Journey to the Sabbath

I decided to use this space to write only when I felt I had something worth sharing, which obviously, has become less and less often as time passes. However, I do want to share with you about some lessons I’ve been learning over the months on the Sabbath.

We have some interesting ideas on the Sabbath and what it means. I know this, because I’ve asked a ridiculous number of people their thoughts on it, and all of the ideas are quite different to one another. But the overarching themes seem to be 1) Sabbath means church day. 2) Sabbath was for the Jews 3) Sabbath seems to be the 90’s outlook on Heaven. Lots of quiet and holiness and choirs singing and boredom. In fact, though no one would dare use the word, holy=boring to many.

But the more I read on the Sabbath for theology classes and papers that were due, the more my heart was stirred to lean into it. Then, our church hosted an amazing conference back a couple of months ago called Dwell that spoke on dwelling with God in several ways, and one of the ways was through the spiritual disciplines. If you’re anything like me, you may be like, “what are those?” and “they don’t sound fun.” ūüėČ ¬†I had never heard that term before classes and Dwell, but spiritual disciplines simply mean habits that we live to draw closer to God, several or all of which you already live out. There’s a list of these disciplines and the lists seem to change in minor ways depending on who has written it, but the gist of it goes prayer, worship, serving, Scripture reading, solitude/silence, Sabbath, fasting, giving, meditation, and confession, in no particular order of importance.

I want to share with you what I’ve learned about the Sabbath, about what it is and why it’s still in that list of disciples even this side of the cross. But first, let me share why¬†our family has started the change into observing a Sabbath day with freedom in Christ.

Yes, rest sounds lovely and we could all use a good dose of it every week, but the restfulness we receive from the Sabbath is really just a byproduct of the real reason we observe it. The Sabbath first and foremost was set to be a reminder. God created the world, then rested on the seventh day and told people from then on out to follow his modeling. Work six days, rest the seventh. Why? Because we tend to overdue it? maybe. Because we need to rest and get ready for the next week? maybe.

But God has a really amazing habit of giving us good gifts along with¬†a way to remember him and his provision. He established many festivals and celebrations for his people to remember his provisions like rain and a good harvest, or to remember major milestones of his provision, like freedom from Egyptian slavery. So with the Sabbath, he gave rest and refreshment to remember that he created the universe. He did. Not me. Not us. He lets us rest so that we understand we aren’t God.

It sounds easy and nice, right? Relax and remember he’s the One in control? yep, sounds like a good day to me. except, no one hardly does it. We work and work, then we sit down to rest and maybe read a book only for a laundry basket of clothes to catch our eye. I knew it was hard for me to sit still and relax, but I assumed that was just part of the mom in me, but then something caught my attention a couple of months back. Jennie Allen posted a list on facebook yesterday from A.W. Tozer of Rules of Self Discovery. I actually go through this list several times a year, because introspection is oddly fun to me. But when I went through the questions back in February, I felt like I was looking into a mirror and seeing for the first time the heart behind my busyness. Here were several of my answers a few months back when this journey to the Sabbath began.

What we want most: to learn. quiet/order

I enjoy reading and learning. I love my school work and growing in my understanding of what God has revealed of himself. So there’s that desire, but I also want order. I struggled to find the exact words without sounding petty, but honestly, I want a picked up house, organized meals, calm and happy children, a mowed yard, my car to be clean inside, and on and on. I don’t need perfection, and when everything goes crazy, I roll with it. But I was unaware of how much of my desires revolve around order. I basically want my life to look the way I think it looks best.

What we think about most: theology (it’s my major so it’s currently my life) but also, more order.

I was not surprised by the theology part, I often wait eagerly for someone who actually wants¬†to chat about justification or theories on the Tree of Life. But, again, I was pretty unaware of the overarching theme of my desires, but what do I spend a lot of my thought life on? I put a lot of thought into planning, organizing, reworking any issues. I use planners, to-do lists, and pinterest to rework my life over and over in an effort to make it flow more smoothly, because….I want order. If there is an behavioral issue with one of my kiddos, I will think and think, obsess, talk to those I respect, and whatever else trying to help correct the issues before laying it before God’s throne and stepping back. If our schedule has issues and we just aren’t making it somewhere on time, or we keep running out of this product repeatedly, or anything that may throw a kink in my life running the way I desire it to run.

How we use our money: food! and on things my kids really don’t need, sigh. but also? controlling chaos

yes, I totally spend my extra money on yummy food and cutesy things for my kids, and I’m totally trying to stop the excessiveness of that. However, I also spend my extra money on tubs, food that is not as healthy but easier and faster, and other random things that when I really stop and think, I’m trying to keep everything running smoother. This question wasn’t incredibly revealing, but I really think that may have more to do with not having unlimited money to spend at The Container Store than my own self-control.

What we do with our leisure time: ? pinterest? reading. 

Because of the current season of life, I struggle to call any of my time “leisure” time. I know that’ll change when I’m not sneaking textbook reading and paper writing into my evenings and all open spaces in my days. However, if I am zoning out and wasting that time, I’m probably planning something or pinteresting ideas on meals or ways to fix some situation, house thing, or whatever.

The company we enjoy: friends, especially those who have a contagious love of Jesus

This one wasn’t that eye opening, except that it made me really grateful! I really enjoy people, and we’ve been really blessed with our friendships. There are so many that have such a love for Christ that they’re a breath of fresh air to be around them.

Who and what we admire: ironically, I most admire people who submit to God and live a life of dwelling with him!

Despite my obvious life of trying to control things, I really admire those who don’t! Sometimes, it’s what we lack that we admire most in others, so introspection and questions like these are really revealing to ask ourselves!

What we laugh at: Friends (the show, though I have some funny friends too ;)) my kids

This question was the most convicting. Wanna know why? Because it was hard for me to find something I regularly laugh at.¬† ¬†When you’re elbow deep in trying to run the world, you don’t have a lot of extra giggle time, you know what I mean?

 

This list was pretty revealing this year on where my heart was and how little I was trusting and submitting to God. I wanted the job of ruler of my own world, and I spent as much of my desires, thoughts, money, time, and more as I could on keeping a white knuckle grip on my life. Enter: Sabbath.

Do you know what the Sabbath means for a control freak? Sabbath means you have to stop. You have to let it go, be still, and breathe in deeply the knowledge that you can’t do it all and it’s a waste of energy to even try. Peter Scazzero said in his book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, that one thing we¬†must¬†accept is that we will all leave this world with a list of things we never got to do. We will never accomplish all that we wish or even all that we need, because we’re human, fallen, and time is ticking. So, you stop, rest, and enjoy God’s creation once a week, refusing to pick up that laundry basket or try to be the one who holds your life all together. It means submitting to the truth that I am not a special snowflake, and everyone in my life will not dissolve into tears if I’m not there to save the day. On Sabbath, I’m small and weak, but wholly loved. He is huge and all powerful, but waiting for us to let him love us. The strangest thing is that I never realized until the Sabbath that sometimes,¬†not¬†doing something turns out to be the most worshipful thing I can do.

I plan on sharing more of the details of this journey to the Sabbath I have been on, including what that actually looks like in a crazy house with three young children (because it does¬†not¬†look like the silent, rules-oriented day some seem to imagine), and I hope you’ll follow along and give me your own insight into your thoughts on the Sabbath!

A life prepared

In what is, arguably, the busiest season of the year, I find myself in the middle of a time-use overhaul. In the last several months, I found myself painfully overstretched in my time, and somehow even in the leftover moments, I was still floundering with it. I have lamented over the hours flying by to God, to my friends, and my husband, a lot…bless his heart. But no matter how I tried, I felt like I was walking through a life wasted.

Do you ever feel like that? Like your entire body can be present and at work in good, and even meaningful!, things, but your heart and mind are so distracted and absent, that you feel like you missed it? I have sat across from inmates in prison and wasted it. I’ve had coffee with a woman aching from a hard situation in her life and wasted it. I’ve gone on a rare date night with my husband, and yet, wasted it. I don’t mean wasted as in, not worth it, I mean wasted because I walked away wishing it had gone different, desperate for another chance to encourage and be there for them. The primary cause of my wasted opportunities¬†was because I wasn’t prepared for it all. I didn’t ready my heart to make the most of my words and their time.

When it comes to regulating something, I am very much like a horse in need of blinders on. I am strong-willed and very much like the dog on the movie Up who is always snapping back to thoughts of squirrels, no matter what important moment is happening. So, I’ve gotten a bit drastic in my time management lately, and asking my husband to hold me accountable to my attempts to form new habits.

It may seem like an overhaul is drastic especially this time of the year, but sometimes drastic is what is needed. At least when you’re as hard headed as me, it is. But why SO rigid on my time and determined in my efforts? Because reading through the story of Jesus’ birth, there are two words my eyes rest upon. I stare at them, willing them to be untrue but seeing myself in them despite my desires: no room.

I am the innkeeper.

I talk a big talk as the season approaches, and I have such desires of where my  heart focus will be, but once Christmas is upon us, I look around and realize that my time and choices said there was no room for Him. No extra room, at least. No room for His birth. No room for the prophesies leading up to that moment. No room in my heart to look through all the Christmas glimmer to see Him standing there on the other side of it, looking at me with calm, patient eyes, willing me to  drop it all and walk away with Him for a moment.

He has gone ahead of us and is busy preparing a place for us, and yet, I don’t do the same so often for those He has placed in my life. I live out a life that¬†believes¬†the lie that there’s no room. No room in my time, no room in my head, no room in my heart, my home, my budget….

And to be honest? I’m pretty sick and tired of the lies. Because when I step outside of it a minute, I see the truth. But inside of it? As hard as I try, and as much as I care, I find myself rushing and rushing to check off lists and squeeze things in. I want to spend time with people, but often I feel like they need me as if I’m what stands between them and collapse. But I am no savior and I have no healing powers.

But, there is something I do have to offer up with open palms: a heart prepared. A heart that has readied for time with others so I can sit across from them over coffee, dinner, or the ever-watching gaze of a guard and listen instead talk. I can look into their eyes and know that the only One who can save them is One who was born and placed in a manger, but grew into a man and changed the entire world. I can remind them of His promises and love for them, and that will be so much more than enough.

I have a great desire to leave the presence of others almost bursting with all the words unsaid, so that I may pour them out to Him instead. I want to ask questions that cause true reflection and help me to know them. I want to walk away empty, because I have filled them up. But what I have found, is that the catalyst for all of that starts way back down the line in time before that moment. It can only happen when I have been so intentional with my time and gifts, that I may not be great and as boastworthy as an inn on a dark night, but I am as welcoming and warm as a stable.

Normally, this is a New Year’s sort of thing, but the people in my life are there now. Max Lucado says that you change your¬†life¬†when you change your¬†heart, and that is so, so badly what I want for Christmas. So Merry Christmas, and may your gatherings this year be full of the light and warmth of a stable, even if they aren’t as done up and fancy as an inn.

What are you close to dropping your arms on?

 

Yesterday morning while sitting in church, we sang the song Lion and the Lamb. (Here’s a link to my favorite version of it if you haven’t heard it yet and want to know what I’m even talking about) The lyrics are beautiful, and the part that jumped out most to me in that particular worship was, “Our God is the lion, the lion of Judah, He’s roaring with power, and fighting our battles.” Especially that last part, fighting our battles…

As we sang through it and my mind was rolling that line over and over in my head. I imagined God fighting my battles and thinking of what that looks like, on my part and His both. We know that God will fight for us, but we also know He is often waiting for us to recognize our need and request that help too. And yet, we often don’t turn to Him or fail to stay consistent in our prayers. Also? if you’re like me, you may often fail to even recognize your struggle or hurt or worry as a battle. You may imagine battles as “big” issues other people deal with. I mean, look how blessed you are, what right do you have to act like this issue is some big¬†battle¬†and you’re in need of some giant victory and rescue?? …but..aren’t you? aren’t I?

So as I was mulling this over, one visual stuck out to me the most. It’s a story God included in His word from Exodus 17.

Then Amalek came and fought with Israel at Rephidim.¬†So Moses said to Joshua, ‚ÄúChoose for us men, and go out and fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.‚ÄĚ So Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought with Amalek, while Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed, and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed. But Moses’ hands grew weary, so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it, while Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side. So his hands were steady until the going down of the sun.¬†And Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the sword.

moses_aaron_hur-300x262

The image of Moses with hands held high in surrender to God is what I kept seeing. Moses knew this battle was up to God, but in something as small as his aching, tired arms lowering, the battle would fall. This wasn’t because there was power in Moses arms, it was because God wanted Moses and everyone else to remember who was really fighting that battle, and that their dependence and surrender to Him was of utmost importance.

Then you have Aaron and Hurr beside him. First, they put a rock under him so he could sit down. Then, they held up his arms until the battle was won. I love it. I love it so much. You know they got tired too. Have you ever had to hold your arms above your head for any length of time? Try it. It’s no picnic. I have painted ceilings and it’s horrible work…and that’s with lots of rest breaks because I’m a total wimp!

They didn’t have to be the ones. They could have taken turns. They could have called on someone else. They could have brought up an entire tribe to take turns! But they didn’t. It was their job and he was their friend.

I was thinking of all of this, and thinking of a raging battle in my own heart lately. I thought of how I have tried fighting the battle on my own so often through “fixing” things here and there. I’m a tweaker. If this isn’t working, I’ll tweak something and try that, and so on and so on. I have taken this battle to the Lord, sure, but then I always put my arms back down and start trying it on my own again because the Lord was giving me a battle to watch Him win and not an instant victory. And then, I thought of how I have kept this battle to myself, when I have so many people in my life who would run up that hill and help. Even more,¬†I have one or two who are my Aaron and Hurr, and I am theirs. They would gladly place a solid rock beneath me and stand with me until I could no longer stand alone. They would hold up my arms in a battle when I am hurting, and tired, and hopeless, and ready to give it all up.

What is your battle? What are you ready to drop your arms to, or maybe you already have? What do you need to take before the Lord in prayer day after day, and you know that you can’t do it alone? and who is it for you? Who are those one or two people, not a whole tribe, who will come together with you and give you a solid rock foundation, lifting their arms with you and helping to support you throughout this battle until you see victory at the end?

This morning before my kids were even up, I was on the phone with a friend, pouring out what God had shown me through that song. I told her my battle and asked her to pray, but first, I asked her what her own battle was and listened with completely open ears and heart as she cried and shared her own heart with me. We can hold up each other’s arms! We only have to take the first step in sharing our hearts <3

Christmas communion

It seems the closer Christmas draws near, the more distracted I can become from the real point of it all. You too? Schedules seem to squeeze out each opportunity to bask in the grace of an infant child come to save us all. Honestly, sometimes it’s hard for me to even connect with that. How can it be that the tiny babe we see in the nativity scenes would be the one to die a man? He was innocent at death, but in a manger? Swaddled in cloth and laying next to His mother? He is even more so the image of innocence.

...we swallowed hope down, and let it spill back out of our hearts...

the beauty and heaviness of a Christmas Communion

Yesterday, this truth hit me harder than usual while at church. We began a new sermon series called Coming Soon, and yesterday’s sermon was all about the lead up in the Old Testament to Jesus’ birth and death. We sang Christmas songs about the birth of our Lord and ended it with a song about a rugged cross. And then, we took communion. Communion with the image fresh in our minds of a sweet baby boy.

I walked to the table and could barely look the man in the eye as he quietly spoke of body and blood as I took my portion. Then, I sat huddled next to my husband back at our small table toward the back of the dark room. The line to get cup and bread stretched right in front of our table…right against it. And as people stood right in front of me, I wished to sink under the table. I bowed my head with my tiny plastic cup of juice and piece of cracker in my hands. How could I? How could I take this knowing such innocence was poured out for me? I twirled the cracker in my fingers nervously and soaked the table in the tears that wouldn’t stop flowing. It was my sin that put him there. If everyone in the entire world had managed to live victoriously over sin, my sins would still be enough to nail him to a cross….and he would have still given his life for me, because that’s the kind of God we serve.

I finally drank and ate, but the crackers felt stuck in my teeth and throat. As the minutes passed, the silence in the room faded, and I looked up to see the people of my church. They crossed rows to greet and hug. I saw smiles and slaps on the back with laughter. And for one moment, I thought, “how do we jump from such heaviness to laughter so quickly?” Then, I remembered that the Hebrew word for “glory” actually comes from the word meaning “to be heavy.” This heaviness is the only way that laughter happens. His Glory is what brings our joy. We had just listened to a pastor speak on hope, and then we swallowed hope down and let it spill back out of our hearts.

I walked out watching the faces of so many. I saw smiles and tears, laughter and loving hugs in sadness. A room full of broken people who are brokenly desperate for that hope so painfully offered up to us. And as we walked out, we passed a beautiful nativity scene, and I looked again at that baby and thought on a life without His birth. What would even be the point? What would even be the point of laughter and grief and finances…even presents and decorations without Him? What would be the point of Christmas if there were no hope for us all? If this was all we had?

We went home to bake cookies and watch Christmas movies, all the while, the hope of Jesus swam through my mind and heart. What about you? Where does your hope lie this Christmas?

When you’re hurting on Thanksgiving

It’s the week of Thanksgiving! Are you ready? I wish I was, but there’s a lot to do and a heart to prepare. It’s been less than a week since we laid my dad to rest, and we’ve decided to spend this Thanksgiving at home. Sometimes, grief needs to be cocooned and cradled, and for me, that looks like being home. Honestly, it’s just too soon for me to bear going “home” for the holiday and not taking an apple pie or homemade bread to my dad’s, particularly when I FINALLY remembered that he loved apple pie and hated pumpkin pie. I confused it so many times and would always either take a pumpkin, or have to take both refusing to admit to him before that I had forgotten again. haha

ive

But, Thanksgiving will be a bit rough around the edges this year. I get to play hostess for the first time ever, which is something I will love to do the first year in our new home, but there will be an ache always conscious that someone is missing. But, last year, I learned something I found interesting, but this year is vital to my heart for Thanksgiving. I had been reading through the Bible, so I had passed on through Genesis and Exodus. I was aware of all the laws and requirements for worship for the Israelites, having just read through them again. Then, I ran across this:

With the sacrifice of his peace offerings for thanksgiving, he shall present his offering with cakes of leavened bread. Leviticus 7:13

Now, if you hadn’t just read through Exodus, that verse may not seem all that important to you. But, it is extremely important and all because of one word: leavened. The verse before that says that they would also need to bring unleavened bread (the pure and good), but then here we see for the first time that He was also requiring leaven this time. Leaven meant yeast, and yeast was strictly forbidden in any offerings made to the Lord with fire. In fact, He was so serious about the presence of yeast, that He insisted they throw out ALL yeast before celebration of the passover each year and not even have it in their homes. ummm….do you have any idea how difficult it would have been to get that yeast back? You had to grow yeast from yeast to have yeast….and you’re in the desert…and no one is supposed to have it. But, each year, they had to throw it out. Either, someone wasn’t all that honest about throwing ALL their yeast away, or they were going to great lengths for their bread. But, yeast bread vs crackers?

So, why was God anti-yeast? Because it was symbolic. Leaven symbolized sin or evil in the world. It’s deceit and hurt and pain and everything God doesn’t want for us. It’s cancer and divorce and yelling at loved ones in rage. And in the offerings, like the sin and other offerings, He required it out. Drop your issues, leave them out, repent, and come to me.

But for thanksgiving? He said, bring them in.

Don’t try to fix them. Don’t wash your tear streaked face and dust yourself off first. Bring it here. Because if you can only be grateful for the good, you’re cheating yourself in knowing Him more. Being thankful doesn’t mean you’ve got it all together. Being thankful means that sometimes, you hold it broken. You come before Him with your pain, and your loss, and your sin, and your fear, and you say, “You are still God. You are still good. and I will still follow you, in the harvest and in the drought.”

This Thanksgiving instead of styling our tables perfectly and putting on our masks so that we look like we aren’t broken this year in front of others (and our Lord), let’s just go to Him like we are, either with a harvest of happiness and blessing or with our arms cradling our broken hearts. It’s hard, oh my word, it’s hard. And I don’t know that I will be able to decide right here to offer my hurt with my blessings, but I can spend my week offering little bits at a time. But there is a reason God required it. He knows that we need to know He is gracious through it all. He is walking with us through it all. And through it all, He is good. And He has promised us so much. He’s promised that He does have a plan. He’s promised us that our pain and trials will produce perseverance and faith and so much more. And I want those things. So, I’ll take joy this year in knowing that He loves me and weeps with me and that hurt and pain is not what He wants for us. But, He’ll use that hurt and pain that comes in our fallen world, and transform it into something beautiful. And beauty from ashes may just be what I’m most thankful for this year.