I am not sure how long it is going to take me to quit writing a 1 and go to a 2 for the year, but in fairness I have been writing a 1 first for ten years. On this day, the first day of January everyone I know is already sick of the best of the year lists and probably are sick of “A new decade” is upon us. No amount of arguing is going to to convince some people that the new decade begins with a “1” not a “0.”
No only have I seen the “best” lists for last year but for the last ten years. I don’t intend to add to them. I am not sure I could if I wanted to. I am fickle when it comes to books and movies and music. I like what I like at the time I like it!
Today, I begin a month long study leave. The 2016 United Methodist Discipline (PP 350.2) allows and encourages a month long study leave every four years. Truth be told, in my experience, I don’t know very many UMC clergy that actually take a leave to study and read and pray. I have only taken one myself and that was 9 years ago. Both this time and the last time it was possible because my Staff Pastor Parish Committee supported and endorsed it AND I had and have capable staffs who cover all the worship and preaching and pastoral care and administrative functions.
I am not good about letting go. I was supposed to have vacation time with family beginning the 27th and mostly I did. There was a funeral that I had helped plan and worked with a woman for several months. She died Christmas Day, so yes, I did that service on December 30, which meant phone calls and texts to make sure everything was ready for the service. On that same day, late afternoon, I removed my church e-mail from my phone and left the church laptop at the church. I knew that if I did not, I would be checking my e-mail regularly, even though I said I would not.
So, it is the first day of January, the first day of 2020 and the first day where I have no responsibilities at the church. When asked what I intended to do for a month I said, “Sleep until I am not tired, Read and read some more and then start sketching out a couple of books that I have been thinking about.” Interestingly enough, I have already started writing one book. I have been reading and actually sleeping. I look forward to feeling rested.
I don’t know what I will get “done” per se, but I am deeply grateful for the time away. Having time to ponder, to pray, to have space to read and wonder and to create is a gift. For all of it, I give thanks.
When it comes to “sabbath” how many ways you can talk about it or practice it? In scripture it says, “Observe the Sabbath Day and keep it holy.” (Deuteronomy 5) Sabbath wasn’t supposed to be a problem or burder, it was to be a joy!
Many people can still remember what it was like when everything was closed on Sundays (the Christian sabbath.) Usually the day was uncomfortable, kids were to stay quiet or play quietly. This was a far cry for the “gift” of Sabbath originally intended.
In antiquity, Judiasm had a holiday or vacation EVERY WEEK! Nobody else did that! Other traditions had rest days, but not nearly as often. The sabbath was to acknowledge God and God’s goodness and mercy. Each week, time was given to share worship, love and joy.
Now even though most people have “days off” they are often spent working, checking e-mail and returning text messages. Time off sounds lovely but kind of crazy.
I think we need not just a “sabbath” one day a week, but sabbath time every day. Moments of peace, of quiet when we are not driven by blinking cursers, or text messages or incoming phone calls or e-mails. Time when we push back from our desks, from the gardens, from the work in front of us and pause and remember that God is our God. That life is more than work and we are blessed with every moment we are given.
So for our gratitude challenge this week, I want you in the next seven days to take a sabbath break every day. Perhaps it is time to take short walk, or sit outside with glass of iced tea, or getting in quiet place and being in the presence of God. I want you to write a thank you note to someone with whom you enjoy spending time, over a meal, exercising, visiting or enjoying a cup of coffee. Those moments alone and with people who matter to us, are bits of sabbath we are given every day. Then spend some time thanking God for time, for Sabbath.
DECEMBER We are now less than two weeks from Christmas day. For many of us, the crush of things to do, places to go and parties and events to attend seem relentless. Where does one find the time to give thanks? Like Straight No Chaser’s song, The Christmas Can- Can, it can feel like a mad dash to get to the end of the season. Other than a quick thank you through a text or e-mail or phone sending a thank you note may feel like one more thing to do in an already ridiculously full calendar.
Yes, indeed, I am going to challenge you to write a thank you note this week. Our focus, will be on the gift of time. This one thing, seems to be the hardest to grasp with our culture overwhelming us with things to do. And there are so many wonderful places to go, performances to attend, special worship services and events in which to participate. Time is precious and a gift in and of itself.
So this weeks challenge is to write one thank note to someone who has given you the gift of time. Maybe they went to coffee or lunch with you, or called you or stopped by and their presence and time spent with you was a special gift. I believe I often overlook the simpliest things because I get too busy, too focused; a simple hug, a “how are you, really?” and the time it takes is a gift beyone measure.
Write one thank note, at least for time shared and given. Then sometime this week offer a gift of time to someone else. Some one you love, someone who you haven’t talked to for a while, or perhaps, just bring a cup of coffee to their desk and see how they are doing. This week, we give thanks for the gift of time.