I have wanted to beef up my resource section, so will follow last week’s “On the Road with the Stations of Creation” resource with another. This one is a spiritual exercise called “The Rest List.”
Did you ever imagine that rest could be a spiritual exercise? Wouldn’t it be like God to provide fatigue as a reminder of our constant need for him, and then also provide rest as a gift of grace to replenish soul and body? Yet many Christ followers feel guilty if they let up, in spite of the fact that Jesus calls us to slow down and come to his side when we are ‘weary and heavy laden,’ to ‘find rest for our souls (Matthew 11:28).
Did you ever imagine that rest
could be a spiritual exercise?
Several years ago, one of our ministry’s board members shared the concept of a rest list as a devotional before a meeting. And since I don’t have an original idea in my head but can recognize one when I see it, it captured me, I’ve developed it further, and have been able to share it from time to time at retreats. It’s a list (duh!) of the things I do -- some very simple, some that take a little effort, some I can do on the fly, and some that require a specific venue -- that uniquely revive my spirit and create in me a sense of peacefulness, things that can open a place of contemplation and better readiness to hear or receive from God.
The exercise includes a brief rationale as well as my own list for an idea starter, and since nature always plays such a large role in my own life as a spiritual pathway, natural things are well represented. That’s why I thought it appropriate to share here on my blog. It can all be easily adapted for your own use in sharing the exercise with others, so let me know any time if you’d like a copy of a nicely-formatted PDF version as a handout.
With great thanks to Diane who inspired me with the idea, here it is, the resource “The Rest List.” As ever, I’d be delighted to know when you make one.
~~RGM, August 26, 2014
The Rest List
People create a ‘bucket list,’ things they want to eventually get to before they ‘kick it.’ What about a list I can access today and any day?
What is rest, and how does something make the list?
There are many definitions for rest, both noun and verb. In making my Rest List, I find help in presenting it as an adjective: what are the things that are restful to me? In short, for me, rest consists of those things that God uses in my temperament to give me refreshment, that breathe life into me, that even seem to prepare me for the other rigors of a typical day. They can be enjoyed on a sabbath, a day I try to fill with these kinds of things, or can sometimes also be enjoyed in the context of an otherwise busy day as a brief break, a solace, an oasis in the day’s wilderness. They may even take physical exertion, but the abiding fragrances they leave in my spirit are joy, peace, and goodness.
Why do I have a list?
I have a list to acknowledge that rest is a highly individualized gift from God. To speak this out gives me a sense of freedom to continue to live into how God has uniquely created me. It is a wish list, a reminder that I may make ‘retreats’ for the sake of my soul, to help provide balance in my day and in my life. The idea that I can look at my day or week and be able to balance the hard parts with items from my list gives me hope, and seasons my work with anticipation.
What is rest for me is often not rest for someone else, and though I may typically enjoy items on my Rest List alone, a singular delight is when a form of rest that delights me is also enjoyed by and shared with a beloved friend.
This list is dynamic in that it changes. I add to it freely, and feel great freedom to remove things that for one reason or another just aren’t as restful to me as they might once have been. But frankly, there are not many things that have fallen off the list over the years! It seems that some of these things are ‘hard-wired’ into my spirit, a part of my spiritual default that ‘resets’ me, ‘reboots’ me. Sometimes all I have to do is read my list and it feels restful!
~~Actual sleep, the night-time variety and the rare but treasured (and unhurried) afternoon
~~Time with my children and grandchildren
~~Hiking for exercise or pleasure
~~Any saunter in the woods or along a shoreline
~~Reading for pleasure at a coffee shop, especially with the smell of roasting coffee in the
~~Sitting in front of a campfire (I have one in my backyard!)
~~Driving through the countryside or in the mountains
~~An hour or two of creative writing on a nature theme
~~Reading through the nature quotes and writing ideas I have saved over the years
~~Between appointments, a few minutes parked in my car in a park (not done often
~~Walking with a beloved’s hand in mine
~~A five-minute retreat in front of a window with a natural setting in view, even a simple
tree or cloud
~~Reading my Bible out loud
~~Restful relationships and conversations with select friends
~~Sitting and reading, praying or meditating before a body of water
Make a Rest List for yourself, and check it once in awhile. Start simple. Refine it periodically. Add and subtract from it. Be as specific as you want to be. Consider it a part of your sabbath blessing to enjoy the things that you list.