Lent: A Time for Meaning-Making and Remembering Who We Are


As the Church moves toward the season of Lent, Margaret Kornfield offers us the following reflection in Cultivating Wholeness. Kornfield’s message of meaning-making and remembering who we are especially resonates with us as we live into Lent:


“It is through religious celebration of the liturgical year that most of us stay connected to the cycles of life: to birth, death, and rebirth in human life and in nature, even to our own biorhythms.  In recent times there has been a radical change in our relationship to the cycles of nature and to time, itself.  Many adults today had grandparents or great-grandparents who worked the land. (In 1850, 60 percent of the working population was employed in agriculture.) Today, many of us only have memories of having visited a farm—we are far from the land. (Now, less than 2.7 percent of the working population is directly engaged in farming.) Today, in any modern supermarket we can buy any food, at any time, from anywhere.  In being disconnected from the cycles of the seasons.  We forget our creatureliness.


“The relationship of the cycles of religious celebration to our experience of time may have even farther reaching implications to our health and wellbeing.  Our sense of the time of the week has been changing.  It used to be punctuated by the Sabbath or by Sunday.  There was a break in the week for rest and renewal and this break was experienced by us and our neighbors.  Now, for many, Sunday is a day almost like any other.  Many stores are open for shopping.  And because of shifts in work—very much created by technology—machines work full-time, therefore their operators work all the time, too.  While most of us have a “day of rest,” it might not correspond with that of our family or friends.


“We still have bodies with biorhythms connected to another time, when we were more in contact with the rhythms of nature.  Built into our bodies is a rhythm of activity, rest, renewal.  James Ashbrook has noted that this cyclical rhythm, which we experience in waking and sleeping, is also the rhythm of the Sabbath.  The Sabbath is a time set apart by God for rest and remembering.  It is a time for change in activity—from working and making to reflecting and synthesizing the experiences of the week.  This is what Dr. Ashbrook calls “meaning-making . . .remembering who we are. ‘ He also sees a parallel between the rhythm of the Sabbath and the rhythm of our deepest “active” sleep, REM (“rapid eye movement”) sleep.  Through REM sleep we rest, dream, synthesize the experience of the day, and thereby renewed.  Through sleep we are reintegrated.  Through keeping Sabbath we experience a similar integration.  He says that we can keep the Sabbath by setting aside a “timeless” time to catch our breath and savor life.  Sabbathing can be “the way in which we keep body and soul together.


“We are supported, as we support others in their changing lives, by remembering who we are.  And as we remember, we will experience the Sabbath cycle of activity, rest, synthesis, renewal.”


Even the season of Lent remembers the Sabbath, and keeps it holy.


Peace and blessings,

Cynthia V. Vaughan



Cynthia V. Vaughan serves as a lead Sabbath Chaplain for Blessed Earth.  She is an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church and a Clinical Pastoral Education Supervisor (ACPE, Inc.) of hospital chaplains. Cynthia regularly emails an inspiring Sabbath reflection to a growing list of Sabbath keepers.  If you would like to grow in your Sabbath journey, please contact Adam@blessedearth.org and he will add you to Cynthia’s distribution list.







A Sunday Sabbath Poem by George Herbert

from The Temple (1633), by George Herbert

O Day most calm, most bright,
The fruit of this, the next worlds bud,
Th’ indorsement of supreme delight,
Writ by a friend, and with his bloud;
The couch of time; cares balm and bay:
The week were dark, but for thy light:
                  Thy torch doth show the way.

                  The other dayes and thou
Make up one man; whose face thou art,
Knocking at heaven with thy brow:
The worky-daies are the back-part;
The burden of the week lies there,
Making the whole to stoup and bow,
                  Till thy release appeare.

                  Man had straight forward gone
To endlesse death: but thou dost pull
And turn us round to look on one,
Whom, if we were not very dull,
We could not choose but look on still;
Since there is no place so alone,
                  The which he doth not fill.

                  Sundaies the pillars are,
On which heav’ns palace arched lies:
The other dayes fill up the spare
And hollow room with vanities.
They are the fruitfull beds and borders
In Gods rich garden: that is bare,
                  Which parts their ranks and orders.

                  The Sundaies of mans life,
Thredded together on times string,
Make bracelets to adorn the wife
Of the eternall glorious King.
On Sunday heavens gate stands ope:
Blessings are plentifull and rife,
                  More plentifull then hope.

                  This day my Saviour rose,
And did inclose this light for his:
That, as each beast his manger knows,
Man might not of his fodder misse.
Christ hath took in this piece of ground,
And made a garden there for those
                  Who want herbs for their wound.

                  The rest of our Creation
Our great Redeemer did remove
With the same shake, which at his passion
Did th’ earth and all things with it move.
As Sampson bore the doores away,
Christs hands, though nail’d, wrought our salvation,
                  And did unhinge that day.

                  The brightnesse of that day
We sullied by our foul offence:
Wherefore that robe we cast away,
Having a new at his expence,
Whose drops of bloud paid the full price,
That was requir’d to make us gay,
                  And fit for Paradise.

                  Thou art a day of mirth:
And where the Week-dayes trail on ground,
Thy flight is higher, as thy birth.
O let me take thee at the bound,
Leaping with thee from sev’n to sev’n,
Till that we both, being toss’d from earth,
                  Flie hand in hand to heav’n!


Blown Glass: An Advent Reflection

by Guy Brewer

I yearned to pray today but found it very hard to calm my racing thoughts. Like many others, I feel a lot of internal and external pressure to complete my “holiday chores,” whatever that means. I tried making a “to do” list so I would not forget all of the important trivia of the day, but this didn’t help much at all with my inner chaos. And then, I remembered that poetry is the language of the soul. And, I sensed that my soul had something it wanted to say to God and to me. Perhaps the soul poem that emerged will be helpful to some of you as well. It is entitled, “Blown Glass.”

“Blown Glass”
The prayer began more with human worries than divine promises
Like blown glass, molten and fragile
Its shape depending upon the breath of the glass blower who gives life but does not control the masterpiece taking form
Until a sculpture of the soul emerges.
The glass blower cannot tell if the objetd’arte has the right proportions or is a reasonable facsimile of the deep well within.
All the artist can know is that something with life in it lies before him, precious simply because it is.
And so, the prayer moves in the only way possible with no more words or attempts to speak the soul’s deepest longings.
This blown glass prayer lies before God as a thing of beauty that takes His breath away, making God laugh and cry and draw nearer for a closer look.


Guy Brewer is the Sabbath Living Program Director for Blessed Earth. You can read his bio on our staff page. 

A Sabbath Reflection for Christmas

by Cynthia V. Vaughan

This week I’m reading from The Sabbath by Dayan Dr. I. Grunfeld.  It has been considered the “finest exposition of the Sabbath available in English” written to “fill an urgent need among English-speaking Jewry.”  You might ask why I am interested in reading a book which was written for Jews.  It’s simple:  Jesus was a Jew. During this Advent season, I find myself wondering (more than usual) what it was like when Jesus was a child.  Perhaps it is because I am more intentional about Sabbath keeping these days.  In any event, I like what Grunfeld writes about the celebration of Sabbath, “itself a great spiritual experience.”

“Throughout the thousands of years of its history Sabbath has always been a day of joy and gladness in the Jewish home. Its coming is an eagerly awaited event for which the family begins preparing days in advance.  In fact, Sabbath casts its radiant glow over the whole week.  The days themselves are named in Hebrew in relation to the Sabbath:  ” the first day to Sabbath,” “the second day to Sabbath,” etc.  This is how the week looks to Jewish eyes:

Everything looks forward to Sabbath.  Business and social arrangements are made in such a way that they will not interfere with the Sabbath.  Little luxuries bought during the week are stored up for the Sabbath. When Friday comes the tempo increases.  Every member of the household plays his part in the preparations. . . . the table decked with fresh linen and sparkling silver, with wine and challah and the Sabbath lights.  The whole family change into their Sabbath clothes and a festive air overhangs the house.  The scene is set for Sabbath, the royal bride, to enter.”

There is joy in the air, I can feel it! As we are preparing for the visitation of the Holy One, the Christ Child, this Sunday, let us strive to experience every Sabbath with the same joy and excitement and expectation that we had this week.
May the joy of Christmas surround you and may your special gift be the joy of remembering the Sabbath, to keep it holy!
In addition to her hospital chaplaincy, Cynthia serves as Sabbath Chaplain for the Harbor District in the North Carolina UMC Conference. She is ordained in the North Georgia Conference of the UMC, appointed to extension ministry in North Carolina as a CPE Supervisor/Chaplain at New Hanover Regional Medical Center in Wilmington.  She attends Wrightsville UMC in Wilmington.

How to Prevent Holiday Burn-out Before it Starts

Nancy Sleeth recently wrote a piece for Relevant Magazine about how the practice of Sabbath can help us avoid the stress that, for many, accompanies the holidays.

In the article, Nancy writes,

According to a study by the American Psychological Association, 85 percent of people report that time pressures increase during the holiday season. In fact, “lack of time” beat money pressures, commercialism, travel, and a host of other factors for the number one spot among holiday stressors. When my husband was a doctor, he’d notice an uptick in Emergency Room visits around Christmastime: the stress, dense foods, and disrupted routines of the season were literally making people sick.

Fortunately, there’s a simple way to reduce holiday stress.

It’s been proven effective for over two thousand years. God thinks it’s important enough to make it one of his top ten commands: Sabbath. The word “sabbath” comes from the Hebrew word sabat, which means “to rest or stop or cease from work.”

You can read the entire article here.





Woodworking As Sabbath Rest

As a new, young pastor in the foothills of North Carolina, Mitchell Boughman began hearing about the importance of Sabbath rest during the training and ordination process. He quickly learned, however, that resting doesn’t just mean taking a day-long nap. That’s when he started to connect his personal interest in woodworking and Sabbath renewal.

unnamed-2“We all have activities that recharge us and draw us closer to God. For me, that’s woodworking.”

Mitchell always had a passion for woodworking, but hasn’t always had the means to pursue his interest. Eight years of school and “living paycheck to paycheck and school loan to school loan” left little room for his hobby.

Once he finished school and began pastoring, things changed. Gratitude for his flexible schedule as a pastor, as well as the space to retreat in his church-provided home, led him to incorporate woodworking in his weekly Sabbath experience.

“A typical Sabbath for me begins with thanking God for a new day—where it’s just going to be Him and me hanging out. I’ve found that woodworking is a great activity for finding God and for generating a spirit of gratitude.”

It should not be surprising that Mitchell connects with Jesus in a carpentry shop. Jesus himself was a carpenter—and the Lord of the Sabbath. Sabbath is the pinnacle of creation, and we are blessed when we can create things of beauty that glorify our Creator.

“The truth is whenever I’m working on a woodworking project, I do not feel as if I am spending time. I feel like I am being given time. Perhaps that’s what Sabbath is all about: at least for a day or for a moment, feeling as if you have moved into eternity.”

Mitchell Boughman pastors two United Methodist churches in Connelly Springs, NC, and serves as Sabbath Chaplain for the Catawba Valley District of the Western North Carolina Conference of the UMC. In addition to woodworking, he enjoys playing golf, bird watching, and gardening on his Sabbath.

Sabbath Rest in a Shaker Village


Blessed Earth’s friends Jeff and Melissa Rogers recently led a group of nineteen couples from two different churches on a weekend Sabbath retreat. The setting of the retreat was the picturesque Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill in Harrodsburg, KY. The community was founded by a group of Shakers in 1805, and features original buildings and extensive walking trails.


dsc07149While on retreat, the couples studied Matthew Sleeth’s book 24/6: A Prescription for a Healthier, Happier Life, as well as the accompanying DVD series. The Rogers led discussions about the dangers of our modern 24/7 lifestyle and the biblical gift of Sabbath rest. Participants were encouraged to make a plan for implementing 24/6 rhythms into their lives. The couples discussed perceived roadblocks and encouraged each other with creative ideas and solutions.


dsc07168Jeff described the weekend as “a blessed time of God-centered rest, prayer, and healing.” He and Melissa made a great effort to structure the retreat so that participants could get a taste of the 24/6 Sabbath rhythm.




Lynne, a lay leader at her church, shared how the retreat has already blessed her family and her marriage:

Keith and I are so grateful for the Sabbath Retreat and the shifts we’ve already experienced. We had our first family Sabbath on Sunday and it went better than I had hoped! Our family meal after church was filled with laughter and great connecting time as each of us shared what God was speaking to us or doing in our heart. I have personally been able to spend less time on my cell phone/Facebook and have been successful in not checking my phone first thing each morning. What a win! And we are putting together a calendar so that everyone is aware of the things we have going on so we can be intentional/mindful of our activities and plan accordingly. All this in a week? What else does the Lord have for us?!


If your church or organization is interested in planning a Sabbath retreat, please contact adam@blessedearth.org. 

*The photos in this post were provided by Jeff Rogers



October Wedding’s Sabbath EP

According to Relevant Magazine’s description, October Wedding is an indie folk-rock worship collective based out of Harrisburg, PA.

The group consists of Kyle Werts, David Layser, Ben Spencer, Eleanor Helai, Charisah Cleath, Asher Stanely, and a host of other friends who join them time to time.

original-sabbath_ep_album_artThe Sabbath EP is best enjoyed as a concept album from start to finish, meditating on the depths of redemption through images of rest and healing. Each song is a journey, often starting in a mellow, reflective place with just a guitar and ruminative vocals, gradually rising to soaring orchestration and anthemic heights, then coming full circle to a place of rest.

The EP takes its title from the final song SabbathSabbath is a stirring artistic piece that relates the deep grace that is found in Sabbath practice. The lyrics themselves are worth meditating upon.



Verse 1
Striving and toil come from my rebellion
Righteousness and peace come from your redemption
You have called me to rest here with you
You have called me to rest here with you

Much bread has spoiled from these hoarding stomachs
Much blood is spilled by these toiling fingers
You have called us to rest here with you
You have called us to rest here with you


I remember all your ways are good for me
You have brought me from the house of slavery
I remember all your ways are good for me
You have brought me from the house of slavery

On the seventh day
On the seventh day

Verse 2
Take good care not to stray from his rest
A Sabbath day waits for all creation
He has called us to rest there with him
He has called us to rest there with him

Chorus:I remember all your ways are good for me

I remember all your ways are good for me
You have brought me from the house of slavery
I remember all your ways are good for me
You have brought me from the house of slavery

Silent foretaste of the kingdom coming
Finished work upon the cross of Calvary

On the seventh day
On the seventh day


Now I live by redemption’s rhythm
Now I live by redemption’s rhythm
Now I live by redemption’s rhythm
Now I live by redemption’s rhythm
Now we live by redemption’s rhythm
Now we live by redemption’s rhythm
Now we can live
Now we can live
Now we can live

The album can be sampled here.

You can download the album  here through Noise Trade .