Friday, June 28, 2013

Rhythms of Rest

Today's post comes from my friend and mentor, Ned Berube. Ned has been married 42 years to Sue, with 6 children ages 22-38 and 5 grandchildren ages 2-9. He's (joyfully) survived 38 years in pastoral ministry, 2 church plants, and is the current president of the ARC, as well as serving as a leadership consultant with Whitewater Ministries the last 4 years. In light of my recent post regarding working while resting, Ned has written some thoughts on celebrating Sabbath rhythms.

As a young pastor in 1975, I threw myself headfirst into caring for the flock and largely lost track of the reality of marriage and family. It took an article in which a Christian leader wrote about time management and outlined how he prioritized his wife and family as the first order of business in his "ministry". That was a game changer for me. I also began to take a week every January to get apart and recalibrate my priorities for life.

Doesn't he look like your favorite Grandpa?

In 1986 I attended a conference in Michigan that among other things pointed to the necessity of establishing core values and commensurate practices that would help to establish a culture that reflected the kingdom of God. One of the significant features of this culture building was the understanding of celebration. The relative richness of any culture is often seen by the events and values that they celebrate. And if in fact the practice of celebration is weak or non-existent, the values of the culure will diminish and finally get lost. And the culture will expire.

Returning from that conference, I began implementing a recognition of our core values and practices that undergirded these values. The results were profound. Our identity as a people flourished and our mission became clearer and more fruitful. But at one more conference in 2006, I heard another perspective on celebration and sabbatical rhythms that furthered my commitment to this approach to ministry. Sharing from the mind of God as outlined to Israel, the speaker unpacked the biblical understanding of Sabbath and the Jewish feasts. The core principles that I ferreted from this time were:
  1. The point of a weekly Sabbath is to return to God as your Source of all provision and to delight oneself afresh in His goodness and generosity. Failing to get there often will probably result in trusting one's own capacities to navigate life and relegating God to an emergency role, kind of a divine EMT. To live by faith means that we are receiving from a living God who is always seeking to provide for us out of His covenant nature.
  2. Celebrating what one values establishes the core value more deeply. Failing to do so will end in diminishment and loss.
  3. Disciples/people are shaped by culture as well as principle. The communal dynamic is crucial. And the culture of the community must be constructed thoughtfully.
  4. Stopping is a practice that is not well known among both believers and non. We are driven by wrong priorities and false time constraints to the point that we easily feel out of control and discouraged. The sabbatical rhythm of stopping and remembering what is important and reflecting with the Spirit regarding next steps is a rhythm that no leader of God's people can neglect.
  5. Building culture must be done intentionally and carefully or the power of the surrounding culture will overwhelm and define in unhealthy ways. 
Four years ago I took my first real sabbatical. I wasn't burnt out largely because I had been reasonably careful regarding sabbatical rhythms in my personal and family life. But the result of those 6 months apart were remarkable. As I made a transition into more of a consultant rather than local church role, I found a renewal of creativity and grace and desire that continues to this day. I often think of this renewal in light of God's command to Israel to let the land lie fallow every seventh year and trust Him to not only provide for them during that fallow year but to literally allow the soil to be renewed in its composition. That's exactly what occurred for me, a deep renewal of the soul.
Sabbatical rhythms are not at all about rule-keeping. Rather it is the wisdom of God for personal and corporate health and the capacity to last long and bear much fruit.

What kind of sabbatical rhythms have you found in your life? When was the last time you took some rest?

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