11 Insights from Sabbatical

Many of you who follow my blog have expressed that you were praying for me this week. Thank you.

20150320_111209To honor your kindness, I’d like to share with you the 11 insights God gave me during Sabbatical. Some of them are, of course, repeats – those marching-around-Mount-Sinai-truths we all know. But when God repeats something, it’s important to listen.

Some are from my own readings and journalings – truths my soul needed to savor, a salve to cover spiritual wounds.

Here then are the insights from my Sabbatical week:

1.Even when I am feeling discouraged and wonder where I belong, God never abandons me. I belong to Him. Some of you may be thinking, Well, duh! But again – a truth worth repeating and a treasure for soul memory.

2.When I take a break, my clients and the rest of the world will not fall apart. In fact, I am quite certain the world needed a break from me.

3.Sabbath rest is absolutely necessary to restore the soul. Although I rest every Sunday, my soul needs some extended times with God. Having the freedom to spend hours in his presence was – well – heavenly.

4.God is bigger than the ordinary. We really do focus most of life on ourselves, don’t we? The bills, the paycheck, the job, the weather, the car problems. God’s agenda is so much bigger.

5.To honor my passions is one of the most vital things I must do. Passion is at the heart of who we are, and so often we hide from our passions because they remind us of dreams unfulfilled. Even a little time with our passions helps to restore the soul. This is why King David composed music and Jesus held children on his lap.

6.In helping others, I must also find a way to help myself. As a coach, I ask the powerful questions that point my clients toward their passions. I must also learn to ask myself the same challenging questions, then find a way to push me forward.

7.Asking grace for myself requires that I be willing to give it to others – often and liberally. Grace is the first step toward forgiveness and reconciliation. God requires that we share it.

8.God is eager to spend time with us. The loneliness of the soul is often a clue that the Spirit within seeks time without distractions. We owe the Divine One our undivided attention.

9.It’s a good thing I’m not a bettin’ woman. My brackets are completely destroyed.

10.Quote for the week from Anne Lamott, I trust that when I wake up tomorrow morning, God will still like me.”

11.Tulips are always a happy idea.

So there you have them. Nothing earth-shattering, but insights that filled up half my journal while restoring my soul.

I wish for you a Sabbatical as well – a time to breathe in, to let your body truly rest and to rekindle love for your passions.

Peace be with you.

©2015 RJ Thesman – author of the Reverend G books – http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

 

Hope Rises During Sabbatical

During this week, I am on Sabbatical – taking a rest from ministry as a home stay-cation. Relaxing_Time_by_YuzuruKuN

When I looked at my calendar for April – May and the soon-to-be-released third book of the Reverend G series – I knew I needed to do some proactive regeneration.

A Sabbatical is essential for renewing creativity. Usually scheduled every seventh year, its intent is to build restoration, to fulfill a goal or to complete research for a project.

The goal of my Sabbatical is an emotional reboot, to refresh my senses and inhale more of the divine than I exhale in service.

Fortunately, I work in a ministry that allows me the flexibility to use vacation pay for Sabbatical rest. In fact, at GateWay of Hope, we remind women to take care of themselves, to rest, to have some fun, to just “be.”

So I am trying to be a good example and walk the talk.

It is fairly impossible to be completely absent from work as I wake up at night to pray for those I serve and coach. In those early dawn hours, I will listen intently for clues about my characters and how to best format my current novel.

My one supreme goal is to listen hard – to focus on my Heavenly Husband, scribble His words in my journal and take long walks with Him.

I may cut back some of the death of winter and release spring’s life to my gardens. The spiritual analogy comes easy as I consider any dead spirituality the Master Gardener needs to prune.

I will not wear my watch. I will not place any expectations on myself other than finishing the library book I checked out.

Instead, I wish to wear my celebration of the Sabbath as a break from the common cares.

Some time during my Sabbatical, I will pull out my colors and play with a Mandela. Maybe the weather will be warm enough to do this on my deck.

Jeff Goins writes that “We often listen to the adult in our heads instead of the child in our hearts.”

During this week of restoration, I want to connect with my inner child and crawl into my Father’s lap.

Then hopefully, at the end of the week, as the Creator modeled at the end of his busy week, I can declare my Sabbatical good.

©2015 RJ Thesman – author of the Reverend G books – http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

Relaxation Image by YuzuruKuN

Worship Visited

On the last day of our Sabbatical weekend in Yoder, Kansas, we rise to worship and spend a few hours with the local body of believers.

Amish horse and buggyWe are invited to the Journey Mennonite Church – a group of Christ-followers who share some of the Amish beliefs and ancestral beginnings. Simple values. The Bible as its guidebook. Friendly folks who shake our hands and treat us like family.

The church is an old structure, repurposed for more contemporary worship. We wear our blue jeans and T-shirts, comfy shoes and no one cares. So different from the traditions of my past. I like it. I know that even Reverend G would feel welcome here.

This modern group of believers includes many young families, and they keep the children with them in worship. I love that. The children learn how to pray and how to serve. The young ones are in charge of passing red buckets for the offering.

This is a sad day for this body as they say good-bye to a pastor. He is leaving to tend to family dynamics in another state. A brave man, committed to God’s will. A valiant church, willing to send him away.

God will fill the gap, send another to minister to these sheep, to ease their grieving hearts.

God also fills the gap in me as we worship together. First, we sing the contemporary praises with guitar and voice, then we move into a couple of hymns. My soul gasps as the words of one of my favorite hymns project onto the wall.

“When peace like a river attendeth my soul. When sorrows like sea billows roll. Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, it is well. It is well with my soul.”

As the chorus builds, the guitar is silenced and we sing in the six-part harmony of my youth. Worship comes easy within such beauty. The blending voices of young couples, us graying folks and the next generation – all together in one spirit praise God that all is well.

I raise my hands even as my throat fills with tears. The Alpha and Omega of my soul is in this place.  Worship swells in abundance as the chords build a crescendo within this aging building.

And I know that wherever I am, whether on sabbatical in the small town of Yoder or on ministry duty in the busy-ness of Kansas City – it is indeed well with my soul.

Being with Sabbatical Friends

Within the respite of our sabbatical visit, we eat well, laugh and tell stories. My friends and I, on this girlfriend weekend in Yoder, Kansas – we catch up on twenty years of lifetimes with each other and without.

Once we lived in the same town, worshipped together, hurt each other unintentionally and built a relationship that still lives today. We have grown older, forgiven each other and ourselves, learned to be women of God.

2 Carols and meI wonder if my friends realize all they mean to me. Have I told them so? Do these friends of sabbatical know how much I need their hugs and laughter, their friendship and joy as we walk among the Amish shops and eat in quaint restaurants – the harvest of natural products and the joy of companionship?

We browse through a hardware store that is equipped with Radio Flyer wagons, butter crocks and filaments for kerosene lanterns – all the things an Amish family might need. A man stands at the counter, his long white beard and black hat pegging him as unique to the world and special to God. An Amish farmer. He leaves the store and walks toward his tractor.

This particular brand of Amish drive tractors, but not cars. They ride in buggies behind horses. Their women wear no makeup yet I would love to have their fresh, clear skin. Their children dress alike in the colors of nature: blue, pale green and brown. No accessories. Their quiet life and the peace on their faces the only accessory needed.

I envy their lives in this tiny village. No one here seems to struggle with Alzheimer’s, yet I have not seen an older person. Perhaps back home, in the white farmhouses that hide behind cedar brush, a woman like my mother struggles to remember her children. Maybe even here, families grieve through 36-hour days as they care for loved ones who sometimes forget.

A horse and buggy parks downtown next to a tractor, driven by a bearded father. The mother and children bundle into the cubby van, a small horse trailer in back. A traffic caution sign is pasted in full view, warning those of us who are the “English” and drive fast cars.

Slow down. Breathe. Take time to enjoy the living.

Sheep and cows stand like furry dots against the growing green of wheat fields. Fresh butter and hormone-free milk leads us in a discussion with a local businessman about the importance of what we eat – what we force into our bodies.

Is our food from a plant created by God? This is good. Eat it with joy. Is it manufactured in a processing plant? Danger. Avoid it.

Fresh applesauce and fruity preserves. A young mother with three little girls – all dressed alike in grey coats, blue dresses and white scarves. Worry-free faces – all of them – no worldly masks. Surely they also bear pure hearts.

And I wonder – what have we missed in the busy city with all its traffic and noisy consumption? If the city is so wonderful, then why does my soul long for another sabbatical even as I finish this one?

Surely there is purpose in both lives and both places of living.

In the city with its opportunities to serve God by helping others – so many nonprofits and churches reaching out to the teeming thousands and their hungry hearts.

In the country with its beauty and sincerity, preserving a way of life so many of us have forgotten, harvesting from the land to share its goodness with others.

Somewhere in the middle of both lives, a balance cries out and refuses to be ignored.

Learn to be still and know that He is God. Learn to serve and reach out to the harried and hurting.

But most of all, learn the difference and when the pendulum swings to the extreme, gently nudge it back toward the center.

For only when we are centered in Christ are we most effective and most content.

Only when we are “being” with Him can we share and maintain hope.