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Sleep, Rest and Renewal: God’s Rhythm in Creation and Our Lives |  POD 008

Sleep, Rest and Renewal: God’s Rhythm in Creation and Our Lives | POD 008

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HOSTS & GUESTS

Dr. Gayln Perry – Guest

Paul Brandes – Host

Liz Nelson – Guest

Show Notes

Sleep, Rest and Renewal: God’s Rhythm in Creation and Our Lives

How important are rest and sleep for renewal and spiritual growth? In this episode, we discuss how God’s design for rest affects all of creation, with sleep being a crucial element. Dr. Gayln Perry and Liz Nelson regularly work with patients who struggle with sleep disorders. They share their expertise, clarifying and addressing common contributors to sleep and rest issues. We talk about practical ideas for improving sleep quality and how inconsistent sleep schedules, napping in the afternoon, and engaging in non-sleep-related activities in bed can negatively impact the quality of sleep. Other negative contributing factors emphasized are caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol. Exposure to bright light in the evenings from electronics can also confuse our circadian rhythm. We find out more about the importance of understanding and prioritizing sleep and rest for our physical and spiritual health.

In the latest episode of theFormed.life, we explore the importance of rest and sleep in our lives.

 

THREE KEY TAKEAWAYS:

Join us in this conversation about the importance of rest and sleep in our daily lives.

  1. God designed us to need rest, and resisting a Sabbath rest can prevent us from experiencing the joy, beauty, hope, peace, and calm that God intended for us to flourish.
  2. Sleep disorders, such as insomnia, can be triggered by life stressors, but prioritizing rest and building connections with others can lead to improved sleep.
  3. Best practices for improving sleep quality include consistent wake-up times, avoiding non-sleep-related activities in bed, and minimizing exposure to caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol.

#TheFormedLife #RestAndRenewal #SleepQuality #SabbathRest #MentalHealthAwareness

 

GUEST BIO(S):

Dr. Gayln Perry is a pulmonologist dedicated to helping patients with all aspects of sleep, including sleep disorders. Her passion for this field stemmed from her personal struggle with insomnia over 30 years ago. She understands the importance of getting proper, restful sleep and empathizes with those who are facing life stressors that make it difficult to do so. With her expertise and compassion, Dr. Perry strives to help her patients achieve the restful sleep they need to live healthy and happy lives.

Liz Nelson earned her MA in Counseling from MidAmerica Nazarene University. She is a Clinically Licensed Professional Counselor in the State of Kansas. Her areas of focus are adult counseling for individuals and couples. Elizabeth works from a psychodynamic theory and the attachment perspective that honors the client’s experiences of personal and relational struggles that interfere with well-being. Together with the client, Liz explores the symptoms and causes of distress. She works with a wide variety of needs and in diverse populations. Elizabeth also has over two decades of experience serving the non-profit community in Kansas City, and is deeply committed to coming alongside these leaders, caregivers, and volunteers.

 

 

QUOTES:

“…the circadian rhythm is driven by… the master clock. Every cell in our body has a clock and… it lines up with the master clock… and that clock again wakes us up when the sun comes up and puts us to sleep at night… In the morning when we wake up, we really should get bright light exposure and that resets that clock every day.”
– Dr. Gayln Perry

 

“I would prioritize sleep because it impacts your immune system, it impacts your emotional margin with your family, it impacts your productivity at work… it’s extremely important.”
– Dr. Gayln Perry

 

“[We need to] schedule times of holistic rest prior to other priorities, like where are the walks, where is nature, where is community, where are the sunsets? Schedule that ahead of other priorities or it disappears.”
– Liz Nelson

 

“…there’s an understanding that rest is designed by God, and we are designed by God to need rest.”
– Liz Nelson

 

 

RESOURCES:

The Body Keeps The Score: Book

Reading Resurrection in the Book of Nature: Blog from The Gospel Coalition

How Shorter Work Weeks Could Save The Planet: BBC Blog

 

CHAPTERS:

00:01:49 “Pulmonologist tackles a wide range of sleep issues”
00:02:24 “Doctor’s Insomnia Struggle Inspires Patient Care Approach”
00:12:16 “The Divine Importance of Sleep for Health”
00:14:58 “The Importance of Sleep for All Ages”
00:16:01 “The Fascinating Biology of our Circadian Rhythm”
00:18:16 “Improving Sleep Quality Through Addressing Mental Health”
00:26:30 “Tips for Better Sleep: Consistency is Key”
00:28:53 “Prioritize Sleep: Impact on Health, Family & Work”

All the Fitness He Requires

All the Fitness He Requires

There’s a group exercise place close to my house that I have been wanting to try out. I have several friends who go there and love it, and when my kids were younger, I really loved working out with others. One of my friends has said she will take me whenever I want to go for a trial class. She has said this for over a year. But I have never taken her up on it, and it’s just for the dumbest reason. I don’t think I am in good enough shape to go to the place that is supposed to whip me into shape. I keep thinking that what I need to do is get into a really rigorous workout rhythm at home for a good 6 weeks and THEN I will be ready to go! So basically, once I don’t need the class anymore, then I will be ready to join. 

 

An Open Invitation

There is another open invitation that we tend to view the same way, which has deeper and more lasting implications beyond an exercise class. In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus invites us to come to him…all of us who labor and are heavy laden, which feels like all of us, and he will give us rest. I know this, we know this, and yet…there are so many times when I continue to feel like I have to get my act together in order to be loved and accepted by my Savior. There are so many times when I am striving and struggling and instead of accepting the rest that Jesus offers me, I just double down. I turn to productivity books, reorganize my schedule and just plain try harder. I will get my act together and then come to Jesus, once I somehow achieve that rest that he so freely offers. Accepting grace feels more difficult than continuing to throw myself at a (metaphorical) brick wall. 

Works-based religions just make so much more sense to me, even though they are soul-crushing. In our Western culture, we are self-made women and men! We pull ourselves up by our bootstraps. All we have to do is dream bigger and work harder and keep hustling, and all our American dreams will come true! We don’t want to owe anyone anything, we have our pride. Even when asking a friend for a favor, sometimes I find myself doing a quick mental calculation…have I asked this person to do more for me than I have done for them? Is the “favor scale” tipped too far in the wrong direction, do I owe them more than they owe me? If so, sometimes I won’t ask for what I need and what they would happily and lovingly do for me. Because then I would feel like a burden, a drain. 

 

Rest and Peace

And then there is our God. He has done everything for us – created us, given us everything that we have, died for us…there is nothing I could ever do to balance those “favor scales.” And all he wants is for me to come to him; he is standing there, arms open, waiting for me to give him my burdens, my worries, my fears, my sins, my shame, my pride (along with my joys, praise and my loves). And exchange it for his rest, his peace, his presence. 

I have loved Jesus as long as I can remember, and I still struggle to turn to him first, to continue to turn to him each and every day with each and every struggle and burden. I suspect I am not alone in that. But I think, just maybe, I am willing to set aside my pride and admit my need a little quicker than I did a few decades ago. Church, may we be a people who realize that clinging to our pride and self-sufficiency is a fool’s game. We are just causing ourselves such needless heartache and misery. Our God offers us rest, true rest. May we reach out and take it. 

Come, Ye Sinners

Come, ye sinners, poor and needy,
weak and wounded, sick and sore;
Jesus ready stands to save you,
full of pity, love, and pow’r

Come, ye thirsty; come and welcome,
God’s free bounty glorify;
true belief and true repentance,
ev’ry grace that brings you nigh

Let not conscience make you linger,
nor of fitness fondly dream;
all the fitness he requires
is to feel your need of him.

Come, ye weary, heavy laden,
lost and ruined by the fall;
if you tarry till you’re better,
you will never come at all.

I will arise and go to Jesus!
He will embrace me in His arms
In the arms of my dear Savior,
Oh, there are ten thousand charms

Sabbath: A Day Set Apart

Sabbath: A Day Set Apart

In the Christian tradition of my early formative years, one day each week was uniquely different. That day was Sunday.  As a farming family, we got out of our work clothes, put on our Sunday best, crammed into our car and made our way to a small country church. After church we had a scrumptious family dinner, and unlike many of the farmers nearby, my father would do only essential farm work in tending to our animals. I remember my mom saying to me, “As Christians, Sunday is our Sabbath, a day of rest.”

Sadly, in the years following my childhood the weekly rhythm of a Sabbath day was in many ways lost. Looking back I realize there were several blinding factors that contributed to Sabbath neglect in my life, including overcorrecting Sabbath legalism, a penchant toward workaholism, and perhaps most surprising, was my pastoral calling. When I became a pastor Sunday became a workday and another day of the week was not intentionally and diligently set aside and protected for Sabbath rest. The good news is after years of neglect, building a more consistent Sabbath rhythm in my life has become increasingly important and life giving. I also believe that a weekly Sabbath rhythm is really important for the flourishing and formation of every apprentice of Jesus. So what is the big deal about a weekly Sabbath day? Why a Sabbath day?

 

Why A Sabbath Day?

 

Let’s take a look at what the Bible says regarding the Sabbath. Sabbath is a Hebrew word that means rest, tranquility, peace and delight.  A Sabbath day is actually built into the very fabric of original creation, described for us in the very first book in the Bible. After original creation, before sin and death entered God’s good world, God rested on the seventh day. In Genesis chapter 2 we read,  “And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done. And he rested on the seventh day from all his work he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy…”

In his classic book entitled, The Sabbath, Abraham Joshua Heschel reminds us that embedded in creation design is the truth that we were created in time, but with more than time in mind. Sabbath points us to eternity deeply planted in our hearts. Heschel writes,

“The meaning of the Sabbath is to celebrate time rather than space. Six days a week we live under the tyranny of things of space; on the Sabbath we try to become attuned to holiness in time. It is a day on which we are called upon to share in what is eternal in time, to turn from the results of creation to the mystery of creation; from the world of creation to the creation of the world.”

The importance of six days of work and one day of rest was anchored not only in the gracious rhythms of creation design but also reinforced to God’s covenant people in the giving of the Ten Commandments. In the book of Exodus we read that the fourth commandment set apart the seventh day of the week. “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy (set apart). The Bible recounts how God’s covenant people tragically corrupted the inherent goodness of the Sabbath day. The problem was that God’s covenant people lost sight of the big picture of Sabbath. They made Sabbath about adherence to a bunch of soul-suffocating religious rules, to the point of virtual absurdity. Instead of the Sabbath pointing to the pursuit of a growing intimacy with God, it became a soul-suffocating yoke of works righteousness seeking to merit favor with God. Rather than a day of joy and restful delight, it became 24 hours of prideful self-righteous nit-picky drudgery. But Messiah Jesus made it clear that he was Lord of the Sabbath. Jesus framed Sabbath not first and foremost as a day we set aside each week as good and life-giving as that is, but ultimately Himself as the one and only Son of God we know and are deeply known by. The Sabbath ultimately points us to a person, the person of Jesus, the Lord of the Sabbath. The New Testament writer of Hebrews reminds us Jesus is our Sabbath rest. Through saving and life-giving faith in Jesus our Lord and Savior “there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God.” This Sabbath rest Jesus invites us to experience as we put on his yoke of apprenticeship. It is in his yoke we find true Sabbath rest for our souls. It is this Sabbath rest that woos us to our future ultimate rest in the New Heavens and New Earth. When we carve out a Sabbath day from our busy and distracted lives, it allows the fresh and hopeful breezes of eternity to blow in our longing hearts. Sabbath rest is an appetizer for heaven. So how do we better experience a weekly Sabbath?

 

How Do We Experience A Weekly Sabbath?

 

How do we live more fully into a day set apart each week? For many of us that day will be Sunday. Whatever day you choose, let me offer six suggestions that I trust will be helpful, life- giving and healing for you and those you love.

First, block off in your calendar a weekly day for Sabbath. For many of us our week is overly scheduled so if we do not plan ahead, our Sabbath day will get crowded out. Let others around you know what your Sabbath day is and ask them to respect that commitment.

Second, embrace a technology fast. Minimize the distractions that come from screen time whether that is your phone or computer. I know many today who literally put their smartphones in a drawer for their Sabbath day. If you are married and have children, make this commitment as an entire family. It may sound difficult, but if you will practice this discipline the relational and wellbeing rewards will be soon evident.

Third, avoid any work related matters and emails. A true emergency may demand your immediate attention, but avoid any work related matters that are not of an emergency nature. Plan ahead as much as possible to cover work responsibilities so that a day of rest will not compromise the importance God places on the stewardship of your paid and unpaid work.

Fourth, embrace a slower pace of unscheduled unhurried time. Enjoy extended conversations, relaxing meals and fun activities with those closest to you. Allow for spontaneity in your day.

Fifth, spend an extended time with God. If your Sabbath is Sunday make attendance at corporate worship a priority, but also carve out some personal time to read the Scriptures, to listen to God’s voice and pray.

Sixth, put yourself in the path of beauty. For many, the healing aspect of beauty is found in extended walks in nature or enjoying nature in some way. For others it may be reading a book, playing or listening to music, enjoying an art museum, making a craft of some kind or playing a round of golf on a manicured golf course. In what place or activity do you feel God’s pleasure? One of the greatest gifts of Sabbath is experiencing God’s delight in you as his cherished beloved.

 

Our daily work matters, but our weekly Sabbath rest matters, too. Perhaps more than many of us realize. I love how Abraham Joshua Heschel prompts us to embrace Sabbath’s good and life- giving creation design.

 

“Six days a week we wrestle with the world, wringing profit from the earth; on the Sabbath we especially care for the seed of eternity planted in the soul. “

What Psalm 131 Teaches Us About Humility and Rest

What Psalm 131 Teaches Us About Humility and Rest

My heart is not proud, Lord,

    my eyes are not haughty;

I do not concern myself with great matters

    or things too wonderful for me.

But I have calmed and quieted myself,

    I am like a weaned child with its mother;

    like a weaned child I am content.

Israel, put your hope in the Lord

both now and forevermore.   Psalm 131:1-3 NIV

 

There is something about Psalm 131 that has spoken to me over the past few years. It’s a psalm for those Brennan Manning describes at the beginning of his book The Ragamuffin Gospel: “It is for inconsistent, unsteady disciples whose cheese is falling off their cracker. It is for poor, weak, sinful men and women with hereditary faults and limited talents.” It’s a psalm for me.

Psalm 131 isn’t for the super spiritual…it’s a psalm that guides the Christians who need the help returning to a place of humility and rest in God over and over again. It’s also a psalm that reminds us to reorient all of our hopes and center them around a different kind of Hope. 

There are a total of 15 psalms of ascents, which were to be sung as the Israelites ascended or made the pilgrimage to Jerusalem for annual festivals. Psalm 131, one of four psalms of ascents attributed to David himself, is the second shortest psalm in the book of Psalms. Here’s how David starts this tri-versed song:

Verse 1: “My heart is not proud, Lord, my eyes are not haughty; 

When I first read this verse I was confused. It’s almost that David is proudly declaring that he’s not proud! Well, that’s in fact what the early church father Jerome thought; in essence, he figured David was proud of himself for being humble. The church fathers typically have lovely insights, but in this case, to be puffed up about one’s own humility is an oxymoron. You can’t be prideful about being humble; that’s just pride, too. 

I don’t think that’s what is happening here. David is not prideful about being humble. Instead, what David is doing is speaking to his own heart. He’s telling something to his soul, and at the same time, vocalizing it to God. Ultimately, he’s recognizing that his heart has adopted an inner posture of humility. 

This becomes more clear as David keeps going: “my eyes are not haughty.” This isn’t haughty like a hottie. Haughty means puffed up. Vain. Arrogance. David is really just saying, “I don’t look down upon others. I don’t feel the need to be better than others anymore. I don’t feel the need to compare myself to others to make myself feel better anymore. I don’t feel the need to compete for attention anymore.” David is putting words to an inner disposition. For whatever reason, whatever the circumstance, he’s been pushed out of a posture of pride and into a posture of humility. 

He goes on. “I do not concern myself with great matters…”

Great matters. When I think of great matters, I think of the big questions of life that we all have. Why does this happen and not this? Why does this person get cancer and this person doesn’t? Why does this person get promoted or get this chance, and this person doesn’t? Big questions. These questions take a toll on us because life is not fair. We can’t predict life, and therefore it befuddles us. We can’t come up with a reliable pattern. 

What David is saying here encompases the big theological questions, too. How is it that I can have a choice, and yet God holds me accountable for my choices? Nothing surprises God and at the same time everything is in His sovereign will…how can that possibly be? 

Christians have been studying these things intensely for hundreds of years, and so for some theological questions we have helpful answers. Simultaneously, what David is effectively saying is something very simple: “I don’t have all the answers. I don’t have all the things figured out and you know what? I can’t. I can’t explain everything.”   

In the past few years of my life, I’ve resonated with this verse. Sometimes it’s a relief to not have to explain the world. Sometimes it’s a relief to not have to try to make sense of everything. Many times I have tried to make sense of everything to the point it just wears me out. But, I’ve gotten older and experienced more of life, I’ve come to realize that we really do live in a fractured world. It’s a broken world, and you know what? I don’t need to be perpetually surprised by that. 

David continues: “or things too wonderful for me.” This really means, “things beyond myself.” Things beyond yourself. 

Job says something very similar at the end of the book that carries his name. After everything happens, after all the hardship goes down, Job finds himself wanting to put God on trial for the things he has experienced. In a wild turn of events, God shows up to court, and He has some questions for Job. Job’s response to those questions goes like this: “Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me.

There is something in this verse about embracing our limitations. Can we embrace our limitations? Or is that shameful for us? 

In the United States, we aren’t comfortable with limitations. We are always supposed to take on more and do more….more is always better. We really like the passage, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” We get tattoos of that one don’t we? How many people are getting tattoos of this verse in Psalm 131? 

Again, I’ve been put in situations when I’ve had to learn to understand that I have limitations: emotionally, physically, and even intellectually. I was always a really good student and I got into the number one ranked university when I graduated from high school. However, when I got to seminary, I remember sitting in a classroom with other graduate students and thinking that I was not the smartest person in the room and I couldn’t even pretend that I was. For whatever reason, I felt ashamed about that. Over time, I had to learn to ask myself an important question.  Can I embrace my limitations and actually be okay with them? 

Can you embrace your limitations? Are you constantly comparing yourself to those around you? Are you competing with your friends or coworkers? Are you looking on Instagram and Facebook, seeing the lives of some of your friends, and feeling jealous about their ability to travel or have the freedom they do? Can you embrace the limits of time you have in one day? 

There’s relief and joy found in embracing who we are, how God has gifted us, where He has placed us, and what He has given us. All of those are bound with some limitations…and there’s a recognition here that these limitations are actually good.

David has learned to choose this posture of rest, and he says it like this: “I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me.”

He carries on in the second verse: “I have calmed and quieted myself, I am like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child I am content.” 

I’ve never had a child (shocker…I’m a 30 year old man living in a one bedroom apartment in River Market). But from what I know about it, weaning is a long, painful process. Weaning is basically teaching the child that their mom isn’t just a giant milk machine, which can result in the child just crying and crying incessantly. But it’s a process that ends in the calm, resignation of the weaned child and its mother. So the image we are supposed to get here is the image of an exhausted, calmed, trusting child, resting on its mother’s chest. 

Here’s the jump. In our dependence on God, we tend to see Him as a giant milk machine in the sky. Sometimes we say oh God I just wish you’d do this. Just change this for me. If only you’d make X happen, then I’d be ok. I think at times those prayers are totally fine. But there also comes a point in our lives where God says to us:

“You know that thing that I’ve given you before, well I’m not going to give it to you anymore. It’s time to grow up. You have to learn to let go of that. Why? Because I want something even better for you. I want you to want me for me. I don’t want you to want me only for the stuff I give you.” 

This maturation process is always difficult. There are times my prayer life has looked like crying, complaining, and just a lot of frustration. These times, painful and long as they can be, always end up with me in calm resignation. I once again find myself resting in the arms of my Father. 

What David is getting at here is a bit of what I think St John of the Cross writes about in The Dark Night of the Soul. The dark night of the soul is a period that feels like abandonment but is actually a progression into the fellowship of God. This is a part of what it looks like to mature as Christians. When God doesn’t meet our immediate need in the way we want, or our plan A doesn’t work out, we are challenged to learn a new kind of dependence and hope. 

The journey of the Christian faith always comes back to hope, and our psalm ends with a call to hope, too. 

“O Israel, put your hope in the Lord both now and forevermore.” 

For David, hope is only found in one place. In the Lord. There is a hope that will never fail us. Our plans will fail us. Our jobs. Our friends. Our own bodies. But there’s one place that we can put our hope that will never fail us. 

We have limitations, but there is One who doesn’t have limitations. We try to make sense of the world and can’t, but there is One in whom and for whom all makes sense. We are the ones who struggle with self-centeredness, pride, self-pity, and all that comes with trying to do things completely on our own, but there is One, who is always waiting for us to return and rest our heads on His chest. 

Friends, our hope is in the Lord. David reminds himself, and the people of God not to forget where real hope lies. 

“O Israel, put your hope in the Lord both now and forevermore.” 

Where’s your hope? Do you need rest? There’s Someone eagerly waiting for you to rest your head on His chest. He’s always there, and He always beckons you to himself. 

Lessons from My Elbow

Lessons from My Elbow

 

About a year ago I seriously injured my elbow when I slipped and hit it on a door frame at a local restaurant. A normal human being with a level of intelligence just slightly higher than a dung beetle would have realized the need to rest in order to heal from such an injury. I clearly did not possess said level of intelligence. 

Not only did I refuse to go to the doctor for several months, I continued to go to the gym, lift weights, and work on finishing our basement. All of that served to compound my elbow problems to the point that I developed lateral epicondylitis, otherwise known as tennis elbow. And yes, I had to google that.

The pain had reached such a level that I had to stop exercising and take a break from the basement project. This was not easy for me to accept because I had to face the fact that I had limitations and that I couldn’t do everything. And that is a hard lesson for someone who has an inflated ego and an exaggerated view of their capabilities.

My desires and attempts to work through the pain were not driven by necessity. They were driven by self-sufficiency. In other words, I didn’t need to remain on my exercise routine, and I didn’t need to finish the basement right away.

I did feel as though my worth and identity was wrapped up in my accomplishments. My aim of validating my significance through my achievements is what resulted in me being forced to rest.  

During this time of “forced” rest, I remember reading in Romans 4 and I came across a verse that felt like it was bolded, underlined, italicized, and highlighted just for me. They were words I had undoubtedly read several times throughout my life, but somehow I saw them for the first time. The context is Paul speaking about the faith of Abraham and he says:

He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. (Romans 4:19-21)

There was something about that phrase in verse 19 that just struck me afresh. Yes, Abraham was fully aware of God’s limitless power and unshakable promises. But he was also fully aware of his own limitations and deficiencies. He knew how old he was, how impossible the promise of a son was, and how incapable he was to accomplish any of this. Yet this was precisely what allowed him to see his life and circumstances in a way that didn’t lead him to despair. 

He knew what he could do and he did it faithfully. He left his home, he followed God, and obeyed his commands. But he also knew what he couldn’t do and he trusted God to fill in the gaps.

If we only look to ourselves or rely on our own abilities, skills, and talents, then this will either inflate our ego to where we say “I got this” or deflate our joy to where we ask “what’s the point of this?” In my life these two are closely related. My joy deflates because I try to do everything and I quickly learn that I can’t. That is why we have to look at our limits and God’s promises simultaneously.

Knowing and leaning into our limits and limitations is not a practice of self-pity that leads to failure and frustration. It is a practice of self-discovery that leads to faithfulness and fruitfulness. Leaning into our limitations is an opportunity for us to trust God and watch Him bring life from barren wombs, so to speak.

When it comes to rest, we will learn how to do it the easy way or the hard way. We will either rest through establishing intentional habits and rhythms, or we will rest out of sheer necessity due to exhaustion of some kind. Our limitations will either prime us to receive God’s gift of rest, or they will cause us to push forward until we are forced to rest.

Which way do you want to learn how to rest?

Can This Last? Sabbath & COVID-19

Can This Last? Sabbath & COVID-19

“So, how are you?” Have you found, as I have, that many people answer this simple question in the same way? “Busy!” Life can throw a lot our way. On top of that, we can contribute to our struggle by filling up what little free time we might have with more stuff. Now I make no judgments on how you fill that time. I would guess a strong case could be made for that stuff being really good stuff. I know I can argue this for my own stuff really well. The question is not if it’s good stuff, but how much is too much, and when should I say “No more!”

I have been challenged in recent months with a barrage of thoughts on the subjects of rest, sabbath, pace, spiritual disciplines, and how all of these things are lived out, practiced, and embodied in my life. It started over a year ago with books, articles, and podcasts. Little “drips” that were all saying the same things – “Alan, is your life focused on the right thing? Are you really living the life that Jesus has in mind? You seem to be busy, but you don’t seem to rest much.” 

I think I’ve always struggled with the idea of rest because I am a “doer.” I like getting things done (and I really like the book Getting Things Done and a hundred other life-hack type books that help me be more efficient and get more stuff done). I like seeing items on my to-do list get checkmarks. I love what I do vocationally and that drives me to work hard. Basically, everything in my life screams “Go fast! Do more!” To be honest, I think I have found my identity in this for a long time.

Then, in the midst of the struggle going on inside my heart and mind—the battle between “do more” and “rest more,”—one of my kids came home from college and asked a heart-felt, but piercing question. “Why did we not practice sabbath as a family growing up?” That may be a hard question for anyone to hear from their kid, but for a pastor, that was really challenging. I’m supposed to be good at this kind of thing and while I think we tried to honor the sabbath by making church a priority, we obviously failed at actually slowing down and resting on the sabbath and observing it in any sort of biblical sense.

Can you relate? I’m guessing (or hoping) you can.

So, at this point, in our new COVID-19 induced time of “slow,” I think I am grateful for a change of pace. It is in the “slow” that I am more ready and willing to focus on and hear the still small voice of God.

In his book The Attentive Life Leighton Ford points out “the ‘burning bushes’ in our path are signs planted in our life, opportunities to listen and pay attention. How often does God put signs out that we miss because our life is filled with so much stuff?” 

I am also wondering how to make this “slow” or change of pace last. How will this not just be a phase we go through? How will I not allow the 127 things on my weekly calendar resume control once our quarantine is over? How will I teach my children to rest and not allow the myriad of activities they have the opportunity to participate in to take over their life and mine? How can I learn to rest more in the goodness of my Savior? How can I “observe the sabbath and keep it holy”? Again, Leighton Ford suggests “[we tend to think] it is the crazy pace of our lives that is killing us when really it’s our inattention to our deepest desire, the desire for God.” I would suggest it is the crazy pace of our lives that is a major contributor to our inattention to God.

Will you join me in praying for something different in the future? Will you join me in seeking to capitalize on our current circumstances and use it to learn a new rhythm? Will you join me in creating new family habits and new family traditions? Ones that are centered on and grounded in Scripture, not culture? Will you join me in being able to answer the question of “How are you?” with something other than “busy”?

 

NOTE: If you want one resource that may help point you down this path of questioning, I recommend John Mark Comer’s book The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry. It is one of many contributors that have helped in my struggle.