Autumn Trek Pt. 2: The Sabbath Drive

“There is a joy in the journey. There’s a light we can love on the way. There is a wonder and wildness to life, and freedom for those who obey!” (From “Joy In the Journey”, Michael Card)

     I pulled out of the drive at Muddy’s house at 6 A.M. on Friday morning. The sky was still dark. Even as the sun rose, purply mists hung all over the rolling hills as I pushed up the Mohawk trail into Western MA.

    I felt the Spirit pushing me to take the day slow… to see the road…to enjoy the ride. I worried that sight would be socked in by the clouds; But by the time I reached the French King Bridge God had pulled back the veil to feed my soul on His glory.

     One of the lessons I learned more deeply this week is that we humans are made to follow a rhythm. Life is supposed to be a regular pattern of music and rests. Life         

can’t be just sound and fury. Somewhere along the pathway there has to be some stillness, some silence. In fact really good living like really good music is a balance between sound and silence, loud and soft, work and sabbath.

     Now sabbath is a tricky thing. At it’s root it is unplugging, stepping back from the work of your hands and breathing. I’m coming to understand, though, that sabbath is not just about giving ourselves time for  rest and recreation. Sabbath is an absolutely essential part of our work.

    Sometimes labor becomes like a cloud on the mountains, a curtain that covers the forest of our purpose for existence. We get going, start working and before we know it we don’t even remember why we’re doing half the stuff on our plate.  

     Sabbath gives us a chance to pull back the covers so we can see what our work is really producing. By it we are giving the ability to evaluate where we are going, why we are going there, and how effective we’re being on the journey. 

      Joy in the journey depends on being able to see the road. Sabbath gives us the ability to stop and take a look!

Have you given yourself a real break lately?

Retirement…Vacation…Sabbath!

     Yesterday I wrote, “celebration is a necessity not an option.”  That may not seem like much of a lesson to you. But I grew up in a family where the protestant work ethic was king and most celebration was considered frivolous. I highly doubt we would have attended “moxie day”.

     If the truth is told, we probably would have worked “moxie day”. Dad would have cooked for the crowds; Mom would have driven the moxiemobile; My sister and I would have been dressed up in costumes throwing cans of moxie at the cheering crowds.

     I guess there is nothing wrong with that. I love to work and to serve. In fact, growing up as I did I learned that it is truly more blessed to give than to receive.  The satisfaction from a job well done has proven to be one of life’s greatest joys. But admittedly it has made me a little unbalanced when it comes to life and work.

    So last weekend I learned that celebration is not an option for me it is a necessity. But I learned something beyond that. I was reminded that not only is celebration necessary, so is rest. 

     Here in the nation of 24/7 we generally make light of rest. We say things like: “No rest for the weary!”; “I’ll rest when I’m dead!”; or one of my personal favorites “Time to coffee up and get back to it!”

     Yet for a culture that really doesn’t value rest we certainly have a lot terms for it: chilling out, kicking back, retirement, vacation, holiday, respite, nap-snacking, long-weekending, beaching it, hittin’ the hay, taking a break, taking a breather, pacing ourselves,mental health day, sick day… sabbath…. Oh wait! that’s right we don’t actually use the word sabbath in our country anymore do we? Do you find it odd that the biblical word for rest is the only word we don’t use for taking a break?

      Now don’t get me wrong, I like the concept of retirement…and I really like the concept of vacation. Should the church suddenly decide to take away my 28 days I would be really….really….REALLY sad. 😥 Still I have to admit, I really don’t see “vacation” in the Bible. I like it. I just don’t see it.

       I do see sabbath as a concept everywhere in the Bible. I don’t see it in our culture. I like vacation. I like retirement. But they cannot replace sabbath.

I was reminded of this truth as I rested along the rocky coastline of Maine last weekend. God showed me I was there to rest, not to do, to listen not to speak.

     My brother-in-law spoke to his pastor about me before I went. Cliff told him who I was but also told him I was there to rest not to minister. I really appreciated that.

     We were built to work…just not all the time. Our lives require rhythm. We were meant to live according to a theme:  work… then rest…work…then rest. Six…then one…six… then one.

     I’m not religious about sabbath but I am beginning to realize that the pattern cannot be done away with without consequences. The sabbath routine might stand up to some stretching, but only so far before our lives begin to short-circuit. We cannot go 351 days of work then 14 days off and hope to remain healthy.

     We also cannot replace rest with celebration. I discovered as I lounged at Cliff and Andrea’s that I needed to recuperate far more than I needed to celebrate. I needed sabbath more than I needed “Moxie Day”.

    I came away from the weekend feeling I was going to change some of my vacationing routines.

    I am going to break my vacation up into sabbaths for rest. I think I am going to take a few days more frequently rather than a lot of days all at once.

Tell me how do you view sabbath?

Got To…Or Get To?

          “I’ve got to do a bunch of stuff today God and it’s really gettin’ to me!”

      “What have you got to do son?”

     “I’ve got to go to prayer. I’ve got to call like 20 people. I’ve got to finish the editing project my friend sent me. I’ve got to water the gardens. I’ve got to walk the dogs. I’ve got to write to a list of missionaries a mile long. I’ve got to prepare youth group lessons and blogs and I have all this studying You said I had to do.”

     ” Do you like studying son?”

     “Yes God I do.”

     “Do you like preparing lessons and writing blogs son?”

     “It’s one of my favorite things in the whole world.”

     “Son, do you like writing letters to missionaries?”

     “I love your missionaries God. Praying for them and encouraging them is very rewarding.”

    ” I thought you loved gardening and the dogs. That’s why I gave them to you.”

   “Oh I do love them God.”

   “And prayer don’t you love praying?”

   “I do God. It’s like my breath!”

   “Then you haven’t got to do these things, J.  You  get to do them.”

   “You’re right God but there’s so many things on my list. I feel like I can never get all the things done today no matter how much I like them!”

    “Then stop living as if it all has to get done  today. Live like forever is yours son, because it is.”

Which I Gather In a Song

The Apology

Think me not unkind and rude,
That I walk alone in grove and glen;
I go to the god of the wood
To fetch his word to men.

Tax not my sloth that I
Fold my arms beside the brook;
Each cloud that floated in the sky
Writes a letter in my book.

Chide me not, laborious band,
For the idle flowers I brought;
Every aster in my hand
Goes home loaded with a thought.

There was never mystery,
But ’tis figured in the flowers,
Was never secret history,
But birds tell it in the bowers.

One harvest from thy field
Homeward brought the oxen strong;
A second crop thine acres yield,
Which I gather in a song.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

 

      I am learning that my peace in the storm of life is determined in large part by the voice I choose to listen too.

     In this storm God has been singing a sweet song in my ear almost continually. He sings against the darkness of my soul. He takes my breath away with beauty that reminds me that all of life is not dark.

He has made my feet to tread in pleasant places.  But I must step out my front door to hear His song. He sings in the key of green, and red, and pink. His voice smells like roses and lilacs.

I hear Him singing from the high heavens and even from the dark dirt of the forest floor. His voice emanates from the grasses and swells from the branches of the trees.

     So many have wondered how I can hold myself at peace in the storm. It’s because most times I don’t hear the rain. I hear Him and He tells me it will be all right.

He tells me like this

And like this:

And this:

     When I hear the beauty of his song with my eyes, the dark voices that ravage my mind slip for at least a season into the abyss which spawned them.

How do you hear the song of God?

Are You Being Tucked In Pt. 2

      Theophane Venard said, “Be merry, really merry. The life of a true Christian should be a perpetual jubilee, a prelude to the festivals of eternity. “  

     Now, that quote may not mean much to you until you understand the context it was written in. Theophane Venard was a french priest called to West Tonkin Province, China (North Vietnam) in the year 1852. Father Theophane entered the province just in time to see the outlawing of Christianity. While most priests fled to hide in caves and fields Father Venard continued to minister, at first by night but later on more boldly in broad daylight. Eventually he was betrayed, captured and sentenced to death. Through the months of December, January and February 1860-1861 the priest lived in a cage awaiting death. It was at this time he penned the words you have just read along with many other words of encouragement to his fellow priests and his family.

    A few hundred years before him two men, Hendrick Sumer and Jacob Mandel, met a similar fate for proclaiming the gospel in Switzerland. Listen to the testimony concerning them:

” When the brethren learned that their time had come that they should depart out of the world, they rejoiced from the heart, and were glad and of good cheer; they also said that it was a greater joy for them than if they were to go to a marriage; yea, they were of very good cheer, that God had counted them worthy, that they should glorify His name through such a righteous death-which many righteous ones and friends of God had done before them, and thus obtained the heavenly crown.

When they were led forth, they spoke boldly to the people, and exhorted the great multitude that had gathered, that they should repent and turn from their sinful life to God, and then both joined their voices in raising a joyful, sweet, and heartfelt song of praise to the Lord.” (Martyrs Mirror, www.homecomers.org)

     Now, these brothers had joy and peace and comfort in the midst of their trials even before they got their miracle, many would say even though they didn’t get their miracle.

     Why is it that some Christians experience the comfort of God and others do not? Why are some able to stand and rejoice while others live in fear and failure?

     I believe it has something to do with applying three principles from Matthew 11:28-30: “Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” 

    If we are going to be comforted (tucked in so to speak) we need to Come, Carry, And Consider:

1. Jesus said Come to me all who are weary-

     The first thing we need to do is to approach God in our weariness. So many of us when we are tired stop spending time in prayer. Let me ask you this are you weary and heavy laden with a burden of care today? How much time are you spending in prayer? Do you have daily devotions? Are they longer than 5 minutes? When you come to church are you worshipping the Lord or are you just lying in the puddle of your depression? How are you coming to Jesus to get his comfort? Prayer is the spiritual equivalent of going to bed when your tired.

     As a little boy I remember those times when I would get tired but I would fight heading off to bed. Mom would say “It’s time…” and I would fight.      

     “But mom….you always spoil my fun!” I would get crabbier and crabbier.

     So many of us are doing exactly this spiritually. We need comfort but rather than going to the place of comfort in prayer and getting spiritually tucked in we keep working at it ourselves, pressing pressing pressing in the flesh until we blow a gasket and head out to the bar or say something we will regret for years to come.We need to come to Jesus and stay with him in prayer until we are comforted. Let Jesus tuck you in the place of prayer.

More tomorrow…