To mark the start of the Christmas season, from Every Moment Holy volume 1:
“Grant us grace to savor this season as we live it together, that in later days the memory of this place and these times will linger sweetly, shaping
Through the candy cane-striped juggernaut of the season, beyond the glitter and glamour, do we know that the deepest longing of our hearts is not a cake or a new gadget, but to move from busyness to restfulness? In an age of accumulation and actualization, the invitation is to prepare our whole lives for Advent (Latin; arrival) in such a way that awakens a wonder in us for the God-with-us life.
Or, what the spiritual writer Marva Dawn calls a “sabbath spirituality”? Meaning, a life where we are at peace with God, ourselves, and live with one another in joy.
In a world pulled apart by anxiety, anger, darkness and differences, there was (then) and is (now) a deep longing in the hearts of people for a person to come and set all things right.
The prophets, in the OT, looked far into the future and saw the Son of God (Jesus) coming to earth. “God with us” (Matt. 1:23) is a supernova in the darkness – a darkness that wouldn’t win.
Advent asks us to consider, “what” are we putting our hope in? Is it our performance, looks, personality, popularity, or opinions? Will that fulfill and carry all of our heart’s ache?
Advent can prepare us to be awakened to the wonder of God-with-us then, here, and now.
One of Jesus’ most famous invitations is found in Matthew 11. I love pastor Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase:
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
Are you tired has become a colloquial question in our 21st century age. Some of the reasons include busyness and the frenetic pace of the digital age, noise internal and external, the rising cost of living, polarization of politics, radical individualism, sexual experimentation, racial tension, and the epidemic of loneliness – not to mention the ongoing mental health crisis before and especially after COVID.
Jesus’ will for your life is to not be relentlessly exhausted, unhappy, stretched and stacked with tension. That’s the enemy’s will for your life. It is confusing to the wider world when we say we belong to the Prince of Peace, but our lives reek of stress.
When we live without restfulness, we go against the rhythm that God, the Creator, Himself, built into our bodies as well into the fabric of all creation. As a philosopher once said, “when we go against the grain of the universe you get splinters.”
When we cultivate restfulness or what Scripture calls “sabbath”, we remember that:
- We are not what we do, what we have, or what others think of us, but who we are deeply loved by.
- Our life with God is not a right…..but a gift.
- That, yes, the world is full of evil and injustice, but also goodness, beauty, and truth.
- And we, as one author says, practice eternity by stopping, resting, and worshipping.
When we purposefully practice this, we undergo a dramatic, countercultural shift – from busyness to restfulness.
From –––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– To
• Hurry Peace
• Busyness Restfulness
• Burnout Sustainable pace
• Noise Quiet
• Distraction Clarity
• Isolation Solitude
• Crowds Community
• Grasping Gratitude
• Anger Graciousness
• Lust Holy Consideration
• Power Grabbing Surrender + Service
As the biblical scholar Walter Brueggeman says: “people who sabbath (practice restfulness) live all seven days differently.” We must take radical and intentional steps to live this way.
That’s the principle, here’s the practice. Over this next month, fill this (below) listening exercise out to move from busyness to restfulness.
- Listen to Mental Noise – What am I thinking about? What’s on my mind? Write it down. (Try not to edit, judge, analyze, or be critical to what’s in your head). Just write it down.
- Listen to your Physical Body – What is my body saying? Physically, how do I feel right now?
- Listen to your feelings – What is my heart sensing? What am I feeling?
- Sad, Angry, Scared, Happy, Excited, Tender.
- Listen to your desires – What do I desire (surface and deep desires) Try not to edit, judge, analyze, or be criticize. Just write down what you desire.
- Listen to hear God’s Desires – Ask God, “What do you desire?” Ask God what is on his heart. Is there anything that God desires for you or wants to say to you? (Fruit of the Spirit is: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, self-control). If you hear anything that resonates with you, write it down. Try your best not to judge, analyze it, just reflect on what God might be saying to you.
While growing up in Arlington Heights, IL, it wasn’t until the start of my senior year did I start to wonder if Jesus was worth considering. For me, it took the intellectual, communal, and personal components to come together to say – yes – to Him. I like to say He captured the restlessness of my soul and like a guitar restrung my heart with the cords of eternity and it hasn’t gone back since.
Shortly after coming to know Jesus as my greatest hope and reality, my father died. Since then, I’ve taken great comfort in Corrie Ten Boom’s words, “If you look at the world, you’ll be distressed. If you look within, you’ll be depressed. If you look at God, you’ll be at rest.”
Then, not long after that, a family member came out to me. For the first time this dimension of life – spirituality and sexuality – wasn’t an abstract concept, this was and is a person. After attending to them with grace and truth, an odd phenomenon kept happening to me, or has it been for something? Individuals would continually trust me with their questions, wounds, and curiosities about their sexuality. At this point, it’s climbed to 15+. From there, I’ve invested the better part of eight years being engaged with individuals and immersed in the dizzying array of literature on these areas of our personhood.
I’ve found Elizabeth Elliot’s words to have great bearing on our cultural moment: “Faith doesn’t eliminate questions, but faith knows where to take them.” Two prayers that have grounded and guided my life are: “I long to have faith and obedience like those I see in the Scriptures, and I long to preach the gospel to the nations.”
Those are my life’s aims. Among my love of books, reflection, and nurturing meaningful relationships, I enjoy good coffee, jazz music, golf, snowboarding, the movies, pizza (pepperoni), cooking, the mountains, and the beach as well as traveling.
I hold an MDiv from Denver Seminary, and I hope to gain more clarity on pursuing a PhD in the coming years.
I’m humbled and honored to join the WGA staff and contribute to the on-going space they are curating for every person, every story, and every beautiful and broken aspect of our human experience.
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