The art of cultivating rests


Did you know that every art form has "space." Visual art has "negative" or "white" space. Drama has pregnant pauses. Writing has punctuation. And in music there are rest notes.

Some of the rests are short - some are several measure long. In a choir or symphony or band, musical rests occur for different voices/instruments at different times - allowing the music to soften, to build, to echo, to intermix and harmonize. If the rests are not present, the music would blare in overload at one monotonous volume. The music would be discordant and muddy with a lack of clarity or melody. Tender moments are missed. And dramatic moments are overlooked - lost in a messy, haphazard arrangement of everything blaring all at once.  

And, this is why we have musical rests. They give room for the quiet whispers of a solo instrument or voice - the kind of gentleness that beckons our souls to lean in and listen. The rests allow the various voices or instruments to meld together in powerful ways which summon our feet to tap or our arms to raise. Without musical rests, we would merely have a cacophonous, clanging of kitchen pots and pans - not too unlike Paul's description of really amazing and important acts of ministry and service done without love (1 Cor 13).

Now - what happens when a church, a ministry, your own household or organization has no rests? Perhaps you know all too keenly. If you're in this "rest-less" place personally, or communally, what words would you use to describe it?

Right now, my facebook feed has no rests. Holy Moly! It is impossible to "hear" in the midst of all the shouting! I wonder what we'd all "hear" if facebook crashed worldwide - for even just one day.

 Perhaps you are experiencing the frenzy and clutter and inability to hear your own voice over the voice of all the others that go on and on like a really long sentence without any punctuation in which someone is trying to declare that their way it the right way and they should be listened to and if you want to be heard you'll have to just get louder and then they'll get louder so you'll get louder and then you're just screaming at each other an no one hears a blasted thing. See, rests are a little bit like punctuation. We need them in music. We need them in writing. We need them in the visual arts. We need space. We need rests.

Our world right now doesn't need more noise and voices and volume right now...there is a lot of heat and a lot of words and a lot of clanging going on. We do need clarity, de-cluttering, beauty and focus. And rests are what bring that to the songs we more than ever. And we need your song to be sung...and heard...


  • What are the natural "rests" in your song? What helps you pause, reFresh, refocus?
  • In what ways might you need to add some additional "rest" to your schedule to make life less muddy, frenzied and exhausting?
  • What/Who are the noisy, blaring places right now? Facebook, the evening news, discussions at the dinner table. Take a rest from them. Let the silence declutter your soul.
  • Is there an activity that is making too much noise in your life right now? Perhaps that activity needs to be "at rest" for a while, so that the quieter tones of love can rejuvenate your heart