Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Thinking About Sabbath

Fall often feels like it brings with it a return a full schedule. All the usual programs and lessons begin in our communities. Ministries start up again at church. A return to school for some.

It can seem like a calendar that had space in it over the summer is quickly filled up completely again. This feels good for a while, but often feels overwhelming in not too long, as we look at a calendar with barely enough time to run from one thing to the next. We begin to miss the days when we didn't have to hurry out the door, the time spent camping, the blank spaces on our calendars.

And, I think we miss it because that's what we were created for. We weren't created to always be running with overflowing calendars, and to always be connected to everyone through our phones. We miss the blank spaces in our calendars, the quiet times, because we were created to need them.

As my summer drew to a close, it seemed I was hearing a lot about the importance of Sabbath in our lives, about our need for it. A sermon at church and a couple books I picked up for other reasons were all about it.

It's not something I've heard a lot about over the years. Even though it's one of the Ten Commandments we seem to like to ignore this one. And, it's never been one I was much inclined to really look at.

My association with what Sabbath was about for a long time came from another family in our neighbourhood growing up. They had kids the same age as my sisters and I, and many similar family values, so we spent a lot of time playing with them - except on their Sabbath. It's not that they weren't allowed to play with us that day, but more that their list of things they weren't allowed to do on their Sabbath was so long there was very little of our usual activities and games we could play. For a long time that heavily influenced my thoughts and attitudes about Sabbath.

But, my those have changed and been challenged recently as I've heard more about it. In the past, I could give you the theological arguement about why Sabbath was important, but I had no interest in it and didn't see the need for it in my own life. I didn't want a day full of rules about what I could and couldn't do.

But, I've realized lately that's not what it's about at all. It's not about rules. That's not why God put the Sabbath in His Ten Commandments. It's about the space we need in our lives- for rest, for fun, for listening to God, for taking the break from the usual demands of our lives.

So, maybe it's time for me to look at Sabbath differently. Time for me to reconsider it for my own life. And maybe it's that time for you as well.

I don't know yet what this looks like in my life, but I'm quickly realizing I have to plan for it. Creating the space won't just happen. I'm much better at filling up all the spaces on my calendar, rather than leaving the blank spaces alone.

What about you? Do you need to create a Sabbath in your life?

Whether it's a day a week, a half a day, or even a few hours, we all have to start somewhere with it, and see where it goes from there.

What does it need to look like for you?

We're all different, so what a Sabbath looks like isn't something we can dictate for another person.

What would bring rest and fun for you? What would it look like for you to disconnect for that time from the usual demands of life?
How can you create space to really hear from God in that time?

We're all going to answer these questions differently. That's why we can't make Sabbath all about rules - about things you can or cannot do. What answers these questions for one of us, might not be the answer for another person. The important part is that we make the time.

In our busy, hyper-connected world maybe we need to take the fourth commandment a little more seriously than we have been.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The Problem with How we Often Approach Modesty Conversations

"Be careful what you wear, you don't want to cause your brothers in Christ to stumble by how you dress."

"Men are visual, so it really matters what you wear."

These are just a couple of examples of the messages about modesty I heard growing up in the church. And often still here today.

Then you look at communicated dress codes: They're almost always much more detailed for women than for men. In some cases, they see to be almost exclusively addressed to women.

And that's wrong. And it's a problem.

Hear me clearly:

I'm not saying that these sentiments are wrong. I'm not saying women shouldn't be aware of how they dress and the impact it may have on others. Those things are part of living in healthy community.

But, we absolutely cannot stop here. We cannot stop with just telling women it's all on them with regards to what the Christian men in their worlds think.

What I am saying:

When our focus when it comes to modesty is almost exclusively focused on women's choice of dress, we're doing exactly what we complain about our society doing to women and speak out against in other settings. In framing our discussions of modesty around only what women wear, we're reducing women to nothing more than sex objects. The very same thing we decry in the society in which we live.

We also marginalize a segment of women. We make it seems like only men are tripped up by what they see. Our silence on men's dress and need for modesty pushes the segment of women who struggle with that they see on the sidelines. Left feeling unacknowledged, unimportant, and completely silenced. Silencing them is the worst part of it, in my opinion, because it means they're left alone in their struggle, feeling like they have no place to reach out for help. Their struggle is invalidated and made to be no big deal.

I've had a few instances where this topic has come up in conversation recently that have fueled this post. In some of the conversations, my thoughts have been listened to and considered, regardless of whether they agree with me. In others, the response has been an almost immediate dismissal with a "yeah, but . . ." It's the second response, the dismissal, that really spurred me to write this post.

When I look at Scripture, I don't see responsibility for another's actions being placed on one group of people, but rather, I see all people being called to responsibility for their own thoughts and actions.

There are a couple of Scriptures, I commonly here in discussions about modesty:

". . . Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister." (Romans 14:13b)

"Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak." (1 Corinthians 8:9)

I have heard both of these verses used as support for the statements I opened this post with. And, while they do apply to that, we can't limit them to a discussion on modesty for women. Taken in the larger context of where these verses are pulled from, Paul is talking about how to live in Christian community. Paul's not even talking about modesty is dress, although the principle can be applied there. But, if we're going to apply it there, we need to be applying to both men and women equally.

We're being unfair if we use it to justify talking to women about how to dress and don't also talk to men about the same thing. Both men and women have a responsibility in this area. And it's important.

In an increasingly sexualized society, we need to have regular and honest conversations about modesty and the implication of how we dress. But, it must be a balanced conversation. We all, men and women, have a responsibility here - both in how we dress and in what we choose to dwell on in our own thoughts.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

What is the Cost you Will Choose to Pay?

I've spent the summer reading Judges and 1 Samuel. They're not always the most enjoyable books to read (although a bit more interesting than lists of names or laws can be). As I've read and reflected on these books in God's Word, I've noticed a theme that runs through much of what they have to say:

Both disobedience and obedience to God have a cost

Over and over, these two books and many others tell the story of a choice to disobey God and the cost of that choice for the individual or for the entire nation. You can't really miss it as you read.

Sometimes, even the best of intentions was still disobedience. Sometimes it was outright refusal to obey. Sometimes it was a slow drift from where they should have been. The common thread in all of these is disobedience to God.

It made me wonder about my own life. Where are those places where I'm paying the cost of my own disobedience? Because our disobedience to God does have a cost.

Seeing the cost of disobedience so clearly made me notice something else. It highlighted the stories where obedience to God was the choice made. Often those stories of obedience to God also had a cost.

Choosing to obey God didn't mean there was no cost. It meant the cost was different. It mean the cost led to a deeper relationship with God, rather than increasing distance - to a greater level of trust.

Sometimes, from an earthly perspective, the higher cost came in choosing to obey God. It is the choice to go against what the world around us tells us. We might look weird. We might be made fun of. We might be unpopular. In some places, we might even put our lives in danger for our stand.

So, if both disobedience and obedience have a cost, then we have to make a choice:

What is the cost we are willing to pay? 

The cost of disobedience? Or the cost of obedience?

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Stepping Into What God Calls You

What is the name God is calling you that you're afraid to step into? What is God call you that He placed in you that you don't see yet?

I've had those two questions running through my head for a few weeks. I started reflecting on them after reading the story of Gideon in Judges 6 & 7. Gideon's story isn't a long run in Scripture, but it has some powerful lessons for us.

Judges 6:1-16 is the passage I was reading when these questions formed in my mind. I'm only going to include a couple of verses here, but you can read the passage in its entirety here if you want.

"When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said: The Lord is with you mighty warrior." (Judges 6:12)

After stating how he didn't see how God was with Israel (Judges 6:13), Gideon protests the name Mighty Warrior.

"Pardon me, my Lord, Gideon replied, but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh and I am the least in my family." (Judges 6:15)

Not only could Gideon not see how God was with His people, he didn't believe what God had to say about him with the name God used.

Granted, from a human perspective, Gideon was right. His human perspective couldn't see God and definitely wouldn't see his hiding in a winepress as being a mighty warrior. I suspect we'd all feel the same way in a similar situation.

But, God isn't limited by our human perspective. He sees beyond it. He sees what He has placed in us.

In the moment when he was first called a mighty warrior, Gideon didn't look it or feel it, but God knew that was what he was going to become. So God called Gideon a mighty warrior - He called out what He knew was in Gideon and called Gideon to step into it.

I think God does the same thing with us. He uses the people He places around us to call us to step into what He has for us.

We may not see in ourselves what someone is calling out in us. We might protest what we hear and have our own list of reasons why we're not the person that is being called out in us.

The question is whether we'll respond or not. Gideon protested and asked for proof it was God, but eventually stepped into the name he was called. And Gideon is no remembered in Scripture as a mighty warrior.

What about us?
Will we respond by stepping it it, even if we're not sure yet?
Or will we run from it, because we're not sure yet?

Like Gideon, our choice determines the life we'll live and how we will be remembered.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Finding Freedom

When I cried out
You heard my cry
And You rescued me
You freed me from my chains

You pulled me to my feet
You taught me to walk again
You steadied my unsure legs
As I began to move again

Now I am free to run
To dance and sing and celebrate
Nothing holding me back
Nothing to hold me down