I hang on to these words for dear life! These words hold me up in bad times; yes, your promises rejuvenate me. ~ Psalm 119:49, Message Version.
I’d like to use this edition of the December Messenger to share some insight from a leadership podcast that I often listen to – Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast. In this episode, Carey Nieuwhof, who is the Senior Pastor of Connexus Church (.com), interviews the founder and spiritual director of Transforming Center (.org), Ruth Haley Barton. Many of you, as you’re reading this, may already understand what it means to push yourself, to work tirelessly both in the office as well as at home, to make plans to hit all the holiday events, to do everything in your power to buy that right gift, and to give of yourself missionally because, of course, this is the season of giving and impacting others. And so, maybe the thesis of this episode resonates with you, as it did with me; that is, efforts to recover soul and life are strengthened when we embrace Sabbath, rest, and retreat. Here are three suggested ideas, as recorded from the transcript of the podcast.
- The more connected we are, the more disconnected we become.
Technology is dangerous because it’s keeping us stimulated. There’s no time to quiet down and hear the still small voice of God.
In our modern society, the norm is to move fast enough where we cannot hear our soul. The soul doesn’t compete. It is not going to shout and yell about all the other distractions we allow into our lives. We need to make space to hear what we really need.
Technology is keeping us distracted with the outer world rather than being in touch with our inner world – where our soul has something to say to God and where God is wanting to say something true to our souls.
- If you don’t take the Sabbath, the Sabbath will take you.
Sabbath is an extremely difficult, but important spiritual discipline to keep in your weekly rhythm. Both secular culture and church culture will often try to keep you moving and busy all day on Sunday, but keeping a Sabbath is one of the best ways to be countercultural as a Christian.
When we’re compulsive in our work, when we can’t stop, when we can’t disconnect, when we’re restless and bored, when we distract ourselves through busyness and through the kinds of activities that are really aren’t good for us, like escapism whether it’s shopping or spending or overeating or pornography or fantasy novels, whatever it is, that causes a person to choose escape rather than choosing life-giving activity, that is a symptom of being dangerously tired.
The Sabbath, especially when connected with worship, is a life-giving discipline. Practicing this discipline puts ourselves on a road away from burnout and exhaustion.
- As Parents, we cannot let our children’s activities overtake our own health.
It is extremely common in our North American culture to allow kid activities to dictate our lives. Ruth argues that we need to protect our Sabbath day even if our kids have commitments. She said, “I think parents have to be really brave and not let their kids’ lives drive them. And when we do this, it leads our own children to realize the critical importance of Sabbath; thereby, encouraging their balanced growth.”
This is not to diminish athletics or other activities, but to lift more to prominence, a well-balanced family that promotes the life-giving power found in rejuvenation above the often soul-draining feeling that comes from prolonged fierce competition. As Christians, we’ve got to drive some stakes in the ground and not let the culture tell us what’s normal.
Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath (Matthew 12:1-8, Mark 2:23-28 and Luke 6:1-5), and for those who accept the Lordship of his love into our lives, we understand Jesus is Lord of a rejuvenated spirit. As you enter this season of Joy, Hope, Peace, and Love, I invite you into spiritual practices of Sabbath, rest, and retreat. How will you live a little differently because of these practices? You’re always invited to e-mail me at email@example.com. Also, if you haven’t attended worship in a while, please come back. There is a place for you.
Peace and Love,
Rev. William M. Williams, III