needs to be washed to the only One who is completely Pure. As He washes us with His Word, we are slowly being transformed. Just like a plate with crumbs returns to its original shine when rinsed, the more regularly we dirty a plate, the more often we need to wash it!

Dallas Willard in his book The Divine Conspiracy says that people rarely think the God of the Bible has any relevance to our real lives. Either it is silly or incovenient or impractical or… there are few who consider the possibility that God’s words are what brings life to us and our world, and that therefore, it impacts every aspect of our daily lives. As a song by Tenth Avenue North says, “only you can make me new.”

Listen, Speak, Do

The title of this post brings to my mind an image of three monkeys. You’ve seen them – one covering their eyes, one their ears, one their mouth. The thoughts often associated with these monkeys roughly translates in my mind “ignore what you don’t want to deal with in the way you choose”… a sort of ignorance is bliss mentality or perhaps pious is better… and all those are the opposite of this post’s position.

Today, I ask these questions: what activities can we pursue to receive more grace? Are there certain ways that God always works? How do I train instead of try?

In response to these questions, I propose three categories of blog topics: Listen, Speak, Do that summarize posts that I have either already written about or plan to write about it over the next year. Some of these topics, I will not comment further on at this time, but others I will soon dig deeper into. For example, when it comes to listening, or paying attention, we have covered the topic a lot so here is some background for those you may have missed it. We’ve explored listening to our lives, to others and to God as three ways to notice and to grow. To this category then, I will only comment that three ways of listening to God are through His Word, prayer as dialogue and practicing gratitude as I will speak more on these things in upcoming posts.

When it comes to speaking, I’m reminded what I so often forget; words matter. They carry weight, power even. Therefore, what we say and hear, and when we speak matters too. In the category of speaking, I highlight confession, encouragement and silence, or knowing when to not speak as future blog posts.

When it comes to action, I would like to make a distinction between discipline, as the fruit of our training, and rhythms, as routines that we practice. Distinguishing between discipline as law and training that leds to a more self-controlled life is often subtle, so we will start with this reminder that we are all learners. Some rhythms I plan to highlight then are work, rest, and celebration.

Listen, Speak, Do. Which topic are you most curious about? Let us know!

Try not

There is this scene in Star Wars where Luke is feeling overwhelmed and says: “Ok, I’ll try.” Yoda quickly responds: No! Try not. Do. Or do not. There is no try.” What I love most about Yoda’s answer is his passion and conviction. He does not hesitate to correct Luke, when many would have responded “How wonderful that you are going to try!”

Training for what?

This scene came to mind in the context of thinking about discipleship. In his book The Life You’ve Always Wanted, John Ortberg dedicates a whole chapter to Training vs. Trying. In it, he explains “the single most helpful principle… regarding spiritual transformation” as “There is an immense difference between training to do something and trying to do something.” He says “Learning to think, feel, and act like Jesus is at least as demanding as learning to run a marathon or play the piano.” 

Spiritual Calisthenics

Ortberg continues “Following Jesus simply means learning from him how to arrange my life around activities that enable me to live in the fruit of the Spirit.” He sees spiritual disciplines as a way of training, not as a measure of successful discipline. They “are to life what calisthenics are to a game.” He says “a disciplined follower of Jesus – a disciple – is not someone who has ‘mastered the disciplines,’” but rather a person “who can do the right thing at the right time in the right way with the right spirit.”

Thoughts?

Checklists are easier, except when they aren’t, and they lead to either a fluctuating and false sense or a lack of freedom. It is encouraging to me to hear that training is work, hard work, challenging work, but also that it is a choice with a bigger goal in mind. Remembering that frees me to desire to practice, as opposed to feeling guilty when I don’t. Your thoughts?