Tag Archives: sabbath

Year of Gratitude, June: Week 4

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.

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Year of Gratitude; June: Week 3

June’s focus for our year of gratitude is Sabbath. Last week I noted I am not always good at taking time off and giving myself a break. I did so last week, but clearing my calendar so I could have more than one day off (after going a couple of weeks without one.)

This week I am on a sermon retreat. I usually try to schedule one each year, but often they get interrupted by funerals and other things. I get some sermon work done, but it never feels like enough.

This week I chose to be part of the Great Plains UMC offerings of a retreat called “A Time Apart.” Pastor Rebecca is offered this as part of the Transition into Ministry program and I decided to tag along. Beginning Sunday evening, it ends this this afternoon.

What a gift this has been! The retreat is being held at The Spiritual Life Center in Bel Aire, north of Wichita. I could have slept at home and driven in and out, but chose to stay. A much better choice as I was up early and walked and walked in the evening and had plenty of quiet and reflective time. At home I have a tendency to be driven by the many things left undone. The space is beautiful. This  morning I saw the moon reflected on the water, one of the many times this small body of water was as smooth as glass:

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I am not sure the moon in the water is all that evident in my picture but it was beautiful The water’s edge is teaming with life: baby turtles, little sun fish and big carp and catfish often nibbling on the moss. Some crawdads and water snakes. Geese honking and swimming, small and large blue heron, standing tall and paying attention to the water.

This retreat, respite from the normal daily tasks of work have been good for my soul. This time has allowed some creativity and energy to be part my long range sermon planning. The time is work, but at different pace, in a seperate place and surrounded by prayer and grace. The chapel where we held Morning and Evening Prayer has amazing accoustics. Perhaps you can imagine what it sounds like when several preachers sing! One of my favorites this week, was a personal favorite, It is Well With My Soul.” 

So today I plan to write a thank you note to the Spiritual Life Center for providing such a beautiful retreat setting. I will say thank you to the retreat leader. I have found myself profoundly grateful the last few days for this gift of time and space.

How do you find time and space for retreat from your normal everyday activities? Where do you find rest for your soul? Is it well with your soul? I pray you find Sabbath this week, where you may encounter the God of grace and love.

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Year of Gratitude: June, Week 2

This month’s focus is on “Sabbath.” For any one who has children or was once a child, June was the beginning of the summer break from school. When I was younger and had kids at home or as kid myself, I so looked forward to summer. Longer days, swimming, picnics in the park, vacations and just a different schedule.

Now, I have no kids at home and while the schedule at church changes, it is not the same. The truth is Sabbath is a gift from God and one that is part of the ten commandments. Of course of the ten there are commands to worship God, to treat other people right (don’t steal, lie, covet or murder,) but the command to take a break is in my opinion pretty profound. Last year in the middle of a sermon series I spoke about Sabbath.

I am terrible at taking time off. I have a litany of excuses as to why I shouldn’t be “lollygagging” around! Yet, God demands we do so. Rest and Sabbath IS good for the soul and necessary for good health. Sabbath is a gift of time that in some ways allows the “soul to catch up with the body.”

I have had a run of days that have been filled to the brim beginning in May. I have had some days off, but recently I haven’t. I cleared my calendar for yesterday (Thursday) and my day off is Friday. I wanted/needed some down time.

My time “off” began with a delightful Wednesday night opening of “Sound of Music” performed by Music Theatre Wichita. Attending with my husband, my sister and a friend, it was a good way to unwind and destress. On Thursday morning, I picked green beans and then we went to the Wichita Art Museum for their exhibitm”Georgia O’Keefe: Art, Style, Image,” and had lunch in the cafe. We visited one of our wonderful indepent bookstores, Watermark and picked up some new reading material. My sister and friend headed out for the rest of their weekend and I ended the evening cooking supper (something that relaxes me) and watching the movie “Mary Poppins Returns.”

I note all this not because my way of relaxing is the same for everyone, but in order to invite people to do the same. If I am to give thanks for Sabbath, then I have to take Sabbath. I need to take a break. So I added a couple of slips to my gratitude jar. Remember those?

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Have you been adding events and moments for which you have given thanks? Remember, in December, we will have a time to pull them out and re-read about our year of gratitude. Today, I am still relaxing, reading and giving thanks for Sabbath time, with my soul, my spouse and my God. This is your invitation and challenge to do the same.

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Vacation For the Soul: Sabbath

I started a new sermon series today “Vacation for the Soul.” As a discipline I have pushed myself back to using the lectionary most Sundays. It connects me ecumenically to other Christians and it encourages me to wrestle with texts I might not always preach if given my own choice.

I also preach series, so I wanted to pay attention to what it means to feed and water the soul if you will this summer. Vacation! Summer time invites long evenings on the deck or porch or on the water. These moments during those long lingering days allow for enjoyment of family and friends.

It dawned on me that the spiritual practices or disciplines that are classic or traditional to our faith are mini vacations for the soul, time spent apart from our everyday life. In music it is the rest or the pause that create space for both the composer and musician to create something deep and moving. In Judeo-Christian history and tradition we call that moment, that pause, that time, Sabbath.

Now I am the first to admit I am terrible at keeping Sabbath. (here is a little secret for those who don’t know or haven’t caught on, I tend to preach to myself and if anyone overhears all the better!) Sunday, obviously is not a day of rest for me, but I claim Friday as my Sabbath. I have Jewish friends that as Friday evening descends, their televisions are unplugged, their phones and tablets are silenced or turned off or turned on to airplane mode. Their computers are turned off as well. They create and eat a meal together and either attend services Friday evening or Saturday morning. They walk, they talk, they read, they play board games with their children. They observe and keep the sabbath as honoring of God.

I actually on occasion turn off my phone, tablet and computer on Friday. More likely, I check my e-mails at least a couple of times, I might not answer them, but I know what is in my inbox. I usually try to avoid checking the news, but I am not always successful. I tend to see how much I can get done on “my day off.” Sabbath? Not usually.

Today in worship we heard again from Deuteronomy 5: “Observe the Sabbath Day and keep it holy.” In my sermon I noted that this was never to be a burden or a punishment but a gift from God. I quoted Abraham Joshua Heschel’s book The Sabbath (it is THE book on sabbath that every other book cites.) In it, he reminds us that in Genesis that God finished his work on the seventh day, in Exodus in six days God made the heavens and the earth. On the seventh God rested, but according to Heschel, creation was not yet finished. On the seventh day God created the Sabbath. “What was created on the seventh day? Tranquility, serenity, peace, and repose.”

Wow, what a gift we need today. Or maybeI need Sabbath peace, tranquility, rest and serenity. “The meaning of the Sabbath is to celebrate time rather than space. Six days a week we live under the tyranny of things of space; on the Sabbath we try to become attuned to holiness in time.” (Heschel)

For the next few weeks the study guide I write will include a spiritual practice each day. This week will focus on Sabbath moments. The study guide is linked above and available each week on our website or through our new church app. We will be gathering for prayer each week in our Chapel on Wednesdays. It will begin at 12:10 and be finished by 12:40. Lead by different people each week, they will invite us into practicing a different spiritual practice that we studied on Sunday.

If you would like to participate in the worship or listen to the sermon the link to Sunday’s service is here .  I believe that God longs for my presence and your presence. God is leaving the door open, the table set, the wine cup poured and misses us so much when we don’t take time to visit, to listen and to be blessed again by love and grace. We are the children of the Divine and we are being invited: “Come home, Come home, I am waiting for you my beloved child, I love you.”

“On the seventh day, You, O Lord, created rest, So that I, made in your image and through your love, might be made whole in the joy and the peace of your Sabbath gift.” (Doris P. Hand-Glock, alive now! July/Aughts 1989)  Amen and Amen.

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Day off

Today is my scheduled “day off.” Has been for most of my ministry. I hesitate to call it sabbath because I am not always very good about actually delighting in the day.

Like many people, my days off consists of doing work that is not paid or not my “job” but needs to be done. There is laundry to done, grocery shopping, picking up, cleaning and other chores.

Today, I went to the YMCA. My husband and I started going in February of last year. During the summer, we didn’t go often because we were often on our bicycles or walking outside. The weather is changing, so this week we have been there four days out of five.

While I was there, I was thinking about all the things I needed to get done. I was tempted to cut short our time there in order to “get things done.” I literally had to “talk” to myself and give myself permission to just be there and enjoy (as much as I can enjoy exercise) my time there and be present to the moment.

I still had things to do today. I went to the grocery store, worked on the fall decorations and cooked dinner. There were many things I didn’t get done.

This evening, though, I cooked dinner, my husband and I watched a movie. It was nice to be doing something other than things that “had to be done.” The purpose of a day off is to live into a different rhythm, to relax and to enjoy the gift of time that God has given. While I certainly do not take time off “well” I continue to remind myself that work is a gift and rest and time off is a gift. When I can take time off and rest, then I have more energy and passion to live out the calling I have been give. When I am rested, I can certainly experience and know that I am, graced to serve.

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Snow Day

I have always loved snow days.  When my children were small, I would be as anxious as they were listening to see if school was canceled.  There was nothing more fun than being home, playing in the snow, baking, making snow ice cream, generally just enjoying the “time out of time” that the weather provided.

Today, this is what it looked like outside my home after I returned home about 12:45.

ImageNow the snow has stopped, but they have promised that the “big snow storm” was still on its way.

I am grateful that I am part of the “non-essential” services.  Tomorrow West Heights UMC will be closed, the schools are closed and I can just be at home with Andrew.  I will do some “work” because of course, Sunday is coming.  The study guide needs to be finished, pictures for the powerpoint and then on Sunday, my office assistant and I will go in to run, fold and finish the work that has to be done for Sunday.

However, I still experience days like these as moment of grace.  Life is so often unrelenting, the calendar drives almost every waking moment and I long for some time that is unclaimed.  I give thanks for those who keep things going: police, fire fighters, emergency personnel, doctors and nurses and all those who take care of those who need health, healing, help and hope.  I pray for those without shelter or food.

I take this time as a gift of grace and of sabbath.  I hope and pray that you can do the same.

I am graced to serve.

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