I really do.
I write and preach first to myself.
(The only way I know how to do it!)
And then hope my musings and my questions resonate with others.
I try to not ask others to consider or to do what I am not willing to do myself.
But, one place (among many, I am sure) where I fall short is with this commandment.
Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.
I am not talking about Saturdays or Sundays, but about sabbath time.
Time set aside when I allow myself to just stop.
To just rest.
To just be.
I am much better at doing.
At filling the moments I have with the demands of my list.
Only to arrive at this moment,
Which is here now and never again,
This afternoon I sat on the porch and read a book ending my vacation in the same way I began it. Yes. I did more than sit and read.
There were walks in the woods and kayaking on the lakes and time with friends.
There were day trips to places we had not been before.
And another couple of days spending time in a place which holds wonderful memories for me and longer, more meaningful memories for my wife. But, even if I had just sat on the porch and read and looked at the mountains and watch it grow dark in the evening, it would have been enough. More than anything else what I needed was to press the pause button.
To be quiet.
I am grateful for the days just past.
They were and are just what I needed.
For some time now I have felt tired.
Bottom of the barrel tired.
Counting down the days until vacation and a chance to rest.
And feel like me, again.
So, here I am.
With those days I had been waiting for now in front of me.
Yes, there are projects to do and books on my list to read.
But, maybe more than anything else, what I need is unwind enough so I can sit still and be quiet and to allow the day I have to unfold as it will.
Where I live school started yesterday.
At least the public schools.
Which means this Sunday is the first Sunday since the end of June when families and households will be back in a more “normal” schedule. Normal at least to the extent that that the schedule we keep for 10 months each year is to be considered “normal.”
In preparation for this Sunday and beyond…
Floors have been cleaned.
Classrooms are being readied.
A picnic has been planned.
At least my calendar…
Is, once again, becoming full.
Overall, I am glad for the programs and the classes and the opportunities to come together, but too easily and too often we mistake means for ends. We spend so much time and energy planning and preparing and getting ready that worship and classes and programs become an end in themselves. We measure our performance or other’s commitment by their attendance or participation. When, in reality, our gatherings, whether for worship or learning or service to others, should be an invitation more than an expectation. An opportunity for grace to brush up against our lives more than one more obligation.
I love the word grace, but I am sometimes not 100% sure I know what it means.
Maybe all that and more.
What I am sure of is this.
Too often our churches have been more about expectations and obligations; about shoulds and oughts than they have been about grace.
I don’t know about you.
I sometimes barely know about me.
But what I do know is this.
I don’t need one more should or ought or weighty obligation.
I do need a place for grace.
As a whole, we are not big on commandments.
All those “you shall do this and you shall not do that” that we find in the Bible.
We treat them as nice suggestions to be paid attention to when we have the time or when it suits our needs. But I think there is one of those commandments that deserve a bit more attention than what we are giving it. It is this: Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.
A little historical background might help.
At the time that this commandment was made a commandment, if you were not among the powerful and the elite (at least 80% of the population lived hand-to-mouth and day-to-day) you could be forced to work sun up to sundown seven days a week. This commandment, backed by religious authority speaking for God, mandated a time to rest and a time of renewal and a time for family and community.
We (those of us who live around where I live) do not live in that type of world anymore. Thankfully. Instead we live in a non-stop world of our own making, especially those families with children. Because we are able, we have filled every moment of every day with something: school activities and sports and piano lessons and recitals and art classes and Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts and…
All good things.
But, what is lost is…
That time to rest for both ourselves and our children.
That time to stop long enough to be a family together and not a family on the go.
That time to allow heart and mind and soul to catch up with where you are.
Once again we are a people with no time.
No sabbath – that set aside time that helps us be whole.
The author Wendell Berry shares this insight: “Sabbath observance invites us to stop. Invites us to rest. It asks us to take notice that while we rest, the world continues without our help. It invites us to delight in the world’s beauty and abundance.”
Maybe it is time for us to make the old new again.
Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.