Common: Fifty Reflections on Everyday Life

What do chopsticks, guns, rest, skin colour, and soccer have in common?

These seemingly random things are all part of Common: Fifty Reflections on Everyday Life, a compendium of short essays commissioned by Regent College to celebrate its fiftieth anniversary. Like Regent itself, these reflections are creative, thoughtful, and well-rooted in Scripture and everyday life—and no, I’m not saying that just because I’m a Regent grad or because I was invited to contribute a reflection.

I mean, where else will you find chopsticks included as an everyday item  and written about so beautifully by Magdalene See-Lim, a former Regent student and now actress, host, and baker in Singapore:

When my husband and I got married, our pastor gave us a pair of ornamental chopsticks to remind us that although we are two separate individuals, we were henceforth to be one, united to fulfill God’s mission together. Qoheleth observes in Ecclesiastes that “two are better than one” (4:9) and pity the one who falls alone. I am not just talking about marriage but rather that no man or woman is meant to be an island. There is a Chinese proverb that says, “One chopstick is easily broken, but a bundle of chopsticks is not.” In other words, there is strength in numbers and value in community.

 

Like chopsticks, we are not designed to do life alone, and being part of a community of believers bound together by God makes us stronger against forces that would otherwise break us. (page 14)

And while chopsticks are definitely an everyday item in our household, guns are definitely not, so I was surprised and challenged to see guns included in this reflection by Douglas A. Lang, detective sergeant ret. police, Canada, and a former member of Regent’s board of governors:

How might Christians impact a culture of violence? Too often our leaders invoke faith, prayer, and God in the wake of violence. Christians, knowing sin as the source, have a deep understanding of the root cause of violence; we are called to prayer, thoughts, and condolences—but also to much more.

 

As other jurisdictions have seen faith-based groups effectively demand legislation, churches and faith communities must demand rigorous legal action combined with sound social policy. Imagine how many ways Christians could not only add their voice but provide leadership and action when gun violence rears its ugly head. Imagine the many ways we could all be the peacemakers. (page 42)

These are just two of the many highlights from Common: Fifty Reflections on Everyday Life (Regent College Publishing, 2021), edited by Julie Lane-Gay and illustrated by José Euzébio Silveira, available from the Regent College Bookstore and on Amazon. I’m delighted to recommend this fine collection and to share my contribution here.

Rest

by April Yamasaki

“I’m tired all the time,” laments a weary parent of young children. “I need rest.”

“I just got back from vacation, and now I need a vacation from my vacation,” confesses a hard-working professional.

“I don’t know how I had time for a job,” says a recent retiree. “I’m busier now than ever, and I need a break!”

When my mother was ill and needed more care, I made the two-hour round trip to see her several times a week. When my mother-in-law’s dementia progressed and my father-in-law was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor, I did as much as I could to support them too. I felt stretched caring for all three at the same time on top of my own home life, pastoral ministry, and writing. How could I find time to rest too?

Yet while rest might seem in short supply for me and for many, rest seems to be everywhere in Scripture. From the beginning, God rests after each day of creation, then rests again on the seventh day. That rhythm of creative, purposeful work alternating with holy rest is re-affirmed in the Ten Commandments as part of healthy community living. Rest was meant to honour God and to show mutual respect as all were instructed to rest: adults, children, servants, strangers, animals. For the prophets, Sabbath rest was both a solemn command and a delight in the Lord (Isaiah 58:1-14; Jeremiah 17:19-27).

Jesus’ call to discipleship included a call to rest:

Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30).

During his earthly ministry, Jesus took time to rest, away from the crowds and away from his disciples (Matthew 14:13; Mark 1:35-37). When he was tired, he sat down by a well and asked a woman for a drink of water while his disciples went to buy some food (John 4:6-8). In the busyness of ministry when his disciples had little time to themselves even to eat, he urged them to come away and rest (Mark 6:30-32). If Jesus and his disciples found value in rest, then pastors, parents, and all of us should take time to rest too.

Today rest might mean starting the week with a Sabbath day of worship and rest; setting aside adequate time for eating, exercise, and drinking water; pausing for prayer before a meal; getting eight hours of sleep a night, withdrawing for a silent retreat. I find rest in sacred pauses throughout my day—spending a quiet moment alone, listening to music or playing the piano, delighting in the beauty of flowers. My social media Sabbath from Saturday evening until Sunday evening is another way of stepping aside from the fast pace of work and life.

Rest strengthens our immune system, helps us think more clearly, energizes us for creative and useful work in the world, refreshes and restores us. Rest allows us to enjoy our lives, reach out to others, and maintain healthy relationships.

Yet even beyond the gift of rest in this world, we are told “a sabbath rest still remains for the people of God” (Hebrews 4:9). Entry into God’s kingdom means entry into God’s rest. Through Jesus Christ God has already accomplished everything we need. We can rest in God’s love, joy, justice, and peace—not fully in this life, but the time to enter is clearly “today” (Hebrews 3:7-15; 4:6-7).

Rest, then, is a sign and foretaste of God’s kingdom already and not yet. While we may experience God’s rest only in part today, that blessed rest will one day be ours fully and forever. In the meantime, rest reminds us that we are finite creatures in a finite world. We are not ultimately responsible for the world and everything in it—and that’s a good thing! With infinite wisdom, righteousness, mercy, and power, God reigns and is sovereign over all.

So let us rest—because rest is a gift from God and a vital part of healthy living, because rest is a signpost of God’s kingdom now and to come, and by resting we turn from relying on ourselves to place our trust in God, our great Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer. Amen.

_______________

For more encouragement and resources on doing ministry better:

Author: April Yamasaki

I currently serve as resident author with a liturgical worship community, write online and in print publications, and often speak in churches and other settings. Publications include On the Way with Jesus, Four Gifts, Sacred Pauses, and other books on Christian living. Websites: AprilYamasaki.com and WhenYouWorkfortheChurch.com.

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