Sacred Rhythms

10/19/2020

OUR CONNECTION MATTERS
ALLISON LINDSEY

“The call of Jesus is a call to a two-beat rhythm of life: being with him and being sent from him.” - Sheridan Voysey

Have you ever stopped for a moment to think about the rhythms God places into the fabric of our lives and throughout creation? I think about the ebb and flow of the tides, the phases of the moon, our sleep cycle, the need for sabbath, and our very heartbeat and breath. From sunrise to sunset we are surrounded by rhythm. Webster’s Dictionary defines rhythm as a regularly recurring sequence of events, actions, or processes. Just as we see in nature, our lives often become built around rhythm and routine, don’t they? 

This concept of rhythm has become more obvious for me the past few weeks as my family moved from our house in town to our land in a more rural part of the county. Surrounded by acres of peanut fields and woods, I am more attune to the ebb and flow and creativity of our amazing God. Life out here involves fewer distractions and at night there are “less lights to dim the heavens” - words used by Bishop Michael Curry sharing the experience of Howard Thurman and his mother driving outside the city to view Haley’s Comet in the night sky and encountering God. 

We have anticipated this milestone move for several years, but I did not anticipate how disruptive it would be. Our day-to-day life has been completely changed on many levels, and we are searching for and establishing new normals, routines, and rhythms. It’s exciting and overwhelming at times!

Pastors and laity have shared with me that during this pandemic - the great pause - they have encountered God in new ways by slowing down, simplifying, and focusing on their soul care. For many of us, the rhythms of our lives were very connected to our church activities, and we find ourselves feeling somewhat out of sync during the pandemic. Encountering God through our faith community and in-person worship or small group has shifted and looks different right now, collectively. 

Yet personally, we encounter God through spiritual disciplines, and using these “practices” gives us a framework through which to carve out and create space to be attuned to Him. I like the term “spiritual practices” because these different disciplines often are not natural to us and do take practice, commitment and, yes, discipline. It's through these practices that we develop spiritual muscles and God’s work of transformation in us and through us thrives. 

One of my favorite books that explores this rule of life is Sacred Rhythms by Ruth Haley Barton. Her insight gives us guidance to cultivating sacred rhythms for spiritual transformation. (This book also contains a guide for small groups to journey together.) Before we develop a rhythm, our efforts can feel random or haphazard. A key for establishing sacred rhythms is in being intentional and having a plan.

In this book, focus is given to silence and solitude (daily and extended), scripture, prayer, honoring the body, self-examination and confession, discernment, sabbath and community. Here is a snapshot for Barton’s advice on developing sacred rhythms:

  • Explore the practices: Take time to explore different spiritual disciplines, practicing them, becoming more comfortable and reflecting on what is meaningful for you.
  • Learn how to arrange: Choose those you find meaningful and learn how to arrange them (daily/weekly/monthly/annually) to carve out time to encounter God in a way that fits into your life.
  • Make it personal: No two people will have the exact same rhythm! Consider your personality, your spiritual type, season of life or even a sin with which you are wrestling and desire to conquer and choose a practice that meets that need. 
  • Be realistic: The rhythm of spiritual practices needs to take into account a realistic assessment of our stage in life. If you are not a morning person, you might set yourself up to fail if you attempt to wake up at 5 a.m. for devotional time. 
  • Offer balance: Incorporate practices that are easy and some that stretch us! Think about this in terms of your personality and comfort zone. 
  • Allow for flexibility: Do not allow your rhythm to become rigid or legalistic. Evaluate your needs and desires to encounter God and the best way to meet this need on a regular basis. Barton recommends re-evaluating every six months or when encountering a life change. 
Once you have taken some time to explore and practice, develop a plan to establish sacred rhythms, being concrete, specific, and flexible allowing room for adjustments.

Here are a few questions to help you do this:
  • What am I beginning to understand about my minimum daily/weekly/monthly/annual requirements for ongoing spiritual (trans)formation?
  • Which practices do I know I need to engage in regularly as a way of offering myself to God steadily and consistently?
It’s a journey that we are all on together - both personally and collectively. As I am adjusting to rural life and establishing new routines and rhythms, I have begun practicing silence and solitude. I don’t mind solitude, but silence is a BIG stretch! I am also being mindful of how I allow technology to encroach upon my rhythms. Won’t you join me in creating sacred rhythms? 

I would love to hear what spiritual practices and rhythms you find meaningful and how you incorporate them in your lives to stay in sync - “being with Him” (Voysey). Next month we will unpack the second part of the two- beat rhythm: “being sent from Him.” 

*To explore more of Ruth Haley Barton’s resources, visit Transforming Center: Strengthen the Soul of Your Leadership.

Allison Lindsey is the director of Connectional Ministries. She has a passion for the local church and its people. Contact her at allison@sgaumc.com.