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Embracing Rhythms of Work and Rest

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Member Reviews

For those who are interested in Sabbaths or Sabbaticals
Ruth Haley Barton is the founder of a Transformation Center, Christian leader in the area of Christian spirituality and spiritual formation as well as and author. She presents her book "Embracing Rhythms of Work and Rest. From Sabbath to Sabbatical and Back Again", published by InterVarsity Press (IVP). Barton starts the book with a strong statement: "I Am quite certain I would not be alive today if it were not for God's gift of sabbath" (p. 3). The book is divided into two parts: 1) Sabbath - with topics such as "A Wake-Up Call", "Discovering Sabbath in Community", or "Sabbath as a Delight" and 2) Sabbatical - with topics such as "When Sabbath is Not Enough" or "Setting Boundaries". Barton starts every chapter with a quote or a Bible verse and ends the chapters with a segment entitled "What your soul wants to say to God" which includes a prayer and questions for reflection. Her goal is to engage the reader. She included Pastor Dan's story with "Key Movements in cultivating a Sabbath Community" (p. 127-134) which is quiet helpful and makes also a clear distinction between "Sabbath" and "Sabbatical".
Barton talks openly about her experiences with Sabbath as a child and includes also examples from Henri Nowen. The book contains also various appendices, e.g. a Sabbath worksheet, a conversation guide for groups with the title "Becoming a Sabbath Community", or suggestions in "Preparing for reentry: gathering up the gifts of Sabbath". The Notes and Bibliography are helpful for reference and further study. This is the second book by this author which I read. I found the book interesting, but I was also disappointed. The question that arose for me is the following: "Where is the help for those who do not have a supporting group / body / community behind them when they want to take a Sabbath / take a sabbatical? I recommend the book for individuals and churches who are interested in the topic of Sabbath and sabbatical.
The complimentary copy of this book was provided by the publisher through NetGalley free of charge. I was under no obligation to offer a positive review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
#EmbracingRhythmsOfWorkAndRest	#Netgalley
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I am terrible at practicing the Sabbath and I have so many questions around how to practically live it out in this life  with little kids and a business to run so I was really excited to read this one from Ruth Haley Barton. I was especially encouraged when she started by acknowledging her own struggles with practicing the Sabbath and how it's been a journey for her. 

Balancing Scriptural teaching, Rabbinic practices and her own experiences, Barton walks through both the why and some practical "how" of practicing the sabbath and taking sabbatical. I especially appreciated the reflection questions at the end of each chapter that helped make it practical and helped apply the teachings. The questions were well worded and thought out to be helpful on an individual's  journey to experiencing the gift of Sabbath in their life. 

Barton acknowledges that Sabbath life isn't a prescriptive experience. What I mean by that is that she allows for each of us to practice sabbath in a way that's beneficial to the way that we were created. Sure there are principal's that guide that for every one - and she does a good job of addressing those - but there are also things that are unique to the individual. For example, what one considers work, another might not. Likewise, what one considers restful and life-giving, another might not. This is one of the spots where I found the reflections sections especially helpful as a guide to digging into the individual nature of Sabbath. 

That said, she also acknowledges the community aspect which, I think, a reading of both scripture and Jewish practice has to take into account as the  communal focus was integral to those communities. It was an interesting evaluation for our individually focused society. 

I would say that about the first third to the first half of the book focused on Sabbath in a way that was applicable to everyone. After that, it felt much more applicable to church leaders. My one critique of the book would be that the audience wasn't clear and clearer marketing around the target would be be beneficial. Much of the second half of the book was definitely targeted to those in church leadership - how to lead a community into greater practice of the sabbath - and, nearer to the end, to those in vocational ministry (especially the portions on Sabbatical).
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This is truly one of the best books on sabbath rest that I've read. Barton provides a solid biblical rationale along with practical steps that don't feel out of reach for her readers. From the smallest amount of rest to the longest seasons of renewal, Barton's work is a must read.
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A great look at the biblical practices of Sabbath and sabbaticals. The Sabbath section felt reminiscent of other books I’ve read in the past, but I enjoyed the sabbatical section. I regularly practice Sabbath but have a difficult time imagining how to set up a year-long sabbatical. RHB had some good pieces of advice for others like me. My main gripe with the book is that it included more excerpts from books than scripture but it was still a good read.
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Encouraging and timely book for not only me but many in this season or post pandemic living. I see this topic coming up often in conversations and it is nice to have a good resource to recommend written by a woman on this subject. So far most I have seen have been written by men so I really appreciated this approach. 

Thank you Net Galley and the publisher for the opportunity to review this book!
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Too many of us,  myself included, are always busy. Busy doing “good things” and “important things” and of course things that “need to be done.” But do we every stop? Do we ever rest— really let go and rest?

In this beautiful book, Ruth Haley Barton invites the reader to delve into the idea of sabbath. Sabbath is not just a commandment— it is an invitation, a gift, and actually part of God’s very character.  On the seventh day, God created “menuha.” Menuha means much more than just rest. Sabbath is more than just the absence of work. Sabbath is the invitation to tranquility, serenity, peace and repose. Sabbath is part of God’s character— and when we sabbath, we are invited to be formed into being more like our creator.

Ruth Haley Barton knows that creating sabbath rhythms in the 21st century is very difficult, but she challenges the reader to try. Through the pages of this book, she weaves her own journey with sabbath. She shares honestly about the challenges, the temptations, and failures involved in her sabbath journey. But she believes that sabbath is a precious gift, and that individuals and church communities so desperately need this gift that the Lord is offering his people.

This book does not make the reader feel guilty for failing to keep the sabbath, but it does make the soul thirsty—thirsty to begin trying to drink from the fresh waters of sabbath. Ruth Haley Barton has provided the church with a wonderful resource, to both learn about the sabbath and serve as a helpful tool to start practicing sabbath personally, with our families, and with our faith communities.
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I highly recommend this book! The book is divided into two sections: Sabbath, which takes up the first two-thirds, and Sabbatical, for the final third. I would recommend the book solely for the Sabbath content, though her work on Sabbatical is worth considering in the right season. 

Thoughts on Sabbath
This book is one of the most holistic treatments of the practice of Sabbath that I have encountered. Barton does a great job at diving into the theology of the Sabbath from God resting in Creation, to the Israelites resisting the pull to look like Egypt in the wilderness. However, the true power of this book is in how intensely practical it is in building a Sabbath practice that works with your season of life, personality type, and stage of discipleship. This book will stretch you to grow in practicing the Sabbath for the sake of your formation and maturity in Christ, not out of legalism or inward-focused, self-care. 

Thoughts on Sabbatical
The final third of the book is devoted to Sabbatical, which given my season of ministry is not particularly relevant, but even still she speaks candidly and helpfully from her personal experience. The principles are valuable for all ministry organizations to consider as they think about how to care for their pastoral leadership.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.
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This is an excellent book on the concept of Sabbath. Even after exploring this topic quite a bit before reading the book, this treatment of the subject gave me a lot to think about. The author dips down into the Jewish roots of Sabbath and the big picture purposes of observing Sabbath. Highly recommended.
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I really liked this! When I worked at a church for several years, our lead pastor referenced Ruth Haley Barton's writing often enough that she was on my radar to learn from. This was a great introduction to her with really practical and wise suggestions about practicing a regular Sabbath. I will definitely be slowly implementing these practices into my life so that I can truly enjoy a Sabbath rest to the best of my ability in this season of life. I will definitely be reading more from her.

One note is that this is written more to church leaders than your average church goer. I didn't find this was distracting at all, but I did skip through a lot of the section about a sabbatical because it was very specific to church leadership, which I am not.
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Yet again, Barton enters into her role as a trustworthy guide to her reader, gently inviting them into a deeper, more life-giving way to practice Christianity. In the latest book, she shares her own need for and experience with both a regular, weekly sabbath practice and a longer sabbatical season. She examines both the personal and communal, logical and theological reasons that these practices are so vital and the gentler, broader spaces they invite us into. She calls us to listen deeply to God and t our own lives and to recognize the deep necessity of these disciplines that push back against the 24/7 rat race of modern Western society. As with so much of her writing, this book is a gift.
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Anxious. Busy. Exhausted. Fatigued. Stressed. These are typical of a modern lifestyle almost everywhere we go. In many societies, work has become less of a blessing and more of a chore. As people continue to complain about incomes not keeping up with inflation rates, the work somehow continues to pile up. Some people claim that they need more than 24 hours a day and 8 days a week just to get everything done. Sometimes, that sentiment meant turning a weekend into an extended weekday, only to compound the level of exhaustion and stress. The Bible has laid out for us a pattern of work and rest. In Genesis, we learn that God created the world in six days and intentionally rested on the seventh. He also gave Israel the Ten Commandments, with the Fourth Commandment firmly about taking a sabbatical rest one day every week. It is not a suggestion. It is a clear commandment. As we become more liberal in our interpretation of the ancient laws, we often overlook these commandments in favour of convenience. As author and retreat leader Ruth Haley Barton says, we all need a wake-up call to let the Sabbath remain an essential part of all our lives. One of the best ways is to incorporate a routine, a regular system, or as author Ruth Haly Barton puts it, a rhythm of work and rest. Right from the beginning, she highlights the challenges of modern busyness affecting our way of life using her own life as an example. Confessing that it was the sabbath that saved her sanity, she puts forth several fundamental principles of sabbath keeping before giving us an outline of how to embrace the work-rest rhythm. The three principles are:

1)    The Sabbath is God's intention
2)   The Sabbath is important for life
3)    The Sabbath is very both communal and personal

Barton identifies some hurdles with regard to the practice of the Sabbath in the lives of Christians. Some dismiss it as a mere "Jewish" thing that is not relevant to believers. Others just could not wrap around the need to take an intentional sabbath, especially in a culture of efficiency and production. Most, however, lack a deeper understanding of the meaning of Shabbat. In fact, the principle of the Sabbath can be applied right across the board of life. Using multiple spiritual writers who have raised the clarion call for sabbath keeping, Barton shares many quotable quips to help us appreciate the importance of the Sabbath. Some helpful thoughts are:

-    Sabbath is a form of resistance. Resist the enslavement or violence done to our inner souls.
-    Sabbath is not the same as "solitude and silence." 
-    Sabbath is intentional unplugging of ourselves from the world
-    Sabbath is liberation to be grateful, neighbourly, and delight
-    Sabbath frees us to enjoy being part of a community

Apart from the regular rest day each week, the principle can be applied to spiritual transformative pauses. Even the use of our smartphones needs to be placed under the umbrella of the sabbath rhythm. Barton then raises the bar to show us that sabbath rhythms alone are not enough. She gives us four whole chapters on the topic of sabbaticals. She writes about planning. She acknowledges the unique challenges of pastoral ministry and urges sabbaticals as a way to deal with the rising levels of exhaustion. Even those who have been board members for many years or regularly serving would need periods of rest. Thus, sabbaticals are not just for pastors or full-time staff. They are also relevant for anyone who has been serving, often non-stop. 

My Thoughts
We all need a break. For some, we need a long Sabbath. For most of us, we need a rhythm of work and rest to run the journey of life. We need sabbaticals. In many instances, we need extended time to be free from the regular intensity of work in our respective careers or calling. Sabbaticals are not vacation time. They are essentially spiritual spaces intentionally created to allow one to take stock of life and of one's calling. I fully concur with Barton's section on sabbaticals. I believe that is one key area of any ministry many churches lack. In fact, some leaders would even flash the virtue of God's work to justify non-sabbaticals. That really comes from a flawed understanding of what God's ministry is all about. For in the Church or any Christian community, there is no one who is indispensable. Some churches have gotten themselves into a pit when their senior pastors are no longer with them. 

This book sets the stage for anyone to start taking the Sabbath more seriously and intentionally. As per Barton's confession, she states that if not for the Sabbath, she might not be alive today! The Japanese have a word for overwork: karoshi. Though that refers to physical death, it is entirely possible that without adequate rest, parts of us are in the process of dying. This sabbath is a wake-up call to help us understand the limits that we need to respect. With powerful explanations and exercises for the soul to pray and ask God, this book gives us many ideas and thoughts to enable us to plan and practice sabbath and sabbaticals. For those who are at the point of exhaustion, this book might be a form of saving grace. For those who think they have it made and that they don't need a break, perhaps, the message is to pause and reconsider our stance. Whatever it is, don't wait until our bodies and systems break down before we practice sabbath. Let the book refresh our understanding and inform our spiritual curriculum.

Ruth Haley Barton is founder of the Transforming Center, a ministry dedicated to strengthening the souls of pastors and Christian leaders, and the congregations and organizations they serve. A seasoned spiritual director (Shalem Institute), Ruth holds a doctor of divinity from Northern Seminary along with her studies at the Loyola University Chicago Institute for Pastoral Studies.  She is a sought-after speaker and preacher, having served on the pastoral staffs of several churches and also teaching frequently at the graduate level. Ruth's books include Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership, Life Together in Christ, Sacred Rhythms, Pursuing God’s Will Together, Invitation to Retreat, and Invitation to Solitude and Silence. She shares perspectives on transforming leadership through her Beyond Words blog and her Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership podcast.

Rating: 4.75 stars of 5.

This book has been provided courtesy of InterVarsity Press and NetGalley without requiring a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.
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There are so many gems in this book, so much wisdom and truth. If you are interested in building a sabbath rhythm into your life I recommend this book. The author writes both out of her experience and research, which I found to be very thorough, and both practical and encouraging.

It’s a challenging read, because the subject matter goes against the current pace of the world; go, strive, achieve, work, work harder … but it was an encouraging read, especially hearing from the writers own experience and testimonies from so many other people who practice both sabbath and sabbaticals.

I didn’t find it to be an easy or light read, because it contained so much information and I struggled to process my thoughts at the speed I was reading it. I would like to go back and read it a little slower.

I absolutely loved the “what your soul wants to say to God” prompts at the end of each chapter, I plan to journal through some more of them, I think they were very helpful.
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This is a great book for those wanting to understand sabbath rest and the importance of sabbaticals. Lots of relevant content and advice.
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All good things have limitations; even ourselves. In Embracing Rhythms of Work and Rest, Ruth Haley Barton is a gentle guide. She reminds us how and why we need to reclaim rest in our lives, both with contemporary and biblical examples. You will be guided with many reflection questions and the introduction of practices. I own almost all of the author's books and I reflect on them regularly. If this book is your introduction to the author, I guarantee you will want to read her other titles. She has a very special gift of finding the right words to explain a concept and leading you in practices that soothe your soul.
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