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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

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. 

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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 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

Fun in the Son

Dear Sabbath Seekers,

IMG_3111This week I am sharing an excerpt from my book, A Sabbath Journey: and a little child shall lead them which I wrote after I took a sabbatical year to spend with my granddaughter in Georgia. The book is a devotional book based on my experiences with my four-year-old granddaughter who showed me a new way to appreciate Sabbath Moments.  Here is one of them from chapter 6.

Fun in the Son:

Ari’s father put up a swing set for her to play on in the backyard and, oh, how she loves to swing. Each day after school she rushed into the house and out the back door to hit the swings. And trailing behind her is always the same request “Nana, come push me on the swing. Hurry, Nana!” Being the good Nana that I am – I do.

She needed a lift up onto the seat and then a good push to set her flying into the air. “Higher and harder” she would command between giggles as she kicked her legs and pointed her toes trying to reach the sky. Once she had the height she wanted and a rhythm is established she would open up and begin to talk.

It was here on the swing that she would tell me about God. “Nana, did you know that God created the trees? And the clouds? And the animals, even the bugs, ewww?” With a joy that soared like her flight on the swing she was seeing God’s creation all around her in all her innocence and all of its beauty.IMG_1261

I can’t help but think this is what God wanted us to do on the Sabbath. To let our spirits soar and take in all the beauty around us – the beauty of creation that had been placed in our lives, in our hands, and in our care.

After our afternoons on the swing I found myself looking at the trees, the flowers, and even the bugs with a new eye and with great gratitude.IMG_1237

It doesn’t matter if you are an evolutionist or a creationist. You can certainly appreciate the beauty of the earth and the truth that it is a bountiful gift to enjoy fully. Sometimes I just have to agree with the statement that some things are a mystery to be enjoyed and not a problem to be solved. Arianna seemed to know this instinctively.

Spending time in nature always calms my soul and reminds me that I am a mere creature in this marvelous creation.

I remember standing on the rim of the Grand Canyon a few years ago and being overwhelmed at the magnitude of it. It looked just like the many pictures I had seen of it but it wasn’t until I was standing there that I felt it. The Grand Canyon is palpable in its enormity. The words of Psalm 8:3-4 rushed through me. “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you are mindful of him?”

So huge a creation and God cares for me…to let that thought sit in my mind is to be filled with gratitude and awe. I can only imagine that Ari felt that same gratitude and awe as she soared on her swing to look over the treetops and down on the ground where I stood.

Is there a place where you open up to the beauty of God’s creation. It may be more than one place. Visit that place(s) as often as you can this week. What is it that God is saying to you in this place?young mother and her cute daughter swinging on a swing at the beach

“O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise…” ~Psalm 8:1-2b

Blessings,

Nancy

A Sabbath Journey: and a little child shall lead them by Nancy Leport is available on amazon.com and would make a great Mother’s Day gift for a new mom or grandmom.

 

 

 

Easter: The Ultimate Sabbath

Dear Sabbath Seekers,

holy bible

I’ve said it before and I will say it again.  Easter is the ultimate Sabbath.  It is a day we observe as a high Holy Day.  It is a day we remember what God has done for us.  It is a day we rejoice and greet with cheers and Alleluia’s.  It is a day we dress up in new clothes especially purchased for this time. Easter bonnet It is a day we worship.  It is a day we spend with friends and family.  It is a day of special food and intentional table fellowship.  It is a day when we acknowledge that the past is over and the new has begun not just for a week but for a life time.  All the things that a traditional weekly Shabbat does.

Yes, it is the ultimate Sabbath.

May Easter bring you peace, rest and joy and may it remind you that you truly are part of something bigger, more powerful and life-giving than we, as humans, could ever imagine.

Fake Butterflies

“Death swallowed up by triumphant Life!  Who got the last word, oh, Death?  Oh, Death, who’s afraid of you now?”  1 Cor. 15.35 The Message

Blessings to you, Easter People, and Blessed Sabbath,

Nancy

Pressure Valve

Dear Sabbath Seekers,

Have you ever used a pressure cooker?  pressure cooker binatone-4955-95647-1-zoomI am sure some of you have.  For those who haven’t it is a cooking pot that has a pressure gauge on it that you set before you begin cooking in it.  If you don’t set it right or you forget about it, you will soon find the contents of your supper all over the ceiling.  BOOM!

pressured personWell, I had a pressure cooker kind of week.  My emotional, mental and physical contents were under pressure and I knew if I didn’t do something about it soon, I was going to BLOW.

New Year's BangAnd then came Sabbath.  I needed Sabbath. I needed alone time with God.  ALONE.TIME.WITH.GOD.  Fortunately, I realized it.

On this Sabbath I allowed myself to become a human being rather than a human doing who takes little breaks throughout the day and calls it Sabbath.  It was Sabbath of home church.  It was a Sabbath of tea and scripture. 65147-stock-photo-blue-relaxation-dark-style-moody-artIt was a Sabbath of naps and dreams.  It was a Sabbath that let the pressure out slowly and let my contents simmer and then cool perfectly.

The story doesn’t end there.  The reasons I felt like a pressure cooker whose gauge was broken were still there on Monday morning.  I knew I had to address the issues or the pressure was going to build up again.

Because of my Sabbath experience instead of blowing up all over the room and the other person, I was able to have a calm, clear, clean conversation. 

RelaxationGod’s gift of Sabbath truly brings peace and refreshment when I (we) are able to recognize it for what it is. 

Now, if I am only smart enough to remember this the next time the pressure cooker is ready to blow.

“Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.”  Matthew 11.28

Blessings,

Nancy

Snow Day Sabbath

Dear Sabbath Seekers,

Blizzard-buried-cars-SouthBoston-09Feb2013There is nothing like a snow day to slow you down.  With winds gusting to 40 mph and snow falling at over an inch an hour the thought of leaving my home was far from motivating.  And even though I was not looking forward to going out, I needed to.  However, after getting stuck in my parking lot before I even got out of my parking space, I knew I was in for the day.  After getting over my initial panic of being stuck and missing an obligation, I relaxed into what turned out to be a wonderfully peaceful day of Sabbath moments.

Why is it that we need a snow day, a sick day or a car breakdown to give us permission to stop and rest?  On the one hand it is a testament to our work ethic and on the other it is warning that we view ourselves as human doings rather than human beings.  And there are times when we need to be a human being and those times come more frequently than the occasional snowstorm, illness or car repair.

Which is why God gave us a 24 hour “snow day” each week to rest and recoup.

On my snow day, I read, -reading-nook_________________________________I napped, cozy bedI meditated and I journaled about how this unexpected lull in my schedule reminded me that I need to practice what I preach.  And one of the blessings of this day was that I was completely alone.  The time plus the solitude brought me to a place where my inner and outer peace were one.  I don’t know about you but having my insides match my outsides exceeds my skill set on more than one day a week.  This congruency or the feeling of being whole and complete in that peacefulness is another gift of God.  It was God’s shalom.  It was a sense that all will be well because at that moment in time all was well with my soul.

So, I asked myself that evening…why is it that I deny myself this sense of shalom, wholeness, peace and well-being in order to be busy? A question that I bet I will ask over and over.   I imagine my answers will be more of excuses than heartfelt replies and those excuses will make my life less than God had intended and I will have no one to blame but myself.

Glimpsing, experiencing, and tasting a day of Sabbath moments when God’s presence filled all the spaces in my external and internal environments made me hungry for that experience to be part of my regular routine.

7 days a weekAnd every seven days I can feast on it without apology or excuse – snow day or not.

“I set before you this day life and death, blessing and curse, therefore, choose life so that you and your children may live.”  Dt. 30.19

Blessings,

Nancy

Pastrix

Dear Sabbath Seekers,

I have just finished reading Pastrix by Nadia Bolz-Weber.  If you have never heard of Pastor Nadia before, she is the tattooed, irreverent, profound, deeply spiritual, constantly seeking answers to theological questions that most of us are too shy to ask or attempt to answer for ourselves pastor and my new hero.  I want to be like her or at least be a better human being as a pastor and a better pastor as a human being because of her audacity. 

Her book hooked me from the introduction and it was hard to put it down.  She reminded me of why I answered the call of God and she convicted me that I had gotten lazy in my answer. 

And some of you will find her irreverence and audacity heresy.  However, I am proclaiming out loud that I did not.  I found her a breath of fresh air in the midst of spiritual crises, clap trap that passes as gospel and theological wrestling matches.  I found her real. 

She inspired me more than anything I have ever written or read before to maintain and increase my Sabbath moments, to open myself up more to God in my day-to-day life, and to let go of the should’s, platitudes and pat answers that invade my mind when I let down my guard against theological cotton candy and the party line. 

Here is a quote that stopped me in my reading:  “We are tempted to doubt our innate value precisely to the degree that we are insecure about our identity from, and our relationship to, God.” (page 139).

This sentence sums up the contradiction I often feel and hear many times from others.  I/we feel that we cannot be close to God because we are not good enough or we messed up so we avoid hanging out with God and talking to God.  She turns that upside down and says unless we are close to God and realize we are a beloved child of God’s without doing anything on our part to earn it, we will feel insecure about our worth and who we are.

Sabbath is not only God’s gift of rest to us but it is also God’s way of helping us be closer to God developing a strong sense of self in order to know and claim that we are truly a child of God.  The more we claim that, the more the world will be changed by our very presence. Woman praising and enjoying golden sunset

“You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world.”  Mt. 5.14 The Message

Blessings,

Nancy

PS I am a Pastrix too defined by New Wineskins Dictionary.com as 1) a term of insult used by unimaginative sections of the church to define female pastors; 2) Female ecclesiastical superhero: Trinity from The Matrix in a clerical collar; 3) cranky, beautiful, faith of a Sinner and a Saint.

PPS:  Don’t forget to order your copy of my book:  A Sabbath Journey – a little child shall lead them to use as a monthly devotional book that will give you lots of ways to experience Sabbath Moments throughout the year.  It is available through Amazon.com  

Stress and Sabbath

Dear Sabbath Seekers,

iStock_000010338713Medium

Yesterday I heard a sermon that talked about how Sabbath is God’s antidote to stress.  Sabbath is a once a week cleansing of our stress levels if we are obedient in taking one.  He detailed all the things we know all too well about life.  It’s busy.  It’s fast and it is stressful.  No matter who you are, no matter your stage in life, no matter your station in life, no matter your gender…if you are alive, you have stress.  Some of it is good and some of it harms us.  Y’all know that.

However, he turned a phrase that made my ears perk up.  He said something like if we run our stress through a Sabbath we end up with strength.  The image came to me of Sabbath as a giant colander or machine that we could put our stress in one end and wait for the strength to come out the other end.  Or, like going to the hairdresser and saying give me a fresh look and after a little shampoo, color and trim, voila there you are all refreshed and feeling good.fashion-hair-salon-office-for-lady-gentleman-version-top-hair-game-art-work

Taking time on Sabbath to just rest, do nothing and let God refresh us does make us feel stronger the next day.  Mondays after a particularly restful Sunday can find me energized and ready to move into the week.

On other hand, without rest after a busy week my stress simply becomes strain on me, my energy and definitely goes with me into the next week leaving me with far less strength than I need to be productive.

God knew what our bodies, minds and spirit would need after navigating the ups and downs of life each week.  So I wonder why we think we know more than God and ignore that wonderful gift of a Sabbath day’s rest?

My four-year-old granddaughter served as my mentor on learning what Sabbath could be like.  I chronicled my experiences with her in a book I just published called “A Sabbath Journey – a little child shall lead us.”  It is now available on Amazon if you are interested in a monthly devotional book that allows you time to reflect each week and try a new approach to Sabbath taking.  I hope you will check it out and enjoy.

http://www.amazon.com/Sabbath-Journey-little-child-shall/dp/1502926067/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1421689012&sr=1-1&keywords=a+sabbath+journey

Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Matthew 11.28

Blessings,

Nancy

Who is this Wonder?

Dear Sabbath Seekers,

I must admit that I am a bit of a Christmas Eve service snob.  There has to be context, content, and cooperation in every Christmas Eve service I attend…and I have attended many…even led a few myself.  Without those three aspects of the special nature of this particular worship time, I do not feel as if I have been to a service commemorating Christ’s birth. 

And, alas, I didn’t find them in this year’s service that I attended.  More specifically, what I didn’t find was the Christmas story either from Matthew or Luke and it was like missing a dear, old friend who lifts my heat and gives me hope.Nativity-Vector

There were carols, symbols and a short discussion with the children that fleshed out the reason for the service but without that story of Mary, Joseph, the birth, the Shepherds and the Heavenly Host I found the context and content missing.  The scripture to me is a bold reminder of how the incarnation became flesh and dwelt among us in a poor, homeless, unwed couple amid the muck and mud of all that is primal.  It reminds me that God comes in mysterious and unlikely ways and gives me hope this mucky and muddy world we live in. 

And I as I pondered my reaction to this omission, which I am sure didn’t cause anyone else a moment’s angst, I realized that there are many aspects of the Bible that we just don’t hear about very often.  Sabbath being one of them.

Ten CommandmentsWhen was the last time you heard a sermon on the sin of ignoring the fourth commandment?  When was the last time Christians were encouraged to stop and observe a 24 hour rest period because God told us to?  When was the last time that the purpose and power of Sabbath was sung about in a hymn or discussed for 4 weeks at a time?  When was the last time that two major world religions, Judaism and Christianity, issued a joint statement that they agreed upon the need for Sabbath and would be doing everything they could to make it a priority among its followers? When was the last time you heard people arguing over what to call Sabbath – a day of rest vs. a day of catching up on errands? 

Just a few of the thoughts that came to mind as I pondered what happens to me when I don’t have the familiar words read to me to commemorate a special occasion in the Christian church. 

The Lord’s day, Sabbath, Sunday is a special day in the Christian church but we don’t often get upset when it isn’t mentioned, preached about, or used as a reminder of just what a gift that 24 hours of rest was from our God – Emmanuel, God with us. 

Maybe one of the ways we keep the Christmas spirit alive all year is to observe the Sabbath, take Sabbath moments and remember the one whose birth the angels sang about and like Mary, ponder it in our hearts, as we treasure all the gifts of God for the people of God.Christmas Angel

“Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth peace to all on whom his favor rests.” Luke 2.14

Blessings

Nancy

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