This post is going to be a little longer than normal, so please bear with me. I know this is going to be life changing for me and I hope it is life changing for you. For a very long time, I have struggled with keeping God present in my mind throughout my day. One of the main reasons why I struggle with this problem is the fact that I am addicted to “doing”.
I have been like this most of my life. “Doing” is how I cope with stress. I cram as much as I possibly can into my to-do lists. I don’t sit down for very long. I go, go, go until my body screams at me. Then, and only then do I stop. I am pretty pathetic!
When I was reading the book “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality” by Peter Scazzero, I came across these words. “We go through the motions of doing so many things as if there is no alternative way of spending our days. It is like being addicted—only it is not to drugs or alcohol but 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.” My life has definitely been swallowed up by so many things that aren’t good for me. I know I need to change. My body will completely fall apart if I keep driving it the way I do.
Thomas Merton states, “There is a pervasive form of contemporary violence . . . activism and overwork. The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of its innate violence. To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything, is to succumb to violence . . . . It kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful.”
I have experienced many forms of violence in my life. Most of the violence came from other people, but now I realize that I have been committing violence to myself by overwork. I have caved in to the demands of others by saying “yes” when I knew that I should be saying “no.” I had no idea I was doing so much damage because I thought I was being helpful and I felt like my heart was in the right place. (Or at least I thought it was.) No wonder I forget about God during my day. I am so conditioned to pushing and pleasing others that I forget about God and what He wants for me.
Scazzero tells us in his book that, “We need a rope to lead us home. God is offering us a rope to keep us from getting lost. This rope consistently leads us back home to Him, to a place that is centered and rooted.” Oh, how I long to be centered and rooted and not run down and worn out. God is my rope and I keep forgetting to grab on to it because I am so focused on getting things done. But, there is hope for all of us if we have the desire to make a few changes in the way we live our days.
There are two ancient practices that Peter talks about in his book. One is called the Daily Office and the other is keeping the Sabbath. I was really intrigued to learn about the Daily Office. I already knew that I should honor the Sabbath, but have struggled doing it because resting is so difficult for me. What I learned from Peter, has helped me understand why doing these practices is so very important in my relationship with my Heavenly Father.
“The Daily Office and the Sabbath, however, offer us a rhythm powerful enough to anchor us. Whatever catastrophic blizzard may be blowing in our lives, the Daily Office and Sabbath enable us to hang onto the rope (that is, God Himself) so we can safely make our way home. They offer us a rhythm for our lives that binds us to the living God.” Scazzero
Sign me up! I want to be bound to God. I desperately want to pay attention to God throughout my day and not let my to-do list rule me. Did you know that one theologian argued, “at the heart of original sin is the refusal to accept God’s rhythm for us?” OUCH! I guess I have been so ingrained in my “doing” that I haven’t stopped to think that my rhythm of life is a sin. I mean for goodness sakes, God rested. Why in the world is it so hard for me to rest or take mini-breaks throughout my day and focus on the One who gives me life? Is there anyone else out there that has a problem like I do?
So let’s get to the nitty gritty. The first practice is called the Daily Office. It isn’t a quiet time. “The root of the Daily Office is not so much a turning to God to get something but to be with Someone.” Scazzero I like to think of it as paying attention to God. I know I need to give Him a whole lot more of my attention than I do! If you want more detail on how to apply the Daily Office, I recommend reading the book. I got mine from Amazon.
I will touch on the four elements of the Daily Office. They are: stopping, centering, silence and scripture. The first is stopping which is pretty self-explanatory. Second is centering which involves being attentive and open, sitting still, breathing slowly and closing your eyes or lowering them to the ground. If your mind wanders, start breathing in and ask the Holy Spirit to fill you up. Then, as you breathe out, exhale all that is sinful, false, and not of Him.
Third is silence. Which is accompanied by solitude. I think both of these are hard for most of us. “Silence is the practice of quieting every inner and outer voice to attend to God. Solitude is the practice of being absent from people and things to attend to God.” Willard That phrase “attend to” made me pause. I decided to look it up in the dictionary. The definition means “to be present”. When we take the time for silence and solitude we are tending to our relationship with God by being present with Him.
Last is scripture. Pick something that is appealing to you. I like the Psalms so I am picking to focus on a verse or verses of Psalms when I do my Daily Office. Be attentive in your heart to what God is doing inside of you. Again, there is more detail in the book.
The point is to be with God. To focus on Him. “The purpose of the Daily Office is to remember God and commune with Him all though our days. Keep that clearly in mind as you develop structures and habits that fit you.”Scazzero You can determine how many times a day you are able to be with God. You can also determine how long you are able to be with Him. I am usually able to get a good chunk of time in the morning. My struggle is pausing throughout the day. I am attempting to start out twice a day with the hope of adding more. What makes me want to do this is my love for God and a desire to connect more with Him than I do already.
Now, on to the Sabbath. The Sabbath means “to cease, to stop working.” It means to carve out a 24 hour time period to quit working. To rest. “On Sabbaths we imitate God by stopping our work and resting.” Why is that so hard? Did you know it is the longest and most specific of the Ten Commandments? Sabbath is a gift from God that we are supposed to receive. We imitate God when we observe it. Think about that!
The culture we live in doesn’t really help us observe that day. I have tried in the past to take the time to observe the Sabbath, but then I go back to “doing” instead of “resting”. The bottom line is God worked. We are to work. God rested. We are to rest. “To fail to see the value of simply being with God and ‘doing nothing’ is to miss the heart of Christianity.” Doohan
I know this is a lot! It can be overwhelming! But, I keep thinking about the way the world is today. Most of us are struggling with the way things are. We all need ropes to hang on to! We see so many people “out of sorts” right now. If we could make a few changes in our routine during the day and turn our attention towards God, what a difference that would make in us and help us deal with the stress in our lives today. The Daily Office and the Sabbath can transform us. “Our human brain, our bodies, our spirits, and our emotions become wired by God for the rhythm of work and rest in Him.”Scazzero
I want to be wired by God and not by me! I am way too destructive. I think most of us have storms in our lives that make us need a rope to grab on to. God is the rope we desperately need. He is the only way we are going to survive. We have to realize there is great value in being alone with God and doing nothing.
I am going to leave you with this beautiful, heartfelt prayer from the book. Until next time…
“Lord, help me grab hold of you as my rope in the blizzard today. I need you. The idea of stopping to be with you one, two, or three times a day seems overwhelming, but I know I need you. Show me the way. Teach me to be prayerfully attentive to you. This idea of Sabbath will require a lot of change in the way I am living life. Lead me, Lord, in how to take the next step with this. Help me trust you with all that will remain unfinished, to not try to run your world for you. Set me free to begin reorienting my life around you and you alone.
In Jesus’ Name, Amen!
* Please note that I am just beginning to do this! I know it is going to be challenging and hard. I am going to have to show myself a lot of grace. I want more of God in my life and I feel like following these practices is going to help make it happen. If you would like to join me, please let me know so I can pray for you. And, I would love for you to pray for me too! Let’s do this!