Sabbath Thoughts

When I was 13 I started spending the summer with my aunt and uncle who were Seventh Day Adventists, and who practiced a strict Sabbath (or at least it felt strict to my teenage self). They didn’t go out to eat or spend money on Sabbath. They didn’t watch TV or go to the movies or play video games or computer games on Sabbath. They didn’t work on Sabbath.

At first this felt like a limitation, but even as a young girl I slowly started to feel the sweetness in it. We spent a lot of Saturdays laying on the living room floor laughing as my cousin entertained us. We snuggled on the couch together and listened to Adventures in Odyssey tapes. My aunt and I went for long walks and talked. My sister-cousin and I giggled and shared secrets. They were slow, long, lingering days. And they were sweet.

After my cousin died this summer I kept thinking about those lingering summer Sabbaths. I couldn’t shake them. I felt so grateful for those days, for those moments, for those memories.

Ever since then I’ve been trying on limitations for Sabbath. I say trying on because it has been like a woman trying to decide what to wear for a date. I try on a limitation and then discard it and try on another. There’s been lots of grace and flexibility and gentleness, but slowly I’m finding my way. I’m trying to pursue a Sabbath that feels like rest, celebration, and freedom, for us in this season. I’m seeking a day that feels set apart and different from other days. So I’ve been sitting with a few questions…

What things do I want to rest from, set aside, not HAVE to do?

What things do I want to focus on, lean into, and celebrate? 

What activities feel like freedom and rest to me and what activities feel like bondage?

I’m still figuring it out. Truthfully, there are plenty of things in my life as a caregiver that feel like bondage that I can’t set aside, like the syringes of food I need to give my daughter every 15 minutes. But I’m finding that there are plenty of things that I can set aside, that I can limit. For example, I may not be able to stop giving Sage food every 15 minutes, but I can make her blended food ahead of time so I don’t have to do it on Saturday. So on Friday I make enough food to last her from Friday night to Sunday morning.

Slowly I’m finding some freedom in a few limits I’ve gently adopted. 

I don’t clean or do laundry on Sabbath. As any of my friends will tell you, I’m not a natural housewife. My house isn’t often clean and my laundry is rarely done. I hate these tasks, they are drudgery to me and they spread into each and every day of my week, but not Saturdays. Saturdays I’m choosing something different. This has lead to me making sure that all the laundry is done and the house is picked up before Friday night, which means we sit down to dinner Friday in a clean space, a space that feels light, and free, and clear. For at least this one night a week my house is clean. And I can enter into my decision to not clean or do laundry on Saturday with freedom. 

Now this doesn’t mean I stubbornly refuse to do ANY dishes on Saturday. There have been Saturdays I have washed dishes while talking to my husband and hanging out together, but I did them because I wanted to do them, because it was a shared activity rather than a chore or a task on my to-do list. I don’t require myself to do them and if the dishes stay in the sink all day on Saturday I let that happen.

Another “rule” we’ve started has been attempting to make Friday night dinners something special. We sit down to dinner together at the table most nights, but on Fridays we also light a candle, pull out a jar of questions and ask them to one another, and linger a little longer. Last week we read the Friday Compline from the Celtic Book of Daily Prayer together before starting dinner. We don’t eat leftovers on Fridays and I do what I can to make this a special meal and time together. 

We also actively pursue quality time on Saturdays. On Saturday mornings my husband and I sit and drink coffee and talk together. If he invites me to do a cross word puzzle with him I say yes, rather than my norm of saying no and rushing off to my to-do list, or to something else I enjoy more. I don’t check social media at all on Saturdays. Sometime on Saturday we play a game together as a family and often we pick out a movie to watch all together rather than being on our own devises. 

We haven’t limited electronics on Sabbath, apart from my personal choice to be off social media, but I have organically tried to encourage other activities. We have also tried to engage in electronics more as a family activity on this day rather than an individual activity. So if my son really wants to play minecraft, rather than letting him and going to do my own thing, or telling him he can’t and has to do what I want to do, I ask if I can play with him and we play together.

We intentionally pursue togetherness.

Cooking is another one of those daily tasks that looses it’s joy and becomes a chore for me, so on Saturdays I’ve decided not to cook. I make food for Saturday on Friday. Maybe this means prepping a meal that I can just dump in the crockpot in the morning. Maybe it’s making something for Friday’s dinner that will give us enough leftovers to eat for Saturday. Maybe it means my kids have cereal or toast or something they can get themselves. Maybe it means my husband cooks. After Friday nights nice dinner, I don’t cook. 

I won’t spend money or talk about spending money on Sabbath. This means that on Saturdays my son can’t ask me for a toy or app that he wants over and over and over again. This rule is especially soft and bendable when others are in town or when we are out of town, but it’s a helpful way for me to not allow a common stress trigger to influence my thoughts or behavior for a day. 

Both my husband and I don’t do any work on this day. I don’t prepare for yoga classes, or work on writing, or check email, or work on various projects or ideas I may have. We don’t cross things off our to-do list on this one day. This day is for rest and being together, not for furthering our goals. 

These rules have been gentle, there’s space for breaking them. There have been Sabbaths in the past few months that don’t look at all like this, but slowly we are settling into this rhythm, and Saturdays are starting to become a day that feels different and set apart.

We are still very much just figuring this out. Some of these things are decisions and limitations I’m not sure about yet. It may shift and change, but right now these things are working for us in this season. 

How about you? Have you ever implemented an intentional day of rest? What did/does that look like for you?

Grace and peace,
Bethany

If you'd like to help with medical bills or the other expenses related to Bryan's cancer or Sage's special needs click here. Thank you! We are forever so grateful to so many who have gotten us this far and continue to carry us forward. Grace and peace.

Moving Towards True Being: The long Process of Maturity

When I first heard that the topic for this month’s synchroblog was “Maturity” I was excited. I even wrote a blog right away with some random thoughts on maturity. But, then it came time to actually write my synchroblog post and I didn’t really know what to write. I found that I couldn’t really write until I answered one important question:

What is maturity?

So, of course, I went were any respectable blogger would go for an answer, Wikipedia. Here’s what it said:

“Maturity is a psychological term used to indicate that a person responds to the circumstances or environment in an appropriate manner.”

Well, that makes sense, but it seemed to be missing something. So, I went to other sources…

My beautiful mother-in-law described maturity this way:

“To be able to exhibit the fruits of the spirit. To be kind, even though we are not treated kindly. To see others with heavenly eyes, not earthly ones. Allow our speech to be seasoned with grace and be patient with those who are in a different part of that process than we are. To be able to be childlike , without being childish. To never lose our sense of awe and wonderment, even after knowing all that we do about our world. To show hospitality to others in a way that makes them feel special and welcome without regard for our own self. To look for the positive in not only others, but our situation. To have an attitude that not only is a sweet incense to God, but attracts and uplifts those around us.”

I love the picture she paints, but there was something else that maturity seemed to be to me personally that those definitions and descriptions where touching on but not really getting at. After reading a few more things and talking to a few more people, it dawned on me.

I think maturity is the long process of becoming more and more the people we are suppose to be. It’s the process of reaching our full potential as unique individuals. A tree is said to be mature when it has grown from a seedling and has reached its full potential as a tree. A person is mature when they have grown into the full potential of being exactly and fully the person that God desires for them to be. Maturity is not just acting appropriately in a given situation (though that may come with maturity), maturity is a movement that draws us into true being.

I found this quote and I think it sums up much of what I really think maturity is at its heart:

“Becoming [mature] means that the individual moves toward being, knowingly and acceptingly, the process which he inwardly and actually is. He moves away from being what he is not, from being a façade. He is not trying to be more than his is, with the attendant feelings of insecurity or bombastic defensiveness. He is not trying to be less than he is, with the attendant feelings of guilt or self-depreciation. He is increasingly listening to the deepest recesses of his psychological and emotional being, and finds himself increasingly willing to be, with greater accuracy and depth, that self which he most truly is.”

I think maturity is also a process that requires surrender. At some point in order to really become mature, in order to really reach our full potential as sons and daughters of God, we must surrender to His hand and allow Him to mold and shape us.

George MacDonald writes:

“The one secret of life and development is not to devise and plan, but to fall in with the forces at work – to do every moment’s duty aright – that being the part in the process allotted to us; and let come – not what will, for there is no such thing – but what the eternal Thought wills for each of us, has intended in each of us from the first. If men would but believe that they are in process of creation, and consent to be made – let the maker handle them as the potter his clay, yielding themselves in respondent motion and submissive hopeful action with the turning of his wheel, they would ere long find themselves able to welcome every pressure of that hand upon them, even when it was felt in pain, and sometimes not only to believe but to recognize the divine end in view, the bringing of a son into glory; whereas, behaving like children who struggle and scream while their mother washes and dresses them, they find they have to be washed and dressed, notwithstanding, and with the more discomfort: they may even have to find themselves set half naked and but half dried in a corner, to come to their right minds, and ask to be finished.”

I think that maturity is stopping fighting against God’s molding work in our lives and asking to be finished. It is the long process of being finished, of surrendering to becoming the person God desires for us to be. And as we do so, as we surrender to be molded and then are molded more and more into ourselves – the true self which God intended for us when he “knit us together in our mother’s womb” – something amazing happens we find that we are truly free.

I think that maturity is a process that takes us to freedom – freedom to be who we are and freedom to live fully and authentically from our true self. I was talking with a few friends the other night and we were talking about the different stages of development that humans go through and about how our spiritual and inner maturity seems to mirror those stages. Maturing means becoming an adult and growing into adulthood means a new sense of freedom. As we mature spiritually we are no longer the 7 year old that begs God for the toys we want and needs to ask His permission for every little decision we make. Instead we learn that there is much more to walking with God then getting what we want and as we walk with Him he gives us much more freedom to make choices then we ever imagined. It reminded me of a C.S. Lewis quote I have always loved from the book Perelandra:

” ‘I have been so young till this moment that all my life now seems to have been a kind of sleep. I have thought that I was being carried, and behold, I was walking… What you have made me see is as plain as the sky, but I never saw it before. Yet it has happened every day. One goes into the forest to pick food and already the thought of one fruit rather than another has grown up in one’s mind. Then, it may be, one finds a different fruit and not the fruit one thought of. One joy was expected and another is given. But this I had never noticed before – that the very moment of the finding there is in the mind a kind of thrusting back, or setting aside. The picture of the fruit you have not found is still, for a moment, before you. And if you wished – if it were possible to wish – you could keep it there. You could send your soul after the good you had expected, instead of turning it to the good you had got. You could refuse the real good; you could make the real fruit insipid by thinking of the other… And this, O Piebald, is the glory and wonder you have made me see; that it is I, I myself, who turn from the good expected to the given good. Out of my own heart I do it… I thought,’ she said, ‘that I was carried in the will of Him I love, but now I see that I walk with it. I thought that the good things He sent drew me into them; but now I see that it is I who plunge into them with my own legs and arms, as when we go swimming… It is a delight with terror in it! One’s own self to be walking from one good to another, walking beside Him as Himself may walk, not even holding hands. How has He made me so separate from Himself? How did it enter His mind to conceive such a thing? The world is so much larger than I thought. I thought we went along paths – but it seems there are no paths. The going itself is the path.'”

I think maturity is growing into our freedom, learning to walk beside God even though He has made us separate enough from Himself that we can walk away. I think maturity is letting go of our own selfish ideas and desires and learning instead to be in truth that which God wants us to be. Maturity isn’t some place you arrive at and it’s not just being “grown up”, maturity is a process of becoming.

And it comes at a cost. As a friend of mine pointed out mature things, like wine and cheese and pearls and even big full grown trees, are expensive. We develop maturity – we gain freedom and learn who we really are – through struggles and the long passing of time. Maturity can’t be rushed, and it doesn’t come easy. We are refined by fire.

Maturity also doesn’t usually happen in a smooth linear line. It’s often two steps forward and one step back. Like a baby learning to walk we step forward and then fall down. Maturity is a slow process and it doesn’t happen in all areas of our life at once. We grow in bursts, sometimes in one area and sometimes in another. Different parts of us mature at different stages and different paces.

So, that’s what I think about maturity. Those are my jumbled and often borrowed thoughts on maturity. Maybe my thoughts will be more orderly for the next synchroblog… we’ll see J

Here’s what other people are saying about maturity:

Lainie Petersen at Headspace with “Watching Daddy Die
Kathy Escobar at The Carnival in My Head with “what’s inside the bunny?”
John Smulo at JohnSmulo.com
Erin Word at Decompressing Faith with “Long-Wearing Nail Polish and Other Stories”
Beth Patterson at The Virtual Teahouse
Bryan Riley at Charis Shalom
Alan Knox at The Assembling of the Church with “Maturity and Education
KW Leslie at The Evening of Kent with “Putting Spiritual Infants in Charge”
Adam Gonnerman at Igneous Quill with “Old Enough to Follow Christ?
Joe Miller at More Than Cake with “Intentional Relationships for Maturity”
Jonathan Brink at JonathanBrink.com with “I Won’t Sin
Susan Barnes at A Booklook with “Growing Up”
Tracy Simmons at The Best Parts with “Knowing Him Who is From the Beginning
Joseph Speranzella at A Tic in the Mind’s Eye with “Spiritual Maturity And The Examination of Conscience
Sally Coleman at Eternal Echoes
Liz Dyer at Grace Rules with “What I Wish The Church Knew About Spiritual Maturity
Cobus van Wyngaard at My Contemplations with “post-enlightenment Christians in an unenlightened South Africa
Steve Hayes at Khanya with “Adult Content
Ryan Peter at Ryan Peter Blogs and Stuff with “The Foundation For Ministry and Leading
Kai Schrmal at Kaiblogy with “Mature Virtue”
Lew Ayotte at The Pursuit with “Maturity and Preaching”
Phil Wyman at Square No More with “Is Maturity Really What I Want?”

Rejoicing in the journey –
Bethany Stedman

If you'd like to help with medical bills or the other expenses related to Bryan's cancer or Sage's special needs click here. Thank you! We are forever so grateful to so many who have gotten us this far and continue to carry us forward. Grace and peace.

Selfishness…some thoughts and questions

So, Saturday night my husband and I had an interesting conversation about selfishness… It was sort of a random conversation. It started out being a conversation about politics (my husband is a libertarian and very animate about wanting freedom and not wanting to be told what to do), then the conversation morphed into talking about freedom (freedom is one of my husband’s highest values and I’m not really sure that it is really all it’s cracked up to be – he calls me a communist, I tell him he’s selfish) and the conversation morphed again to talking about selfishness.

Basically the long and short of it was that my husband was saying how no one really does anything from purely selfless motives – we do things because of how they benefit us – he even pointed out that God seems to know this and plays to it by setting up a system in which the good are rewarded (thus giving a selfish incentive to do good) and the evil are punished (thus giving a selfish incentive not to do evil). He even went so far as to say that my choosing to love and follow God is selfish because “we love God, because He first loved us” – we love him selfishly for what he has done for us – Loved us. My husband has made this argument before and every time I try to come up with an example of a purely selfless act he ends up showing me how really it is selfish. It’s a strange argument we have every now and then. This time I got him to admit that there are some (though they may be rare) acts that are really selfless. But, this time though Bryan went a step farther after that — basically saying that selfishness isn’t bad – or at least that maybe some forms of selfishness aren’t bad. He asked why God created us and when I responded with “to bring himself glory” Bryan responded with “well, isn’t that a selfish reason”. I was stumped a bit. He went on to say that maybe there are different forms of selfishness – some being alright or even good – like when God who deserves glory desires glory for himself. Maybe we only have one word for selfishness but there should be multiple words for the idea. I was starting to think that maybe he was right that maybe selfishness when it leads to the pure, the true, the good isn’t a bad thing. But, I just couldn’t really accept it – I mean there is so much in the scriptures about dying to self and being self sacrificing and being a slave to God instead of a slave to self that I just couldn’t believe that self and selfishness isn’t as bad as I’ve always made it out to be.

It was about this point in the conversation that we both were too tired to finish and changed the subject – I sort of wish we had stuck with it a bit longer and hashed it out more, oh well.

Then at church yesterday I was really noticing how self-centered all the songs were – it was all about what God can, has, does do for ME. And it got me thinking about the conversation from the night before. Have we as Americans who value our freedom and independence and self above all else lost something about what it means to selflessly follow God? Or is Bryan right is there a place for selfishness even in our religion – can it sometimes be a helpful motivator to drive people towards God and towards the good? I tend to agree more with the first statement but it’s got me thinking, none the less, so I thought I’d share J

Rejoicing in the journey –
Beth Stedman

If you'd like to help with medical bills or the other expenses related to Bryan's cancer or Sage's special needs click here. Thank you! We are forever so grateful to so many who have gotten us this far and continue to carry us forward. Grace and peace.

Isaiah 58

 6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
       to loose the chains of injustice
       and untie the cords of the yoke,
       to set the oppressed free
       and break every yoke?

 7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
       and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
       when you see the naked, to clothe him,
       and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

 8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
       and your healing will quickly appear;
       then your righteousness [a] will go before you,
       and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.

 9 Then you will call, and the LORD will answer;
       you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
       “If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
       with the pointing finger and malicious talk,

 10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
       and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
       then your light will rise in the darkness,
       and your night will become like the noonday.

 11 The LORD will guide you always;
       he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
       and will strengthen your frame.
       You will be like a well-watered garden,
       like a spring whose waters never fail.

 12 Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
       and will raise up the age-old foundations;
       you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
       Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.

 13 “If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath
       and from doing as you please on my holy day,
       if you call the Sabbath a delight
       and the LORD’s holy day honorable,
       and if you honor it by not going your own way
       and not doing as you please or speaking idle words,

 14 then you will find your joy in the LORD,
       and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land
       and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.”
       The mouth of the LORD has spoken.

 Isaiah 58:6-14

Rejoicing in the journey –
Beth Stedman

If you'd like to help with medical bills or the other expenses related to Bryan's cancer or Sage's special needs click here. Thank you! We are forever so grateful to so many who have gotten us this far and continue to carry us forward. Grace and peace.