Posts Tagged ‘Sabbath’
Book Review: Living into Focus
Author: Arthur Boers
Publisher: Brazos Press ISBN: 9781587433146
This was a very interesting book to me for many reasons. The first reason for my interest was the title grabbed my attention. In recent years as I have tried to simplify my life and give more attention to my present surroundings, living more intently in the present moment as it were, I have become more aware of how many distractions compete for my attention. The world continues to accelerate and isolate, distract, and distance us from giving our attention to the people and things that genuinely make life worth living. The title made me curious. I was further intrigued by a number of the endorsements for Living into Focus especially considering that one of those endorsements was made by Eugene Peterson, of whom I am a great admirer, and who wrote the foreward. Another reason for my interest was my preparation for leading a spiritual retreat focused on simplicity and spiritual rhythm; I thought the content of this book might provide me with additional information and insight for my presentation.
I am delighted to report that this book not only met my expectations, but also exceeded them in a number of ways. I was pleasantly surprised by the writing style of Arthur Boers. This is the first book I have read from his pen and I found this particular book almost akin to a form of literary onomatopoeia. Let me explain. Onomatopoeias are words that are spelled like they sound or vice versa… like “oink,” “pow!” “tic-toc,” I think you get the point. Boers’ Living into Focus is about “slowing down” and living intently into the present moment. What I realized about a third to half-way through the book is that I was slowing down as I read it. I felt as though I were being led to a place of inner quiet and calm almost as if I were a cobra under the spell of an expert snake charmer. The cadence of the book and the easy manner of Boers’ story telling was a meandering experience. He talked often about walking and I soon felt as though I were listening to him share his experiences as I walked along with him. It was an unusual writing style to what I normally read, but in a delightful way. I don’t know if it was the nature of the subject matter or my state of mind, but the sum of many variables made for an almost magical read.
The book is sectioned into three primary movements: Part One, Focus Matters, discusses the importance of focus; Part Two, Losing Our Focus, details the contemporary challenges to maintaining focus, and Part Three, Finding our Focus, brings to point exercises and intentional actions to regaining focus on the things that truly give purpose to our life.
I have said that I was especially charmed by the tempo and style of this book. The sum of the whole was a very peaceful and restful read…and very insightful. I originally set out to use the information gleaned for material used in my presentation during a spiritual retreat; I found material and much inspiration in Living into Focus that was featured prominently over the retreat weekend.
I think Arthur Boers has presented weary travelers a wonderful respite in his Living into Focus. I would recommend it very highly.
Monastic Notes (Pt.18—July 10th 2011)
(Pecos: Day 21—July 10th 2011)
Today was scheduled as day of silence and solitude or we could use the day as free time for sightseeing and field trips. I chose to spend the day cloistered in my room for prayer, Bible reading, and hearing from God. I spent most of the day and into the late afternoon reading, praying, listening… and writing out the “words” that were “speaking” to me. The following Scripture passages and prayers are what were recorded in my journal.
Hallelujah! How good it is to sing praises to our God! How pleasant it is to honor Him with praise! Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning , is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
He is not impressed by the might of a horse; He has no pleasure in the strength of a man; But the LORD has pleasure in those who fear Him, in those who await His gracious favor (Psalm 147:11-12).
Thus says the LORD: “But this is the man to whom I will look, he that is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word” (Isaiah 66:2).
Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy Name; thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And, lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil; for thine is the kingdom, the power, the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.
Almighty God, the fountain of all wisdom, who knowest our necessities before we ask and our ignorance in asking: Have compassion, we beseech thee, upon our infirmities, and those things which for our unworthiness we dare not, and for our blindness we cannot ask, mercifully give us for the worthiness of thy Son Jesus Christ our LORD; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Teach me your way, O LORD, and I will walk in Your truth; knit my heart to You that I may fear Your Name. I will thank You, O LORD my GOD, with all my heart, and glorify Your Name for evermore. For great is Your love toward me; You have delivered me from the nethermost pit. (Psalm 86:11-13)
I give You thanks, O LORD, with all my whole heart; before the gods I sing Your praises; I bow down toward Your holy temple and give thanks for Your Name, for Your steadfast love and Your faithfulness; for You have exalted Your Name and Your word above everything. On the day I called, You answered me, You increased my strength of soul. Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You preserve me against the wrath of my enemies; You stretch out Your hand, and Your right hand delivers me. The LORD will fulfill His purpose for me; Your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever. (Psalm 138:1-3, 7, 8).
ME = Delighted and overjoyed – God knows me.
O LORD, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You discern my thoughts from far away. You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, O LORD, You know it completely. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay Your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is so high that I cannot attain it. Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your Presence? (No matter where I am or where I go it is not too far from You) Your right hand shall hold me fast; even there Your hand will lead me. In Your book were written all the days that were formed for me, when none of them as yet existed. Search me, O GOD, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. (Psalm 139: 1-7, 10, 16, 23, 24).
Genesis 28:14, 18, 24-25 Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you. (I love this…)
Romans 8:15 All who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. I consider that the sufferings of the present time are not worth comparing when I consider what awaits us. For in hope we were saved… But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it in patience. “…we wait for it in patience”
The “spiritual life” is then the perfectly balanced life in which the body with its passions and instincts, the mind with its reasoning and its obedience to principle and the spirit with its passive illumination by the light and love of God form one complete man who is in God and with God and from God and for God. One man in whom God is all in all. One man in whom God carries out His own will without obstacle. -Thomas Merton; New Seeds of Contemplation
Monastic Notes (Pt.7—June 26th 2011)
Lectio Divina Reading:
“He is not impressed with the might of a horse; He has no pleasure in the strength of a man; but the LORD has pleasure in those who fear Him, in those who await His gracious favor.” (Psalm 147:11-12)
“Heaven is my throne and the earth is my footstool…All these things my hand has made, and so all these things are mine, says the LORD. But this is the man to whom I will look, he that is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.” (Isaiah 66:1-2)
What does a “strong man” look like? The picture of a strong man that God describes here is very different than the picture that I grew up with…the prototypical American tough guy. We were taught that “big boys” don’t cry, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” We were taught that when you get knocked down, you get back up again or you pull yourself back up by your boot straps. We were taught to “stand up and fight.” These are just a few of the “tough guy” mottos I can remember. I also remember (and it stills stands true today) that to be “self-made” was or is a high praise. These Scripture passages from the mouth of God don’t seem to quite line up with these quotes from American ideology. I think the stigma and influence those ideas have on us are pretty deeply ingrained and are difficult to overcome. They have resulted in more false selfs that we try to live into because that is who we are told we are… or we are told we should be in order that we might be successful and highly accepted. The problem is that we spend our energy and our lives becoming the antithesis of what God desires for us. The things that impress our friends, family, and society are not the things that impress God. The things that we will measure as success are often just the opposite of what God deems a success. A healthy examination of our values might be the first step in the dawning of a new day and the beginning of freedom from the tyranny of a false self.
Reading—New Seeds of Contemplation by Thomas Merton
“Mere living alone does not isolate a man; mere living together does not bring men into communion. The common life can either make one more of a person or less of a person, depending whether it is truly common life or merely life in a crowd. To live in communion, in genuine dialogue with others is absolutely necessary if a man is to remain human. But to live in the midst of others, sharing nothing with them but the common noise and the general distraction, isolates a man in the worst way, separates him from reality in a way that is almost painless. It divides him off and separates him from other men and from his true self.”
Monastic Notes (Pecos: Day 7—June 26th 2011)
Today is Sunday; a week ago I was arriving at the monastery unsure of what to expect. After my first full week of “living in community” and getting acclimated to the environment (physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually), I am feeling more comfortable and “at home.” There are still quite a few things that are unfamiliar to me, but I’m learning quickly and I’m feeling less and less awkward with each passing day. Today is a day of silence and a day of rest, so I’m going to embrace this Sabbath day for the gift of grace that it is. Lectures resume tomorrow, so we’ll pick back up with more thoughts and conversation then.
I continue my studies and empirical practice of Sabbath as a holy discipline in my life. While I recognize that I am not where I would like to be in practice or understanding, I realize that I am making forward progress and that is encouraging to me. The latest “piece” in my study portfolio has been another volume from the Ancient Practices Series published by Thomas Nelson. This third release, Sabbath, by Dan Allender has been another delightful read for me. I am enjoying the ancient practices series on whole, but in particular, my studies have been centered on trying to understand the Sabbath day.
The book is divided into three main sections comprised of eleven chapters. The individual sections provide the reader-student with background for foundation in understanding Sabbath, purpose of/for Sabbath, and how Sabbath is lived/application. The book is very logical in progression and invites the reader into a comfortable and easily digested study. Considering my desire for additional study, I especially enjoyed the well documented notes and bibliography sections of the book. Having read several of the articles and a number of the books listed in the notes and bibliography sections, I was encouraged to know I was on the right path in my quest for knowledge. Read the rest of this entry »
Sorting, Processing, and Continued Reflection… 40 Days Living the Jesus Creed (Day 14)
“The desperate need for today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but deep people…” [Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster]
Quotables from “Deep-Rooted in Christ” by Joshua Choonmin Kang:
- “The Word of God is the only tool that can bring about our spiritual formation.”
- “The Holy Spirit is what brings us to maturity and depth.”
- “The Holy Spirit offers us the utmost intimate knowledge of God and our inward thoughts.”
I’m still sorting through several things going on in my life; not the least of which are personal relationships. I continue to meditate and reflect on the precepts of God as I search His leading and guidance on how to live as a “reconciler” and peacemaker. Read the rest of this entry »
I’ve flip-flopped several times about whether to post the latest experiment of my faith journey. I finally decided that I would post a portion of my journal since I have made it a practice of sharing how God continues to shape me as I endeavor to follow Jesus and be transformed into His likeness. This may become an ongoing post revisiting my experiences as I try to understand some of the practices and disciplines of my (our) faith. As you will read in the accompanying excerpt, there are a number of spiritual development practices that I struggle with…most specifically for this particular season of my life, the disciplines I feel God pressing me to examine, understand, and appropriate are: (in no particular order) Sabbath, Fasting, and Prayer (praying without ceasing). I sincerely hope that my confession and journal excerpt is not taken out of context or misunderstood; if there are questions or comments that would be better served with additional explanation and/or conversation, please feel free to comment or send me an email. My journal notes follow: Read the rest of this entry »
“You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day must be a Sabbath day of complete rest, a holy day dedicated to the LORD. Anyone who works on the Sabbath must be put to death. The people of Israel must keep the Sabbath day by observing it from generation to generation. This is a covenant obligation for all time. It is a permanent sign of my covenant with the people of Israel. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, but on the seventh day he stopped working and was refreshed.” Exodus 31:15-17
I have tried and tried to wrap my head and heart around what Sabbath means. I have read numerous devotional writings, books, studied spiritual disciplines and more…yet still feel as though I fall short in understanding the intent and purpose of the Sabbath. I am sure I fail to understand the Sabbath as God had intended it. My history, experience, and family of origin have predisposed me to understanding the Sabbath as a ritual day; an act of religion and tradition that is often worshipped more than (and over) the Creator who sanctified the day and gave it to us in the first place. In my life, Sabbath was equal to the weekday, Sunday. In the strictest sense of the word, there was no greater significance placed on Sabbath except for the idea that it was a good day to go to church. There was no holy reverence for the day; there was no sacred anticipation of its arrival. Until recently (the past couple years), I had never set out to explore the truest understanding of Sabbath, and by this I mean what God has intended.