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!

Biblical Sabbath (chapter 1)

If you missed last week’s introduction to this book discussion, read here. If you’re ready for discussion of chapter 1, keep reading below…

So what does the Bible say about Sabbath?

Rabbis & Law

The beginning of the first chapter of Rest explains that in ancient Jewish culture, rabbis typically began an apprenticeship of sorts under a rabbi whose teachings they were familiar with and shared. Every now and then, a rabbi would come along who had his own interpretation of the ancient laws and he would use verbage, such as “You have heard it said… but I tell you.” A rabbi who spoke in this way, like Jesus, was said to “speak with authority” and would have caught people’s attention because such a teacher would be saying new things about old ideas.

When someone followed a rabbi’s teaching they were said to be “taking up that rabbi’s yoke.” Jesus described his yoke as “easy,” yet He seemed to hold people to a higher standard of the law, while acknowledging it was impossible to keep. He also claimed that He fulfilled the law (Mt. 5:17).

New Rabbi, New Sabbath Law: Freedom

How did Jesus describe the Sabbath? He said it was “holy,” set apart, and He said it was “made for people,” not the other way around. What did Jesus do on the Sabbath? On the Sabbath, we see Jesus teaching in the synagogue, walking in a grain field defending the disciples choice to help themselves to a snack, healing people and eating with people.

Kent says that Jesus kept Sabbath, not as culture expected him to, but with great freedom and that if we want to take up his yoke, we too will both keep the Sabbath and live in freedom. Do those two ideas sound opposing?  They did to me at first too! She suggests that Jesus viewed the Sabbath as an opportunity to restore and reconnect people physically and spiritually.

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

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.”

Rest: an introduction

Are you in need of rest? I don’t just mean a little sleep; I mean soul rest. Join us for a Tuesday book discussion:

Why this book?

Today we begin discussing a book by Keri Wyatt Kent entitled Rest. Rest was the first of Kent’s books I read and it made a lasting impact on me. I was initially interested in reading it because I was longing to incorporate more rest into my life and I had no idea how.

Specifically, I wanted to learn more about the Jewish and Christian ideas of Sabbath. How was it originally intended to be practiced, and is there any relevance to our current time and place? The introduction and subtitle of the book is “Living in Sabbath Simplicity,” suggesting that Sabbath rest is part of a rhythm of a simple life. That thought sounded appealing to me then, and I have returned to the book since whenever I need a reminder why rest is important or help making rest happen.

What is Sabbath rest?

In the introduction, Kent says that Sabbath is both a command and a spiritual practice. Like other practices, her goal is not perfect implementation, but to share how practicing Sabbath led her to encounter God and changed her life. She suggests that the rest and recreation that come with Sabbath actually re-create us.

Kent emphasizes the idea that the practice of keeping the Sabbath is a journey. My own experience of practicing rest has also been something that I am continually growing in. There are many questions connected to the idea of Sabbath-keeping so Kent’s is one example that I have found helpful to me, personally.

For Keri and her family, Sabbath is a “day which almost always includes some activity, yet remains a respite from hurry and chaos. A day when we focus on one another instead of on our to-do lists. Still, we never have perfect Sundays. Thank God. Because often, what I need to rest from most is my perfectionism.” I’m still working out what Sabbath means for me, and Jeremy and I are growing in our understanding of it together, but we practice Sabbath on Saturdays. What comes to your mind when you think of the word Sabbath?

Share with us in a comment below! If you are interested in reading the book along with our discussion, you can order it here or check your local library. Then join us next Tuesday for a look at the first chapter and a Biblical perspective of Sabbath.

 

Five books in five words

Here are five books I’m currently reading in a variety of genres and a one word summary:

  1. Life of Pi by Yann Martel (fiction) – hilarious
  2. The Magnolia Story by Chip & Joanna Gaines with Mark Dagostino (biography) – inspiring
  3. A Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard (nonfiction, discipleship) – relevant
  4. More than Words by Phillip Yancey (a collection of essays by writers on writings that shaped their faith) – diverse
  5. Sent Together by Brad Watson (gospel, community, mission) – practical

Care to share a book you’re reading and a one word description?

Review of The Magnolia Journal, summer 2017

Confession: We LOVE the show fixer upper. It was part of the inspiration & courage to purchase our work-in-progress. We enjoy the learning, the humor and the freshness of watching a family who enjoy being family.

My sister bought me a copy of the summer 2017 edition of The Magnolia Journal as part of my birthday present. Of course, I expected to like it, but y’all it was awesome! For starters, Magnolia was the name of the house I shared with my college roomies, so obviously the name is great. The content, however, was genuinely encouraging in a not-your-average-magazine kind of way.

In her editorial letter, Joanna Gaines says the summer issue is focused on “a quiet kind of confidence that allows us to live our lives bravely, unfettered by popular opinion or nagging fears.” In addition to highlighting examples of people who are learning to live this way, the magazine includes great seasonal and decor ideas. I especially loved that there was an article on succulents as I begin to think about indoor & outdoor plants! Finally, each issue contains some Chip & Jo staples that are always sure to delight, and this summer one is no exception. Enjoy!

Listening to others’ lives: the voice of Love as Counselor

So I want to tell you about my friend Danielle. We met in Charlotte, NC when we were both in our early 20’s and were working for an after-school mentoring program. She always had a servant’s heart, a desire to help and showed so much mercy, but it was a difficult season for both of us, attempting to discern “what to do” with our lives.

She is now a licensed professional counselor, and even though we are on opposite sides of the country and my knowledge is mostly through social media, I

can clearly see

how the voice of Love has guided her to where she is today. He has taken dreams he planted in her long ago, developed them in her, and she is now impacting many “helpers,” including educators like myself.

Exciting! God taught her about self-care, so she could help others have quality mental health. Here is a sample from her blog: The sneaky barrier keeping you from self-care. Thanks for being willing to share part of your journey with us, Danielle!

Listening to my life: the voice of Love as Author

We’ve said that one way to listen to our lives is to listen for the voice of Love. I believe that God is multi-faceted, and that He reveals different aspects of Himself through each of his children. This belief is one reason I also believe we need each other: as we get to know others, our vision of God enlarges.

Personally, God as Author has been one way that I have experienced the voice of Love. I have always loved language and story. I see God in literature, in the Bible and in people’s lives.

The idea of the Bible as the Story of God has been particularly impactful to me as it is a way to read the text as a grand narrative in which God is the main character, but we all play a role. Spending time listening to others tell their life stories with the perspective that we are all part of the larger story has also been a significant part of my own journey.

Last Spring, I felt the Author was asking me to pursue writing in a new way. In essence, He was reminding me that I have a story, many stories to tell, that I have been given a voice, that we all have, and that as his beloved daughter, I am free to author in his name. The questions were:

Would I set aside the time? And would I have the courage to share?