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.

Jubilee Conference ReCap

Great things always seem to happen at this conference with college students. And last week I had the privilege of journeying to Pittsburgh with 8 students to engage in great times of worship, spiritual rap sessions, and all-around social goodness

We walked to the subway and hopped on the “T” to get over to the North Shore area for dinner one evening. That turned out to be a slight miscalculation in terms of timing, but there’s always some good memories like this!

Over the next week, we will be working on a little highlight video where each student may share something transformational about their Jubilee experience. It is always a fun challenge for me personally to figure out how to help students translate what they’ve learned into new neural and behavioral pathways.

The point of the Jubilee Conference (at the risk of over-simplifying) is giving college students of vision for how the Gospel “transforms everything.” It’s about helping students discover what it means to live faithfully in every area of life. This is my 10th year of taking students to the Jubilee Conference. Not every year does every student get it…or walk away transformed. But this year was one of those years and I’m glad each of these students came away seeking to follow Jesus with their entire lives.

A Simple Guide for Daily Scripture Reading, Meditation, Prayer, & Journaling

A couple of days ago, one of the students in my campus ministry in Cincinnati said that he wanted to start his day with meditation and prayer. As I was looking online for some kind of resource to send to him, I realized it might be just as easy to describe an approach that I often use.

When you want to start the day with 5-10 minutes of meditation and prayer, here’s an idea…

Begin with a verse like Psalm 46:1 “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” In my opinion, key verses in the Psalms are great for this type of reading, but one could also select key verses (Google encouraging bible verses etc) from anywhere in Scripture.

Read over the verse 2-3 times…slowly…even reading out loud if possible. (A more in-depth approach like this is called lectio divina)

Then ask God a question: What do you want me to learn from this verse? What do I need to hear today? Or what’s the most important word in this verse for me today?

Create your own daily prayer that goes something like this: “Lord, I invite you to lead my life today. Help me listen for your voice. Help me to love you and love others well. Guide me with your Spirit towards the decisions that honor you today. Amen.” 🙏

Then take a few moments to write in a journal.

Perhaps write out the verse on which you were meditating. Then write down some thoughts or words that came to mind during the prayer/meditation time.

Try to include some kind of daily “action” plan, for example… “Today, when I feel like I’m in trouble emotionally, financially, relationally or in any way…I want to think about God being my main source of help.”

And viola…you just started your day with 5-10 minutes of scripture-based meditation and prayer. 😎

Occasional Vlogging and Our Patreon Thing

I enjoy an occasional live video or what I sometimes call the “car talk” video.

There’s just something about talking to your phone in the car that is comfortable and genuine.

And please check out our Patron page (where this video “lives”) which is one of our simplest means of inviting friends to participate in our campus ministry efforts.

Life in the Valley

f7748880-b6d9-4ce7-9c46-cab5faa2acc4Valleys can be quite beautiful. I remember hiking in the Sawtooths in Idaho a few years ago with a friend and there were steep striking valleys with trout-filled streams funneling through epic slopes on either side.

While in Ecuador nearly 20 years ago I remember hiking through the picturesque foothills around one of the tallest active volcanos in the world, Cotapaxi. In that case, hiking through the valley was a a437a16d-a4ac-4e97-bb29-543966461914beautiful approach to a difficult and strenuous climb.

But currently, the valley we are experiencing is one of death, sorrow, and mourning. The Psalmist refers to the valley of the shadow of death in the 23rd psalm which could be a metaphor for any sort of pain, adversity, gloom, or doom. Debbie and I are experiencing this valley due to what she has often referred to as “stupid cancer!” Both my older brother and my mother-in-law were diagnosed with some aggressive cancers back in July. My older brother, Bill, died December 10, 2018. My amazing mother-in-law, Alice, just died a few days ago…January 9, 2019.

That is a lot of loss to experience in such a brief time. And if you factor in the unexpected death of Deb’s older sister in February 2015 at the age of 44, it just compounds the grief. Perhaps you have gone through a similar “valley” of death’s shadow. Perhaps you have been spared the experience of deep loss so far in your journey. Chances are, we all pass through this valley sooner or later.

Even before my brother slipped across the veil of death, Psalm 23 was being reimagined for me. Several times I prayed the Psalm over my brother as he slept or rested or just suffered in silence. Now, what was once a churchy sounding irrelevant passage of scripture (it never seemed very relevant since I had no personal experience with  sheep-herding) has become a heart-felt meaningful piece of biblical poetry. It has become almost a daily part of my prayer liturgy (I owe some of that influence to Dallas Willard as well). And I occasionally play this old version by Keith Green which was sung at my brother’s funeral.

Exiting this valley of sorrow and grief will not be a quick, easy process. We just celebrated my mother-in-law’s life yesterday (some call that a funeral). So today is the first day of what some might call our “new normal” and it is tough to figure out life without her, honestly. But we are learning to trust the Good Shepherd…and continue anchoring ourselves to that “hopiest of hopes” I mentioned last time. The encouragement received from so many friends, along with the family that we cling even more tightly to these days, is certainly a big part of what gets us through.

a1a12086-d715-42c4-a679-c047f3569706Cancer, death, and grief is a crappy way to start a new year.

We are hoping for much better days ahead. It’s just painful to move forward without these crucial loved ones.

Above all we are clinging to the Hope (elpida) of the resurrection and a future reunion with those we love in the new Creation.