Posts Tagged With: sabbath

Broken Sabbaths

I don’t know about you, but I have many broken sabbaths under my belt.  I hear about people taking Sunday, or perhaps another day of the week, to rest, spend time with family, and open themselves to God.  A part of me longs for such a day.  However, work intrudes, especially church work – meetings, reports, activities.  Then, by the time the day has ended I look back and wonder what just happened.  Rushing from one activity to another I become lost, unhinged.  Once the evening hits I’m weary, definitely not eager for the work week to begin.  Reflecting on this manic days, several common threads occur to me.

  • My work and I are indispensable.  I must be part of all these activities or things will fall apart.  If I’m not at a meeting, who knows what will happen?  In a similar vein, I have a sense that  I must get all the work on my calendar finished in order for other people’s activities to proceed.  Sometimes this is true. However, the list never really shortens no matter how much I work on Sundays.
  • Poor planning.  Empty days rarely remain such on my calendar.  If someone comes and offers an opportunity, I rarely say no.  With the calendar full of events, I don’t leave time for the care needed for the most important projects and relationships in my life.  To address this problem, Sunday often becomes a day of cleaning up loose ends.  Yet, when I get to Monday, even if I’m a bit ahead with my list, I’m so exhausted that I find it difficult to work effectively.
  • I can live without it.  Doing is more important than being.  Even though I may not voice it, a deep part of me believes that those people who need to take a sabbath are weak.  I, on the other hand, don’t need to rest from work.  So, I come home from church, where I spend time meeting with people, planning activities, and putting chairs in order, and jump into a project.  A nap might be sandwiched in between, but I am proud of the work that is calling me.

Ultimately fear underlies all these other issues. What will I do?  The emptiness of the day scares me.  I should be doing something productive.  Something of worth.  Not wasting time.  It’s easier to set myself up to work on the next project, than to meet this emptiness.  Even relating to people gets dicey.  Meetings and such are well-defined, but just hanging out . . .  What will happen?

Looking at just a few of my reasons for not keeping the Sabbath, it’s clear that it’s not the Sabbath that’s broken.  I am the one slipping into faulty reasoning and comfortable ruts.  In the midst of all this rushing, on the Sabbath and other days, I have a growing sense that I am losing something even more important than getting work accomplished.  The community around me is slowly eroding.

My first response is that I just don’t have time to keep up relationships.  However, Judith Shulevitz in her book, The Sabbath World, contends that the Sabbath actually creates space for community.  This practice allows for the time needed to draw people into relationships.  Without the need to rush around to work and other obligations, people come together – for meals, games, being.  Sounds plausible.  It also speaks to a deep need within my soul.

So, as a first step in keeping the sabbath I will be sitting down with this book.  Anyone want to join in?

Categories: Journey Living | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Attending to Church

I’m getting tired of hearing pastors complain that people put soccer practices, family gatherings, and vacations above church.  Yes, it’s easy to fall into this complaint.  I also do so as I look around the sanctuary on a given Sunday and count up who is missing.  My mind automatically starts to think about ways to get them back.  But then I stop. I realize that I too have fallen into the practice of equating church with what happens on Sunday mornings.  With so many people opting for other activities, I wonder if people are not only being influenced by the larger culture, but also sensing that the church does not know or care about the world outside its doors.

At many churches there is an overwhelming sense that one must be present on Sundays and other events to be an active member and grow as a Christian: keeping the Sabbath means going to church.  Now, it’s not a bad thing to be in Bible studies or worship God corporately, don’t get me wrong.  The Bible encourages us to draw together and praise God, “not neglecting to meet together” (Hebrews 10:25) and Sunday morning activities are one way to do so.  Yet, in the church model that focuses on Sunday morning attendance, only once people enter our doors and become involved in our programs do we have the opportunity for influence.  We can rest on attendance numbers for proof that people are growing closer to Christ.  But are they really?  Are programs really the best way to shape people as Christ followers?  Because so much effort has been exerted in developing services and other programs that will attract people, we’ve forgotten something much more important, but more difficult: relationships.

What if we look at church more as the body of Christ – which it is – and not merely as a body that comes together primarily to keep an institution going?  Yes, some members of the body will serve the church as Sunday School teachers, administrators, and trustees.  But what if being a mother, a janitor, a barista, or a teacher were also regularly promoted as ways of attending church?  In this way, we are attending to church when we are attendant to Christ’s mission in our lives.  This may be during a weekly worship service, but it also can take place where ever we are at a given moment.  As we talk to the cashier at the corner grocer, take a pie to our next door neighbor, attend our child’s soccer game, or skip choir practice in order to attend a friend’s concert.

With this perspective, I don’t feel the need to coerce or convince people to be present at a weekly service.  We can walk together throughout the week learning how God is at work in our lives and how we are in mission in our places throughout the world.  Then, as we become more fully enmeshed in His story, we are drawn to gather with others in more formal worship, allowing God to fill us so that we can return to the world as church throughout the week.  It’s a living, breathing church in mission everywhere, not merely within four walls one hour a week.

How are you attending to church this week?

Categories: Journey Living | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Time Out

Why do we think that we are so important that life won’t go on without us at the helm?  Or maybe it’s just me.  It happens every academic quarter.  I intend to take time to care for myself, to go on retreat, to find space for deeper reflection, but the calendar fills up quickly.  Someone asks for a meeting – I see the day is clear so I put it on the schedule.  Students come up with an idea to visit a museum and I fill in another previously free day.  The opportunity to attend a training workshop arises – and yes, what had been an empty calendar is now completely full.  On the surface it looks good.  I’m getting work done and make needed connections with people.  But it’s not long before this gets out of hand.  My days have little time during which I can reflect as I go from task to task.

Right now I’m tired.  My body and head are weary.  Yet I want to do more, especially connect with people and develop sustainable ministries.  Will a full calendar really make that happen?   I fear having blank spaces.  If one activity doesn’t work out, then I have something to fall back on the next day.  A worship time may not draw many students one week, but a Bible study might, or a dinner, or a field trip.  Eventually it’s numbers that I’m looking at instead of relationships with people. With such a frenetic pace, it’s difficult to engage more deeply in any of the activities.

As I hurry between scheduled events in this full calendar, God is more of a talisman – something that I look to to encourage me in my rush.  Instead, I would rather that he be the grid and the cells of the calendar – providing the very essence of life in a marvelous world of creation.  The end result may not efficient or well planned, but it would be more real and relating.  In such a structure I can step back, wait, talk to students about their lives, encourage them in their callings, and allow God to work.  This is much different than rushing to build a structured week of activities that I hope will attract students.  Though out of the deeper conversations a structure may come.  As it does it will be done within a community instead of the need of one person to be in control.

It is time to allow for this space in my calendar.  To rest and live between events.  To leave one weekend a month unplanned, to not schedule activities back-to-back, to make time to think and plan.  Trusting not so much in my ability to schedule, but in God’s very real presence in the stories that are between the events and the divine appointments throughout a day.

Categories: Campus Ministry, Journey Living | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

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