Tuesday, October 10, 2017

What Should Sabbath Look Like?

How do you live Sabbath in a busy, always-on world?

A few weeks ago, I wrote about being challenged with the idea of Sabbath. (You can read that post here.) Since I wrote that post, I've been wrestling with what it looks like for me to really make it a part of my life.

How do I live Sabbath in a busy world?
How do I live Sabbath in our always connected world?
How do I live Sabbath without it just becoming a day full of legalistic rules of what I can and cannot do?

I don't think it's something where we can tell each other what it should look like. When we try to tell someone else exactly how it should look, we're in great danger of wandering into legalism. It's okay if the details of what a Sabbath looks like are different from each other.

What matters is where our heart is at. It's the attitude that makes it a Sabbath or not. We have to start there when we look at creating a Sabbath in our lives.

The more I've wrestled with this in my own life, the more I've come to appreciate the way my pastor described some guiding thoughts for a Sabbath:

Pray & Play

Two words that don't tell you exactly what you can and cannot do, but capture what a Sabbath should be.

Pray: This is about our relationship with God. Time to talk to God and to listen to what He's saying to us.

Play: Fun. Activities we enjoy. A break from some of our usual responsibilities.

What falls into each of these categories will look different for each of us. What is play to one person, may be work to another. What spending time in conversation looks like for another may not work for someone else.

As I've been walking on this journey, I've realized that sometimes it's a bit of trial and error to figure it out. Some things will be what you need for a Sabbath and some won't. I think that learning what it is for you is a key part of it because it takes us to a deeper relationship with God. As we're figuring it out, we're pursuing God.

I believe God is issuing an invitation to all of us to engage in this journey of relearning how to have a Sabbath. Of learning how to make regular days for us to pray and play again.

For me, it's been about learning to disconnect from normal responsibilities with work and ministry - not because they're not important, but because I'm better able to engage there fully when I have regular breaks from them. About learning, again, how to "waste time" - doing something just because I enjoy it, not because it's accomplishing anything. About realizing that the vegging out in front of the TV I used to call my break really isn't as refreshing as I thought it was (doesn't mean I don't still do that sometimes, it just means I have a different mindset about why I'm doing it).

What about for you?

How are you learning to live Sabbath in a busy world?
How are you learning to live Sabbath in our always connected world?
How are you learning to live Sabbath without it becoming a day full of legalistic rules of what you can and cannot do?

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this subject. Leave them in the comments below.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Are You Missing Seeing what God is Doing Now?

Do you limit what God could do now in your life by how He acted in the past?

This is a question I spent some time reflecting on after I was reading in Isaiah 43 recently. There's a few verses in that chapter that are more well-known and I've heard quoted often. They're powerful words, but I realized just how powerful when I read a couple of verses before them alongside them.

"This is what the Lord days -
     He who made a way through the sea,
     a path through the mighty waters,
who drew the chariots and horses,
     the army and reinforcements together.
and they lay there, never to rise again,
     extinguished, snuffed out life a wick:
Forget the former things;
     do not swell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
     Now it springs up, do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
     and streams in the wasteland."
                                      -Isaiah 43:16-19

The last couple of verses are the ones most commonly quoted, but when I read these verses all together I was struck by the thought sin them.

In describing who the Lord is Who is speaking, Isaiah is remembering how God led Israel out of Egypt and defeated their enemies. When they were in the an impossible situation and defeat seemed almost certain, God made a way out for them and defeated their enemy.

This is something they needed to remember. But, Isaiah also warns of a danger here. When he asks if they are perceiving the new thing the Lord is doing, he points out the danger and the reason why he is declaring that God is doing a new thing. There is a danger that in remembering how God has acted in the past, they would not see what God was doing now, or they would try to limit what God was doing now.

We face that danger in our lives. We need to remember what God has done for us in the past. That's what gives us hope and confidence that God will act now on our behalf again. But, we can too easily become so focused on the past that we miss what God is doing now. Or we can try to put God in a box of "this is how God does things" and resist Him when He tries to do something new.

In our remembering how God has acted on our behalf in the past, we cannot stop looking ahead for the new things He is doing and wants to do. Our remembering forms the basis of our belief and our confidence that He has a plan, but we cannot become so focused on it that we miss the new thing God is doing.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Into the Light

Darkness, silence
Often hand-in-hand
To keep up bound
Fearful of the light

Hiding secrets
Carrying burdens
All to keep us down
Fearful to be found out

Slowly, carefully
Uncovering what's beneath
Will we be okay?
Can we bear the light?

Freedom, healing
Free of fearful hiding
No condemnation
No need to fear the light

Chains broken
Secrets freed
Now life can grow
In the presence of His Light

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Thinking About Sabbath

Fall often feels like it brings with it a return a full schedule. All the usual programs and lessons begin in our communities. Ministries start up again at church. A return to school for some.

It can seem like a calendar that had space in it over the summer is quickly filled up completely again. This feels good for a while, but often feels overwhelming in not too long, as we look at a calendar with barely enough time to run from one thing to the next. We begin to miss the days when we didn't have to hurry out the door, the time spent camping, the blank spaces on our calendars.

And, I think we miss it because that's what we were created for. We weren't created to always be running with overflowing calendars, and to always be connected to everyone through our phones. We miss the blank spaces in our calendars, the quiet times, because we were created to need them.

As my summer drew to a close, it seemed I was hearing a lot about the importance of Sabbath in our lives, about our need for it. A sermon at church and a couple books I picked up for other reasons were all about it.

It's not something I've heard a lot about over the years. Even though it's one of the Ten Commandments we seem to like to ignore this one. And, it's never been one I was much inclined to really look at.

My association with what Sabbath was about for a long time came from another family in our neighbourhood growing up. They had kids the same age as my sisters and I, and many similar family values, so we spent a lot of time playing with them - except on their Sabbath. It's not that they weren't allowed to play with us that day, but more that their list of things they weren't allowed to do on their Sabbath was so long there was very little of our usual activities and games we could play. For a long time that heavily influenced my thoughts and attitudes about Sabbath.

But, my those have changed and been challenged recently as I've heard more about it. In the past, I could give you the theological arguement about why Sabbath was important, but I had no interest in it and didn't see the need for it in my own life. I didn't want a day full of rules about what I could and couldn't do.

But, I've realized lately that's not what it's about at all. It's not about rules. That's not why God put the Sabbath in His Ten Commandments. It's about the space we need in our lives- for rest, for fun, for listening to God, for taking the break from the usual demands of our lives.

So, maybe it's time for me to look at Sabbath differently. Time for me to reconsider it for my own life. And maybe it's that time for you as well.

I don't know yet what this looks like in my life, but I'm quickly realizing I have to plan for it. Creating the space won't just happen. I'm much better at filling up all the spaces on my calendar, rather than leaving the blank spaces alone.

What about you? Do you need to create a Sabbath in your life?

Whether it's a day a week, a half a day, or even a few hours, we all have to start somewhere with it, and see where it goes from there.

What does it need to look like for you?

We're all different, so what a Sabbath looks like isn't something we can dictate for another person.

What would bring rest and fun for you? What would it look like for you to disconnect for that time from the usual demands of life?
How can you create space to really hear from God in that time?

We're all going to answer these questions differently. That's why we can't make Sabbath all about rules - about things you can or cannot do. What answers these questions for one of us, might not be the answer for another person. The important part is that we make the time.

In our busy, hyper-connected world maybe we need to take the fourth commandment a little more seriously than we have been.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The Problem with How we Often Approach Modesty Conversations

"Be careful what you wear, you don't want to cause your brothers in Christ to stumble by how you dress."

"Men are visual, so it really matters what you wear."

These are just a couple of examples of the messages about modesty I heard growing up in the church. And often still here today.

Then you look at communicated dress codes: They're almost always much more detailed for women than for men. In some cases, they see to be almost exclusively addressed to women.

And that's wrong. And it's a problem.

Hear me clearly:

I'm not saying that these sentiments are wrong. I'm not saying women shouldn't be aware of how they dress and the impact it may have on others. Those things are part of living in healthy community.

But, we absolutely cannot stop here. We cannot stop with just telling women it's all on them with regards to what the Christian men in their worlds think.

What I am saying:

When our focus when it comes to modesty is almost exclusively focused on women's choice of dress, we're doing exactly what we complain about our society doing to women and speak out against in other settings. In framing our discussions of modesty around only what women wear, we're reducing women to nothing more than sex objects. The very same thing we decry in the society in which we live.

We also marginalize a segment of women. We make it seems like only men are tripped up by what they see. Our silence on men's dress and need for modesty pushes the segment of women who struggle with that they see on the sidelines. Left feeling unacknowledged, unimportant, and completely silenced. Silencing them is the worst part of it, in my opinion, because it means they're left alone in their struggle, feeling like they have no place to reach out for help. Their struggle is invalidated and made to be no big deal.

I've had a few instances where this topic has come up in conversation recently that have fueled this post. In some of the conversations, my thoughts have been listened to and considered, regardless of whether they agree with me. In others, the response has been an almost immediate dismissal with a "yeah, but . . ." It's the second response, the dismissal, that really spurred me to write this post.

When I look at Scripture, I don't see responsibility for another's actions being placed on one group of people, but rather, I see all people being called to responsibility for their own thoughts and actions.

There are a couple of Scriptures, I commonly here in discussions about modesty:

". . . Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister." (Romans 14:13b)

"Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak." (1 Corinthians 8:9)

I have heard both of these verses used as support for the statements I opened this post with. And, while they do apply to that, we can't limit them to a discussion on modesty for women. Taken in the larger context of where these verses are pulled from, Paul is talking about how to live in Christian community. Paul's not even talking about modesty is dress, although the principle can be applied there. But, if we're going to apply it there, we need to be applying to both men and women equally.

We're being unfair if we use it to justify talking to women about how to dress and don't also talk to men about the same thing. Both men and women have a responsibility in this area. And it's important.

In an increasingly sexualized society, we need to have regular and honest conversations about modesty and the implication of how we dress. But, it must be a balanced conversation. We all, men and women, have a responsibility here - both in how we dress and in what we choose to dwell on in our own thoughts.