I have a dear friend who will often say, “When I hear or read the same theme or message from three different sources, I know that God is trying to get my attention.” I, too, have known this to be true in my life. If God is at work to refine me, I will often come across the same scripture passage in a variety of ways. Sometimes it comes in the form of a sermon, another time through my devotional reading, and yet again by encouraging words from a blog post or book.
As of late, the word that keeps popping up in multiple arenas is this: rest.
I have recently begun listening to a podcast entitled Glorious in the Mundane, hosted by Christy Nockels. During one of the episodes, Christy’s guest made the point that when you see a great deal of Christian books being written about the same subject, yet penned by different authors, take notice! God is breathing a Word into the hearts of His people.
I am beginning to believe that the doctrine of sabbath and rest is starting to permeate the books on the shelves of our libraries and bookstores. I first noticed it in the homeschooling books I’ve been reading. Then, I began hearing sermons about it. A few days ago, I spent a couple of hours in a local Christian bookstore, scouring the titles of the devotional books. As I expected, there were several volumes dedicated to the idea of setting aside a restful time to be refreshed and renewed.
Before I fully launch into this post, let me give a bit of clarification. By “rest” I don’t mean laying around on the couch eating chocolates and watching Pride and Prejudice. Nor do I mean zoning out and playing Candy Crush for two hours straight right after school is over. Ahem. Yes, I have done those things–and they aren’t bad–it’s just that they aren’t the true definition of rest. As I think about those kinds of activities, I would define them as, “doing what I want to do because I deserve some me time.” Interestingly, when I’ve finished that two hour Candy Crush bonanza, I don’t feel refreshed, energized, or rested.
In contrast, here are some activities that promote restfulness:
- sitting alone in a somewhat quiet place to read scripture and meditate upon it
- going for a prayer walk
- finding a scenic spot in town and reading scripture
- listening to peaceful arrangements of songs, hymns and spiritual songs while I repose and think on Him, or whilst coloring
- gathering with my small group of sisters in Christ and delving into prayer, scripture reading, and discussion
- listening to an uplifting podcast and then taking time to think about the themes and admonitions presented
For me, restfulness is a mindset. It is peace in the midst of troubled waters. It results when anxiety is morphed by trust.
I can only describe this process in my life as a slow awakening that began several months ago. Over the passing days, it has grown from a still small voice to a booming and all- encompassing desire in my soul. It culminated with a blog post and video that Dr. Christopher Perrin released via Classical Academic Press a couple of weeks ago. It is entitled, “Scholé for Classical Christian Educators.” In it, he speaks of the importance of incorporating sabbath into our hourly, daily, weekly, and monthly schedules. It was as though an enormous light bulb illuminated my mind and heart. This was Truth. This is was the touchstone that I was to move toward. It is to what God is calling all of us.
As I ponder all of the scripture, books, sermons, lectures, podcasts, and articles that I have come across on this subject, I firmly believe that rest is something we are altogether missing in our daily lives. And, as we are neglecting these times of rest, we are missing out on the abundant life God has purposed for us.
It was my culminated lack of quiet, contemplative time with the Lord that left me cold, calloused, and even snippy with my loved ones. It was my neglect of times of refreshing that left me worried and anxious about the difficulties in my life. I went about my daily ritual with the wrong focus and the wrong priorities. What’s even worse, my lack of restful trust spilt over into my children.
This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says:
“In repentance and rest is your salvation,
in quietness and trust is your strength,
but you would have none of it.” Isaiah 30:15
At this juncture, I want to confess that I did like the idea of quietness and trust. I even dabbled in it, if you will. But, if the truth were to be told, my actions proclaimed: “I want nothing of this!”
Oh, if it were not for His grace. Where would I be?
Repentance was the first step I had to take. I had to turn from the habits and priorities that had captured my thoughts, and acknowledge that yet again I was striving to do things in my own power. Earlier this week, as I drove several hours in the car by myself (a rarity for me), I knew that I must not squander the time that had been given to me. So, I spent a great deal of time praying. I sang a few songs of praise. I listened to another episode of Glorious in the Mundane, and was inspired to live a life that looks for the hand of God in the small, often mundane details of life. This was the key to growth that I had been missing. I found myself pausing the podcast and crying out to the Lord, “Oh, that you would do that work in me! Do that work in my husband and in our girls! Let us approach each moment of every day with this perspective!”
To me, true repentance, rest, quietness, and trust come from living out the following verse. I learned it when I was a mere child. As an adult I have concluded that it is one of the HARDEST truths to put into practice:
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean NOT on your own understanding. In ALL your ways, acknowledge Him, and he will direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6
Many times, I can’t even get past the first phrase! It is even more difficult to acknowledge Him in EVERYTHING I do, each and every day.
Here is where the discipline of restfulness comes into play. Wait what? Discipline of restfulness? Yep. This is where Dr. Perrin’s article and video are extremely helpful. Following the pattern that God instigated in “resting on the seventh day,” Perrin exhorts us to implement this ratio of 6:1. One way we are trying it is by working hard in school for six weeks and then taking an entire week off. For the girls, this means a completely free schedule during the week of rest. For me, it is a week where I can sleep in a little, read a lot, plan the next term, contemplate what went well during the previous term and what needs improvement in the next, and so on. Can I step aside a moment here and tell you that it works? It is amazing what one week of refreshment can do for a homeschooling family. Without a doubt, I have been a better teacher for my girls. I have less anxiety about their learning because I can re-evaluate as we go.
Just this week, we began to enforce the 6:1 ratio in our daily schedule too. During the seventh hour that we are awake, we are taking time to get quiet and have a personal devotional time with God. We are placing it at the beginning of our reading hour, so it falls at 2 p.m. To be honest, this is the time if day when I am usually fizzing out and ready to be done. It comes at the most opportune time for me! We all find a separate corner of the living area, I put on some peaceful music, and we have time to read, pray, contemplate, and renew.
Here are the resources we are using during this time of rest and refreshment:
For the Girls:
God and Me Devotionals for Girls. Rosebud is going through the one for ages 10-12 and Sunshine uses the book for ages 6-9.
These are simple, straightforward resources that lead us to a time of resting in God’s presence.
My hope is that by carving out a time when we can each “Be still and know that He is God,” we can come away with renewed energy, deepened faith, and refreshed spirits. I pray that my girls will grow to cherish our sabbath time during the school day, and that they fall in love with their quiet time, so that it becomes a habit and priority. My desire is that they crave a time of refreshment with their Savior each day, and that they experience God’s grace, truth, goodness, and beauty. Maybe as they grow older they will choose not to sacrifice their time of rest for shallow distractions and mindless activities. But instead, they will practice the discipline of sabbath rest.
Wouldn’t that be an extraordinary blessing?
How might you incorporate sabbath rest into your day, week, or month? How might your family practice the discipline of restfulness?