The Importance of Rhythms


Fall is, without a doubt, my favorite season. It’s also a beautiful reminder of the importance of rhythms in our lives. Fall only makes sense if we also know the heat of seemingly endless summer days, the harsh beauty of winter, and the vibrancy of spring. If all we knew was fall, autumn would lose its wonder. Ultimately, it’s the rhythm of all the seasons that I really cherish.

When we look at creation, we realize rhythm is essential to God’s design for the world – from seasons, to ocean tides, to sunrise and sunset, there is a rhythmic interplay that permeates the natural world. The same is true for us, the very best of God’s creation. We need to live our lives with defined rhythms – daily, weekly, and seasonally – if we’re going to thrive.

Rhythm isn’t about wild fluctuation between extremes. It’s about a gentle, steady, and life-giving back and forth. Rhythms aren’t about compensating for the mistakes and excesseses of the past season. They are about being present to the possibilities of this season. Rhythms aren’t about forcing us to do what we don’t want to do. They’re about helping us find the life we’re longing to experience.

When I cooperate with three essential rhythms, I’m the best version of myself.

Work/Rest

In many ways, this is the foundational rhythm that shapes each of our days.

It’s about enjoying breakfast with my family before we head off into the world. It’s about working hard on things that really matter, fighting distraction, and leaning into the roles God is asking me to play in life. It’s about stewarding my time so that I can power down my computer, put my phone on do not disturb, and have dinner with my family. And it’s about Sabbath, voluntarily fasting from productivity for 24 hours each week.

The trick for me is remembering that rest isn’t just a productivity hack, it’s an essential rhythm to our life with God. Our minds, bodies, and souls need to power down so they can be renewed and replenished. Ultimately, rest is about trust. Do we trust God enough to turn our phones off and go for a hike?

We also need to remember that work isn’t a curse, it’s a gift. We are created to do meaningful work – a life of laziness or leisure is never going to bring joy either. We need to get our hands dirty, our minds engaged, and our bodies tired. Those are also essential elements for our thriving.

Community/Solitude

Here’s the key point on this one: We ALL need BOTH, whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert. Yes, we all probably get more energy from one than the other but we ALL need BOTH. Community Groups are for introverts and silence and solitude is for extroverts!

At Restoration City, we talk a lot about community because spiritual formation is ultimately a relational process. We grow and change in community. In order to thrive, we need to be known by a close circle of friends and we need to invest the time in getting to know a close circle of friends. But we also need to be alone with God. There’s a reason Bonhoeffer devotes an entire chapter to silence and solitude in his classic book on community, Life Together. He begins the chapter with this thought:

Let him who cannot be alone beware of community. He will only do harm to himself and to the community. Alone you stood before God when he called you; alone you had to answer that call; alone you had to struggle and pray; and alone you will die and give an account to God. You cannot escape from yourself; for God has singled you out. If you refuse to be alone you are rejecting Christ’s call to you, and you can have no part in the community of those who are called.

Bonhoeffer, Life Together, Chapter 3

Being alone with God looks different for each of us in different seasons of life but we must learn to live in a rhythm of community and solitude.

Contemplation/Action

I know this sounds a lot like the work/rest rhythm but it’s not. This rhythm isn’t about how we organize our days, weeks, or months. It’s about how we make sense of major seasons of our lives.

For example, I think of 2019-2021 as an extended season of action in my life. I was pastoring a church, finishing up a degree, raising three small kids, and doing all of that in the upheaval of a global pandemic. While I tried to maintain rhythms of rest and solitude, I knew that I was in a season marked by a lot of activity. I wasn’t necessarily asking as many big picture questions. I was more tactical, trying to figure out what we needed to do to get through each fresh crisis.

But then in February of 2022, things began to shift. I was on a short retreat with a good friend and felt the Lord telling me I was headed into a season of contemplation. I needed to rethink some major things in my life – deeper clarity on vocation, fresh vision for the church, a new perspective on some key relationships, and a deeper trust in God. It’s only been very recently that I’ve felt the pendulum start to swing towards a season of action where I get to bring some of what I’ve learned over the past months to life.

Bottom line: you were created to live in rhythm. The goal is not to impose artificial rhythms on your life but rather to unearth the rhythms that are in your soul and cooperate with them. Rhythms ultimately shape our calendars but that’s not where they start. They start by listening to our souls.

So, what does your soul need in this season?

Get To Work

laziness-profanes

As a church, we’re in a season of considering how the gospel forges a community that is distinct from the rest of the world.  On Sundays, I’m focusing on the “one another” commands of Scripture – those passages where the Lord instructs us on how we should be treating each other within the church.  But our treatment of one another shouldn’t be the only distinction.

For example, we should work with a vigor and intensity that stands out in a sea of laziness and mediocrity.  Christ followers should be the most diligent students in the classroom, the most productive employees in the factory and the hardest workers in the office.  We won’t always ace the test, make the right decision or come up with the best answer.  But nobody should outwork us.  That’s not because we’re better than anyone else but because we have a totally different, and infinitely superior, motivation.  We do it all for the sake of Jesus’ name.  Our work ethic isn’t motivated by our advancement but by His glory.

In Ezekiel 36, God is once again contending with faithless Israel.  He’s outraged that when Israel “came to the nations, wherever they came, they profaned my holy name, in that people said of them, ‘These are the people of the Lord, and yet they had to go out of his land.’  But I had concern for my holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the nations to which they came.” (Ez. 36:20-21)  In other words, Israel was acting in such a way that pagan nations were looking down on Yahweh.  Israel’s faithlessness tarnished the name of God.  And God takes the glory of His name very seriously!

Israel profaned the name of God through exile and abandoning the promised land.  I’m convinced that one of the most common ways we do it is through our laziness.   Don’t use Scripture as your screensaver and then spend all day on Facebook.  Don’t tell everyone how much you love Jesus and then be consistently unprepared for meetings. If you’re going to celebrate Jesus taking on your sin, you ought to be willing to take on some extra work every once in a while.  We need to get to work because laziness profanes the name of God.

This is what Paul has in mind as he’s wrapping up the third chapter of his letter to the Colossians.  “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.“(Col. 3:17)  And then just a few verses later, “ Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” (Col. 3:23-24)  Work in a way that makes God look amazing.  

We talk all the time about the world needing hope now more than ever.  It does. Sometimes that hope shows up in big, bold, dramatic ways.  But, more often, it shows up when ordinary Jesus followers get up, go to work, do their best and earn the right to talk about the God behind it all.  So, Restoration City, be distinct.  Get to work!

On The Field

team

Sundays are my favorite day of the week.  Our church gathers to worship Jesus.  My family is there and I’m surrounded by people I love.  We sing, we celebrate, we hear from God, we invest in each other’s lives.  In a lot of ways, I wish every day could be Sunday.

But Monday comes every week.  The church scatters throughout our city.  Life starts happening.  Meetings, soccer practices, commutes and projects threaten to overwhelm us. It’s easy to leave the message of Sunday behind.

What if we learned to see Monday – Friday differently?  What if they become every bit as important as Sunday?  What if we believed the worship of God is carried out through the mission of God in a city desperate for the hope of God?

Here’s how I think of Monday – Friday.  I feel like a coach whose team is on the field while I’m on the sidelines preparing for our next huddle.  Sure, I try to get in the game in my own ways – developing relationships with neighbors and people at the coffeeshop.  But I spend a lot of my week with Christians.  You have the privilege of carrying the name of Jesus to people who know nothing of the gospel of Christ.  They’re in the cube next to you right now.  You had lunch with some of them.  You’ll go out with some of them after work today.  Maybe you’re in a meeting with some now.

Church – you’re in the game!  God has you at your job for reasons that go so much deeper than earning a paycheck and getting health insurance.  You’re an ambassador of Christ (2 Cor. 5:20).  You’re there to work with excellence (Col. 3:23), to put others ahead of yourself (Phil. 2:3) and to be salt and light. (Matt. 5:13-14)  You get to carry the hope of Jesus to your world today.  That’s every bit as big a deal as singing songs and hearing a sermon on Sunday.  In many ways, that’s the point of the songs we sing and the message God speaks to us through His word.

So, as you’re on the field today, know this:

  • I’m thinking about you and praying for you.  I care how you’re doing on the field.  The stakes in the game of eternity are huge and I’m cheering you on every step of the way.
  • Don’t waste this gift.  Jesus has done so much to put you right where you are today.  He gave you an education, a job, the ability to get out of bed this morning and the gift of eternal life.  Don’t waste that by withdrawing from the very people He’s sent you to reach.
  • I want to be the best coach I can be but I can’t take the shot for you.  You are the one God has put in your office, not me.  But He’s given you the power of His Spirit.  That’s a billion times better than having me tag along to answer the tough theological questions people will fire at you if you start talking about Jesus.  You have the resurrection power of Christ in you.  He’ll make you adequate for the task at hand.

Play well today, team.  I love you.  I’m cheering for you and I’m praying for you!

Rest, Work & Celebrate

holiday chairs

So much of leadership is about establishing and defending healthy rhythms.  For yourself.  For your family.  For your team.  Without rhythm, people get exhausted, discouraged or lazy.  Rhythm forces balance.  It’s one of the keys to an energized, optimistic and productive team.

Every team must find a healthy rhythm of work, rest and celebration.

Work.  This is the obvious one.  Your team exists for a reason and you have things to accomplish.  Neglect this one and nothing gets done.  But, focus only on this one and it won’t be long before you’re right back to nothing getting done.

Rest.  This is the hard one.  It feels like you’re doing nothing (precisely because you aren’t!).  We feel like lazy slackers when we take a day off or go on vacation.  But if you don’t take time to replenish yourself, you will soon have nothing to offer.

Celebration.  This is the ignored one.  It means actively bringing a team together to enjoy, reflect and be excited about what’s happening in the organization.  It’s how we mark wins.  Neglect this one and people won’t be sure all the working and resting is accomplishing anything.

Most leaders have a tendency to ignore one or two of these essential rhythms.  We know they’re important but they don’t make it into our strategic plans or onto our calendars.

Which rhythm are you neglecting in your life and on your team?