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

Posts tagged ‘alone time’

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

Lent and Sabbath

Dear Sabbath Seekers,

ash wednesday6Today is Ash Wednesday marking the beginning of Lent.  Many Christians will wear the mark of ashes on their foreheads today signifying their entrance on the path of Lent.  There will be Christians who will give up some things and others who will take something on.  There will be Christians who will enter into a six-week period of spiritual reflection seeking a deeper commitment to Christ.  And there will be Christians who will begin but get sidetracked along the way to Holy Week because life just gets in the way. 

To be honest with you, I have no idea which group I will end up in by the time Maundy Thursday dawns.  My higher self wants to believe I will go deep and long on this playing field and my realistic self isn’t so optimistic. 

It’s a lot like how I approach Sabbath.  Some weeks I am so on top of my game with Sabbath moments and time that I wonder how I ever let myself fall out of that life-giving rhythm and some weeks my discipline is anything but. 

And yet, I try, we try, and some times I/we succeed because somewhere in our heart of hearts I know, we know, how important these ritualized times of breaking away from the day-to-day habits are.  There is something compelling in the human psyche that draws us to periods of reflection on and awareness of the  deeper mysteries of life, our connection to them and what it means to live with a purpose beyond our own material needs. 

I believe that is part of the God seed planted within our souls that yearns to connect with the source of life, love and light.  And if I can nurture that seed enough over the next six weeks of Lent, I know that the light will grow brighter and warmer each day until the Son rises on Easter morning reminding me again of just how much God loves me.  And I also believe that if I take a detour off the Lenten path of reflection and sacrifice, that my God will still shine brightly and still love me on Easter; however, I will be the one who has cheated myself of six weeks of profound companionship and joy.  Woman praising and enjoying golden sunset

“For in him we live and move and have our being.”  Acts 17.28

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

Home Sabbath

Dear Sabbath Seekers,

I have a confession to make…sometimes I do home church.  Well, more accurately, I do home worship.  What do I mean by that?  Instead of going to an established worship service in a local church, I stay home and hold my own worship within the quiet of my inner sanctuary. 

Some would argue that it is not possible to do that because worship is done collectively and I will give you the point.  spiritual energyAll I know is that sometimes I just need the quiet of my own home, the Bible, a devotional or two, some beautiful music playing in the background, candles burning, and God and I have a cup of coffee together.  It is a very relaxing way to begin my Sabbath. 

Perhaps it is because Sunday’s at church can be rather hectic with announcements, meetings, to do lists to be accomplished, people to see and criticisms to deal with that I need a quiet, non-public kind of worship time.    And it isn’t always but when I know I need solitude with God this is how I do it. 

How do you find quiet time with God in a busy, crazy world – yes, even in the church?  What are the things that you do to still your mind, open your heart and relax your body in the presence of God? 

And here’s a novel thought…what would happen if churches became more like a sanctuary in time for the weary worldly traveler rather than another busy couple of hours in the week? 

Maybe I’m a Quaker at heart.  What do you think?

“Here’s what I want you to do:  Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God.  Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage.  The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.”  Matthew 6.6 The Message

Blessings,

Nancy

Sabbath Sabotage

Dear Sabbath Seekers,

Remember when Paul wrote the good that I know I should do I don’t….

Well, he wasn’t alone.  How come we know the things that will bring us inner peace and calm yet don’t practice it?

Today I got an email from Spirituality and Health listing the top 5 ways to bring about inner calm.  Since I can be sucker for an easy fix I read them hoping to find something in that list of 5 that would grab me with a loud “AHA! That’s what I’ve been missing.”  Instead, the list consisted of five things I have heard about for years…refocusing your senses, deep breathing, guided meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, and floating thoughts down a stream.Relaxation

These suggestions have been around longer than I have been getting stressed.  And then it dawned on me…

Maybe I should be doing them instead of looking for something new and different!

Which raised another thought…why don’t I do them on a regular basis if they are tried and true?  (because in truth I don’t)

Which raised another thought…why don’t I and our very stressed out culture do the things that make for calm instead of  complaining about how busy and stressed out we are?

Deep breathing, silent meditation, muscle relaxation have been shown to induce relaxation and relieve stress for thousands of years in all cultures.

And yet we ignore them because they aren’t new enough for our fast paced minds.

Furthermore, I read in the NY Times yesterday that a recent study showed that people would rather give themselves a mild shock than spend 5 minutes alone with themselves reflecting silently on their lives!

God gave us the gift of a 24 hour rest period to restore and refresh ourselves.

And we ignore the commandment on a regular basis. (be honest, we do)

We know what we should be doing to relax and slow down.  We just don’t want to do them and it seems we prefer pain to downtime with ourselves.

So the question is what do we get out of not relaxing, not slowing down and not taking a 24 hour Sabbath?  Because if there wasn’t a pay off we wouldn’t keep going at this pace.

I’m going to have to think about this question because I know the answer is inside of me. I guess I will have to take those silent minutes to reflect and see what happens.  Perhaps the answers I come up with be more shocking than a mild self-administered shock. 

How about you?

“I do not understand my actions.  For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.”  Romans 7.15

Blessings,

Nancy

 

 

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