This review appeared in the Apr-Jun 2011 vol. 168 no. 2 issue of Biblotheca Sacra, DTS’s quarterly academic journal.Subscribe Today
Your Life in RhythmTyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, IL June 29, 2009
People from all social backgrounds, religious perspectives, and economic situations struggle to achieve the goal of a balanced life. Bruce Miller, a pastor in McKinney, Texas, believes that the attempt to live a balanced life is the problem. Miller proposes that if someone wants a life with less stress, frustration, and discouragement, adopting rhythmic living is a better solution. Living in rhythm as opposed to balance provides more peace, fulfillment, and hope.
Miller’s work proceeds through three movements: overview of rhythm living, kairos strategy, and chronos strategy. The author openly and honestly writes about his frustration in trying to live a balanced life and his own discovery of the rhythmic living approach. In his overview Miller’s argument is intuitively sensible (exampled by sports seasons, celebration, grief, life’s seasons, and business cycles), and is practical and realistic because it is based on the notion that one’s environment, the world, and even the universe move in rhythm. Miller identifies two ways of living in rhythm, which gives the structure to the rest of the book: kairos and chronos. Kairos is characterized by seasons and chronos by cycles. He explains the difference between the two in a variety of ways. For example, “Chronos cycles describe the temporal context of our environment on planet Earth, whereas kairos seasons describe patterns in the flow of our human lives” (p. 39).
In part 2 Miller begins a more detailed discussion of rhythmic living by identifying expressions of kairos time as personal seasons and life stages (p. 46). Personal seasons are characterized by grief, recovery, crisis, harvest, celebration, business, beginnings, and endings. To begin living rhythmically with a kairos strategy is to identify and study personal seasons of life, such as school age, teen years, adulthood, and empty-nest years. Miller explains, “Identify your current life stage so you can apply rhythm strategies to your present life, and then identify the next stage you will likely enter” (p. 63). The author formulates three strategies for making the most of kairos: releasing expectations, seizing opportunities, and anticipating what is next. In releasing expectations Miller bravely deals with difficult areas of life, such as miscarriage, divorce, and cancer, and readers will appreciate his openness in sharing stories about his own family. The author’s second strategy is to seize opportunities by not overextending oneself, which helps keep one from burnout. In this section Miller demonstrates the rhythm of stages of life, from one’s own childhood through raising children through the hope of seeing grandchildren pass through the same cycles. Third, the author wants his readers to anticipate their next life stage. Miller writes, “When you anticipate what’s coming ahead, that expectation fuels the hope that gives you a better life” (p. 107). His arguments are clear and well defended with biblical support.
The third section of Miller’s work maintains that “chronos rhythms are measured times, which happen in predictable patterns” (p. 122). The author’s foundational theme is based on the patterns seen in the cosmos, such as the earth’s annual orbit of 365 days and the 24 hours of the earth’s rotation. These provide evidence from creation that rhythmic living is preferred over balanced living. Miller believes that one’s life should follow these patterns seen in creation. Particularly intriguing is his section on “Chronobiology,” the study of “life’s structure in time” (p. 128).
Miller encourages his readers to live in chronos rhythm by pacing themselves in life, building rituals, and oscillating between work and rest. Pacing oneself is ever important in the frantic pace of American life. Miller describes a common hectic busyness in family lives and provides practical and simple ways to establish new patterns that are less stressful. A second recommendation in chronos rhythm is to build rituals, which are important because they help build the community and family stability. The author shows that personal and family lives will be greatly enhanced through participation in long-term ritual patterns, such as birthdays, holidays, and anniversaries. The third aspect of developing chronos-rhythm living is to oscillate between work and family. Oscillation is encouraged when one realizes that “life is not a marathon but a series of sprints and rests” (p. 173). At first glance this seems like balanced living, but instead Miller encourages his audience to find times to work with intensity and to counter that with times of rest, like a power nap or a summer vacation.
In this book Miller proposes that by living a life of rhythm as opposed to seeking to “balance” one’s life will be less stressful and frustrated and filled with more peace and fulfillment. Miller includes a number of real-life examples of living rhythmically, many from his own experiences. He also includes various charts, worksheets, and life exercises so that readers can apply the book’s message. Your Life in Rhythm makes a compelling case for living in rhythm and is recommended for anyone who recognizes the need to simplify and decrease the hectic pace of life.
—Kevin Ewton with Glenn R. Kreider