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Doctrine Faith Formation Ink Slingers Linda Spiritual Growth Ten Commandments

His Creation is My Chapel

It’s mid-week and I’m struggling to get to morning Mass. Not because I don’t want to be immersed in the sacrament, but because of the connection I feel outside. The sounds, smells, and sights of being outdoors are intoxicating to me. I feel God’s presence surround me in this chapel of His creation.

June seemed to have slipped through my fingers. One day morphed into the next, with activities and chores in the garden. In the center of it all, my daughter and son-in-law purchased their first home and once again, God asked me to hit pause on my plans. Sometimes we simply have to do ministry in the space that surrounds us. So I put aside my writing projects and dove in to care for the things God placed in my path. After all, isn’t that what I pray every morning? “Lord, who will you send me today? Where will I serve?”

I wish I could say I did it all without guilt, but I didn’t. I critiqued my plans and felt the pressure of getting behind, of letting people down. The work at my daughter’s house took more of a toll on my body than I thought and in my spare time, I chose to simply rest and enjoy the beauty of God’s creation. I chose to re-energize with my feet firmly planted on the ground.

I imagine God would approve of this time. Didn’t He feel the need to rest on the seventh day and command us to honor the Sabbath? Few people remember the old days when businesses shut down and honored the Sabbath. What good can possibly be gained from one more day of busyness? This notion caused me to pause and really meditate on the fourth commandment and how I do not honor it and keep it holy, as I should.

We first hear of the Sabbath in God’s commandments given to Moses for the people of Israel in Exodus 20:8-11:

Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord; you shall not do any work – you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.

So many words within this short text to unpack. Let’s start with holy. Here, God is telling us to set this day aside from all the other ordinary days and keep it special. He gives us six days to accomplish the work we need to perform for our needs on earth, but on that seventh day, our work must cease. This commandment is rooted in scripture, too–in Genesis 2:2-3, God Himself rested after all He created. He paused on that day to look at all He had done, for you and me, and marvel at how good it was.

God is calling us to celebrate all He has given us and learn to rest in His love, not our labor. He calls us to let go of our need to work and control our outcome and rely on Him instead. For this was His plan all along. The book of Exodus is the revealing of His faithfulness to the Israelites. In Genesis, we watch as God’s people begin to lose their way through sin as they rely on their own strength and veer away from God’s ways. Don’t we often do that–get tired of waiting for God’s blessings and think that we can do things better or quicker ourselves? Four hundred years of slavery and bondage was the consequence for their lack of trust in God’s plan.

The book of Exodus introduces the Israelites’ departure from Egypt toward freedom from slavery. God wanted to create a nation set apart from the surrounding empires, to be an example of depending on and trusting in God. The other nations practiced self-reliance and God hoped to show His strength and power through His people. This is what relying on Him looks like and the result is goodness and prosperity. Do we live out God’s plan to show the world it can trust and depend on Him? Do we stand out in our communities as people of God? Do others know this from how we carry ourselves?

I sometimes imagine what it was like for generation upon generation of Israelites to have been entrenched in a life of slavery, of constant work. God wanted to take His people away from that life and teach them a new way of resting and relying on Him. Perhaps this is where we are in our lives today–working day in and day out to get ahead, to create a life of wealth and prosperity. Or perhaps you do rest, but your rest consists of secular things with no focus on God. I’ve been there, but like the Israelites, I’m now trying to be more intentional about seeing God’s miraculous works around me. I’m moving toward trusting and relying upon His power and grace more than my own. This has come to me in the times I have carved out time for prayer and reading scripture.

“Therefore, the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and consecrated it.” When God blesses and consecrates something, it means He will make it rich and holy. He commands us to take a break and immerse ourselves in this gift from Him; to see all He can do for us. The prophet Isaiah reminds that keeping the Sabbath is not meant to take away our fun, but remind us of His provision and love for us:

If you refrain from trampling the sabbath, from pursuing your own interests on my holy day; if you call the sabbath a delight and the holy day of the Lord honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, serving your own interests, or pursuing your own affairs, then you shall take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride upon the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of your ancestor Jacob, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken. (58:13-14)

So I missed daily Mass this morning. I chose His creation for my chapel. I found Him in the silence and began a litany of praise for the gifts He lavishly pours over me each day. No, today is not the Sabbath, but it is still a lesson in learning to rise up in the midst of the demands to do more and retreat again to dependency and stillness with the only One who can offer true rest for my soul.

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Ink Slingers Mandi

Who is My Master?

Who Is My Master?

“Six days you may labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of the LORD your God. You shall not do any work, either you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your ox or donkey or any work animal, or the resident alien within your gates, so that your male and female slave may rest as you do. Remember that you too were once slaves in the land of Egypt, and the LORD, your God, brought you out from there with a strong hand and outstretched arm. That is why the LORD, your God, has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.” – Deuteronomy 5:13-15

We are slaves to many things in our daily lives; work, commutes, money, material goods, physical fitness, sex, food, sports, entertainment… even family life and religion can become our master. I only have to look at what is consuming my mind and my time to identify what or who it is I serve. While I must work to provide the necessities of life, I must not allow myself to be lost to the work. It is a tricky balancing act. I can easily become overwrought with the endless to-do list ever looming over me. It can be exhausting. I become agitated, weary, and anxious; in fear of never getting it all done. I am a gerbil on the treadmill of life. I am in need of rest.  

“Remember that you too were once slaves…and the Lord, your God, brought you out… with a strong hand and outstretched arm.  That is why the Lord, your God, has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.” 

He delivered us. His majestic arm is outstretched to us. He is calling us to come to Him, to rest in Him, to seek Him. I know I need rest. Not merely rest but renewal. After a long day and even longer week, I need to be revived. To where should I go for this rejuvenation? Do I go to my bed? Or maybe I head to the gym or the spa? Will I find it in the mall or in food or alcohol? Or will it be seen in mindlessly watching episode after episode of my latest favorite Netflix binge? Have any of these activities ever left me feeling reinvigorated or transformed for the better? Do they fill my heart with the sense of wonder that comes with acknowledging that all I have and am, comes from a gracious and loving God who thirsts for me? He longs for us with an outstretched arm to come to Him; rest in Him. Our Creator desires our attention. And, He commands us to make the Sabbath day holy. 

Sunday is Church day. It is the day of the Lord. He commanded it for our good. Jesus tells us, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath…” (Mark 2:27). Our bodies and our minds need to be set free from the things of this world. Our spirit needs to be reset and strengthened. It is not for God’s benefit that I should choose to suspend all activity and turn toward the Lord, glorifying Him. I offer all the stuff of my life- the good and the bad- to Him in praise and thanksgiving. In my coming to Him, He heals my brokenness, He nourishes my soul. He lifts me up and lightens my burdens. And, it is for my betterment that my attention is focused on Him. Naming the graces in my life creates in me a grateful more generous heart. My mind and spirit are awakened; reminding me that my thoughts and actions are often self-centered rather than God-centered.

I expend my energy on many things, some fruitful and others not so much. Am I, as St. Ignatius of Antioch described to early Christians, “living in accordance with the Lord’s Day”? Am I building my days, weeks and life around this holy day and the commands of the Lord? Is the rhythm of my daily routine set around seeking God? Freedom to choose is an extravagant thing. I may consciously or not choose all sorts of things to be my master, but none will fill me with the magnificent beauty and peace that is an encounter with our Lord. We breathe because He loves us. We exist because He said it was good. Simply put we are His. Why then, am I searching anywhere else for the peace and joy only He provides? It is a lack of humility in me. Humility says He is God and I am not. A humble heart can see the gifts in all things good or terrible. When I don’t stop to praise God who is everything, my vision has become obscured and I cannot see the abundant blessings all around me.

We ought to go to Church on Sunday not because it fulfills a commandment or because we fear we will anger God, but because we desire to. We need to gather together and sing praises of thanksgiving for a God who has delivered us, set us free. I need and want to celebrate the many wonders and blessings He has done for me. The Sabbath day is for me to seek God, to joyfully pour out my tired and weary soul on the altar, humbly asking our Lord to make me new. Participation in the celebration of the Holy Mass is the ultimate prayer for us as Catholics. Our prayers are joined together and lifted up to the Lord around the world. We are united with Jesus in a special way in the Eucharist. The peace my heart has been longing for is found there, so completely. It is a beautiful gift for which I am unworthy. God is with us indeed. It is a miracle that leaves me in awe. I am so moved I am often brought to tears. My heart and soul experience a joy, a peace, and a love that is so awesome it cannot and should not be contained. This love, this joy, must be lived and shared. It must not remain behind in the pew but be carried out into the world to be seen and heard. The attention I give to Sunday, the Sabbath day, is not about an obligation I must fit into my week but it is about the longing of my heart; my soul which is seeking the One who loves perfectly.  

“’Living in accordance with the Lord’s Day’ means living in the awareness of the liberation brought by Christ and making our lives a constant self-offering to God, so that His victory may be fully revealed to all humanity through a profoundly renewed existence.” ~Pope Benedict XVI

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Domestic Church Ink Slingers Spiritual Growth Victoria K

We Want You…. To Take a Sabbath (here’s 5 suggestions how)

Doing Nothing

My husband is really good at doing nothing in the best of ways.  In my husband’s mind weekends are for waking up late, talking over a cup of coffee, playing with the dog, planning a fun trip, taking leisurely walks, reading a book, going out for dinner with friends, and playing board games.

He basically has to chain me down for me to join him.  I see stacks of laundry, piles of dishes, that stack of mail precariously poised to fall off our countertop.  I work a busy workweek, and what better time to do the chores than that big space of free time on Sundays?  I mean, you expect me to sit around and do…well, nothing?

Endless Tilt-a-Whirl

Although it was nice to see those bold “X’s” on my to-do list, I found that I felt just as tired at the end weekends as at the end of a workweek.  I was on an endless tilt-a-whirl—day after day after day would go by and I couldn’t see the end of obligations.  I was stressed and my motivation was shot.

God drew me to taking a Sabbath not through theological arguments—He got me through exhaustion (He works in mysterious ways…).  I was freaking out over a stack of dishes and saw my husband sitting on the couch, reading a book.  And something clicked in my mind.  Maybe not all of the time…but a single day of nothing?  That might be exactly what I need.

 

Take a Break

In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus says: “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” (in Mark 2:27).  I think that Jesus is really standing there thinking: “My word, just take the break I’m trying to give you.”  I decided to start taking this gift seriously.

Just like every gift of God, it was exactly what I needed.  I have time for meaningful conversations with my husband, dinners with family, leisurely walks to just enjoy nature.  Basically, every once in a while I can enjoy the life that God has given me.

 

Five Suggestions

Now that Sabbaths are a regular part of my week, I have five suggestions for you to develop your Sabbath:

1. Cut out *one* chore, work task, or homework item on your Sabbath.  I really wanted to say no chores, work, or homework, but I think that may be too super intense.  Maybe it’s the laundry that always seems to accumulate right around Sunday.  Maybe it’s that last minute grocery run.  Maybe it’s those papers that seem best to do late on a Sunday night.  Maybe you have a weekly meeting on Mondays that you prep for on Sundays.  Find one thing that you can give up—and make more time for prayer, rest, and enjoying time with the Lord.

 

 

 

 

2. Switch to a different Sabbath (if needed).  So, this was something that was completely new to me.  This is a trick some priests do—because their Saturdays and Sundays are so slammed, they pick a weekday to take a Sabbath.  I used to work in youth ministry, where Sunday was our most intense work day.  Monday became my day of rest, a day to really re-focus, enjoy the things I loved without stressing too much about work.

 

 

 

3. Pick a reoccurring volunteer activity.  Be about God’s work! It may be hard to see past our own work and families’ needs, wants, and obligations.  God has called us to reach out past our own to-do list.  Maybe it’s a simple activity: lectoring or playing piano at mass, offering to drop off food donations to the local food pantry, helping out with a community garden, or visiting a friend who’s lonely and needs someone.  Maybe you’re willing to dive a little deeper: volunteer as a catechist, lead a bible study, run bingo at a local nursing home.  Rest doesn’t mean doing nothing!  It means experiencing the peace of doing God’s Will.

 

 

 

4. Have a meal with friends or family.  The key is that this should be with people you genuinely enjoy.  Spend time being loved on your Sabbath.  Let someone make you laugh out loud.  Share joys and sorrows from the week.  Holiness is not always solemn and refined; holiness can be beer, brats, and best friends.  

 

5. Schedule a time to do nothing.  I was thinking something along the lines of morning, afternoon, or evening.  Schedule nothing during this time.  My husband and I do mornings—we cook a simple breakfast and lounge around with coffees until noon mass.  We make time to talk, to enjoy ourselves, to really rest our minds from the “busy”-ness of life.  At first, this can be super tough!  It’s amazingly difficult to not plan “stuff” to fill our days.  But this becomes a rich time for relationships, for peace, for contentment just by being.

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Conversion Discipleship Mindy Ten Commandments

Our Rest from the Toil

While reading Genesis recently, I started pondering my family’s level of busyness and the copious amount of activity being undertaken recently. The children are exceedingly busy with the demands of their rigorous Catholic school…demands which, lately, cause me to question whether I’m only burdening them, rather than blessing them. I’ve found myself in the habit of adding on work hours for financial gain, which seems reasonable at the time of scheduling; then, when the time comes to apply myself to those hours, I see them as possibly mistaken priorities. There are myriad examples of this in our lives right now. There is not a lot of rest.

Is busyness a sin? Not necessarily. It is a curse, a “human condition,” a state over which we have some control and an obligation to discern. However, it seems presumptuous to think we can or should seek to escape it entirely, as God does not tell us in Scriptures that we are to kick back from the rigors of our responsibilities and let someone else shoulder our burdens on earth.

God made a mandate that we rest once a week, just as He did in creation. He not only created; He stopped and admired and appreciated all that had happened by His Mighty Arm. He did not make man for the Sabbath, but He made Sabbath for man, a merciful mandate which looked to our fallen state when He unfortunately had to tell Adam:

“In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread til you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:19)

While we might find ourselves burdened with the work involved in our day to day lives, the sin is not in the busyness and the tending to these responsibilities, but rather, the failure to stop for a while, giving to God some time each week to be replenished spiritually and physically.

In my recent re-reading of Genesis, a thread appeared to me which I had overlooked before. In Genesis 5:28, we read of Lamech, father of Noah:

“When Lamech had lived a hundred and eighty-two years, he became the father of a son, and called his name Noah, saying, “Out of the ground which the Lord has cursed this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the toil of our hands.”

From this survivor of the flood would come the generations leading to the birth of our Savior, within Whom we find eternal peace and true rest.

Ultimately, God has given us the greatest gift of all: His Son, Jesus Christ, Who “immediately on the Sabbath…entered the synagogue and taught.” (Mark 1:21) He IS the Sabbath. And look how amazing this is…

Jesus Himself gives us the Bread from Heaven. He feeds us the Bread of Life in the Holy Eucharist, and we do not have to work for this at all. From sin we are cursed to eat bread in the sweat of our face; in Jesus Christ, we are fed with the very Sabbath Rest Himself, Who takes away the sins of the world, has mercy on us, receives our prayers, and feeds us personally. WHOA.

Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” She thought it was the gardener… ~John 20:15 (It was!)

Sometimes, I wake up on Sunday mornings wishing I could just sleep in. Getting all our kids out the door seems like work, not rest. I confess to having done my share of grumbling. But look what happens so humbly and miraculously each and every Sunday. Jesus feeds us with His Body and Blood, giving us Bread from Heaven as the antidote to our cursed humanity. There is salvation one-on-one by the Gardener Himself.