BEFORE YOU READ THIS, CHECK OUT THE FIRST POST IN THIS SERIES ON RHYTHM.
I love to sing and dance (just don’t tell the legalistic Christians who think dancing is from Satan). And even those who aren’t familiar with the “ins and outs” of music and dancing recognize someone who lacks rhythm. The guy who can’t carry a tune in a bucket sticks out like a sore thumb.
Or the guy on the dance floor whose moves look like a withering flower. You know the guy. His effort is there. His focus is there. But his rhythm is not there. It hurts to watch.
When rhythm is missing, everyone notices. It’s painfully obvious.
But let’s flip the script. Just like we recognize someone without rhythm, we also recognize someone with it. Think about the best musicians and dancers. We are drawn to them. Their rhythm is infectious.
What makes someone with great rhythm so fascinating? There is a unique combination of skill, precision, and effortlessness. A great dancer has the ability to move in such a way that it almost appears like they aren’t trying.
The same is true for a life of rhythm. It is not easy to master. But once you discover a rhythm for your life, it will appear to others like this life thing is a piece of cake…even though it’s not. The cares and worries of the world will no longer be your cares. Your pace won’t match the frantic, hurried pace of the world.
And the world will be drawn to your life. In the process, the world will be drawn to God.
So, what does a life of rhythm look like? I want to propose 8 very important steps to creating a life of rhythm. Here they are.
1.) Give your day back to God. He owns it anyway.
If we desire to live in rhythm we must realize who owns the day. And it’s not us. We could learn a lesson from our ancestors, the Hebrews. They realized God controlled the world, so their focus was totally on him. The Hebrews never saw the world as something to be fixed.
Where would the Hebrews get such an idea? Genesis 1.
God called the light “day” and the darkness “night.” And evening passed and morning came, marking the first day.Genesis 1:5
In God’s eyes, the day starts in the evening. Evening passes before morning. The Jews still look at time this way. The Jewish Sabbath doesn’t start at midnight on Saturday. It starts at sunset on Friday.
What in the world does this mean for us? While we are fast asleep, God is already orchestrating the events of our day. He gets a twelve-hour jump start on us. Too often, we wake up, waste no time kicking it into fifth gear, and never consider the work God is already doing in us and around us long before our feet hit the floor.
What if we started every day by asking God how we can partner with him instead of how he can partner with us?
QUESTION: How can you partner in the work God is already doing today?
2.) Don’t allow your day’s tasks to cripple God’s work.
Not every second is created equal. Look for opportunities. When they come, take advantage of them. Don’t allow your day’s tasks to cripple God’s work. There are opportunities all around us. We must open our eyes. And we must create space. Rhythm helps us do this by not allowing tasks to enslave us.
In Ephesians 5:15-16, Paul tells the Ephesians to make the best use of the “time.” The Greek word is kairos. Paul is not telling the Ephesians to make the best use of their hours. He is telling them to make the best use of their opportunities.
Kairos time is God’s time. It is time divorced from the weight of checklists and tasks. It is time that brings heaven to earth and unites the temporary with the eternal.
QUESTION: What opportunities are in front of you today?
3.) Own your choices.
Here is a sobering, but true reality: our lives are a product of our choices. Yes, I speak generally. Not all circumstances are a direct product of our choices. But most are. The people who own their choices are the ones who experience peace and joy in life.
Love. Fear. Anger. Bitterness. Resentment. All of these are choices. The clothes we wear. The decisions we make. The places we go. The circumstances we are in. When I look back over my life, I feel the weight of this hard lesson. My life is my choices.
Even events in my life, such as malignant skin cancer, are a product of choices. As a fair skinned red head, I chose to expose myself to the sun, most likely increasing the odds of Melanoma. And once I got the cancer, I had choices to make. I could drown in my sorrows. I could play the “woe is me” card. Or I could accept the reality, trust Melanoma as part of God’s plan, and fight. I certainly had difficult days, but I couldn’t just lay down.
We have the power to play the victim card. For some of us, the card is warranted. But at our core, we know this card doesn’t produce life.
God has given us a great gift to choose. We must steward this gift well.
QUESTION: What choices do you need to make to increase your peace and joy today?
4.) Slow. Down.
In his book, A Faith That Endures, Ronald Boyd-MacMillan tells the story of a conversation with Wang Mingdao, one of the most famous Chinese pastors in the last century. In this dialogue, Mingdao asks MacMillan, “How do you walk with God?” MacMillan responds by listing off spiritual disciplines, such as Bible study, prayer, etc. A common American Christian response.
To this, Wingdao, responds, “Wrong answer. To walk with God, you must move at a walking pace.”
When I read that sentence, I was convicted. My life is so hurried. And this speaks to why I occasionally feel overwhelmed and distant from God.
We are running through life hurriedly, and God isn’t running with us. Because God doesn’t run. The longer we move at this pace, the wider the gap becomes between us and God.
Walking with God, enjoying the fruits of a meaningful, peaceful life, means we move at God’s pace.
QUESTION: Are you moving at the world’s pace or God’s pace?
5.) Learn the art of saying no.
The connectedness of our world affords us opportunities not available 50 years ago. The list of good things is endless. So, eliminating events from our schedule is not enough. The real battle to achieve rhythm in life comes in deciding which GOOD things to eliminate.
Yes, you read that correctly. We do too many good things. We sign up for all the outreach opportunities. We try to disciple every child at our church. We attempt to do every good thing on the schedule.
Seriously, what have we accomplished if our name is on every sign-up list at church, school, etc., but we are teetering on the edge of burn-out and exhaustion?
A life of rhythm frees us from the choking weight of dabbling in every good thing.
When we discover our calling and purpose, we create a filter for events. Because we know what areas line up with our gifts and talents, we have the power to say no to everything else. Without a purpose and calling, there is no filter. Every good thing is fair game.
QUESTION: You need to say no to some good things today. What are they?
6.) Focus your time and energy in the most important areas.
A life of rhythm is the cadence of God. So, a life of rhythm will always focus more on the kind of person you are becoming than the activities you are doing. In the first post on rhythm, I mentioned Matthew Kelly’s four areas of need: physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual.
When we neglect these needs and focus on getting things done, accumulating large bank accounts, or pursuing large followings, chaos is sure to come. God didn’t create us to pursue these things. He created us to pursue Him.
This pursuit starts in the heart. What we desire is who we become. When the desire of our heart is to know God, our lives will overflow with peace. When we focus our energy on the person we are becoming, the actions that flow will be saturated in love, grace, and power.
QUESTION: What is your heart’s desire?
7.) Silence. Prayer. Reflection. Practice these consistently.
Noise is the mouthpiece of the world. Silence is the mouthpiece of God.Matthew KellyA life of rhythm isn’t possible without consistent times of prayer and reflection. Prayer aligns us with God’s priorities. When we are aligned with God’s priorities, we think and act from our purpose. And acting from our purpose creates a life of meaning.
Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still and know that I am God.” There is a parallel between being still and knowing God. We might experience God through action. But intimacy with God comes through silence. Prayer joins our dreams and hopes with those of God. Prayer exposes layers of sin. Prayer breaks down walls of prejudice and judgementalism.
Without prayer, we inevitably join the frantic pace of the world, pursuing the fleeting desires of the world, moving further away from the presence of the Lord.
QUESTION: How much of your day is spent in prayer?
8.) Focus on someone else every day.
The average human lives 27,375 days. What if we impacted one person every day? Maybe it’s as simple as a handwritten note. Maybe it’s sitting by the person at school no one else wants to sit by. Maybe it’s a simple word of encouragement at work.
Regardless, if we give life to someone every day, our impact on this world will be incalculable. This life is counter-intuitive. It must flow from a life of rhythm. It must be a life that dwells in the presence of God. It is only in God’s presence that we find the strength to give every day.
God is a giver, and this reality leads me to conclude no selfless action will terminate on itself. Every good thing we do moves from the present into the future, and from the future into the eternal.
QUESTION: How can you impact someone’s life today?
9.) Learn to love the person in the mirror.
Michael Jackson’s song “Man In The Mirror” might be the greatest pop song of all time. Justin Beiber’s song “Baby” is a close second. And while we love to sing this song, we struggle to apply it. Most of us don’t start (or end) with the man in the mirror. We are terrified of him.
In Matthew 22:37-38, Jesus gives us the two greatest commandments. Love God. Love your neighbor.
If you look closely, however, there are really three commandments. Love God. Love YOURSELF. Love your neighbor.
You see, God assumes we are going to love ourselves. But this doesn’t dismiss it as a command. An important command. This command is so important that we can’t fulfill the commandment to love our neighbors unless we love ourselves…FIRST.
Not only that, but we can’t live out our purpose until we love ourselves. This means we can’t impact the world until we love ourselves.
In a culture overtaken with plastic surgeries and eating disorders, this is something we need to hear. I need to hear this. My self-confidence is low at times. But this isn’t because God made a mistake. This is because I compare myself to the world.
God created us. He is madly in love with us just the way we are. Short. Tall. Small. Large. Black. White. Embrace the man or woman God created you to be.
If we desire peace and making an impact on this world, we must learn to love the man (or woman) in the mirror.
QUESTION: When you look at the man (or woman) in the mirror, what do you see? God sees a masterpiece. Do you?
I remember the first time I encountered the idea of rhythm in life. It was in a book called The Jesus Life by Stephen Smith. At that time, I had no idea what it really meant. I certainly had no idea how to create it. But a life of rhythm sounded life a breath of fresh air.
Now I realize it’s a breath of fresh air because it is God’s way.
A life of rhythm will draw us closer to the presence of God. And in doing so, the glory of God will shine brighter through us. A peace that surpasses understanding will guide our hearts and minds. Our decisions and actions will not be influenced by culture, perceptions, or expectations. A strange, unshakeable strength will come over our lives. And because we move to the natural cadence of our Designer, we will leave an impression on this world that extends for generations.
Be forewarned: a life of rhythm won’t be received well by everyone. Even some close to you might label you as lazy or carefree. But, as Jesus said, you will know a tree by its fruit (Matt. 7:16). Don’t allow the negativity to distract you. Stay the course. Persevere.
God created you for this life. When the storms beat against your life, you will feel it. And when your life is over, others will benefit from it. Rhythm.
I love you all. To God be the glory forever. Amen!