Sabbath Questions with Dr. Marilyn Elliott

Marilyn Elliot is the Vice President of Community Formation at Asbury Theological Seminary.  As part of their twelve-week Sabbath Experience, Marilyn hosted potluck suppers at her home on Saturday evenings.  Below are Dr. Elliot’s reflections on this experience.

To keep Sabbath requires a significant, thoughtful restructuring of our ‘life-way’ – our life style and habit of being. It requires a complete rethinking of how we do life. The very way we construct every single day has to become renewed.

There is something deeper, subterranean even, that Sabbath practices push toward the surface: How will we think about life? How will we think about power? What does it mean to trust? What does our very life mean? What is wellness? What is mental health? What is nourishment? What does our career mean? The creation of space is only the first baby step to a deep soul transition into some kind of being that is completely other than what we have come to accept in our high-functioning, success-oriented world.

In spite of the fact that the evening meals brought something like time stress into my Saturdays and the group was big and often loud and messy, there was something good that seeped into our lives. Something began to stir inside me like an invitation to sing a song; I don’t know the song yet, but I am humming.

Sabbath Reflections with Karen Foldy

(from left), Karen with family members Anna Foldy, Mark Reyes, Lauren Reyes

(from left), Karen with family members Anna Foldy, Mark Reyes, Lauren Reyes

Karen Foldy recently hosted a semester-long Sabbath-keeping group through Asbury Theological Seminary’s Sabbath Experience. We took this opportunity to ask her about her Sabbath-keeping journey.

What prompted your desire to start keeping a Sabbath?

I have always wanted to be obedient to the command to keep the Sabbath, and I wanted to take this opportunity to get into the habit.

What have been some of the biggest obstacles or challenges?

Part of my own personal keeping of the Sabbath involved being away from the TV, computer, internet, and phone for that 24-hour period.  Because everyone has come to expect us to be available 24/7 through email, texting, and the cell phone, it has been challenging to get others to remember that I’m attempting to not be available during that time unless it is for an emergency.  Because I have a teenage daughter and my mom is in poor health, I don’t have the option to shut my phone off, so the telephone can still be an interruption to that time regardless of my good intentions.

Secondly, because I was facilitating the group and hosting it at my house the majority of the time, I had to be very intentional about getting things done ahead of time so that my Sabbath could truly begin with our group meal.  Some of the planning actually caused the days leading up to my Sabbath to be more hectic than usual.

What scripture, community accountability, or practices have helped you overcome these challenges?

For the most part, my family and close friends honored my request to not talk on the phone, text, or email during my Sabbath time.  But, sometimes they would forget or truly need something during that time period.  I had to accept the fact that God understands those “animal in the ditch” situations and doesn’t expect or want me to be legalistic about keep the Sabbath.

Spending time reading Scripture, praying, resting, and reading for pleasure helped me to focus on entering into a rest within my spirit and not just my physical body during my Sabbath time.

What, if any, benefits have you noticed in your physical, mental, and spiritual health since you began keeping a Sabbath?

Matthew Sleeth, in his talk during Chapel, mentioned that many of Christ’s healings took place on the Sabbath.  I was prayed for twice during one of our Sabbath meals, and x-rays show that one of my legs grew 5mm at that time.  I have had issues with my hip due to one leg being shorter for over 10 years now.  I will be honest and state that the healing is not complete (still have pain and still shorter by a remaining 5mm on that side), but the miracle itself increased my faith and has given me courage to believe that God will finish what He has begun.

How has Sabbath keeping affected your marriage, your family, and/or your ministry?

I have been leading a ladies Bible study on Monday nights, and I loved having Sunday to rest, reflect, and prepare for it.

If you could share one encouragement with others, what would it be?

This won’t be easy, and there will be obstacles to overcome, and no two weeks will look the same.  But knowing that you are being obedient to God’s command and entering into His rest will be worth all the efforts you go to in order to participate.

Karen Foldy is the Administrative Assistant for the Vice President of Community Formation as Asbury Theological Seminary.  She taught English for several years before serving in various ministry capacities with the Christian and Missionary Alliance denomination.  Her daughter and son-in-law, Lauren and Mark Reyes, currently serve in ministry in First Alliance Church in Great Falls, Montana, and hope to eventually serve as overseas missionaries.  Her younger daughter, Anna, is a sophomore at Asbury University. Karen enjoys hiking, reading, and horseback riding.

Sabbath with Brian Skyrms and Family, Part 2

Brian Skyrms is a recent graduate of Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky. Originally from Tampa, Florida, Brian grew up in a Christian home. As a seventeen-year-old, in Venezuela, he surrendered to God’s call to a life of service in ministry. He then pursued a BS in Sociology with an emphasis in Social Services from Georgia Southern. Brian is married to Julie and they have two daughters: Leah (6) and Annabelle (18 mo), with a new son coming in July.  Brian’s passions are for cross-cultural ministry, the holistic salvation of the Gospel, creation care, and discipleship.  He and his wife are currently a part of the Offerings Community at First UMC Lexington.  He graduated in May 2015 and will be staying in the Central Kentucky area. Read part one here.

What, if any, benefits have you noticed in your physical, mental, and spiritual health since you began keeping a Sabbath?

We have noticed as a family that our Sabbath time together keeps us connected to one another and to each other’s faith.  We have learned to recognize that without this time our relationships are strained and we all act more selfishly toward one another.  This is a major form of self- and family-care is priceless in the midst of the never-ending demands of ministry, work, and school.  With Sundays being so effortless, it gives us the mental, emotional, and social space to focus on our worship with the church and focus during our time with the small group.  Not having to cook all but three or four Sundays a semester helps as well.  We have also found that we do not feel as obligated to stay as socially busy, knowing that we have fruitful social time each Sunday, and only wanting to add other social events to the weekend that we know will build us up.

The Sabbath group has been an incredible space for growth in our faith and transformation.  We have greatly benefitted from having trusted spiritual friendships in which to express our struggles, ask for accountability and prayer, receive support and encouragement, and at times just enjoy each other’s company.  Over the years, I have reflected on the ways in which the Sabbath group has become a kind of Eucharistic community.  We do not bless elements or celebrate a rite, but the ritual of gathering together around a table in recognition of the Lord’s living power as ruler over our lives has been a rhythm that has shaped us.  Together we have trusted in this rule to continue even as we take a day to stop work.

How has Sabbath keeping affected your marriage, your family, and/or your ministry?

My family has been blessed by allowing ourselves the freedom to say no to good things that would crowd our time.  We have fought to find a rhythm, to establish and protect boundaries that are life-giving for us.  It has made us more intentional during our family time together outside of the group.

Some in the group have expressed how our Sabbath together has influenced the way they approach work during the other six days of the week.  Knowing they will not have Sunday evenings to do homework means making sure to get the work done or the chores accomplished before Sunday comes.

I think there is something to be said about the anticipation for Sabbath as well.  We have all come to cherish these times together so that each week they are a celebration.  Surely we celebrate birthdays and anniversaries along the way, but there is something about our feasting together that makes it a celebration of life lived throughout the week and the chance to gather  together.

I know we all would say the kids have been a blessing as well. We have seen the body of Christ at work as those without kids have opportunities to play and learn parenting skills.  We all receive love from our little people as well as shower them with love.

We have also talked about how our other ministry settings have been able to receive more attention and focus.  There is a sense that we feel like we have more to give to those relationships and activities.  After taking time to receive from the Lord and from each other on Sunday evenings, some feel restoration to be more engaged leading bible studies, helping with the youth, or other ministries we are involved in.

If you could share one encouragement with others, what would it be?

I think we have found the greatest encouragement to be that it’s a journey, a process.  It takes commitment, but requires grace in life to make adjustments as things change.  We have all benefited from doing this journey with our families, and also within the accountability of the group.  It reminds us of the purpose and makes the practice so much more meaningful because it is shared with others.

 

 

 

 

 

Sabbath with Brian Skyrms and Family, Part 1

Brian Skyrms is a recent graduate of Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky. Originally from Tampa, Florida, Brian grew up in a Christian home. As a seventeen-year-old, in Venezuela, he surrendered to God’s call to a life of service in ministry. He then pursued a BS in Sociology with an emphasis in Social Services from Georgia Southern. Brian is married to Julie and they have two daughters: Leah (6) and Annabelle (18 mo), with a new son coming in July.  Brian’s passions are for cross-cultural ministry, the holistic salvation of the Gospel, creation care, and discipleship.  He and his wife are currently a part of the Offerings Community at First UMC Lexington.  He graduated in May 2015 and will be staying in the Central Kentucky area. Read part two here.

What prompted your desire to start keeping a Sabbath?

Our group has been together over the past three years, and while we did not begin with a focus to practice Sabbath together, we certainly found it.  We began with a group of men searching for accountability and a shared experience of transformation during our time here in seminary.  We started meeting each week and asking some of Wesley’s questions to foster our growth together.  As we became closer and got to know each other’s wives and girlfriends we desired to extend our experience to the couples, so that we could all benefit from the community we were experiencing.  We then began meeting each Sunday to share a meal together and would break into gender-based groups for accountability. Over time, we also practiced worshiping together, praying together, and sharing some of the transformations God was working in our lives with the larger group.

We continued to grow closer, and began to experience the Sabbath rest from these times together.  Group time became family time.  We began to anticipate the relaxed atmosphere of an intimate community where there was safety, laughter, support, and an acknowledgment of God’s working in our lives.  By rotating hosts, Sundays became a night where one family served the others to help them experience rest.  This past semester we have been blessed by the community focus on Sabbath as we were able to name that as what we were receiving from the group.  It also gave us the opportunity to lean into growing Sabbath practices as families with the support and accountability of the group.

What have been some of the biggest obstacles or challenges?

As with all groups of imperfect people, we have experienced our share of obstacles.  Over these years we have been blessed to celebrate the birth of two more babies in the group.  With more kids brings more mess, more loud screaming, and more rambunctious play.  It can sometimes be a difficult atmosphere for sharing and digging deep into each other’s lives.

We have had other challenges with time.  We have had to adjust time to be finished by the children’s bedtime.  We also found we were struggling to allow space for everyone to share in the accountability time and had to make adjustments.

During football season, we found ourselves watching the games more than focused interaction time and had to make adjustments.

We have been blessed with marriages, but have also grieved the loss of others through graduation and moving away.

We have been defining ourselves as we go along, each semester having talks about what we envision the group to be and what we can do together to make changes that foster an environment that blesses everyone and works toward this vision.  Some of these discussions have been difficult as opposing ideas are shared.  Our commitment to one another has brought us through these struggles in mutual submission to each other and to the group.

And then Sundays are part of the weekend, so inevitably people are sometimes out of town and unable to be back in time.

With Sundays being such full days, even though we receive rest in the group, we have learned that there is a need for some of us to find additional time for Sabbath on Saturdays.

What scripture, community accountability, or practices have helped you overcome these challenges?

As the kids came, and we struggled to have enough time for accountability, the guys decided to meet at another time.  This allowed them the space to experience Sabbath through play with the kids and the emotional work of accountability came during the week.  At one point, the guys even split accountability into two smaller groups to better allow for the members’ schedules during that period.  We also moved up our meeting time an hour to make sure the kids could get to bed on time.  This change made Sunday afternoons, between church and group, shorter, but just long enough for a nap. Which some have frequently taken advantage of.

We also found that by scheduling in worship nights on a regular basis, we were all blessed by the kids’ presence, a night off from accountability, and a different kind of rest to be shared.  This would often bring us back to focus if we had been distracted by football games, or simply felt the need for a shared connection.  These times of worship in someone’s home with close friends can be deeply renewing, in a way that traditional Sunday morning church services are not able to be.

As we have all focused more on Sabbath, we found what many have said to be true: There is no prescription.  We have all begun the practice outside the group in different ways.  Some make a weekly trip to the grocery store as time set aside for just them.  Others spend Saturday mornings in Lexington at the farmers market and go out to lunch.  Some of our adventurers make trips to the Red River Gorge and spend Sabbath climbing, hiking, and swinging in hammocks.  My family tends to set Saturdays aside as family days.  During the winter, we enjoyed going sledding and doing crafts indoors.  Now that it’s warmer we like to garden in the backyard, play on swing sets with our neighbors, have bonfires, and pretty much anything else we can do together outside as a family.

 

 

 

 

Interview with David Bauer, Dean, School of Biblical Interpretation, Asbury Theological Seminary

What prompted your desire to start keeping a Sabbath?

With my responsibilities as a faculty member and as a Dean I came to realize that the demands of my life were crowding out time for myself, and especially time for reflection and for spending with my ten-year old son.  It was necessary just to carve out a period of time for matters that were important, but were not dictated by the demands of life.

 What have been some of the biggest obstacle or challenges?

I can’t say that there have actually been serious obstacles.  This is perhaps surprising; since I thought that I did not have time to complete urgent tasks and that carving out this time would make it impossible for me to do what I absolutely must do.  But this has turned out not to be the case.

What, if any, benefits have you noticed in your physical, mental, and spiritual health since you began keeping a Sabbath?

I believe I am more relaxed, able to sleep better, and have a sense of greater gratitude to God for life.

How has Sabbath keeping affected your family, friendships and/or your ministry?

It has certainly given me more time with my son, has allowed us to spend quality time together on a regular basis, with the result that we have a closer relationship.

david_bauerDr. David R. Bauer is the Ralph W. Beeson Professor of Inductive Biblical Studies and Dean of the School of Biblical Interpretation. He has served on Asbury Theological Seminary’s faculty since 1984. He received a B.A. from Spring Arbor College (University), a M.Div. from Asbury Theological Seminary and a Ph.D. from Union Theological Seminary in Virginia. He also has done postdoctoral studies at Princeton Theological Seminary.

Dr. Bauer is an ordained elder in the Free Methodist Church of North American and a member of the Study Commission on Doctrine for the Free Methodist church of North America. He serves in the Wilmore Free Methodist Church as director of seminary ministries and is the facilitator of the Free Methodist Fellowship on Asbury Seminary’s campus. He is also a frequent speaker, preacher and teacher at camps and local churches and is involved in organizations offering education and support to families who adopt international children, especially international special-needs children. He is the father to his son, Christopher, 10.

A Chaplain’s Favorite 24/6 Quotes

Being a M.D., and understanding the pressures and difficulties of the medical field, Matthew loves to share the Sabbath vision with those working in medicine. Recently, Matthew and Nancy had the opportunity to meet with and encourage a group of medical chaplains at the UMC Health System in Lubbock, Texas. The Sleeths were able to share their Sabbath story and walk with the chaplains through a Sabbath workshop. The chaplains read 24/6: A Prescription for a Healthier Life as part of the workshop. Jerry Hatfield, a UMC chaplain, passed along his favorite quotes. We hope they encourage you as well.

“People don’t save the Sabbath; it saves us.” (p. 58)

“Now there is certainly nothing wrong with work, and most work is good work…But biblically speaking, work should not define our lives.” (pp. 63-64)

“…the purpose of work is not more work. The purpose of work is to live and glorify God.” (p. 66)

“Resting is even more necessary in uncertain times. It helps us remember that God is in control and that our identity is not dependent on the work we do.” (p. 81)

“In Sabbath keeping, we rest from more than our labors. We rest from the tyranny of the urgent, the staggering precipice of eternity, and the mundane workweek. In the Sabbath’s renewal, we catch a glimpse of the divine. And our response to the divine is reverence.” (p. 101)

“Observing the Sabbath ensures that at the very worst, we are never more than six days away from a holy perspective. Sabbath keeping gives us the time to set priorities—for a day, for a week, and for generations.” (p. 102)

“The Bible commends industry and work, but it also warns of their getting in the way of spiritual vision.” (p. 118)

“Sabbath is not one day of vacation a week. It is part of the most solid and tangible time of life. The Sabbath balances the active parts of life with the holy parts. Jesus needed both to be fully human, and so do we.” (p. 119)

“No one ever found the Lord on the day they won the lottery. Faith is more likely to blossom on the day we lose our job.” (p. 124)

“Sabbath reminds me that God is the source of my life. When we go 24/7, we get to thinking that our well-being results from our own efforts.” (pp. 124-5)

“But something even more intimate happens on Stop Day. There is time for just being with the Lord.” (p. 125)

“People in our culture do not need more. We need to recognize how much we have. The Sabbath is a reality check. It says you have enough. Try to get more, and your manna will turn to maggots.” (p. 127)

“For a believer, there is no separating the Sabbath and giving. They are conjoined twins that share the same heart.” (p. 134)

“Sabbath keeping allows church leaders to recall why they are called.” (p. 137)

“In a world of specialization and compartmentalization, the Sabbath is a freeing oasis with a gushing spring. It allows God to flow into all of my work week.” (p. 140)

“Stopping one day a week allows my hearing to improve. I pick up the subtle chorus of heaven here on earth.” (p. 156)

“Sabbath is a time to transition from human doings to human beings. It is a day to celebrate a God who makes time for us to be with him.” (p. 157)

“In adopting a 24/6 life, we put God back into the equation…We recharge our batteries with the energy that comes only through stopping, and we become more generous with the gifts God has given us.” (p. 172)

 

Jerry Hatfield pic

      Jerry Hatfield was born in Olney, Maryland, but grew up around Westminster, Maryland where he graduated from high school in 1980. Several years later, Jerry graduated with a B.S. in Bible and Pastoral Ministry from Valley Forge Christian College, Phoenixville, PA. Following several youth pastorate tenures, Jerry went on to pursue graduate studies at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, CA, where he graduated in 1994 with an M.A. in Semitic Languages and Literature, and an M.Div. Following seminary, Jerry spent a year teaching in Jerusalem, Israel. Several years later, Jerry was awarded a Doctor of Literature for a Hebrew workbook he wrote for a seminary in Louisiana.

Jerry received ministerial credentials in 1992 with the Assemblies of God, but transferred later to the Association of Evangelical Gospel Assemblies of Monroe, LA. He has now been an ordained minister with AEGA since 1999. Jerry attends Trinity Church of Lubbock, where he has taught Bible and Hebrew language classes as well as participating in various music ministry opportunities since early 2001. Jerry is married to Melinda Grace (Pena) Hatfield who is a choir teacher at Terra Vista Middle School in Lubbock. Jerry’s other interests are astronomy and dragonfly photography. He also enjoys reading, writing, and any chance he gets to go with his wife to the Texas Hill Country for shopping and enjoying the beautiful scenery.