Showing posts from August, 2019

Sabbath take Ten

I took this photo of rocks while on vacation in Alaska this year.  You will see more of the photos and I will reflect on rocks in posts coming up during Advent.  But I am fascinated by how often God is referred to as a "Rock and Refuge."  God as that solid and subtly shifting spirit in our lives.  God as taking different forms all at once.  If this God, perhaps Sabbath as our intentional relationship with God, would also reflect back the beautiful diversity of rocks. 

It is my prayer that over the last few weeks prayerfully pondering Sabbath has offered you a spacious place to reflect.  It is my deeper prayer that you have experienced and embodied Sabbath in your life.  That you have not only words to describe and define, "Sabbath", but more importantly, ways to live this holy invitation.

That you will continue to build upon the rocks of Sabbath.  That you will be playful in your relationship with God.  God is not always serious and somber on the Sabbath. God is p…

Sabbath take Nine

How many of you wondered during the last post, "What's the deal with the photo of the rocks?"  May you got to the end of the post and said, "But he didn't say anything about the rocks?"  So, why...why the rocks?

Another definition of Sabbath is foundation on which we build our weeks and our lives.  Rocks, like Sabbath, come in different shapes, sizes, and shades.  What I consider beautiful in a rock, you might say, "Meh."  Just like the way I enter the spaciousness of Sabbath you might feel like is too constrictive or heavy or just plain boring.  Sabbath, like the rocks above, is influenced and impacted by time.  The rocks above were forged and formed into what we see by the rain and elements over centuries.  Similarly, Sabbath will shape us slowly.  It isn't that I observe Sabbath for ten weeks and now levitate two feet off the ground.  There is no grand guarantee with Sabbath.  It is the slow work of the spirit.

Sabbath as rocks also remind…

Sabbath take Eight

In the last post, I asked you to consider and come up with a definition of Sabbath.  I believe such a definition could have two components.  The first would be words describing, painting a picture of the invitation into Sabbath.  I like the phrase, "Sabbath as sacred speed bumps."  Mentally and physically, I know that a speed bump slows me down.  Sabbath is a different pace, I can't just keep going on cruise control.  Sabbath can also jar me like a speed bump.  I can "doth protesth too much" about how necessary and needed I am that I simply cannot be spared to take some time away.  On another level, when I do take that time away, I can feel restless. 

I can sit there trying to be calm and entering into the spacious cathedral of time, only to feel like the dishes in the sink are calling my name.  "Wes, can rest after we are clean, dried and put away."  Only then, I see that the floor is dirty.  After cleaning that, I see how the cabinets nee…

Sabbath take Seven

Rabbis for centuries have said that the Sabbath is given to you, not you to the Sabbath.  Jesus said this right to the very religious leaders who were giving him and his disciples a hard time about plucking wheat or healing someone.  For Sabbath to be given, it is a gift.  It isn't a gift if it comes with a bunch of strings attached.  If someone gives me a new Tesla and proceeds to tell me how to drive it, clean it, care for it, and is constantly watching me...I would be tempted to just give it back.  I mean, I would probably keep the Tesla, but just because it was a gift.

For a gift to be a gift, the one who gives releases control.  The control of how it is received and used in the world.  If the toy car you gave your niece for her birthday becomes a space shuttle, we can rejoice.  If someone uses the couch you gave them like a dresser for their clothes, that is his call.  When you give a gift, we let go of being able to say what is correct or proper.

We rarely have done this wi…

Sabbath take Six

Sabbath can be a moment of mindfulness in a society that is increasingly mindless - Walter Brueggmann.

Mindfulness is an important word being reclaimed in our world today.  Of course, the increase frequency of use of a word doesn't always correspond to actual practice or embodying/living that word.  We can practice mindfulness through contemplative prayer or yoga or sabbath or walking in nature or focusing on breathing or sitting in the sun or any other countless ways of ceasing and reading from a different script.

But, how many of us twenty minutes after spending time doing something that is supposed to calm and center us...find ourselves feeling frustrated or flummoxed?  How many of us leave the yoga studio only to yell at the first car who pulls out in-front of us?  Yes, in the moment, we were so zen, but now we are fuming at the person who cut us off.

Part of the wisdom in observing and living out Sabbath is that it is more than just one hour.  It isn't something we do at …

Sabbath take Five

Part of what can be so vital about the invitation of Sabbath today is we need space to reflect on our relationship with technology and constantly being available.  We are always trying to paint the moving train, we have normalized checking emails on vacation or leaving over 600 million days of time off unused.  We have bought into the cliches that to rest is to rust or that we will sleep when we are dead - there is an uplifting thought.  We want to be necessary, needed, important.  Perhaps deep down we fear that if we were to stop, cease, we might realize that the world goes on spinning without us.

I had to wrestle with that this summer.  For 10 weeks I was away from my job as a pastor.  10 Sundays without preaching. 10 Weeks without filling the role that for the past eighteen years of my life has been an important part of my identity. Who would I be without work?  What would I do to fill the day when there was no worship to plan, meetings to attend, or church to lead?  What would ha…

Sabbath Time take Four

The list was long with many important tasks.
Go to the store.
Run the kids here or there.
Pick this up.
Put that away.
Don't forget.
After racing around trying to beat the clock,
I arrived back home exhausted.

Every cell in my body, from the pinkie toe to that hair that stands straight up on the back of my cowlick head, ached.
Collapsing into the chair.
Trying to numb the tiredness with some show on television.
Too tired to move.

The question that often visits me in such moments is, why?
Why this pace?
Why am I running this race?
Why do I think I can be Super-spiritual Man - able to do it all?

Sabbath re-frames and re-orients time.
It is taking a break and a breath to remember who and whose we are.
I am not just my accomplishments, I am a beloved child of God.
I am not just what I got done, I am continuing to be crafted and created in God's image.

If God rests, why do I resist?
If God said the sacred script of life was every six days you need to cease,
Why do I keep going?


Sabbath Time take Three

"Half the confusion in the world comes from not knowing how little we need." Admiral Richard Byrd

In the late 1920s, again in the middle 1930s, and again in the late 1930s; Admiral Byrd was an explorer of the Antarctic.  He braved the bitter cold, dangerous wind chills, endless snow and blinding blizzards to live in the frozen tundra.  On one of his explorations, he lived five months alone in a shack.  During some of those days, the temperature outside sank to 70 degrees below zero. thanks!

But when he returned, he offered the quote above.  From the stillness and solitude, he found something meaningful - not fame or fortune - but time to be.  After all, it is not like you are going to go for a leisurely stroll when it is 70 degrees below zero outside, even the polar bears were knocking on his door asking to come in out of the chill.  Okay, that probably didn't happen, but it would have been hilarious if it was true.   

Sabbath is about re-orienting our relation…

Sabbath Time take Two

The Sabbath as a day of rest is not for the purpose of recovering one's lost strength and becoming fit for the forthcoming labor.  The Sabbath is a day for the sake of life.  Abraham Joshua Heschel

Abraham Joshua Heschel was a rabbi who lived in the 20th Century and wrote one of the classic books on Sabbath.  In that book, he begins by talking about how Sabbath is a cathedral in time.  We build all sorts of technological wonders in the world - rockets that can travel to the far side of the moon or instruments that help surgeons do a major operation with only a minimal incision.  If you think about all the structures human hands hath made, there are many more than seven wonders in the world.

Yet, of all the modern marvels that have defied gravity and the ways we think the world works, humans relationship with time is one that seems stuck and stymied.  Outside of wonderful fiction books, I still cannot travel back in time to warn my earlier self not to make that boneheaded mistake. …

Sabbath Time

What do you think of when you hear the word, "sabbath"?

Maybe it is not a word you have heard much in your life, so you might think it is a new trendy kind of facet for your shower.

Maybe it is a word that is dripping and drenched with negative images of everything you CANNOT do - no dancing, no going anywhere, no laughing, no having any fun whatsoever on Sundays doth declareth God at some point.  Straight from the bible to the lips of your relatives who made you feel two inches tall when you asked if you could go to the movies one Sunday afternoon...after all you did sit through that really loooooong sermon just that morning ~ shouldn't that count for something!?! You thought to yourself but didn't say aloud.

Maybe the word, Sabbath, evokes a longing within you for rest, renewal, space to be still and simply be in the midst of the busyness of the day.

In the most basic definition, Sabbath means, "and (God) rested".  It means to cease, be still, stop doing…

What We Reflect

Walking along the water, I see several leaves doing the back float gently in the gulf waters.  I also see the limb of the tree raising its leave-y branch being reflected back.

Which makes me wonder, what am I reflecting right now?

If life is both unexpected and unseen (as we discussed in the last post), we are constantly trying to respond to what is around us.  Often for me, since I have no poker face and I wear my emotions on my sleeve, I reflect back what I absorb from the world around me.  If people are laughing, I join right in to the joy.  If anxiety is hanging/hovering in the air, I find myself nervous like a teenager going on his first date.

Tension thicker than a stew sitting in the air, I feel my shoulders tense and my face turn sour.
Even in a mundane moment of waiting, I immediately stare at my phone or check my emails or switch to see if something else is on the radio.

We don't exist in a vacuum.  We are not only what we eat, but also the air we breathe.  We are not o…


Walking along the water, zooming in on the bird above who is hanging out on the post, trying to hold my hand steady to capture this photo, and it is only when I get home that I notice the other bird soaring across the sky - totally photo bombing my picture!

Life is like that.

The unexpected and the unseen are right there before us unnoticed until moments/days/weeks later.

The two (unexpected and unseen) work in concert together...sometimes clouding our vision and clogging our hearing.

The unexpected can be a wonderful serendipitous stirring of the sacred - like a friend we hadn't seen in a while showing up on our door step.  I think of this when Mary goes to visit here relative Elizabeth (click here to read this great story).  I don't think Mary sent a text/tweet/snapchat telling Elizabeth she was on her way, probably didn't send a telegram - again not invented yet - nor a letter.  Mary leaves behind her home - whether it was out of fear or flight - some kind of survival …


Washing over the rough rock,
the water lapped like a thirsty dog.
Splashing and soaking,
Foam bubble form on the other side
As sunlight peers through the surface showing what is just beneath.

The rugged rock stays put.
Either un-amused or unsure what to make of this whole seen.

The ridges of the rock have been saturated for centuries.
Though high and low tide...
In wind and rain and storms and sun...
The rock, like our souls, has been through much.

Windy days when everything seemed up in the air,
Rainy days when plans when out the window,
Stormy days when we were not sure we'd survive, and
Sun-drenched days when warmth wrapped around like the hug of an old friend.

A ordinary rock like thousands of others along the shore.
My life, ordinary, like the hundreds of name-less/unknown people I passed as I strolled along.
Yet, for the rock and I, a shared moment of a trace of God's grace...I carry with me
And share with you
this day.

Grace and peace ~~