Following Close Behind

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It has been a noisy week. As I sit down to write this post, I still have all of these words scrambling around in my mind…words I’ve heard, words I’ve read, words I’ve spoken, words I’m trying to figure out how to express.

And as I come into this space…I’m yearning for quiet. I’m yearning for stillness. I’m yearning for less of me. I’m tired of my words.

It’s a sure sign that I need to hear His.

As we move into the weekend, maybe you (like me) are feeling that your brain is over-crowded and your heart is feeling a little weary.

We all need Sabbath-rest, friends.

So I’ll leave words here from the Psalmist, words to help my eyes re-focus on Him…and maybe take a walk, let everything else fade away for a little while, and leave room for the Father’s still, small voice.

May you find some room for quiet this weekend, some rest for your heart, some time to let everything around you fall to a hush for even just a little while…let’s leave space for His words, room for His presence.

My heart is confident in you, O God;
    my heart is confident.
    No wonder I can sing your praises!
Wake up, my heart!
Wake up, O lyre and harp!
I will wake the dawn with my song.    

 I will thank you, Lord, among all the people.
    I will sing your praises among the nations.
For your unfailing love is as high as the heavens.
    Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.

Be exalted, O God, above the highest heavens.
    May Your glory shine over all the earth. – Psalm 57:7-11

Your unfailing love is better than life itself;
    how I praise you!
I will praise you as long as I live,
    lifting up my hands to you in prayer.
You satisfy me more than the richest feast.
    I will praise you with songs of joy…

Because You have been my help, Therefore in the shadow of Your wings I will rejoice. My soul follows close behind You; Your right hand upholds me. -Psalm 63:3-5,7-8

 

With Eyes Toward the Sabbath

I recently read a book by Lauren F. Winner called Mudhouse Sabbath. Lauren converted from Judaism to Christianity and this wonderful little book is about the traditions from Judaism that she believes would enrichen the Christian faith in tangible, day-to-day ways. What she said about the Sabbath caught my attention in a big way…

I remember that, for Jews, the Sabbath shapes all the rhythms of calendar and time; the entire week points toward Shabbat. The rabbis, who are always interested in the subtleties of Torah prose, puzzled over the two different versions of the Sabbath commandment. Why, in Exodus, does God tell us to remember the Sabbath, whereas in Deuteronomy He instructs observance of the Sabbath? One story the rabbis tell about the difference between remembrance and observance has to do with ordering time. Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday are caught up in remembering the preceding Shabbat, while Wednesday through Friday are devoted to preparing for the next Shabbat.”

In this remembering and preparing for a day wholly consecrated to Him, our calendar is centered around God instead of our own agendas.

I’ve written before about the Sabbath…wondering how to keep it holy as we are commanded. It’s so easy to fall into the usual pattern — rushing to church, taking the afternoon for grocery shopping, getting everything prepared for Monday’s rush. Every time I read Scripture about this day of the week, I feel a pang of longing. Without getting caught up in legalistic ‘can’ and ‘cannot’, I simply want to be obedient…I want to rest in the Father, giving Him time and space to fill my heart. I want to be able to honor Him on this one day that He asks of us, knowing that every day belongs to Him…

The Sabbath is not the only day in which God can give us His strength and a refreshment of our spirit. But it must be for a reason that He commands us to keep it holy, as unto the Lord. I have a feeling it is for our good. I have a feeling that He knows how we need a day free of distractions to truly rest and have communion with Him…

But what does it really mean, making the Sabbath holy and ‘to’ the Lord?

It makes wonderful sense to me when I remember that holy means set apart…set apart from our other days. From the work that occupies our brains, preoccupation with our own selves, the chores that keep our hands moving, the striving to ‘get things done’.

We set apart this time apart and offer our hearts, minds, and bodies to the Lord.

If I am to do this, preparation is necessary…I will have to make an effort so that my time can be presented as an offering to Him…and as I make those adjustments to finish up the laundry, lay out church clothes, prepare backpacks and all of those things…won’t my mind already begin to focus on Him? I believe that if we make more of an effort to prepare and spend grateful time in remembering the Sabbath, we will be more likely to consciously invite Him into every single day of our lives. It is a process of acknowledging that our time belongs to HIm…He is the center and essence of our lives.

So I am challenging myself to slow down this weekend, to pay attention to how I am spending my minutes so that my Sabbath may honor Him.

What, exactly, should this look like?

Perhaps it is about paying attention…entering the House of Worship with our hearts already adoring and our minds already on Him. If we have asked His help in being free of the usual distractions, we will be present— fully engaged in worship, fully open to the Word of God. Perhaps setting the Sabbath apart from normal routines will mean more time with our families, taking the opportunity to really talk to each other. Maybe it is opening up the dinner table to those who are hungry for food or for compassion…maybe it is leaving the email in-box unopened…really listening to a beautiful piece of music…taking a walk and rejoicing in the beauty of this marvelously spinning earth instead of sitting in front of the television.

Maybe it is allowing ourselves to slow down…to quiet down…eradicating the noise that drives our week so that we may hear the still, small voice of the Lord.

I believe that if we ask Him, He will help us to live this day unto Him…and I know that our obedience will be blessed. Isaiah 55 says that “all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and who hold fast to my covenant–these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer.”

So will you join me in setting apart this day and offering it to the Lord? May we rejoice in His abiding presence and surrender our time so that He can direct our paths…may we remember and observe all that the Lord has commanded.

But those who wait upon God get fresh strength. They spread their wings and soar like eagles, they run and don’t get tired, they walk and don’t lag behind. ~Isaiah 40:31, The MSG

Happy weekend, friends!

 

{Excerpt from—Winner, Lauren F. (2009-05-27). Mudhouse Sabbath: An Invitation to a Life of Spiritual Discipline (Pocket Classics) (pp. 8-9). Paraclete Press. Kindle Edition.}

A Home on Facebook. Also, Thoughts on the Sabbath.

So we’ll deal with Facebook first. I’m becoming increasingly frustrated with how my time disappears and this blog stands silent for many days at a time…I really want anyone who reads So Beloved to have a constant place they can go to for encouragement.  Enter…a So Beloved Facebook page!  Because I can at least manage an update-status-sized quote or song or something for the day…so please, please ‘like’ me on your friendly social network:   http://www.facebook.com/pages/So-Beloved/102315609832767?ref=ts/

Now onto a few thoughts on the Sabbath, which we’re looking at in Genesis Chapter Two.

As I’ve looked a little deeper, it seems that the original word used in the Hebrew, when it says that God rested on the seventh day,  implies that God abstained from further creative work. So He rested, taking time to look at His work and know that ‘it was good.’

We know that God wasn’t tired or out of ideas or anything like that…so maybe in blessing the seventh day, He was already thinking of us. He was setting a precedent…because, sometimes, we think we can do it all. We’ll keep going and going (whether it’s business or pleasure) until we’re absolutely worn out.  We, literally, cannot take a 24/7 busy-busy lifestyle. It catches up with us. It drains us mentally, emotionally, and physically. We all need to have time to refuel, to sit back and look at the direction we’re traveling, to see if it’s ‘good’. Without time of reflection and evaluation, we’ll end up somewhere we don’t want to be.  Or, on the positive side, we might see that we are on the right course and can have that moment of surrendering our next step to God.  Either way, we need that quiet time…how else can we hear God’s still, small voice in the craziness of life?

Looking forward, we see that this day was important enough for God to include it in His commandments to the people of Israel.  “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.” (Exodus 20: 8-11). I love how He includes even the cattle in this commandment…He truly blessed us all with a day of refreshmentand, too, a chance to show our obedience to Him (obedience for our own good!).

Exodus 16 tells the story of God’s people in the wilderness after they left Egypt. They were hungry, and God heard their cry…and, to their amazement, manna (bread that tasted like a sweet honey-wafer) fell from heaven every morning. God gave them specific instructions concerning this manna…for each day, they were to gather an omer per person and to not leave any of it until the next morning.  As the Israelites often had to learn the hard way  like we sometimes do, they did leave manna out until the next day and it was rotten, infested by worms.  On the day before the Sabbath, however, they were to gather and bake twice as much manna…because on the Sabbath, none would fall.  Raise your hand if you would’ve liked being that person out there on the Sabbath morning, basket in hand, looking ridiculous while everyone else had their breakfast…I shudder when I think about it, because I know my own habit of procrastination….and here’s what God said about their disobedience. “How long will you refuse to keep my commandments and laws? See, for that the Lord has given you the Sabbath, therefore he gives you on the sixth day the bread of two days; abide every man in his place, let no man go out of his place on the seventh day.” So the people rested on the seventh day. (Exodus 16: 29&30).

So this whole passage really got to me.  Confession: Sunday mornings have been way less than peaceful for me. Actually, by the time I get our family to church, I have often had to fight off massive irritation, impatience, and the thought that I’d be better off just staying at home…and when we were back home, all I’d want to do was collapse somewhere…but no such luck, because I’d have to get the house ready for the next week, make sure the laundry was finished, and pack up the boys’ school stuff.  When I read about the manna not falling on the Sabbath, and the people gathering twice as much on the sixth day, it was like a light when off in my thick head.  Here it is, the answer to my Sunday chaos — follow the example God gives me and prepare for His day. Prepare ahead of time!  I know this sounds so simple and logical, but I’d never thought of it in this way before.  If I truly want to honor the commandment to keep the Sabbath holy, then I have to put effort into it!  Just by laying out everyone’s clothes the day before, finishing my housework by Saturday night, doing a few extra things here and there on that sixth day…then I free up my Sunday to actually focus on God — to make sure He is my priority–…and to spend peaceful time with my family.  If being obedient and working on my relationship with God is truly important to me, then I have to reschedule my to-do list to leave that blessed day free…for blessings.

Because as I’ve realized this, and really tried to put this into action in my life, my Sundays are changing. It’s a work in progress, but I can already feel a difference.  I’m joyful as I enter into the house of the Lord…I’m fulfilled and peaceful as I spend time with Him…I’m free to spend time with my family without thinking about everything else I need to do.  Funny…that’s the second time I’ve used the word ‘free’. Isn’t it a wonderful paradox, the way submitting to God’s commandments brings us freedom?  Now, one more promise from God concerning this day…and I’ll leave you with a challenge to refocus your Sabbath on Him!

“If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath
and from doing as you please on my holy day,
if you call the Sabbath a delight
and the LORD’s holy day honorable,
and if you honor it by not going your own way
and not doing as you please or speaking idle words,

then you will find your joy in the LORD,
and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land
and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.”
The mouth of the LORD has spoken.  ~Isaiah 58:13&14

(Non)Labor Day

Yesterday was Labor Day, a national holiday that allows some of the country’s work force to take a day off…for many people, it’s a day to sit back and take a breath…it’s a day to enjoy a reward for all that hard work.

Appropriately, we have come to the moment in Genesis where God also takes a moment to look over His work and to ‘rest’. (Don’t worry, I’ll come back to that whole making man and woman thing later…:) )

In the beginning of Genesis 2, we read this:  “Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made: and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.”  (verses 1 through 4). 

Now when I first read these few verses, I thought that discussing them would be easy.  It was the seventh day — the Sabbath — simple, right?  We rest and go to church and that’s what it’s all about…

Except, there’s a lot more to it.  I was actually amazed at how much I found when I started really looking into the Word to find more on this subject…there’s enough that it might take me a few days to cover it all.  But the more I read, the more I see the importance of this seventh day and what it means to us.  If God Himself chose to honor and ‘sanctify’ this day, then doesn’t that make the Sabbath…well, extraordinary?

It should.  But, in my own life, I feel like there’s the routine I’ve had since childhood — Get up, go to church, have a good lunch with the family, take a nap (hopefully), maybe get together with friends, maybe go back to church, and crawl into bed with Monday morning looming directly ahead…..and I feel like there could be more to gain from this ‘day of rest’.  These pieces of my Sundays are good — and those moments in church and with my family are what motivate me throughout the rest of the week — but, maybe, I have the pieces but not the whole picture of what a true Sabbath should be. 

Because Sundays, our designated Sabbath days, are supposed to be days of ‘refreshment’…days we are restored and renewed. That’s the day to remember who God is to us and what He’s done for us…it’s a day to honor Him with intentional, focused time with Him. We are, of course, supposed to make time for that every day…but God gave us the gift of an entire twenty-four hours of time away from our labor and stress, so that we could truly rest in Him without ‘squeezing’ it into our schedules. 

And when God gives us a direct commandment, like “the seventh (day) is the sabbath of rest, holy to the Lord (Exodus 31:15)”, it is always, always for our good.   There’s a purpose to every facet of His plan for us…and, over the next little while, we’ll explore the Sabbath and what it means.