Sabbath Rest: Not Just for Grownups

I want my children to know how to work hard. I also want them to know that hard work doesn’t define them.


Sabbath Rest: Not Just for Grownups

Image: Tim Mossholder / Unsplash

The stories we hear when we’re young stay with us. They define us, tell us who we are. For good, and sometimes for ill, they inform the ways we live our lives. Sometimes we realize it. Sometimes we don’t.

When I was 16 years old, my youth group from First Mennonite Church of Pretty Prairie, Kansas, went on a service trip to Appalachia. (If the term “Mennonite” makes you think horses, buggies, and straw hats, then think again. Those are either Amish or a more conservative group of Mennonites than the ones I grew up with.)

We were a bunch of farm kids who knew our way around a hammer and a circular saw, and when we got to Harlan County in Kentucky, we did what we knew how to do best. We worked. We also knew how to eat.

At one point during the week, the people who ran the ministry had to make a choice. Our appetites were throwing off their budget. We were eating more than any other youth group they had seen. Should they try to make us eat less?

Ultimately, they decided not to attempt to curb our appetites. Why? As the story was told to me, the director of the whole ministry said something like, “I don’t care how much they eat. They’re getting more work done than any other group I’ve ever seen.”

We didn’t hear that story until after the fact, but when we did, we couldn’t have been prouder. You may have heard of the Protestant work ethic. I suppose it’s a thing, but I need to tell you a secret about Mennonites. Though most would never admit it, in their heart of hearts, many a Mennonite thinks the Mennonite work ethic puts the run-of-the-mill Protestant work ethic to shame.

This is a story I’ve been told. This is a story I’ve told. This is a story I’ve tried to live. This story shapes my deepest understanding of who I am. In other words, it shapes my identity. Who am I? I am a hard- working, Mennonite farm-kid from Kansas who knows how to get stuff done.

Most of the time, this sense of identity seems like a great gift. But not always.

Work, Reward, Repeat

Look again at the story of our trip to Appalachia. It follows the contours of countless stories that play out in the lives of countless young people in countless places for countless reasons. Youth work hard, they do something special, and then they receive encouragement and affirmation. They feel the love.

Work hard. Receive reward. Repeat. We love this story. It empowers us. It defines us.

But there’s a problem with this story. It begins with us, it depends on our effort, and it leaves virtually no room for failure. In other words, it is a story devoid of grace. It is also a story devoid of rest. Rest actually cuts against the cycle of work, reward, repeat.

If I think about all of this in relation to my children, it shakes me to the core. It disorients me completely. Sure, I want my children to grow up and know how to work hard. I also want them to know beyond the shadow of a doubt that grace is real.

I want my children to know that who they are cannot be reduced to any work they can or cannot do. I want them to know that they were loved before they existed. I want them to know they will always be loved, and I want them to know that love and grace are just part of who they are. I want them to know that love and grace are just part of who God is.

I need a different story, a story that plays out differently than work, reward, repeat. I need a story that makes room for work but insists that love and grace belong to me and my children no matter what work we can or cannot do.

In my work as a teacher, youth pastor, and parent, I’ve come to believe that I am not alone in my need for another story. Our world is short on grace. We’re also short on rest.

In the last decade or so, I’ve come to believe that the Sabbath provides us with just such a story. Through the Sabbath, God tells us another story. It’s a story that doesn’t do away with our work. It’s a story that puts our work in perspective. It’s a story of rest and grace, but it’s not always an easy story to hear.

Think about this. If you’ve been living your life by the work-reward-repeat cycle, and if that has gone relatively well for you, then rest and grace may upset the cart. Remember the story of the laborers that Jesus told (Matt. 20:1–16). The ones who started working at the end of the day received the same wages as the laborers who worked the entire day. Why? Because of grace. That’s not fair. And that’s the point.

Grace messes with us, especially if we’re hard-working types from anywhere who know how to get stuff done. Grace disorients us. But grace also provides us with an extraordinary promise: Before we existed, before we could do anything to earn it, we were loved.

Sabbath tells this story. Our young people desperately need to hear it.

A Gracious Beginning

Many of the young people I’ve talked to over the course of my research on Sabbath seek rest and refer to rest as an escape. It’s true that the Sabbath gives us a refuge from powers and forces that are too great for us. But the problem with rest as escape is that it views rest as marginal rather than central to our life of faith. Surely the way we enter Sabbath rest signals something about its place in our lives. When we consider Sabbath rest, do we imagine it as an escape from or an entry into life, as a resisted last resort or a gracious beginning, as a guilty concession or a regular celebration? Our response must emerge from our theology.

In other words, our Sabbath rest must emerge from the very life and being of God. If we recognize Sabbath as integral to the very being of God and to the very identity of the covenant relationship that God extends to humanity, then we will realize that our refusal of the Sabbath is not merely a failure of human development or human potential. It is more—it’s a deformation of what it means to be human in the first place, which is another way of saying that it’s a deformation of what it means to be a child of God.

If God created humanity in the image of God for the purpose of covenant relationship, and that covenant relationship has been marked by Sabbath rest from the dawn of time, and if that covenant relationship will come to completion in Sabbath rest, then our refusal of Sabbath rest does nothing less than deform our very identity as God’s children. Our refusal roots human identity in mere achievement, productivity, efficiency, and accomplishment even as it divorces the life of humankind from the life of God.

Our refusal to rest is killing us. It is killing our young. It’s leading to breakdowns in mental health, obesity, depression, broken relationships, broken families, and substance abuse. All of this is bad enough, yet the fullness of the mis-formation comes to light when we realize that those in ministry, those called to teach, train, pastor, and shepherd young people, engage equally in endless work and then point to God and say, “I’m doing this for God.”

It is true, as Bonhoeffer once wrote, that when Jesus calls us, he calls us to come and die. Yet if the death that we and our young people experience is in service to achievement, productivity, and ceaseless striving, then it isn’t Jesus’ call that we’re heeding. Jesus still calls his followers to come and rest and to lay down the unbearable burden of a life rooted solely in human effort and accomplishment. Let that false self die! And let us rise anew to life and rest grounded each day, and particularly on the Sabbath, in the grace, love, and faithfulness of God.

Dying to Ceaselessness

If we and our young people are going to embrace Sabbath rest for the gift that it is, we’ll first need to stop blaming God for our continuous work and reject endless labor as a form of obedience. Our existence doesn’t begin with what we can accomplish, and it won’t end by what we can achieve. We are here because God made us, because God loves us, and because God has called us his own. That simple and identity-transforming affirmation provides more than enough motivation and rationale for our working and striving, yes, but first for our resting and celebrating in the love, grace, and care of God. Anything less forfeits our full humanity and threatens the full humanity of the young people in our care. The invitation stands: Come and die. Die to ceaselessness. Die to gracelessness. Die to every definition of humanity that falls short of the one given to us by God—and rise to rest in the grace, power, and resurrection life of God.

Imagine. We are God’s beloved children—not because of what we’ve achieved or what we ever will achieve, not because we’ve earned it, not because we got enough work done, not because our ducks are in a row, but because God graciously called us, formed us, and named us his children. Because of this, we may actually lay down our burdens. We may set aside our work and the lesser gods that tempt us to look to them as the source of our identity. We may lay down even our Sabbath rules and regulations, and we may behold the work of God from creation to Exodus to Incarnation to Cross to Resurrection. And we may dare to hope that the rest we now enter is but a foretaste of the eternal rest, when we will all stand before God’s throne and never again question that we are God’s beloved children.

Our provisional rest here and now reminds us of the promised rest that is to come. How can we but stand up straight and praise God?

Nathan T. Stucky is director of the Farminary Project at Princeton Theological Seminary. He is the author of Wrestling with Rest: Inviting Youth to Discover the Gift of Sabbath (Eerdmans), from which this article was adapted.

This article is from Christianity Today

Sabbath Box: What if You Could Get a Rest?

Pastoral ministry is hard work. How would you like a resource that could lighten your workload and help teach your church the importance of Sabbath. Well, look no further than the Sabbath Box. Imagine having one week out of every month, where much of the work of ministry planning has already been done for you. On the first Sunday of every month, each new issue of Sabbath Box presents you with sermon, music, and Bible study content, ready for you to use with your church or ministry! Sign up now, and try a free month, risk-free! Sign up by clicking the logo!

Keeping the Sabbath Saved My Marriage, My Ministry, and Probably My Life

by A.J. Swoboda (Blessed Earth Pacific Northwest Director)

Nearly 10 years ago, as a college pastor at the University of Oregon, I toiled nearly 80 hours a week doing the “work of the Lord.” No boundaries. No rhythms. No intention. No rest. Every crisis was my crisis. Every complaint was my problem. Everything and everyone came to me. The long and short of it. I began to burn out. And I knew there was a problem when I started hoping I would burn out. Burnout offered a way out of all the insanity. Though I had never thought it possible, I was, in Paul’s words, beginning to “weary in doing good” (Gal. 6:9). The cost was high. I constantly got sick, my marriage was struggling, and my ministry became misery as I went frantically from crisis to crisis.

Flannery O’Connor has this little throwaway line where she speaks of a priest who is “unimaginative and overworked.” That was me. There was only one problem: The ministry was thriving. People were getting baptized. Students were repenting. The group was growing. It all came to a head one Saturday morning. After an 80-hour workweek, I scheduled an appointment with a student in our college ministry for 10:00 a.m. that Saturday morning. Having not slept well for over a month, I missed my appointment, not even hearing the sound of my alarm. I woke up to a voicemail on my phone: “How could you miss this appointment? Pastors shouldn’t miss appointments. You have failed me.”

I had become, in the words of Stanley Hauerwas, a “quivering mass of availability.” A need-filler. A gofer. A Christian handyman, available to everyone and everything but the Lord my God. Standing there, I nearly broke my flip phone over my knee and threw it against the wall. I had been working tirelessly only to let one more person down. I could not go on like I had been. By the sovereign grace of God, I had been reading a book by pastor and theologian Eugene Peterson. Through reading the book, I discovered something I had completely ignored in 10 years of Bible reading—this thing called the Sabbath. Peterson eloquently discussed how one day a week he would say no to ministry demands and go on hikes, eat good food, read poetry, and meet with God. I was intrigued. Was this not a waste of time? Was he not wasting his time on selfish endeavors? Then it clicked.

Up until this time, I had thought Sabbath-keeping was selfish. And I thought that if I did rest, it was a sign of weakness. Then I had the epiphany of a lifetime: I had been trying to be selfless. In helping everyone else, I had forgotten myself. I had become the preacher of the gospel who needed the gospel himself. Or, worse yet, I subconsciously thought God wanted me to forget about myself so I could serve others. But that is not the gospel. Jesus loves me too. I could love others only to the extent that I could recognize God’s love for me. I could see to the needs of my community only to the extent that I admitted my own needs. I could care for God’s people only to the extent that I would allow him to care for me. In forgetting all this, I had neglected to care for the body God had given me, the spirit he breathed into me, this soul that he molded with his own hand.

 A Commandment, Not a Suggestion

Wisdom prevailed. I admitted my own limits and embraced my finitude. It was one of the first “not goods” in my life where I recognized I had a deep, human, God-created need. In living for everyone else, I had been trying to be omnipotent and omnipresent; God had never intended me to be either. As I read the Gospels, it became clearer and clearer to me that Jesus himself was not selfless. Jesus went into the mountains and prayed to the point that even his disciples could not find him. Jesus ate. Jesus drank. Jesus slept. He took care of himself. And never once was Jesus hurried from place to place, controlled by a busy schedule. Jesus lived a rhythm completely different from anyone around him. The rhythm of his life was, in itself, a prophetic act against the rhythms of the world.

Sabbath rhythms are not meant for paper; they are meant to be practiced. “Holy days, rituals, liturgies—all are like musical notations which, in themselves,” one Jewish scholar writes, “cannot convey the nuances and textures of live performance.” We are not to know about the Sabbath. We are to know the Sabbath. In the years since starting to practice the Sabbath, my family and I have become avid, albeit imperfect, amateur Sabbath-keepers. One day a week, my family turns all the screens off, lights some candles, prays, and invites the God of the Sabbath to bring us rest. This practice, which, again, we do far from perfectly, has saved my marriage, my ministry, my faith, and, I might even say, my life. However, we have come to find that Sabbath never just happens. In our 24/7 world, I have never once seen someone accidentally keep a Sabbath. Sabbath is an action of great purpose, one that demands feisty intentionality. It requires us to live in a rhythm that squarely opposes the dangerous pulse and habits of our world. Sabbath-keeping is not just a small vignette in the Bible. Page after page, story after story, book after book, Sabbath comes to us. This is not a minor motif in the story of the Bible—it is one of the greatest themes of the Bible. Sabbath is not extra credit. It is a commandment, not a suggestion.

 Sabbath is God’s eternal way of helping us worship our good God and not worship the good work he has given us to do.

The Sabbath, Jacques Ellul contends, “shows that work is not after all so excellent or desirable a thing as people often tell us.” In other words, Sabbath provides work with a healthy framework within which good work can be done. The fourth commandment, we must remember, only prohibits us from work on Sabbath. Nothing else is prohibited. This simple act of not working revolutionizes our lives by re-centering our identity on being with God rather than on what we do for the world. Workaholism, in the end, is the result of our sense of self not fully coming into the light of Christ. Workaholism is very different from alcoholism—for the alcoholic, there is no slowly reintegrating alcohol after into your life after getting clean. Workaholism is different. For a workaholic, the issue becomes learning to live rightly in relationship to work. A workaholic will most likely have to get back to work.

The Idol of Exhaustion

As for my work, studies continue to reveal that pastoral burnout is connected to the pastor’s sense of being and worthiness. I became a workaholic chiefly because I had not allowed the grace of Jesus to reside in the depths of the caverns of my soul. I even used to think the Sabbath was a break from ministry. Now I see the Sabbath as ministry. It frees people. It helps others in the church. It establishes boundaries. And, above all, it proclaims the Good News of Jesus. As I read Peterson, one question came back to me over and over again: How can I preach salvation by grace when my life is built on an altar of workaholism?

In our culture, in place of a meaningful relationship with Jesus where we are defined by the Father’s love, we will continue to relish our overstuffed, busy lives. Busyness will be our trophy. More often than not, the only way we can truly feel good about our lives is if we are burning out doing it. We want scars to brag about. We have, as Barbara Brown Taylor writes, “made an idol of exhaustion. The only time we know we have done enough is when we’re running on empty and when the ones we love most are the ones we see least.” It seems this cultural mantra has been treated like a command from God, but God never asked us to work to the point of burnout.

We were not created just to work.

Work is not our Ultimate.


This article originally appeared in Christianity Today online.

Do the headlines scare you? They shouldn’t, and here’s why.

by Matthew Sleeth

We live in a culture of fear. In fact, fear is a hot commodity. It sells.

The folks who have the most to gain from fear just happen to be the ones who market it. This may be individuals, but often it’s the media.

Nancy and I don’t have television at home, but I have no control over TVs in public places. There is no escaping them. Whether I want to or not, I’m forced to watch the news in airports and restaurants. And of course there’s plenty of news online. The threat level is always orange or red. Every hour of every day we hear up-to-the-minute news of mass shootings, scandal, stolen identities, impending nuclear threats, and a world in turmoil.

Fear is not all bad. It keeps us from going too near the edge of the cliff. It can lead to an appropriate amount of caution. It lets us know when to act and when to flee.

But living in constant fear is crippling to the human spirit. Fear feeds on itself, and it’s always hungry for more. Fear makes us uncomfortable, and for the most part, people like to avoid uncomfortable stimuli.

For many, escape is the answer. We run to diversions, including entertainment, food, drugs, and alcohol. We escape our lives by living someone else’s in the popular world of reality TV.

There is also an economic link between escape and fear. Many of the entities that market fear are in the entertainment business. This is known as creating your own market and demand. Politicians market fear as well. Mussolini, Hitler, and tyrants throughout history have banked on fear for their own benefit. They create a climate of fear and then present the means of escape: themselves.

You don’t have to read far into the Bible to come across a society based on fear. The book of Exodus documents a Pharaoh’s paranoid imaginings about an uprising of slaves, a war that might happen, and a reaction that could occur. I’m sure that the media back then endlessly hashed and rehashed the possibilities. Coifed, attractive journalists interviewed the former commander of the Pharaoh’s chariots while maps overlaid with possible invading armies flashed on the screen.

The problem with a culture of fear is that people grow used to the fear; as a result, those who are in the fear business must continually up the ante. As the scripture says, “And the Egyptians were in dread of the people of Israel.” (Ex 1:12 ESV)

So the Pharaoh upped the ante and said, “let’s kill the most helpless of all–the newborn babies.” Then one of the most beautiful things in the Bible takes place. Two courageous women dealt with fear in the way God wants all of us to. Their names were Beautiful and Splendid, or Shiprah and Puah in Hebrew.

How did these midwives act when confronted with a culture of fear? They lied to the Pharaoh to protect the babies. And you probably remember that “the Lord dealt well” with these two women. But what we may forget is how these women escaped the culture of fear. “But the midwives feared God and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but let the male children live.” (Gen 1:17 ESV).

The key: they feared God. Satan wants us to fear everything on earth–except God.

In Matthew 10 we find a record of Jesus sending his disciples out on their first mission. They had been with the Master up until that point, and it must have felt overwhelming for them to step out on their own. Jesus instructed these followers to find a worthy house, give greetings, and let their peace descend on the home (Matthew 10:13).

The implication is that disciples should have a peace that others do not. How? We must fear God, and nothing else.

Jesus warned them–and us–that life will not be easy. There will be persecutions and accusations. There will be wars and rumors of wars. We cannot expect a stress-free life when we follow Jesus.

Our Lord went on to explain that we should not fear men. Others can destroy our body, but ultimately only God has the power of granting eternal life or death (Matthew 10:28). Our souls rest in God’s hands alone. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10). When we fear the Lord, all other fears shrink in size and become much more manageable.

Fear God alone, and you’ll find yourself with the courage to take down giants. I promise. But more importantly, God promises. This is God’s Word. And we believe it.





What the Bible Says About Enjoying your Weekend

*This article was originally published by Relevant Magazine.

I love my work. Like many Americans, I pride myself on a strong work ethic. But sometimes I feel like I’m working all the time.

Instantaneous communications, nonstop connectivity and the option of working from home are all great. But they can also make us feel like we are never fully working or fully resting.

For many of us, TGIF has lost its savor.

We take on second jobs to earn extra bucks, check emails throughout the weekend and use Sunday afternoon to run errands or catch up on work.

A dozen years ago, my husband and I started a creation care ministry. It’s allowed us to meet some of the most intelligent and loving people in the world. It’s offered us ample opportunities to travel. And it’s given us a platform to speak into both the churched and non-churched culture.

And while working with my husband is one of the greatest joys of my life, it also has a dark side: We can easily find ourselves talking shop late into the night and on weekends.

Like all good things, work can become twisted. When we look for our identity in our jobs rather than in God, we can lose sight of the relationships that matter most.

The Bible is filled with admonishments to the lazy. But what does it say to a culture that finds itself working 24/7? Does God want us to enjoy the weekends?

We have only to open the scriptures to find out:


For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer (1 Timothy 4:4-5).


The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat (Mark 6:30-31).


The creation of the heavens and the earth and everything in them was completed. On the seventh day God had finished his work of creation, so he rested from all his work.

And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because it was the day when he rested from all his work of creation (Genesis 2:1-3).


God’s promise of entering his rest still stands, so we ought to tremble with fear that some of you might fail to experience it. For this good news—that God has prepared this rest—has been announced to us just as it was to them (Hebrews 4:1). 


You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God. On that day no one in your household may do any work. This includes you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, your livestock, and any foreigners living among you. For in six days the Lord made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and everything in them; but on the seventh day he rested. That is why the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy (Exodus 20:8-11).


I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man (Ecclesiastes 3:12-13).


On the day of your gladness also, and at your appointed feasts and at the beginnings of your months, you shall blow the trumpets over your burnt offerings and over the sacrifices of your peace offerings. They shall be a reminder of you before your God: I am the Lord your God” (Numbers 10:10).


Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8: 10).


He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul (Psalm 23: 2-3).


[W]hatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you (Philippians 4:8).


Be still and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10). Or the ancient Greek (Septuagint) version: “Have leisure and know that I am God.”


Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

Weekends have a purpose. They let us step back and appreciate the goodness of honest labor. They help us value every day on earth as an undeserved gift. And they put our toil into perspective, reminding us it’s God who keeps the world spinning—not us.

Yes, work hard. Yes, steward your time wisely. And then every Friday afternoon, shout with joy: This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad. (Psalm 118:24)

Or as that great oracle of my youth, Dr. Seuss, once said, “Look at me! Look at me! Look at me NOW! It’s fun to have fun but you have to know how!”


Nancy Sleeth is the author of Almost Amish and co-founder of Blessed Earth. Recognized by Newsweek and Christianity Today as one of the “50 Evangelical Women to Watch,” lives in Lexington, Kentucky, with her husband Matthew. For more Sabbath resources, visit

The Four-sided Peace of Sabbath

This week I’ve been preparing to lead a Lenten day of silence for a nearby church.  I know that may sound like an oxymoron: How exactly does one prepare for leading a silent retreat?  Well, in this case, the organizers asked me to pick a theme that relates to Lent and then select three meditations, followed by questions that the people attending can contemplate in silence.

The theme I chose is Shabbat Shalom, Sabbath peace.  It’s based on a few pages in a book I recently read: The Nine Questions People Ask About Judaism, by Joseph Telushkin and Dennis Prager.  The authors speak briefly about four kinds of shalom that Jews seek on the Sabbath.

The first is peace within ourselves.  The Jewish Sabbath laws are designed to bring peace on earth, a foretaste of heaven, one day each week.  This peace must begin with the person we see reflected in our mirror each morning. To promote inner peace, religious Jews don’t use machinery and external sources of entertainment on the Sabbath.  All week, we engage with (and are often enslaved by) email, television, Facebook, news, chores, and cell phones. In the quiet that descends on Shabbat eve, we re-learn how to be still and rest in God.

The second source of shalom is peace between people.   Turning off external, mechanized sources of noise on our Sabbath produces another bonus:  we suddenly have ample time to invest in relationships.  One of the nearly universal consequences of Sabbath observance is the strengthening of ties among family and friends. In particular, the Sabbath meal allows time for uninterrupted conversation, with no one rushing off to make a call or keep an appointment. Sabbath is a chance for husbands and wives to reconnect, for children to engage with their parents and each other in a relaxed atmosphere, and for friends to have leisurely conversations and share their hearts.

Third, Sabbath also promotes peace between people and nature.   Biblically, the injunctions to offer animals a break on the Sabbath, to give the land a rest every seventh year, and to practice Jubilee principles by not squeezing out every possible penny of profit are Sabbath practices that ensure rest for creation. In practical terms, if every Jew and Christian in the world worshipped on the Sabbath and then came home and didn’t buy anything or drive anywhere the remainder of the day, we could save about 14 percent of our carbon footprint. But even more significantly, by filling the emptiness inside with God rather than nonstop consumption, Sabbath peace flows into our habits the other six days of the week and allows us to stop and value our surroundings.

Last is peace between people and God.  All week, we run around trying to fulfill immediate needs and desires. Shabbat is God’s day, when we look beyond the tyranny of the urgent and reflect upon the eternal consequences of our actions.  Instead of focusing on my needs and desires, we focus on His generosity and goodness. On Sabbath we are invited to walk out onto the bridge between heaven and earth and meet the Creator of the Universe, the living and ever gracious God.

Which of these four kinds of shalom are you most drawn toward?  For the remaining five Sabbaths until Easter, consider focusing on one of these. Then reflect upon the following questions:

  • What practices can you eliminate during your remaining Sabbaths before Easter that will promote peace within yourself?  No social media? A television fast? A break from the Internet?
  • What practices can you add that will promote peace between people?  Consider a Sabbath meal with family or friends, or reading a chapter aloud from an inspiring book and discussing it.
  • What practices can you add or eliminate that promote peace with nature?  Walking around the block and stopping to admire the spring blooms? Not driving anywhere except church? Abstaining from shopping–in stores or on the Internet?
  • What practices can you add that will draw you closer to God?  Thirty minutes of prayer on your knees sharing a heart of confession, adoration, and thanksgiving with God? Singing the Psalms?  Memorizing a piece of scripture that has always delighted you?
May your Sabbath rest during this Lenten season be overflowing with God’s peace!
Shabbat shalom,
Nancy and Matthew Sleeth

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 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.