Word of the Week

Good morning friends, I'm wondering the last time you felt scattered? When is the last time your calendar wasn't really full? Can you remember the last time you needed one big heap of rest? 

The month of May, at least as I experience it, with young kids in tow is a month full of all of these things. There's end of year programs and teachers who need to be appreciated. There's appointments to schedule. And there's one last push of activities that must happen before the summer comes. I have found myself in need this week of our word of the week: sanctuary. 

Sanctuary: a place one goes to find protection, rest or safety. 

If I were to ask my 7 year old what this word means she'd probably tell me it's the place we go on Sunday for "big church worship."

But this morning, I'm not talking about a building or anything associated with church at all. I'm talking about sanctuary as a place we go on the inside when we are in need of protection, rest, or safety. I'm talking about the feeling of being at home and at rest within ourselves.

Where do we do to find space when we need it from life's ebbs and flows?

Rev. J. Dana Trent in her book, ​For Sabbath's Sake: Embracing Your Need for Rest, Worship and Communit​y offers these suggestions about finding our sanctuaries-

  1. Step away from the phone.
  2. Practice humility. I am not the Creator; the world will not fall apart without me. 
  3. Be intentional about rest. Take a nap! 
  4. Relish time in community (I only have this moment!) Be present and give thanks for your gathered tribes of family, friends, church, neighbors and strangers.

I love the practicality of this list as it reminds me that finding sanctuary begins with making space! Space to dream. Space to re-charge. Space to feel the grounding that my body can offer me from all the things constantly changing in our world. 

You can offer yourself this gift any day of the week, any moment of the day and anytime you need it. Truly. And this is the place where I believe that God lives within you. 

If you find yourself on the struggle bus this week with the busyness train, I love what Meister Eckhart has said about finding sanctuary: “God is at home, it's we who have gone out for a walk.”

So breathe in and breathe out and remember -- there is a home within you, a sanctuary where you can go anytime you need rest. God is already there! 

Your heart can be full of peace no matter what comes in the week ahead. What a gift to take in! 



P.S. If you happen to be in the Athens, GA area, I'm thrilled that my friend Dana has written a new book and is going to be preaching at First Christian Church, Athens today. You can also find our service on ​livestream here.​ Also, we are hosting her on Monday night for a book conversation/ signing of her latest memoir, ​Between Two Trailers.​ Would love to see you in person soon!

I am so glad that my friend, J. Dana Trent has brought For Sabbath's Sake: Embracing Your Need for Rest, Worship and Community into the world (released last Sunday!)

For the world needs more conversations about the hard practice of stopping, remembering and being connected to our Creator. We forget so often. We think we're in charge of our own lives. Our busyness blinds us.


As for me, I’ve always been a much better do-er than I have a wait-er or rest-er. (Yes, you can read into that I'm an Enneagram 3).

As a child, I hated teacher workdays and federal holidays because they threw off my productive routine. I begged to go to school even as my parents reminded me no one would be there.  I couldn’t stand to be idle at home.

As a college student, I was never really good at taking days off either. I was known to hit the library right after church on Sunday and sometimes on Saturday afternoons too (real buzz kill I know).

And now as a new mom, I hardly know what Sabbath days are anymore. My only Sabbath practice is that we do not turn on the washer or dryer on Sundays. Nor do we fold clothes. (Though I have to say if we have a major meal time explosion, we break our own rule).

On my plate is seven days of work both outside and inside the home.  I love my life, but . . .

Reading For Sabbath's Sake in the midst of my current state of SO MUCH going on was a wake-up call.

Not only did I have to slow down long enough to finish a whole book (something that feels like such a feat these days) but Dana's story opened my eyes to places in my life that could be more life-giving and restful even if these places didn't look like my pace before a little person came into my home.

For Sabbath's Sake reminded me of the joy of having unplanned days-- even if I was still in "mom mode" a day could be set aside for play. I could let my daughter be the lead.

For Sabbath's Sake reminded me of the importance of having more than just text conversations with the dearest of friends. More often than not, I need to pick up the phone and call people and clear out time in my schedule (and hope they did in theirs) to hear how they are really doing. And IRL (in real life) talks were even better!

For Sabbath's Sake reminded me of the element of economic resistance in Sabbath keeping-- everyone needs time off in their week. My habit of going to the grocery store on Sunday night might be keeping one of my neighbors from their gift of sabbath. I could wait till Monday morning.

These are small drops into a big bucket of course in our world that is FAST, FAST, FAST and NOW, NOW, NOW. But after reading For Sabbath's Sake, I was left with guiding ideas that I could practice given all the other things going on in my life.

When I reviewed this book prior to publication, this was my endorsement and call to action to the church:

"J. Dana Trent has one message for those who say in the church ‘I’m too busy for Sabbath keeping:’ your busyness means you need it even more!

For Sabbath’s Sake is a spiritual jolt back into learning what it means to set aside time for rest in the age of an ever beeping smart phone and exploding calendar. It’s just the book every congregation needs to study together for a reminder of our identity as Sabbath people."

And I stand by these words even now as I have my very own copy of #ForSabbathsSake in my hands. Every congregation needs to pick up a copy of this book. Your soul will thank you for doing so. I know mine did!


Bulk Orders: Upper Room Books provides bulk discounts on orders for churches, faith-based groups, and nonprofits. Considering order in bulk for your next congregational workshop, retreat, sermon series, Sunday School class, or small group. Call Upper Room Books Customer Service at 1-800-972-0433

Amazon: Order print and Kindle versions here.

Let's face it. I, like so many of you, am addicted to the Internet.

The first thing I do in the morning is check not only my email but my twitter feed, Facebook and Instagram. I also check Whats App and Viber-- to see who has communicated with me in a different time zone over night. I also go to the same the same feeds of Feed the Children's account-- part of my role as Ambassador of Social Advocacy.

(Insert hundreds of other I-Phone encounters in between).

Then, the last thing I do before I go to bed is check all of these things again.

I feel "naked" with my phone and all it's many connective function. I sometimes (ok most of the time) take my I Phone into the bathroom with me. And I feel sad when I have to turn it into "airplane mode" on a plane.

Please tell me that I'm not the only one. 

I know I've found myself with such an addiction because I love words. I love connecting with friends, no matter where geographically they might life. Most all of all I love the "social" feature of relationship building that the Internet offers us in 2014. I also love being able to help Feed the Children grow its community of supporters in this way.

But the problem comes when I am never unplugged.

I say, "I'm working." (which makes it all ok of course).

I tell myself, Feed the Children needs me to monitor the comment section of their Facebook page more than once a day or even twice.

I think that if I keep hitting the refresh button on my email then my life might be changed by what message might come in. (Whatever that means...)

But when time "off" comes what then? Going on vacation is always such a crossroads moment.

And I just had one. For the last two weeks, Kevin and I were off the grid from Feed the Children.

And as fun it would have been to post a picture of our every adventure, I wanted to take a tech sabbath. I deleted all social apps from my phone. I texted less and did not answer calls unless urgent. I tried to be as present as I could to the moments of rest, breathing deeply and seeing new things that this time away offered.

image 4This is what I learned as I was sitting in these beautiful Utah mountains:

1. Moving forward, not everyone needs to know my every pondering, cute story or interesting life event. Privacy is good. Time for reflection and romance is even better when I'm not being so social . . .

2. The world goes on without me even if I don't stay so connected to it. Sure, I missed stuff, but it is ok. If it is really important, I'm sure you'll catch me up, right?

3. Social media professionals ESPECIALLY need to unplug. We need to remember that our worth is more than the clever post we just penned on our HootSuite account or how many likes or shares we just got!

4. I, Elizabeth Hagan, need more Tech Sabbaths, not just the vacation kind.

5. A clearer and less distracted mind is a beautiful thing!

What about you? Had a tech Sabbath lately? What did you learn?


For all of you internet/ I Phone addicts like me consider these great resources--

How a Break From Technology Changed My Life-- Christine Organ

How to Turn Off Your Phone . . .  --Ellie Krupnick

The Taskmaster's Command (A Sermon) -- Mary Ann McKibben Dana

Last week, I was having lunch with a friend who I'd hadn't seen in years. As we were catching up on life's ups and downs, she stopped the conversation to make a bold statement: "I'm tired of being a spiritual guide for everyone else."

My friend, a veteran minister with a thriving campus ministry under her leadership was speaking to the weariness that had become her own life. She went on, "There are times when I have to remind myself that I'm not just a spiritual tour guide, helping others creating meaningful experiences with God when I don't allow myself to stop and have some of my own." She then told me about the things she's recently added and subtracted from her schedule to make this possible-- growing in her own faith journey again.

I was convicted and encouraged by her honesty of this friend, especially as I'm now in month #4 of my own sabbatical from playing the role of "spiritual tour guide" for a congregation.

Don't get me wrong-- the role, the privilege and the opportunities that come when others entrust you to lead and guide their faith-- is a high and wonderful calling. It's a blessing to those of us who have found or do find ourselves in this role in our communities. And, being a "tour guide" is never a completely serving only others activity. For there is much to learn as you abide in the deep waters of relationship with others.

But, should this be a role we are in for life? Many ministers I know, think so. But, I'm just not sure.

We've all got to take time outs.

I know that what I'm suggesting is nothing profound-- for there are entire centers, book series and support groups of all kinds that encourage personal well-being for those in serving roles such as ministers. Clergy-care is something seminary folks and denominational folks, and foundation folks like to talk about, give money to support and even set up conferences to encourage.

But, the simplicity of my friend's statement: "I want to create spiritual experiences for myself" I think really gets at the heart of what the conversation is missing. And, that is the point of clergy care.

As a pastor, I remember going to conferences where it would be preached to me to :
spend time alone with God every day outside of sermon prep,
put my family above the church as much as I could,
take all of my vacation
never miss a day off (the deadly sin of clergy care!).

I did these things as a pastor (well, a lot of these things). I was proud to take all my vacation and visit a spiritual director once a month and even dream with the leadership about a Sabbatical at some point (funny how I got one sooner than we all would have thought!).

But, even in doing these things, I have to tell you I missed the point.

I never got around to creating spiritual experiences for myself. I never saw myself outside of the role of pastor (a.k.a. spiritual tour guide for others). I rarely made it a priority to position my life to let God speak to me without it having something to do with a Bible Study I needed to lead or a sermon I need to preach. I did the best I could. I know that. And, after all, I had a job to do with deadlines and people who "needed me." I was paid to lead.

Yet, now where I sit now as a disciple of Jesus without tour group, I have to say I'm learning much in this tour group of one.

I'm learning how much I liked my title and role at the church-- though I know now how little such impressed Jesus or made me a "better" or more "faithful" Christian than anyone else.

I'm learning much about prayer-- that the Holy truly wants to abide with me in everyday life, not just the parts I think are holy.

I'm learning much about community-- that "church" can happen very often outside the walls of any building.

I'm learning how to be supportive to my former clergy colleagues-- even when it means playing the part of "Judas" at the last-minute at a Maundy Thursday service (yes, this really happened for this friend).

I know I won't be in this space forever. But, for now, I continue to be grateful for it. I know that even in the uncertainty of what each day ahead holds, I'm still ok as a tour guide in an time-out.

Sometimes of late, I look around at my life and don't recognize myself.

Situations that used to make me anxious like ever-changing plans for where I'll be in a given week-- are par for the course.

Weeks of the year like this one, that used to be full of the busy cries around the church office of "Holy Week is coming, holy week is coming" are just another week in the year, actually quieter than normal.

Being able to answer someone when they ask what's going on next month with a definitive answer is simply a thing of the past.

Kevin and I now spend time between Oklahoma City, OK and the DC metro area and every other place in between as we balance this lifestyle of being where we need to be at the time. Kevin works in both places. I have things to do in both places and other places too. Defining where exactly is our "home" becomes murkier all the time. Since January, it is rare that I haven't been on an airplane at least once a week. We have been blessed to have the resources to do what is needed (and for this, I'm grateful everyday), but it's been a big change. And, I've looked for resources from any place I can to manage it all. And this is one I've thought a lot about lately:

One summer while I was in college, I worked for a youth camp organization-- an international and domestic traveling team for two months. Before the summer began, we were told to pack one suitcase that would contain everything we'd need for all sorts of climates and living conditions. I showed up on day one with the biggest bag of them all-- something about having my own stuff made me feel more secure. But, instead, I just felt awkward.

Soon I would be challenged at every possible level. I slept in a new bed every couple of days. After the first week of camp, we moved on to a new location. I knew this was what I should be doing for the summer . . . but there were so many moments when I wondered what I'd gotten into!

But, as the days went on, I learned the best thing I could do was travel lighter each week. Maybe I didn't need to get so attached people we met at the work sites? Maybe I could exchange my big mama bag for something smaller at a thrift store? Maybe as everything changed from week to week-- the scenery, the traveling companions beside me and even my moods-- I was being given tools to teach me? Simplicity of purpose became the gift which led to contentment.

And again, here in 2013, with Feed The Children so much a part of what drives the heart of our schedule, I'm having similar stirrings.

Can I live with what is right in front of me?

Can I be content anywhere? Can I find the good in situations or places that are not always ideal?

But, again there are challenges (or maybe just growing edges).

When your life is spread across several places, you often don't have your first choice of what to wear on a given day. When I get dressed in the morning I often get to pick out something from what is in a suitcase, even if it contains the same choices from what I picked last week.

When your life is spread across several places, you don't always get your life in your best case scenario. For example, I love sit-down dinners at home. But to expect a daily routine of always eating with Kevin on Mondays at 6 pm is out of the question. We must connect to each other in other ways.

When your life is spread across several places, you don't get the luxury of getting peace from your circumstances. If I only found peace from running in a particular park or reading in a particular chair or drinking tea from a particular mug, then simply peace wouldn't exist. I must find peace from the presence of the Holy, whom I know is with me wherever I go.

When your life is spread across several places, you don't "work" like normal people do. If I got my esteem from the praise of a boss or a work environment, I'd just be in complete misery right now. But, I can't let other's opinions of me be the words I listen to the most.

In these Lenten weeks, I'm growing to be ok with whatever each day holds, even if it doesn't look exactly like it did the day before. I'm learning to live with less stuff. I'm learning God's presence can be found on airplanes, in guest beds of friends homes', or back in my favorite writing chair in VA. And, if my heart settles a little, no matter what the circumstances, life can be good. Sometimes even very good indeed.

I hear it from clergy all the time: it's hard to worship when you are leading others.

One of the joys of my Sabbatical time so far has been the opportunity to visit to other churches and consider again what church means to me as a participating worshipper.

But learning how to be a worshipper is harder than it might seem.

On this past Sunday morning I found myself at a big steeple church with a friend in my hometown in Tennessee. It was her home church and for this reason I was glad to go alongside.

But, when we pulled up to the congregation sometimes known in the community as "fortress," I was a little afraid.

And rightfully so. I was back in church compound land. Such a big model of doing ministry is not what I believe the church is nor is how I've I practiced it in years.

Was I going to have to make small church talk with strangers around the coffee pot before church? Was I going to have to sit in a classroom circle staring at other well-dressed folks who appeared to be more excited about study than they actually were? Was I going to want to pull my hair out at the fluffy theology coming forth from the lips of leaders? None of these are my favorite things, as you might imagine.

Furthermore, fear came up in me because I'm not a fan of churches without a lot of racial diversity. (We need our churches to LOOK like the Body of Christ.) I'm not a fan of churches that don't include voices of the poor (I mean, what is a good service without a distraction from a homeless person coming in?). And, I know a church is not for me if the American and Christian flag are proudly displayed in the sanctuary (Can I say idolatry of nationalism has no place in God's house?). Most of all, I want to know that when a church says, "We welcome all" they really mean it. I want to know that a church's doctrine doesn't hurt people.

But, then we arrived. Ready or not, I went.

Getting out of our car, I gazed up at a large dark stoned building that takes up several blocks in the neighborhood. It almost felt like something out of one of the Harry Potter movies as I walked through wood carved archways inside to get take a flight of stairs down to a well-kept Sunday School classroom. Asking questions on the way in, I learned that the membership is mostly made up of those who would be named as upper middle to upper class folks-- at least 2,000 in worship on Sunday. And most of it members are white-- even though some of the young families have adopted church from other countries. And there is one paid African-American soloist in the choir. Need I say more?

I could have easily spent the next two hours rolling my eyes and thinking "better than" thoughts in my head.

But, I have to confess-- I was wonderfully surprised.

Walking into Sunday School-- a room filled with well-dressed, well-to-do looking folks, about 20 of them in all, with a woman in a black sweater, red beaded necklace, pencil length grey skirt, and black boots standing behind a pulpit on a desk, I found an open mind. We sat in rows not a circle. And then, what came forth from this teacher's mouth was well-prepared, engaging truth from the Word.

I almost had tears well up in my eyes at several points as we discussed the passage from John 5 about the man whom Jesus asked, "Do you want to get well?" (Have there been spaces in my life the past six years when someone has taught me on a regular basis? No. Man, this has got to change, I thought. ) As I continued to listen, the teacher read commentaries from some of my favorite Biblical scholars, one in which I'd even known in seminary. The class members shared a richer theological discussed than I'd experienced in such a church in years. I found myself saying in the midst of the discussion, "I guess this is why people actually come to church-- they're hungry too to learn about their relationship with Christ." Because I did. I left refreshed.

Later in the service of worship, though the number of white faces were many and the flags hung beside the steps up to the altar, I tried again to not be so snobby. And, tears found me again. We sang robustly the great hymns of faith with the kind of full voices only a full sanctuary with pipe organ can. I found beauty in the liturgy of the prayers. The choir proclaimed a sacred piece that stilled any unsettling in me. The preacher, though an older white man, read and proclaimed the Word with jewels of encouragement. And, throughout the service, I felt the warmth of those around me-- many of whom I'd met before while visiting once before-- folks who remembered me, asked genuine questions, and talked to me about their prayer life.

I left with a conviction of my heart. One I'd been thinking about for a long while-- we've got to be less judgmental of each other in the Church. Pastors like me need to stop being church snobs. The Spirit of the Lord is not always in the places we expect. God's presence is in all black churches and all white churches and rich churches and poor churches. Church doesn't always have to be just the way we like it for worship to happen. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

I know this again full well.

Does the church still need prophets? Does the church need voiced raised that say, "Stop building altars to yourself and start serving?" Does the church need radical changes in its institutional life so that it can look more like the radical message of Jesus? Does the church need more integration and more theologically sound teachers? Sure it does. It really, really really it does.

But, in the meantime, can the church be the place where God's presence dwells, where lives are transformed and where individual faith can be nourished? To all of this, I say yes.

I confess, I've been judgmental a long time. This Sabbatical time is asking this ugliness in me to change. And, most of all this Sabbath is asking me to worship from the pews. And most of all to listen.

It has been over a month now since I preached my last sermon at Washington Plaza. It's very different life from how it was only a few months ago when I was asked to stand in pulpit every week and give an account of my faith while lovingly finding a way to be a presence of care for others. And although I jumped back into the pulpit last week as a guest preacher, my life in general has been lived out of the spotlight and I think will continue to be such for a bit longer. Sabbatical 2013 is on full-time.

Now, I go to church on Sunday and sit in the back pew and get up to walk out the door when the pastor says amen. I blog and write for online publications less, instead focusing on my goal of finishing my book manuscript by March 31. I spend more time than I have had at the gym. Maybe a 5K is in my future soon?

People who know me well ask one of two questions:

1. Are you bored?

2. What are you doing next?

These are normal questions to ask. But I'm not very good at answering them. Sometimes I miss the pace of what my life used to be, but most of the time I don't. As much as I am cheering on my favorite clergy pals and churches for whom I have rich histories, I have no envy of "I wish I were you." (Well, of course I could feel differently by Easter). And for the record, I no I have no 10 step plan for what is coming next.

I've had several pastor types say to me recently, "I could never do what you are doing. I could never leave what I know by choice." But, I made this big leap with Kevin's full support and I need to tell you that I'm still alive (imagine that?)! I'm also breathing, smiling, laughing and crying through the joys and sorrows of life just like everyone does, maybe though a richer level than before.

In taking this time to learn to exist and move in this world without a title or a traditional job to call my own, it has its scary moments of course. Sabbatical times are not for those who like hanging on to ego, public recognition, or even a "can-do" spirit.

I need to tell you that I worry if I stop blogging all the time many of you will stop reading altogether (and I like this conversation we're having). I worry no one will ask me to write for them again if I don't keep reminding them to ask me. I worry I might just have a completely new take on the church as an outsider that may never allow me to come back as the insider I once was. But in all of these things, Sabbath time is all about letting go and having faith that as you move through the rhythms of each day more will be revealed.

One of my favorite Sabbath authors, Wayne Muller writes:

“All life requires a rhythm of rest. . .
There is a rhythm in the way day dissolves into night, and night into morning. There is a rhythm as the active growth of spring and summer is quieted by the necessary dormancy of fall and winter. There is a tidal rhythm, a deep, eternal conversation between the land and the great sea. ”

Instead of moving slowly and listening to these rhythms, it would be much easier to start marketing myself for what is next (I know how to do that). Or, try to find some part-time job so that I could say I'm doing ___. (I know how to do that too). Or, even to be online every five minutes posting my accomplishments ("See, look at me, I'm as busy as you, just not getting paid for it right now") so others can validate my existence. But, such is not Sabbath's way.

Sabbath's way is about saying "no" so that we can say "yes" with greater confidence.

There are times of course when I feel guilty about my place of privilege-- I know countless others would love to have this kind of time a part from the norm and their financial, family or other life circumstances simply won't allow such. But, I have to keep reminding myself that Sabbath is a gift. God gave me this gift. It would just as wrong not to receive it.

And, as much as I would just like to crawl in a cave with my most favorite people in the world and call this Sabbath, life (or least how I experience it) can not be totally lived in a bubble. There are bills to pay, food to prepare, clothes to wash, events to go to that help support the work of my husband, and people who come out of nowhere and hit my car while I was minding your my business and as a result now require long and dramatic conversations with insurance companies to get it fixed. As we all experience, life happens. Even in Sabbath, we can't control.

Thanks for stopping by to sit in Sabbath with me for just for just a bit. Now, out of the spotlight I go again.

People have asked me, how is it going? How is your Sabbatical time treating you? Are you going nuts not officially working? Well, I have to say though there have been several rocky moments of "oh my goodness, I can't do this. I need to work!" most of all it has been wonderful. Oklahoma City hasn't killed me yet either . . . I am breathing in deeply, deeper than I have in years on the plains. I am learning much about myself, God and what spiritual practice is all over again. I am loving spending more time with my husband.

I've been collecting quotes and thoughts of mine as I think of them and posting them on twitter. I thought I'd share them as a litany here.

“Sabbath is about the refusal to let one’s life be defined by production and consumption” ― Walter Brueggemann

Life is not about what you do. It is about who you are.

It is hard to be silent. It is very very hard. But I want to try it. I want to really do Sabbath.

Sabbath means your life is more private. That's ok. The good reflections and insights often come when you are quiet and alone.

Sabbath is breathing deeply into all will be well, all matter of things will be well. (Thanks, Julia for this).

When partaking of Sabbath time, days on calendar don't matter and sometimes you book a flight for the wrong week and have to stand in line for hours to change your ticket. Oh, well.

Sabbath doesn't change who we are. It reminds us whose we are.

Sabbath is not bring afraid of being alone. You can be alone and not lonely.

“If busyness can become a kind of violence, we do not have to stretch our perception far to see Sabbath can invite a healing" -Wayne Muller

Sabbath is thinking you are writing for fun and drafting out a new chapter for your book long project. Inspiration finds you when you least expect. Productivity is not something to be worried about. It comes in its own time.

A gift of Sabbath is contentment. I don't know the future but don't have to.

God gives us everything we need as we rest.

We can not know God unless we know ourselves. In sitting with ourself long enough to listen, we hear God.

"Caught up in our own busyness running from one crisis to next looks less like loving God and more like trying to become one" - Phileena Heuertz

Sabbath is good. It is really good for the soul.

Sabbath-RestWhen most pastors leave congregations and don't have another official job to go to, it is for one reason: burnout. They've worked too hard. They've shepherded congregations through major change which has taken a toll on their own health. They've made the church a greater priority over their family or own emotional wellbeing and simply need to re-prioritize. Or, they're simply bone tired for a thousand different reasons. And they can't imagine setting foot back in a church building for a really long time (for the sake of the church's wellbeing many of these folks don't need to). In fact this article has been all the buzz with my clergy friends over the past several days as one high profile pastor has left his post for not taking care of himself or his family over the long haul.

But, as I stand (or sit on the couch in all accuracy) on this my first week officially off duty-- when I'd normally be getting the swing of the Epiphany season at church and now am not there, I need to say that I'm in this place of life not because of burnout. Sure, I needed some rest from the craziness of balancing this huge tradition for our family with Kevin's new job and living a part for some time, but burnout, no.

I really liked being a pastor. I really liked my job. I left on great terms with the congregation. And, as much as I know my leaving WPBC at this time was the right thing to do, I still miss it. (I really didn't know what to do with myself yesterday when there wasn't early church responsibilities to get up for. All I knew to do was try to enjoy the break by eating waffles and watching my favorite political news shows, thanking God for the chance to be in my pajamas at 11 am-- something I never, ever get to do). Then, as I was listening to the radio on the way to the gym this afternoon, I heard a song and my first thought was, "That would be a great piece for a call to worship." (And I teared up a little thinking that I no longer had anyone to suggest that we sing it to).

So, what do you do when you are not in a church by choice-- or any 9 to 5 job for that matter-- for a chunk of time when you aren't experiencing a burnout?

Though I'm sure many would say things like, "volunteer!" "get busy making connections for your next job in your new town" or even "hurry up and get back in the saddle because you don't want to lose your relevance," I just can't make myself do any of these things.

I don't want to rush into filling my days with thousands of lunch appointments or extracurricular activities-- even if I could.

I don't want to rush into commitments for work to come.

I don't want to have to be asked to have a spiritual word for anyone other than myself for a while-- even as much as this I'd really rather not go down this silent path.

I need to work on my book long project-- but I'm not even pushing myself back into this yet. "Breathe, Elizabeth, breathe" is what wise ones have been saying to me.

We all need Sabbath. And apparently it is my time.

I've always been a much better do-er than I have a wait-er or rest-er. As a child, I hated dates off from school like federal holidays because they really seemed to throw me off of my routine. I begged to go to school even as my parents thought I was crazy. I really wanted something to do. I couldn't stand to be idle.

And on this day, I need to tell you that I really want something to do. Please don't roll your eyes at me when I say, it's so hard to rest! In fact, as more as I've gotten into it, I've realized that I'd rather not have Sabbath. I'd rather hide behind work. I'd rather avoid myself. I'd rather avoid God. But, I trust that Sabbath will be good for my soul and the future souls of those in whom I care for, so I will try.

I will try to see what Sabbath teaches me about my value and worth-- and from where it comes.

I will try to see what Sabbath teaches me about the gift of time-- what it is I really need to do and what I don't.

I will try to see what Sabbath teaches me about calling-- what is the best use of my gifts and what is not.

Most of all, I will try to listen. I will fight the fear that my voice will be weakened if I don't use it for awhile. I will try to remember this is only for a season. I hope you can too-- in the Sabbath moments of your life schedule that find you this week.

So, if you don't see me blogging as much as I normally do, you know where I am: breathing in Sabbath. Remembering that my value is not based on what I produce. I promise, I'll share with you whatever I learn when I return in a couple of weeks or whenever . . .

In my journey toward becoming an author, I've found it important to build community with other writers. Not only because these are the type of folks whom I really want to read my own work (because they provide such helpful feedback), but for the sake of having encouragers for the journey. Other writers, for me, really do know what makes me tick in ways others don't. I am spurred on by their love of our shared craft.

Several months ago now, I was invited to join a group of fellow Writing Revs who live in the DC region. This group meets a couple of times a month to read each other's stuff and talk about writing. Of course, I was intimidated at first, but after spending a week at Collegeville Institute last summer, I knew it would be good for me. And, I'd have to just get over any insecurities I might have. I'd experienced the gift (and the terror too) of a writing workshop for the first time. And, while it is incredibly vulnerable to put yourself out there like that-- "Here, be the first eyes to my  work. Tell me what you think"-- I learned my readers would thank me later.  And, it has been fun to regular meet with other pastors who feel the same way.

Two of the group members of this Writing Rev group are soon to publish their first book. Excitement has been all the buzz with us lately and I couldn't help but take this opportunity for a shameless promotion for these friends. The church needs thoughtful thinkers and MaryAnn and Ruth are two bright lights with some really great stuff to say on Sabbath and pilgrimage. I've read their books and I'm thrilled about you reading them too.

Sabbath in the Subburbs: A Family's Experiment with Holy Time by MaryAnn McKibben Dana is available for pre-release on Amazon right now. It officially comes out on September 30th.

Books on Sabbath are easier to find these days. For, slowing down, stopping and finding ways to get out of the rat race seems to be a topic that we all want to talk about. But how many of us actually do it? This book is a journey alongside a family with two working parents, three kids in a very overcommited region of the country to find such rest on a weekly basis.  You'll find thoughtful theological reflections over the course of this family's year-long journey with practical ideas about how they put their faith into practice.

Chasing the Divine in the Holy Land by Ruth Everhart is also available for pre-order right now. It comes out on November 30th.

Many pastors or other serious faith seekers come to the Holy Land in search of something. But what happens when such an adventure begins to shake the foundations of your faith? What happens when you begin to see the life experiences of others in a way that you didn't expect? What happens when you wrestle with such deep life questions that you come home from the Holy Land with new vision for the world? Ruth explores these questions and more as she takes you a long for the journey that she a several colleagues made to Israel several years ago. Join her for the spiritual journey.

Both books will ready and available for spring study groups of all kinds. Order yours today and support these wonderful writing Rev friends of mine! You can thank me later.

I've been thinking a lot about Sabbath keeping recently. Maybe because holy week is coming soon:  the busiest week of a pastor's year, the time when bulletins after bulletins and services and services must be planned and planned some more.  Maybe because it is something that our household is trying to be better at after my husband ended up in the hospital on Monday morning due to exhaustion and  dehydration (a preventable condition if he'd just taken better care of himself the week before). Maybe it is just because it is a topic we seem to talk about a lot in the church, but rarely put into practice. 

Can I just say that sabbath frustrates me.  It is easier to be "good" at work than it is to be "good" at rest. No one is ever going to praise you for rest the same way they are of work. But, the longer any of us go without rest, our work will of course suffer. So, why not get the hint and embrace it? 

But, after all, as people of faith, Sabbath keeping is not a suggestion but a command.  Keep the Sabbath day holy . . .

So I ask myself and my congregation regularly: "How can we live into Sabbath more often?" And, by Sabbath, I don't necessary mean one day (though one days of Sabbath are good), but a Sabbath filled life.

This is what I am noticing-

Sabbath finds me when I stop and listen to the voice that says, "Why are you in such a hurry?" 

Sabbath looks like turning off the radio in the car. Sabbath looks like not rushing out the door in the morning on the way to work; instead getting up early enough to just be. Sabbath looks like saying lots of "No's" to meetings that just aren't necessary. Sabbath looks like turning off the tv more often and reading a book just for fun. Sabbath looks like walking down the bakery aisle at the grocery store, just to smell the bread. Sabbath looks like finishing my sermon on Friday so Saturday is really a free day.

Sabbath looks a lot like a Mary Oliver poem.

“Just a minute,” said a voice…
By Mary Oliver

“Just a minute,” said a voice in the weeds.
So I stood still
in the day’s exquisite early morning light
and so I didn’t crush with my great feet
any small or unusual thing just happening to pass by
where I was passing by
on my way to the blueberry fields,
and maybe it was the toad
and maybe it was the June beetle
and maybe it was the pink and tender worm
who does his work without limbs or eyes
and does it well
or maybe it was the walking stick, still frail
and walking humbly by, looking for a tree,
or maybe, like Blake’s wondrous meeting, it was
the elves, carrying one of their own
on a rose-petal coffin away, away
into the deep grasses. After awhile
the quaintest voice said, “Thank you.” And then there was silence.
For the rest, I would keep you wondering.

So, what about you: experienced Sabbath lately? What has it looked like? Any surprises?