Are you ever in the mood for something different? Do you just feel the need to get out of wherever you are and be somewhere else? I felt just restless enough to invite our Wesley leaders to head off campus at the last minute for lunch on Thursday. The company was great, the food was fine and the drinks were an adventure.
Have you ever seen one of these machines before?!? We had to go and try it because the student above had been waiting eagerly to try one out. You get to choose from all kinds of crazy flavors. Watching her make the machine work was way better than a kid in a candy store. (Especially since I didn't have to be responsible for saying 'no'. No one ever talks about that part of a kid in a candy store!) Lime Fanta, Vanilla Diet Coke and Peach Sprite were the choices at our table. Sometimes it's good to have everything planned ahead. But sometimes it is even better to be random.
There was no Sabbath for me this week due to unexpected events. Things came up that needed to be handled on Monday. And while Sunday night's worship field trip to Berkeley was rejuvenating in some ways, the trip itself was tiring.
What I noticed about skipping Sabbath this week was how it threw off my entire week. Without that day of rest and focusing on God, I was tired each day and "off my game." As I described to the students I met with on Thursday morning at Merced College, I felt frazzled. And that was on Thursday. I didn't realize that missing one week's Sabbath could have such an impact on my entire week.
I used to think that if I took a day of Sabbath I would feel like I was catching up on my work all week. Instead, I have found that the work gets done (with more intentional planning and less procrastinating). My experience this week tells me that the real truth is that when I miss Sabbath, I feel like I am playing catch up all week on my rest and centered time with God. And I was less productive across the week as a whole. Not what I was expecting...
Have you been practicing Sabbath? Has it met your expectations?
Dorothy has been a member of the Wesley Foundation Board since its beginning 10 years ago. She provides leadership to many organizations in the Central Valley and is a member of the Atwater United Methodist Church. She and her husband share a great commitment to young people and education in our area.
It was already getting dark when we hit the road for Berkeley on Sunday night. We were on a mission to find meaningful worship. Our Wesley Club President, Jaime, had attended the Student Mass at Newman Hall with Cal students and suggested that we check it out. Other than the 2 1/2 hour drive and a start time of 10:00 pm we had no reason not to go! We were due for an adventure anyways.
We arrived in the chapel 15 minutes before the service was to begin. Less than 20 people were sitting quietly throughout the chapel. 'Where are the crowds?', I wondered. We had been told that hundreds of students came. We sat in silence, focused on the flicker of the candles. At 9:59 the crowds swarmed in. It really felt like that. Most came as individuals but then slipped into a pew and we became community. And for the next 60 minutes we followed the cues of those around us- stand up, sit down, kneel, sing, pray, shake hands, clap, laugh, sing more, move, pray. And then it was over. And everyone left.
On the way home we talked about our experience. It was fun to hear how one person loved the dark, meditative atmosphere, while another said with disapproval, "It was like a cave!" It was interesting to note that the sermon was on death, a topic appreciated by the students. As much as I wish the topic would have been irrelevant to them, it's not. Family members die, friends die, even they will die. And we never know when. So it was good to talk about it and find comfort in Paul's promise that what God has in store for us is better than we can even imagine.
So what does this mean for Wesley? I was reminded how important worship is as a regular practice. We won't have a Catholic mass, but we will provide a way to be in touch with God through ritual, beauty, prayer, song, Word.
P.S. Our worship experience was sandwiched by food- Zachary's Spinach and Mushroom Pizza and Starbucks Mochas. Both were heavenly.
This tree doesn't realize that it's still the middle of winter. It was the only one on the block in bloom. We called it a rebel. Funny thing was that it made me think of snow instead of spring.
"For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty; but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it." Isaiah 55:10-11
And Happy Valentine's Day!
We were taking a walk on Monday morning. The weather was beautiful and we were enjoying the company. It was my Sabbath. And I kept thinking of what else I should be doing, the things I could be getting done and feeling guilty for simply enjoying the day.
So why is it so hard to practice Sabbath? Everyone has different reasons. For some it is difficult to have it confirmed that the world will keep going without you doing the work that seems so important. For others, it is simply frightening to think about who you are without your work. What spark is left if the work is left behind?
Or you could be a people pleaser, not wanting to say no to others who will ask you to do something on your Sabbath. Or maybe it's the fear that they will stop asking once you say no, that you aren't needed anymore. Or maybe it's harder to please yourself than others and your expectations are simply too high.
Perfectionism, thinking too highly of ourselves, pleasing people rather than serving God- these are things that Christ wants to free us from.
Whatever your reason for not taking Sabbath time, I hope you will take a leap and try it. As with everything it gets easier with practice- at least that's what I am hoping.
We have had two weeks so far of our Bible Study on the Merced College Campus. I notice how good it is to go back to the basics. Nothing fancy, just reading the Bible and sharing our observations and how we feel it applies to our lives. Last week I was inspired by Ephesians 5:1 to "live a life of love, just as Christ loved us..." A challenge and a gift. If we weren't reading the Bible, I wouldn't have received either one.
Today will be our third meeting- 10:45 at the library if you want to join us. We are now we are reading Galatians, chapters 1 and 2.
Hillary is a Psychology major in the class of 2012 at UC Merced. She has been involved in Wesley Foundation through our club on campus and the house.
Why UC Merced?
It was in my backyard. Two of my family members work here and there was a transfer agreement. Also there is a good psych. department and faculty.
What's it like to be at such a new school?
You don't know what's going to happen next. Anything is possible- someone will come up with an idea and it will actually happen. Three people can start a club or organization. New buildings have gone up since I came here. It's neat to watch the school grow and to know it will get even bigger.
Why are you part of Wesley Campus Ministries?
I live in the house because it was part of my church and I wanted to try it out. It's nice to get involved on campus.
How do you hope to be different when you graduate?
I hope I'm a lot more confident. Able to talk to people and communicate ideas. Stronger, more willpower.
What is a blessing you have received from Wesley Foundation?
The prayer room before finals with the candles and books. It was very relaxing and I got 45 minutes to breathe before going back to the insanity.
What is your prayer for Wesley ministries?
That it gets more notice and that more people will know what we're doing. Hope for a bigger community.
What is your favorite spot on campus?
I have two… Favorite studying spot is the Green Room in the library lots of sunlight.
Favorite meditating/ relaxing spot is the bridge past the Natural Sciences building- where I can listen to music, watch the water, hear frogs.
Starting the morning with hope for a fruitful day.
"The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control." Galatians 5:22
"Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all you work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God." Exodus 20:8-10a
Sabbath is counter cultural in our setting. I like to start with Sabbath, because if you can practice Sabbath in western culture your life will change. It has to because life as we live it cannot continue at the same pace and include Sabbath.
The tradition of Sabbath has evolved over the years. I have given myself, and would like to give you, permission to define it for yourself. This is a much more individual understanding of Sabbath, but since we don't live within communities that practice it, it may be our only option.
When and how are the first two questions you will need to answer. When? I have chosen Sunday afternoon- Monday afternoon for a 24 hour period of Sabbath. This is because I often preach on Sunday mornings or attend other church events as part of my job, so that would not be Sabbath time for me.
How? What will you stop doing? The verse from Exodus above says to stop doing work. That is one thing I stop doing. I also stop using the computer, watching tv without a purpose, running errands and doing household chores (no bathroom cleaning!). The hardest ones for me are to not make a "to do" list and to not look at my calendar. There is some "work" that I cannot stop- like changing the baby's diapers and feeding my family. The surprise it that stopping is difficult. More about that next week...
What will you do instead? How will you make this time for God? I don't set up a rigid schedule for my day, but I have made a list of options so that when I feel agitated by not doing something I can pick from the list of things that help me to celebrate who God is and how God is present in my life. It includes: pray, go for a walk, yoga, family games, call family and friends to catch up, listen to music, dance, cook and eat together as a family (sometimes with guests), read a novel or devotional book and rest.
As I write this list I am reminded what a gift Sabbath is. And yet it is so hard to receive it.
Try it out and leave comments on how it goes this week. Next Friday will be about why we have such a hard time with this practice.