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Archive for the ‘spirituality’ 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

 

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

Simplicity and Sabbath

Dear Sabbath Seekers,

I have been working on simplifying my space.  That is a nice way of saying I am cleaning out, throwing away and organizing a lot of stuff that has accumulated over the years. 

Big mess in an over stuffed suburban garage.

And in order to make sure I actually stick to this plan (I’ve had good intentions for years without success), I have hired a home organizer and she is holding my feet to the fire.

The more I get rid of the lighter I feel and seeing a once jumbled basement become neat and orderly is a joy beyond words…I know it sounds silly but it is!!  Tomorrow we tackle the storage room upstairs. 

This purging and shedding also coincides with my working through the 7 spiritual disciplines.  The discipline for this month is simplify.  I just love these little God winks.  Trust me I didn’t connect the two until just a few minutes ago. I was so caught up in the process of both that I missed the connection.  Sigh.

As I reflected on the physical and environmental aspect of simplifying I realized that it could be applied to Sabbath as well.  How many times have I said or heard “I can’t take a 24 hour Sabbath because I have too much to do”?  overworked manHaving too much to do is another dimension of too much stuff in my life.  If I simplified my calendar, what would my excuse be for not taking a Sabbath?  If I simplified my life, what things would I pay more attention to?  If I simplified my life, what healing would take place that I am avoiding?  If I simplified my life, which relationships would improve and which ones would be tossed out with the other stuff? 

Perhaps it is not that we are too busy to take a Sabbath but that we keep busy in order to avoid that time of rest, reflection and renewal?  Perhaps.

I’m going to try a friendly experiment and see what happens when I take a 24 Sabbath rest once a week.  Clock in waste paper basketIn doing so I may learn just what things really can be eliminated from my to do list permanently, what things are precious and life-giving and what things have been blocking my own spiritual pathway. 

And I know this is going to be very hard…even harder than throwing out my children’s report cards from 1st and 2nd grade.  I wonder who I can hire to hold my accountable to this decluttering process?

“If people can’t see what God is doing, they stumble all over themselves; but when they attend to what he reveals, they are most blessed.”  Proverbs 29.18 The Message

Blessings,

Nancy

Mini-Sabbaths

Dear Sabbath Seekers,

Life has been uber busy these last two weeks.  We have transitioned from our winter stay in Georgia back to our home in Western New York.  ?????Packing up, driving two days in caravan mode, unpacking two cars, settling in, recovering from the stomach bug not to mention all the things on my calendar that had to be done as soon as I got back including a wedding and preaching the same weekend.  All of which I consciously accepted and for which I was excited.  Nonetheless, I found myself petering out long before any of my tasks were completed.

And I did something totally novel for me.  I stopped and rested!!!exhaustedwoman on bed

I listened to my body, which was pretty adamant, and took a breather.  When I first sat or laid down, I wasn’t sure my back would stop aching or my tiredness would disappear without days of rest.  However, within 20 minutes the spasms were gone and I felt like myself again. 

Time business concept.Twenty minutes!  Then, I was up and about my tasks again until the tiredness tapped me on the shoulder and said “excuse me…time for a break”.  I became obedient to that message.  And guess what?  Everything got done. 

Imagine how much better we would all feel if we took the 24 hour Sabbath rest that God commands us to take? 

Over and over I need to relearn this lesson that rest makes me more productive.  It does not make me lazy.  It also makes me a happier, more creative person who enjoys life so much more.spiritual energy 

How are you doing on listening to God, your body, mind and spirit?  Is resting a part of your routine?  God knew it would bless our lives and when I listen I know it too. 

“Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?” 1 Corinthians 1.20b

Find those mini Sabbaths and work up to the wisdom of a 24 hour Sabbath.

Blessings,

Nancy

Wonders

Dear Sabbath Seekers,

Starfish on ShoreMy two-year old grandson delights in discovery.  Everything fascinates him, sparks his curiosity and attracts his attention.  With each new encounter he lets us know how he feels with a gasp, an ohhh or a giggle.  He puts his little face as close as he can get it to check out a flower or a hinge.  He claps when the music stops no matter where he is – home, car or in a store.  He squeals with delight when he sees his sister, mom, dad or Nana and Papa.  Giving his dog hugs and kisses is a favorite pasttime. Seeing a camera brings a squinched up “cheese” and reviewing pictures keeps him entertained. 

Watching him so present to all that is going on around him is a privilege and he reminds me that the world is full of wonders  that I take for granted or feel I am too sophisticated to ohhh and ahh, gasp or giggle over.  flexible kidsMaybe that is why Jesus said that unless we become like little children we will never see the Kingdom of Heaven.  Heavenly images are all around us.  Delights, wonders and miracles fill our days.  But without the eyes of a child I only see what my jaded, cynical and wounded eyes want to see.  Sabbath was meant to be a day of wonder, gasps and giggles.  Wonder at the story of God and God’s people.  Gasps at the faithfulness of God to save and guide God’s people.  And giggles of joy that we are blessed by knowing this. 

Peacock with Outstretched FeathersWhat would happen if you looked at the world this week through the eyes of a two-year old?  What would you see that you have missed?  How would your attitude change?  Where would you find the wonders in your life?  When would you gasp in delight?  How often would you break out in giggles? 

Join me this week in doing just that.  I am pretty sure that God will delight with us and that our impact on those around us will increase a thousand fold.

“But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy.  Spread your protection over them, that those who love our name may rejoice in you.”  Psalm 5.11

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.

 

 

 

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