A Guided Sabbath
The content below is not mine. It is was written by Milfred Minatrea and used by his permission.
Emerging Leaders Guided Sabbath
October 26, 2012
“We are weary and find no rest … Restore us to yourself, O Lord, that we may return;
renew our days as of old.” Lamentations 5: 5, 21
Prayer for Guidance
Holy One, as I enter into this day of Sabbath, I pray that you will have clear voice into my life. Guard my mind from wandering thoughts, my attention from anything that would distract me from You. Give me patience to wait quietly for Your voice. Grant discernment that I may recognize the Voice that is Yours and close my ears to other voices for this moment. I confess that I need this time with you, I long to be in your presence, but I am also somewhat tentative as I enter it. I confess that I am more comfortable in knowing how to do ministry than in knowing how to be with you.
This is the day You have made. How often I repeat those words without truly appreciating the uniqueness of each moment. Even now, my mind runs to a variety of important things that need to be attended. Before the hours set aside for this day alone with you are accomplished, it is likely that I will fidget like a child who has remained in a room of adult conversation much too long. If I am not active, then I feel like I am not achieving. But Father, you made me a human being, not a human doing. Help me to respond to the invitation you have extended me, to “Be still,” “Cease striving,” and “know you.”
Please God, do more in me today in quiet stillness than I can imagine. Touch me with your healing in places where my spirit has grown raw or callous. Bring rest to my soul. Please forgive me for the moments when I begin to squirm today. Recalibrate my heart with the pace of your Spirit. And when I prepare to leave, create in me a passionate hunger for more time alone with You. May the moments have been too brief, the hours too short, and my thirst only temporarily quenched. May I depart with a soul panting for more of You.
Begin your personal time of Sabbath by doing nothing, by being still in God’s presence. Before we can even listen for the voice of the Father, we need to let our minds slow down, our spirits become calm. Let the debris of life settle so that you can be sensitive to the subtle stirrings of God.
Most of us soon want to “get on” with doing something in this Sabbath day. Enough of this “Being still.” Quiet stillness is very difficult. Consider these early moments as time to just be with God. Then with a notepad at hand, spend at least thirty minutes quietly listening for impressions from God. This is a time, as Evelyn Underhill suggests, to listen for the voice of the one “who has nothing to learn from you but everything to tell you.” Do not be disturbed by the many images, ideas, and feelings that distract your focus and shout into your silence. Simply call yourself back to attentiveness to God and listen again for His voice.
Invite the Spirit of God to move you to particular passages of Scripture through which He wants to speak into your life. Perhaps a theme has emerged in your stillness and silent listening about which you would now like to seek His counsel. You might begin by searching in your Bible’s concordance and then pursuing cross references on the subject.
As you read, allow passages to “steep” into you like tea in hot water as you slowly read and reread them. Permit the Scriptures to be God’s personal word to you rather than a word which you contemplate sharing with others. As you read, confess that you are not gathering material to teach others, rather you are the one to whom God is speaking.
If you have no specific sense of “where to begin” reading, utilize the following references as “beginning places” for unearthing nuggets of divine wisdom that may find personal application.
Exodus 33:12-23; 2 Samuel 22; Isaiah 40:9-31; Psalm 56; Zephaniah 3:14-20;
John 17; Proverbs 22:17-21; Psalm 84; Colossians 1:3-14
Make notes of the passages of Scripture that you were led to read.
What did God say to you as you read and reflected on His words?
What personal reaction does each of these passages elicit? What response will you make?
Are there unexplored trails that surfaced while you were reading – further exploration in the Word that you would like to do later? Describe those trails, so that you will be able to remember them later.
Selected readings are provided from various sources and authors. It may well be that God will speak to you through the words they have written. You do not have to “complete” all the readings. There may be more than you wish to read today. Our object is not content, but connecting with God. So, read and enjoy resonating with a well crafted thought, identifying with a particular circumstance, or laughing at the common conditions of our daily struggles. See if there are particular phrases that resonate with you. Make note of any selections through which God really speaks into your life.
Periodically through the Sabbath, look over any notes you have made during silent listening, scripture, and spiritual reading. Seek common themes or messages. As you read your notes, contemplate and reflect on what God may be impressing upon you through your Sabbath time. Summarize those thoughts to the best of your capacity throughout the Sabbath day. They may become mile-markers or signs pointing toward the ways that He desires to bless, instruct, care for, or use you in the next season of ministry.
In the way that is most meaningful to you, seek to transfer what may have been random notes from thoughts, impressions, reflection, etc. into an organized summary of God’s interaction with you through this day. Express in writing any directional decisions or commitments that you intend to carry out subsequent to today. After today, what “next steps” will you take in pursuit of these directions or commitments?
Throughout the day, you will find yourself constantly breathing prayers to God. At specific points, come into His presence with adoration, praise, thanksgiving. Cry out in confession longing for cleansing and personal holiness. If you have been going through a season when prayer has become perfunctory rather than precious, ask God to rekindle dynamic relational intimacy in prayer. Listen for His voice. Respond as God burdens you with specific concerns to be lifted before Him in prayer.
There will be specific times for interactive sharing with others who are participating in the Sabbath experience. You may wish to note items that you are prompted to share with others as well as to record insights God brings to you through the words they share. Spiritual Readings
Many persons, ordained or not, live in a fairly constant state of noise, with their unresolved past and the uncertain present breaking in on them. They lack a still center and it is only from such a quiet point that we can listen attentively. When I was in my first parish, which was located in the middle of the city, a constant stream of indigents came through. One came into my office and wanted to tell me his story. I sat as if to listen but was deeply troubled inside over some issue now long forgotten. I remember I was fiddling with a pencil. The man stopped his story, looked at me and said, “Young Father, the least you can do is listen.” He was right. There was no still center in me.
Thomas Merton (1915-1968), the fascinating Cistercian monk whose writings continue to increase in popularity, found the busy life of a Trappist very disconcerting. Despite the fact that speaking is severely curtailed in a Cistercian monastery, he found the place incredibly noisy. For many years he sought permission to live as a hermit on the property of the monastery. He needed the quiet that he might listen. Too frequently we do not understand the hermit’s discipline, a discipline that need to be ours in spirit, it not in fact.
From Spirituality for Ministry by Urban T. Holmes III
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After a while this Sabbath-less way of living might even become a point of honor with us. We begin bragging about being so busy that we “have not had a vacation in years.” What we fail to realize is that this is already a public declaration of our spiritual poverty. Whether we mean it to be or not, it is also a way of making others feel guilty about honoring the time they need for marginality. In this way, we begin to perpetuate the destructive equation of ministry with work.
From The Journey from Misery to Ministry by Francis Dorff
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There is no missional living apart from simplicity. Jesus was not caught up in the accumulation of stuff. Nor did he allow the tyranny of the urgent to catch him in its controlling grasp.
Too often, I struggle to remain free from things that want to thwart my pursuit of His mission. Simplicity is a prime asset in missional living. When I am controlled by neither calendared events nor costly things, I am free to prioritize my life according to the will of the Other.
Every so often, I need to go back and read Richard Foster’s Freedom of Simplicity. The rereading is not because I have forgotten, but because I need to be reminded of the possibility of living in a way that runs counter to contemporary culture.
Whether I am reading Foster or going back to St. Francis, I am reminded that value has little to do with cost. In fact, some of the most valuable things in life are those which money cannot buy and death cannot take away.
Today, I am thinking again about my lifestyle. I am inventorying my calendar and possessions. I am asking myself what I am holding on to that has become a stumbling block to my pursuit of God’s purposes.
Cluttered closets and busy calendars may be symptoms of a deadly spiritual disease. I am not at ease without simplicity. That is a place where I evidence faith in the Father’s capacity to meet my needs. It is the place where the song of a common bird becomes valuable. It is the place where my library card is as important as my Visa card.
It is the place where I can set aside a day to be alone with God in Sabbath rest. It is a quiet place of simplicity that frees my soul of any pursuit that separates me from knowing God.
From Milfred Minatrea on Simplicity
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Who Am I? They often tell me
I stepped from my cell’s confinement
calmly, cheerfully, firmly,
like a squire from his country-house.
Who Am I? They often tell me
I used to talk to my warders
freely and friendly and clearly,
as though it were mine to command.
Who Am I? They also tell me
I would bear the days of misfortune
equably, smilingly, proudly,
like one accustomed to win.
Am I then really all that which other men tell of?
Or am I only what I know of myself,
restless and longing and sick, like a bird in a cage,
struggling for breath, as though hands were compressing my throat,
yearning for colours, for flowers, for the voices of birds,
thirsting for words of kindness, for neighbourliness,
trembling with anger at despotisms and petty humiliation,
tossing in expectation of great events,
powerlessly trembling for friends at an infinite distance,
weary and empty at praying, at thinking, at making,
faint, and ready to say farewell to it all?
Who Am I? This or the other?
Am I one person today, and tomorrow another?
Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others,
and before myself a contemptibly woebegone weakling?
Or is something within me still like a beaten army
fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved?
Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.
Whoever I am, thou knowest, O God, I am thine.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer from Letters and Papers from Prison.
The minister, as a living memory of God’s great deeds in history, is called to heal by reminding people of their wounded past and by connecting their wounds with the wounds of all humanity, redeemed by the suffering of God in Christ. But what are the implications of such a view-point for the personal life of the minister? The temptation is strong to ask the “how” question: “How do I become a living memory of God; how do I accept and connect; how do I lift up the individual story into the divine history?”
These questions are temptations insofar as they avoid the more basic question: “Who am I as a living memory of God?” The main question indeed is not a question of doing, but a question of being. When we speak about the minister as a living reminder of God, we are not speaking about a technical specialty which can be mastered through the acquisition of specific tools, techniques, and skills, but about a way of being which embraces the totality of life: working and resting, eating and drinking, praying and playing, acting and waiting. Before any professional skill, we need a spirituality, a way of living in the spirit by which all we are and all we do becomes a form of reminding.
One way to express this is to say that in order to be a living reminder of the Lord, we must walk in his presence as Abraham did. To walk in the presence of the Lord means to move forward in life in such a way that all our desire, thoughts, and actions are constantly guided by him. When we walk in the Lord’s presence, everything we see, hear, touch, or taste reminds us of him. This is what is meant by a prayerful life. It is not a life in which we say many prayers, but a life in which nothing, absolutely nothing, is done, said, or understood independently of him who is the origin and purpose of our existence.
From The Living Reminder by Henri J.M. Nouwen
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When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word
What a glory He sheds on our way!
While we do His good will, He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey.
Not a burden we bear, not a sorrow we share,
But our toil He doth richly repay;
Not a grief or a loss, not a frown or a cross,
But is blest if we trust and obey.
But we never can prove the delights of His love
Until all on the altar we lay;
For the favor He shows and the joy He bestows
Are for them who will trust and obey.
Then in fellowship sweet we will sit at His feet
Or we’ll walk by His side in the way;
What He says He will do, Where He sends we will go;
Never fear, only trust and obey.
Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.
John H. Sammis (1846-1919)
“Christ-bearer; image of God; symbol of the sacred.” Tom kept repeating these ideas to himself as he parked and made his way to the hospital elevator. He thought about all the tasks of ministry – preaching, teaching, counseling, baptizing, conducting funerals, offering the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper – could he, in all these functions of ministry, be the bearer of Christ?
Perhaps more pressing, could he be the bearer of Christ to Juanita Jones in room 803, who had learned yesterday that she has an inoperable malignancy?
Tom MacGreggor has been confronted with an issue with which he must come to grips, a calling to re-present Jesus Christ in his life and ministry. This commission to be a Christ-bearer has its source in the heart of the gospel – created in the image of God, re-created by Christ, called by God to be a servant in the church. These roots of pastoral spirituality must ripen into the fruits of Christian ministry.
The symbolic role of the minister as a Christ-bearer introduces a transition from the being of the pastor to the pastor’s doing. Spirituality includes awareness but extends beyond awareness to a lifestyle and a particular form of ministry. At this point we must ask, “How does the spirituality of being a minister express itself in doing ministry?” When a minister claims to be called of God, to be a set-apart person who represents the will of God in Christ, how does this identity affect the practice of ministry?
The pastor as the image of Christ provides an appropriate transition from being to doing because when the minister is the image of the Sacred, the being is the doing. The being of the minister in the image of God is doing ministry. The form of being cannot be created or enhanced by the minister’s own efforts. It is gift; it is inherent in the fact of the call. Just like a sacrament, the meaning is experienced in the action.
Understanding the minister as the embodiment of the presence of Christ shifts the focus from the minister as an entertainer, therapist, or manager to an orderer of time, a spiritual guide, a leader who seeks to actualize the will of God in concrete actions. This identification centers the minister in Jesus Christ, as one who has been called by God. This designation does not in any way discount the importance of sermons, management, counseling, or social engagement; rather, this perspective grounds these aspects of ministry in the re-presentation of Christ.
From Pastoral Spirituality by Ben Campbell Johnson
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Real spirituality dawns when our life with God becomes as real as the problems and joys we experience each day. Until then we live in two different worlds – one, a seemingly real, practical and demanding world; the other, a wistful, so-called “spiritual” world. In our daily activities, we may see ourselves enmeshed in the world, perhaps burdened. However, in our prayer we walk in the mystery of God, we dwell in peace, and we wish we could simply remain there.
This separation cannot remain if all our life is to be filled with real meaning, peace, and awe, no matter how violent or stormy our days may become. When we are truly prayerful we join both worlds. As we become naturally aware of God throughout the day, we journey in both worlds simultaneously. That is truly the spiritual life.
From Everyday Simplicity by Robert J. Wickes
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Learn to laugh at yourself more freely. Don’t take yourself or your circumstances so seriously. Relax and know that I am God with you. When you desire My will above all else, life becomes much less threatening. Stop trying to monitor My responsibilities – that are beyond your control. Find freedom by accepting the boundaries of your domain.
Laughter lightens your load and lifts your heart into heavenly places. Your laughter rises to heaven and blends with angelic melodies of praise. Just as parents delight in the laughter of their children, so I delight in hearing My children laugh. I rejoice when you trust Me enough to enjoy your life lightheartedly.
Do not miss the Joy of My Presence by carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders. Rather, take my yoke upon you and learn from Me. My yoke is comfortable and pleasant; My burden is light and easily borne.
Proverbs 17:22; Proverbs 31:25; Matthew 1:23; Matthew 11:28-30 (AMP)
From Jesus Calling: Exploring Peace in His Presence, Sarah Young, Thomas Nelson, 2004.
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In marital love, it is not enough to study the beloved, write poems, or receive cards from far away. Couples must marry, say “yes” to one another – go behind the veil of intimacy, delight in one another – exultantly, become close, cultivate friendship, stay together as much as possible, coalesce their wills, make two things one, as scripture says.
But pretending to know the other just by studying him in books or photographs means remaining outside real knowledge, real mystery.
Today, many persons who seek or study God do just that. They study him in books, make him an object of speculation, approach him from intellectual curiosity. With what result? The more we study, the more our ideas become confused; the more we get caught up in discussions, the farther we go from him.
I think this is the nature of the crisis in the Church today; it is a crisis of prayer, it is a crisis of contemplation. Study is no longer the light of spirituality, and curiosity has taken the place of humility.
Self-assurance and derision of the past are the false light which guides man’s pride in the labyrinth of God’s “unknowing,” pretending to seize the truth with the strength of intelligence only. But God’s truth is the same, truth is the secret of things “up there”, and no one can know it without revelation from God. Has Christ not already said so?
In the upper room, replying to the worried question put to him by Judas (not Judas Iscariot) about why he was not manifesting himself to the world, but only to his intimate friends, he replied with extreme clarity: “Anyone who loves me will be true to my word, and my Father will love him; we will come to him and make our dwelling place with him” (John 14:23).
Only love brings God’s coming to us, his living presence within us, and his consequent revelation. He who obeys the commandments he has from me is the man who loves me; and he who loves me will be loved by my Father. I too will love him and reveal myself to him. (John 14:21)
From The God Who Comes by Carlo Carretto
So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. —Matthew 28:8
It was not possible to just walk away from the empty tomb—to stroll along that Sunday morning as though languishing in dreamy contentment or cloudy consciousness. These women had a startling awareness of things being turned upside down. They saw what God was doing. What they saw changed everything. Nothing could go on as before. The vision of the future was breaking into the present. Jesus was alive!
Nothing is so unstoppable as a clear and compelling vision. Visions of what can be have inspired revolutions and religions. Clear and compelling visions create community and move us to great persistence and selflessness. People who have a vision have a purpose that beckons them out of sleep in the morning, that designs their priorities for every part of their day, and that gives them gratitude at the close of their day. The vision of what can be and will be is what really matters.
Leaders are not about the management of the mundane, but the vitality of the vision. They are not simply charged with responsibility for managing and maintaining what is, but with holding up a vision of what can be. They see the larger reality, the trends and needs, the purpose and destination of the things in their care. They are unstoppably driven to bring about the new reality coming into being in Christ. Nothing can go on as before because God’s vision for us is changing everything. They know that it is time for new life. Leaders know that Jesus is alive.
From Stanley J. Meyer, Faithful, Wise and Courageous: Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, 2004.
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I am no longer my own, but yours.
Put me to what you will,
Rank me with whom you will;
Put me to doing, put me to suffering;
Let me be exalted for you or brought low for you;
Let me be full, let me be empty;
Let me have all things, let me have nothing;
I freely and heartily yield all things to your pleasure and disposal.
And now, glorious and blessed God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
You are mine and I am yours.
So be it.
And the Covenant which I have made on earth,
Let it be ratified in heaven.
Known as the Covenant Prayer of John Wesley.
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My God, in these quiet moments I caught a glimpse of your vision for me. Inspire me, my God, to carry into the everydayness of my life all to which I aspire at such a moment as this. May my faith have feet and hands, a voice and a heart, that it may minister to others – that the gospel may be seen in my life.
I go this hour to encounter the routine of duty with a new vision. Equip me for my common tasks, that I may this day apply myself to them with fidelity and devotion. And not for myself alone do I pray:
Bless homemakers, mothers, and servants, who minister in the home and who maintain sacred sanctuaries to which tired persons return at the end of day.
Bless doctors and nurses. May their work reflect God’s love and pity to those who leave this earth today.
Bless the teachers, the school administrators, and those who labor to keep school buildings clean and pleasant for those who study and learn there.
Bless coal miners and all who toil in grime and darkness, that we may enjoy clean and pleasant lives.
May your blessing rest upon all men and women who minister to others. May each one come to know the joy of partnership with you.
I give this prayer to you who inflames my soul with vision and desire, that I may be a faithful laborer in the fields you have assigned to my stewardship. Help me to be a good and faithful steward.
Norman Shawchuck in A Guide to Prayer for All Who Seek God. Nashville: Upper Room, 2003. (p 131)
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As you emerge from silence, resist the urge to judge your experience by any kind of utilitarian measure: “I didn’t get anything out of it,” or “God didn’t speak to me,” or “I’m awful at this sort of thing.” Remember, the purpose of solitude and silence is just to be with God, to commune with him on that beyond-words level that those who are in love know so well.
From Ruth Haley Barton, Invitation to Solitude and Silence, page 40.