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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

 

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

Good Intentions

Dear Sabbath Seekers,

My summer so far has been one of good intentions.praying

I had intended to slow down.  I had intended to write and journal more.  I had intended to reflect more.  I had intended to take more sacred time.

And my good intentions were unrealized for the most part.  Instead a spent a great deal of energy decluttering my home, leading workshops and preaching, entertaining family and friends and just being busy to the point of exhaustion.exhaustedwoman on bed

Now all those things I did were great experiences, fun and necessary.  I loved every minute of it.  However, I feel myself craving the down time, the sacred time to reflect, read, journal and write.  And I mean crave…like a pregnant woman craves ice cream and pickles.

So, it is time to regroup and set a plan for August.  No more intentions.  They are too easy to ignore or bypass or justify ignoring or bypassing.  Time for action to make inaction possible.spiritual energyThe lack of sacred time connecting me with God, my soul and spirit and deeper insights then whether or not there is enough food to feed the gang is time that should not be negotiable or reduced by the tyranny of the urgent in the present moment as Steven Covey writes.

It is in this sacred time and space that new possibilities open up and the dis-ease of hurrying from one thing to another turns into renewal and respite.  How can I see what God is calling me to do and where God is leading me if I am constantly crossing things off my to do list ?????and only following the map I choose to get me from point A to point Z in my day?  It doesn’t often occur to me that God may have a different to do list for me and a vastly different territory for me to cover on any given day.

So August is my time to set aside for mulling rather than muddling, be-ing rather than doing, reflecting rather than reacting.  Not every day.  I am self aware enough to know that will never happen but at least once a week – hmmm, maybe like a Sabbath!

Funny, how the most important things in life are the things I need to keep learning.Ten Commandments

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

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.

 

 

 

Spiritual Renewal and Sabbath Keeping

Dear Sabbath Seekers,

In working with a local church on renewal issues, I came across an article written by Lawrence Wilson entitled “7 Ways to Renew Yourself Spiritually.”  In it he lists seven basic spiritual disciplines that Christians have been practicing for centuries.  

They are:  Silence, Solitude, Secrecy, Simplicity, Submission, Service and Sacrifice.  His premise is that modern Christians seek lively worship, great activities and pronounce strong opinions on public morals; yet, we do not act as if we know Jesus very well when it comes to our behavior and attitudes.  

I’ve heard this said often and it usually comes in the form of “church goers are hypocrites.  They profess one thing and do another.” 

According to Wilson, we can move beyond the trap of disconnecting our life from our faith by delving more into these disciplines.  These disciplines help us to stay connected to God throughout the week and allow us the grace and time to reflect on how we can be more like Jesus in our actions.

Keeping Sabbath is a spiritual discipline within submission and simplicity.  In order to keep Sabbath or even to take Sabbath moments we need to submit Ten Commandmentsto the command of God that this is what is required and to simplify enough to have the time and room to enter fully into the presence of God within a Sabbath experience. 

We all know this…in our heads.  The interesting thing is that even though we know it, we don’t do it.  One person from the church I am working with was honest enough to say, “if everyone did this (practice the seven disciplines), we wouldn’t need a renewal process.  We would be acting and not trying to figure this out.  However, I am not very optimistic.  It is difficult not to focus on our own needs and wants.”

Funny thing is what God has created for us in Sabbath keeping meets those very needs and wants – we just are not disciplined enough to realize it.  IMG_1261

“I am the vine and you are the branches.  When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant.  Separated, you can’t produce a thing.”    John 15.5 The Message

Blessings,

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

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

Sabbath Joke

Dear Sabbath Seekers,

Recently my six-year-old granddaughter has taken to carrying around a small New Testament.  She told her mother that it was a really cool and funny book because there were so many jokes in it.  Her mother said that she didn’t think there were jokes in the New Testament to which my granddaughter replied, “Oh, Mom, there must be at least one!”

Well, we may not think of the Bible as a joke book but, yes, my dear sweet granddaughter there are a couple of jokes in there.  And one of them is the fourth commandment.  It isn’t a joke to those of us who take it seriously but to the world it is a joke.

Clock in waste paper basketHow funny and absurd is it to think of taking a 24 hour respite once a week?  Pretty funny according to a world that laughs at such a suggestion and ignores its power and ability to help us see the world through brighter eyes as we lighten up when we set down our weekly and even daily burdens.

The laugh is on the world, though, because they are missing out on one of the best medicines in the world — rest and refreshment.

And when my granddaughter went to bed that night in her prayingbedtime prayers she thanked God for the good day, the fun she had with Momma and her friends.  She also asked God for a good day tomorrow and please to bless her family.  Then she added, “Oh, and God, I hope you have a good day tomorrow too!”

Methinks this little six-year-old is a theologian in the making and has a deeply spiritual heart.  She worries that the world might not be getting all the energy, joy and laughter out of the Bible and wants God to have a good day.

I think God looks down on her and smiles.  God knows she understands that Sabbath is just the ticket for both. 

“A cheerful heart is good medicine but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”  Proverbs 17.22IMG_1058_opt

Happy Sabbath keeping,

Nancy

Care of Your Soul

Dear Sabbath Seekers,

relax

Thomas Moore, author of Care of the Soul, wrote about the need to nurture our soul in big and little ways.  He defines the soul as an experience rather than a thing.  It is what allows us to experience life on a deep and profound level, to connect with God and to navigate the ups and downs of life.

In his writings is an underlying question that begs an answer…how do you care for your soul?  Will Donnelly in a recent blog on this topic asked “how would you use your imagination to truly care for your soul”?  For him the answer was to listen in silence because he had avoided silence for years.  He knew that slowing down and listening in the quiet would bring up things he didn’t want to face.  And it was in the facing of those things that brought his soul nurture and peace.

What is it that your imagination is nudging you to do in order to care for your soul?

I think that we often avoid taking Sabbath time because we have things in our lives we don’t want to deal with.  In keeping busy we can avoid the discomfort.  Or, we think that Sabbath time is unproductive time rather than time to recharge our energy centers and build our stamina back up to face the ups and downs of life.

For several weeks now I have been flat out crazy busy and my soul is suffering from lack of attention. One of the things that my imagination keeps conjuring up for me is a long, cozy day in my favorite chair with a cup of tea and lots of good reading material.  The chair is there.  The tea is in the cupboard and the reading material has been piling up for a while now.  All that is missing is me.65147-stock-photo-blue-relaxation-dark-style-moody-art

This question has moved me to face the need my soul is nudging me toward.

I have just scheduled reading time on my calendar, in ink, for this afternoon.  How about you?

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed.  Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”  Luke 10.41-42

Blessings,

Nancy

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