Today, we have the honor of having with us Ms. Shelly Miller. She is the author of Rhythms of Rest: Finding the Spirit of Sabbath in a Busy World.
I find that rest is a topic many of us haven’t mastered. True rest has so much to do with trust, pausing and releasing control, even in the face of uncertainty. Despite how difficult it may be, however, God has commanded us to rest and remember His sovereignty. I am excited to look at this topic of rest more closely. Thank you to Ms. Miller, for taking time out of her busy schedule to sit down with us and share more about what it means to rest and for answering some of our community questions, submitted via Instagram.
If you haven’t grabbed your copy of Rhythms of Rest: Finding the Spirit of Sabbath in a Busy World, make sure to do so, today. I hope that we can all do some introspection to see where God is calling us to rest from the world, and more importantly, may we always rest in Him.
MW: While growing up, was rest an important and intentional part of your life?
SM: What I would say is that I remember begrudgingly taking naps in the afternoons as a child and that time always settled my soul in ways like nothing else could. Growing up as the only child of an alcoholic single mother, our home was often characterized by quietness and solitude during the day and chaos and insecurity at night. But I spent every weekend of my childhood in the security of my grandparent’s home. The four o’clock mass on Saturday was a choice they allowed me to make. In general, my time in their care felt different—slow, playful, intimate, and special. I didn’t realize it at the time, but they were modelling Sabbath rhythms for me back in the day.
MW: When and what inspired your ministry revolving around rest and the Sabbath?
SM: I was struggling with chronic loneliness while living in a place that felt unlike me. Six years ago, Sabbath was God’s curious answer to pleading prayers about being lonely during a random walk in my neighborhood after Christmas. I knew right away that it had to be a providential answer because Sabbath was nowhere on my radar. Inspired to investigate Sabbath further, I invited blog readers to join me in practicing rest as a discipline through a weekly letter I call the Sabbath Society. Forty people signed up, initially. Now, we’re a global community of thousands that inspired Rhythms of Rest, published with Bethany House in 2016.
“Six years ago, Sabbath was God’s curious answer to pleading prayers about being lonely during a random walk in my neighborhood after Christmas.”
MW: “Jesus is Sabbath. When we make the day different on His behalf, holiness inhabits our intentions.” What are practical ways in which we can make Sabbath different and holy? (These aren’t rules, but instead just suggestions people can implement, if they don’t know how to get started).
SM: We are all created uniquely and the way we rest is unique to each of us, too. In terms of making time different on Sabbath, I liken it to a holiday on the calendar. For instance, at Christmas, we make time special and different in a heightened attentiveness to details. We use special dishes, cloth napkins, light candles, sip a favorite drink, eat more carbs than usual, gather friends around the table, or eat out at a favorite haunt. That same attention to detail is transferable to Sabbath. Create an atmosphere of ease and togetherness that feels and looks like you. For me, that means lighting candles, making one-pot meals, using paper products, and sipping Red Rose tea– a favorite blend from Canada.
“Create an atmosphere of ease and togetherness that feels and looks like you.”
MW: Who have been major influences in your work as a writer and in your ministry?
SM: Oh my goodness! There isn’t enough space in this interview to declare all those names. Mark Buchanan’s writing has impacted and shaped my faith and belief in a profound way. The Rest of God is my favorite book on the topic of Sabbath. But I quickly discovered that the person behind the words lives a life of humility and kindness, too. His generous foreword for Rhythms of Rest is truly a check on my bucket list; a dream come true. He told me that Eugene Peterson did the same for his first book, and he wanted to pay it forward. What amazing grace!
MW: You wrote, “But Sabbath isn’t about resting in order to be more productive. It isn’t about me at all.” What has this fact about rest taught you?
SM: I used to think rest on the Sabbath meant napping or checking out on the couch all day. Now, I experience Sabbath as God’s generous gift; an invitation to be intimately present with Him in a way that is different than the other six days of the week. In the beginning, when God created a day of rest, His thinking was never about reward or utility. He didn’t create the Sabbath so we can be more productive or as a reward for getting everything finished. Sabbath is about worship. Celebrating the goodness of God, remembering why we work in the first place, and trusting that He will provide what we need.
“Sabbath is about worship.”
A question from the MW community: How do you rest when you don’t have a place to do it?
SM: Well, that is tricky for sure. Henri Nouwen talks about “solitude of the heart” in his book, Reaching Out. It’s a place of inner rest that isn’t dependent upon outside circumstances. I practice pausing throughout the week by pushing my phone out of reach, placing my palms upward, and hearing myself breathe for a few minutes. I envision myself somewhere beautiful, like the still lake in front of our family cottage in Canada. I imagine Jesus looking at me in the eyes and asking the question he asks often in the Bible, “What do you want me to do for you?” If I can’t answer quickly, I know busyness has overtaken my heart. With a little practice, you can do that little exercise on a commute, during a lunch break, on a daily walk, or while sitting in a waiting room. God’s presence is always available and not specific to a certain place.
“I imagine Jesus looking at me in the eyes and asking the question he asks often in the Bible, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ If I can’t answer quickly, I know busyness has overtaken my heart.”
A question from the MW community: What is the distinction between rest and laziness?
SM: The creation story is our best example. When God created the seventh day as a day of rest, it wasn’t because He was too tired, complacent, or self-serving. He looked back over all that he had created the previous six days and called it very good. (Genesis 1:31) The kind of deep satisfaction we all experience from seeing the results of our hard work. On the seventh day, God rested as a celebration of all that had been accomplished, not because He was completely finished creating the world. His work on earth is never fully finished; He is constantly creating and His imagination is immense. Therefore, “I’ll rest when I get everything finished,” isn’t a Godly standard; it’s a standard we create for ourselves. Proverbs describes laziness like a sleepiness to life that leads to poverty and disgrace. And I don’t see Jesus characterized that way anywhere in scripture!
MW: How can solitude help us be better witnesses?
SM: A lack of noise and distraction allows for a heightened state of awareness to our surroundings. The more we practice solitude, the more we become sensitive to God’s presence. And the more we experience His presence, the less we are prone to be desensitized by busyness. Florence Nightengale was on to something when she wrote, “Unnecessary noise is the most cruel absence of care that can be inflicted on the sick or well.” Pausing for prayerful listening, even for just a few minutes, brings everything back into focus. We need whitespace for hearing the truth more clearly.
“We need whitespace for hearing the truth more clearly.”
MW: “Choosing to leave practical things undone is a brave act of trust and relinquishment. And relinquishment often precedes the miracle.” How has this been true, in your own experience?
SM: In Rhythms of Rest, I share several stories from people in the Sabbath Society that illustrate the miraculous power of letting go and trusting God with time. I’ve been honored to hear stories of physical healing, restoration in marriage; being set free from shame and guilt through the choice of rest once a week. I guess the best illustration of this in my own life is that letting go of practical things on Sabbath created space for learning how to discern His still small voice in my everyday, walking around life. Much of what I hear is revelatory, loving, directive, and inspiring. Rhythms of Rest is the result of what I heard on Sabbath sojourns. And being the published author of a book about rest feels miraculous to this recovering perfectionist.
“Choosing to leave practical things undone is a brave act of trust and relinquishment. And relinquishment often precedes the miracle.”
Author bio: Shelly Miller is a veteran ministry leader and sought-after mentor and coach on Sabbath-keeping. She leads the Sabbath Society, an online community of people who want to make rest a priority, and her writing has been featured in multiple national publications. Her first book, Rhythms of Rest: Finding the Spirit of Sabbath in a Busy World, released with Bethany House Publishers in 2016. Find more of Shelly’s writing and free resources that cultivate rest by subscribing to her blog. Connect on Instagram where she loves to share photos of the beautiful places she visits while living as a committed immigrant in London.
Until next time, read Rhythms of Rest: Finding the Spirit of Sabbath in a Busy World, find rest, and keep witnessing!