Let’s Nourish Our Souls {Book Club}

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Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.

Matthew 11:28-30 (The Message)

I don’t know about you all, but I can be pretty forceful when it comes to the rhythms that guide my days. My alarm clock blares so I can get started with my day or make it to work on time. I rush through breakfast so I can have time to exercise or move on to other tasks. I find myself soul-weary at the end of the day, longing for more.

I don’t think we are meant to feel like this. I love the way these verses from Matthew flow in the Message version, this invitation to live lightly and freely. This is also the invitation I find in the pages of Sacred Rhythms.

We are moving slowly through this book to dig deep into each chapter, each practice. This week we are looking at the introduction and Chapter 1, which provide an overview of the foundation that must be laid before we implement the spiritual disciplines.

It starts with an uncovering of the deepest desires that stir within us. We often want to hide these desires away, and yet when we hold them up with open hands before Jesus, He can help us sift away the ones that are not honoring to Him, that might come from a place of pride or selfish ambition. We don’t need another list of things to do but when we start out of this place of desire and connection, we open our hearts for all the Father wants to do in us.

I love the story that the author, Ruth Haley Barton, told about planning and putting on a party for her daughter’s 15th birthday. The family banded together to take charge of a different aspect of the party for all fifty guests. First of all, I can’t imagine having fifty friends when I was in high school. What? But, in the midst of serving the meal to all these teenagers, Barton found her heart responding deeply and asking the Lord for more of those moments where she felt at the core of her being that she was doing what she was made to do. Have you had moments like this? What was it like to feel like you were doing what you were made to do?

Barton said, “The disciplines themselves are basic components of the rhythm of intimacy with God that feed and nourish the soul, keeping us open and available for God’s surprising initiatives in our lives.” 

I think I need a perspective shift when it comes to rhythms and disciplines. How can the Father nourish my soul when I put these things into practice regularly? Instead of just another thing to do, what would it look like to be with Him through these practices? I am excited to explore this with you all in the coming weeks!

What are you longing for the Lord to do in your heart right now? How do you think your perspective might need to shift about spiritual disciplines? What else resonated with you from this section? I would love to chat with you in the comments!

Here’s the reading plan for the rest of the book!

March 12: Chapter 2

March 19: Chapter 3

March 26: Chapter 4

April 2: Chapter 5

April 9: Chapter 6

April 16: Chapter 7

April 23: Chapter 8

April 30: Chapter 9 and Appendices


  1. Rachel March 5, 2019

    Desire is a difficult concept for me. After reading about the Enneagram, I realize that this is partly due to personality, but that doesn’t let me off the hook… It means I have to dig deep to find my own desires. They must be there, somewhere. I have been drawn to stories of Jesus simply asking people he encountered, “What do you want?” And they know what they want. But their needs were so obvious – I mean, you’re blind, of course you want to be able to see. If he were to ask me, I think I’d respond, “I dunno. What do ya got?”

    What resonates in this chapter is first the invitation to community: “to be together with him in community, shaped by his teaching and leadership.” <– for sure, I want that community. Second, the part on James and John and their mom. Their honesty about their desires, even though they were wrong, gave an opportunity for growth in their faith and understanding. I want to be able to bring desires to God like this and let him sort them out.

    1. Danielle March 5, 2019

      Rachel, that struck me too about James and John! That their honest desires (selfish as they were) when expressed to Jesus gave opportunity for growth. I think we’re too often fearful, doubtful and unaware of our own desires to express them to God. The shy animal analogy she uses for the soul is so vividly powerful!

    2. Sarah Hilkemann March 6, 2019

      Rachel, I love your honest response! I also found it comforting that I can bring ALL my desires to the Lord and let Him do the sifting and the growing in me.

  2. SarahW March 5, 2019

    This section on desire brought up many thoughts and emotions for me. I’m not sure I’ve got them all sorted out just yet so apologies if this feels a bit disjointed. Like Rachel, I would say I also struggle with desire/recognizing and admitting my own needs. I’m a 2 on the enneagram which brought a lot of insights into these tendencies. I think my response would be ‘I don’t know’ or ‘oh, no I’m fine I’m sure there are other people here who are needier than I am’
    I found myself reflecting not on blind Bartameus calling out loudly for Jesus’ attention but on the ‘woman with a flow of blood’, desperate having spent all she had but no better, quietly reaching for the hem of Jesus’ robe. Jesus stops and addresses her. Her need was deep yet hidden and shameful. She doesn’t want to be a bother but Jesus doesn’t see her as one. He meets her where she is and restores her. He makes her well.
    Sometimes I find my beliefs about desire being shaped by the buddhist world view. Desire is the cause of suffering so desire must be eliminated. To want can be painful, to admit to myself and others that I long for something that I don’t have can be vulnerable. Yet, the answer is not to deny that desire but rather to lean into it, to go deeper into it is to go towards God, towards my truest self. That doesn’t mean that God will grant me everything that I want but He will invite me to be with Him in that space.
    On reflecting upon what it is I want from God right now I realize there is a hunger to know Him more intimately, not simply to know more about Him.
    Thanks to Michelle for the recommendation of the Faithlife app! I’m glad to be reading along on this one.

    1. Sarah Hilkemann March 6, 2019

      Sarah, thank you for sharing! This is a safe place to process, so no need to worry about anything being polished. 🙂

      I’ve been thinking about your thoughts on how a Buddhist worldview has impacted your thoughts on desire, as I served in a Buddhist culture for five years. I really appreciate what you said about leaning into the desire because that invites God to be a part of that space. That is definitely a lesson I need to work on! I too often just push the desire away, or put shame on myself for having the desire.

      I hope this book can be a part of moving you to that desire of more intimacy with the Father!

  3. Danielle Wheeler March 5, 2019

    Sarah, I’m so excited to journey through this book together. It’s not one to blaze through, but to move through slowly, savor, and process in community. Barton’s definition of disciplines resonates deeply with my longing. So glad you included it.

    1. Sarah Hilkemann March 6, 2019

      I’m really thankful to be walking through this book in community as well! I think it will add an extra layer of richness! 🙂

  4. Monica F March 7, 2019

    I am really thankful to be reading this book again… I first came across it four years while on Sabbatical- it was so enriching. I wonder how it will speak to me differently now that I’m ‘home’ and much more settled than I was during our Sabbatical. I’m anticipating that there has been growth in my life since the first reading, but also eager to go even deeper with the Lord while processing this book in the VA community.

    1. Sarah Hilkemann March 10, 2019

      Monica, I can’t wait to see how the Father speaks to you in different ways reading through the book this time! It’s amazing how He can use the same thing (book, passage, picture) in different ways in different seasons. 🙂

  5. CindyS March 9, 2019

    I was only very recently introduced to the VA community, just in time for Sacred Rhthyms. I knew the timing was God’s; I was recognizing the longing for more of Him. Not that I have been devoid of the longing in the past, but, being a very cognitive person, I have usually translated it into a “problem” to be dealt with through a self-improvement plan. Of course, that plan usually involved more spiritual discipline, but often the plan was also short-lived. I welcome this new insight into a better motivation for engaging in the disciplines. God is faithful!

    1. Sarah Hilkemann March 10, 2019

      Cindy, welcome! I’m so glad you found this community and that this book can be so timely!

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