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Refresh: Embracing a Grace-Paced Life in a World of Endless Demands Paperback – October 31, 2017
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“We live in a culture that constantly demands more of women. Young women are not exempt from this pressure. In fact, this is the time—in our teens and twenties—when we’re just beginning to fall prey to the increasing stress of school, social media, smartphones, relationships, work, and busyness. We’re barely out of childhood and already feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, depressed, drowned, and burned out. That’s why we need the joyful refreshment of the gospel of grace. And that’s exactly what Shona and David Murray deliver in Refresh. They write warmly, empathetically, biblically, and practically. I will be applying the wisdom of this book to my own life and eagerly recommending it to the young women I know!”
—Jaquelle Crowe, lead writer and editor in chief, TheRebelution.com; contributor, The Gospel Coalition; author, This Changes Everything
“I have searched high and low for a book that helps me deal with stress-related illness in a God-honoring way. I have stacks of books that either overspiritualize depression and stress-induced illness, or overmedicalize it. I struggle with balance, and I need help. To the rescue comes Refresh, a book that meets you where you are, preaching neither overspiritualized idealism nor worldly fatalism. Read this book and give it to friends. It will change the way you see God’s providence in your emotional suffering and physical weakness, and it will encourage you on a path of self-care that honors the Lord and enables you to serve your family of God for the long haul.”
—Rosaria Butterfield, former professor of English, Syracuse University; author, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert
“Shona’s transparency and gentle coaching throughout this book provide the perfect context for the encouragement that Refresh will be to many women who have experienced burnout, or are on the verge of burnout. As a counselor and a woman who has experienced burnout, I appreciated the holistic approach to both the causes of burnout and its treatment. The Murrays fully address both body and soul in their book, which will leave you refreshed, renewed, and ready to lead others alongside streams of living water flowing from the Great Shepherd of our souls.”
—Heather Nelson, biblical counselor; author, Unashamed: Healing Our Brokenness and Finding Freedom from Shame
“Burnout and exhaustion are not solely a female issue, but as a woman I can attest to experiencing these very things in recent years. The demands on our time are many and coming from all directions. How will we use our time? How will we find balance? How will we maintain our walk with the Lord in the midst of so much? Shona and David Murray understand these pressures and speak directly to them in this book. Drawing on her own experience of depression and burnout (and experience as a medical doctor), Shona has a winsome and practical approach to the balance and rest we all crave (yet struggle to find). If you are desperate for relief, you will find encouragement in Refresh.”
—Courtney Reissig, author, The Accidental Feminist and Glory in the Ordinary
“Reading Refresh in a bone-weary season of my life was like having a life-giving conversation with a couple of grace-filled friends who have been there themselves and were able to encourage me with practical, biblical wisdom.”
—Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author; Bible teacher; host, Revive Our Hearts
About the Author
David Murray (DMin, Reformation International Theological Seminary) is professor of Old Testament and practical theology at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary and the pastor of Grand Rapids Free Reformed Church. He is also a counselor, a regular speaker at conferences, and the author of Jesus on Every Page.
Shona Murray is a mother of five children and has homeschooled for fifteen years. She is a medical doctor and worked as a family practitioner in Scotland until she moved to the United States with her husband, David.
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The premise of Refresh focuses on evaluating our lives through various lenses such as rest, relaxation, reduction, etc. Each of the ten chapters begins with the letter R and is called a “station” at the Refresh Gym. If you read the introduction, you’ll note that Refresh is a feminized adaption (by Shona, presumably) of of a book that David Murray wrote for men, Reset. I found the gym analogy a bit cheesy and did wonder how many women that imagery would appeal to. That aside, I would recommend the book. It began with Shona’s story, detailing her journey towards burn out. The trajectory introduced by the book argues that most (Christian) women are somewhere on this spectrum: stressed –> anxious –> overwhelmed –> burned out –> sad –> depressed –> suicidal (p. 24). I would agree with that notion; I think in our culture it is tough to not fit into one of those categories. I wasn’t clear if that trajectory was research based or not, because I would perhaps organize the spectrum differently, but for the sake of this review: I don’t think it matters.
Though I did not find the majority of this book to be “new” information, what I did wholeheartedly appreciate was the balance between psychological/medical research, self-help tips and tricks, and Gospel truth throughout this book. This was particularly poignant in discussions of physical and mental health, areas that the church doesn’t often address.
The Bible … guides us to care for both the body and the soul. The apostle Paul presents his theology of the body in 1 Corinthians 6:9–20. He starts by admitting that the human body has been damaged by sin (vv. 9–10). However, that doesn’t mean we just forget the body. No, Paul says Christ’s redemption is not just for the soul but also for the body. It’s a full-body and a full-soul salvation. “The body is . . . for the Lord,” insists Paul, “and the Lord for the body” (v. 13). He made it, saved it, and maintains an eternal interest in it. (p. 68)
One of the aspects of the book that I did not like was the approach to relaxation. There was great conversation about the Sabbath, but otherwise the application of annual vacations and daily personal times was a bit too privileged, specific, and (in my opinion) did not give room for factors such as family preferences, finances, and circumstances that do not allow for this. For instance, staycations were not encouraged because “being home” and “not doing anything” was not restful enough. I love vacations and I love personal time, but I know many people who logistically and financially cannot make things like that work, so the chapter seemed a bit exclusionary.
The number one thing I appreciated about this book was the recurring theme about vocation and work. This is so rare in Christian books written for women! Again, there was some privileged discussion here–a “choice” to work (not reality for all women, I know). Priorities in the workplace, balancing family and ministry and personal faith and work, and also accepting imperfection are all addressed at length. Other chapters addressed friendship, family matters, raising children in the faith, and our own personal relationships with God.
In general, I found Refresh to be thought provoking and helpful, a good analysis of how we can deal with life in our busy culture in a healthy, Christ-centered manner. The book closed with some thoughts for living the grace-paced life. So encouraging!
But God has taught me that, no, the grace-paced life is not only his will but more honoring to him. For me, to pace myself means less of my efforts and more of God’s grace. I have had to learn to fight hard against unbiblical, false guilt and personal expectations. I have learned to look up to God before looking across to people and ask: “What does God want me to do right now?” The key is to grasp that pacing ourselves is biblical, whereas living the fast, frantic life is not. It takes faith to believe that and to follow through with it. To live it is in fact a dying to self—a dying to our self-will, our self-sufficiency, and our self image. Have you understood frantic living versus grace-paced living in that way before? (p. 173-174)
Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Crossway. However, I was not required to write a positive review. The thoughts expressed above are entirely my own. Thanks to Crossway Blog Review Program for the chance to read this great book!
The Murrays speak from experience, and that experience adds a great deal of credibility to their advice and comments regarding the pace of life most of us find ourselves living in these 21st century years. While you might not find anything earth shattering or life changingly new, this book is biblical, practical, easy to read and follow, and helpful for those who are just feeling a bit out of control - which is almost everyone I know.
While I prefer the Reset book's content, much of it is duplicated here and also really good. I encourage you to give this book a read.
I received a Kindle copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts are my own.
One quick note: This book was actually for women. I was not aware of it when I first requested for my review copy from the publishers and from reading the book I learned that David Murray have earlier in the year published Reset: Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Burnout Culture which covered much of the materials in this current work although this current work addressed specific applications towards women. Still as a man who is a husband, a father to my daughters and a brother with sisters I thought this book was helpful to understand and able to minister more to the sisters.
The book consists of ten chapters that the authors called “stations” in the sense of stations in the gym. These ten stations were conveniently alliterated with the letter R: Reality Check, Replay, Rest, Re-Create, Relax, Rethink, Reduce, Refuel, Relate, and Resurrection. Station one begins with an examination of where one is at prior to the book. Here the chapter provides a helpful diagnostic checklists concerning physical, mental, emotional, relational, vocational, moral and spiritual warning signs. After this checklist station one provides a section evaluating the diagnostic data of how wide, how deep and how long has one’s problems have been going on. Station two looks back on one’s life’s changes and is broken down into two parts: Life situation is concerned with what has happened to you and secondly lifestyle which covers what we have a choice about. Among other things this station/chapter gives a good analysis of lifestyle dangers. Station three looks at the subject of sleep. I appreciated the case that the authors argued for the fact that lack of sleep has physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual consequences. For instance the book mentioned a study by University of Loughborough Sleep Research Center which found that women needs twenty more minutes of sleep than men. Station three also provides help for sleep such as knowledge, discipline, routine, media fast, family cooperation, exercise, commitment, faith in God’s promises, etc. Station four looks at the importance of the physical body. Here the medical background of author Shona Murray who was previously a doctor was really helpful. Like station three this station gives informative summary of medical findings. For instance I learned that routinely sitting nine hours a day does terrible things to the body such as increase obesity, diabetes and heart disease while walking two miles a day improves one’s health and reduces the chance of dementia by sixty percent. This station also has practical help and guidelines. Station five is on relaxing and station six is on one’s identity. Station seven is about cutting down on what is not needed by evaluating one’s spiritual, family, vocational, church and social life and seeing what is one’s purpose and plan and “pruning” in light of that. Station eight was titled “Refuel” and I thought this was one of the best chapter in the book with its nuanced discussion of the role of antidepressant medications. This chapter also had a very good discussion about assessing one’s energy fillers and drainers. Station nine is about relationship and five specific relationships are examined: God, husband, children, friends and older women. Finally station eleven is more eschatological with the encouragement of our future with God.
Overall I would recommend this book. I appreciate that this work is biblical and also careful in how the authors handle extrabiblical data while allowing Scripture to still be one’s ultimate authority. It is encouraging, practical and easy to read. Even if you are not a woman this is a book getting for those you love.
NOTE: This book was provided to me free by Crossway and Net Galley without any obligation for a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.