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May God be Present in Our Rest

Posted by Brady Boyd

I’m working on the final edits for my new book, Addicted to Busy, Recovery for the Rushed Soul, which releases in September. This is a short excerpt and is one of my favorite parts of the book.

 

I love to travel — always have, and probably always will. I love eating food items I don’t normally eat, seeing sights I don’t normally see, and traipsing about foreign lands. I love seeing how people do life on the other side of the planet and having my horizons expanded and enriched as I go.

Here’s what’s also true: I always love coming home. I love coming home because in my home, everything is “just so.” The foods I like are there, and they are right where I like them to be. The pillow I like is there, and it is always on “my” side of the bed. The closet in my bedroom contains the clothes I like to wear. The truck I like to drive is always right there, in the garage. My home is perfectly suited for me—my patterns, my preferences, my tastes and my desires. It fits me hand-on-glove. In fact, it was arranged with me in mind.

Interestingly, the Bible says the Sabbath works the same way. “The Sabbath was made to serve us,” Jesus tells his disciples in Mark 2:27. “We weren’t made to serve the Sabbath.”

The context of this verse is fantastic. Four verses prior, we learn that Jesus is walking through a field of ripe grain with his disciples. As they carve a path through the tall stalks of wheat, some of the disciples pull off a few heads of grain. They were hungry, and so they ate. But this was on the Sabbath, a fact the Pharisees who were tagging along decided to draw attention to. “Look!” those law-keepers said to Jesus. “Your disciples are breaking Sabbath rules!” (v. 23).

The “rules” the Pharisees were referring to included a whole host of parameters the Hebrew people had set forth generations prior. Specifically, they were taking issue with one of the thirty-nine categories of banned activities, known as reaping—removing all or part of a plant from its source of growth. This was forbidden on the Sabbath because it was considered work, it was considered an activity of creation, and this was to be a day of non-creation, a day of rest.

Which brings us to Jesus’ response about the Sabbath being made for us, instead of the other way around. His perspective, essentially, was this: Moses and the prophets may have set forth the schedule of Sabbath, but I—Jesus—have come to establish the spirit of it. And the spirit of it is one of peace, not of prohibition. An early realization I came to in my bedhead-day observance was that I could be the most scheduled, efficient, dutiful person on the planet and yet if I missed the spirit of the Sabbath, I was missing the glory God intended for it.

In this world, we are promised a little chaos. For some of us, we’re promised a lot. “In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties,” Jesus says in John 16:33, “but take heart! I have conquered the world.” And interestingly, the way Jesus conquers the world is not by acts of war, but by acts of pervasive peace. It is peace that brings us to Christ. It is peace that saves our souls. And it is peace that saves our weeks from peril, the peace of a day of rest. God knew we’d need peace once a week, like we need our own bed after being on the road for a week. He knew we’d need a soft place to land, a plumb line to re-center our souls. And so, the Sabbath—an invitation, a gift, a small taste on the tongue of peace.

In Jewish tradition, there is a name for this: Shabbat shalom—literally, “may your day of no work be peaceful.” One person would say this as a greeting to another, and that person would respond in kind: “May your day of no work be peaceful as well.”

Since God is not only the inventor of peace but also is himself Peace, another way of saying it is, “May God be in your rest, and may you be in the rest of God.” A day of rest is a day to know peace, to experience and express the peace of God.

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The Shema and Talking with Our Kids

Posted by Brady Boyd

The following is a short excerpt from my new new book Addicted to Busy, Recovery for the Rushed Soul, which releases in September.

 

I notice that my best conversations with my kids—and in Callie’s case, the only conversations, really—occur either right when they get up in the morning or right before they go to bed—during typical periods of rest.

Abram is always the first one up at our house. After I woke this morning, I made my way to the kitchen in search of a cup of hot coffee, and there sat Abram—still groggy and with sleep in his eyes. Pam and Callie still were sleeping, which is generally the case around the Boyd household, and as I waited for my coffee to brew, I asked Abram how he slept. It was a benign question—really, I was just filling the silence until my cup was full. But it turns out he slept great, and that he had this amazing series of dreams he was all too eager to tell me about, and that one of the dreams featured a new invention he has been thinking about inventing, and that it really was true, he was sure, just as we’ve talked about for years and years, that one day he would create something that would absolutely change the world.

Abram’s body may have still been weary, but his brain was crystal clear. This came as no surprise to me. Abram’s brain is always clear at six a.m.

My daughter, Callie, is her brother’s polar opposite. She is virtually mute until noon and even then keeps her cards close to the vest. But check back in with her before bedtime, and you’ll have a veritable chatterbox on your hands. At the close of the day, Callie’s thoughts are lucid; she finally calms down enough to look you straight in the eye and string together sentences that let you in.

It’s no coincidence that my kids come alive early in the morning and late at night; God predicted this would be true. In Jewish tradition, the centerpiece of morning and evening prayer services is a passage of Scripture known as the Shema, from Deuteronomy 6:4-9. It reads:

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.

These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

I loved this passage even before I became a parent, and even more so after Abram and Callie were ours. There is such insight here! God says, in effect, “Love me, and then teach your kids to love me. Enjoy me, and then teach your kids to do the same.” This is what we do when we become people of peace. We reside in the rest of God, and our kids learn to reside there too. And we do this, says the Shema, by using our downtime to instruct them in truth. We are to talk about the Word of God, the truth of God, when we’re hanging out at home, and when we’re traveling across town, and when we climb into bed at night, and when we get up the very next day. You’ll notice that this Old Testament passage assumes we actually have downtime to fill. It assumes that we’re actually talking with our kids each day.

Personal experience has taught me that if I don’t carve out time for relaxed conversations with my kids, they will take the pressing questions all kids have banging around in their brains to someone else. All the curiosities that come with adolescence—who is God? what am I here for? what is sin? why does it matter? what is success? what do I do with failure? does anybody really see me or care?—don’t cease to exist because we as parents are too preoccupied, too busy, to answer them. No, the questions persist. We just won’t be there when they’re finally asked. If we are always at the office and always exhausted when we get home, our kids will stuff their questions until they can’t stuff them anymore. And then the next time they’re over at a friend’s house, they’ll ask that pimply teenager their pressing questions instead. Similarly, if our kid is always at lacrosse practice and barely has time to breathe outside of that, then guess who is going to be answering that child’s pressing questions? The lacrosse coach, probably. Or else a teammate’s mom, the one who always gives your kid a ride home.

God placed our kids in our specific families with the expectation that we will train them in righteousness and truth. We are responsible for teaching them how to think critically, how to behave morally, how to put their faith and trust in a loving God. But we can’t do these things if we aren’t living these things first. In one author’s words, “If you want your teenager [or pre-teen, or toddler, for that matter] to have an understanding of Sabbath, and to understand time as more than a container for text messages and soccer tournaments and term papers, then start with yourself.” It really is true: We can’t give away what we ourselves don’t have.

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Are We Still Fascinated with God?

Posted by Brady Boyd

It began in mystery and it will end in mystery; but what a savage and beautiful country lies in between. – Diane Ackerman

 

The most dangerous Christ followers are those who have lost their fascination with God. No less than modern-day Pharisees who possess infinite knowledge ABOUT God but no real relationship WITH him, they become wonder-void wildcards who are unpredictable, unhelpful, often even outright harmful to their families, to the churches they call home, to the community in which they belong. Their eyes and hearts no longer blink and beat with awestruck reverence for their God.

Is this really the way of Christ?

Certainly we are to be grown up in our knowledge of God: we are to read about him, we are to learn about him, we are to talk about him, we are to be about his work. But to check the box of spirituality there—at that superficial point—and call it a day? Call it a LIFE? That is to miss life wholly, life as it’s meant to be lived.

God cannot be tamed by our sterile religious dogmas or caged in our closed-up-tight theological boxes. No, he is too fierce, too unwieldly, too OTHER, to be managed. Restrained? Never. But revered? Now we’re onto something. He is too wondrous to constrain with a single word, which means that those in intimate relationship with him can’t help but live life wonderstruck. We can’t help but be fascinated with God.

We are to come to God, come into relationship with him, as children. Not in the sense of childishness—immature, impetuous, demanding—but rather childlikeness. We come to him chatty, clingy, and in need. We come eager, excitable, and entranced. We come full of questions, full of awe.

LIKE, not ISH. This is where wonder begins.

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Can Our Kids Thrive Without Being So Busy?

Posted by Brady Boyd

The following is a short excerpt from my new book, Addicted to Busy, which releases this Fall.  I would love your comments about the hard choices you have made to maintain sanity around your kid’s schedules. What mistakes did you make? How have you found safe rhythms for your home?

A bee is never as busy as it seems; it’s

just that it can’t buzz any slower.
–Kin Hubbard

Practically speaking, my observation is that when kids are never taught how to appreciate healthy rhythms, once they escape the frenetic pace their parents have maintained on their behalf, they rebel like Rebellion is their middle name. Busyness has become their business, and when that busyness disappears, they don’t know what to do with their lives. They don’t know what to do with an idle thought, let alone an idle day. To this point, writer of “The Busy Trap” article Tim Kreider: “Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets.” Most people who suffer from rickets are kids, and most kids who get it are starving. I realize that in twenty-first-century North America, a majority of kids are not starving from food, but I guarantee they are starving for something—for calmness, for quietness, for rest.

When Pam and I decided back when our kids were young to unplug one day a week, it was a counter-cultural move, to be sure.  Unlike nearly every other toddler we knew, Abram and Callie were not in gymnastics classes, dance classes, horseback-riding classes, foreign-language classes, art classes, etiquette classes, or classes that taught taekwondo. As three- and five-year-olds, they were not on soccer teams, basketball teams, debate teams, cheerleading squads, or in science clubs, and those tiny fingers never played piano once. Sure, various activities would emerge as they got older—including basketball and taekwondo. But in those early years, even in the face of mounting pressure, we chose to simply stay home.

In 1 Corinthians 7:29-31, the apostle Paul writes, “I do want to point out, friends, that time is of the essence. There is no time to waste, so don’t complicate your lives unnecessarily. Keep it simple—in marriage, grief, joy, whatever. Even in ordinary things—your daily routines of shopping, and so on. Deal as sparingly as possible with the things the world thrusts on you. This world as you see it is on its way out.”

Keep it simple. Uncomplicated. Dealing as sparingly as possible.

            Huh? Is this really possible, Paul?

Pam and I decided it was. And we ordered our lives according to that truth. We let the hyper-scheduled families zoom right past us, while we stayed hunkered down inside our peaceful home. And you know what? We were better for it. We recognized how well our kids did when we didn’t have plans for them on those days. We saw that if we gave our kids time and space to breathe, to exhale, to just be kids, they flourished. From time to time, we wondered if they were missing out on something—if by not learning an instrument or a foreign language at age three, they’d somehow suffer later on. But by the end of each bedhead day, we’d have our answer again. A day of rest was pure benefit for them. “Just as our children depend on us for three meals a day,” writes Katrina Kenison, “they also need us to prepare peaceful spaces for them in the midst of this busy world.” There was nothing for Abram and Callie but upside, by our choosing not to run ragged, by choosing to live joyfully at rest.

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More Than Songs and Sermons …

Posted by Brady Boyd

Recently, a well known Christian author announced that he no longer attends church because he claims he does not connect with God through songs and rarely learns from listening to a lecture. If that was all the church was about, I suppose many would follow his example and abandon the weekly gathering.

However, church is more than a one hour production highlighted by song and sermon. Church is a perpetual gathering of people who, together, are becoming the people of God and while hymns and homilies are still very important to me and others, church involves a huge scope of Divine activity.

  1. We help prepare couples for marriage.
  2. We meet with married couples who are struggling to stay married.
  3. We perform official duties at weddings.
  4. We help families plan the funerals for their loved ones.
  5. We speak and lead at funeral services.
  6. We equip leaders to go plant churches around the globe.
  7. We send teams to help missionaries around the globe, especially in times of crisis.
  8. We help take care of the poor in our city, especially the widows and orphans.
  9. We baptize and disciple new believers.
  10. We celebrate the Eucharist together.
  11. We pray for the sick and visit them at their homes and in the hospital.
  12. We prepare meals and help those who are going through a crisis.
  13. We help people who are struggling financially.
  14. We gather and pray for each other.
  15. We support families who have adopted children.

“We” is a synonym for the entire church body in the above list. While a handful of these activities are overseen by the clergy, most are not. I suppose some of these could be done alone or with a few close friends, but after two decades of following Jesus, I am still convinced that we are best when we gather often as a big messy family to serve Christ and others together.

This past Sunday, I counseled a young unmarried couple who want to follow Jesus, but are living together. I prayed with a single mom who has a struggling teenager, hugged a young widow who is still grieving the sudden loss of her military husband, encouraged a family who is returning to the local church after 20 years away, answered questions from a sad lady who was upset about a church decision and prayed for an elderly couple who are moving to retirement in another state.

I did not choose all of them for my community and they did not all choose me. Church is not just hanging out with our friends or the people we choose. We need people we have not yet met and people we have not met need us. Church chooses us.

Sure, it would be easier to isolate myself among a tribe of homogenous people, but church does not give us that luxury. Church gives us the privilege of loving people unlike ourselves.

 

 

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Addicted to Busy, Recovery for the Rushed Soul

Posted by Brady Boyd

My new book, Addicted to Busy, releases this Fall.  I wrote the book because, more than anyone else, I need to embrace rhythms and rest. I would love to know if this book is needed in your life right now.

Introduction

In one sense, I’m the worst person to be writing this book, seeing as I’m a complete hypocrite when it comes to actually living out the restful rhythms I so passionately espouse. But in another sense, I’m the perfect choice, because I recognize that digging in my heels and demanding self-discipline will never correct my errant ways. They can’t and won’t correct your errant ways either, which is how I can so boldly declare that this book will not change your life. A book never changes our lives.

Here’s what will change our rhythms, our pace, our lives: revelation from the Spirit of God, or, in other words, the ability to detectspiritually what we’ve only had sensory knowledge of before. Yes, life is made up of tasks on the to-do list, our vehicles whizzing down the road, kids rattling off their incessant needs and wants, the hurried embrace of a spouse who is rushing off to drive carpool, the scent of one more bag of fast food—really, now, who has time to cook anymore?

But it also involves an undercurrent, if we have eyes to see and ears to hear, a spiritual underpinning holding together our days. It’s the God story that contextualizes the Us story. It’s a spiritual understanding that makes our lives make sense. The highest goal I can set for this book is that it will somehow serve as a conduit for the revelation we so sorely need. Mere words on a page can’t talk us out of our beloved freneticism, but the Holy Spirit can. And will, if we will let him.

I want this revelation, and yet I don’t. Because on the heels of real revelation, real-deal growth is required. “Revelation is not for the faint of heart,” writes Anne Lamott. But how beautiful it is when it finally appears. Without it, she continues, “life can seem like an endless desert of danger with scratchy sand in your shoes, and yet if we remember or are reminded to pay attention, we find so many sources of hidden water, so many bits and chips and washes of color, in a weed or the gravel or a sunrise. There are so many ways to sweep the sand off our feet. So we pray, ‘Oh, my God. Thanks.’”

That sense of gratitude is what I desperately want to feel. I want to receive revelation, I want to live from revelation, and I want to thank God for saving my sanity, by gently prodding me to slow my pace. And yet here’s a question I think about: would I even know how to live a slowed-down life? Would I know what to do with rest? When I was first handed my newborn son, while I was instantly in love with him, there was this secret question rushing through my brain: “What does it do?” 

Would I look at a well-rested life the same way?

How do I hold it?

What is it good for?

What on earth does it do?

I wonder if I’d be the guy who would unravel with the quiet of it all.

Still, I’m willing to try. I’m willing to put on a rhythmic life. When we know better, we do better, Maya Angelou says, in her unfailingly poetic way. I’ve known better for a long, long time. I’m ready for the doing-better part to begin.

In Jewish tradition, the command to “keep the Sabbath holy” is followed religiously, beginning at sundown Friday and lasting a full twenty-four hours, until sundown Saturday. Friday evening, as a way to welcome the prescribed unplug, the family recites a blessing—Kiddush, it’s called, literally meaning “holy.” There’s a Kiddush cup that you use, which looks like an ornate goblet that’s been glued to a small saucer—a saucer that’s really important, not only in function, but also in form. When the blessing is recited, typically by the father of the family, wine is poured into the goblet until it overflows, spilling out. You can get the cup and saucer for fifteen bucks on Amazon, but you can get what it represents only by living a rhythmic life. The pouring out, the overflow, the blessing—the symbol here as Sabbath begins is that God’s abundance cannot be contained.

This is what I’m after: feeling not empty, but full. Living not full-throttled, but at rest. Letting whatever abundance God has in store for me come in, sit down, be at home.

 

Take it easy.

Don’t let the sound of your own wheels

drive you crazy.

Lighten up while you still can. 

The Eagles 

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What I Learned from a Coffee Meeting with Three Gay Men

Posted by Brady Boyd

Recently three gay men in our community invited me to meet for coffee. It wound up being the best meeting of my week. Challenging, thought-provoking, enlightening—I’m grateful I said yes.

I’ll admit that as we all were getting settled around the small table in the downtown café, immediate tension was our common bond—not because any of us is an unkind person, but because there exist thick and longstanding stereotypes about them—gay men—and about types like me—evangelical megachurch pastors—as well as myriad assumptions to overcome. Would they lash out at me in anger? Would I condemn them for their sinful ways? Both parties were suspicious: where was this thing headed, anyway?

What follows are five lessons learned from that hour-long meeting, courtesy of one who stands today renewed in his hope that bridge-building still is possible, regardless of the chasm we’re trying to span.

One: Our stories are more similar than we think.

As I took in the tales of their upbringing—their families, their histories, their quirks—I realized that the details that separated my experience from theirs were grossly outnumbered by the uncanny similarities we shared. The truth is, none of us had perfect families.

Two: Truth isn’t always conveyed in love.

To a person, these three men explained to me that as soon as they came out as gay, they were treated terribly by Christ followers, all of whom wanted them to “know the truth.” Consequently, these men were well versed in the evangelical theories of marriage, family, and sexuality. They were also well versed in the art of being judged and scorned.

Three: Homosexuality is more bipartisan than we may think.

Two of the three men were Republicans, which spurred on more than a few laughs about how both straight and gay people like to keep their money in their pocket instead of adding to the government dole.

Four: Common sense points to common ground.

As we continued our conversation, it became apparent to me that while we may never agree on what the Bible means when it speaks of both sexuality and homosexuality, certainly we can agree that both the gay community and the evangelical Jesus-following community can do a better job of being kind toward one another. “Bullying is never okay,” I said to them, just before affirming my commitment to help stand up for everyone in our city—both gay and straight—who is being targeted for insults and outright violence. I shared my story of being falsely accused of being a “hater’ when, in fact, I have never felt that way about the gay community.

Five: Coffee tables are places of peace.

The four of us—three gay guys and a straight pastor—agreed that further dialogue held in neutral territory was imperative to our bridging a volatile gap.

Listen, I have not budged a bit on my theology regarding biblical marriage being solely between a man and a woman. I have not wavered in my belief that acting on homosexual tendencies remains an outright sin. I’m simply determined to live as Jesus lived. He had real relationships with people who believed and lived differently than him.

We are called to be people of peace. Join me if you dare.

 

 

 

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The Praying Church

Posted by Brady Boyd

Recently, I sat down with Pastor David Perkins, who oversees the prayer movement here at New Life, to talk about the practical steps churches can take to create life giving prayer meetings. We talk about planning the meeting, leading the meeting and empowering others to take ownership of these prayer gatherings.

Click here to watch the video.

What have you learned that works well at prayer meetings? Leave your comments below.

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Let Her Lead – Creating a Better Future for Women in the Church

Posted by Brady Boyd

Recently, I sat down with Pastor Yvette Maher, a pastor on our team here at New Life, to discuss the role of women in leadership in our congregation. This has been an ongoing conversation here, especially since I wrote Let Her Lead earlier in the year. Take a few minutes to watch this short video and let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Building Strong Internships in Your Local Church

Posted by Brady Boyd

Recently, I sat down with Pastor David Perkins and talked at length about building a student leadership ministry in every local church or what a lot of people call internships. Pastor David leads our student ministry here at New Life, which includes the Desperation Leadership Academy. We talked about lots of issues, including the use of volunteers, empowering student leaders and keeping people engaged. I think this will be really helpful to your church if you are serious about building relationships and discipling high school, college and 20-somethings. Let me know what is working in your congregation in the comments section below.

 

Click here to watch the video.

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