Sabbath Values

Gentle Reader,

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.

– Exodus 20:8-11 (NKJV)

Did you know that I’m something called a “content creator?” That I’m supposed to have 20-25 new graphics cycling through Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest every single day? That I’m supposed to respond to every tweet ever?

Oof.

There are a load of articles out there that purport to share the secrets to success, that will tell you how to do this writing thing “right.” Almost all of them encourage spending more time on the internet, specifically social media, than is healthy. How can it be healthy to dedicate most of your waking hours to attempting to “go viral” or catch clicks? Even with the use of scheduling tools, that’s a whole lot of minutes spent pinning and posting.

Minutes when the sun rises, bathing the new day in all its glorious color and promise.

Minutes when the snow falls, gently, covering the ground in a layer of pristine white.

Minutes when God beckons, His Spirit calling us to open up that Book and receive the goodness therein.

The first pages of Genesis tell us that work is God-designed and given. We get ourselves into trouble, and quickly, when we don’t have something useful with which to occupy our time. We need to live well and wisely, for the glory of God and the good of others. For me, this means writing, and writing in the year 2019 does equal social media in all of its weirdness.

What the year 2019 does not equal is a rejection of rest.

I work from home, here on this blog and as a virtual assistant for a couple of ministries. It’s hard to flip the “off” switch. Boundaries get fuzzy and the hours blend together until I’ve found that a whole day has gone by with me bent over my laptop or phone instead of actually engaging with the world. All right if this happens from time to time, but a bad habit overall. I ignore my body’s signals, the ones that tell me it’s time to get up and move around. I ignore my mind’s signals, the ones that tell me to step away and get a new perspective. I ignore my heart’s signals, the ones that tell me I’ve been too isolated and need some connection.

Worst, I ignore the Holy Spirit’s signals, the ones that tell me that I can’t serve Him if I don’t spend time with Him.

The classic, stereotypical issue for us all. The work becomes the driving force, the thing in which we invest our entire sense of self. We shift from “human being” to “human doing,” bound to ever-increasing productivity and chasing ever-elusive popularity.

Running at a feverish pace.

Into that, the Spirit whispers, “Stop.”

The command to keep the Sabbath was never meant to be a burden. The words – rest, quiet, holiness – came from God’s mouth as a way of showing us our limitations, reminding us to depend on Him for all of our needs (material and otherwise), and as a sign of His compassion. He knows that we can’t do it all. He knows that we are fragile and finite. He knows us better than we know ourselves.

And this Sabbath, it’s not just a day. Oh, it’s important to have a day. A whole 24-hour period set aside for worship and rest. (Doesn’t matter what day it is; let other people fight about that). As with all things involving the law, there is the letter and the spirit. On this side of the Cross, we seek to understand and apply the spirit behind the letter, and we see that Sabbath, that rest, that dependence upon God, is to permeate each day. It is an essential aspect of our faith.

A day, and more than a day.

A set of values. A way of walking through this life knowing that we are not defined by analytics. Or sales. Or whatever we are tempted to define ourselves by. We are, instead, defined by God Himself. And He says we are His children, the sheep of His pasture, the apple of His eye.

And so we rest.

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Five Minute Friday: Potential

Actual

Gentle Reader,

What a day this was.

Kate says: potential.

Go.

Oh, the just-so-whelming,
Maybe has an ending,
Potential love of God
How it leaves me alone
Fear to the bone
Trapped in works of mine…

Apologies to the actual lyrics of Reckless Love. (I’m not here to debate those. For the record, I do enjoy the song but think that “relentless” would have been a better word choice). As soon as I saw tonight’s prompt, these phrases immediately popped into my mind.

That’s how we often see the love of God.

As potential love. An affection, as according to the Mssrs. Merriam and Webster, that is “existing in possibility, capable of development into actuality.” It’s possible that He will really, truly love us if we get all of our proverbial ducks in a row; if we never mess up; if we never find ourselves in a position of actually needing His grace and forgiveness.

Strange, isn’t it? The entire Christian belief system centers around a God who is whole, complete, not lacking in any good attribute. When we come to the crisis point of crying out for salvation, a moment enabled by His active grace that has gone before and enlightens our dark hearts, we understand that we are staking everything on His mercy. A merciful God cannot be unloving.

Yet we so easily slip into believing that He is.

We develop the lists, the rules and the anxiety.

The Apostle Paul makes it clear that we are not to abuse God’s grace. We aren’t forgiven so that we can sin more (Romans 6:1-2). His commands are good and the longer we walk with Jesus, the more He works to help us understand that goodness. But it’s easy for us to miss or misinterpret. We see “command” and we immediately jump to “dead if I don’t obey.”

Because we see God’s love as existing in a state of potential.

And if His love is simply a potential, then His grace and mercy must have limits.

So better not mess up.

Don’t misunderstand me. I agree with Paul. We have no business engaging in presumptuous, willful sin just because we know He will forgive us. At the same time, paranoid living, wondering if He really does love us, fearing that there is a place too far, is a true misery.

His love is not a potential. It is an actual. It is realized, ongoing, unending, deep.

In that, we can rest.

Stop.

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Being for the Benefit of Madam G

Get Back

Gentle Reader,

Thank you, John Lennon. (If you don’t get the reference, please leave this site and go listen to all of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band right now).

Whenever I don’t stick to my self-imposed writing schedule, I have a sense of needing to apologize to you. As if I’ve failed. And I did fail the last two weeks, physically. An out-of-nowhere cold knocked me flat. Then the smoke of annual fires rolled in. The world is a haze of sepia and ash. My garden, vegetables and flowers alike, looks awful, as if it, too, is struggling to breathe.

As I’ve coughed and sniffed and worked to keep my lungs inside my body, I’ve thought a great deal about this blog. Something about this being its tenth year of existence is extremely bothersome to me. Instead of feeling grateful, I am discontented. I think I finally know why, or at least a bit of the why.

For so long I have kept to regular posting. I’ve worked hard to have at least two articles a week appear here, rain or shine. I like routine. I like discipline. I understand the value of both.

But I can’t do it anymore.

Authors always debate how much inspiration really matters. Many, far smarter than I, believe that it’s the grit that counts. You sit down at the same time, every day, and crack on. That has generally been my attitude. No big thing can be achieved without the small, plodding steps.

I am beginning to see, however, that there is value in looseness. Maybe it doesn’t always have to be about schedules and SEOs and striving. Maybe there is wisdom in publishing only when you truly have something to say.

I have a novel that I haven’t touched since February and an idea for another rolling around my head. It’s time to give space and energy to those pursuits.

And so Madam G, for the foreseeable future, will post only when she wants to. It is to her benefit to retreat a little. (That’s a creepy third-person thing there, but I had to reference the title somehow). Participation in Five Minute Friday will continue, because that community means a lot to me and the prompts manage to meld discipline and inspiration in a way that never seems to run to dryness. Newsletters will continue, but in a more sporadic fashion.

I continue to be thankful for and honored by your presence. The fact that more than a handful of you choose to read these words never ceases to amaze. We’ll still see each other. The journey is far from over.

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Five Minute Friday: Vacation

Vacation

Gentle Reader,

My mom is gone this week, visiting family. I’ve been tasked with checking in on her dog, who hates everyone. No, he really does. He’s a Pomeranian, a breed known for fiercely bonding to one human and one human only. That’s exactly what this pipsqueak has done. He’s practically beside himself with grief but he won’t let anyone comfort him. Instead, he tries to bite all of us.

Kate says: vacation.

Go.

We didn’t go on vacation often when I was a child. The money just wasn’t available for stuff like that. So, when my mom sensed that we were all getting tired and stress out, she would declare a “vacation day.” The phone would be unplugged, chores would be ignored, naps were encouraged. We would watch old movies (if my dad got to choose, usually a John Wayne flick) and have picnics on the living room floor. If the “vacation day” occurred during winter, sometimes she would crank up the thermostat so we could all walk around in shorts and pretend that spring, rather than another blizzard, was just around the corner.

I didn’t know it then, but my mom was making the most out of what we had. She found ways to turn cabin fever or the inability to play due to sunburns into something fun. Laying on the floor eating a fudgesicle. Playing checkers with my brother, classical music playing (which prompted us to dramatically narrate our games). On warm, clear nights, sitting on a blanket in the front yard, watching the stars while the crickets chirped and the frogs croaked.

Simple. Unrushed.

What I also didn’t know is that she was actively modeling Sabbath rest. Now, as an adult, it’s extremely important to me to get away from the usual from time to time, even if it’s just by closing off the laptop and refusing to do more than read a book for a few hours. Doing so allows my brain to ooze out my ear, the grotesque phrase that I like to use when I’m feeling overwhelmed and need to disengage. Strangely, and probably by design, some of my best thinking and processing occurs when I’m not focused on anything in particular.

Get away this weekend. You don’t have to go far. You don’t even have to leave your house. Just do something fun and restorative. The options are only as limited as your imagination.

Stop.

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