Reflections on Sabbath and Time

This book has been on my shelf for quite some time but eluded my full attention until now. Although I will not call this a formal “book review” I certainly want to share some thoughts and quotes.

“There is a realm of time where the goal is not to have but to be, not to own but to give, not to control but to share, not to subdue but to be in accord. Life goes wrong when the control of space, the acquisition of things of space, becomes our sole concern.”

For me, this passage on the very first page of the book sets up the entire premise as Heschel wants to make a very important distinction between time and space…between doing and being.

As a kid growing up in the Christian home of a pastor, I remember lots of rules about the “Sabbath” (which just meant Sundays for our non-Jewish family). Sunday was a day of rest. Sunday was a day set apart for God. We bathed on Saturday evening in preparation for wearing our “Sunday Best” to church. Gospel/worship music was played in our home before heading off to church. We tried not to eat out usually, because that meant spending money and causing other people to work on the Sabbath. Some of the rule-keeping was good in that it made us aware of the importance of the “Lord’s Day.” But I would say that my understanding of the Sabbath was more about prohibitions and less about what the Sabbath really meant and what it was for.

“The meaning of Sabbath is to celebrate time rather than space. Six days a week we live under the tyranny of things of space; on the Sabbath we try to become attuned to holiness in time.”

For Heschel, sabbath is about creating a “palace in time” in which we enjoy the menuha (rest) of God…time with the Good Shepherd who has lead us to the still waters of rest.

My personal rhythm of sabbath keeping has been an attempt to regularly shift from time (chronos in the Greek sense) to time (kairos) in a more Jewish understanding of God’s time. These two Greek words for time underscore the distinction for me that we can either use time or enjoy it.

There is much to be said for the practice of “sabbath keeping” and setting aside time to nourish one’s soul. People often speak of “living in the moment” or “being present” and I think Heschel has great words of wisdom and inspiration around reorienting one’s relationship to time and things.

Biggest Life Transition In Quite Awhile

For the past couple of days, I’ve been typing in searches in my browser (Firefox) and it would immediately open a page with Yahoo.

Not sure I can explain it, but I really prefer Google over Yahoo. So I’m irritated. When I try to reset the default search option to Google, Firefox just keeps using Yahoo, in spite of my deepest heartfelt desires.

My relationship with Mozilla-Firefox began around 2006 with the purchase of my first Macbook Pro. I never liked Safari as a browser so I started using Firefox. And even though I’ve switched back to PC/Windows for the past 4-5 years, I continue preferring Firefox browsing to any other options.

Even as I began to use Google, GMail, YouTube, etc with great regularity, I resisted the the Chrome transition just because I thought Firefox was like the “idependent” option among all the bipartisan browsers on the market.

But today…

I have officially become a Chromer. What’s next? Replacing my iPhone with a Google phone?!?

Partnering with EveryCampus

In my role as the coordinator for Campus Mission, it has been exciting to partner with EveryCampus as a way to engage local churches with the mission of reaching out to college & university campuses.

The idea is pretty simple! Cru and InterVarsity campus ministries have collaborated to create the EveryCampus initiative whose goal is to see a Gospel community developed on every campus in the United States. Currently, about half of all campuses have such a ministry.

Campus Mission has become one of the partnering organizations and at two denominational gatherings (with the Church of the Nazarene) we have shared this mission and invited pastors, churches, and leaders to get involved.

Check out the EveryCampus website to find out how you or your church can help us reach this goal. They also have great resources for launching new ministries on a college campus.

Learn More about EveryCampus
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Richard Rohr, Carl Jung & Campus Ministry

Sitting under my favorite Sycamore beside the monastery.

Each year about this time I spend a couple of days at a monastery (the Abbey of Gethsemani) and “do” what I call my annual prayer retreat. Typically, I take a few books along for the quiet time in my “cell.” The first one I got to this year was a re-read of Falling Upward by Richie Rohr (that’s what his close friends call him. ha!)

So the gist of Rohr’s book is talking about how to navigate the transition from the first part of life to the second. Often, this transition is instigated by some sort of “falling” down in life. He seems to imply that most people go through this transition (if at all) between the ages of 35-55. So at the ripe old age of 48, I’m right on track since I would suggest that my “falling up” began about 5 or 6 years ago.

The basic premise is that you spend the first half of life establishing identity and building a certain “container” for life. Then for whatever reason, the container cracks…life takes an unexpected turn…some sort of crisis unfolds…etc. In the second half of life, ideally, you go a little bit deeper into some soul-full territory. You realize the limitations of superficial structures and either-or (dualistic) thinking. Rohr loves the language of unitive consciousness…moving from either/or thinking to both/and or “yes” thinking.

I’m finding a parallel journey in campus ministry from the first half to the second half, although in this case it’s the first and second halves of a school year.

In the first half of a year with students, I’m establishing identity and connection…building a sort of container for our relationship. Now in the second half (spring semester) it’s time to go a little deeper. I want to use the foundation of relationship which we’ve established in the first part of the year as a platform for launching towards something more.

So my hope in the 2nd semester of each school year is to see these relationships go a little deeper in several directions. I will challenge students to plunge a little deeper into the God-waters…moving out of “kiddie pool” spirituality into the depths of trust and exploration. I will also challenge them to deepen their relationships with others. Perhaps it’s time to be a little more vulnerable, or to care a little more for those closest to them. It could be in a small group, in a class, with a roommate, or any significant relationship they have developed.
And of course, I want to deepen my relationship with the student if that’s what is most beneficial for the student. Although in some cases, I will encourage a deeper mentoring connection with someone else if I’m not necessarily the best person to fill that role in their lives.

The goal is always transformation and growth. The second half of this school year is about to begin. Here’s to seeing a few students go from spiritual immaturity to maturity over the next few months!

Ironically, as I was reading Falling Upward at the monastery and enjoying some Pneuma Coffee in a cool Star Wars mug I had just gotten for Christmas from my daughter, this happened…

Coincidence??

The Discipleship Journey with College Students

Recently, I sat down with a college student who wanted to “dive in” to the spiritual waters of discipleship in a deeper way. This is a student I’ve been alongside of as a spiritual mentor for a couple of years now and it’s always encouraging to know that a college student wants to put some emphasis on developing their faith as well as their academic and vocational life.

What can be a bit frustrating at times in college ministry is that a student you’ve spent time with demonstrates a lack of understanding when it comes to basic spiritual disciplines of the Christian life. With this particular student, biblical intimidation seems to be the main obstacle. Some have a fear of reading the Bible for themselves because they don’t believe they have the tools for interpreting the Bible or the ability to “get anything out it.”

So I took this student through a simple exercise of reading a brief passage (James 1:1-8) and demonstrating some simple ways of asking questions about the passage, journaling, asking practical questions, and then writing out a prayer in response to the passage…inviting God to bring wisdom as they try to apply biblical principles to their lives. In about 15-20 minutes, we had a great experience together in God’s word and the student walked away encouraged about the simplicity of the process.

This “discipleship conversation” was a great reminder to me of the benefits of sitting down with a student and simply reading the Bible together. As I reflect on that conversation, I thought it might be good to outline the process here which may help others:

Step #1

Pick an appropriate passage. There are parts of the Bible that lend themselves to easy understanding and simple application. I have found the short letter of James in the New Testament to be a great place to start.

Step #2

Read through the passage and make notes of key words or topics. Try to put the author’s intention in your own words. Before we get to “what this passage means to me” we need to have a good idea of the author’s intention.

Step #3

Ask questions of the text. Who is the author speaking to? What do you think the historical context of the original audience was? What is the main principle or teaching in the passage that might apply to our own lives? Is there something going on in your own life that the Holy Spirit might be calling your attention to? What would it look like to incorporate this biblical principle in your own life?

Step #4
Pray. Sometimes it’s good to write out a simple prayer. From this passage in James, a prayer might look like this: Lord, help me to see the trials in my life as opportunities to grow and mature in my faith and not just opportunities to complain or stress out.

Step #5

Take Action. What is one simple thing I can do this week to apply this teaching to my life? When a trial or difficult circumstance pops up, I want to immediately respond with a simple prayer: Lord, help me see my life and this obstacle as an opportunity to grow closer to You.

In the same way that physical exercise and good nutrition can lead to physical health and growth, spiritual exercises need to be a consistent part of our lives if we want to be spiritually healthy and fit.