I first met Shelly Miller at the HTB Leadership Conference in London a few years back, where by some quirk or fate – or rather, God – we ended up seated together. I, because I had bought my ticket alone and she because her husband, H, who was also seated next to her, actually spent much of the conference at various meetings (all to do with the big move to the UK – very exciting!). We chatted, bonded, prayed and wept together. It was really special and I know it was ordained by God.
Since then we have emailed, written, and now that she is in the UK met up for coffee too! Throughout this time we talked a lot about writing as we both love it, and now she has published her first book ‘Rhythms of Rest‘. Rest, Sabbath, Selah, whatever you call it, it’s an area that has become increasingly important to me and not least last summer when enforced rest through back surgery gave me the most wonderfully precious Sabbath time with God.
Of course Shelly’s book is focussed on Godly rest in Sabbath, as it grew out of her Sabbath society blog but it is so much more than that – it is a book of our time, a book our western world needs. We are entrenched in a society that is obsessed with working, with filling every hour, with being busy and ‘doing’. I made a vow last year to stop saying ‘I am busy’ and not using it as an excuse. If we are too busy then that can’t be right, it can’t be what God intended, after all he is the author of time.
Shelly notes that some us attempt to find value in our measure of busyness, something I am sure many of us would recognise. But the truth is, as she points out, we are worthy, we are loved, no matter what! ‘in yoga pants, three day hair, and without make up in a room that looks like a cyclone hit…’ we are deeply loved. We don’t need to prove ourselves by being exhausted.
I love how Shelly has been intentional about Sabbath and how it has changed her life and the lives of the many who have joined her Sabbath Society. She notes how Sabbath was something that was noticeably different in her life growing up, how her grandparents reinforced this for her, not in word but in that one day was noticeably different to the other six. This reminds me of my own childhood where we would go to church and then to see my grandparents down the road, where we’d all have different parts of the newspaper and my brother and I would fight over the cartoons, whilst eating far too may biscuits (the kind that my Mum never bought). It seems such a world away now. These days Sundays are not sacred to anyone, there are too many demands on our time: sport, shopping, and working hours have changed so that Sunday is just another day. If we want a rest day, a Sabbath day, we have to be intentional about it. As Shelly says ‘choosing rest is the practice of loving yourself’.
I think the thing that has struck me most of all through reading this book, is the idea of a rhythm of rest. It may not be practical to take a whole day a week for rest (and for those of us in ‘ministry’ it’s unlikely to be a Sunday either!), but we can find regular times, even an hour here or there, to just take time out. For me that’s often in prayer but also in vegging on the sofa watching trashy telly, even though there is hoovering to do; or maybe in painting and being creative, even though I may actually need to pop out to get something; or in just reading a book for pleasure when I could be studying. And what’s more, taking that time without feeling guilty. How many of us feel we can’t stop because there is so much to do, and if we do we spend the whole time feeling guilty! Why do we put so much pressure on ourselves?!
If any of this is touching a nerve with you, you need to read this book! Sometimes we just need someone to tell us how, or tell us it is ok, and that is exactly what Shelly does in ‘Rhythms of Rest’. I guarantee you will read it and wonder why on earth you haven’t taken time out to rest before.
Rhythms of Rest is out now, published by Bethany House, and available from Amazon here price £9.99 (or less on kindle).