Finding Our Way in the Blizzards of Life {Book Club}

Peter Scazzero’s subtitles in Emotionally Healthy Spirituality are spot on and Chapter 8 was no exception. “Stopping to Breathe the Air of Eternity.”

I felt my soul exhale when I read this.

I imagine you might be similar to me and have a mixed relationship with the idea and implementation of rhythms. I am very taken with the ideas, but my execution has not been consistent or done “well” (in my opinion), so the subject is also sprinkled with shame. This subtitle, however, is in invitation to life.

And that’s God’s heart for us. He wants life and communion, not shame and hiding.

The image Scazzero used of the rope in the blizzard of life was powerful. “Blizzards begin when we say yes to too many things . . . our lives fall somewhere between full and overflowing.” What did you think of his take of the inadequacy of our ropes? How have you needed to adjust the rope you used in your home country to your host country? Some of us have been on the field many years, how has your rope changed over the years? How does your stage of life factor in now?

While many of us might not be addicted to drugs and alcohol, as he said, too many of us are addicted “to tasks, to work, to doing. Any sense of rhythm in our daily, weekly, and yearly lives has been swallowed up in the blizzard of our lives.” This one hits close to home for those of us in ministry. What’s the culture like on your team when it comes to busyness? In your family of origin? Or in your organization. Are you encouraged to live with rhythms?

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Do you practice the Daily Office? Have you experimented with it? I appreciated that Scazzero said to do what works for you and if daily office doesn’t work, don’t do it! He even used two exclamation points—which doesn’t normally get by most editors—showing the freedom he is extending to us. It was helpful to see what he’s talking about when he refers to the Daily Office:

  1. Stopping
  2. Centering
  3. Silence
  4. Scripture

This was one of my favorite quotes about the Daily Office: “The root of the Daily Office is not so much a turning to God to get something but to be with Someone.”

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I know we’ve talked about Sabbath before and that we will talk about it again. This certainly isn’t once and done (just consider how often it is mentioned in scripture!). I’m guessing that many of us aren’t able to have a Sabbath on Sunday, as it can be a fairly busy ministry day. And if you live in a small space with little kids it can be challenging. Danielle has shared before how she and her husband split a day with one of them watching the kids in the morning and the other in the afternoon; thus allowing both of them to have uninterrupted time.

Eugene Peterson’s calling a “day off” what produces positive results a “bastard Sabbath” made me smile, but it made his point. Sabbath isn’t about getting things done it’s about:

  1. Stopping—this is one of the most powerful parts for me because Sabbath is a discipline that reminds me there will always be work. Sabbath isn’t about the work we need to do, it is about our relationship with God.
  2. Rest —out of the nine possibilities you could rest from, which caught your eye and you’d like to experiment with?
  3. Delight—I agree with him there a problem of our age is “delight deficient.” I think many miss this piece of Sabbath. What do you think?
  4. Contemplate—“Every Sabbath, we experience a sampling of something greater that awaits us.”

When I read about longer sabbaticals, I’m wondered what you thought about sabbaticals in our line of work. Often home assignments or furloughs are anything but a sabbatical. What has your experience with Sabbaticals been? What have you tried? What worked? What was a good idea, but not really helpful?

So much to talk about :)! See you in the comments . . .

Amy

P.S. Next week we end with chapters 9 and 10 in Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero. In December we will read a short story a week and I’ll provide you with the links next week. Short is good in December, yes? Yes!

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14 Comments

  1. Ruth November 9, 2015

    I am with you on having mixed feelings!  I love the idea of rhythms, and the rhythms once I get them established.  But I am not as consistent as I would like, and often bite off more than I can chew.  I’m looking forward to hearing from others what their rhythms look like!

    1. Amy Young November 10, 2015

      Me too :). What are some of the big bites you’ve taken?

  2. T November 10, 2015

    My husband and I have different days for our sabbaths (which can easily turn into frustrated attempts at sabbaths or days off sometimes!) which helps because we can do extra school pick ups/drop offs for each other, which can be a big interrupter in our days.  Sometimes I move my sabbath around in the week if saying no to stuff isn’t possible on a certain Tuesday.  Or, I’ll follow what my pastor dad used to do and take a half day here and another half there certain weeks.  I try to make it seem a rest day (even while 3 kids are in and out and all) by trying to make it look different than other days:  we often eat leftovers, I do no laundry (one of the tasks I don’t get life from), and I try to read/listen to extra spiritual input from someone else, and I do something fun like read a novel in the middle of the day in the sun.   Also, I might have a special treat from the corner shop like a mille-feuille or a chocolate bar!  I’d like to try to add in silence and solitude (at first in small bits, I think!).

    I’m excited to read what other people write.  And I feel like I need to read a lot more Eugene Peterson books after this chapter!

    1. Amy Young November 10, 2015

      I want to read more Eugene Peterson too!!! What I love about wheat you shared is the variety of things you’ve tried — showing that Sabbath isn’t about a formula so much as a practice. And what works in one location or season isn’t going to work as well in another. Sadly, maddeningly, this means frustration might be a part of it as we practice :)!

      1. T November 15, 2015

        maybe E Peterson in book club sometime?!?  just an idea.  My claim to fame is that once he read a book report that I did in college on his book on Revelation.  He was kind of friends w/my prof.

  3. Rachel November 10, 2015

    This is my favorite chapter. My American culture is very busy, with an emphasis on efficiency and getting things done. My host culture (Kenya) appears to not value busyness, with mottoes like “no hurry” and “little by little” and “there are no problems,” but just try getting together with anyone. People are so busy. And they don’t take breaks, not true breaks, even though most people take a month of leave from their jobs each year. They are still extremely busy during that time. The idea that we are addicted to busyness rings true in both cultures, even though each one’s busy looks different.

    I love the schedule from the monastery. Here are people who live apart from society, away from distractions, and they still feel the need to set aside 7 times a day to re-orient themselves to God. How much moreso do I? I have been in a habit of Daily Office twice a day – mornings alone and evenings with the family. But 3 or 4 times sounds refreshing. The rhythm of arranging my day around Daily Office is so appealing to me.

    I was totally anticipating the week(s) of sabbatical part, but what took me by surprise was the idea of taking a break from serving in the church. It is something that I recognize as necessary, especially if your job outside of church is also in the ministry field. However, it’s not something that I’ve ever heard a church encourage. I think the Church as a whole needs to pay more attention to this.

    1. Amy Young November 10, 2015

      Interesting, Rachel that you mention how the church needs to pay better attention to this and try to incorporate rhythms more. We have a new pastor who values this and is trying to incorporate some — he has set up adult Sunday School classes to be for 10 weeks on and then maybe 4 weeks off. It’s surprising the pushback he’s gotten! We are addicted to busyness, even in the church. In trying to reorient myself, I sense how addicted to busy I am too!

  4. Monica F November 11, 2015

    Having just gone through a nine month sabbatical, I can honestly say it was the best thing for my family, my marriage, and work, in the last 15 years of overseas work.  It was definitely not a ‘home leave’ or ‘furlough’- which is the opposite of rest!  We were getting close to the edge of burnout, weary from the multitude of responsibilities we had on the field, and were feeling empty from the constant demands (real and not real) we had living in a remote location in Asia.  We kept saying ‘yes’, then one day my husband said, ‘no’.  With the care and support of our organization, our sending fellowships, and our supporters (who said, “it’s about time!”)- we took a much needed DEEP rest and tucked ourselves away at a ranch home in the Sierra Nevadas, courtesy of dear life-long friends.  I didn’t want to go… there was much to do, and no time to waste…we were needed ‘back there’, and I felt extremely guilty ‘resting’.  It was last year at this time, I was introduced to Velvet Ashes- right at the beginning of our sabbatical- and oh, how timely that was as well.  I didn’t work for the first time in my life- I rested.  My children rested.  My husband rested. We recovered our souls in nature, in silence, and forcibly slowing down.  When we returned to Asia this summer for a visit (because we are extending our time in the States while my husband finishes his studies)- I was shocked to how weary my fellow ‘colleagues’ were.  I think people in our line of our work are a lot more tired than they realize, or are so overwhelmed and burdened by expectations and demands they feel guilty stopping to rest.  And busy-ness/weariness is not just with overseas workers, it’s also evident within the church.  Our pastor is teaching on Rest currently, and I loved his statement that the opposite of true rest is ‘restlessness’, which leads to being unkind to our soul.  The Lord doesn’t intend for us to be ‘unkind’ to our soul.

    Anyway, I feel like I have my life back.  I feel new, and even as we enter a new season in ministry, I’m trying to be very purposeful in holding tight to the rhythms of rest that I learned while on Sabbatical last year.  Thanks for letting me share, and also thanks to VA for contributing to that ‘healing’ in such a timely way!

    1. Amy Young November 12, 2015

      Monica, I hear a little one outside my door and need to go attend to her :). BUT I love this comment SO MUCH and will be back to interact with it. thank you 🙂

    2. T November 15, 2015

      Wow!  I’m glad you did it!  I’ve been on the field 16 yrs, and have had some hard, dry times!  I’m thankful for a Thrive retreat that I went to in CO once, as well as Breathe in Switzerland and the people there who prayed for God to meet us and restore us.  Just today, a new acquaintance said that he was happy to see me ‘still filled with joy after so long on the field’.  I told him quickly that I haven’t always been, and explained these turning points w/counselors and the Counselor.  Of course, until I felt better, I’d had no idea just how brittle I was.  We need to watch out for that!  I’m so glad that you shared on here that you took that sabbatical and how it helped!!! (and thanks, VA for your presence in our lives!!)

  5. Phyllis November 15, 2015

    You ask if we practice the Divine Office or have experimented with it. I think I can say that I have experimented with it. During a very hard time I listened often to a Catholic site that had the Hours read and sung aloud; I felt like I couldn’t pray myself, but I could lift my heart up with them, and it was calming. At other (better!) times I have gone for certain periods with at least starting my day by praying the prayers on one of these sites:

    http://annarborvineyard.org/tdh/tdh.cfm

    http://commonprayer.net/

     

    This chapter makes me want to start again. 🙂

  6. Phyllis November 16, 2015

    I wanted to write a bit about Sabbath, too. For many years, when we were in church ministry, our Sunday evening was popcorn for dinner and a movie, and then Monday was pretty much a rest day. (As our children grew to school age, that got more difficult, but at least my husband got some rest.) Now that our ministry isn’t focused on church, Sunday is my rest day. My husband does all the meals–breakfast, lunch, and dinner!–and they’re simple, set menus. After reading this chapter, I asked him if he feels like he gets any rest each week; his Saturdays are usually slower, so they are his Sabbaths. The rest of us are very busy on Saturdays, but he stays home with the littlest, so I guess that counts.

     

    I wonder some about Sabbaths for children? We’ve kept the popcorn and movie night, so that’s their bit of delight. But otherwise, our kids are pretty busy, even on Sundays! Church, Sunday school, choir, as much socialising as they can get….

     

    Also, sabbaticals: we did kind of take one once, and it was great. At a time when we were completely burned out, our home church suggested that we pull back from all ministry responsibilities for a little while. I think it was a month? At that point we knew that we needed some redirection, but couldn’t even catch our breath to find it. Even that kind of half-way sabbatical was enough for us to figure out what our next step would be and get ready to move out on it.

  7. Patty Stallings November 21, 2015

    I circled back to this post in a serendipitous route and I’m so glad I did, both for your thoughts, Amy, and for the comments.  🙂

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