Note: This is one of a series of 8 workshops called Foundations For Connecting With God. (Click here to see the full series overview)
Nov 16, 10-11:30am US Central Time
This interactive online workshop is the second in a series of 8 workshops which explore key elements/foundations that seem to help people more easily perceive and interact with God’s presence. It seems that rest is one of these critical ingredients which when present in the right amount at the right times can really help people drop deeper into an interactive connection with God. Rest includes the ability to be able to be in a relaxed state that lets us open our attention to new things and subtle things that God may be wanting us to notice. Please see additional reading below.
Matthew 11:28. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
Mark 5:21-43 “Raising Jairus daughter and healing a woman.”
Pre Workshop Reading:
Note this reading is not required but it will add additional benefit to the workshop experience.
Rest is a state of holy stillness that helps us not to overlook anyone or anything that God is wanting us to notice. The skill I most hope people will take away from this workshop is the importance of pausing a lot more often than we may be used to to notice what God may be bringing into our awareness. We will practice pausing and noticing after prayer times, after scripture readings, and after asking God open questions.
Why is rest important? I believe that God is in some ways like the sun–always pouring down way more onto us and around us than we could possibly take in. However, I think God wants to help us notice much more of what God is sharing with us than we realize. Rest helps put us into a state to more easily notice what God is showing us and doing around us. Often throughout the day I will notice a new or spontaneous thought bubble up in my awareness. I have gotten into the habit of writing these thoughts down if I think they may be from the Lord, so I wrote this one down as well. The thought was something like, “You can receive six times more revelation when your mind is at rest than when your mind is busy.” I don’t pretend to totally understand this but I believe it is likely from the Lord and that there is a great deal of truth in it. When we are in a state of rest, it seems that we are able to open our field of attention to notice things around us (people, objects, etc.) and inside of us (ideas thoughts, gut feelings about things, etc). that we may have missed if we were focused on solving a problem, worrying about the future, or dealing with some perceived threat.
When I asked the Holy Spirit to help me understand what rest is, I had the immediate spontaneous thought, “Rest is holy stillness.” Holy means dedicated, consecrated, set apart for a divine purpose, and stillness means the absence of noise or disturbance and in my mind includes not needing to go anywhere, do anything, or conform to anyone’s timeline.
One of my favorite Gospel stories is in Mark chapter 5. The story begins as Jesus gets out of a boat after just coming from healing the Gerasene demoniac. A man named Jairus rushes up to him among the crowds and asks him to come heal his daughter who is on the verge of death. Jesus goes with him and along the way the crowd is pressing in on him. Suddenly he stops and says, “who touched my clothes?” Everyone is confused as tons of people are obviously pressing against him. But he repeats, “who touched me.” A woman who had been bleeding for twelve years comes forward and explains how she reached out and touched his garment and as soon as she did she was healed. Jesus has a conversation with her which must have felt like it took ages to poor Jairus who is desperately wanting to get Jesus to his home before his daughter dies. While the conversation is still going on, someone comes from Jairus’s house to say, it’s too late, the girl is already dead. Undeterred Jesus says, “don’t be afraid; just believe.” He proceeds to the house where everyone is mourning and wailing and he asks them “Why all this commotion and wailing? The little girl is not dead but asleep.” The people laugh at him and he puts all of them out of the house except Peter, James, John, and the girl’s parents. Then he walks up to the girl and tells her “Little girl, I say to you get up.” She immediately stands up and starts walking around as everyone looks on astounded.
One of the things I love about this story is that Jesus seems to be modeling how to operate from a state of rest. Sure he is moving and talking and listening and engaging with people, but underneath he seems to have a deep inward stillness which allows him to be absolutely free of any imposed timeline or any artificial urgency. This internal rest frees him up to relax, fully take in what is going on and direct his attention exactly where it needs to be in every moment. This allows him not to overlook anybody or anything that God is wanting him to pay attention to in the moment. This seems to be the way Jesus constantly operated and since Jesus is our model, we must be capable of growing into that reality as well. How did Jesus do it? I see at least three things Jesus did which I think we can imitate in our personal and corporate lives.
- Deliberately build rest into the schedule.
- Notice when the noise is getting too loud and stop to rest.
- Notice when the spirit is wanting us to spontaneously stop, rest, and notice.
How can we integrate this type of holy stillness more deeply into our daily lives and into our gathering times as the family of God?
Deliberately build rest into the schedule: Jesus would set aside time early in the morning to pray. How we build rest into our lives is critically important and includes things like scheduling time for prayer and scripture, and times for rest and retreat. Many great resources exist for that so I want to focus instead on a different aspect of scheduling rest, which is the way our small group or corporate gatherings may benefit from scheduling in more windows of rest. These windows may be brief like pausing for a minute after a sermon for people to reflect, or longer like building in more contemplative time and free time during a retreat. I have found that in workshops after I say an opening prayer or read a scripture, it often makes an immense difference if I say, let’s just be still for a minute and notice what is coming to us as we sit with that. It makes even more difference to also build in time for people to share the reflections that came to them during the silence as they are often so rich and inspired that it seems no doubt that God was directly downloading revelation to people in the stillness. For those who facilitate prayer ministry sessions such as Immanuel Prayer, you may also recognize that it is the two skills of pausing to notice what is coming into awareness and then giving people a chance to share what is coming that moves the whole prayer time along and allows God to bring new guidance and new experiences that heal, give guidance, and increase intimacy with God.
Notice when the noise is getting too loud and stop to rest: When things would get too crazy Jesus would often retreat with his disciples into the wilderness or to the other side of the lake, or to a deserted place. This skill of noticing when the activity inside our own mind or around us is getting a little too noisy and stopping to rest is so important and applies to so many areas, but for now I will just briefly name two of many possible applications.
- When we are trying too hard to “figure it out”: I remember being part of a discernment group where friends were trying to decide whether it was a good idea to move to a new city and plant a Christian community. The conversation among wise friends and fellow believers was good, but about halfway through I just got a feeling like a slight tightness in my gut signaled to me that we were thinking and working a little too hard. I asked everyone if I could say a little prayer. I prayed a simple prayer and ended by asking what God would like to share with each person right now that was important for us to notice regarding this discernment. Then I asked everyone to be still and just notice for a minute or two what came to them. After that this moment of stillness, the whole tone of the group changed into a more relaxed, spirit led gathering. People went around and shared what came and the conversation became flexible and able to cover a whole lot more ground and go deeper than it had before we stopped to rest and listen to God.
Another time, I was preparing for a workshop and I was in sort of rushed and busy mindset when I paused to connect with a friend to pray over the workshop. As we started praying, she just started softly saying, “thank you…[pause] thank you Lord…[long pause] thank you for what you are going to do today…” Very few words, lots of space and quietness. As we sat together in relative stillness, a peace just fell upon me and my whole belly and chest began to feel warm. A short while later as I entered the workshop I felt such a spirit of peace and a freedom to flow naturally between my planned structure and spontaneous words and guidance God’s spirit seemed to give me along the way.
- Honoring the Rhythm of Joy and Rest: Another angle on noticing when the noise is getting too loud and pausing to rest goes back to last week’s reading on the rhythm of joy and rest. Dr Allan Schore and other scientists highlight how when babies are connected joyfully in face to face connection with a caregiver they can only sustain the joyful connection for so long before they need to look away and rest. This is true of all of us. We can only take so much intensity of either positive or negative emotions before we need to take a break and rest. All of us have different levels of capacity for emotional intensity but in the end we all need lots of little breaks to rest thoughout any given social gathering. Most of us do this naturally without even thinking. We step away from our table at potluck to grab a glass of water or step outside for a breath of fresh air after visiting for a while. With practice we can get better at recognizing when we ourselves need to take a rest, or when those we are engaged with need a rest and slow down and get quiet for a bit. As we go through this series I’ll encourage you to notice the ebb and flow between joyful connection and quiet rest together.
Notice when the spirit is wanting us to spontaneously stop, rest, and notice: Jesus said “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does.” (John 5:19 NLT) Jesus also said to his disciples, “All that belongs to the Father is mine; this is why I said, ‘The Spirit will tell you whatever he receives from me.'” (John 16:15 NLT). There is a miraculous way in which Jesus followers (us), and Jesus, and the Father all get in sync with one another through the Holy Spirit. I am convinced that Jesus, the Father, and the Spirit are paying attention to us in every moment and are constantly sending us guidance and input to help us navigate every challenge and every moment. I have found that as I am leading a group or facilitating a counseling session, if I am really relaxed and quiet inside and just open to whatever ideas the Holy Spirit wants to bring through me that very timely and helpful words, thoughts, and ideas will often just flow through spontaneously. Sometimes these are right in line with what I had originally planned and other times they are a helpful change. And of course, sometimes I miss it and am not hearing the Spirit clearly, but the question of discernment will be discussed in more detail in the upcoming workshop on the foundation of Peace.
Summary: Have you ever sat around a nice warm campfire with friends as the evening turns into night and the quiet crackle of the fire, the crickets chirping and the stars shine down from overhead? My colleague Michael Schaefer likes to use this as an example of what resting together in a state of peace feels like. I have found that when a group learns to really value the importance of building in rest, and to actually work together to protect the stillness for one another, a lot more revelation, peace, and experiential connection with God seems to pour into the space. Or perhaps we are just start becoming aware of the peaceful presence and guidance of God which has been there all along.
Primary skill focus for this workshop:
1)HELPING PEOPLE FEEL MORE SAFE AND CONNECTED.
Additional relevant skills we will include:
2) Welcoming God’s presence and guidance
3) Pausing to notice what is coming into awareness, even if subtle.
4) Sharing with others what is coming to us.**
- Welcome and opening prayer
- Simple introductions either in main group or break out groups of 3-4 to help everyone feel a little more connected.
- Back to the main group for a brief check in and prayer asking God to remind us of a time when we felt at rest.
- Same Break out groups for sharing about the memory that came to mind.
- Back to the main group for a brief check in and prayer asking if there is anything else God would like us to notice about this memory.
- Same break out groups to share what has come to mind.
- Conclusion, debrief, and closing prayer.
- Everything is optional: to promote a sense of safety all exercises are optional and voluntary.
- Respect confidentiality: unless someone is in danger of harm we ask group members to hold personal sharing by others confidential.
- Lean in lean out: If you tend to talk a lot, try to hold space for those who are more quiet, and if you tend to be more quiet you may try to share a little more.
- Please be caring: People tend to do really well with this one.
Facilitator: Andy Ross
Format: 90 minute one time workshops combining both full group teaching and debrief and smaller break out groups of 3 or 4 people for practice times.
Participants can register for one, multiple, or all sessions.
Cost: Free/Suggested $15 voluntary donation per workshop. Please feel no obligation to give but if you would like to make a contribution your gifts are helpful for freeing up our time to do these free workshops, create training material, and subsidize training groups for those who can’t afford the normal rates. You will see an option to make a gift when you register or you can always access the donate page.
Prerequisites: No previous experience needed. Please invite your friends.
Footnotes and Further Resources:
Dr Jim Wilder and the Life Model: Much of what I have included here about joy and rest comes from the work of Dr. Jim Wilder and others connected with Lifemodelworks. Their work is in turn heavily influenced by the immensely thorough and comprehensive work of Dr Allan Schore as well as others in the field of what has come to be known in the scientific field as interpersonal neurobiology. Learn more at www.lifemodelworks.orgD
Dr Karl Lehman and the Immanuel Approach: Additionally, much of what I include in this workshop series in terms of interactive prayer is influenced from what I’ve learned from Dr Karl Lehman and others who have developed the Immanuel Approach also known as Immanuel prayer. I am breaking down the concepts in a different way and presenting the material differently than Dr Lehman does, but much of the core elements are still the same. Dr Lehman’s website is www.immanuelapproach.comRegister Now