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Monday, January 9, 2017

"Rhythms of Rest" (Shelly Miller)

TITLE: Rhythms of Rest: Finding the Spirit of Sabbath in a Busy World
AUTHOR: Shelly Miller
PUBLISHER: Bloomington, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2016, (224 pages).

A lot have already been written about the Sabbath but the need far outstrips the supply. What is the Sabbath? What makes this book unique compared to the other books? For author Shelly Miller, the first thing with regard to taking a rest is her mantra: "I Don't Do Guilt." There is no need to be guilty about taking a day off per week, or to rest where needed. Sabbath rest is about receiving a gift and not an excuse for guilt. While the world teaches us to rely on ourselves and our own abilities, taking a rest is in effect an acknowledgement that things will take care of themselves even as we rest. It requires surrender and deep trust. The way forward is not simply an obligation to force a weekly sabbath but to joyfully discover rhythms in which we can rest well. Sabbath is a gift. It is a reflection of God's creativity. It is an opportunity for us to demonstrate to others that rest is not only possible, it is beneficial. Miller goes beyond simply taking a break. Sabbath is a time in which we commune with God in an intentional space. It is an invitation to intimate conversation, unhurried by the hustle and bustle of the world. It is a way in which we say to the world: "You shall have no hold on me."

While the benefits are many, there are also myths and deceptions that threaten to derail our pursuit of Sabbath rest. That is why Miller spends time dispelling myths like doing Church as a form of Sabbath. She writes:

"I tell her that I don't do church anymore. I try to be the church to people. For me, doing church is an illustration in slothful living - not laziness, but mindless busyness, something you check off on a list for your week. The heart can become detached, the ritual commonplace, like a child's piece of art hanging on your refrigerator for month. Initially, it takes the centerpiece of daily activity, but over time the beauty is overlooked, lost in the mundane. Celebrating faith can become a callous responsibility." (69)

Right on.

Just because we do religion or church does not make our doing a restful act. In fact, Sundays can be particularly busy time for believers. Miller believes that belonging precedes believing. She dispels myths:

  • Needing long periods of quiet and stillness before one can rest well
  • Needing everything to be done before one can rest well
  • Becoming mature before one can rest well
  • Can only be done on Sundays
  • Using rest as a way of improving productivity
  • ...
The key to true Sabbath is not in the what but in the who. It is not in terms of the activities but in terms of relationships. It is the discipline to stop and to pause without guilt, lest we be forced to stop through physical ailment or other unfortunate circumstances. Rest is a need. We are not created to run 24x7. Muller shows us the need to watch for the arrows of the Lord that direct us toward trust. Signs are there for us to see. From signs of rainbows and weather changes to sipping a cup of coffee leisurely, we avoid the temptation of non-stop action define us. Our identity is not based on what we do but who we are. Sabbath restores this truth. When this happens, we do not feel guilty about "wasting time." When we experience true rest, we see the miraculous among the monotonous; the quest in the question; delighting in playfulness instead of detesting endless chores. In true rest, we find love. 

Miller knows that a lot has been written on the Sabbath, and she creatively includes the many poignant observations on the Sabbath from many spiritual writers. From Mark Buchanan, we learn that 'rhythm' is better than 'balance.' From Abraham Heschel, we learn of the Sabbath being the purpose of the other six days and how marriage can be a metaphor for the meaning of the Sabbath. From Matthew Sleeth, we learn of how Sabbath means less doing and more being. From Wayne Muller, we are warned that if we do not make time for Sabbath, something else would, even unpleasant things. From Eugene Peterson, we are reminded of another perspective besides mere progress and constant busyness. Sabbath restores us back to our creativity, instead of perpetual repetitive production activities. There are lots more from individual interviews and sharing. Comprising twelve chapters of fresh observations about the Sabbath and the practical ways to rest, I find myself hard to put this book down. Perhaps, for anyone who do not know where to start with regard to the Sabbath, why not begin with this book?

The single biggest reason to read this book is that it enables us to read not just for information but for inner formation. I like the way Miller flows in and out with stories, illustrations, observations, and Scripture references to show us the fluidity of swimming with the waves, dancing with the wind, and embracing the elements that often come across as problems for the restless world. The reason why there are many who hurry and let stress get to them is because they have failed to understand the benefits of Sabbath rest. That is why the dispelling of myths chapter is so important. Before we can learn the new, the old has to be put aside. We need a paradigm shift. We do not need to do more in order to feel fulfilled. We simply need to establish a gradual rhythm of rest. Miller shows us how and much more. If you are in need of a rest, this book is highly recommended to dispel the myths that often surround us. Do not let the gift of the Sabbath come to us and we leave it unwrapped. Open it and enjoy it.

Shelly Miller leads the Sabbath Society, an online community of people seeking to make rest a priority in this busy world. She lives in London, England with her husband where they work on church planting efforts. Her website is ShellyMillerWriter.com

Rating: 5 stars of 5.


This book has been provided courtesy of Bethany House Publishers and Graf-Martin Communications without requiring a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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