SLOWING DOWN IN THE NEW YEAR
Last November, Open Life was finishing up a series that was called, Never Give Up. Throughout 7 different messages we talked about some key spiritual disciplines that followers of Jesus should be familiar with to grow in their relationship with Him. The disciplines we hit on were: prayer, fasting, studying scripture, silence, solitude, and sabbath. This isn’t an exhaustive list of spiritual disciplines. We will grow closer to Jesus by being committed to many other practices as well. These are the disciplines we felt were most important to speak on at Open Life in 2019. In the fall, as I was preparing for the message on silence and solitude I bought the book by John Mark Comer called, The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry. I found a lot of great insights to use not only in that message but also in the message about the sabbath.
As I read deeper through the book to start the new year, I found myself drawn to many of its themes. These themes addressed our need as a society to stay busy, to always hustle, and never take a break. The need to make our first and only response to the question, “how are you doing?” be, “BUSY!” John Mark Comer points to 4 key practices to help us turn from hurry and find rest and put our ultimate focus back on Christ: Silence, Solitude, Simplicity, and Slowing. I took many of the lessons in this book to heart and found the spiritual truths pointed to in scripture to be really encouraging.
Fast forward to the beginning of this month. By now, I’ve added some daily practices into my life. I have begun doing some things to break my dependence on my iPhone and other devices. I am feeling more connected to God than I have in a long time. Then COVID-19 happens. Suddenly, everyone is scrambling trying to figure out what was happening next? I was busy too, but I found myself to be present in the moment, processing all the needed changes that have happened in the last week while still having my ultimate focus on Jesus. It’s been a draining week, but one that has included a lot of growth for me spiritually as we enter this season. Looking back, this book with the catchy title about hurry pointed out some things in me that needed to change for which I’m reaping the benefits of today.
Catchy title aside, I think we’re all in a time now that could be perfectly described as “A RUTHLESS ELIMINATION OF HURRY.” COVID-19 has canceled almost everything and has turned people’s lives upside down. We’re being told that for days and weeks we shouldn’t leave our homes unless it is really important to do so. It’s a confusing time for people. A frustrating and scary time for others. Some are going to have serious life changes happen to their lives in the coming days and weeks.
HOW CAN WE MOVE FORWARD?
As one of the pastors at Open Life, I’m scrambling to figure out ways to lead people closer to Jesus in this time. What resources can we put in front of people? What practices can we encourage people to start in their life? Practices that aren’t just going to help you through the days and weeks to come, but practices that will propel you towards the rest of your life when these days pass.
May I submit to you 5 practices to add to (or reinforce) in your life during this season. Right now we’re being inundated with new instructions and practices. So take a deep breath! The following aren’t new ideas, but some of them might be new to you. All are worth your time and investment:
- Commit to spending time in prayer and reading scripture each day, if this is not a regular practice for you already. If we are socially distant from others, use it as a time to move closer to Jesus.
- Begin the practice of keeping a sabbath day during your week (with your family, if you have one). Dedicate a day to rest and doing the things that bring you closer to God. This is going to be hard if you’ve never practiced this before. But it will change your life now and in the future, if you do. Get off social media for a day. Focus on Jesus and the relationships that are most important for a day’s time.
- Start the practice of being present at church on a weekly basis if this is not a regular practice for you already. This is as easy as ever, just go online this Sunday, jump on Facebook, go to YouTube, or go to https://OpenLife.church/Live. For at least the next 5 weeks, we’ll be online exclusively. Take these 5 weeks to check-in weekly with Open Life. Then, whenever we’re able to get back to being in person, commit to sticking with it on a weekly basis. If you’re not able to be present when this happens, commit to continue staying connected digitally. Check it out online or watch a replay when you’re able to each week.
- Take advantage of opportunities to personally engage with others. We’ll be rolling out some new things in the coming days and weeks for Open Life. Some ideas might work and be a huge success for our church. Others might fall flat. Either way, use this as an opportunity to grow closer to others when and however we can.
- Track the time you’re in front of screens and devices and replace some of it with reading books. Since COVID-19 has ruthlessly eliminated some of our hurry, I would recommend reading, The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry if you’re looking for recommendations. Screen time will increase during this time, but please be mindful of it. Work to break the withdrawal effects this will cause when we come out of this time of isolation.
If you have questions about any of this I would love to get on any type of call that you want (audio, text, zoom, skype, facetime). If you want to read through scripture or the book, I would love to talk it over with you. Maybe you’ll look at the other resources below and want to talk about those. Reach out. Don’t let this opportunity pass you by.
My prayer a week ago and now continues to be that the people of Open Life would be able to grow in their relationship with Jesus. Now during this time more than ever before! I hope that as we isolate from each other physically that we choose not to isolate ourselves from God, spiritually. That we’re able to find ways to stay engaged together digitally as well.
Love, Grace, and Peace to you all during this time.
Never Give Up | Open Life’s 2019 Series on Spiritual Disciplines