“Observing” the Sabbath

IMG_20180109_173647501_HDR.jpgEvery Sunday morning I make muffins for breakfast.  It’s a simple treat and the routine keeps our large family on track to be ready to leave on time.  I follow the instructions Martha White provides on the back of every packet.  Blending 1/2 cup of milk with the muffin mix and pouring it into muffin pans.  But I happen to know that setting our oven to 400 and cooking for 10 to 15 minutes will result in crunchy well done muffins that no one will eat.  So every Sunday morning, the “Truth” of the ingredient mix never changes but how that truth works out into fruitful labor takes practice, reflection and modification.   With the oven set to 400, the muffin pans placed one slot above center and the timer set to 8 minutes, the end result never fails to please my waiting customers.

On a recent Sunday morning our family helped to serve in a local Nursing home.  Seeing young children is always a special treat for many of the residents there.  Over the years the kids have learned to respect and appreciate the people in this place.  Both those who are providing care and those who need to be taken care of.  They work in pairs pushing wheel chairs and mobile recliners piled full of patients down to the common area where we join them in worship.  One patient, John, always treats us with a song or two that he sings acapella.  This morning he rolled his wheel chair to the black metal music stand where the microphone is positioned, stood himself on feeble limbs and sang a song about visiting Mother but not in a graveyard this time.  Those heartfelt words lingered in a mental loop around my brain as John went on to sing other songs that we all knew well.  I was imagining John as a younger man with a mother he could still touch when it came my time to approach the music stand.  On this day I have been asked to bring devotional message to my disabled brothers and sisters here. That is a humbling experience.  No words seem appropriate for this aged audience.  The normal self-improvement Sunday sermonette or do-better devotional just doesn’t fit when the congregation is confined to such a small world. I offered words from John the Beloved.  As he penned the prayer our Savior prayed upon entering the olive grove that final night with his closest friends.  “I pray not that you would take them out of the world but protect them from the evil one.” Death was coming.  Confusion was about to erupt into their world.  When no other actions were appropriate.  Jesus prayed.  For them.

Later that morning, in another congregation who were much less confined, I notice the Bible on the pew in front of me as we stand to sing. Covered in red duct tape with “Holy Bible” written in black magic marker.  Almost looks like crayon from where I stand. The female owner was well dressed and worshipping, with a hand raised toward the heavens we were singing about.  The odd-covered Bible seemed out-of-place beside its owner.  As we sat down and the pastor spoke to us about dressing out in God’s armour, the red taped Bible became a perfect picture of a well-worn instrument of war.  The pastor told of the constant battle that we are in and how we mostly see the natural without a second thought to the reality of the supernatural.  I smiled as I felt God whisper, “its true, isn’t it?”

My 11-year-old daughter is being taught to sew on Sunday afternoons.  Today she has finished a skirt.  She is tickled with herself.  Excited to have an item she can wear and show off.  Her first item was a pillow.  “But it stays on my bed”, she says, “I can only show it off at home and really I just keep it for me.  To know what I can learn to do.”  What a great picture of discipleship, I think to myself.  First, learning to follow in simple stitch steps and creating a product that may only be useful to us.  It may not even be of any practical value but, to us, it commemorates a step beyond where we were.  Perhaps even beyond where we imagined we could be at this point.  And now, we hunger to follow again.   Adding new skills to our practice and moving forward in creating something that others can benefit from.  Eventually our focus will shift and the skills that we are now confident in will bless others often.  Some of those will want to learn to do what we are doing.  And so it begins again.  Discipleship.

Later on this particular Sunday evening, we meet again with our supernatural family.  It is Mission Night at church.  We sit huddled up around circular tables in the gym, listening to regular members turned missionary as they excitedly tell of recent trips to foreign places.  Many have gone on repeat trips to countries impoverished materially and spiritually.  Materially poor people living in a routine that gets them through the day.  Our home-grown missionaries tell us of the worship they experienced with our foreign family members.  Again I am reminded that the natural world comes to the forefront quickly and easily.  The supernatural remains cloaked in mystery.  How people who have nothing to speak of materially can have such an active love for God and their fellow-man.  Supernatural.  Not of this world but present here.

At the end of the day I am putting my kids to bed. Fearfully and wonderfully made comes to mind as kisses and hugs are exchanged.  Blessings beyond compare. I wonder how many of these memories will come back to them in the years ahead.  What did they observe today that left an imprint on their growing mind.  I then place my head on my own pillow.  Resting in the moment of today.  Knowing tomorrow locks the door on opportunities for today.

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