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Archive for the ‘Christianity’ Category

Happy New Year Sabbath

Dear Sabbath Seekers,

Happy-new-year-2015-whatsapp-status

Are you making resolutions?  Or, have you given up? 

I find that I make resolutions on an ongoing basis and still fail to achieve them most of the time.  However, if you are thinking of upping your spiritual game this year, let me give you one of my resolutions.  Don’t force it. 

Too many people set themselves up to fail because they create a resolution that they really don’t want to do, but feel they should.  For example, “in 2016, I will spend 30 minutes a day in prayer and Bible reading” prayingis a great resolution if you like to sit quietly and contemplate.  If you don’t, then, oh boy, it isn’t going to be fun or successful. 

Instead, you may enjoy walking for 30 minutes each day so why not incorporate prayer and contemplation on the walk.  A peripatetic spiritual practice so to speak.  Or, maybe you enjoy the new adult coloring book phenomenon.  Why not incorporate your time with God with the coloring?  1155

The point is our spiritual lives, our time with God, should not be a drudgery to be endured but a festival to be enjoyed. (Someone said that once and I forgot who it was but know it isn’t original to me).  Be creative in finding ways to do your Sabbath moments, times with God or 24 hour Sabbath periods.  Make it something that you draws you in and nearer to God not something that puts distance between you and God. 

Now, that is a resolution that I can and plan to keep!

“As a deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God.”  Psalm 42.1IMG_1878

Blessings,

Nancy

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Advent as Sabbath

Dear Sabbath Seekers,

Now that we are about to begin the third week of Advent it has dawned on me that Advent is in many ways a four-week Sabbath experience.  Or it could be.

Advent is a time of waiting and the word itself means coming.  So it is, for Christians, a time of waiting for the coming of Jesus.  It is a time of preparation where we review our readiness for the arrival of the one who will change the world’s view of everything; and, if we let him, change us. 

Nativity-Vector

It is not necessarily a quiet waiting but rather an active waiting as Parker Palmer calls it and, yes, that active waiting can be quiet.  It can also, however, be a time of activity that requires us to open ourselves up to what it means to be a follower of Jesus.  It may require some extra time with the Bible. It may require some extra time with a spiritual advisor or director.  It may require extra time at church or in prayer or journaling. 

Unfortunately, the kind of activity we do during Advent has more to do with preparing our homes and our trees with the festive trimmings of Christmas. christmas preparation blog An exhausting endeavor for many and one that leaves little time for active reflection and soul-searching. 

(Maybe that is why we get ourselves so crazy busy each Advent season.  It is easier to do the things that exhaust us than it is to look at the things that make us uncomfortable and convict us as  followers of Jesus.  BTW this is also why I think there is so much in conflict in churches.  It detracts us from the real work of being disciples which is far harder than stirring up dissension and we can avoid the whole messy discipleship thing..but I digress)

As with a true Sabbath observance Advent is a time of celebration and remembrance.  We celebrate the joy of the one who we know is coming and we remember just how significant that coming was/is/will be for us. 

I know we are drawing close to the final countdown to Christmas, and I know how busy these final days can be.  However, what if we made an extra effort to prioritize the heart preparation for Christmas during these last two weeks and let ourselves be part of an Advent Sabbath?  What would that look like in your life?  How would this add to your Christmas preparation rather than detract from it?  What would have to change to make it happen?  What might change if you did? 

Christmas Angel

…and all were amazed at what the shepherds told them.  But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”  Luke 2.18-19

Blessings,

Nancy

 

Sabbath Prep

Dear Sabbath Seekers,

726115044I just read an article on Sabbath wisdom that talks about taking steps to make Sabbath time holy time.  It lists a set of rituals done prior to and on Sabbath that elevates the time of Sabbath above ordinary rest to an intentional level of sacred space.

The author, Sara Schley, who has written Secrets of the 7th Day:  How Everyone Can Find Renewal Through the Wisdom and Practices of the Sabbath, lists ways to make preparation for Sabbath that include getting as much off your desk as possible prior to Sabbath but not taking any work home, tidying up the space in which you will spend your time and cooking ahead. 

?????Making sure your physical space actually provides a restful environment can bring you into the ambiance of Sabbath quickly.  Not having to look at a messy living room will calm your mind and you won’t be thinking about how much work you have to do – which could abort your Sabbath rest.  Music, candles, warmth and pleasing aromas help switch your mind from work to rest. spa relax

Once the physical environment has been primed to facilitate a Sabbath feeling, participating in some rituals can set the time apart from ordinary time. Some people offer a blessing of the wine or the food.  Blessing those who are present changes us and those who are blessed as we open ourselves up to seeing one another as beloved creations. 

relaxing-dayWhether you eat, listen to music, engage in conversation or take a nap the intention of every action is to change the tone of the gathering to one that beckons us to a deeper level of attention and awareness.

And, nothing, nothing, nothing is to be done – dishes or clean up.

The transition is complete until it is time to transition back into the every day world of work, hopefully 24 hours later.

Ahh…I’m ready to start my Sabbath right now. 

“As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24.15

Blessings,

Nancy

Soul Cravings

Dear Sabbath Seekers,

Haven’t written much lately because, quite honestly, I was off seeking some Sabbath time whenever I could.  As I thought about the drive behind this very intense time of Sabbath moments, I realized that my soul actually craved the time so fiercely that I had no choice but to listen and respond.

I’m not talking about feeling tired so I took a nap, although I did that too.  I’m nappingnot talking about pausing to read a few good chapters in a book, although I did that too.  No, what I am talking about when I say soul cravings is a visceral, almost indescribable, pull toward quiet or gentleness or solitude.  The pull, the craving, so large, so powerful that it directed my steps before my conscious mind could respond – (read talk me out of it.)

Have you ever felt those soul cravings?    I’m sure I have felt them before and yet this past month they have overruled my task nature so strongly that I have come to see them almost as a supernatural force (read God) compelling me. 

slider #2The results of those quiet times in the midst of busyness, of soft music as I drifted off to nap time, of the feel of a soft breeze on my face as I sought a sanctuary of solitude outside was serenity.  This serenity permeated not only my soul but my mind too.  I was so much more patient.  I laughed more. My stress level decreased a hundred fold.  I found a flow in my day that wasn’t there before these moments. 

What made these moments different from other Sabbath moments I have taken over the years?  I’m not sure.  Perhaps it was the compelling nature of them that went far beyond my usual “I’ll rest on schedule” and caused me to abandon what I was doing to seek the deeper connection with my soul in that moment.   Whatever the reason, I felt the difference and I.do.not.want.to.lose.it. 

I may have just described a unique experience and yet I think not.  We all have soul cravings.  The difference for me this time was my soul was hungry for true Sabbath it took over my body and my mind. 

As the old story of the African tribesmen goes when they were guiding a group of American businessmen on a safari who refused to slow down except for a few hours of sleep each night.  wind up downThe tribesmen refused to budge one morning stating unequivocally that they were sitting still until their souls caught up to their bodies.

My body and soul have been reunited this past month and I pray that I don’t let them get separated ever again.

spiritual energy

“Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46.10

Blessings,

Nancy

An Anagram Sabbath

Dear Sabbath Seekers,

Do you like anagrams?  What is an anagram for silent?  It’s listen. In the book of James we read that we are to be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger.  It is hard to listen without being silent.  Steps to the sun

I must say that in today’s world listen and its anagram silent get lost in the noise out there whether it be on the 24 hour news cycle, Facebook, blogs, or talk radio.  It seems these days we only listen in order to react and quickly get angry.cat th

And as with other biblical passages that we conveniently want to ignore in order to do things our way either by satisfying our ego’s need to be right or our first amendment need to be free to say what we want, this passage from James is counterculture.

Sabbath, too, is counterculture.  Who has time these days to take a 24 hour rest?  We are too busy with all our speaking, doing and trying to get ahead.  And yet, let’s be clear that Sabbath was a way for God to break through our egocentric existence and command us, yes, command, to be quiet and let silence do the heavy lifting for 24 hours.  (BTW I continue to be amazed at the number of Christians who state publicly that don’t like God telling them what to do! ??????????????????????????????They are pretty clear that they know what is better for them than God does…but I digress).

Without Sabbath not only do we never stop but the noise never stops either.  We stay continually off-balance listening for the next news break, comment on Facebook or ad hominem attack on the radio.  There is no time to listen to God, to our souls, to our inner wisdom.  If the world is any indication of what happens when we don’t take Sabbath time, then I say we should start obeying that fourth commandment ASAP!

Why not take James to heart this week – be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger?  Make it a Sabbath commitment to honor God and yourself. balance stones

              “Be still and know that I am God”  Psalm 46.10

Nancy

Life’s Work

Dear Sabbath Seekers,

In my work with churches that are searching for a vision in which to carry out God’s will, I continue to be amazed at how few of them have actually gone to the scriptures for “in-sight.” Bible closed with a chain lock  They seek all kinds of gimmicks, tricks of the trade, and church growth programs to give their church’s the boost they need to attract new people.  When I use scripture to help them formulate a vision, some of the members get rather perturbed that we are ‘wasting’ time reflecting and Clock in waste paper basketpraying rather than planning a to do list. 

And I am not relating this because I feel superior to them or haven’t fallen into the ‘get going now’ mentality in my own spiritual life.  Oh no, I am relating this because this is pretty much how human beings operate when there is work to do.  Shoulder to the grindstone, rolled up sleeves and a clip board are sure signs that something is happening.  Head down in prayer…well, not so much. 

God knew we would need to be told that withdrawing to pray, reflect and rest was a requirement not a suggestion.  And even with a commandment and the example of the prophets and Jesus showing us just what God requires of us, we still think we have a better way of living life and seeking God’s will.work life balanceWhat if keeping Sabbath is God’s way of making sure our lives are full, meaningful and productive?  What if the commandment to keep Sabbath is not only a preparation for each week and a needed rest from our six days of labor but a metaphor for life itself?

In a recent article in the New York Times, Oliver Sacks, professor of Neurology at NYU and upon whom the movie Awakenings was based, wrote about Sabbath keeping.  He recounts his family history in keeping Sabbath. silent, pause or break time hand gesture As a member of an Orthodox Jewish family, paying heed to the call to Sabbath and all that entails was a vital part of his upbringing.  Like many children when they grow up and leave home, however, he strayed from the concept of Sabbath keeping. 

After being reacquainted with his cousin, Robert John Aumann, who was a Nobel prize winner, father and grandfather to 30 children, and an intellectual giant, he became reacquainted with Sabbath keeping.  In an interview, his cousin Robert John spoke about the importance of Sabbath to him, “The observance of Sabbath is extremely beautiful…it is not even a question of improving society – it is about improving the quality of one’s own life.”

Keeping Sabbath allows us to connect to our life force, to restore ourselves to energy levels required to live out the week and to see the beauty all around us.  And more…

Oliver Sacks has cancer and is dying.  He concluded his article by saying “I find my thoughts drifting to the Sabbath, the day of rest, the seventh day of the week, and perhaps the seventh day of one’s life as well, when one can feel that one’s work is done, and one may, in good conscience, rest.” 

Sabbath – A weekly rest and re-connection with God is also a prelude to eternal rest with God when our work here on earth is done.  Sabbath – A beautiful way to prepare ourselves for that final seventh day of rest after the six days of a life’s work are done.

soothing ripples

“…And the peace of God which passes all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4.7

Peace,

Nancy

Sabbath Keeping as Sin?

Dear Sabbath Seekers,

I recently saw a question on a chat board asking if Sabbath keeping was considered a sin for Christians.  After doing a double take and verifying that it said what I thought it said, I paused to consider what could make someone think that.

Did this questioner feel the Old Testament had no authority for Christians? Ten Commandments Then, all the commandments in the Hebrew Scriptures are null and void and I don’t think that has merit.

Did they feel that because Jesus said Sabbath was made for man and not man for Sabbath that somehow it was not necessary? I don’t think Jesus words seem to negate the need for a Sabbath. He is just taking the legalism out of it.

Or, did this person feel that Sunday as the Lord’s Day had co-opted the need for Sabbath keeping?  Perhaps…

Historically at the outset of Christianity, both Saturday, as Sabbath, and Sunday, as the Lord’s Day of Resurrection were observed. Christ is risen Eventually, Christians dropped the Saturday Sabbath and focused on Sunday as the day to worship and rest. 

So perhaps in a literal sense his question has merit.  However, in the spirit of the fourth commandment, the need for rest and God’s giving it to us as a command and a gift still holds true.  The spirit of this law is not about the legalisms that have grown up around the Sabbath such as no reading, playing or enjoying yourself.  The Spirit of this command offers us a life-giving pause, time to rest, reconnect with God and loved ones, be healed of our busyness and to give thanks for the bounty and beauty of life that God has shared with us.  Steps to the sun

I don’t see how that could ever become a sin. 

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”  John 3.16-17

Blessings,

Nancy

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