Reflections on a Rhythm of Life

Tom and I are now back from our 2 very relaxing days up at Anacortes.  Most of my focus has been on regaining the balanced rhythm that I feel is such an important part of my life.  My thoughts revolved around this quote from Ian Mobsbey’s book The Becoming of God

A rhythm of life is an innovative way of expressing the Christian faith in the context of contemporary culture.”

In reflecting on this on our last retreat I had written

For me personally, a rhythm of life is a way to establish the practices that I believe will enable me to live into God’s new world of wholeness and abundance.  It encourages me to shape my life in a way that is consistent with my understanding of God and God’s kingdom purposes.

This time I found myself needing to get down to the serious business of thinking about the details of what this looks like in my daily life.  First I realize that I easily get out of balance and desperately need to protect my Sabbath days as a time to reconnect to God and recommit to how I believe God wants me to be living.  Second I realize that I need to constantly filter all that I am asked to do through my understanding of how God wants me to live.  If I am getting too busy something is wrong.  When I commit to more than I should it is not God’s fault it is mine.  For me the key verse is Matthew 11:28 which I particularly love in The Message:

Are you tired? Worn out?  burned out on religion?  Come to me.  Get away with me and you’ll recover your life.  I’ll show you how to take a real rest.  Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it.  Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.  I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.

This is such a liberating verse for me as it helps me to recognize that God does not want me to kill myself with overwork and stress – something that left to myself I easily allow to happen.  

I was reminded of Miroslav Volf’s statement in his book The Spirit of Work that for followers of Christ, the goal of our work is not to to put bread on the table each day but rather to work for the fulfillment of God’s shalomic harmony.  Which I think, essentially means that in order to live into God’s world of shalom and wholeness and abundance, our days are meant to reflect God’s rhythms of prayer, work, and rest.

So what does that mean for me?  I came out of this retreat with a schedule for my days that reflects something of this rhythm: morning devotions followed by my morning exercises, breakfast then morning prayers in the Mustard Seed House.  After that I answer email, write my blog posts and work on my current writing project unless I have some meetings scheduled.  After lunch Tom & I take a break to walk the dog. Then, because of my chronic fatigue syndrome I nap for an hour.  Afternoon tea is followed by another couple of hours of work, dinner, more work and then evening prayers in the Mustard Seed House at 9 p.m.  Now I should hasten to add that “work” covers a multitude of things from writing projects, to meeting with colleagues, networking , reading, photography, working on liturgies and meditation videos, and even working in the garden or providing hospitality for Mustard Seed friends and connections.  I love variety in what I do and cannot focus on a single project for more than a couple of hours at a time.        

Some of you may think that this sounds very controlled and rigid but in actual fact I find it very liberating and freeing.  Establishing firmly in my mind what the pattern of my day should look like gives me the freedom to say no when I am asked to do good things that are not part of God’s plan for me.  It also gives me the freedom to let go of unfinished projects and leave them for another day without feeling guilty.  

I would to hear how others plan the pattern of their days.  I know particularly that for those of us who do not have the discipline of an 8 hour work day that it is easy either to become workaholics or to fritter time away because we lack the discipline to keep at a project.  

What do your think that the rhythm of life in the kingdom of God will look like?  How do you maintain that rhythm?  What keeps you on track and what keeps you from overcommitting and burning out?


More Reading on Community

My intensive reading course on community related topics continues and I am learning a ton.  Not sure yet how I will put it all together but I think that it is the most important topic I have tackled for years.  Over the last 2 weeks I have read 2 books that I think are extremely important in this discussion and are must reads for anyone grappling with what it means to be and do church in today’s context.  Both of them are from the UK where people are much more aware that we live in a post Christendom world and need to rethink what it means to be God’s followers based on that fact.

Ian Mobsby’s The Becoming of God, is an excellent book in which the author explores new ways of being Christian community based on his understanding of the Tritarian nature of God who comes to us as Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer.  The Trinity is described as three persons who dwell in one another in a way that expresses a profound sense of fellowship without hierarchy or authoritaritism.  God is characterized by unity in the midst of diversity, perfect love, justice and interdependency which is poured out and expressed through the creation of all that is in the Cosmos.

This view obviously has enormous consequences for human kind.  All of us are made in the image of God – an image of creativity, interdependence and unity expressed in diversity.  Mobsby goes on to discuss the Moot community and its grappling with these issues.  I was particularly impacted by his thoughts on Rule or Rhythm of life

This Rhythm of Life is an innovative way of expressing the Christian fiath in the context of contemporary culture… As people encounter Christians living out profound expressions of the fiath through God’s love, they encounter the depth of a loving Christian community and expreience God as their ‘Ground of being’ through worship, mission and community…. t is in thiese participative and loving Christian communities that people can encounter the reality of the Christian story of the Holy trinity, not as hypothetical truth, but as a profound reality, clueing us in as to how we should live.

The other is Church After Christendom, by Stuart Murray.  in which the author makes proposals for the development of a way of being church suitable for a post-denominational, post-commitment and post-Christendom era.  He states that whereas during Christendom believing (often forced) was necessary in order to belong, in a post Christendom world belonging will often precede believing.  He talks about the need to develop what he calls centred-set communities which have a definite centre, comprising non-negotiable core convictions towards which members of the community are journeying.  These become the focus around which the community gathers, they shape the community and free it to be inclusive, hospitable and open to others who are journeying in the same direction.

The biblical story involves a distinctive community within creation… modelling an alternative vision and living by different values.  If members of this community are to remain distinctive in an alien environment they need to be gathered as well as dispersed.  Community-building practices and processes are essential.  So too is coroprate worship, in which the community rehearses the biblicals story, rekindles its vision of a renewed creation and prays for the coming of God’s kingdom.

Reading About Community

Some of you are aware that this last week I started a self imposed reading discipline to undergird my desire to understand more fully why, from a faith perspective, community is important.  I have a stack of books a mile high in front of me and recommendations coming in every day.  Some of them are faith oriented, some are secular.  I am still looking for books that deal with community and faith historically, as well as theologically and practically.  I am also looking for books that discuss community models today and in the past – monastic communities, intentional communities and even virtual communities.  I also want to look at books on community organization as well as those on community within organizations.  So if you have any other suggestions of must read books I would love to hear from you.  It’s a good thing that I am an avid and fast reader.

As you look over the list you may notice that many of the links are to  That is because often I could not find a good review or description elsewhere.  However if you plan to purchase these books I would highly recommend doing so from a local independent bookstore or from the author directly.

I started this week with a couple of very stimulating books

The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leadership Organizations Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom is a very important book about the power of decentralization within organizations. I have also read Organic Community and The Search to Belong by Joseph Myers which both talk about how to shape an environment in which community can emerge naturally.  Now I am into Created for Community: Connecting Christian Belief with Christian Living by Stanly Grenz.

Next on my list are

Community: The Structure of Belonging by Peter Block

The Great Good Place: Cafes, Coffee Shops, Bookstores, Bars, Hair Salons and Other Hangouts at the Heart of Community, Ray Oldenburg

Better Together: Restoring the American Community, Robert Putnam and Lewis Feldstein

The Becoming of G-d, Ian Mobsby

The Consuming Passion: Christianity and the Consumer Culture, Edited by Rodney Clapp

Community Organizing in a Diverse Society, by Felix Rivera and John Erlich

Church After Christendom, Stuart Murray

StormFront: The Good News of God, Brownson, Dietterich, Harvey and West

The Forgotten Ways, Alan Hirsh

Water from a Deep Well, Gerald L Sittser

Making Room: Discovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition, Christine Pohl

Dissident Discipleship by David Augsburger

Journey Inward/Journey Outward by Elizabeth O’Connor

A Different Drum: Community Making and Peace by M. Scott Peck

When Love Bends Down: Images of Christ Who Meetss Us Where We Are, Michael Lodahl

Authentic Relationships: Discover the Lost Art of One Anothering: Wayne & Clay Jacobsen

Followed by books that describe various communities

Communities: The Story and Spirituality of Twelve European Communities, Jeanne Hinton

Fire, Salt and Peace: Intentional Christian Communities Alive in North America, David Jenzen

Celtic Christain Communities: Live the Tradition, Ian Bradley

Then I plan to revisit some of the old classics or at least what I think of as classics as well as books on the monastic traditions that still have so much to offer as we reflect on the place of Christian community today.

Community and Growth, by Jean Vanier

Reaching Out, by Henri Nouwen

Compassion: A Reflection on the Christian Life, Nouwen, McNeill & Morrison

The Community of the King, Howard Snyder

Companions to the Poor , Viv Grigg

Restoring At Risk Communities: Doing It Togetehr and Doing It Right, John Perkins