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The Journey: Notice what you notice

Posted by Rev. Daniel Christian on

                      I was having a talk with a pastor friend of mine about the act of being “present” in our daily lives. He said, “Notice what you notice.” Those are easy words to say, but quite another to live. Like many of you, I get distracted with lists, texts, conversations in my head that may or may not have truly happened that way, if at all. I walk into a room to get something important, and completely forget what I am looking for and why it is so urgent. With all of the demands of modern life, I am reminded of the words from the book of Genesis. What God does after God has finished creating. God rested.

Rest and relaxation, also known as Sabbath, is essential to any inner or spiritual life.

In the Bible, Sabbath is so important in the eyes of God that God sets aside one day for rest and commands us to do it. “Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.”

Think about this for a moment. If we took one day a week to rest, not vacation or busy ourselves with the next thing, but to rest on the Sabbath. That is 52 days a year for spiritual rest. Imagine how your life might be different at the end of that year?

Imagine God resting after all that creating. I imagine a gentle hush rushing over all of creation, like the stillness in the midst of a redwood grove, or the peaceful awe when we stand on the valley floor of Yosemite.

Spiritual rest is not filled up with another item on the “To Do List.” There will be no frantic being busy, no running around, no rushing here and there doing errands. Last night I sat on our front porch and did nothing but watch the sunset and enjoy the English style garden in the front yard of the church manse. I had to fight feelings of guilt that I “should be doing something.” I wasn’t on my device. I wasn’t doing anything. I just sat there and enjoyed deep breaths and the beauty of Ukiah at sunset.

God doesn’t say, “I suggest” or “I encourage” or “four out of five doctors recommend,” God says, “You shall make one day for rest.” Said another way, “do it because I command it” and you’ll get an added benefit by becoming a better human being in the process.

Making time for Sabbath means to join in gratitude for God’s creation. Sabbath also enjoins us to the whole of humanity.

Creation in the world is not some endless place of frantic productivity, ambition and anxiety. For creation and our life to bear fruit, we must rest.

For us modern people this might be a technology Sabbath for a day — a full day without cell phone, computer, video game, Snapchat, Instagram, email, text, television or obsessing on the flurry of Presidential Tweets. Consider taking a technology Sabbath once a week. Our family dinner has a rule that we don’t have any devices near the table.

If a day of Sabbath is difficult to wrap your head around, consider starting with a half day or a few hours.

A pastor friend of mine, every Friday, takes an email Sabbath.

Many years ago, before the advent of Social Media the artist and singer Moby took an email Sabbath a step further. He took an email Sabbatical. He deleted his “inbox” and took a rest for a while. I know many of us try to take a Facebook Sabbath.

Imagine being so daring and courageous that you would make the choice on how, when and why you will use technology to your advantage or pleasure. We choose instead of our technological communication choosing us.

Taking a technology Sabbath is a modern way of declaring independence from the next new gadget, the next new app, the latest smart phone upgrade! Sabbath then and now disengages from the economic engine that never shuts down.

Rest or Sabbath in our culture can be disengagement from “frantic leisure,” “frantic consumption,” “frantic exercise.”

What would Sabbath look like for you?

As we make plans for summer fun, I invite all of us to make the time to truly rest.

Every week set aside some time, an hour, morning, evening, half-day, full day, to rest and or unplug and truly connect with the life around you as it is being lived right now. As you create time for your own Sabbath I invite each of you to notice what you notice.

Have a wonderful summer.

Rev. Daniel Christian is the pastor at First Presbyterian Church of Ukiah.

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