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.

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Necessary Changes

Christmas is over. And now the New Year is nearly upon us again. I have been thinking about the changes I need to make in 2019 for about the past six weeks. My phrase for the new year is “Recalibrate Life.” I want more whitespace in my days and on my calendar, and that won’t happen without focus and intention.

It seems second nature to me to want to “do.” I choose to be busy every moment. I rescue and respond. I plan and press on. So, in order to create more whitespace, I need to evaluate my choices more closely.

I especially need to consider why I am choosing to do the things I choose. Because for me it is often about earning love, even though I make it look like I am giving. But, in reality, it all leaves me resentful and exhausted.

So what do I need to change? I need to give serious thought to what is life-giving. Pushing and pressing-on constantly are not life-giving, instead they are sucking life right out of me.

Creating whitespace does not mean emptying time for staring into space and being bored. Instead for me it means taking time to breathe, to breathe deeply, to be present in the moments of life. I need to slow down and enjoy the “living of” and “being in” life.

You know, like the slow chat I had with a friend as we watercolored in our journals and had lunch in a local coffee shop. Moments like that where time slows and you are only attentive to what matters. In this case it was sharing with my friend and brushing colored water across my journal pages.

I am realizing in order to have more of those moments I need to expect less of me. It will not happen if I have 20 to-do’s on my daily planning page. It won’t happen if my mind is racing and I am buried in “being responsible” for everyone and everything. So I have to say “no” more. I think, in reality, for me that means telling myself I can’t do it all. I have to slice out the unneccesary and intentionally focus on the essential.

I need to ask for help more and let go of so many expectations. It means less proving and looking for acknowledgment.

Life-giving moments of whitespace will be ones that are about creating, enjoying, breathing, and playing. Those moments need to be tucked in all of life. In solitude and in time I share with the Lord and with loved ones.

I am realizing too much of life has been about the end result, the accomplishing the end goal. And in being so hyper-focused on that, I have missed the actual moments of living and loving this gift of life the Lord has given me.

Along with these, I will be focusing on knowing God as my Provider, the One Who knows and sees my needs. A big part of this will be an intentional study of rest, space, simplicity, and Sabbath. I have made a list of books I want to read in 2019, just one book a month. I want want to really take it all to heart and live out their practices in my day-to-day life.

Learning about rest, space, simplicity, and Sabbath will naturally lead me to know the Lord more as my Provider. Just as choosing to abandon outcomes teaches me of His Sovereignty, learning to trust Him with my time will help me me see His prevision and provision for me. He holds my time. He has a plan. He is in control. He is responsible. Trust.

Trusting more, and learning more about trust will be key as I walk through this new year of recalibrating life.

What about you? Are you contemplating any necessary changes for 2019 in your life?

Being Intentional with the Essential

The busyness of life so often keeps us focused on the world, our possessions, and our to-do lists. We get thoroughly bogged down and we frequently are blinded to what is essential. I must admit I have been hi-jacked by my to-do list, by the overwhelm of life, or by the want of more material items, etc. This has been the case more than I care to admit.

As I continue to look toward Recalibrating Life in 2019, I want to refocus my lens in order to make it all about what the Lord tells me is essential in living for Him. Too often it is and has been all about me, what I need and want, what will fit into my schedule, what will make me happy. Well, quite honestly, I have found that in the end self-focus is not very satisfying.

A few years back I went to a conference. My mom had given me a sweatshirt that said, “It’s All About Him” with a couple Bible verses on it. The gift was one I had requested. Anyway, I decided to wear it to the conference. The Lord had a lesson to teach me there. That day we broke into small groups to discuss something the speaker had spoken on and I felt very excited to share my opinion, except everyone took a turn, I seemed to be invisible and suddenly time was up. I never got a turn. My shirt said that it is all about Him, but in my mind and body that certainly was not true. It was all about me and what I wanted to say, and how upset I felt that I did not get a turn to share. Self-focus at its worst. I couldn’t even concentrate on what the others had to say, and I left when the speaker called us to go back to our seats. I have not worn that sweatshirt since. I want it to be all about Him, but my flesh says it’s all about me in all too many incidents.

Living to control everything or manipulate it all, to get my way or to be heard or to protect myself or check off more things on my to-do list, all of these end up leaving me empty. I realized, that day, to a greater degree my selfishness and my need to be seen and heard. It is a lesson I will never forget. It is these kind of lessons, when the Lord helps us to see self clearly through His eyes, that make me want to make some changes.

So, as I think about Recalibrating Life and recognize all that the Lord has taught me so far in 2018. I decided the place to start is in regard to what is essential according to God’s Word. There are some key verses that are essential to the way of intent that I want to live by. Here are the verses:

Psalm 62:8 NIV  “Trust in him at all times you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.”

Luke 10:41-42 “Martha, Martha” the Lord answered,”you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed– or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Proverbs 3:5-6  “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him and he will make your paths straight.”

Psalm 62:5-7 “Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge.

Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Proverbs 4:26 “Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways.”

Proverbs 19:20-21 “Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise. Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’S purpose that prevails.”

I want to learn to live intentionally out of each of these essentials. But how? My times the overwhelm paralyzes me, rather than leading me to, as Elisabeth Elliot says,”just [doing] the next thing,” I get stuck. I forget that it doesn’t need to be big and epic. The Lord isn’t taking my performance into consideration in order to decide how much love He will pour into my heart and life. His love is unconditional.

Each one of the essentials can stop us in our tracks if we think that we must do them in a perfect way. Just think about it with me for a moment. Have you ever sidestepped praying or seeking direction because you were fearful that you could not do it well enough? What if you prayed the wrong thing? What if you misunderstood what God was directing you to do? Or what if you sought counsel but like Rehoboam took the wrong advice?

When my intention becomes about proving myself or about controlling things to turn out for my benefit I am in error. The Lord looks at our hearts and He searches our motives. He knows we are dust, He knows we are sinful. Yet, He also knows whether our error is born out of selfishness, hatred, or if it is because of honest misunderstanding. God is a loving God. He knows the depths of our heart better that we do.

Fear can be a guard rail of protection or a prison cell. I want my intentionality to be coming out of a heart that just wants to grow in intimacy with the Lord. Intimacy with Jesus is the bottom line of all the essentials I have listed. Each one is either a pathway to intimacy or a pathway out of learned intimacy.

So, seeking to grow in intimacy with Jesus changes how I approach each essential. You see, many times we confront our intentions like a checklist of things to be done, with the goal just to get it done. But this is about being relational, not about an accomplishment.

As I look back over my walk with the Lord, I see Him being the One drawing me into deeper intimacy through life lessons, through meeting me in His Word, through speaking to my heart as I pray. But none of it was anything I could control or make happen. The soil of my heart is what matters here. It is about my readiness and willingness and the Lord’s perfect timing.

So, my intention her must not be about accomplishing things on a list but instead about using these essentials as pathways to drawing nearer to God’s heart.

As I contemplated this, I came up with a list of intents to focus on, they are as follows:

  • to pray out of a heart of desperation and vulnerability.
  • to set aside the busyness and enjoy times of quiet before  the Lord, developing and practicing out of desire, not another thing to do.
  • to look for His love in His Word and moment-by-moment in my life so I grow in knowing Him more.
  • to choose to abandon control in life, resting His control, acknowledging that He is God, and letting Him work.
  • to rest as I wait for His deliverance in whatever the situation may be, rather than fretting and manipulating.
  • to learn His “unforced rhythms of grace” and rest, rather that seeking to prove.
  • to seek His direction and listen to the counsel He provides rather than trying to figure it all out on my own.

These are the intents of my heart that I recognized as I realized the error of my ways in the past. No, I am not beating myself up, the Lord has worked in me and through me despite my bulldozer style, despite my need to control, and despite my checklist and pencil. He is slowly teaching me and growing me up, growing my trust, helping me to know His love in a very personal way. And as I look back over this past year I see clearly how I want to grow in intimacy with Him in a new way. Not methodical and calculated, but in trusting Him in a love relationship as He refines my heart.

I must say once again, what an amazing God we have! How patient and gracious He has been with me through the many years I have walked with Him. He loves me and works with me where I am at. He is gentle and kind. His yoke truly is easy.

I am slowly learning to trust and learning to rest. I praise Him for showing me His loving presence and perfect understanding.

Journeying with Jesus truly brings joy even when we are on the rough, rocky roads with sharp rocks cutting our soles, or our souls. He never leaves us and He is always loving.

How is your journey going? What is He teaching you? Is He taking you on a new path? I pray that His lessons bless you as He has blessed me.