Well, the holidays are pretty much over. We have enjoyed much merriment – including visiting with family, friends (near and far), lots of tasty holiday treats (a few too many), great times of worship and celebration with our church, and even some winter recreation (ice skating, skiing, and some frosty, snow fun around our neighborhood). Today the family has one last day until we head back to school and work tomorrow.
Before we jump back into our busy schedule I thought I would take a moment and explain the title and purpose of this blog.
Holy Leisure Defined
Several years ago I read (and have since re-read for a class) Richard Foster’s book Celebration of Discipline. This is a great book for anyone who would like to understand how to use the classic spiritual disciplines (prayer, meditation, study, fasting, etc.) to grow in their relationship with God. I found the book to be very informative and inspirational. I’ve used it to explore and implement several disciplines into my life, and refer back to it when I want to work on expanding into other disciplines. However, in such a fast paced lifestyle, it’s very easy to lose any sense of spiritual discipline and only meet with God in moments of need and/or desperation. This is where I frequently find myself, and so I was thrilled to find this special little nugget of a concept, “holy leisure”, in Foster’s book. He suggests that we need to make a little room for God, before we put too much emphasis on adding new healthy spiritual habits. Rightly so, because we all know there are only 24 hours in a day.
This is how Foster describes “holy leisure”:
“If we are constantly being swept off our feet with frantic activity, we will be unable to be attentive at the moment of inward silence. A mind that is harassed and fragmented by external affairs is hardly prepared for meditation. The church Fathers often spoke of Otium Sanctum, “holy leisure.” It refers to a sense of balance in the life, an ability to be at peace through the activities of the day, an ability to rest and take time to enjoy beauty, an ability to pace ourselves. With our tendency to define people in terms of what they produce, we would do well to cultivate “holy leisure” with a determination that is ruthless to our datebooks.”
In this paragraph Foster is referring to the need for “holy leisure” in order to develop the spiritual discipline of meditation. But honestly, is this not a spiritual discipline in and of itself? Put another way, one of my dear pastors (Betsey Hayford of Eastside Foursquare Church in Bothell, WA) challenged the congregation to consider whether or not we had any time in our day for interruptions. Are we so maxed out that a simple interruption will cause our day (and attitude!) to crumble? We see these interruptions as destructive forces to our plans and efforts. However, do we stop to consider whether or not these interruptions are God’s way of providing the things that we really need?
I have to confess, a mid-week, sick day at home with the kids can actually be a time of refreshment (obviously, a little more refreshing if it doesn’t involve cleaning up certain undesirable bodily fluids…). To sit with them, rub feverish foreheads, and eat toast on the couch has become an envious change of pace. I might even catch up on some Bible reading while they sit and watch Tom and Jerry cartoons. I feel no need to apologize when canceling appointments, and I will revel in a little down-time. So here is the question, how can I re-prioritize my life so that I don’t have to rely on the flu season for spiritual refreshment? Because, the truth is, after a day or two, those cute little sicklings start to get squirrely and I’m counting the hours from the last “episode” so that I can send them back to school.
As a wife, mother, student and lay minister, this is an important challenge for me. I will not check off the tasks of my to-do list in such a single-minded and routine fashion, that I miss all the beautiful expressions of God’s love in my life. The outward appearance of a efficient and productive life cannot replace the eternal benefits that come through experiencingÂ such things as the growth and personal development of my children, the sprouting of spring’s first crocus, and even the kind conviction of the Holy Spirit as I submit another area of my heart to God. I desire to build a life from the ground up that allows for God’s work in and through me, as well as the everyday doings of the common, “Angela”. I think it’s possible. And I have to agree with Foster, it might require a “ruthless” look at my datebook.
So, I hope you will join me (and challenge me) as I begin to explore this theme over the coming weeks and months. Let’s explore some new ideas and maybe return to some old disciplines that inspire us all to live life with a little more leisure.