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Finding Our Sabbath Rhythm

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Guest Post by David Schmidt

As I write this, an early morning fog hugs the surface of Long Lake here in northern Wisconsin.  An occasional loon call and squawk of a blackbird punctures the quiet.  The leaves on the trees, near their peak now, immerse me in a world of vibrant color, forest smells and scenes.

On this particular Sunday morning, the unforced rhythm of Sabbath comes easy.  Creation humbles one to a point of quiet reflection.  The stillness of the water invites me to join in, to be still and quiet too.

But back in the Chicago suburbs where we make our homes, work, and do life with those we love, finding any kind of Sabbath rhythm is much more difficult.  So we do goofy things seeking a Sabbath rhythm.

When I was growing up in the 60’s, (I heard that, you Millennials,) we had one such goofy rhythm in my home.  Saturday nights were straightforward:  baths (no shower in our house) and then at 10pm, the TV show “Gunsmoke” (in black and white, no color TV either.)  But at the end of that show at 11pm, my dad, a pastor, would go to the wall and pull the plug on the TV set.  And it would sit mute until Sunday night at 11, when my dad would often plug it back in to watch the news.  We did that for years, with the only exception being a weekend in November 1963, when President Kennedy was shot.  For my dad, unfolding history was a legitimate exemption.  Unplugging the TV, coupled with the required Sunday afternoon nap, created a rhythm.  It all sounds so quaint now and if my dad were alive today, he would laugh at it all.  But if we could look past the weirdness for a moment, I wonder if there isn’t something to mine from this.

The rhythm of suburbia absolutely creates its own set of beats that conflict with Sabbath rest.  And it’s a little naïve to say in 2014, “Let’s unplug, too!”  Unplugging is easy where I’m sitting in a forest, not so easy in the suburbs.  Soccer games, errands left over from Saturday, homework, Bears, Bulls and Blackhawk games, getting ready for Monday, can all conspire to make unplugging pretty tough to do.

In his book, Death by Suburb, David Goetz says, “The suburbs are all about saying yes to opportunity and the immortality symbols it promises. Its deep current pulls under your good intentions. We must learn to pursue an affair with time itself, to fall in love with a day.”

I think he’s on to something here.  He’s not suggesting that Sabbath is one more thing we have to “practice to DO right.”  He’s hinting at it as a way of BEING in life. 

So what might we consider in our tribe to resolve the conflict between suburbia’s demanding rhythm and a Sabbath rest rhythm?  Two quick thoughts:

  • “Pursue an affair with time itself.”  Translation:  How might we find Sabbath in the days between them?  This is about taking a sacramental view of time.  There’s nothing easy about this.  But even the intentional effort to create a bit of Sabbath rest in a day makes it more likely I will be emotionally present and available in my relationships with God and others.  Maybe that’s what the writers in Scripture were trying to say to us.
  • “Fall in love with a day.”  When was the last time we stepped back to reflect on how our Sabbaths are going?  We can’t be legalists about this. It’s a historic challenge to figure out how to be enriched by a weekly day of rest.  My hunch is that when Saul was killing his thousands and David his ten thousands, they probably kept running swords through their enemies, Shabbat or not, until the rhythm of the battle stopped. For me, I am comfortable gardening, but not cutting my grass. It’s a gift of quiet to my neighbors and me.  Often I start my Sabbath early with coffee, my Bible, journal and a book.  This centering time of disciplined reflection sets the pace for my day.  Intentionality seems to be the key. The unplugging, the letting our limbic systems calm down, the seeking of joy to heal the wounds of trauma in our lives, and allowing the space of this day to do a bit of this important work, seems good to me. But it takes effort.

Goetz also said, “For centuries, the classic spiritual disciplines or practices have enlarged the capacity of ordinary people to engage the Sacred in the ordinary…some days, they seem stupid, quite worthless, just one of the many activities that keep me from God, even. Yet over time, they awaken us to a brave new world that is, ultimately, more satisfying and true to who we are than what we encounter without them.”

There is a brave new world in our Sabbaths to come—to find some of the rest of the north woods right where we live.  May we as a community find the satisfaction that comes from this gift God will keep on giving to us in the weeks and years to come.

God’s Goodness on the Sabbath

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A couple weeks ago, in the midst of my Sabbath day, God caught me totally off guard with a moment.  In this moment, I tasted his goodness in a way that surprised me and delighted me.  I hadn’t planned for it or expected it, but suddenly, there it was.  It rushed over me and reminded me.  Check out this short video….

How have you experienced God’s goodness on the Sabbath?

How has God surprised you?

Grace and blessings,
Kellye

 

Sunday Reflections, October 5, 2014

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Sabbath and Identity

I left our gathering last night wondering: What if God is actually good?  I know this is a strange thing to ponder as a follower of Jesus and someone who has experienced God’s goodness.  But, as much as I believe that God is good, I don’t know that my actions always reflect that belief.  Last night, some things started to come together for me.  The topic of Sabbath is fascinating.  It’s the only one of the Ten Commandments that we would call outdated and old-fashioned.  It’s the only one we carve out as an unnecessary requirement for the modern-day follower of Jesus.  And yet, at the same time, we are almost secretly drawn to Sabbath, kind of like when we dream wistfully about the “old days” when we didn’t have access to the whole world on a device in our pockets or experience life as a Facebook post waiting to happen.  Could there really be something called rest, in which we simply delight in the actual world around us and see in small, quiet moments the everlasting goodness of God?

In his teaching, Steve Carter reminded us of the origin of Sabbath in the creation story when God rested and pronounced what he had created as very good (Gen 1:1-2:3) and the gift of Sabbath in God’s emancipation of the Israelites from their seven-day-a-week, back-breaking, brick-making slavery under Pharaoh (Ex 16).  As Steve shared, by gifting a day of rest to the Israelites, God was reminding them that he was nothing like Pharaoh.  He was not a taskmaster tyrant who would reward them for meeting their brick quota and punish them if they fell behind.  Their identity was not tied to what they could build and how much they could accomplish, but rather to their status as the children of a good and holy God.  The Israelites would only remember this, though, if they remembered to set apart one day, the Sabbath, to rest in the goodness of God.

Download Steve’s message: The Gift of Sabbath

As I listened to Steve’s teaching, I felt an increasing unease.  I continuously walk in slavery to my own “pharaohs,” trading my identity in Christ for my identity in achievement, approval, and activism.  But who am I without these things?  What do I have to show for myself?  What would I talk about at cocktail parties and social gatherings if not the ways in which I have built, created, and designed?  I am afraid to stop and rest because I don’t know what I might find there.  I wonder if God is good enough to love me even if I stopped all my striving.  Could he actually love me just as I am?

Last night, as a community, we held this question in God’s presence: In what way am I working, struggling, and hustling to build an identity other than the one You have given me?  And to prompt our thinking and reflection we considered these questions from Tim Keller’s book Counterfeit Gods:

What do I daydream about?
What do I have nightmares about?
Where do I find my most unyielding emotions?

I filled up a page with a long prayer/random list of fears as I considered these questions.  And this morning, I’m holding this page in God’s presence again, with tears in my eyes, not out of fear, but because I am stunned by his gentle care and goodness.  I want more of it.  I want to remember it, to breathe it, to live in it.

Would you join us this week in continuing to hold this question in God’s presence and see how he might help us identify our “pharaohs,” showcase his goodness, and invite us into the sacred gift of Sabbath?

Also, let’s keep learning and diving deeper.  Some resources we recommend…

(1) Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives, Wayne Muller
(2) Sabbath as Resistance: Learning to Say No to the Culture of Now, Walter Brueggemann
(3) Sabbath Booklet and The Revolutionary Act of Sabbath-Keeping, Pete Scazzero

Last thing: Have you looked at your calendar for October 17 and 18?  We would love for you to join us in practicing Sabbath on one of those days for a 24-hour period, or if you can’t do it for that long, maybe an 8-hour period.  We’ll dive into the practical, nuts-and-bolts questions of Sabbath-keeping this Sunday, October 12!

May you soak in the goodness of God today,
Kellye

Rest

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Rest.  What a wonderful word.  My soul longs for deep rest.  The kind of rest that allows my mind to settle, my eyes to open, my body to still, and laughter to come easily.  The kind of rest where I remember that I am not holding the world together.  The kind of rest where I remember the things that brought me joy when I was six.  The kind of rest where I remember that I am deeply, unconditionally, forever loved and that nothing will separate me from this love.

But I ignore all calls my body, soul, and mind make to get me to stop, breathe, and delight.  Somehow despite my longing for rest, I decide to worry, scroll through high-school friends’ Facebook posts, and be “productive.”  What is this resistance to rest?  Do you suffer from this same resistance?  Is it fear?  Lack of practice?  Pride?

I’m so excited about the next three Sundays as we learn about and practice Sabbath.  As I have been reading and practicing in preparation, I came across the following beautiful passage in a book by Wayne Muller called Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives:

If we forget to rest we will work too hard and forget our more tender mercies, forget those we love, forget our children and our natural wonder.  God says: Please don’t.  It is a waste of a tremendous gift I have given you.  If you knew the value of your life, you would not waste a single breath.  So I give you this commandment: Remember to rest.  This is not a life-style suggestion, but a commandment – as important as not stealing, not murdering, or not lying.  Remember to play and bless and make love and eat with those you love, and take comfort, easy and long, in this gift of sacred rest.

May we learn the gift of sacred rest.

Grace and blessings,

Kellye