Thursday, July 24, 2014

Taking Time for Sabbath

Bear in mind that the LORD has given you the Sabbath; that is why on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days. Everyone is to stay where they are on the seventh day; no one is to go out.” Exodus 16:29

As I write, Anne and I and the girls are on the Oregon Coast attending a family camp and resting.  God is using this short period of time to truly restore us relationally, emotionally, intellectually, physically, and spiritually. One of the things I have become aware of in this period of rest is the breathless pace of our family’s lives in the Bay Area!

We are resolving to come back to the Bay Area and return to some basic, life-giving rhythms that buoy our souls and empower us to live eternally significant lives.  Included in those rhythms is the weekly cadence of Sabbath. I confess that am so poor at this and have not modeled Sabbath rest well for my family or for you, my church.  I am ashamed by how glued I am to my phone, to emails and to text messages and how I have set the expectation or lived into expectations of being available 24/7.

One of the most counter-cultural ways I can live into being a child of God is to take a day off, a Sabbath.  For us in the 21st century, Sabbath rest is easily one of the most neglected and rejected commands in the Bible.  Up here on the coast, reflecting on the Sabbath and enjoying its benefits, I am reminded that God commands a Sabbath because it renews our minds that God loves us for who we are, not for what we produce.

Author Eugene Peterson says Sabbath is about shutting up and showing up.  We kill our agendas and we show up before God. We lay before him our week behind and our week ahead. We stop laboring for money, for meaning, for purpose, for identity, for image management and instead, we simply rest.  For a day, we quit trying to produce and we allow God to produce in us.  That might mean writing, hiking, surfing, gardening, painting etc., but it always means slowing down and prayerful engagement.

On Monday night up here at Canon Beach Conference Center where we are staying for the week, the Executive Director approached me and said, “See you in two days.”  When I queried him about where he is going, he said, “I have to take a Sabbath--it is the only way I can sustain the pace of the summer and the pace of ministry.” Maybe that is why Jeff is in his 37th year of ministry and is not only going strong, but picking up steam leading his ministry these days.

Will you join me is asking yourself:  When was the last time you put away your phone, computer and any screen for 24 hours?  What keeps you from completely unplugging for a day, not informing the whole world via Facebook of your latest meal or excursion and simply focused on life-giving experiences? Does the idea of shutting off your email, not checking in at work, and not managing your Facebook, Instagram or Twitter make you anxious?  Are you afraid of not being busy, not producing? Have you ever wondered if work is becoming more than a job for you--becoming a source of your identity?  When was the last time you truly rested?  And possibly the final and most important question of all:  Why or why not?

My fear is that in reading this Gmail, you won’t take the time to truly ponder these questions or this vital discipline of taking a Sabbath.  Friends, I have not modeled this well, but intend to change that when I return.  Can I encourage you to consider growing in this area as well?  I have a feeling I am not alone.  Want a simple and helpful guide for your Sabbath? Click here.

Now if you’ll excuse me, there is a beach calling me…I love being your pastor!