My Response to “Sacred Rhythms”

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.

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My 2019 “Recalibrate Life” Reads

My theme phrase for this new year is “Recalibrate Life.” I have shared in previous posts how I want to intentionally recalibrate my life. My focus will be on slowing down, on choosing rest, on learning Sabbath, and on living in simplicity. So, I have chosen a book to read for each month to lead me in practicing these things. I have had many of these books for some time. I may have read them or skimmed through them but I did not intentionally put them into practice. This time through I want to glean practices to apply to my daily life. So, as I read I will be taking notes and journaling responses. At the end of each month I will share my response to the book with you. I will discuss what I learned and if or how I will be applying it to my life.

Let me start by sharing the book titles and a short synopsis of each as well as my thoughts on what I hope to take away from it.

Sacred Rhythms

by Ruth Haley Barton

Sacred Rhythms discusses seven key spiritual disciplines. Barton lays out practical ways to weave these disciplines into our busy lives. At the end of each chapter she gives you opportunity to try the discipline, leading you through a practice of it.

I have read this one years ago, and already started it this year. I am getting a lot out of it even after just a few chapters. I will be trying to incorporate some of these practices in my life.

Abundant Simplicity: Discovering the Unhurried Rhythms of Grace 

by Jan Johnson

This book is about being intentional about our choices in life, choosing those that lead to living a simpler life in “an engaging and relational way” rather than filled with obligation and pretense.

I have read this one before also. There is a lot to learn and put into practice in this book.  I will try to choose a few that I can do. This year is about simplifying, not adding more to-do’s.

GodSpace: Time for Peace in the Rhythms 

by Christine Sine MD

First, this book explores spiritual rhythms and then, secondly, the author examines practical ways to incorporate these essential practices into our lives.

I want to learn rhythms to incorporate into my life to keep me from racing and running constantly. I want my focus to be more on the Lord!  I like that it is both about GodSpace and GodsPace. Taking time to be with Him and going with Him in His timing!

Keeping Sabbath Wholly

by Marva Dawn

This book is a written invitation to learn  to experience joy and wholeness through choosing to observe the Sabbath. The author shares reasons why this is important as well as methods for putting it into practice.

I want to learn more about ways to practice Sabbath. Not to practice it in a legalistic way, but to practice it in a way that gives me rest and honors the Lord.

A Worn Out Woman: When Life is Full and Your Spirit is Empty 

by Alice Gray and Steve Stephens

This is a book of practical solutions for the stressed-out woman. This book promises to help its reader to “trade in a life of running on empty for a life that is meaningful and fulfilling.”

Our lives can feel so empty when we are living in the place of stress and overwhelm. I am definitely ready to trade that in for fulfillment and meaning!

A Place Called Simplicity: The Quiet Beauty of Simple Living 

by Claire Cloninger

I have read this one and loved it, but will gladly reread it. It takes you on a journey  of simplifying many different facets of life. It has a “step-by-step plan based on a personal inventory to help you unclutter your life.”

I am constantly working on decluttering or at least it seems that way. This year I am trying to be more intentional about it!

Even God Rested: Why It’s Okay for Women to Slow Down 

by Kim Thomas

In this book, the author shares how to cease from the things in life that are draining us and instead feast on the delight and refreshment God offers.

That is exactly what I need to learn! Life can feel so draining, we all need delight and refreshment!

Sabbath Keeping: Finding Freedom in the Rhythm of Rest

by Lynne M. Baabs

This one offers to be a practical and hopeful guidebook to help each of us slow down and really enjoy our relationship with the Lord.

Really enjoying relationship with the Lord and slowing down, those are things I need to learn to practice more in my life. It is  too easy to just come to Him for things or try to prove self to Him.

Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal and Delight in our Busy Lives

by Wayne Muller

Muller “shows us how to create a special time of rest, delight and renewal. “He “teaches us how we can use this time of sacred rest to refresh our bodies and minds, restore our creativity, and repair our birthright of inner happiness.”

The words “rest, delight, and renewal” caught my eye in this title. I want more of each of these in my life.

Your Sacred Yes: Trading Life-Draining Obligation for Freedom, Passion, and Play

by Susie Larson

In this book the author shares “biblical ways to

  • learn how and when to say no without guilt or shame
  • find peace and perspective that matches God’s best for you
  • discern man-made obligation from God-given invitation

These are definitely areas I need help with as I live my life! I get bogged down with expectations and obligations that may not be what the Lord has for me.

Oxygen: Deep Breathing for the Soul

by Keri Wyatt

This book is described as a “perfect guide to help you deepen your walk with Christ.” A few of the important practices discussed are:

  • being with God rather than doing for Him
  • how to spend time in solitude
  • how to journal and pray
  • how to listen to what God is saying to you

I am hoping to glean a few new ideas from here to encourage me as I continually learn to grow deeper in my walk with the Lord.

SoulRest: Reclaim Your Life; Return to Sabbath

by Curtis Zachery

This one is a call to examine and restructure our days around purposeful and sustainable life with Jesus.

That sounds wonderful. So much of what we try to do does not fit into those categories in our lives. We get caught up in checking off our checklists that overflow from page to page. And, for me,  too often it is more about the “getting done” than about the process. Purpose and sustainability are lost in that.

 

So, there is my list. I realize there is a lot of repetition in the topics and practices. I am hoping that I can filter through all of the information and come away with a life recalibrated. I will be sharing with you monthly about what I am reading and learning. If I get bogged down with a book, I may choose a different option as I had a hard time limiting my list to one book for each month, so I do have other choices available to go with. I am looking forward to sharing this journey with you.

Many blessings to you in 2019!

The Lord’s Perfect Way; Not Always What We Expect

There is less than two months until Christmas, and then only one week beyond that 2019 begins.

I recently was rereading snippets from my journal and repeatedly read about the stress and exhaustion I was feeling. How very overwhelmed I was, and how much my neck and shoulder muscles were throbbing. Over and over and over these complaints were voiced in nearly every journal entry.

This made me want to cry. You see, my word for the year 2018 was “Cultivate.” I wanted to cultivate presence, passion for life, gratitude, and joy. Sadly, I saw very little written about those things in the fabric of my life.

So, I am on a quest towards rest for my soul. I am reading books on rest, Sabbath, and leisurely time with the Lord knowing His presence. I have a special journal I am using to put my notes in about these topics. As I read I record words and thoughts that resonate with me.

The Lord has been consistently working on my behalf in so many areas of my life that I have allowed to stress me out. And I see Him healing some very deep and painful wounds within. It is not an overnight process. It is slow but He is gently with me teaching me truths to help me heal.

This morning I meditated on Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV).

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

I have been too busy, and too stressed, and just am feeling exhausted. The Lord’s invitation for me to “come” touched a tender place within and made tears sting my eyes. I felt so like a little child, needy and fragile, and I crawled into Daddy’s lap as he stretched his arms out to me and called me to ‘come.’ I ran to the Lord, and snuggled in heart to heart. I told Him once again about how I feel and all that is weighing me down. I cast all of my cares on Him, trusting in His care for me, as 1 Peter 5:7 tells me.

My neck and shoulders relaxed.

My jaw unclenched.

I breathed in deeply.

All too often I do this but then run head on into my day and lift the boulders of worry, the heaviness of expectations, and the overload of obligations up again. I carry it all back into my life with me.

But then I heard, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest” (Exodus 33:14). The rest doesn’t need to end when I get up and begin my day. Unfortunately, it often does.

Yesterday, my husband and I had to make a long drive and as we were traveling I started to think about 2019. It felt refreshing to think of starting over. And I began to remember all that I have been taught this year during my time with the Lord as well as during those unexpected opportunities in the midst of life when He finds a teachable moment. As I recalled those things, I realized how much I want and need to make some very important changes in my life. Changes He has been pointing me towards that I have been reluctant to follow down the path of.

I felt frustrated with myself in not having cultivated joy, presence, gratitude, or passion for life consistently through 2018. My frustration made me feel earnest and deliberate about seeking change. So much so that I have already chose my phrase for 2019’s focus in my life.

My two-word phrase is “Recalibrate Life.” In 2019 I want to focus on the essential and be intentional. I want to choose to live passionately. I want to practice walking with slow feet, abandoning outcomes to my Lord, living present before Him, practicing reflection and listening, and setting aside time for play. All of these, so I may learn to know more joy in life, more joy in my heart. I will only truly know that joy as all of life is centered around Christ.

So as I prepare, as I read books on Sabbath, soul rest, and leisurely time with the Lord, I will be praying for more of His leading regarding how He desires me to live out these changes.

I know holding tightly to control, worrying, allowing anxiety to take over, pushing through, manipulating, trying to get my way; none of these work. Relying on Him and resting fully in His love is the way I want to live.

I have found that reading through past journal entries, reflecting on the paths I have been traveling, reviewing how the Lord has worked in my life, and considering what He is teaching me, help me see the road I have been walking on during the previous year. And I have opened my heart to the Lord to help me clearly understand what He was doing. Taking this time for reflection with an open heart and mind are so important.

What about you? Where have you travelled this year? Are you taking time to reread, reflect, review, and really look at where you have been as well as consider where you are being led?

I am so thankful to the Lord for all that He has taught me so far in 2018. Not easy lessons, but good lessons, ones that have helped me to know Him more and have helped my trust to deepen.

Now in the frustration I was feeling, I just realized that I had totally misunderstood my word for 2018. Cultivate. Wasn’t I suppose to make something happen? I was looking or good things to be planted in my life and bear good fruit.

But instead I realize that the Lord truly wanted to cultivate, He wanted to begin to weed out roots of sin, to make me see my lack of trust, to loosen my tight grip on control, and so much more. It was not the journey I expected or even wanted, but I am realizing it was a very necessary journey.

He had to start the weeding-out process before He could make the soil of my heart ready for what He wants to grow there. He has specific desires for changes He wants to make. My Creator God is at work recreating my life, heart and soul, to work out His purposes rather than my own. He had to help me learn to release my grip of control in order for me to be open to the new thing He is doing.

Isaiah 43:19 “Behold, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs forth; do you not perceive and know it and will you not give heed to it? I will even make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”

What an amazing God. You see, I thought I knew what cultivating meant, but the Lord had a different plan. A better plan.

Remember to take time to look for His work in your life, He will always surprise you with His wisdom and His love!