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

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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

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

How Silently, How Silently

Dear Sabbath Seekers,

red bellsThe Christmas carols are playing everywhere you go these days except in many churches.  Church-goers complain mightily that the hymns during this time of the year are not Christmas carols and not ones they enjoy singing.  The reason for this, as many a pastor will tell you, is that this is Advent.  We haven’t reached Christmas and its season of celebration yet.  Advent is a time of waiting and quietly reflecting on the light that this world so desperately needs to see.  However, waiting, being quiet and reflecting on what we really need does not suit the bottom line of stores who are eager to begin racking up Christmas sales in October. 

So every store we walk into is blaring Joy to the World or Silent Night while there seems to be anything but around us.  If Santa Claus brings enough toys to put sales in the black and make all the little boys and girls happy, then we will be joyful and finally take a long winter’s rest. 

Or will we?

We know in our heart of hearts that joy doesn’t come in a jolly old elf with a round little belly.  Joy comes in the muck and mud of a homeless, unwed couple tucked away in a dirty barn or cave awaiting the birth of their baby who will come amid blood, sweat and tears.  No wonder we had to pretty it up and add a dash of red, reindeer and romance combined with holiday parties, presents and procrastination.  christmas preparation blog

And exhaustion.

Advent is the antidote to that exhaustion if we are wise enough to embrace it. The carol, “O, Little Town of Bethlehem” reminds us:

          “How silently, how silently the wondrous gift is given!

          So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of his heaven.”

It is in the silence that the gift is given and if we aren’t silent, then how will we know when the gift has arrived.  Advent and Sabbath are both times of stopping to listen for the gift that God wants to impart to us – time to reflect on what is really important – a life in God’s care. 

Advent is almost over and the Christmas celebration will officially begin but there are still 52 Sabbath opportunities every year to stop, rest, reflect and listen for the blessing of heaven that God sends to us. 

May the season of light and love fill your hearts and minds with the power of God’s peace and joy.   iStock_000027543299XSmall

Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah to all who make Sabbath a priority in their lives. 

“But the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him.” Habakkuk 2.20

Blessings,

Nancy       

Sabbath Sharing

Dear Sabbath Seekers,

Accountability can be a difficult thing when you are the only one holding yourself accountable.  It is so easy to explain away, justify or make excuses to myself for why I am not doing what I said I was going to do. 

However, if I tell another person what I am going to do and he or she holds me accountable, those excuses don’t come off my lips so easily.  And, subsequently, I find myself following through with my commitment.

The same can be true for observing the Sabbath or taking Sabbath moments.  If I am the only one who knows that this is my intention, then I can fudge a bit.  However, if I tell another person about my intention or better yet invite that person to observe it with me, then keeping Sabbath becomes far more likely.

What about you?  Are you more apt to do something when you are accountable to another person? 

So often, I hear the longing in people’s excuses when they say they really want to take a Sabbath or enjoy a Sabbath moment but just can’t seem to hold themselves to it. Hammock There is an ache, a hunger and a deep need for this type of rest.  And yet we just can’t seem to make it happen or give ourselves permission to participate in this life-giving respite. 

Why not enlist a Sabbath partner to explore ways to observe the commandment to rest and refresh yourself?   The Sabbath was not meant to be a solitary activity.  It was a communal time of worship, fellowship, food and fun where no one worked and every one rested.

Attending church may fulfill this for you but in my experience church can be an hour wedged between work, committee meetings and chores.  If that is how your Sundays must be, then find a time to set aside for Sabbath rest with a friend or friends and reclaim the true essence of a time of renewal.

We were not made for Sabbath, remember, Sabbath was made for us.  It was made for our health, well-being and balance.  As a great scholar once said, “it is not we that keep the Sabbath but the Sabbath that keeps us.”

Running and Carefree

“These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go with the multitude, leading the procession to the house of God, with shouts of joy and thanksgiving among the festive throng.”  Psalm 42. 4

Blessings,

Nancy

Down Time Needed

Dear Sabbath Seekers,

For the next two weeks we will be living out of suitcases suitcaseas we begin our transition from Georgia back to New York.  Having moved out of our Woodstock apartment on Saturday we are now staying with my daughter for a week.  Then the week before we hit the road heading north we will be house sitting for some friends here in Woodstock. 

As grateful as I am for these accommodations and I am very grateful, it can be hard for me to be out of my own space and normal routine.  And this morning I found myself craving some alone time to just catch up on some routine things and then just be.  

Maybe that is why God was so adamant about a Sabbath rest.  No matter where the Hebrews were – wandering in the desert, living in the Promised Land, or in exile – they were to take a Sabbath rest.  They were to stop what they had been doing all week and catch their breath, reconnect with each other, God and their inner essence.  It was downtime with a purpose and the purpose was to restore a right rhythm to life in order to face the next week. 

Oconee Station FallsThis downtime reminded them to whom they belonged and with whom they walked.  It reminded them of how beautiful and bountiful creation was.  It reminded them that the body needs rest in order to be busy.  It reminded them of how sweet life can be when you are being refreshed by friends, family and faith.  It reminded them of how much God loved them.

So I took my downtime Sabbath rest this morning.  I remembered and it was good.  My equilibrium has been restored and my priorities are back in their proper perspective. 

How about you?  Do you need some downtime? 

“Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous laws.”  Psalm 119:164

Blessings,

Nancy

 

 

 

Are You Like Jacob?

Dear Sabbath Seekers,

Have you taken one of those Facebook quizzes?  You know what a I mean…”What kind of house should you live in?” (cottage) or “What time of day are you?” (sunrise) or “What do people love about you?”(smile).    I have.  And often I am surprised at how accurate they are and don’t ask me how the questions I answer come up with such spot on descriptions.   online survey

However, there was one I took…”What biblical character are you most like?”  No matter how many times I retook it and checked female for my gender, it came up Jacob!  Jacob?   What in the world went wrong with this little quiz result?  I am not a trickster or am I?  I am definitely not patient  enough to wait seven years for what I want or am I?  I am pretty sure my descendants don’t spread to the ends of the earth or will they? 

The one characteristic I could definitely relate to was the one where Jacob wrestled with God.  I have certainly done my share of wrestling with God trying to get my way, demanding a blessing, wanting to know where God was in my life.  Accurate there.   And one of the areas where I wrestle with God over and over is not taking the time for a full Sabbath rest. 

??????????????????????????????I can do hand to hand combat with God’s fourth commandment and justify why I cannot possibly obey it.  And here is where I saw the connection to Jacob most clearly.  When I do wrestle with God over this command, I end up with a wound…something goes out on me.  My spirit is wrenched when I do not let myself surrender to God’s power in giving us a Sabbath commandment.

How about you?  Are you like Jacob wrestling with God over things that God really wants to give you for your own good?

Jacob’s wrestling match ended with Jacob’s ability to hang in there in the match but it also resulted in a life long injury.  Each Sabbath we wrestle with God over and prevail also results in a life long injury to our bodies, hearts and minds. 

“And God spoke to Israel in a vision at night and said, “Jacob! Jacob!”

“Here I am,” he replied.  Genesis 46.2Woman praising and enjoying golden sunset

Blessings,

Nancy

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