7 Habits That Promote Soul Rest: Sabbath

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For years, I struggled with the idea of Sabbath. I knew the commandment, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8). But as a pastor’s wife and church musician remembering the Sabbath day meant getting up early, going to church, playing the piano or organ, and rehearsing with the praise team or choir. I loved it all, but it was anything but restful.

Then I began to read about incorporating God’s original idea of the Sabbath as a day of rest into modern life. Truthfully, that seemed impossible. As a wife, mom, piano teacher, and church worker I was already struggling to get everything done. How was I supposed to finish all my tasks if I took a day off?

But God kept tapping me on the shoulder through magazine articles, blog posts, and conversations with friends. Suddenly, everywhere I looked people were talking about the Sabbath.

God was inviting me to rest. 

7 HABITS #5Eventually, I accepted the invitation and began using Sunday afternoons and evenings as my Sabbath. I still need to work as a church musician in the morning, but I use the rest of the day to rest my body, soul, and spirit.

Here are some ways I incorporate rest into my Sabbath:

Rest my body. I ignore the crumbs on the floor and the clothes in the hamper. Instead, I lounge on the couch or take a leisurely walk in God’s creation.

Rest my soul. One the best things I do for my soul on the Sabbath is to take a break from technology. I spend a lot of time on my computer during the week. Shutting down email and Facebook for one day rejuvenates my soul.

Rest my spirit. God’s Word rejuvenates my soul. On Sunday morning I worship with my brothers and sisters in Christ and soak of the Gospel. Later in the day I might read an uplifting devotional book or spend extra time in Scripture. You might even select a book or study to be read only on Sundays–perhaps reading through C.S. Lewis’s works or digging deep into Galatians.

God’s recipe for soul rest is:

Take six days of work.

Add in one day of rest.

God's recipe for soul rest is: Take six days of work. Add in one day of rest. Click To Tweet

Too often I’ve ignored this recipe and the result has been an exhausted, frazzled soul.

Accept God’s invitation to take a break from your usual hectic pace. Rest in His love and grace. Allow Him to renew your soul.

Next step: RSVP with a yes to God’s invitation to rest. Find a day each week to rest your body, soul, and spirit. Make a list of things that rejuvenate your soul and incorporate them into your Sabbath.

If you want to learn more about Sabbath and soul rest check out my book Soul Spa: 40 Days of Spiritual Renewal. CPH.org has a special sale price right now!

 

7 Habits That Promote Soul Rest: Daily Meeting with God

dailyappointment

My dad loved meetings.

And that was a good thing because he needed to attend a lot of them. After retiring from his job as a radio station sales manager, he ran for city council and won. In the city he lived in, it wasn’t a full-time job, but it involved a lot of council meetings, board meetings, and committee meetings. And he loved attending them all because they connected him with people.

I don’t always appreciate meetings. But there is one meeting time I always try to keep: my daily appointment with the Lord.

People use a variety of terms for this kind of meeting: Quiet Time. Daily Devotions. Personal Bible Study.

Whatever you call this time with God–keeping this daily appointment is the number one habit for soul rest.

Why? Because soul rest is only available from Jesus. In Matthew 11:28 He invites us:

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

Now you may say, “But Sharla, I’ve had a quiet time for years and I don’t think it has helped me experience soul rest.”

To which I would say, “I can totally relate.”

7 HABITS #1For years, I faithfully opened my Bible and had a devotional time in the morning. I love God’s Word so it didn’t seem like a chore. But I often viewed it as something to check off on my to-do list for the day. It was not so much a time for meeting with God as it was an intellectual exercise.

You see, I was looking at my meeting time with God like I viewed other meetings. A time to get something accomplished. (Which is why I don’t like meetings: often there is lots of discussion but not much action.) I needed to view meeting with God like my dad viewed meetings: a time to connect.

We can view our time with God as a duty to be checked off. We can look at it as a time to accomplish something: Read three chapters of the Bible. Memorize a passage. Finish the lesson for Wednesday night’s small group.

But that won’t give us the soul rest we so desperately need.

Instead, view your meeting with God as a time to connect with Him. Keep your daily appointment with Jesus knowing He promises to give you rest. Come weary–receive strength. Come disappointed–receive hope. Come distracted and anxiety ridden–receive peace

The number one habit that promotes soul rest is a daily meeting time with God. But only if we view time with Jesus as a time to  relax in His care. A time to experience His peace. A time to receive His love.

Your daily appointment with God is a time to relax in His care, experience His peace, and receive His love. Click To Tweet

Next step: if you don’t already have a daily appointment with God, start one now. (Check out this post on making quiet time a habit.) If you already have the habit of a daily quiet time, add the habit of viewing it as a time to connect with Jesus and receive His rest. Write Matthew 11:28 on a card and post it where you have your quiet time or keep it in your Bible.

For more ideas on soul care, check out my free resource–Soul Spa Kit: 59 Ideas for Creating Your Own Spiritual Retreat. Just sign up for my newsletter in the form below!




 

7 Habits That Promote Soul Rest

soulrest

I started a new habit this week: brushing my teeth while standing on one leg.

It looks silly, but the idea is to improve my balance. I heard about this practice from the book Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives, by Gretchen Rubin. Rubin is one of my favorite secular authors and I found this book fascinating. Her premise is that habits make our lives better, because once they are in place we don’t have to think about them. For instance, my overall health is better because I exercise every weekday. I don’t struggle with the decision if I should exercise or not. I just do it. (Huh. That would make a good slogan.)

While I was reading the book, I got to wondering if habits could improve my spiritual life as well. Are there things that I could do every day that would improve my relationship with God? 

7 HABITS THAT PROMOTE SOUL RESTThis idea is not new. God, in fact, instituted a few habits for His people in the Old Testament.

Every year, they were to practice the ritual of Passover–remembering God’s mighty act of bringing them out of Egypt.

Every week the Israelites were to celebrate the Sabbath–ceasing their work and instead spending time worshipping God.

Every day they were to call upon God–“Every day I call upon you, O Lord, I spread out my hands to you” (Psalm 88:9).

 

These habits were all designed to draw the Israelites out of their normal routine and into God’s presence.

God told Moses:

My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest. (Exodus 33:14)

Ah rest, that is what I need. Soul rest. The kind of rest that would calm my heart. The kind of respite that would obliterate the restlessness in my spirit.The kind of stillness that would cancel out the craziness of this world like noise-cancelling headphones wipe out the pandemonium around me.

So what habits and routines promote soul rest? It seems from Exodus 33:14 that the answer is: any routine that draws us into the presence of the Lord.

Over the next few weeks, I will explore a few spiritual habits that will help find that rest. Some will be routines you probably already have in place, like a daily quiet time. But some may be new to you, like prayer journaling. Each habit will have one purpose in mind–to connect with Jesus.

And I promise I won’t urge you to brush your teeth while standing on one leg.


 

Check out all seven habits! Click the links below.

#1 Daily Meeting With God

#2 Gratitude

#3 Perpetual Prayer

#4 One Thing

#5 Sabbath

#6 Prayer Journaling

#7 Personal Spiritual Retreat


 

Next step: Choose one of the 7 Habits that sounds intriguing. Practice it for 21 days to make it a habit. Accept God’s invitation to rest. 

 

The Key to Unlock the Chains of “Doing”

being a doer can in the way of

“What did you do today?”

It’s an innocent question. One I usually like to answer. One I often use to get a conversation going.

It’s even a question I often ask myself.

I’m a doer. You too? We doers like to accomplish things. We make massive to-do lists and find glee in placing little check marks next to completed jobs. (Sometimes we even write down tasks we’ve finished that weren’t on the list just so we can make that satisfying check mark.)

But this week while I was reading and meditating on the psalms, God spoke to me about all my “doing.”

The Key to Unlock the Chains of -Doing-I was reading Psalm 118:5:

In my anguish I cried to the Lord, and he answered by setting me free.

And the Holy Spirit highlighted the phrase “setting me free.” The phrase unsettled my soul. But I couldn’t figure out why.

The phrase conjured up images of chains falling off swollen wrists. Of bursting out of a dark dungeon into blinding sunshine. Of running through a swaying field of flowers.

I asked God why my heart needed to hear that particular phrase.

And the answer was that I have been bound to the chains of “doing.” Being a doer is not a bad thing. But it can get in the way of being a child of God if I am basing my value on my accomplishments. If I’m focusing on what I can do. If I view myself as worthless when my efforts don’t get the results I would like.

In that simple little phrase, “setting me free,” the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart: What if instead of focusing on what you have done, instead of staring at what you haven’t done (ahem where I’ve failed), you began to concentrate on what God has done?

Later in Psalm 118 there is another phrase that grabbed my heart: “proclaim what the Lord has done” (verse 17).

In fact, Psalm 118 is full of things the Lord has done: He has

  • loved me forever (verse 1)
  • set me free (verse 5)
  • helped me (verse 7)
  • protected me (verse 8)
  • done mighty things (verse 16)

And when I look back on the past few weeks of my life, I see that He has:

  • given my husband a good health report–no cancer!
  • helped me recover from a bad cold
  • given me time with my daughter and her family
  • granted me a new book contract

When I focus on “what the Lord has done” the chains of doing and the pressure of accomplishing fall away. 

I am set free.

Next step: What has the Lord done for you this week? Make a list. And as you focus on what God has done, feel the pressure of accomplishment fall away. 

 

Grace for the Overwhelmed

psalm 3-4

Are you feeling overwhelmed? Drowning in despair? Floundering in mountains of tasks, duties, and responsibilities?

Find grace for your life in Psalm 3.

This Lenten season I’m exploring the Psalms–reading a few psalms each day and recording what God is speaking to me. (You can join me if you want. Download a free Lenten reading guide here.)

Today I’m exploring Psalm 3–a psalm for the overwhelmed.

Just a little background about this psalm.

The book of Psalms is divided into five “books” or divisions. Psalm 3 is, of course, part of Book 1 (Psalms 1-41). This first book of Psalms is sometimes called the Yahweh Psalter because Yahweh is the name for God that is used most often in this section. Most of the psalms in the “Yahweh Psalter” were written by David.

Scholars have classified the psalms into several categories including: wisdom psalms, hymns, and laments. Psalm 3 is described at a psalm of individual lament. Characteristics of lament psalms are: they often begin with an invocation such as, “Oh, Lord” and they contain a plea for help.

But what I love about this psalm is that it gives hope to the overwhelmed.

David himself was overwhelmed by his enemies when he wrote the psalm. It was written when almost the whole nation of Israel rose up against him–including his own son Absalom.

grace for theIt’s no wonder he cries out in despair:

O Lord, how many are my foes! Many are rising against me, many are saying of my soul, there is no salvation for him in God. (Psalm 3:1-2)

Don’t you love it that we can call out to God whenever we feel beaten down and crushed by life? Yes, the world may doubt that God can help, but we who know the Lord are confident of His help.

And that is what David says next:

But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. I cried aloud to the Lord, and he answered me from his holy hill. (Psalm 3:3-4)

David doesn’t stay in lament mode for long. He quickly acknowledges God’s protection and blessing. He reminds himself that Yahweh hears his prayers.

David is so confident of the Lord’s help, that he goes to sleep:

I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the Lord sustained me. I will not be afraid of many thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around. (Psalm 3:5-6)

God wants us to be so sure of His strength and love that we can rest in Him. Even though thousands of people (or dozens of problems) are against us, we don’t have to be afraid if God is on our side.

Arise, O Lord! Save me, O my God! For you strike all my enemies on the cheek; you break the teeth of the wicked. Salvation belongs to the Lord; your blessing be on your people! (Psalm 3:7-8)

In the end, David call out to God again. He reminds himself that God is the one who saves.

I have to admit that when I’m feeling overwhelmed, I don’t always turn to God first.

I often try to fix things myself. I read more self-help books about time management. I look up information on getting organized–thinking that will help overcome my problems.

Psalm 3 reminds me that God is the “lifter of my head”–the one who gives victory. He is my shield–a Protector against my troubles. He is my Savior.

Yahweh is always available to listen. He longs for me to come to Him for help. Click To TweetWhen I turn to Him the Lord gives rest even in the midst of the chaos.

Are you feeling overwhelmed? Turn to the Lord for help.

Next step: David laments about his many enemies. What or who are the enemies in your life? Difficult people? A multitude of bills? Overwhelming schedule? Write a list and then take it to God. Ask Him for wisdom and power to conquer the foes. Find rest in Him.

Join me in reading through the psalms this Lent. Click here for a free reading guide.

 

 
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Three Ways to Make Space in Your Life for God

Not long ago I was working in my garden–ruing the fact that in the past I had not left space between my bed of pink yarrow and the green lawn. I got a little lazy and didn’t bother to keep up the edge of the flower bed. Because of that, the lovely pink flowers were intertwined with grass. Plus, the awful weeds from my lawn had crept into the flower foliage choking it to death.

I learned my lesson: I need to keep space between the lawn and the flower bed.

Lately, God has been teaching me that I also need to keep space in my life.

I have been filling it too full with piano teaching, writing projects, speaking engagements. I have overcrowded my calendar. Work has crept into the space for relationships. Commitments have crept into the place for rest. And all of these things are beginning to choke out my joy.

If we're not careful, work and commitments creep into the space for relationships and rest. Click To Tweet

Have you experienced this as well? Our culture has so many wonderful opportunities it is very easy to become over-committed. We say yes to too many things and end up without any space for joy.

I guess this is not a new problem. God told the people of Israel through the prophet Isaiah:

“Here is a place of rest;
let the weary rest here.
This is a place of quiet rest.”
But they would not listen.
Isaiah 28:12

God is telling us that we need rest. We need margin. We need boundaries. If we aren’t diligent to keep space in our lives for God, for relationships, for quiet, all the other jangled pieces of our lives will crowd out our joy.

3WaysToMakeSpaceHere are a few simple ways you can add a little space in your life:

Remember to keep the Sabbath. God created a day for rest because He knew we needed it. In the past year this is one practice that I have tried to be consistent with. On Sunday after church, I relax, read a good book, talk with family members on the phone. It’s my day to recharge.
Find small moments of quiet in your day. Set a timer to go off at different times during the day. When the timer beeps, take a moment to stop what you are doing and reconnect with God. Close your eyes and remember His awesome love for you.
For everything you say yes to, say no to another. This is the one I have to work on. I have said yes to too many things and God has shown me that I have to make some difficult choices to prune back my activities. But I need the space.
God is reminding all of us to make the time to rest–to make space in our lives for Him.

Discover three simple ways to make space in your life--for God. Click To Tweet

Next step: Choose one of the three simple ways to create space in your life. Make a plan to implement it this week.

For more ideas about making space in your life for God, check out my free Soul Spa Kit: 59 Ideas for Creating Your Own Spiritual Retreat. Just fill out the form below to sign up for my newsletter to receive this free gift.




 

Free Resource: 59 Ways to Care For Your Soul

highway -

Have you seen the Baby Blues comic where the Baby Blues mom is driving and gets pulled over by a female cop? The policewoman says, “Ma’am, I noticed you have three small children in the car. Please step out of the vehicle.”

Mom gets out of the car and asks, “Is there a problem?”

Cop replies, “No, I just thought you could use a moment of peace and quiet.”

Once in a while, we all need to pull off the road of carpools, meetings, and errands for a bit of peace and quiet. Taking the exit off the busy highway of life for a short time enables us to experience silence and stillness. Solitary times help us connect with God and hear His voice.

Who needs a spiritual retreat? You do. Although soul care may seem like a luxury, it is actually a necessity for your well-being. When your spirit is tired and worn, your physical self suffers too. You are less able to be the generous and kind person you want to be. Your heart cries out for more of Jesus.

And that’s why I created the Soul Spa Kit: 59 Ideas For Creating Your Own Spiritual Retreat. Inside this resource you will discover the who, what, when, why, where, and how of soul care. This kit is a little like a three-day spa weekend for your soul.

59Ways

Most of us seldom think about soul care. I know I didn’t. As a type-A person I was much better at making and completing to-do lists even if it meant ignoring my soul’s cries for rest. I said yes to many worthwhile activities and pursuits, but didn’t stop long enough to hear my soul cry out, “Stop!”

Finally, I listened to my soul and took the time to get off the busy highway of life long enough for Jesus to care for my soul. I discovered spiritual practices that helped me connect with my Savior in a deeper way.

What about you? Is your soul crying out for rest? Some of the symptoms of soul fatigue are a feeling of emptiness even though life is full, an almost constant sense of being overwhelmed, and, well, being more than a little snippy with the people you actually love.

We can keep on pushing through life, ignoring our souls and becoming more empty and overwhelmed or we can get off the roller-coaster of life long enough to hear the cries of our spirits and care for them. We can go to Jesus–the Healer of souls. We can take time for a spiritual retreat.

Here are a few ideas from my Soul Spa Kit:

  • Meditate on the Bible story in John 8:1–11. Imagine yourself in the story. Hear the sounds, smell the smells. Look at Jesus. What does your heart experience in meeting Jesus in this story?
  • Dream. Write down your most extravagant dreams for your life. Ask God to show you if they are in line with His will.
  • Create a photo journal. Take a walk in nature and snap photos of things that remind you of God. Later, create a slide show or photo book of the photos with captions of prayers of thanksgiving.

To get my free Soul Spa Kit and find more ideas like this, simply enter your name and email address in the form below. You will then receive a link to the Soul Spa Kit in your inbox.

Give yourself permission to take a little time off from your responsibilities and obligations. Nurture your soul.

Next step: Pick a day in the next week for a personal spiritual retreat. Pick one or two of the activities in the Soul Spa Kit. Enjoy a day of spiritual rest.

Fill out the form below to receive my e-newsletter and the free Soul Spa Kit!




Time to Rest

Ps.62-1

Our modern world rushes on. People rarely stop to rest. Bragging rights are given to those who can exist on the least amount of sleep.

But in truth God created us to need rest.

This past season has been a draining one for me. My husband has been going to chemo therapy for the past six months. He hasn’t felt terrible, but he also hasn’t felt that good.

My mother-in-law, who lived near us in an assisted-living complex, took a turn for the worse. We needed to move her out of her apartment and into full nursing care closer to my husband’s sister in Michigan.

A dear friend died this week after a nine-month battle with cancer. At only age 47, her death seems especially sad.

This summer I have had the joy of launching a new book, speaking to some amazing women, and going to a conference with 4500 other women who love our awesome God.

But now, I think it’s time to rest!

So during the month of August, I will be taking a break from blogging. I will probably do a little writing (I have a new project in mind), but I will not be posting here for awhile. Instead, I will clean out a few closets and corners (ever since I started writing I have been stuffing junk in without taking it out!). I will go on more picnics and read more books. Hopefully my husband and I will have the opportunity to travel a bit to see family.

But mostly, I will rest.

I encourage you to find a season of rest too. Maybe you won’t be able to find rest during the month of August, but look ahead in your calendar to pencil in a day or a week of rest. Sometimes we simply need to get off the roller coaster of life for awhile.

Rest your body. Rest your mind. Rest in God. 

Next step: Look ahead in your calendar to block out a day or a week for rest. Take a vacation. Use a personal day. Or try my friend’s idea to declare an ordinary Saturday “Pajama Day”–lounge in your pj’s, read, catch up on Netflix, nap.

Freedom From The Tyranny Of People-Pleasing

freedom

The Fourth of July is upon us–a day of celebration in our country. A time to celebrate the freedom we enjoy in America. A time to be thankful for the fact that we still have the freedom to worship God.

With all the emphasis on freedom during the days ahead, it made me realize that even though God has given me freedom, I don’t always live as if I am free. I get tangled up in the chains of ambition and people-pleasing. Although I am free in Christ, I sometimes willingly step into shackles that prevent from living in that freedom.

It seems like this is nothing new. When the apostle Paul wrote to the Galatians, he said,

So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law. (Galatians 5:1)

The Galatians had experienced the freedom of salvation in Christ–the joyous freedom that comes when we realize that there is nothing we can do to earn salvation. There is nothing we can do to make God love us more. Christ has already done everything necessary.

But they had been convinced by other people that they needed to follow some of the old laws, such as circumcision. They were willingly stepping into the shackles of trying to please other people by doing things God had told them they didn’t need to do.

And when I read this passage again, I realized that, in a way, I had done the same thing. Lofty ambitions, avid goals, and the desire to do what the “experts” tell me I need to do, have chained me to an unrealistic work pattern. I have probably been trying to do more than God has asked me to do–more than I was meant to do.

Sisters in Christ, I hope that you have not been shackled to people pleasing and working beyond what Christ has asked of you. But if you have, here a few steps you can take to break free of the chains.

  1. Write down everything that you do during a normal week and everything you feel you “should” be doing. Include everything from cooking meals and laundry to driving kids to school and organizing play dates.
  2. Take your long list into God’s presence and mentally lay it at His feet. Pray over each item. Ask yourself questions like: Is this activity necessary? Is there a simpler way to do this chore? Why am I choosing this activity–is it because God asked me to do it or I am doing this simply to impress the neighbors or please other people?
  3. Eliminate the activities that God asks you to purge from your calendar. Find simpler, less stressful ways to accomplish some of your chores. Do what God is calling you to do–but not more.

Experience the freedom of doing what God has asked you to do. Live free.

Next Step: Follow the three steps above to break free of the chains of people pleasing. Write Galatians 5:1 on a sticky note and display it where you will see it often.

When You Can’t Do It By Yourself

We get frustrated when we try to do big things and it doesn't work. It's then we need to remember the power available to us.

Every week people pass through my living room and take a turn sitting at my grand piano. I give them my undivided attention for thirty to sixty minutes while they play music by Mozart and Beethoven and Gershwin.  I help them make sense of fingering and eighth notes and terms like sforzando.

And I love it. Teaching piano is a joy.

This year I have three very young beginners. One girl who is only five herself comes with her mother and a little two-year old sister. While the older sister is having her piano lesson the little sister sits on the sofa while her mother tries to keep her occupied with storybooks and playing games on an iPad.

A couple of weeks ago the little sister was becoming very frustrated–making so much noise that it distracted my student. The mother explained, “She wants to play the game herself, but it’s hard so she gets frustrated when she can’t do it. But she gets angry when I try to to help.”

I had to laugh. Because this is exactly how I am with God.

I want to do stuff. I want to make a difference. I want to accomplish big things. So I work and work and sometimes it’s hard. I get frustrated because I cant’ do it. But do I go to God for help? Not….always. Instead, I act like a two-year-old and get angry when I can’t do it by myself.

Which is silly because trying to do something in my power without accessing the power of God is a little like trying to grate a pound of carrots by hand when all along I have an amazing food processor in my cupboard.

Philippians 3:20 says:

Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.

God is able to accomplish infinitely more than we can imagine through his mighty power. Not through my genius. Not through my strength. Not through my determination.

So what does it look like to accomplish much in His mighty power?

Maybe it means stopping before I work to ask for His help.

Maybe it means admitting I need His assistance.

Maybe it means thanking Him that I don’t have to do it on my own.

Whew. I feel better already.

Question: What would it look like in your life to work in God’s power instead of your own?

eph 3-20