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 

*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 .


Robert’s Rules and God’s Rest

Near the banks of beautiful Lake Junaluska sits a house called “Roberts’ Rules,” built by Rev. Bill Roberts and his wife Lisa. But this is more than just a vacation home. The house is intended for Sabbath use, for the Roberts’ as well as family, friends, or colleagues who need time away.

Three months before the house’s completion in August 2015, Roberts met Blessed Earth Sabbath Program Coordinator Bill Hughes at an event at Duke Divinity School. Hughes shared a copy of 24/6 with Roberts, who devoured it. Its message reaffirmed the importance of Sabbath and confirmed his family’s desire to use the house for Sabbath purposes, not only for themselves, but to bless others as well.

“We accept this house as God’s gift to us, and as with all God’s gifts, it is God’s plan that we share,” said Roberts. “Dr. Sleeth reminds us that generosity and Sabbath go hand in hand.”

Bill and Lisa named the house thinking of all the meetings they have attended at Lake Junaluska Conference Center, following Robert’s Rules of Order. But the Roberts’ primary rule is that the house is intended for Sabbath.

“It reminds us of one of the greatest spiritual truths a Christian can follow—that God, as our designer, knows our need for rest so well that he has commanded us to take Sabbath. It allows us to grow closer to our God as well as care for ourselves.”

Rev. Jonathan Brake, who pastors at Centenary UMC in Winston-Salem, recently spent a night there while attending his daughter’s college freshman orientation. Grateful for the Roberts’ hospitality, Jonathan reRoberts House Picfers to “Roberts’ Rules” as the “Sabbath House.” Having recently suffered a tragic loss in their family, the Brakes hope to find time soon to relax and heal there.

Hospitality, generosity, and Sabbath–the trifecta of God’s shalom. Through the Kingdom hearts and open hands of people like Bill and Lisa, we see a beautiful example of how Roberts’ Rules can order God’s rest!

LEFT: Rev. Roberts and his wife Lisa wrote Scripture passages and meaningful quotes on the walls of their house during construction. 

“52 Snow Days … and counting” an article by Rev. Willis Greene

52 Snow Days … and counting*
by Rev. Lara “Willis” Greene
First United Methodist Church, Newton, North Carolina


I knew something had changed when I did not completely freak out with excitement when the announcement arrived that school would be closed due to inclement weather – a SNOW DAY!!! Really, who doesn’t love a good snow day? You get to sleep in, binge watch Netflix, eat junk food, read good books, watch movies and most importantly, stay in your pajamas the entire day. A snow day is a day with no responsibilities, no expectations, and nowhere to go. Normally, when a snow day is called, you will find my children and me dancing around the house.  Snow days are the bomb!   So this past January, when the huge snow storm hit North Carolina and the school closing announcement was made, why wasn’t I high-fiving with my teenage son?   What had happened to me? I was not overcome with enthusiasm like I once used to be at the prospect of a day on which I could do totally nothing. What in the world had changed?

It just might have something to do with the fact that over the last year, I have had fifty two snow days. Yes, do the math, that’s one snow day a week. The “call from the school” comes around 9:00pm on Thursday night and while no meteorologists are involved, I know that the weather will begin to clear up on 9:00pm on Friday. I prepare for my snow days by getting the house in order. I finish up the laundry, pay a bill or two and clear off my desk. For the next 24 hours I will not be checking texts or e-mails so I decipher which ones are urgent, reply to them and inform folks not to expect to hear from me again until Saturday. Around 9:00pm I let go. Whether it is all done or not, I simply stop (and yes, there is a part of me that still wants to get “one more thing” done) but I stop, trusting that the world will keep revolving even if I do not get the spatula returned to its’ proper place or the birthday present wrapped or the light bulb changed or the expired coupons cleaned out or whatever it may be that is enticing me to stay busy. I simply stop “doing” all these things because I trust that God will keep the world (including my little corner of it) spinning fine without me – it is this deep trust that turns my snow days into Sabbaths, a twenty four hour period in which I do nothing work related. Let me clarify, Sabbath is not my “day off.” To distinguish the two, I try to follow these four guidelines which I have adopted from the work of Pete Scazzero and his ministry, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality.

  1. Stop. I cease work – paid and unpaid. Sabbath is first and foremost a day for me to stop. The word itself, Sabbath, comes from the Hebrew word that means “to cease, to stop working.” It has always been difficult for me to stop. Prior to celebrating Sabbath, I was always trying to get the “next thing done” and I would not stop until I got everything done. But the truth is, there is always, always one more thing to “do” so now when I stop on Thursday nights, I do so with the assurance that God will keep the world in order without me. I do not work around the house or catch up on errands, as I do on my day off, I simply stop. It’s actually quite fun when I look at a load of laundry and give myself permission NOT to do it! Saturday will be here in just a few hours and then I can do all the laundry my heart desires (as if my heart desires laundry!)
  2. Rest. So you may be asking, what do you do if you’re not doing laundry and running to the post office? I take a nap, I take long walks, I read a book, I watch a movie. I do anything which is relaxing and releases my mind from work related issues. I know what you’re thinking so let me just state it – what a waste of time, it is completely unproductive and inefficient – yes it is.   But as Catholic theologian, Leonard Doohan, says, “To fail to see the value of simply being with God and doing nothing is to miss the heart of Christianity.” In resting, God reminds me that I am loved regardless of what I achieve and that I am a human being, not a human doing.
  3. Delight. Being relaxed and unhurried, enables me to pay attention to God’samazing gifts and delight in God’s creation. I look at the ordinary things through the lens of delight. I savor my food, smell the grass in the backyard, enjoy the conversation with a good friend and even pay attention to the gift of warm water as I wash my hands.   As Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote:

“Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God,
But only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round and pluck blackberries.”

On Sabbath, I take off my shoes and delight in God’s gifts. My husband also celebrates Sabbath, so together we will ask, “What would bring us delight today?” We’ve answered that question with day trips to fun places, long drives on the Blue Ridge Parkway, eating unhurried meals and other experiences that remind us that God’s world is a playground when we look at it through the lens of delight.

  1. Contemplate. The focus of every Sabbath is to reflect on the love of God. It is during Sabbath that I am acutely aware of God’s presence in all the gifts which are given through God’s creation. I do not necessarily spend any more time in silence, prayer, scripture reading and reflection than I do on the other six days but what I do is deliberately look for God in the people I encounter, the experiences I enjoy and even in the food I eat. I have a heightened awareness of God’s presence in all that I experience. In many ways, contemplation is an extension of delight. I am intentional about looking for God’s love in all of the things that God has given me to enjoy.

I have been practicing Sabbath for a year now and I am still experimenting on how to fully honor and celebrate this spiritual discipline. Protecting the 24 hour period is on ongoing learning process.  For instance, after a long and weighty church meeting on a Thursday evening, I found it impossible to relax on Friday (Sabbath). I learned not to schedule important meetings on Thursday nights. Their proximity to Sabbath had an adverse effect. I’ve also learned that while I delight in other people’s company, if I commit to social engagements on Sabbath, I may be sacrificing my time of rest. In addition, I’ve learned that when a pastoral need arises such as a surgery or a death, I still attend to them on Sabbath but it is not out of a sense of obligation, but rather out of a sense of humble privilege. I have discovered there is no “set” way or “right” way to do Sabbath. I simply try to keep the four principles of stop, rest, delight and contemplation in each weekly celebration. And to my surprise … the lessons learned from Sabbath have now spilled over into the other six days of the week. Most noticeably, I no longer operate at a harried pace. I pay attention to God’s presence as it is revealed in people and creation. I delight in the small things and I am no longer constantly rushing around. And here is the amazing thing … I am more productive in 6 days then I ever was in 7, a result of the rest which God gives me on Sabbath.

No other spiritual discipline has changed my life as significantly as Sabbath. It is more than just a Snow Day.   I could give scriptural reasons for Sabbath (it is the longest and most specific of the 10 Commandments). I could list the physical and emotional benefits of Sabbath but for me, what it boils down to is the issue of trust. I trust that I am cherished by God for who I am, not for what I achieve. I trust that ultimately there is only one God so I have stopped applying for the position and now I simply accept and enjoy the gift of Sabbath … fifty two snow days a year!

*This article was first published on the Western North Carolina United Methodist Conference’s website. It is re-published here with the author’s permission. 



24/6 Two Day Retreat

24/6 2-Day Retreat Schedule

What you need: 24/6 DVD; AV equipment for showing DVD; round tables for small group discussions; Sabbath Plan worksheets (found on

1:00-1:05           Welcome from leader or host

1:05-1:15           Leader or host shares intentions and purpose of retreat

*Share your best Sabbath memories, invite others to share their best Sabbath memories, and emphasize the biblical importance of Sabbath with scripture

1:15-1:30           Centering on Sabbath: Opening worship or devotional

 1:30-2:45           Session 1: Our 24/7 World and Why We Need 24/6

*Play segments 1 and 2 of DVD and use a few questions from DVD discussion guide.

*We have found these questions help spark conversation:

  1. How can keeping a weekly Stop Day help heal you? Heal families? Heal marriages? Heal congregations? 2. If the definition of rest is figuring out what work means for you—and not doing it—what activities would you like to include on your Sabbath? What activities would you like to eliminate on your Sabbath?

2:45-3:00           Coffee Break

3:00-4:15           Session 2: How We Do 24/6 and Your 24/6 Life

*Play segments 3 and 4 of DVD and use a few questions from DVD discussion guide.

*We have found these questions help spark conversation:

  1. In our 24/7 culture, Sabbath-keeping has to be intentional. How can you be more intentional about Sabbath keeping?
  2. How can you encourage your friends and family to keep the Sabbath themselves? How can others support you in your Sabbath-keeping practices?

4:15 on             Free Time, dinner on your own

8:00                  Breakfast

 9:00                 Opening devotional and worship

9:20-10:00         Session 3: Writing Your 24/6 Plan

*Have 1 copy of 24/6 Worksheet (on for each participant

10:00-10:30        Session 4: Sharing Your Sabbath Thoughts

  1. a) 1 table leader per a table shares with entire group ways their table participants plan on remembering the Sabbath and/or
  2. b) Q &A: participants share questions/concerns about Sabbath with entire group and group discusses their beliefs and solutions.

10:30-11:00        Communion/Closing Worship with charge and benediction

Note: Depending on your group, you may want to rearrange and/or change the times and sessions. Other session examples are:

  1. Extending the Sabbath Invitation: discussions about ways to invite your community into Sabbath keeping through sermons, small groups, Bible study, etc.
  2. Sabbath Articles: discussions around Sabbath focused articles.