The Importance of Creating a Sabbath

The Importance of Creating a Sabbath

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.” - Exodus 20:8

The idea of a Sabbath is probably not new to most of you. You’ve likely heard about it in church, read about it in your Bible, and seen it outlined on countless 10 Commandment posters, but what does it really mean to "remember the Sabbath day”? How do we “keep it holy”?

Before we get into the details of all that, here’s a little bit of the history behind this sacred practice:

History of the Sabbath

We read about it from the beginning of the Bible, how God finished the work of creation and rested on the seventh day. "God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.” (Genesis 2:3)

All is Calm, All is Bright

All is Calm, All is Bright

It’s Christmas week and church musicians everywhere are gearing up for one of the busiest weekends of the year - Christmas Eve on Saturday and Christmas Day on Sunday. If you’re involved in church services this weekend, you’re probably not describing your week as “calm” and “bright.” Your to-do list probably looks a lot like mine: 

write thank you notes
finish newsletter article
proof bulletins
finish wrapping
meet piano tuner

It’s a crazy time, I know, but I’m determined to not let this season pass me by while I was caught up in the details and the planning. I don’t want to miss the spectacle, the gift, the presence of God in our midst. 

Getting Perspective 30,000 Feet In the Air

Getting Perspective 30,000 Feet In the Air

Sometimes, I need a little perspective. Because when I'm immersed in the details of planning, creating, teaching, and making music, it's easy to lose sight of the bigger picture. And sometimes, it takes getting to 30,000 feet above the earth to get the perspective I crave.

.  .  .  .  .

A few weeks ago, SD and I flew south to sunny FL. He had a composition residency (rehearsals, presentation, and two premieres), I had a visit with church music friends (choir rehearsal, duet practice, and three services). 

We packed our bathing suits, new books, and clothes we haven't worn since last summer, and left our new home nestled in two feet of fluffy white snow.

The airport was quiet as we navigated to our gate, sandwiches from Au Bon Pain in hand. We nestled into our seats and I looked out the window (because SD always lets me have the window seat) at the grey morning sky.

Sacred Space

Sacred Space.png

"Space," I said as we stepped out into the cool, dark night, gesturing with my hands. I took a deep breath almost instinctively. We walked in silence for a while as we let the worship service sink in. The pace of the readings, the prayers, the music, created an atmosphere of rest and peacea sanctuary, a haven where we were free to just be. There was a sense of timelessness in this serviceneither of us had any idea what time it was and it didn't matter. As we turned our hearts toward worship, the things of this world faded.

We have grown accustomed to sound and noise as a backdrop for just about everything we do, but our listening is surface-level. We are used to having information at our fingertips, but we skim instead of reading. We are always connected via the worldwide web, but we are often disconnected from the present. No wonder our attention spans are so short! When do we give ourselves permission to do one thing at a time? When do we take the time to sit and listen, to put our phones on silent, to breathe deeply?

"He made the entire human race and made the earth hospitable, with plenty of time and space for living so we could seek after God, and not just grope around in the dark but actually find Him." - Acts 17:26-27

Our busy, fast-paced, impatient world does not often leave room for encountering space or dwelling in it for a short time, but worship is supposed to be different. It's supposed to draw us into God's presence, to create space for Him to move among His people. Worship is not instant or immediateit's a process, of rendering, of believing, of trusting, of hoping, of listening.

"When life is heavy and hard to take, go off by yourself. Enter the silence. Bow in prayer." - Lamentations 3:29

There were two layers of space and time in this service: space in between elements (readings, hymns, anthems, etc.) and space in the elements themselves. Do you know how slowly you need to read before your spoken words really sink in for listeners? Pretty slow. Whether it's a Scripture reading or a written prayer, leave space. Let those final consonants linger for a minute. Let the richness of the text sit for a second before you move on.

"But oh! God is in his holy Temple! Quiet everyone—a holy silence. Listen!" - Habakkuk 2:20

Leave some space between the spoken elements of the service and the musical elements. Pause before beginning the hymn introduction.

"Silence is praise to you, Zion-dwelling God, And also obedience. You hear the prayer in it all." - Psalm 65:1-2

Take a deep breath and begin in a tempo that accommodates breathing. SD reflected later, "The tempo and phrasing was so in tune with my breaths that it felt like I was controlling the accompanimentit was just right." There was space in between verses and in between phrases. The tempo not only facilitated good singing but also reflection on the text as we read the theology together.

This worship experience was transcendent, outside of the world in which we live. Go there. Go to that place where there's space and silence and room to breathe. Take it all in. Listen, sing, pray, and rest in the sanctity of this sacred space.

Intentional Rest


IMG_1583 Sometimes, you just need to rest.

It's something the go-getters among us and those of us with healthy work ethics sometimes struggle to recognize but really, you can't give and do and be all the time.  Sometimes, you need to time to be filled and inspired and refreshed.

Intentional rest is more than just taking time away from work.  It's choosing to spend time doing the things that truly fill and revive you.  For me, it's a way to clear my head and my heart, focus on what matters, and dream a little.

This weekend, I made time for intentional rest - lunch with SD at a new-to-us restaurant, time outside (our first spring-like weekend!), a trip to the farmer's market (our first time since November!), reading and writing for pleasure (a novelty these days), even coffee and sprinkle cookies on the roof of our building (with coats on...).  It's amazing how much of an impact these little things can have on the rest of the week.

What does intentional rest mean to you?  Maybe it's taking a leisurely walk around the neighborhood before dinner.  Maybe it's meeting a friend for lunch.  Maybe it's taking the afternoon to go for a drive with the sun roof open.  Maybe it's reading your latest book.  Whatever it is, be intentional about it.  Make time for it.  Those things are as important as anything else you do during the week.

Real Rest

Life is a balancing act – work and play, go time and sleep, time with others and time alone, etc.  Lately, I’ve been thinking about what it means to rest.  You know, really rest.

Sundays mornings are busy for us.  After warming up, double-checking all of my music, rehearsing with the choir, playing a service, saying hello to folks afterward, and putting everything away, I am ready to rest.  However, most of the time, I spend a few hours perusing Facebook, catching up on TV shows, checking Pinterest, and relishing the time to sit quietly at home.  After a little time passes, guess what?  I still feel just as ready for rest as I did when I started.  How can this be?  None of these things are really restful.  They pass the time, they’re fairly mindless, and I can sit quietly by myself while doing them but I’m fooling myself by thinking that I’m resting.

Here’s why: Real rest requires spending time on the right things – things that fill me up, inspire me, refresh me.  Less TV, more books.  Less Facebook, more time with SD.  Less time spent surfing Pinterest, more time spent seeking true inspiration.  Less time on the couch, more time outside.

Real rest is essential.  Make those moments count.

Image Credit: personal