Rhythms in Urban Life and the Season of Advent

Two separate conversations about rhythms of contemplation have cropped up this week. One was brought up by Emily while we were falling asleep the other night. She discussed her desire for us to build some healthy patterns in our lives that are directed at hearing God, slowing down life, and sharing in one another’s spiritual growth.

The second time was today while working at the bookstore. Professor Jude Tiersma-Watson, a teacher I highly respect and enjoy talking with came in the store today looking for a Henri Nouwen book on Advent. She told me that building rhythms in her life with her husband has been something they too have been working at and they have decided that with Advent here it’s a good time to turn our attention toward it. We talked a little about the difficultly in building patterns of life in the urban landscape, a place where life buzzes all day and all night long. And on top of that there is always the unending quest to get more done, to climb to the top of the pile. Both these factors have made it difficult for Christians like myself to maintain healthy patterns of contemplation.

I am going heed Emily’s desire and Jude’s advice and take the Advent season to work on some patterns. What those are I am still not quite sure of, but some kind of reading with the church calendar will be necessary.

I am curious what the rest of you think about this need, the things that stand in our way, and some helpful “patterns” you’ve witnessed or participated in, especially with Christmas in mind.

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Wess

...is the William R. Rogers Director of Friends Center and Quaker Studies at Guilford College in Greensboro, NC., PhD in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary, served as a "released minister" at Camas Friends Church, and father of three. He enjoys sketchnoting, sharing conversation over coffee with a friend, listening to vinyl and writing creative nonfiction.

11 thoughts on “Rhythms in Urban Life and the Season of Advent”

  1. I am especially interested in this topic, looking for different ways to slow down and listen. Reading and following calendars does not have the same result for me as it did early on. I would love to possibly adopt a pattern of walking aimlessly for God…strolling through the city, not for exercise or to get anywhere, but to just listen.

  2. Kevin,
    Oh that’s a great idea. Emily loves to walk, she usually does it for exercise but that’s something that could fit well into our “urban” lifestyle. Not only does it afford the opportunity to hear God but also to learn parts of the neighborhood and puts us out where we can on occassions meet people.

  3. I very much want to do this more consistently. I try to pray the divine hours with my girls daily but the past several months I’ve been lazy about it.

    David and I used to be really good about praying together and studying together and meditating and worshiping together…not so much anymore. And I think a lot of it is that we need rhythm.

    We’re going to be focusing on developing a rhythm in Revolution (the service we pastor), something like the BELLS rhythm over at Frost’s Small Boat Big Sea…it will not be BELLS cuz that doesn’t really speak the voice of our community but it will be along those lines. So this is a good time for us to get our act together personally as well.

    Thank you for the confirmation of something I’ve been feeling in my heart for some time.

  4. This has been on my heart of late as well…the thought of rhythm and how advent might usher some sort of discipline our way that will last beyond the season. A prayer book I’m reading that has been a help is Rhythm of Life: Celtic Daily Prayer, which is a series of daily offices. Another book is Living Prayer, by Robert Benson. this one too has if anything stirred in me a desire for rhythm in my life and with my family. I am becoming more and more uncomfortable when life is not beating in step to the superior rhythm of God.

    John

  5. John – Thanks for the book recommendations. We have a celtic prayer book we really love as well. I think it helps that I’m part Scotish too 😉 helps me feel like I am connecting with my history a bit – either that or I just wish I had a Scotish accent.

  6. Ask another question: Where do I get my ideas about what I need/want? If you decrease the messages which endlessly seek to focus your attention on needs/desires, then you’ll have more space to observe, slow down, and listen.

    Though it sounds simple (and it is simple which is what’s great about it), I hit my TV with a hammer (something I don’t recommend, btw) three years ago and it has helped a great deal.

  7. drm,
    Great question, I think you’re absolutely right to got that direction with it. And thanks for the tip on the TV, I’ve often thought of doing the same but for now we just try to keep it off unless we have rented a movie.

    But I like the hammer idea!

  8. This made me think of Christine Sine’s Sacred Rhythms. This book helped me establish rhythms (or at least intentionally think about them) in my own life. She talks about seasons, which transformed the way I see Christian holidays: rhythms of celebration admits the daily grind of busyness and work. It might be a good read as you think about celebrating Advent.

  9. Kristen – thanks for the suggestion I’ve heard good things about this book and would like to check it out.

    Coming from Ohio and now having spent 3.5 years in LA I’ve really seen the importance of seasons in my own life. I long for change – something that barely happens here. I remember when I was growing up how we couldn’t wait from spring because the winters were so cold – and once spring broke it really had the feeling of new life.

    I definately miss that here.

  10. Getting myself into healthy contemplative rhythms is hard enough — but it’s an even greater challenge to try to provide learning experiences along those lines for my kids. They definitely enjoy routines and predictability; I have really wanted to incorporate Advent and Lent rituals/rhythms into our home life but haven’t been too successful. It’s hard to do it well with the kids when you still struggle to carve out that space for yourself and don’t have a clear picture of what it should really look like.

    I wholeheartedly agree with the suggestion to smash the TV though. For me having a TV around just fills my time with chaff — it’s not bad per se, just of so little value and distracts me from things that are so much more worthwhile (like contemplation). It’s hard to live an intentional life — and so much harder the more chaff I have around me to waste my time and thought energy.

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