For the busy person who wants to stay connected to God throughout the week!

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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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.

 

 

 

A Sabbath Tornado

Dear Sabbath Seekers,

tornadoIt isn’t often that during the opening remarks of a church service, I hear the words “We are under a Tornado watch right now, folks, and we have people watching the news.  They will tell us if we have to move to the basement.”  I can tell you that it was one church announcement I actually listened to and heard!!!

And try as I might to focus on the service, I found myself wondering how all the people would exit the sanctuary, get down the stairs and into the basement in time if a tornado hit.  crowded stariwayYou see I am not from Tornado country.  I come from blizzard country where we either have days of warning and a choice to stay home or it hits fast and we just stay put.  But a tornado is a whole different breed of storm in my book.  They just plain scare me.  (I’m also not used to being in a church service with hundreds of people either). I know they can come out of a thunderstorm at a rapid pace and often there is little time to take cover before the freight train winds blow everything down in their path.  

The distraction of the pastor’s announcement also showed me how quickly fear can interfere with my worship/Sabbath time.  The very God I am worshiping is the God who says over and over (365 times to be exact) “be not afraid”; and yet, I was afraid and I was not worshiping.  I was worrying.  It can also be true when I don’t take Sabbath moments because I am too busy doing other things (which I would worry about if I weren’t doing them) or I let distractions invade my heart, mind and soul instead of giving them over to God and finding the peace that only God can bring.  The connection was not lost on me, tyvm, God.

“Martha, Martha (or Nancy,Nancy)”, Jesus says, “you are worried and distracted by so many things.  Mary has chosen the better course and it will not be taken away from her.”  Sitting in worship, at the feet of Jesus, and being distracted by a potential weather threat put me right in the story with Martha, Mary and Jesus.  And once again I saw myself aligned with Martha rather than Mary.

How many more times will I let my own fears, worries or distractions take the better course be taken from me?

The good news is that the setting of worship won me over and I soon forgot about the weather threat and focused on why I was there.  And it really is true that there is a peace that passes all understanding when my heart, mind and spirit turned toward Jesus.  peaceful-sunset-4527633

This was a good lesson for me not only for the next tornado watch but for the next time I feel too distracted to enter into some Sabbath time with God.

“But there is something that I am looking for: a person plain and simple, reverently responsive to what I say.”  Isaiah 66.2b The Message

Blessings,

Nancy

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

 

 

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