The Hard Work of Rest

I'm almost two weeks into my sabbatical--and it's been good so far. Busy, yes, but good. My trip to California went well, with renewed friendships certainly the highlight. Both pastor friends I spent time with are faithfully pursuing their calls as husbands, fathers, and shepherds. I'm grateful for their witness to Jesus, for their steadfastness, and for their bike handling skills on tight turns.

Sonoma County continues to move me. What a wonderful illustration of God's good creation and faithful human stewardship. The neat rows of vineyards coursing up and down the hills shows a divine and human partnership that is harmonious and mutually respectful.

As I delve a bit deeper into this time of rest, I'm realizing how easy it is to try to stay busy. How much we rely on our rhythms of work to bring order and predictability to our lives. And how tempting it is to gain our identity and self-worth from our routines and roles! To unplug and rest means giving up a bit of control. It necessitates waiting on God and allowing room for surprise in our lives. It's that old "Space for God" focus of a book that was popular for many of us in seminary. It's kind of a "change-up" pitch that is disrupting...and, I suspect, wonderfully so. I'm having to adjust to these new rhythms and sometimes it's work! Next week we're off to Italy. I'm studying up on it...and wondering how their cappuccinos will compare to mine...

"Shabbat Shalom!"

One of the blessed things about the Internet is that it gives us access to information 24/7. And one of the cursed things about the Internet (or at least the way we're tempted to use it) is that it gives us access to information 24/7. We so easily awake and check the news online, using our smartphones or computers. The next thing we know, the day's pace and focus have been set by our email inboxes, our text messages, our customized news feeds, etc. All this is great for quick access to information, but the stimulus of constant news, not to mention the flickering pixels assaulting our senses, can tire us out and make us grumpy. Sometimes we need to unplug. Can I get an "amen"?

Today's lectionary reading (a daily dose of Bible readings I follow somewhat religiously...) included Leviticus 25, which details God's command for--get this--the land itself to get a rest every seventh year. Yes, the land too needs a rest, not just those who till, sow, and reap it. God graciously provides rest for people and creation in a rhythm God instituted at the very beginning. Remember the Genesis account? Even almighty God rested after creation! Just because we have the means for going 24/7, doesn't mean we should go 24/7, does it? We each need to observe a rhythm of work and rest and do so freely and joyously. One day in seven is for rest, the Bible says. Even though Jesus has freed us from the more rigorous sabbath observations of his time (by saying famously, "The Sabbath was made for humankind, not humankind for the Sabbath"), Jesus hasn't made such wise living obsolete. No, he's likely focused it even more intently. We need to find regular ways to unplug, to rest, recover, renew, refresh.

I'll be doing this very intentionally and very soon. At the end of this week, I begin a three-month sabbatical. For three marvelous months, I'm unplugging as pastor. The mantle's coming off. The church and its leadership generously encourage us, after seven years (and in my case, close to eight), to enjoy this period of refreshment. What will I do, as I'm doing nothing, you ask? Well, I hope to engage in some of the "r's" listed above, but I will add to them some more specifics: relax, read, ride (as in my bike), and 'rite (as in this blog). There will also be some "bucket list" items to knock off, some fabled climbs to ride, some old friendships to renew, and a trip to Italy to take (Eyjafjallajokull permitting). I'm excited for this time and very grateful to First Presbyterian Church of Boulder for making it possible. I'll hope to be in touch with some Sabbatical musings along the way. Some will be Twitter updates, others blog posts. So stay tuned. And as my Jewish friends say, "Shabbat shalom!"