Sabbath: Choosing to Feast

This week we finish up looking at Sabbath-keeping as I travel on this journey of recalibrating life. The final section of Marva Dawn’s book Keeping the Sabbath Wholly is about choosing to feast. The feasting here is not all about food, instead we seem to be filling up on so much of the goodness of God, feeding on His blessings.

Dawn begins by discussing feeding on the eternal. Preparing for the Sabbath, we ready our hearts to meet our eternal God and we seek Him as we yearn for Him to reveal Himself to us through His Word. Dawn tells us that only “with humility and gratitude can we approach the table of God’s Word to feast there on His eternal love.” Further on she reminds us that only “by His grace has he chosen to reveal himself to us, only by his grace can we understand and believe what his revelation declares.”  We need to come before Him hungering for His truths and revelations seeking to recieve “the manna of His Word.” But we must come in a spirit of rest, ceasing from work, reaching and hungry for Him.

We need to find “spaces of uncluttered silence” in our lives because it is only then that we can attend to the Lord’s voice nudging us forward, or recognizing the peace that He longs to fill us with. Sabbath gives us the perfect space for this.

Recently I found some space for silence, sitting outside on our patio as I took time to enjoy writing in my journal. As I did, I was serenaded by a choir of birds singing loudly in the morning sun. There were so many different sounds, trills and tweets, chirps and cheeps, all together making a beautiful melody. I put my pen down and laid my head back, with my face tilted toward the morning sun, I closed my eyes, and just listened. Oh how sweet it was to hear them praise the Lord. Their song truly did bring my heart peace and I breathed deeply. There I sat feasting on the goodness of my Eternal Creator God.

It is in those times when we are reminded of His promises, His gifts, and His love. We quiet our hearts to  take them in, and in receiving them we thereby find ourselves feasting on the eternal.

Dawn also speaks of feasting on music. I learned to love music from my mom. I grew up in a church with musical liturgies and all the old hymns filled with rich biblical truths. Since then, I moved on to a church that does many more contemporary songs, with beautiful words and melodies, catchy tunes and repetitious phrases, but not as many deep truths.

I hadn’t really missed the old hymns until recently, when I went with Mom to the Sing to Jesus time at her assisted living home. The chaplain led us in a variety of old hymns and shared biblical truths relating to the theme of Lent just prior to Resurrection Sunday. I left there with my heart so full. Phrases from those hymns stayed with me for days, and my heart feasted on them.

Another area we can feast on as we celebrate the Sabbath is that of beauty. Dawn speaks of some special  ways she feasts on beauty, a couple of those being playing her music boxes and savoring the illustrations in various children’s books. She also mentions other possibilities, such as going to a museum, or hiking in a nature park, or just taking time to reflect on the character of God.

Just the other day I went to the grocery store to pick up a sweet treat for my mom and as I walked out I saw colorful displays of blooming garden flowers available for purchase. I stopped right there in the middle of an ordinary day and feasted on the beauty of those flowers.  The ranunculus especially captured my attention. It was not the Sabbath, but yet I enjoyed the Lord’s creation all potted up ready to be brought home. So on the Sabbath, we can take time to take a walk through a garden, or through a woods and see the beauty of God’s creation. Or we can listen to the beauty of children’s laughter at a playground or in our homes.  Or maybe we can enjoy the beauty of the voice of a loved one we haven’t spoken with in a while as we talk with them on the phone.

An obvious area of feasting discussed in this section is that of feasting on food. Dawn suggests saving some favorites to enjoy on the Sabbath. She mentions drinking coffee or tea during the week and saving hot cocoa or a specialty coffee for the Sabbath. Or having your families favorite meal on the Sabbath. It gives all something to look forward to.

Feasting on affection on the Sabbath is the last area I want to highlight. Dawn says,”the intentionality of [the Sabbath] lends itself to a conscious enjoyment of our relationships with and delight in, each other as an outgrowth of our delight in Yahweh.” 

We might take time to enjoy family relationships as we plan for special visits or offering hospitality. Or we may feast on the Lord’s love for us as we choose to be intentional about enjoying the His presence. We can also intentionally enjoy the love and affection of our church community as we attend our weekly worship service. Many times during the week busyness keeps us from really being present with others and showing love or affection. So as we celebrate the Sabbath we can make an effort to give away the love the Lord so generously blesses us with as well as recieve His love from and through others.

We set aside the Sabbath for ceasing, for resting, for embracing, and for feasting. And as we do we are nourished and nurtured, our empty selves are filled to overflowing. We are readied for the coming week. Celebrating the Sabbath is such a blessing, will you choose to set aside some time to celebrate this wondrous gift the Lord has given us?

 

*Photo from Unsplash by Stephanie Crist

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Sabbath: Choosing to Embrace

We have discussed the importance of choosing to cease and to rest as we celebrate the Sabbath. This week we are looking at choosing to embrace.

Dawn discusses a number of different aspects of what we embrace on the Sabbath. She starts with embracing intentionality. In embracing intentionality the emphasis is on the value of taking care of how we do what we do.

When we choose Sabbath-keeping we are choosing to be set apart, deliberately choosing to live our lives in response to God’s graciousness. Our values change, they must, otherwise we would continue choosing to work seven days a week, either at a job or around the house. We would be trusting in our abilities and accomplishments to help us make it through. But in ceasing and resting we see the reality of God’s sovereignty.

We must choose to put Him first, valuing Him above all, and trusting in His love and goodness to meet our needs. We have to stop depending on ourselves and our own resources, and find our all-in-all in the Lord.

Embracing intentionality means living deliberately, learning to be conscious of God’s grace, learning about who God created us to be as His people, and learning how we are to share who He is with others as we bear witness to the world. What choices will really reflect the reality of God’s grace to others? How are our choices leading to the deepening of our relationship with the Lord.

When every day is the same, busy and overwhelming, we often miss the evidence of God’s grace in our days. Keeping the Sabbath gives us a day to embrace the deliberate intentionality of seeing and knowing Him more.

On the Sabbath we can also choose to embrace the values of the Christian community. When we think of values we think of the things we choose as priorities. Our goal as believers is to live to accomplish God’s purposes. This means our priorities are different, or at least they should be different. Unfortunately sometimes they seem indistinguishable.

We can only learn what we as believers should value by looking at what God values. Some of the areas Dawn highlights are those of:

  • “peace-building.”
  • living our lives out of God’s instructions and His authority.
  • choosing to grow in intimacy with other believers as we fellowship together.
  • worship, devotion, and prayer
  • embracing others

We can see each one of these demonstrated in the life of Christ. He is our example as we seek to embrace our Christian community.

Jesus also embraced time instead of space. He didn’t have an agenda, He moved as the Spirit led Him.He wasn’t bound by rules, but rather chose to live out grace and love. He chose to touch lives as he healed, and as He released people from bondage. He looked at individuals and saw their needs and He made Himself available to them. It is too easy for us to get bogged down in “using our time to acquire and accomplish things.” 

Another area of embracing on the Sabbath that Dawn discusses is that of giving instead of requiring. She writes about how society has “turned our major holy days into commercialized holidays, days of ‘gimme’ instead of special times of adoration and worship.”

Even now at Easter we see stores filled with chocolate eggs, marshmallow chicks, furry bunnies, and a rainbow of baskets to collect all of our goodies in. So we get distracted by societies emphasis in getting more when instead as a Christian community we can choose to practice “giving rather than accumulating.” How can you choose to be generous? Who are the needy in your life? Not necessarily needy financially or materially, what about the lonely? Who could you have over for coffee, or stop by to visit? These are all options for ways of embracing giving.

We can choose to touch others lives on the Sabbath also by giving gifts, baking a sweet treat to share, writing a letter, knitting or crocheting something, there are so many possibilities.

Dawn says, “To keep the Sabbath is to focus on the immensity of God’s gifts to us, especially the priceless gift of salvation. We can respond in no other way then to want to give in similar fashion. “Christ’s love compels us…” (2 Cor. 5:14a).

We may also choose to make the Sabbath a day of counting our many God-given blessings; taking time to recognize the goodness of the Lord to us in our lives. But it seems that it is much easier to find reason to grumble and complain.

As Christians we called to share the love of God, and on the Sabbath choose to embrace our calling. In making this choice, we can fully depend on the Lord to equip us to fulfill His purposes. As we seek Him on the Sabbath and bask in His goodness and His love we are filled to overflowing with His grace. And it is by His grace that we are led to live out His purpose embracing His calling.

Lastly, Dawn speaks of embracing wholeness on the Sabbath. Our lives become fragmented and compartmentalized as we are pulled in so many different directions every day of the week. But when we choose to celebrate Sabbath we find God as our center. And “when God is at the center” we are given “the ability to weave together all the bits and pieces of our lives.”

When we choose to embrace wholeness we consider both the wholeness of the Christian community and the wholeness of ourselves as an individual. We think about deepening relationships, about what brings joy to a heart, and we think in terms of how we can learn more about who God is.

I am choosing to embrace intentionality on the Sabbath by taking time to nap or find quiet rest time in the afternoon. I also am intentional about journaling.

I am embracing the values of Christian community by attending my church service and enjoying a time of fellowship following the service. In the past I would go to church and then run off to get to the next thing on my to-do list. I am appreciating my dear church family in new ways for new reasons.
I am slowly learning to embrace time by taking the time to embrace people in their neediness, to really look and see, and listen, and then to respond with Christ-like love. This means slowing down, and being present, and being available. It means setting side my agenda for another.

I am embracing giving as I learn to embrace my calling to be sharing God’s love by following the Spirit’s nudges to encourage and to minister in grace to others. There is overlap in many of these. My ministering in grace may be seeing a special gift and sending it to a sick relative, offering to spend time with a friend who is alone, or shopping for a shut-in.

Finally, as I consider embracing wholeness, it is about keeping the Lord at the center of my life so that my choices emulate God’s love and draw people into deeper intimacy. I am choosing to be real and authentic in sharing about life and God’s truth for me. I am trying to learn to scatter joy like confetti, even if it is only in little ways, a bag of candy, a phone call, or an unexpected card sent in the mail. And in all of life I am learning more about Who God is, because in His goodness He continually draws me back to Himself. He restores me and leads me to wholeness when I am broken and empty. It all cones back to setting aside the time to know the Lord more and find ways to live out His love.

The Sabbath is a time to choose to embrace. Tomorrow is Resurrection Sunday. It is because of the cross, the crucifixion, and the resurrection, that we truly can rest. Apart from what Jesus has done, we have no hope for rest. So as you celebrate Christ’s resurrection remember that Sabbath is for ceasing, resting, and embracing. Next week we will look at choosing to feast.

I wish you a blessed Easter.

 

Sabbath: Choosing to Rest

This month’s blog post topic’s center around Sabbath–keeping. Last week we started off by looking at how we can choose to cease on the Sabbath. You can find that here: Sabbath: Choosing to Cease. This week we’re looking at the various aspects of choosing to rest as discussed in Keeping the Sabbath Wholly by Marva J. Dawn.

Dawn discusses spiritual rest, emotional rest, intellectual rest, and social rest in this particular section of her book. I honestly never considered rest in so many different ways prior to reading these chapters.

Dawn begins by sharing about spiritual rest which seems foundational to the others. She says, “When we cease striving to be God we learn a whole new kind of contentment, the delight of the presence of God in our present circumstances. When we give up our silly rebellion against God’s purposes, we discover that he provides the security for which we were searching.”

This takes me right back to: “abandoning control” to God, ceasing to strive and learning to trust Him with whatever may happen. I share more about abandoning control in this post, Relinquishing Control and Finding Peace. Giving up “our silly rebellion against God’s purposes” is key, rest and rebellion cannot co-exist. His purposes are so much bigger than what we can even wrap our brains around. Yet, this is probably my biggest area of struggle when I consider choosing to find rest.

Biblical Sabbath is all about accepting the Sovereignty of God. We find the bedrock for our trust in knowing that He has it all under control and can take care of everything. I totally get that, but knowing His love seems equally as important for me. I feel much more secure in finding rest as I grow in knowing both His sovereignty and His love.

Dawn says “The greatest result of Sabbath resting is the opportunity to know the presence of God, no matter what our circumstances might be.” It is nearly impossible to know His presence in our rushing and striving because our focus is on accomplishing. But when we choose Sabbath rest our focus changes and we can look for Him in our moments.

As Dawn moves on to discuss choosing physical rest in Sabbath keeping, one of her most important statements is this: The Sabbath is never a day to allow ourselves to be pushed (especially by our own false guilt or by other’s expectations) into activity of any kind.” It is so easy to be pressured into fulfilling other’s expectations or letting our own sense of guilt force us into doing something. Dawn says that if she senses this happening to her, she stops and puts the task aside for another day. The task can be done on the Sabbath, but has to come out of a different frame of mind. Her example was that of writing letters. She felt like she “should” write and when she recognized that feeling of “should” she chose not to write them on that Sabbath day. But the next Sabbath Day she did write them from a different mindset.

This section on choosing to rest also brought up God’s command regarding ceasing from work on the Sabbath (Leviticus 23:3). This means that planning ahead is necessary so that you really do have time to rest. This may mean spacing out your work differently during the week or rearranging your schedule. We have to choose to trade in our striving, hour after hour, for times to rejuvenate our bodies in restful ways.

Dawn shares that it has actually been scientifically proven through studies that our body’s need this kind of Sabbath rest every seven days in order to get revived from the strain of the other six days. A lot of different physical and mental symptoms can show up when we live with a continuous lack of rest in our lives.

I have noticed the importance of rest just recently in my own body. My neck and shoulders have been extremely tense and sore from stress, but as I have taken time to get extra rest I am not hurting as much. My body was screaming for the peace and quiet and sleep, and I hadn’t been listening.

When explaining the importance of emotional rest Dawn highlights how the Lord cared for Elijah in 1 Kings 19 after his dealings with Queen Jezebel. This story makes it very obvious that the Lord cares about our physical and emotional needs. It is one of my favorite stories because it so beautiful shares the Lord’s awareness of exactly what we need. 

As we choose to set apart the Sabbath and grow in deeper intimacy with the Lord we will find that we experience emotional healing also. I have found this to be true even as I regularly set aside a portion of time to be in God’s Word, the Lord leads me to new understanding of where I am at and His wisdom enlightens me. I am given tools to help me with the struggles I am dealing with, those that often so deeply affect my emotions. Sometimes it is the Lord Himself speaking to my heart impressing something on me. At other times He allows others to share and I will find healing in their words. Sabbath rest allows time for deepening both our relationship with the Lord and with others, and both are very beneficial to emotional rest.

Dawn explains, “…letting God be God in our lives gives us the freedom to deal constructively with our emotions, to accept them and listen to them but not be controlled by them.” Giving my emotions to the Lord as I go through my day is extremely helpful. Telling Him how I feel about this or that and letting Him be at work in it, gives my heart and mind peace to rest in. So it seems especially important to remember how being controlling can affect our emotions (I know, I have experienced those feelings more often than I care to admit,) But, again, it goes back to recognizing God’s sovereignty in situations and letting that be what controls my heart and mind rather than reacting out of my emotions.

The Sabbath also can give us time to explore our deep feelings and desires that have been buried under busyness and striving. We can take time in our resting to talk with the Lord about all that has been lost in the rush of the last six days. What deep feelings have we suppressed? What important desires have we set aside? The Lord cares and He wants to hear about them.

An important part of each day for me is journaling but often my time to journal is limited due to other demands. I have found that on the Sabbath I will spend an extended period of time journaling my thoughts, feelings, dreams, and desires. This is a very special time to me and I always come away refreshed.

Dawn states, “Emotional rest is especially induced by whatever calls for creativity and spontaneity.”  I have found, also, how much I enjoy just playing with watercolors. It is relaxing as well as being a creative outlet. My painting with watercolors tells a story in itself by the colors I use and the strokes of the brush. My emotions are vividly splashed across the paper.

Dawn shares about intellectual rest in terms of even rethinking the way we read the newspaper or hear the news on the Sabbath. She suggests allowing our knowledge of God’s sovereignty to reframe our thinking as we listen or read. The Sabbath gives our minds time to rest from fear and worry. We can free our minds to focus instead on how we can glorify the Lord.

We can get so caught up in fear and worry, mulling things over in our minds as we busily try to check things off of our to-do lists. But on the Sabbath, we set aside the striving and we can choose to rest our minds, again choosing to use those moments to give praise to the Lord.

Dawn mentions that she enjoys reading fairy tales as part of her Sabbath rest. it is all about finding aids to intellectual rest that leads our thinking down creative paths. We choose to use our brain in a more positive and restful way because on normal days our minds are overloaded with busyness. And we definitely need this renewing!

As I read many of these suggestion I realized that they could be carried over into everyday life even to give us a little Sabbath rest in each day. and that is something I want to do. I want to practice recognizing the Lord’s presence more and choose to rest in His Sovereignty more consistently. Sabbath day is a day to extend these practices throughout the day for greater rest.

The final aspect of rest I want to share from this book is that of social rest. Dawn suggests that, “Sabbath keeping fosters…an increase in our gentleness and tenderness, a non-aggressive stance towards others. The ability to dismantle our own power.”

She mentions that usually we only hear about “social unrest.” Social rest is just the opposite. She says that when our hearts and minds are nurtured by the Lord’s presence, we grow in tenderness and gentleness. It helps us to look at others differently. Life becomes less about power and control or aggression and more about living out His love. And that is an important part of how we should live as we celebrate the Sabbath.

Choosing to rest on the Sabbath does not mean sitting idle, staring into space. Often times, I think that this is our biggest fear. But instead we find so many options of ways to choose rest. So many options that I want to take time to try on my days of Sabbath rest. How about you? What ways intrigue for choosing rest on the Sabbath?

Next week’s post will be Sabbath: Choosing to Embrace. I hope you will join me.

 

 

 

Sabbath: Choosing to Cease

A big part of my journey to recalibrate my life is praying about what I need help with. So recently I have been praying that the Lord will help me unwrap the gift of rest in my life. I also have been praying that my thoughts will be controlled with the words of Psalm 46:10 “Be still and know that I am God.” I desire for my heart to be filled with peace rather than anxiety and overwhelm. And I want that peace to overflow into my life. Sabbath is about finding rest and peace in knowing the Sovereignty of the Lord. How beautifully these prayers fit in with my theme of Sabbath.

This month my Recalibrate Life Read is Keeping the Sabbath Wholly by Marva J. Dawn. She has divided her book into four themes of Sabbath. The themes are Ceasing, Resting, Embracing and Feasting. So I am approaching this month’s blog posts in a little different manner. Rather than sharing on topics and then sharing a response to the book, I am going to use each of the weeks in April to discuss one of these themes. So this week we will begin with the theme of ceasing.

Dawn explains that “the name Sabbath comes originally from the Hebrew verb ‘Shabbat’ which means primarily ‘to cease or desist’.”  Sabbath gives us freedom as we choose to cease from some things to be present and choose ways to honor the Lord.

Ceasing from work is the first area discussed in this theme. This made me think back to a few years ago when my husband and I had two huge vegetable gardens. Sunday afternoons we would often be out there weeding and watering for anywhere from two to four hours. It was around this time that Sabbath rest began to  interest to me. And at first I really struggled with going out to the garden. wasn’t that work? And isn’t it wrong to work on the Sabbath? Well, to some gardening may be work, but I found that digging in the dirt removing weeds, and standing in the rows, feeling the sun on my face, as I watered was actually relaxing. It was a refreshing time that I would spend in giving praise to the Lord or going through the alphabet praying for people. Or other times I would just spend the time talking with the Lord about whatever occupied my mind. People have differing views on what ceasing from work is to mean for us. I think it is about the attitude of the heart. There in the garden I was fully present with the Lord as I completed these tasks that actually relaxed me. I wasn’t striving.

Dawn discusses the importance of ceasing from productivity and accomplishment. She explains that when we’re not under the compulsion to be productive, we have time to really be present with others, and then get to know more of who they are. When we are so busy trying to accomplish things we lose sight of relationship and are just fixed on the goal. Ceasing from productivity on the Sabbath gives us opportunity to be with those we love and enjoy their company. You can enjoy slow-porch-conversations over lemonade, or a good movie as you munch popcorn or sip hot cocoa. It’s about being together. Recognizing the gifts the Lord has given you in those He has placed in your life.

I am enjoying being less productive as I choose to not cook a big dinner on Sundays. Instead, when I plan out my meals for the week, I make sure that I have something simple I can heat up on that day that way I am not spending the day in the kitchen. My husband and I often decide to spend part of the afternoon taking a nap or enjoying movie together. The quietness of the afternoon is refreshing and enjoyable.

Another area that Dawn says to cease from is the area of anxiety, worry and tension. Having too much to do is a huge factor in the level of stress and anxiety we experience. Dawn explains that she gets her house ready for “Queen Sabbath,” as she calls it, by putting away projects the night before. She removes any worry from her mind by keeping a running list of concerns and she sets these aside. She states, “The sabbath is not a running away from problems but the opportunity to receive grace to face them.”  We create space to know God is in control, and to be aware of His presence. Setting our minds on things above gives us a new perspective.

Dawn suggests that we practice thanksgiving as a way to cease worrying. Sabbath is about remembering who God is and what He has done for us. When we are aware of those things we can cease to be God and naturally are led to give thanks.

I don’t think that many times we are even aware of how often we try to be God in our own lives. Or maybe that is just me. Just the other day I was praying for the Lord to be at work in a situation where we needed to hear from someone in order to move forward with a decision regarding an important project. Not hearing from this person was keeping me from being able to plan my week out, so I gave this dilemma to the Lord. But only a few moments later I found myself trying to figure it all out. I even suggested to my husband that I text the guy to see if he could give me a time line. My husband responded negatively to my suggestion saying that the man would call when he was ready. I felt frustrated and then remembered I had just given it to the Lord. There I was trying to control and manipulate things, not letting God be God. Old habits die hard.

Dawn says “…God will provide for his people, they don’t have to struggle to work things out for themselves.” Obviously, learning not to strive or figure it all out is a lesson I am still learning.

The last three areas of ceasing that Dawn discusses are that of ceasing from “possessiveness“, “enculturation” and from “humdrum and meaninglessness.”

The idea of possessiveness is related to stewardship.  Stewardship reminds us of the importance of using the gifts the Lord has given us for service to Him. In her own life, Dawn chooses to make Sabbath a day to give things away–gifting others. She enjoys having dinner parties “especially for those who aren’t able to invite [her] back.” She refrains from shopping or anything that requires buying or selling on the Sabbath. So this means planning ahead to have the necessary food for dinner preparation. Sharing a meal with others is a great way to share God’s love and His gifts to us.

The point of ceasing from enculturation that stood out to me most in this book is that of setting “the Christian community apart as an alternative society to the surrounding culture.” When we choose to cease from things that are typical to our culture it causes people to stop and look, and maybe to ask why? How can we be holy and set apart, honoring the Lord on Sabbath? This is something we do not do to draw attention to ourselves but to draw attention the Lord’s impact on our lives.

Finally, Dawn explains that life can become “humdrum” in the rat-race of life. Every day begins to be the same. It is when we choose to honor the Sabbath that we realize we have something very special to look forward to. In time, we come to understand that in keeping the Sabbath that “all days derive their meaning from the Sabbath.” We recognize God as the Giver of all gifts and the One and Only Sovereign God over our lives.

These chapters on ceasing gave me much to think about. I am slowly finding my own special rhythm to six days of busyness and work, and one day of rest. I am making choices regarding what I need to cease from and how I must plan for that in my other six days. Planning for Sabbath is another way that helps you remember God. You choose deliberately and intentionally to think of ways to honor God, as well as ways to love others.

Next week our theme in this series on Sabbath will be Resting. Resting is something I am learning about for all of life. But “to rest” is actually the second meaning of the Hebrew verb “Shabbat.” We will be looking at a variety of aspects of rest which Dawn highlights in the second section of her book. I hope you will join me as we together learn more about keeping the Sabbath.

 

*Featured photo taken by Stephanie Crist found on Unsplash.