I am happy to report I completed my first Recalibrate Life Read for 2019. The book I read was Sacred Rhythms by Ruth Haley Barton. I went through this book chapter by chapter, and took time to engage in most of the practices suggested.
Barton shares in the introduction what spiritual transformation is. She explains that it is “all about choosing a way of life that opens us to the presence of God in the places of our being where our trust, desires, and deepest longings stir.”
The book begins with a chapter on our longings and the importance of recognizing them. We need to honestly reflect on what we want and then bring those longing before the Lord. Barton uses the Bible story of Bartimaeus to help us reach deep inside to find our own longings. In that story Jesus asks blind Bartimaeus, “what do you want me to do for you?” Barton asks us to ask ourselves the same question as if from the Lord and share our responses with Him. I took time to do this, it was refreshing. Some very deep longings came to the surface. My time of telling the Lord what I longed for was so filled with tenderness. I think I have voiced needs that come out of these longings, but I do not think that I have ever really talked about what was at the bottom of those needs, the longings beneath my neediness. I felt vulnerable and exposed in being so real, but I left that time with the Lord feeling held and heard in my reaching out to Him.
Barton continues the book discussing solitude and how taking time alone creates space for God. Life gets so busy and with technology we are constantly on call. Barton shares that she has found how important it is for being present with what is real in her life. She talks about sitting in our feelings, our grief, our tears, our questions, our anger, and our loneliness, or whatever we are feeling or experiencing, allowing the Lord to be with us in that place. Knowing His presence in that deep place leads to a deeper intimacy with Him and it helps us to know ourselves better. Too often in the crazy chaos of life we instead bury our feelings not even taking time to acknowledge their presence, let alone sit in them.
Another discipline discussed in this book was that of reflecting on and responding to small portions of Scripture through the practice of Lectio Divina. I took time to linger in the Word and to linger with the Lord savoring what He was showing me in the Scripture I selected for this time. I had chosen Psalm 23 verses 1-3a to read, a very short selection, but it was so full and rich. Lingering there in the tender, green pastures and the still, fresh waters, I learned more about true rest. In these verses I also recognized my need for soul-refreshing restoration. Just rest. Just trust. I am your protector and provider. I will restore and refresh your weary soul. That is what the Lord told me in these words of David’s precious Psalm. And I took that with me through my day.
The next chapter was on Prayer. Barton says,“Prayer is all the ways in which we communicate and commune with God. The fundamental purpose of prayer is to deepen our intimacy with God.” What could be more important than that? The practice in this chapter was “breath prayer.” It is about learning to be present with the Lord throughout your day. I chose my prayer to be, “My Sweet Abba. Help me abide.” The busyness of life often keeps me from abiding, but taking time to come to the Lord throughout my day with these words, relaxed me, and drew me in. My first experience with breathing this prayer touched my heart deeply. The picture that came to mind was that of being in the shadow of His wings, so close, so protected, so safe. It brought me to tears. Breath prayer has become a daily slow-me-down prayer and it has been wonderful to stop momentarily and remember I am not alone in my day. How very important it is to draw near to Him and know His loving presence in the midst of the frenetic pace of our days.
Barton discusses honoring our bodies in another chapter. This one is about considering how we have been created for wholeness. She suggests intentionally connecting spiritual practices with physical activities like walking meditation. I did not work through this practice. It is something that I am hoping to go back to.
Barton also discusses self-examination. She explains two practices of examen, as well as confessing our sinfulness, and asking for forgiveness. It is all about taking time to look deeply at the week you are in or the day you have just completed and really consider how you have lived it and responded to it. The thing I recognized in this practice is that in my busyness I often miss recognizing the Lord’s presence with me. I have considered this before, but it became very real to me here. I also realized how easily sinful attitudes and responses can be completely dismissed as I continue through my day. It is difficult to look so closely at your attitudes and behaviors and realize how focused you are on the tasks at hand. This practice is one I want to repeat weekly (at least), it seemed very important to me.
Discernment was one of my favorite chapters. Barton says that discernment is “a way of looking at all of life” then “sensing the movement of God’s Spirit and abandoning ourselves to it.” I love that definition. The other thing that stood out to me in this chapter was where she talked about the need for indifference to anything but God’s will. She suggests that we ask ourselves the question: “What needs to die in me in order for God’s will to come forth in my life?” I will be returning to this chapter often also.
Another discipline discussed was that of Sabbath-keeping. Sabbath-keeping is about establishing rhythms of work and rest in our lives. This is not at all a legalistic practice, but instead a gift from the Lord for our good. He offers us time to find rest for our bodies, replenishment for our spirit’s, and restoration for our souls. Barton offers a lot of good ideas or options for practicing this discipline, even if we just start small. There are so many benefits.
Finally, the book ends with chapter on cultivating rhythms for spiritual transformation through the structure of a “rule of life”. Barton says the “rule of life” makes us ask ourselves the question, “How do I want to live so I can be who I want to be?” A rule of life is a means of “opening ourselves in a consistent manner to God’s transforming work in us.” This chapter forced me to decide if I would intentionally put any of these disciplines into practice in my life and how I would do that. I definitely want to put some of them into practice. I am starting small and hoping to grow in into practicing more.
I enjoyed this book a lot, I learned a lot, and I feel that the practices I choose will definitely be helpful in growing in intimacy with the Lord as well as in recalibrating my life.
I especially enjoyed the questions she brought to the chapters, they caused me to deeply reflect and encouraged me to respond in prayer. So many ways to deepen my intimacy with the Lord. Even if there was only one practice that pulled me in, this book was well worth the time it took to read.