Wednesday, January 7, 2015

City Notes 19 | The Rest of God: Restoring Your Soul By Restoring Sabbath Part 1 of 3

Emmaus City Worcester MA Rest Sabbath Soma Acts 29 3DM Christian Reformed Multi-ethnic Network of Missional Communities

City Notes 19: Books in 30 minutes or less

City Notes are more than a book review. They are meant to provide you with direct quotes from some books I've read in the last year, so you can get a taste of the overall theme of the book and then begin to chew on what your life might look like if you applied what you read. 

Emmaus City Worcester MA Rest Sabbath Soma Acts 29 3DM Christian Reformed Multi-ethnic Network of Missional Communities Welcome to 2015. I can't think of a better book to begin this year than with Mark Buchanan's The Rest of God: Restoring Your Soul by Restoring Sabbath? Why? Because when I read the book in 2014, it quickly became a Top 10 favorite of mine and was my favorite from last year. I was recently asked what books I would recommend for servant leaders and pastors in the church, and this quickly came to mind as necessary for the list. Plus, I promised during the beginning of my last Sully Notes on One Thousand Gifts that I would do The Rest of God next. The key this time, in reviewing again this thoughtful and refreshing book, is to determine to make its truths incarnational in my life so that I begin 2015 trusting God and finding Him to be my rest and the wellspring of my life.


The Rest of God by Mark Buchanan Review of Quotes | City Notes 19: Part 1 of 3  

Preface | Catnap: An Invitation to Stop

"This image comes to mind when I think of Sabbath: a patch of sunlight falling through a window on a winter's day. It's a small yet ample chunk of space, a narrow yet full segment of time. In it, you can lie down and rest. From it, you can rise up and go – stronger, lighter."  pg. xv

Introduction | Starting to Stop

"The world is not dying for another book. But it is dying for the rest of God."  pg. 1

"God made us from dust. We're never too far from our origins. The apostle Paul says we're only clay pots – dust mixed with water, passed through fire. Hard, yes, but brittle too. Knowing this, God gave us the gift of Sabbath – not just a day, but as an orientation, a way of seeing and knowing. Sabbath-keeping is a form of mending. It's mortar in the joints. Keep Sabbath, or else break too easily, and oversoon. Keep it, otherwise our dustiness consumes us, becomes us, and we end up able to hold exactly nothing. ... 'Be still, and know that I am God.' Some knowing is never pursued, only received. And for that, you need to be still. ... when I say Sabbath, I also mean an attitude. It is a perspective, an orientation. I mean a Sabbath heart, not just a Sabbath day. A Sabbath heart is restful even in the midst of unrest and upheaval. It is attentive to the presence of God and others even in the welter of much coming and going, rising and falling. It is still and knows God even when mountains fall into the sea. pgs. 2-4

“Any deep change in how we live begins with a deep change in how we think. The biblical word for this is repentance – in Greek, metanoia, a change of mind. Repentance is a ruthless dismantling of old ways of seeing and thinking, and then a diligent and vigilant building of new ones. … According to the apostle Paul, sin’s fortress is your mind: the ultimate consequence of evil behavior, he says, is that it makes us ‘enemies in (our) minds’ toward God (Col. 1:21). So God in Christ, and Christ through the Holy Spirit, is seeking to change our minds. All who are in Christ, Paul declares, are new creations being transformed ‘by the renewing of your mind,' being 'made new in the attitude of your minds' (Romans 12:2; Ephesians 4:23). We have exclusive access to the 'mind of Christ' (1 Corinthians 2:16). The apostle Peter, likewise, tells us that God has revealed to us his salvation – the prophets foretold but never beheld, which angels 'long to look into' but for some reason have been denied the privilege (1 Peter 1:12). The gift has come to us alone. Peter urges this response: 'Therefore, prepare your minds for action' (1 Peter 1:13). When salvation comes, change your mind. Reshape and fill fresh the imagination with which you perceive the world."  pgs. 4-5

"We need to change our minds, yes, but we also need to change our ways. And for this we require practices to embody and rehearse our change of mind. ... without gestures with which to honor fresh ways of perceiving – any change of mind will be superficial, artificial, short-lived. We might attain a genuinely new thought, but without some way of putting it into practice, the thought gets stuck in abstractions, lost in forgetting. Good practices are both catalysts and incubators for new thoughts, they initiate them, and they nurture them. But they do even more: they make real our change of mind. ... (For example in Luke 19) Zacchaeus meets Jesus and changes his mind, but straight on the heels of that, he changes his ways. He embraces a practice that embodies and rehearses his new way of seeing. Jesus's comment on the matter is telling: 'Today salvation has come to this house' (Luke 19:9). When salvation comes to your house, first you think differently, then you act differently. First you shift the imagination with which you perceive this world, and then you enact gestures with which you honor it." – pgs. 6-7

"At its best, liturgy comprises the gestures by which we honor transcendent reality. It helps us give concrete expression to deepest convictions. It gives us choreography for things unseen and allows us to brush heaven among the shades of earth. ... What liturgy accomplishes is nothing short of astonishing: It breaks open the transcendent within the ordinary and the everyday. It lets us glimpse the deeper reality – the timeless things, the universal ones, the things above – within this particular instance of it. ... Liturgy originally meant a public work – something accomplished by a community for the community. ... The oddness and awkwardness of the church's decision to import this word is even greater when we realize that they had a word for worship close at hand, a word in wide circulation within a religious context: orgy. Orgy now has sordid overtones. But in the days of the early church, it didn't or at least the sordidness was still in the background. Orgy described a public event that produced a private, usually ecstatic, experience. It was the word pagan religions used for their worship, regardless of how many people were involved – and the more, the better – the emphasis was always squarely on the emotional experience of the individual. It was all about me. Not so liturgy. Liturgy is done by me – I am invited, perhaps required, to play role – but it's not about me. It's about us. It is about the Other. Its purpose is to benefit the entire community – to provide protection or access to all. One of the more common uses of the word in the ancient world was for the making of a bridge. Liturgy is bridge building. It is to construct something that spans separate worlds and provides an efficient means of crossing from one to the other.– pgs. 9-10

"I don't know how many books I've read or sermons I've heard (and too many I've preached) that have helped me think better but not live better. Though many abound in insight, they are bereft of practicality. They never go far enough, the writer or speaker, for fear, maybe, of being legalistic, shies away from actually suggesting ways to embody the idea, the theory. ... Liturgy is a repertoire of possible ways – not the only way, or even the best way, but at least some way – to set what we know in motion. ... (liturgy) gives this with freedom both to imitate and to improvise. Though it describes a way of doing things, it never prescribes the way. Each person on each occasion is free to mimic what has come before, and free to innovate it. Each occurrence of liturgy is unique, unrepeatable, and yet is also enfolded with all the other occurrences." – pgs. 10-11      

Chapter 1 Reflection | Work: One Thing Before You Stop

"Before we appreciate God's gift of rest, it is vital we appreciate his gift of work."  pg. 16

"'In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it. You said, 'No, we will flee on horses.' Therefore you will flee!' (Isaiah 30:15-16). A typical response to threat and burden is to want to flee it. It's evacuation as the cure for trouble. If only I could get away is our mantra. Then I would be safe. Then I could enjoy my life. But what we find is that flight becomes captivity: once we begin to flee the things that threaten and burden us, there is no end to fleeing. God's solution is surprising. He offers rest. But it's a unique form of rest. It's to rest in him in the midst of our threats and our burdens. It's discovering, as David did in seasons of distress, that God is our rock and refuge right in the thick of our situation. God, in other words, offers something better than our fantasy: he offers himself. 'Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest' (Matthew 11:28 NASB). pgs. 17-18

"In order to keep the Sabbath well – to embrace the rest of God – we need a right view of work. Without a rich theology of labor, we'll have an impoverished theology of rest. We'll find that both are hectic, sporadic, chaotic. We'll find no joy in either." – pg. 18

"The issue (in Luke 5:1-11) is not that Jesus values some types of work about others. That reading would destroy almost everything else the Bible says about work. The issue, plain and simple, is this: what has Christ called you to do? Has he called you to preach? Then leave the fish and the fishing boats, and go. Stop making excuses, seeking evasions. Dump it, and go. But what if he's called you to fish? Or govern? Or fill teeth? Or collect garbage? Or grow cabbage? Someone has to do these things. This work can be a calling, a vocation – literally, the work that the Voice told you to do – every bit as much as a missionary's or a pastor's work can be (and, similarly, a missionary's or pastor's work is merely a job if the Voice isn't in it). ... The passage from Luke 5 actually exalts honest work. Jesus goes onto the boat with these men. The boat serves as a makeshift pulpit from which Jesus preaches. But that's not good enough for Jesus, he wants to see this boat doing what it was designed to do. He wants to go fishing. ... This is where we see that Jesus held honest work in highest regard – that far from brushing off the value of fishing in this instance, he was making a deliberate statement about its worth. ... At it all night, and we haven't caught a thing. If Jesus wanted to make a statement about the relative worthlessness of mere fishing, he would have called them away from it while they still stood at the lakeshore, net mending. Listen, men. The work you're presently doing it's useless. Wasteful. God's blessing's not on it, isn't that obvious? Why bother? You want real work? I'll give you the kind of work that God cares about. The Lord's work. I'll make you preachers. Yes, the world needs more preachers. If Jesus had said that, we might reasonably conclude that he saw little value in fisherman's work. But he doesn't say that. He says, 'Let's go catch some fish.'" – pgs. 20-21

"Jesus, I'm convinced, wanted to elevate the status of these men's work in their own eyes so that he could reinforce a lesson about the cost of obedience. Jesus makes the choice to heed his voice costly. Fishing is suddenly good. It's suddenly hard to leave. This is not a story about what kind of work Jesus values more, fishing for fish or fishing for men. Both are excellent, God-honoring ways to spend a day. He's saying, I can make fishing for fish enjoyable and profitable. I can redeem it from the wearying and frustrating routine it's become for you. I can make it delightful. I'll do all that so you will gain a renewed appreciation for your work, and a deeper understanding of what I'm asking you to do. From the beginning, I will teach you the cost of discipleship. This is a story about calling. If Jesus calls you to be a fisher of fish, then do it with all your heart. Because he says so. But if he calls you elsewhere, then do that without looking back. Don't be afraid. Because he says so." – pg. 22 

"Or consider Moses. His dying prayer ends with this plea to God, 'Establish the work of our hands for us yes, establish the work of our hands' (Psalm 90:17). For Moses, the chief evidence of God's favor was what he did with the people's work. Did he take the labor of their hands – plowing, seeding, harvesting, building, raising children – establish it, make it last, make it count? Did he take their work and make it the Lord's work? Most of his life Jesus was a carpenter. The apostle Paul, even at the height of his preaching and missionary activity, supported himself through tent making. Paul was so insistent about the value of common labor that he told the Thessalonians, 'Make it your ambition ... to work with your hands, just as we told you'; We gave you this rule: 'If a man will not work, he shall not eat' (1 Thessalonians 4:11; 2 Thessalonians 3:10). And yet Paul, along with this, also celebrated that the Thessalonians were evangelists and preachers, that the Lord's message 'rang out' from them (1 Thessalonians 1:8). In his thinking, these vocations easily coexist. It's all the Lord's work. The Protestant reformer Martin Luther put it well: 'The maid who sweeps her kitchen is doing the will of God just as much as the monk who prays – not because she may sing a Christian hymn as she sweeps but because God loves clean floors. The Christian shoemaker does his Christian duty not by putting little crosses on the shoes, but by making good shoes, because God is interested in good craftsmanship.'" – pgs. 22-23

"The opposite of a slave is not a free man. It's a worshiper. The one who is most free is the one who turns the work of his hands into sacrament, into offering. All he makes and all he does are gifts from God, through God, and to God. Just as simple bread and juice, when we eat and drink them in a spirit of thanksgiving and faith, become the very presence of Christ, so simple tasks – preparing sermons, cooking soup, cutting grass, growing corn – when done in the same spirit, are holy. It is all the Lord's work." – pg. 24

Chapter 1 Action | Work Sabbath Liturgy: Establishing the Work of Your Hands

" ... whatever you can do with a clean conscience, you can do to the glory of God. No work is so menial that it cannot be rendered as worship. As I began to knead the reality of that truth into the details of my tasks, my attitude changed dramatically. I found joy in toil. My attitude, once toxic, turned tonic. I was not just inspired for the work; I became, for others, inspiring in it. What if your work became worship? What if the work of your hands – repairing lawn mowers, scouring pots, paving streets, mending bones, balancing ledgers – was Eucharistic, a sacrament of God's presence that you gave and received? What if Jesus himself was your boss, the One who watched over you and whom you honored with your efforts? Here's a radical idea: next time you're tempted to complain about your work, praise God for it instead." – pgs. 26-27
Chapter 2 Reflection | A Beautiful Mind: Stopping to Think Anew

"Often we get this backward. We won't change our minds, won't revise our attitudes, until someone – God, a parent, a boss, a spouse, a child, a coworker – changes our circumstances. ... But this is not how God works. This is: 'Be transformed by the renewing of your mind'; 'Be made new in the attitude of your minds' (Romans 12:2; Ephesians 4:23, emphasis mine). Under God's economy, nothing really changes until our minds do. Transformation is the fruit of a changed outlook. First our minds are renewed, and then we are transformed, and then everything is different, even if it stays the same. God is more interested in changing your thinking than in changing your circumstances. He wants you to have the same attitude as and the very mind of Jesus Christ (see Philippians 2:5-8). To pull that off is a miracle larger than splitting oceans or tossing mountains into them. It is akin to raising the dead. Yet this is the daily occupation of the Spirit – leading us into all truth, reminding us of the things Christ taught, taking the things of Christ and making them known to us again. ... What makes Sabbath time – whether a day or a year, an afternoon or a week, a month or a moment – different from all other time? Simple: a shift in our thinking, an altering of our attitudes. First we change our minds. Before we keep a Sabbath day, we cultivate a Sabbath heart. A Sabbath heart sanctifies time.– pgs. 32-33

"The root of the Hebrew word for 'sanctify' means 'to betroth.' It is to pledge marriage. It is to choose to commit yourself, all of yourself, to this man or this woman, and then to honor that commitment in season and out. Sanctifying time works the same way. You pledge to commit yourself, all of yourself, to this time, and then you honor that commitment whether it's convenient or not." – pg. 33

"One of the largest obstacles to true Sabbath-keeping is leisure. It is what cultural historian Witold Rybcynski calls 'waiting for the weekend,' where we see work as only an extended interlude between our real lives. Leisure is what Sabbath becomes when we no longer know how to sanctify time. Leisure is Sabbath bereft of the sacred. It is a vacation – literally, a vacating, an evacuation. As Rybcynski sees it, leisure has become despotic in our age, enslaving us and exhausting us, demanding from us more than it gives. We all know how unsatisfying mere leisure can be. We've all known what it's like to return to the classroom or the workplace after a time spent in revelry or retreat, in high jinks or hibernation: typically, we go back weary and depressed, like jailbirds caught. The time away from work wasn't time sanctified so much as time stolen, time when we escaped for a short-lived escapade. The difference between this and Sabbath couldn't be sharper. Sanctifying some time adds richness to all time, just as an hour with the one you love brings light and levity to the hours that follow. To spend time with the object of your desire is to emerge, not sullen and peevish, but elated and refreshed. You come away filled, not depleted." – pgs. 35-36 

"The Greeks understood. Embedded in their language, expressed in two distinct words for 'time,' is an intuition about the possibility of sanctified time. Time, they knew, has two faces, two natures. It exists in two separate realms, really, as two disparate dimensions, and we orient ourselves primarily to one or the other. One is sacred time, the other profane. The first word is chronos familiar to us because it's the root of many of our own words: chronology, chronicle, chronic. It is the time of clock and calendar, time as a gauntlet, time as a forced march. The word derives from one of the gods in the Greek pantheon. Chronos was a nasty minor deity, a glutton and a cannibal who gorged himself on his own children. He was always consuming, never consummated. Goya depicted him in his work Chronos Devouring His Children. In the painting, Chronos is gaunt and ravenous, wild-eyed with hunger. He crams a naked, bloody-stumped figure into his gaping mouth. Peter Paul Rubens depicted Chronos even more alarmingly: a father viciously biting into his son's chest and tearing the flesh away, the boy arching backward in shock and pain. Chronos is the presiding deity of the driven.

"The second Greek word is kairos. This is time as gift, as opportunity, as season. It is time pregnant with purpose. In kairos time you ask, not 'What time is it?' but 'What is this time for?' Kairos is the servant of holy purpose. 'There is time for everything,' Ecclesiastes says, ' and a season for every activity under heaven.' A time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, ... a time to embrace and a time to refrain, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, ... a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace. (3:1-2, 5-8) This year, this day, this hour, this moment each is ripe for something: Play. Work. Sleep. Love. Worship. Listening. Each moment enfolds transcendence, lays hold of a significance beyond itself. Ecclesiastes sums it up this way: 'I have seen the burden God has laid on men. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end' (3:10-11). 

"Chronos betrays us, always. It devours the beauty it creates, but sometimes chronos betrays itself: it stirs in us a longing for Something Else – something that the beauty of things in time evokes but cannot satisfy. Either we end up as the man in Ecclesiastes did: driven, driven, driven, racing hard against chronos, desperate to seize beauty but always grasping smoke, ashes, thorns. Seeking purpose and finding none, only emptiness. Or we learn to follow the scent of eternity in our hearts. We begin to orient toward kairos. We start to sanctify some of our time. And an odd thing can happen then. Purpose, even unsought, can take shape out of the smallest, simplest things: 'I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil – this is the gift of God' (Eccl. 3:12-13). This is a gift of God: to experience the sacred amidst the commonplace – to taste heaven in our daily bread, a new heaven and new earth in a mouthful of wine, joy in the ache of our muscles or the sweat of our brows. ... Maybe it's time to change your mind: to stop feeding Chronos his own children and start sanctifying time." – pgs. 36-38 

Chapter 2 Action | A Beautiful Mind Sabbath Liturgy: Taking Thoughts Captive

"The wisdom of the wise is to give thought to their ways. They think about where they're going. But the folly of fools is deception. They keep lying to themselves. Wise people ask, Does the path I'm walking lead to a place I want to go? If I keep heading this way, will I like where I arrive? Fools don't ask that. They keep making excuses for themselves justifying and blaming, all the way to nowhere. They dupe themselves right to the grave. They never change their minds. Consider your ways. That's a wise Sabbath Liturgy. And let me make it even more specific: consider your thoughts and attitudes, the pattern of them, their shape and drift. Are they leading you where you want to go? Plot their trajectory: will they land you in a place you care to live? If not, change your mind. 'Take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ' (2 Corinthians 10:5). Take a moment right now. Begin with David's prayer, 'Search me, O God, and see if there be any wicked way in me' (Psalm 139:23-24). Invite the Spirit to search you and reveal one habitual thought, one attitude of your heart, that is misleading you. It may be shame, a sense that you must keep hiding, keep avoiding the light. It may be pride, or a temptation to judge others, or an insecurity that drives you into envy and rivalry. It may be just the sense of insignificance that no one sees you, not even God. It may be how you see God. Whatever it is, ask God to change your mind. End with the rest of David's prayer: 'And lead me in the way everlasting' (Psalm 139:24)." – pgs. 40-41 

Chapter 3 Reflection | The Rest of God: Stopping to Find What's Missing

"Someone asked me recently what was my biggest regret in life. I thought a moment, surveying the vast and cluttered landscape of my blunders and losses, the evil I have done and the evil that's been done against me. 'Being in a hurry,' I said. 'Pardon?' 'Being in a hurry. Getting to the next thing without fully entering the thing in front of me. I cannot think of a single advantage I've ever gained from being in a hurry. But a thousand broken and missed things, tens of thousands, lie in the wake of all that rushing.'" – pg. 45

"One measure for whether or not you're rested enough ... is to ask yourself this: How much do I care about the things I care about? When we lose concern for people, both the lost and the found, for the bride of Christ, for friendship, for truth and beauty and goodness; when we cease to laugh when our children laugh (and instead yell at them to quiet down) or weep when our spouses weep (instead wish they didn't get so emotional); when we hear news of trouble among our neighbors and our first thought is that we hope it isn't going to involve us when we stop caring about the things we care about that's a signal we're too busy. We have let ourselves be consumed by the things that feed the ego but starve the soul. Busyness kills the heart. And then the moment of reckoning comes – when we must meet the situation with genuine, heartfelt compassion, wisdom, courage – and nothing's there, only grim resignation and a dull resentment that we got dragged into this." – pg. 48

"Busyness makes us stop caring about the things we care about. And not only that. Busyness also robs us of knowing God the way we might. It's true that some facets of God we glimpse only through motion. Only those who stretch out their hands and offer water to the thirsty discover, disguised among them, Jesus. Only those who trudge up the mountain, willing to grow blistered and weary on the narrow trail, witness his transfiguration. Only those who invite the stranger in to share bread realize they've entertained an angel unawares, sometimes even Christ himself. Often, God meets us along the way, as we go: he waits to see who will step out before he slides up, woos us over, intercepts, redirects. But other facets of God we discover only through stillness. 'Be still,' the psalm instructs, 'and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10). Only Mary, Martha's sister, sitting wide-eyed and open-eared, truly hosts Christ in her home. Only those who wait on the Lord renew their strength. Only those who are quiet and watchful find God's mercy that is new every morning. Only those who join him in his love for the contrite and broken in spirit recognize him hidden among 'the least of these' (Matthew 25:40). 'He makes me lie down in green pastures,' Psalm 23 says (v. 2, emphasis mine). If we don't choose to lie down, God sometimes makes us. That's happened to me more than once; I refused the sleep or rest he granted, and my health broke. He made me lie down. But only then was I still enough to hear God, to 'taste and see' that he was good (Psalm 34:8)." – pgs. 48-49

"'Maybe,' I said, 'that's the problem: you think he wants your attention in order for you to do something. Maybe he just wants your attention.' Maybe that's what God requires most from us: our attention. Indeed, this is the essence of a Sabbath heart: paying attention. It is being fully present, wholly awake, in each moment. It is the trained ability to inhabit our own existence without remainder, so that even the simplest things – the in and out of our own breathing, the coolness of tiles on our bare feet, the way wind sculpts clouds into crocodiles and polar bears – gain the force of discovery and revelation. True attentiveness burns away the layers of indifference and ennui and distraction – all those attitudes that blend our days into a monochrome sameness – and reveals what's hidden beneath: the staggering surprise and infinite variety of every last little thing. Louis Aggasiz, Harvard's renowned biologist, returned one September to his classroom and announced to his students that he had spent the summer traveling, he had managed, he said, to get halfway across his backyard. To those with eyes to see, that's enough. Everywhere we turn, wonders never cease." – pgs. 50-51

" ... a subplot of comedy in the Bible: God or Jesus or an angelic messenger shows up, and those who should know better, who should be paying attention priests, lawyers, teachers, apostles – typically miss it, while those least 'deserving' – shepherds, children, beggars, whores – typically grasp it, and immediately. It turns out, numskulls are numb every day, and seekers of grace awake nearly always. And yet, of all days we might set apart to practice the art of attentiveness, Sabbath is an outstanding candidate. Sabbath invites us to stop. In that ceasing, fresh possibilities abound. We can shut our eyes, if we choose – this is one of Sabbath's gifts, to relax without guilt. But there is also time enough to open our eyes, to learn again Jesus's command to watch and pray." – pg. 51

Chapter 3 Action | The Rest of God Liturgy: Paying Attention

" ... look at the intricate folds of your child's ear, the way light bleeds through the thin, taut flesh of it. Gaze outside and see the wind spin larch leaves like fish lures. Watch the darkness sift down the hillside and gather in the fir boughs. See it all. Like Adam, name it. Resolve to live this way more often." – pg. 57

Next post: City Notes 19 | The Rest of God Part 2 of 3


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