Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Remember the Sabbath......

Maybe it’s just because I’m tired. Both Patti and I have been feeling the need for a break from the action following the lead-up to and the dedication of the new shelter facility. This past year has been busy and we have not taken the time off as we normally do. Last weekend we got away for a couple of days and rested up. It was good, but probably not enough. I rested well, I got the required amount of sleep at night, but I still felt tired. Is there more for me to do?

In 2000, I received a 4 month sabbatical. As I prepared for that, I remembered the comment of an acquaintance from my past. The man was a very busy pastor of a large church that granted him some time away for a sabbatical. The church actually implemented a sabbatical program for its staff to receive after each had served seven years. He told me that it took him two weeks of doing only what he wanted to do, when he wanted to do it, and getting a lot of good rest at night along with numerous afternoon naps before he began to feel rested. I went into my sabbatical with that thought in mind. And sure enough, it was almost two weeks later before I could state that I really felt rested. For two years after my sabbatical ended, I continued to feel good. I worked the same hard schedule, but I also exercised regularly, ate as I should, and took regular time off. That sense of “rest” only began to end in June of 2002 when I had surgery for cancer. My recuperative period took longer than I expected and I felt weak for some time which translated into weariness for me. I have found myself in the predicament of a lot of folk who, when they take a week or two of vacation, feel worn out upon their return, especially if they try to catch-up with their work.

I know there is value in the biblical principle of the Sabbath. Taking a break on a regular, consistent basis and guarding it jealously is important to our well-being. But it is easy to say; hard to pull off. Some folk seem to believe they can do it if they take a break a little more frequently, work outside, develop a new hobby, play a little more golf, or, as we did last weekend, get away for a short period of time. Some actually think they will be able to incorporate Sabbath when they retire. I’m not sure that’s what it means.

Patti and I made a decision while we were away. We are going to schedule two personal times a week for ourselves. One will be on Monday evening and the other on Friday. I have a bad (but seemingly necessary) habit of reading any time I have a few moments of quiet. It is a part of my teaching/preaching preparation as well as for enjoyment. It may enrich my life, but, for me, it is not Sabbath.
So, on those two nights there will be no reading. Perhaps other things, such as TV viewing will go. On Friday, there will be occasions when we socialize with our friends. That will provide something of a break from the schedule and will be enjoyable. But we may even borrow thoughts from our Jewish friends and schedule Sabbath from sundown Friday until sundown Saturday. For us, some kind of consistent exercise program during the week is also important. The plan will unfold as we go. But we will not allow it to become work.

Long ago the idea was floated past me that the antidote to exhaustion is worship. Please hear me carefully!!!!! That does not mean going to another meeting at the church building. Somehow it means drawing aside. Learning to reflect, remember, refresh oneself. It means sitting in awe, joining hearts in conversation and love. It is the breaking of bread, the speaking of gratitude and listening for what comes next.

P.S. Regarding this blog matter, I am experimenting with the format and just sort of making it up as I go. One of the many things that I enjoy about our granddaughter Madysen is her ability with a camera. So, from time to time, I will publish one of her shots with my thoughts. Sometimes it will correlate with what I am trying to say; other times it will be just that I like the picture. But it beats just having words on a page. THANKS MADYSEN!


  1. I wonder if you find journaling to be a form of rest? It was nearly 30 years ago that I was introduced to the discipline of journaling as a form of spiritual reflection. It was such a relief when I gave up on trying to sound profound every time I journaled and just let my pen (now my computer keys) flow. So, I just wondered how this whole process of blogging and writing played into your need for Sabbath? Is it a form of refreshment? Remember the question Steve Shoemaker asked us at the "Developing a Rule of Life" retreat .... "What nurtures or feeds your spirit?" "Gary West" was one of my responses on the list I created that day. So, now I have to wonder if your words and inspiration that nourish me also cause you to be depleted? As community, as friends ... How can we be each other's nourishment while also helping protect each other's sabbath?

  2. I have tried journaling before off and on (more off than on). I'm sure that I slid into the temptation to always write something profound. I am not sure that journaling is a form of rest for me right now. Maybe I'm just not getting it. The blog has been a time of refreshment. I enjoy trying to stretch myself to see what can be developed. I made a commitment long ago that in regard to preaching/teaching, I would do my best not to consistently offer up something stale and cold. And yes, I think you have hit it, I am beginning to be aware that such depletes me. I do not have the answer as to how we can help nourish and protect Sabbath for each other but I sure do want to keep it in the conversation. Thanks!!