When life’s sorrows bring us into shadowlands, we need the joy of Christ to restore our strength. We tap into this joy by nurturing a deeper longing for God. Shadowlands and Songs of Light: An Epic Journey into Joy and Healing takes you on a quest for joy and a life-changing longing for God.
Written by a C. S. Lewis expert and a skilled composer, the book explores 18 beloved C. S. Lewis classics, from Narnia to Mere Christianity, and 13 spiritual principles behind the art of songwriting, as seen in 13 studio albums by U2–all to answer one question: how do we experience deeper joy in our relationship with Christ during times of sorrow and trial?
Shadowlands is available to pre-order at Amazon or ChristianBooks.com. If you pre-order a copy, the author will personally email you with a thank-you note and a copy of his upcoming e-book devotional “Devotions with Tolkien,” which uses J. R. R. Tolkien’s epic “The Lord of the Rings” and Scripture. (This is all on the honor system: simply pre-order Shadowlands, and then send an email to shadowlands2016 (at) gmail (dot) com letting the author (Kevin Ott) know you’ve ordered it, and he will contact you.)
Text LIGHT to 54900 to get a preview of Shadowlands and Songs of Light.
According to research, early January, just after New Years, is the most depressing time of the year for people in Western society. Sure, folks are not pleased about returning to the grind after having time off, and students cringe when they imagine walking down those shiny linoleum school hallways to begin classes again, but it’s more than that.
As the typical office small talk goes between co-workers: “How was your time off?” says one employee. The other sighs and says, “Oh, it was a nice, but I’m so tired. I need a vacation from my vacation!”
Instead of waiting until after Christmas to navigate those post-holiday blues, let’s head them off at the pass and seek God’s counsel. As in all things, we can go to the Bible for guidance and find wisdom for every situation—even for how to have a happier, more restful vacation. It’s no coincidence that the etymology of the word “holiday” comes from “holy days” and “Sabbath.”
In Leviticus 23, God established Israel’s new calendar around seven feasts. These feasts could also be described as holidays. If you look at how God commanded His people to observe the feasts, you will notice three principles that we can apply to our lives today:
1. The Discipline of Resting: Every person in Israel was commanded to stop their work and enjoy a Sabbath rest during the feasts. As we celebrate the holy day of Christ’s birth, it’s easy to over-schedule our days or put in extra hours at work for financial reasons. Busy parents, people with financial stress, or pastors hard at work in the ministry might not have the luxury to just stop everything, but if you have the power to slow things down even a little or if you can avoid scheduling certain things that you normally do each year, go for it. Try to make your vacation an actual vacation. If you have the power to say no to a holiday work schedule, do whatever you can to make that happen, even if that means having to make a few small sacrifices financially because you’re working less hours.
As we see in the Bible, these times of rest—these sacred holidays—were not secular. They had a higher purpose. It was not just a time of physical and mental rest or a time spent with family members and relatives; it was also a time to join with the spiritual family of God.
2. Gather with Your Spiritual Family: Gathering as one body of people was essential for Israel during the Old Testament feasts. The New Testament tells us, “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” — Hebrews 10:24-25 (NKJV)
Although it can be a temptation to ditch your spiritual family and skip Sunday gatherings to pack in an extra day of vacation or family time, this can actually be a big contributor to the exhaustion we feel after the holidays. Like a car is designed to run on gas, Christians—because we have the very Spirit of Christ within us—are designed to thrive and be renewed when we join ourselves to the Body of Christ. In fact, we should eagerly desire to gather with other Christians even more so during Christmas instead of scattering to the four winds and skipping Sunday services to get an extra day of skiing in. If we cut ourselves off from God’s vineyard during the holidays, we’re not experiencing that unique, renewing corporate expression of Christ.
3. Offer Sacrifices of Praise and Thanksgiving to God: However, we can’t just show up to church, punch our time-card to do our duty, and then leave. We won’t experience true spiritual rest if our spirits are not engaged.
One thing the Israelites always did when they gathered was offer sacrifices. In the Age of Grace, under the blood of Christ, we no longer offer animal sacrifices; however, the Lord still wants us to gather and bring spiritual sacrifices of praise. Participating in praise and worship is crucial to joining our hearts with the Body. The Word is clear. God calls us to offer spiritual sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving whenever we gather: “Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.” —Hebrews 13:15 (NKJV)
We live in stressful times. More than ever, we need to embrace God’s prescription for true spiritual refreshment during the holy days of the Christmas season. My prayer is that we each find ways to truly rest, gather with our spiritual family, and offer our very best, most sincere sacrifices of praise to God as an expression of thanks to Him for the most wonderful gift of all: His Son Immanuel—God With Us!