Book Review

Practicing Life

Much of what we have been studying and encouraging among each other in our little church and even in my own family’s life is the experience of living transformed lives. Using this season to rightly shape how we live in light of the grace of Christ, loving God and neighbor well.

Oh the crush of things that demand you put yourself first and that attempt to hide rather than expose self-righteousness. If ever we could monopolize on wrecked schedules to start something new, this is it.

Into this fray comes a helpful book, The Common Rule: Habits of Purpose for an Age of Distraction by Justin Whitmel Earley. It is primer on suggested habits for the day and for the week that we can take on to clear our head and live uncluttered devotion to Christ.

I found myself served by Whitmel Earley and his suggestions especially around use of technology and always being accessible. Boundaries benefit us and we could all use a regular Sabbath! All throughout the book there is a steady flow of gospel reminder that can anchor any of us as we live in 2020.

I really appreciated that the author is not a pastor with flexible time built into his schedule but a corporate attorney with a demanding workload.

Below are some key quotes from the book and I encourage you to take up and read, set some rule into your life, from the grace of Jesus for his glory!

“We are all living according to a specific regimen of habits, and those habits shape most of our life.”

“In trying to free ourselves from our limitations, we brought the ultimate limitation of death into the world. But Christ turns this human paradigm on its head. The way down is the way up. The way to victory is through surrender. The way to freedom is through submission.”

“We, for our own sake, tried to become limitless, and the world was ruined. Jesus, for our sake, became limited and the world was saved.”

“Only when your habits are constructed to match your worldview do you become someone who doesn’t just know about God and neighbor but someone who actually loves God and neighbor.”

“We desperately need a set of counter-formative practices to become the lovers of God and neighbor we were created to be.”

“Let me tell you what is overwhelming: a default, normal, unexamined American life. That is completely overwhelming. It’s so much to take on, and we all do it simply by not doing anything else instead.”

“The Common Rule is a different way to live. It’s meant to distill your habits, so you do more meaningful things by doing fewer things.”

“The Common Rule is made up of eight habits, four daily and four weekly. The daily habits are ■ kneeling prayer at morning, midday, and bedtime, ■ one meal with others, ■ one hour with phone off, and ■ Scripture before phone. The weekly habits are ■ one hour of conversation with a friend, ■ curate media to four hours, ■ fast from something for twenty-four hours, and ■ sabbath.”

Discipleship, Grace

Finding Restoration

For the last week and a half, our family has been “hiding in the woods” of Oregon for some much desired and needed time away. And as one does, as we approach the end of our vacation I have been reflecting on whether I have found the refreshment or rest that I thought I needed.

I think so.

For me time away from the regular schedule and demands are times to dream and scheme. I usually come away from short sabbaticals with a list of new challenges or ideas to tackle. This trip has some of this but not nearly the typical crush of tasks to take on. I think a big part of this is that we still don’t know what the next months hold. As virus infections continue to rise in the U.S. and the likelihood of another lock-down seems necessary the church remains in the a flexible posture and we keep preaching the word and trusting the Spirit to move among us (even if we are apart).

I think the other reason I don’t have a huge dream list from this trip is that what I need is not new dreams, what I need is restoration. Renewal, re-energizing for the days ahead.

Sliding into Psalm 126 this morning I join the Psalmist crying out for another move of God.

The prayer begins by recounting. “When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream.” Mouths filled with laughter, shouts of joy, and people taking notice. “The LORD has done great things for them,” Indeed, the LORD has done great things for us… we are in fact glad!

But we won’t settle for nostalgia. We want more of Jesus, more of his harvest, more of his glory. “Restore our fortunes, O LORD, like streams in the Negeb!” Like a flood to a desert place, wash us anew in your grace and overwhelm us with your presence and power.

This has been a season of tears and weeping, which are seeds for sowing. In Christ, we shall come home with shouts of joy. With his harvest.

This is what I need, I think it is what you need too. Restoration. Grace-driven, Christ-exalting, wind-in-your-sails strength. I think that is what the Spirit is working. We are laughing again, shouting for joy.

May we say, Yes, the LORD has done great things for us; we are glad.

Discipleship

Being Undone May Be The Point

I want to commend to you the latest episode of the Spiritual Life & Leadership podcast from Markus Watson. In this episode Markus interviews A.J. Swoboda and discusses sabbath.

The remarkable, and important exchange comes early in the conversation when Swoboda talks about how sometimes sabbath undoes us, which is the point to get us to hear God and submit yet again to his way.

Our old normal left no margin. Constant noise, busy, full calendars. Never quiet, never just listening.

Perhaps then this pandemic is meant to undo us, so that we will find space to hear from the Lord again, to desire it. To truly rest not just metaphorically rest. I know it has been that for me. And I want more.

Grab the podcast wherever you listen to such things. And pursue sabbath.