Sunday, November 29, 2015

Advent & The Timeline of Faith

by Bridgett Clark

The word “Advent” is derived from the Latin word, “Adventus” meaning, “coming.” Scholars believe that Advent began during the 3rd and 4th centuries. It was a season of preparation for baptism that took place in January, either during the feast of Epiphany or the celebration of Jesus’ baptism. It wasn’t until the 6th century that Advent was connected to the second coming of Christ, and the middle ages when it was linked to Christmas and His first “coming.”

Today, during the season of Advent, we connect the two comings as well as to the people 2,000 years ago. In the First Century, Israel was looking back on God’s deliverance in Egypt, while looking forward to the “coming” of the Messiah. Today, we look back on the birth of the Messiah, while looking forward to the second “coming” of Christ.

When thinking of Advent this year I envisioned us standing in the middle of a timeline where we have the best of both worlds. We can look back on history, while looking forward to Christ’s return. Looking back on history allows us to stop and think about the faith of those on the timeline behind us. God purposely recorded the interaction He had with His people for a reason. It gives us a glimpse into how God interacts with us today. Many times, we are looking back on real people with real worries walking through real situations, not necessarily  spiritual powers, or angels or other phenomenal situations. Two thousand years ago, God’s people had the same tools of faith that we have now. Ancient stories of God’s deliverance and God’s promises for the future.

Looking back on the timeline of faith also gives us security in knowing that if God kept His promise to rebellious, doubtful, and ungrateful people back then, He will do the same for us. We can relate to the people in the desert that said, “This isn’t what we signed up for, we didn’t expect it to be this hard, I’d rather be enslaved in Egypt than here in the desert.” Yet, celebrate the fact that God didn’t leave them in the desert to die, but kept His end of the deal and brought them into the Promised Land. We can understand when the people of the Bible try to dig themselves out of situations in their own power, before turning to God, yet celebrate the fact that even though they had adulterous hearts, God still placed His infant son into their arms. There is deep security in knowing that we have a God who gives us the ability to look back in time and see that even in our ugliest moments he won’t forsake us.

One of the greatest fears we face as humans is the fear of the unknown. Not knowing what the future holds terrifies the strongest of people. Having the ability to look back in time gives us the faith to look forward into a future that isn’t unknown, but certain. The second coming of Christ will intimately involve us,  the very earth we are standing on will be destroyed by fire. A new earth will come down out of heaven and Satan will be bound and thrown into the Abyss. Jesus will return and reign as King, and the believers living at the time will transform into His likeness. Believers who had passed will then rise and receive their resurrected bodies. On this new earth, only those who believe in Christ will live. Therefore, every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Christ is Lord. None of us will have to wonder what we will do for a living because we will all be priests of God and will reign with him for a thousand years. Imagine, a thousand years without goodbyes because death will no longer have sting, but will be destroyed. As sure as we are of the birth of Christ, so too are we of His second coming. Infact, the last words Jesus spoke in the Bible are, “Yes, I am coming soon.”

Being able to stand in the middle of the timeline of faith is a gift from God. Looking back gives us a foundation for our faith, while looking forward, gives us a retreat for our minds. This is the same sort of retreat we have when a vacation is planned and inching towards us. No matter what we are going through or how rotten our days might be. When we stop and think about that vacation, the troubles don’t hit us as hard. This is the gift God offers us during the season of Advent. We can be thankful that we have an eternal vacation to look forward to when life gets rough, that no matter what we are going through it’s going to be okay because Jesus has come, and will come again soon.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Insomniac’s Threshold

by Travis Montgomery

I ruminate. It’s how my mind works. Don’t get me wrong, I know that it’s unhealthy to chew on a problem over and over again during all hours of the night, while desperately praying for sleep. However, as of yet, any other alternative has escaped me.

One stressful night, I laid in bed and felt as though my heart was pumping pure adrenaline. Two hours of unsuccessful sleep seemed like an adequate enough attempt to me, so I decided to take a walk down my country road to pray and calm my mind.

The whole village of Gibsonburg seemed asleep as I stepped out onto my back porch. It was a particularly dark night and I felt the cool night air blow gently across my face and arms. I walked down my gravel driveway and stepped onto the blacktop of my county road and noted how quiet my footsteps were--nearly silent. Making my way down the road, I only took a dozen steps or so when I heard rustling from the trees directly next to me.

I stopped to listen. “It” seemingly stopped as well. After a few moments, I walked directly toward the sound and silently slipped right up to the tree line running down the side of the road. Then I waited. I could barely make out the trees, and the darkness acted like a thick, black blanket, beyond which I could see nothing. If I stretched out my hand, it would have disappeared immediately into the void.

I controlled my breath and stood as dreadfully still as I could. The silence that surrounded me broke with the deep breathing of something far larger than a raccoon. I could hear the rasp of the air traveling down its windpipe. My eyes scanned the darkness directly in front of me. I expected its eyes were doing the same. I felt as though I could reach out and touch it.

Before too long I heard the movement of shrubs. “It” turned into “they” and “they” were ever-so-close. In that moment I felt a mixture of excitement, fear and adventure come over me. My fight or flight response rose up, and I chose to stand still. I wanted to know. I wanted to experience whatever that was… as closely as possible. I imagined what it would be like if a large buck walked right out onto the street right next to me. How majestic would that be? How awe inspiring and wonderful?

I realized that the very thing which drove me to the street that night, was being experienced in that moment. My mind sought to capture every possible option, every variable and every control to manage well this ever-present problem robbing me of rest that night. I had worked it over long enough. It was as if I had come up to a dark threshold that separated me from knowing what was coming--from knowing the outcome of my decisions. At this point, it didn't matter how much longer I ruminated. The darkness would still be there. The only choice I had left was to continue trying to control outcomes, to my own detriment, or to stand in faith and trust.

May we be the kind of people who think things through, attempt to see things from all angles, consider all of the options and make wise judgments to guide each step of our lives. However, when we reach the end our understanding and find ourselves on the brink of darkness, may we also be the kind of people who take steps in faith, through the void, expecting to experience the wonder and surprise of all the Lord has in store.

Pastor Travis

Monday, June 29, 2015

How To Handle The News

by J. T. Bean

I have been amazed recently at how quickly our national conversations have shifted and changed. On the evening of June 17, 2015, a mass shooting took place at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston, South Carolina. As the nation mourned this tragedy, the news (network, cable and social media) erupted with talk about racism, violence and gun control. It wasn't long before the discussion evolved to whether the Confederate flag was befitting of display at state capitals. 

No sooner had that debate been settled than the issue of gay marriage rose to front-and-center. It seems with each change of topic, the discourse of popular opinion seems to get more heated and controversial. It’s enough to want to throw my hands up in surrender and say, “I give up!” We seem to rush full-speed from one crisis or controversy to another. Before I can get a handle on what I know or believe, there’s another front-page headline to consume. I can’t seem to keep up with the news, the debates, the opinions, name-calling, no-nothings, and know-it-alls! Am I the only one that feels like this?!

I know some people enjoy a heated debate or find pleasure in the midst of an argument. People like this relish the fight. Me? I’ve never been in a real fight my whole life. I’ve never thrown a punch, let alone landed one! And when it comes to arguments, I tend to avoid the back-and-forth “war of words”. I learned long ago not to engage in petty arguments on social media because it wasn’t worth the emotional energy I would expend. I back down rather than ramp up because I don’t like conflict. I don’t like taking sides. I am a peacemaker. A negotiator. I want everyone to get along. 

That’s why I take comfort in the words of Hebrews 13:8: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.” The Lord doesn’t change with the shift in news cycles. He is steadfast, firm and predictable. His love never fails. He is a rock. A refuge. An ever-present help in times of need.

Knowing this, we can find peace in the midst of the many changes taking place in our culture at home and in our world abroad. When we build our house upon the “rock” of Jesus Christ, we have no fear when the rain comes, streams rise, winds beat and the storms of life shake the foundations of our life’s house (see Matthew 7:24-27). If our house is built on a solid foundation, we can sleep soundly knowing that it will not fall. 
  • Trust in the Lord. 
  • Stand firm on His unchanging Word. 
  • Rest easy in the light of His love. 
  • He will not let you go. 
  • He will never leave you or forsake you.
Whatever hot topic pops up next, I know I don’t have to win an argument or prove that I’m right. God’s Word assures me of eternal promises that are far more important than the latest Tweet or the newest trend.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t engage in the fight. There are some things that are worth fighting for. There are some things we can’t afford to be “neutral” about. But in the back-and-forth of debate, don’t forget your Christian calling to love like Jesus. In the end, it is the sincerity of your love that will convince others of their need for a Savior.

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:21)

Friday, March 6, 2015

Here's The Scoop

by Bruce Perry

My first job was working in an ice cream store.  They served hand dipped ice cream that was made right there in addition to homemade candies.  I worked there in the evenings after I got home from high school. Some of my friends worked there with me.  There was a jukebox in the corner that played three songs for a quarter.  I had unlimited access to ice cream and candy.  I wore a crisp white apron.  To this day it was the best job I’ve ever had!
It was a family owned business.  Two brothers owned the place and I worked for them.  They were old, had gray hair and were in charge.  I’m guessing they were in their late 50’s or so (about my age now!).  The point is, they were too old to be pals with us.  They were the bosses and we knew it.
One day I was making a sundae for a customer.  I had just dipped the vanilla ice cream into the dish.  Before I could add the topping, one of the brothers took the dish, walked it down to the candy section and put it on the scale to weigh it.  Without a word he brought it back and set it down in front of me and walked away.
I finished the sundae, gave it to the customer and that ended the transaction.  Except…I wanted to know what had happened on the scale.  Was I scooping out too much ice cream?  Frankly, the portion I dipped out looked rather generous.  Was it too much?  The owner never said.  In fact, it was never mentioned again.
The result of that brief scale episode was that I got angry.  If I gave too much ice cream, I wanted to know.  Even if I got into some kind of trouble, I wanted to know.  Of course, if I hadn’t put too much in the dish, I wanted to know that, too.  I wanted the vindication.  But it was not to be.  I still don’t know the answer.
Now I’m all grown up.  I live and work in God’s World.  A wonderful place full of things to discover and enjoy.
God’s World is a family business.  God is the boss and His Son works in the business with Him.  His Son does everything perfectly.  He smiles at the people who come and go from His presence.  He serves quickly and always gives full measure.  He is never late because He is always at work.
When I work with Him I never do things as well as He does.  But instead of feeling threatened by my not measuring up to His Standard, I am always encouraged and I have the Perfect Example to follow and learn from.
Sometimes I’m messy and I spill things on the white apron that I’ve been given.  Instead of having the stained apron get in the way of my relationship with The Son, He gives me a clean new apron whenever I ask for one.
I still wonder about that sundae perched on the scale.  Which was it?  Heavy, light or just right?  In God’s World, I don’t fear the scale.  As long as I work with The Son, He’ll make sure that through His Grace, I measure up.

So come into The Shoppe.  Be served by The Son.  Good things are being dished up and full measure is always given!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Squirrel In The Closet

by Travis Montgomery

I love living in the country. My kids play in the yard and I don’t worry about them. When I get the urge to get away, I can walk through my backyard and around fields without interruption.

However, there are some things I’ve learned about living in the country that I didn’t expect. Every winter we have a mass of rodents that believe I’ve fixed up my old house, so that they can live in it. Groundhogs, check. Raccoons, check. Mice, check. Squirrels, check. As it turns out, the country has turned me into a killer.

I’ve hidden in bushes with my .22 laying in wait for critters to emerge from my foundation. I’ve trapped rodents in my attic with cages. I’ve even plummeted into the disgusting depths of my very narrow crawlspace with a shovel, hoping to battle it out with a massive coon. As shocking as it is to me, even my wife has developed an instant “what have I won?” face when she hears the snap of mousetraps.

Despite all of that, it’s the squirrels that drive me nuts. Punny, I know. In the middle of the night, I can hear these things crawling around in walls of my bedroom closet. That’s where they play squirrel games and have little nocturnal squirrelraves when I’m trying to sleep.

One night, while sleepless in my bed, I pondered the term “skeletons in the closet.” Isn’t it odd that we would use a skeleton, something dead and gone, as a symbol for past sins? What’s interesting is that the inanimate object, a skeleton, seemingly lays dormant and unthreatening unless exposed… but, that’s not how sin really works. Sins don’t just sit idly by until someone digs them up. It’s the opposite.

Past sins act more like squirrels in the closet. They dig, claw and disrupt our peace until, at last, they’re addressed. Sure, we wrap pillows around our heads, hoping to drown out the scratching for moments of silence. We put our attention elsewhere to distract us from the noise. We can even grow somewhat used to the “scratching” after long exposure. All of these offer only momentary peace.

We’re going into a new year. It’s time to put past sins behind us and move forward in peace. God offers forgiveness to those who earnestly repent of wrongdoings. Who other than God could help us resolve past sins and separate them from us “as far as the East is from the West?”

On the other side of a repentant heart is peace. Bring your heart to God.

Thursday, July 3, 2014


by Jared Grosse
Have you ever experienced a miracle?  I did.
Once.  But before I tell that story, a quick word on the modern challenge of this topic.  Were a “miracle” poll taken in our local churches, I bet a good portion would identify themselves as cessationists (believing that all miracles “ceased” early on in the life of the Church). Some might side with the non-cessationists (believing miracles continue to happen whether we realize it or not, or perhaps only in specific time and places).  Many might just chalk it up to mystery, saying, “Who knows?”
The latter option is attractive because it keeps one from having to answer some very difficult questions.  What is a miracle, anyway?  Is it a natural or super-natural event?  If it is supernatural, can we call a material event (like a beautiful sunset or a successful chemotherapy) miraculous?  How do we reconcile miracles with science?  Why would God turn water into wine for a party but not heal my grandmother’s Alzheimer’s?  Questions like these make this a challenging topic.
Personally, I embrace the word “miracle” to describe natural events.  If you have ever been captivated by a beautiful landscape, or feeding a newborn child, or a brilliant starlit sky… well, you probably know what I mean.  It is that moment when we observe something explainable by natural causes, yet know deep down that it is beyond our ability to fully explain.  There is indeed something miraculous about the natural world of our common experience.
However, in light of personal experience and science’s ability to explain more of what happens, I admit that I tend to be skeptical of modern-day claims to “supernatural” miracles.  Be it lack of faith or misunderstanding, I have simply not witnessed such events or been persuaded by those who have.
That is, until May of 2011.
I graduated from college just two weeks earlier, and there was much to celebrate as I closed that chapter of my life.  Months earlier, three college friends and I decided there was only one proper way to celebrate our accomplishment: by bicycling coast to coast.  The adventure of a lifetime!  As I worked, saved money and studied hard in the months leading up to the trip, I remember feeling that the day would never come.  The daily grind of work, school, internships and marathon training became painful in the shadow of the looming adventure.  At last, when we mounted our heavy-laden bicycles in New York City’s Time Square to begin our pilgrimage west, it felt as if nothing could squelch the glory of that beautiful moment.
But something did.
As we rode out of Time Square, through Central Park, over the George Washington Bridge and into the hills of New Jersey, my marathon-trained body handled the steep grades with ease.  However, just as I was about to crest the largest climb of the day… POP!  Excruciating pain flooded my knee and my life quickly turned to shambles.  At first, I couldn’t imagine how I hurt myself.  Having just run a marathon less than a month prior, I should have been more than prepared to climb these hills!  However, as I sought an explanation, I became convinced that the marathon was what actually caused my injury.  Both knees had been dangerously swollen at the end of the 26.2 mile race, and it seemed that one month was simply not enough time to recover.
I remounted my bicycle, hoping that I was mistaken about the gravity of my injury, and that it would pass as my body adjusted.  But the pain worsened with each pedal, each brutal hill haunting me with the prospect of quitting this glorious adventure before it had really begun.  What if I tore a major ligament?  Could I recover enough to meet up with the guys a couple of weeks down the road?  How would I get home?  Were all the dollars, effort and travel that went into this for nothing?  This was no way to begin the next chapter of my life!
As the pain and questions piled up, so did my anxiety.  My hard-earned dreams were being dashed before my eyes with every painful pedal.  The prospect of riding another mile seemed impossible.
Somehow, though, I did.  It wasn’t pretty, but I managed to limp into camp that night with my peers.  As I was falling asleep and icing my knee, I prayed that, against the odds, this new chapter of my life would begin, not with pain and disappointment, but with promise and optimism.  That this trip would end, not with an injury, but with my friends at the Pacific Ocean.  However, my words felt weak, as did my chances of continuing this journey.
My faint hope that a good night's sleep would improve things was quickly crushed.  Instead, I was woken constantly by melting ice in my sleeping bag and the pain that it failed to alleviate.  In the morning, I emerged from the tent stiff, tired and thinking that going home might not be such a bad idea after all.  After tenderly packing up, I got on the bike and reluctantly followed my peers, quickly nearing the end of my ability to endure this punishment.  Hours of painful riding gave way to an unusual bright spot as we came to the Delaware River and our second border crossing.  After crossing the bridge into Pennsylvania, we all dove into the frigid state line.  We swam.  We splashed each other.  We laughed.  But, most importantly, we allowed two days of sweat and stress to wash off into the icy water.  Crawling back onto the riverbank, we drank in the sun’s warmth and the realization that we were living our dreams.
But that’s not the best part.  Because that swim was also the end of my knee pain.  It was as if the waters of the Delaware were infused with the healing power of the mighty Jordan in many of the Bible’s healing miracles.  From the moment I remounted my bike at the Delaware to the moment I dipped my bike in the Pacific Ocean nine weeks later, not ONCE did the pain return.  It was enough to flabbergast even this miracle-doubting skeptic!
I have often wondered if there might be a natural explanation for my instant recovery.  Could the frigid, flowing water have affected my knee in a manner a physical therapist could explain?  Could it be I sustained a minor injury (strained tendon, tight ligament, etc.) that was bound to pass soon anyway? Sure.
 Yet, I tend to doubt these objections.  After all, I spent hours the night before applying “cold water”(ice) to my knee.  I woke up feeling worse.  I also struggle attributing the extreme pain I experienced to a strained tendon.  But, frankly, I think raising these kinds of objections in an effort to demystify this experience is to miss an important point.
Miracles have little to do with natural versus unnatural explanation and have everything to do with expectation.  I was convinced that my ailing knee should have ended my trip.  There was no reason for me to expect that I should continue the harsh life of daily cycling for the next two months and 3,000 miles.  Even if a doctor gave me an explanation of the healing in medical terms, I would still consider this event a miracle.  Was it miraculous because it was supernatural?  Who knows?  But more importantly, it was a miracle because when all seemed lost, hope emerged from the most unlikely of places.  Because at the beginning of the next chapter of my life, I received exactly what I needed to continue the journey that would go on to shape my story in profound ways.  It was a miracle because it was an unexpected gift at a time of great need.
In the weeks and miles to come, our team of bicycle tourists continued to experience the miraculous.  It happened when a family picked us up on the interstate when we were hours from the nearest town – at midnight.  It happened when a rural Oregon farming couple invited us into their home when we desperately needed it.  It happened when my last tire went flat in Middle-of-Nowhere, Idaho, and my pitiful repair kit kept the shredded tire alive until I got to the next town 20 miles away.  However, we also experienced the miraculous in common events.  Like when we watched a perfect sunset unfold over the farmland of southern Michigan.  Or when this North Carolinian rode past a home in Metamora, Ohio oblivious to the fact that I would be living and writing this article in that very house today.
These experiences taught me that the miraculous and the unexpected do not have to be rare.  While they do happen on once-in-a-lifetime bicycle tours, the unexpected gifts of the miraculous are also right at home in the commonplace.  For example, I experience the miraculous when I make my morning cup of coffee just right.  Or when my community retreats from the busyness of daily survival to fellowship over a meal and a game.  I can find miracles most anywhere when I slow down enough to become aware of it.
Scripture points to a God of the miraculous.  We see this in supernatural events like the parting of the Red Sea, the plagues on Egypt, the virgin birth of Jesus and the healing miracles of the gospels.  However, we also see this in God’s decision to create, and recreate, the miracle of life.  We see it in the bodily resurrection of Jesus, an act which reclaims the goodness of ALL creation, even down to the stuff of our everyday lives.
Regardless of whether you identify as a cessationist, non-cessationist, uncertain or skeptic, we can all be grateful and aware of the biblical claim that all of life is a miracle to be appreciated.  It is an unexpected gift.  And we get to be a part of it.  Perhaps there is an event in your life, like my healing in the Delaware River, which needs to be reclaimed as the miracle that it is.  Maybe you need to slow down and take time to become aware again of the miraculous nature of everyday life.  Like my morning cup of coffee.  Or our beautiful Midwestern sunsets.  Or fellowship with loved ones.  Could it be that God is calling you, as He is me, to be the miracle of hospitality to the next bicyclist that rolls through town?  However God is calling you to reclaim the miraculous, may we remember that we serve a God who creates and resurrects all things.  May we be ambassadors of the truth that all of life is miraculous.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Are We Throwing the Baby Out With the Hammock?

by Chad Roper

That old “throwing the baby out with the bathwater” phrase may hold much modern wisdom for us as we field some of the curve balls that 21st century living throws our way.

First, though, we need to talk babies.

One thing that Sarah and I love to do is babysit. Watching our nieces and nephews allows us to briefly experience the joys and challenges of parenting with the comfortable assurance of a designated end point.  For example, if we become exhausted after a marathon crying session, or if the Pull-Ups leak all over our new bed––well, at least I know it won’t happen again the next night!

Case in point: our three-year-old nephew, Noah, is a “restless sleeper.”  Now to call Noah a restless sleeper is like saying that the sun’s hot, forever is a long time, or that the Pope is Catholic.  This kid doesn’t know what still is!

When you first get him down for bed, he’s pretty calm, and he lulls you into a false sense of security––enough that you almost drift off to sleep.  And that’s when the first kick happens.  Out of the nowhere, he lets loose with a full-bore, field-goal-worthy kick to the groin. Or the stomach if you’re lucky. And this is only the beginning.  About every two hours or so, he makes a full 360 degree rotation, punching and kicking whatever soft, fleshy parts of our bodies get within his range.  I’ve also learned that even if you manage to crumple yourself up at the bottom of the bed, well outside of “the circle of pain,” you still are not safe from Noah’s sleep sabotage.  I’ve never heard another human being be quite so verbally expressive while totally unconscious.  It’s as if he doesn’t hit his question quota during his waking hours!

One of Sarah’s many talents, for which she garners my deepest respect, is her ability to endure this assault for its entire duration.  I, on the other hand, learned my lesson from the first dose of this madness and typically get up as soon as Noah falls asleep to seek safer slumber elsewhere.  Usually this means sleeping in my hammock.

Now I fully acknowledge the unusual nature of utilizing a hammock as an alternative to the traditional pillow and mattress.  I know that most people would never consider doing such a thing.  But, as I am often reminded when it comes to things like this, I am not like most people.  As a backpacker and cyclist, I’ve come to love the wonderful benefits hammock camping affords.  They’re lightweight, incredibly packable and just plain simple.  I’ve had some of the greatest sleep of my life suspended over roots, rocks and rubble, on the inclines of mountains, or in dry as a bone during torrential downpours, all while peacefully swaying back and forth.

One day, long before I was married, I rearranged my bedroom, adjusted my mattress and washed all my sheets. With all the added complexity of beds, I couldn’t help wondering if there wasn’t an easier, more simpler way to sleep.  Maybe there was something outside of the box that I hadn’t considered.  I recalled the sublimely restful sleep I’d experienced in my camping hammock and wondered if I couldn’t replicate that in my house.  After drilling a couple eyebolts into the studs of my bedroom walls, I was totally sold on indoor hammocks! 

Much like Noah, I used to toss and turn quite a bit during the night.  After sleeping in my hammock, however, I noticed that these issues were completely eliminated. This prompted me to investigate further into using hammocks as beds.  I was amazed to discover that people had been sleeping in hammocks for thousands of years and that I was apparently the last one to join the party.  I also discovered that in addition to offering a good night’s sleep, the hammock also offered a lot of medical benefits as well, to include: falling asleep faster, increased length of N2 sleep (which is tied to greater brain plasticity), and a reduction of insomnia and restless sleeping due to healthy body positioning and zero pressure points.  When I then told other people about this “grand rediscovery” of mine, they oftentimes failed to share my enthusiasm. In some cases, they couldn’t even fathom what spending a night in a hammock was like.  This ancient, traditional way to sleep had become almost wholly forgotten.

Today, millions of young people, from my age down to little children like my nephew Noah, won’t even be aware of the fact that once upon a time, there was a day at the beginning of every week that was set aside by God for rest and renewal.  It was a day when grocery stores and gas stations were closed and families spent the day together, engaged in leisurely and restorative activities.  Can you even believe, given the way we live our lives now, that such a time ever existed? I’d imagine that if the gas stations were closed, a person would have to plan and prepare when they filled up their tanks. Might these be some of the same values that we’re losing?  I know there are many people who could not imagine the inconvenience of such a day and would feel greatly constrained by it’s observance.  Where convenience is concerned, I think it’s important to remember, that God provides us with such instructions not to burden us, but to lighten and free us and so that we can live better, more fuller lives with Him!  While it may be nice to live in a society of instant gratification, what have we sacrificed in gradually yielding up our day of rest?  What do we lose when we can’t spend time with our families and friends over holidays because they have to go work at a store that never closes?  What do we lose when of the health our loved ones deteriorates after years and years of non-stop momentum and stress? 

Maybe keeping the Sabbath holy isn’t the bathwater we think it is.

Life is an opportunity to be agents of Christ’s light, love and restoration, not only to those around us but to the whole world over. Preserving the Sabbath, as mandated by God Himself, helps us fulfill our calling. Weary ourselves, what do we offer our brothers and sisters who are on the verge of total physical and spiritual exhaustion? Who among us cannot use a day to be renewed and recalibrated by God’s goodness?

Compared to my grand “re-discovery” of the Sabbath and its purposes, the hammock realization became nothing! Observing God’s sacred day creates this beautiful life rhythm in which my work is orderly and purposeful. I have delineated boundaries, looking forward to definite end points in my tasks – the same way I do with babysitting.

Immersed in actively resting, my soul is refreshed and my perspective is rejuvenated. I am free to experience the love and peace of Almighty God, the One who spoke the universe into existence, in a brand new way. Reading my Bible with a fresh cup of coffee in hand, walking in the warm afternoon sun, appreciating His stunning handiwork … all are wholly new and wonderfully electric experiences. 

Observing the Sabbath is just one of many ancient and, dare I say, neglected expressions of our faith. Rediscovering and implementing this important aspect of Christianity will enrich our lives individually and corporately. Make time to rest in the knowledge of God’s goodness and faithfulness.

Hiding in plain sight, it’s His solution for that which afflicts us. We need only do it.