Searching for Sabbath

Just as I was steeping a cup of tea and preparing to sit down for a time of reading and writing my phone rang. The caller did not give me the news I wanted to hear. Instead I heard bad news that instantly annoyed me. The news I heard was not bad health news and my loved ones are all fine. It was nothing like that. It was not the news I wanted to hear, and I was annoyed. I needed my cup of tea and quiet time more than ever.

And the cup of tea, Earl Grey Creme, is not warming my soul as it normally does. I’m having trouble concentrating on my reading. My intention of writing about taking time for Sabbath took a slight change as I now had to reorient my thinking. How can I shut out the distractions of daily life so I can be fully present in Sabbath time? While each person has a different method for clearing out thoughts that distract, here is what works for me.

I write down what is distracting me. The physical work of writing it down allows me to transfer it from my brain where it is swirling around onto a piece of paper where I can pick it up later if needed or leave it there on that piece of paper.

I change my surroundings. I move outside if the weather is cooperating or move to where I have a view of the outside. I find a place to sit that is comfortable and not where I felt so distracted.

I remind myself that grace abounds. If now is not the time for quiet prayer and reflection, how else might I be present to God’s presence? Is now a good time to take a walk and envelop myself in God’s creation? Is now a good time to tackle a project that is long overdue? Is now a good time to write a letter to someone who is on my mind?

Whatever direction your Sabbath takes, I hope you’ll remember that grace abounds and you are loved more than you know.

40 Things in 40 Days

40 Things in Lent

 

Each year in Lent I strive to give away 40 things. This practice combines my love of making lists with my love of giving things away. I have very few rules around what constitutes a “thing” I give away. One day I might clean out my t-shirt drawer and donate what I do not need. Another day I might sort through the pantry and collect a box of food to share with someone else. If the opportunity presents itself, I’d love to give away a lunch to someone who is hungry. Often I give away many things to the recycling containers too. And I love to surprise a friend with something I give away in a package I send.

I use Lent as a time to give away and get rid of stuff so I can start new in Easter. And in response to my statement I was challenged by this thought from my friend, Brad. “Great idea but the real transformation would be to not start new in Easter with replacing what you cleaned out!” And the challenging thoughts continued with Jim’s statement, “I wonder if that would affect what I give away.”

I am seeking transformation this Lenten season, and so I am going to give away 40 things in Lent with no plans to replace them when Easter comes. I’m going to seek to inspire my sense of giving over these next 40 days.

How are you observing this season of Lent?

Waiting Through This Season of Lent

Since I am not serving a church this year, it feels like the season of Lent snuck up on me. I’ve known it was coming, and yet, I no longer need to prepare for the next church season months in advance. So, Lent is here and I’m just beginning to think about how I’ll observe this season.

While wondering how best to observe this season, I read the newsletter from St. Giles Presbyterian Church. Each Sunday in Lent, they will be singing one of my favorite songs from Taize, “Wait for the Lord.” As I read these words, I realized this is exactly what I need this year. I need to pause. I need to stop. I need to wait.

Wait for the Lord,  whose day is near.

Wait for the Lord: keep watch, take heart!

Every day of Lent I plan to sing this song. I will work on waiting and watching for the Lord. How will you observe this season?

Lenten Countdown with Post-its

Lenten Countdown with Post its

 

Those of you who know me well will know that I love post-its. I keep (at least) one pack in my purse in case of a post-it emergency. When I was doing youth and children’s ministry, I found many ways to work post-its into my lessons. Here is one example I first used a few years ago at St. Giles Presbyterian Church.

 

You will need 47 purple post-its for each person.

An Easter Sticker for each person.

Sharpie or pen to write.

 

Helpful Hints-

If you can find purple post-its that have 50 sheets, use those! I found 100 sheet purple post-its and split them in half.

I did this as a children’s message one Sunday morning and created all the countdowns myself. It took some time! If you have friends, a committee or ministry team, or a way of copying onto a package of post-its, I highly recommend doing it another way.

 

We are creating a countdown to Easter for our children/youth/families or yourself. Now the tricky part is that the 40 days of Lent do not include Sundays which is why you need 47 post-its. On the first post-it, you’ll write 40. On the second post-it, you’ll write 39.

 

Here’s the countdown for you-

40, 39, 38, 37, Sunday, 36, 35, 34, 33, 32, 31, Sunday, 30, 29, 28, 27, 26, 25, Sunday, 24, 23, 22, 21, 20, 19, Sunday, 18, 17, 16, 15, 14, 13, Sunday, 12, 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, Sunday, 6, 5, 4, 3 (Maundy Thursday), 2 (Good Friday), 1, Easter!

 

After creating all these countdowns, you’ll be ready to hand them out or you could have people make their own at a Lenten Fair. I recommend giving them out the Sunday before Ash Wednesday (February 26) and having some available on Ash Wednesday (March 1) and the first Sunday of Lent (March 5).

 

If distributing them to families during the children’s message, talk with the children about the season of Lent and how they’ll observe it. Talk about how we are all preparing for Easter in these 40 days and Sundays. Since 40 days is a very long time for most children to understand, this is a visual example of how long we’ll be waiting and preparing.

If you’d like to give this a try and your Lenten plans are already done, make one for yourself and try it out this year. See if the daily act of taking one more number off the pile helps you to visualize and live into this holy season.

 

God’s Promise of Community

God’s promise of community.

Leviticus 19: 1-2, 9-18

The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them: You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy. When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest. You shall not strip your vineyard bare, or gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the alien: I am the Lord your God.

You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; and you shall not lie to one another. And you shall not swear falsely by my name, profaning the name of your God: I am the Lord. You shall not defraud your neighbor; you shall not steal; and you shall not keep for yourself the wages of a laborer until morning. You shall not revile the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind; you shall fear your God: I am the Lord. You shall not render an unjust judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great: with justice you shall judge your neighbor. You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not profit by the blood of your neighbor: I am the Lord. You shall not hate in your heart anyone of your kin; you shall reprove your neighbor, or you will incur guilt yourself. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.

 

Psalm 119: 33-40

Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes, and I will observe it to the end.

Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart.

Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it.

Turn my heart to your decrees, and not to selfish gain.

Turn my eyes from looking at vanities; give me life in your ways.

Confirm to your servant your promise, which is for those who fear you.

Turn away the disgrace that I dread, for your ordinances are good.

See, I have longed for your precepts; in your righteousness give me life.

 

Matthew 5:38-48

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

 

Questions to Ponder-

How can we be a loving community? By living these Scriptures! Now, the challenge is how to help us hear them today. We can say we don’t steal, but do we “borrow” our neighbor’s wifi? (Probably not the best example….but there must be modern examples of how we hurt each other. I would love to know what modern examples come to mind for you). And I wonder how we can move this up to the corporation level. Even though I believe corporations aren’t people, how does what businesses do hurt us and what can we do about that for ourselves and each others?

I’d love to hear your examples of where you see us living as community. God has promised us community and we need to do the hard work of making it a reality.

A Month of Letter Writing

A Month of Writing Letters
When I walk to my mailbox each night, I am hopeful that something fun will be inside. Somedays I open the mailbox, and it is empty. This happened just last night! When my mailbox is empty, I always assume it is a holiday that I didn’t remember. Somedays I open the mailbox and find only advertisements. On the best days, I open the mailbox and find a card or letter from a real person. It makes my day.
I love writing letters, and I love getting mail. For those two reasons, I enjoy participating in A Month of Letters Challenge. During the month of February, I sent out (at least) 23 handwritten letters or cards. As I write I think of the joy I am sending to another person. As I write I pray for the person who will receive the letter. I appreciate that in this wintry, cold month I have a goal to accomplish, and it is spreading cheer across the country.
I invite you to join me this month in writing at least one handwritten letter. Together we can share joy with others who just need a reminder that they are loved.

Writing a Letter-A Spiritual Practice

Writing a Letter-A Spiritual Practice
When I have too many thoughts running through my head, I write a letter. Other people may write in a journal or go for a run or write a song or find another way of clearing their heads. As someone who enjoys letter writing anyway, writing a letter as a spiritual practice makes sense. Sometimes the letter is to a person about whom I’ve been thinking. Sometimes the questions I’ve been pondering are answered as I write the letter. I don’t have to send the letters I write or then again I might. The letter can be to myself, to whom it may concern, to God, or to someone I know. The letter I’m sharing is to my best friend, Kristi. I needed some help working through something and I knew she’d know what to do. I commend to you the spiritual practice of letter writing as a way to soothe your soul and quiet your mind.
A Letter to My Friend
Hi you!
Is the nearing of my 39th birthday the reason you are on my mind so often lately? When I think of 39, I think of you. You’ll always be 39. You’ll never have to admit you are 40 because you are always 39. How can I have caught up with you? You were always 5 years older and soon I’ll be the age you were when you died. And that makes me realize that it has been (almost) 5 years since you died. So lately, I’ve been thinking of you.
This birthday feels different. I’m not afraid of getting older. You know that. I’m grateful for every year. I guess I just want you to say it is okay for me to be the same age as you and then get older than you. Of course, you’d tell me it is okay. You never held me back. You were always pushing me outside my comfort zone to new places, new experiences, and new people. So I’m going. I will turn 39. I will celebrate being 39. Thank you buddy for living all of your 39 years with reckless abandon. As I blow out my 39 candles (hopefully just a 3 and 9 candle because we don’t need the fire department involved or do we?), I will be grateful for the years I have lived and the people who have walked with me, and I will look forward with anticipation and excitement to my next adventures.
You know I have ninety-two billion other things to tell you, and so for now, all I will say is thank you for helping me prepare for 39. Thank you for helping me clear my head and my heart.
Susannah

Sitting by the Christmas Tree

Sitting by the Christmas Tree

In our home, we celebrate the season of Christmas by leaving our tree up until at least Epiphany. I love the practice of celebrating the liturgical season of Christmas (December 25-January 5). I feel like I have more time to sit by the Christmas tree after everyone else is done celebrating Christmas. The presents have all been unwrapped and the must do list is done. I’m sitting in the living room with all the lights off except the Christmas tree writing this now. It is a silent night with time to think about hopes for this new year and time to give thanks for those I love. It is a holy night feeling God’s love in the midst of this sacred time. It is a time to remember Christmases past and ways I have celebrated throughout my life. Merry Christmas!

What traditions of this season make it meaningful for you?

How do you celebrate in unique ways?

What do I want to do today? Nothing! – A Prayer for One of Those Days

Just like everyone else, I have days where I do not want to do anything I’m supposed to be doing. Instead of getting ready for work or something that must be done right away, I do 20 other things, read a book, or watch tv. When I finally start to get ready, I have to hurry which means I forgot something (most often my lunch). I don’t have the answer to eliminating these days from your life. I would like to share this prayer which may help stop mornings that start like this from turning into terrible days.

God, Another day is here. My bed looks so inviting. Would another 15 minutes hurt anyone? God, I hear you trying to keep me on track. Reminding me of my gifts and calling. I know all this, and I don’t want to do it today. Yes God, I know I am your beloved child. And yes, God, I know I must get on with my day. And yes, God, I know I need vacation and Sabbath time. (Breathe deeply). Holy One, I hear you calling me to make time for work and Sabbath time. I will. And now I will go where you have called me to serve. And I will remember the Sabbath and find more time for joy. Amen.

What You Do is Appreciated

Not too long ago I had a call from my supervisor asking me to stop by her office. Maybe you are one of those people whose mind doesn’t jump to the worst case scenario immediately. I am not. While driving to her office, I wondered what I had done wrong. Had I missed visiting a new patient? Did I offend a patient or family member? Did I chart incorrectly? The questions ran through my mind as I tried and tried to figure out why I was being called to her office. When I arrived, she thanked me for my work and gave me a bag full of goodies as appreciation for all the good work I was doing. I shared with her how I had been worried the entire time I was driving to her office. We laughed. I wish I could say that I learned my lesson and never worry about being called to the office. It isn’t true. I try. And because I felt so much love and appreciation when I received this bag of goodies, I wanted to share it with you. Know that you are loved and the work you do makes a difference in the lives of many others. You are enough. You are God’s beloved.

img_5516

img_5518

img_5523

img_5529

img_5531

img_5525