I'm gonna ask you to do a little experiment with me - are you up for it? Everyone's like "yeah…" Alright, shut your eyes for just one second. No scary noises. No confetti. Just some tap shoes. Just kidding, that's a joke. Alright, close your eyes for just a second. Now I'm gonna ask you to imagine yourself sitting alone in a room. No TV, no music, no noise of any kind. Imagine yourself just sitting in a chair. I just want you to stay there for a moment. I want you to begin to notice and acknowledge any emotions that are coming up for you. Any feelings you're experiencing. Just pay attention to those. Okay, you can open your eyes. Now, if I had the time, I'd love to ask each of you how that was for you. I know there are some in this room who absolutely loved that exercise. This was your first euphoric moment in a long time. So to you I say, you're welcome. Still, I would bet there are more of you who responded more like I did the first time I did this. When I first started counseling, my counselor asked me to do this very experiment. And I'm honestly not sure if she just did it to make me stop talking for a while -- legitimately -- I'm not being funny. But, she did it, and I sat for a long time, which was worse. It was confusing. For me, honestly, the very thought of it made me feel crazy. I was so anxious, and panicked, and nervous. I remember she said to me that this was because the things within my soul were not at rest. She said until I had dealt with the things in my soul, I would be hindered from encountering all that God for me. And often this is true for us in the practice of Sabbath. We fail, oftentimes, to deal with the things of our soul. And because of that, we not only miss out on this soul rest that's actually being offered to us, but we also miss out on encounters with God. It's been said that before we can surrender ourselves, we must become ourselves. For no one can give up what he or she does not first possess. Meaning, if we're gonna get anywhere in this practice of Sabbath, it's gonna start with us being intentional about a few things. First, it means we're gonna have to accept our humanity. By using this phrase, I want to be clear. I'm not talking about the mindset that says things like: "I'm a human, what do you expect?" Or, "I'm only human, God can't expect me to do A, B, C, and D." I'm talking about truly acknowledging who you are. First with yourself, and then with God. Like Elijah, when we want to enter into this time with God, we want to do so honestly. You see, the things about ourselves that we refuse to acknowledge are and will be given increased power and influence by our failure to accept them. Or another way to say this is that which we avoid will most tyrannize us. It's a dangerous space for us to be. So, what's the objective here? The objective in Sabbath is to acknowledge and become aware of ourselves in that space. Now again, a lot of times we can say "I get it, that's awesome, I show up to sabbath." But honestly, when I talk to people who are doing sabbath, and for years in my own experience it was like I was standing on the rim of sabbath going: "cool, I'm having a great time." You can't see, I'm on the edge of something -- you're having to imagine.


But it felt like I was walking on the edge of something. And I wasn't actually in it, but I was doing it. Gritting my teeth, like "this is...wonderful...yes. I'm feeling at rest." No, I wasn't. Because it's a lot harder than we think it is. It means we actually have to acknowledge our emotions, good and bad. Did you know that your emotions are the arena in which God has cultivated and designed you to actually commune with Him. When you shut your emotions off, you're actually shutting doors to intimacy with God. You're saying "ehh." So, we have to engage our emotions and that's good and bad. God, I'm feeling joy. I'm feeling happy, but God I'm also feeling sad and frustrated and angry and alone. It's in this space of sabbath that we have to acknowledge who we really are before Him. It's in this space too that we accept that we have a body. Did you know you have one? I mean, I hope so. Good Lord, I can't help you with that, I can't. You have a body, which means you can show up to sabbath and you can be honest about the fact that you need a snack. That is okay! And we laugh but we're like: "no, not until 12." We do these weird things with our limits and our structure. But it's okay and that's space to go: "I'm human, I have a body, I have needs. I'm thirsty, I'm hungry, I need sleep. I need to sleep on the sabbath -- there's something my body is telling me about what I need." You have to acknowledge things like your fear and your pain. Ask yourself: "where does it hurt? Where am I in pain right now in my soul and in my body and in my person?" Bringing all those things honestly before God and not being afraid of the emotions but embracing them and saying: "God, I don't know!" You know, I was talking to someone before this gathering and she said, "you know, it's really strange to me, because I was thinking about how if the enemy can get you to shut off your emotions, then he will thwart your union with God in deep and profound ways." It's a tactic for us to show up to sabbath and show up halfway. "Yeah, I'm here God, I'm really doing this. Really great." And not fully show up and say: "I'm pissed. I'm hurting. I'm alone, I'm hurting, where are you? I'm hungry, I'm tired, I'm afraid." All these things. If we don't show up all the way, then the enemy has leverage to use what was meant for God's design for flourishing, intimacy, and true soul rest from actually happening. It's the path the enemy's been using with us, and it's a sick game. Tonight, we want to disarm that. You need to be honest about your experiences. What did you experience this week? How did that experience with that person affect you? It mattered. What are your needs, wants, and desires? And at the same time, you've got to be able to embrace your limitations. At the heart of sabbath, you're saying: "I'm human." One of the things John Mark said early on and it's stuck with me like glue. He said it about leaders, but it's true about every person I know: "Leaders often want to be omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent." They always feel like they have to be all things to all people in all the ways. And I think we struggle with that in our humanity as well. We want to be all things, and there's no room for God to be the thing he was designed to be. In your innate design you were created to need him. To have union with him. And so, when we don't acknowledge our limitations, we're saying: "there's no room for you to work here." So we embrace our limitations, and we also embrace our failures. We embrace the ways we've blown it or messed up. The ways we haven't kept up with what we wanted. Not for the purpose of a shame shower or anything that would be discouraging, but to be honest before God. It's like: "this is an area of struggle. I'm not keeping my failure before me, but I am bringing it to you and saying 'is there a better way'?" And being honest with God in that. We also bring our strengths and our weaknesses. We bring our temptations to Him. This week I was doing double takes. This week God, I'm feeling tempted. This is gonna sound silly, but every Friday morning I wake up (that's my Sabbath day - I start Thursday evening and wake up Friday morning) the temptation for me is gonna sound silly but it's powerful. I stand at my coffee pot looking like a gorgeous queen, just taking my retainer out. I'm standing there and I'm literally like: "the only thing I want to do on the planet is watch This is Us. I don't care about the scriptures, I don't care about your presence. I want to watch This is Us. I know some of y'all are like "ahhh." You haven't watched the show; it's powerful, it's a good show. Some of y'all are blessed. All that's to say, sometimes we think of temptation as a double-take thing. Honestly for me it's standing at the coffee pot almost every Friday morning. I'm like: "listen, I just got to confess to you, I'd much rather watch This is Us than spend time with you. That's absolutely true. I just want to say that to you, that I'm tempted to turn on the TV right now over being in your presence. I am." It's just a thing and God's like: "that's cool, okay." And it's only until I bring the truth to Him that He's like: "okay." Because otherwise, what am I doing in my quiet time. I'm just going: "I hope this is over soon, because This is Us is waiting." It's this weird thing where we can become trapped by it. Bringing those things before God actually liberates us to encounter all that He has for us. Now, none of this is easy. It's often painful. I can joke about that experience and it is a struggle. I'm confessing full-blown that it's an actual struggle. Because if I do This is Us, I'm gonna do about another 9 hours of Grey's Anatomy and Friends. I mean, it's gonna be a vortex. It will be. It's just an honest confession. It's nothing that's actually helpful for my actual soul. Maybe for like a minute, but the relief is temporary. It's not sustaining. It's a tough thing to do, to admit my limits. To admit my realities in the presence of God. And usually when I do so, it leads me to a place of actual communion with Him. I know I've said that, but I want to say this about that: After I'm able to actually own who I am with God honestly, and bring even my emotions for Him and bring my limits to Him, and move into that space honestly with Him, it's where we then deal with some of the deeper soul things. The conviction of sin. Where God's like: "hey, that actually hurt that person. You cursed that person in your mind. You didn't bless them. You spoke in a way that you know influenced another person's way of thinking of so and so." It's not a shame shower, again. I'm freed up because I've already brought a lot of the truth to Him. You get me? Now I'm going like, "God, forgive me." That's usually the place where there's that conviction of sin and this greater call to holiness. And hear me: wholeness. The call to repentance is not a call to just confess my sin and bring my repentance before God. It's a call to freedom, which is what the sabbath is all about. It's removing the shackles, it's becoming free so I can delight and celebrate, and in that space that's where I remember I'm no longer a slave. I'm not a slave to the sin that entangled me. And I'm not a sin to what's to come. I'm free. So we move into a space where we're able to confess and repent with delight. And I can move into a space where I can say I'm more dependent on God than I even realized. It's in that space that He just squashes my pride and reminds me that I am too small to be God. And that I wasn't designed to be. And all of a sudden I can breathe, because the pressure is overwhelming if we actually allow ourselves to feel it. Now all of this, again, is painful and costly. Especially to your personal ego and comfort. But it is necessary if you're actually gonna be able to enter into this practice and actually find freedom for your souls. Next: we have to notice the ache. Once you've done the hard work of accepting your humanity inwardly with yourself and before God, you're now freed from the noise of your soul to really listen. Beneath our emotional turmoil lies a deeper, God-given desire for Him. It is how we were designed. "No, I don't have it." Yes you do! You just haven't reached that far down yet. It's like your belly button - hard to get to. Way down. That was weird. Look, each of us has longings within our souls. We have things that we ache for. Things that speak to the depths and desire and design of how we were created. And it's these longings that also give us insight into where God is leading us, and who He's calling us to. So often we come to the sabbath we think all emotions are bad. You know, it's like a one and done thing, so we shut down all the emotions and put them in a box and set them over here. And we're (facetiously) like: "I'm loving sabbath." By shutting them out, we're actually missing the good emotions. The longing emotions. All emotions, I believe, are good. Positive or negative, they're all vehicles by which we can actually commune with God. But sometimes in the space of suppressing, we actually suppress these good things that are actually telling us something about where God is leading us and who He's made us to be. It's in this place that we ask things like: "why is my soul longing, or yearning for this? What are you stirring in me, God? What is this hunger I feel in my soul? What am I aching for that is good and part of your design and part of the realities of your Kingdom?" It's here that we both listen and seek. We let go of our attachments to control and manipulate life and we recognize in a deep breath of the Spirit that we are okay. We're okay. That rest is in our design and in our dependence. Like Elijah, it's here that we're giving God the freedom to say and do what He wants. This is essential if we're actually gonna be able to engage God through this practice of sabbath. Because it's from this place that we can actually truly begin to encounter Him. Third, you've got to wait for the encounter. Sabbath is a slow journey to rest. It's the rhythm that unhurriedly disarms our impatience and calls us to make room for more of true life. Hear me: true life. Not life as you perceive it to be, but true abundant life. As we deal with the realities of our soul, as we begin to find them now ordered under God, we begin to engage Him in the deeper places of aching in our soul. We, like Elijah, are moving into a greater space of encounter. There's a common saying in the Mystic tradition that's saying we're always in the presence of God. What is absent is our awareness. Meaning, this is the space where we turn all of our attention to Him. And we lean in and wait. When we work through our emotions, when we work through the ache of our soul, it's then that we're actually ready to receive what God has. In our personhood, we just want to get to the good stuff. So a lot of times we come to sabbath with the expectation that it's just not happening. You know? Because we're in three when we should've started in one. We're going: "I don't know why God doesn't want to come? Doors shut and locked." It's like, He wasn't even invited. You know what I mean? You're like: "He's not here, and He's definitely not on time." But it's in this space that there has to be a natural progression. We're waiting for this large encounter, when we haven't done the work to actually hold the encounter. You want a mantle, you need to get strong underneath to hold the mantle. You want God to speak? You need to be a vessel willing to be emptied out and filled up. This is the practice of sabbath. Positioning yourself to be READY to receive from God. To be actively looking for the goodness of God in your life. Sabbath moves us to that place and space, but if we're not ready, we will miss it. So many of us sit here tonight frustrated because we missed it. He wants to come and meet with you, and He's doesn't need a mountain to do it. Some of you hikers get that thing, and He comes. The rest of us on the ground at a buffet are enjoying ourselves in different ways. You know? He doesn't need a mountain top to speak to you. He needs your eyes open and your ears alert to the ordinary moments where He shows up and gives you an extraordinary encounter. Some of my greatest encounters this week have come through the lips of other people. Over coffee. In the 'burbs. I went out there. Wild place. The purpose of sabbath is to slow down long enough to encounter God deeply, and to slow ourselves down enough so we can actually see Him. And to hear Him. To, like Elijah, position ourselves before Him. No manipulation or religious rhythm or expectations that are weirdly out of order. Just resting. Creating space, and waiting. And in that waiting, being healed and finding rest for our souls.


On that note, our practice for the week is gonna help you do just that. You can get this practice on, and the idea is this: That you take time to work through each of these rhythms. To rest, yes, but to also acknowledge your humanity. To embrace the ache of your soul, and wait for the encounter. The goal is to help you slow down. To shift gears from your go-to tendencies and expectations of sabbath, and to search yourself. How am I doing in this practice, and is it working? Some of you are like, I'm doing great, and I would totally get a gold star. Great. Just get your oil topped off and we'll send you on your way. And bless you. But for those of us that it's a little bit harder for, this is a good space for you to press in. To grow, to readjust, to realign the things that need to be realigned. We're gonna provide tons of space to reflect and respond. And that's all it is. There's no high pressure. No checklist, that's not how this is gonna work. It's just a space now for you to respond to these realities. To end, I want to be honest with you, though I don't think it'll be a huge surprise. The practice of sabbath doesn't come naturally to me. Big reveal. In fact, it's something that I've been really working on for years. And I'm doing a pretty good job. Slowing down goes against the grain of a lot of who I am in personality, in season, and in my brokenness in trauma. This works against each other. When I first started this practice, I was honestly overwhelmed and deeply ashamed. Both by my addition to the noise of life and what it revealed about my soul. As a single, extroverted woman, I found myself feeling lost and overwhelmed by the formulas of others in this practice. All of whom are really different from me. Like, think antithetical to all that I am. So I'm like a woman, totally single, and I'm an extrovert. And all the other dudes are, um, totally men which is great, and totally married. And, totally introverted. So their formula didn't work for me. For like a year, I tried to mimic their patterns and their practices. Ultimately allowing the rhythm that wasn't actually mine to add to the noise of my soul. And in the end, it led me to miss the blessing of sabbath entirely. The biggest thing I want you to hear me to say tonight is that what you bring to sabbath is YOU. As simple as it is, so often we forget and bypass the truth that we're not John Mark, and we're not Gerald. I'm not married yet. I don't have children yet. I'm trying to operate in all these different ways, where I light the candle but no one is there to [do it with me.] Two candles or just one, 'cause it's just me? We all do this, right? You're doing this. You're mapping out as you're hearing formulas and going "how does this fit?" And you're even gonna do it with mine. The practices we write up are simply that: they're just best practices from a spectrum of a lot of people. And they're for you to adopt and adapt and enjoy. And as an apprentice of Jesus, take responsibility for. For you to move into and own your place with the Lord. For you to own the practice for what it's supposed to be: a space for rest and worship. Practicing sabbath means we embrace all that we are in it. Emotions, and all of that, but also personality, temperament, season, all of that. And that it's gonna look different for different people in different seasons. If the purpose is to experience and encounter God, then we'll have to uniquely work to create spaces and rhythms for just that. For me, because I'm single -- have I mentioned that? A lot of years now, brothers. I mean, I don't know. I'm gonna regret that in the morning at about 4 a.m., that's gonna come knocking. Single. No kids yet. Hope for both those things. But for me right now, sabbath looks like slow mornings with coffee in hand. Spending time with Jesus in the scriptures, in poetry and music. It's a day and space that I journal, and I work through the realities of my soul. I used to be able to journal every day, but that doesn't happen, so I journal on the sabbath. It's a day where I spend time praying without a time limit. And it's a space where I truly sit and wait on God. I do. I set a timer. Not because He can't come at other times, but I'm like: "we got a limit. This is Us is still in the queue, and that's okay. It's a space that in my singleness I know I will now confront loneliness. So, after a few hours with Jesus, it's a time of my week that I call my family or have coffee with a friend. Not to medicate or avoid my feelings, but to actually embrace the ache with them. The afternoon of my sabbath is a space for me to connect deeply with a select few people, and for me it's a vehicle for God to draw me to himself, and to remind me of His love for me. Last Friday on my sabbath, I met with a deeply godly friend whom I've met with on the sabbath for many years now. If you see me at a coffee shop on a friday, usually I have a hat on because it's scary underneath. Anyway, if you see me don't come quickly to approach the table, because I might be crying and gnashing teeth, because that's what happens in this space with her. And that's what happened Friday, I met with this friend. And in this space, she held the deepest emotions of the sadness of my soul this week, while also calling me back to the ache of it. She was with me. She bore witness to what life is really like for me. And by her very presence, I was actually able to exhale. Not because she's some awesome friend, but because she bears within her person God's spirit. And when I left, I felt like I had been with Him. Sometimes you just need a face to say those things to. Are you with me? Sometimes you just need to say things to someone and see them go: "yeah." You do. Or maybe, you need to wipe your makeup. That comes too. Some sabbaths are joy filled and you celebrate all 24 hours of it. That's happened for me a million times. But in others, you will go through the Elijah emotions and really come to your pain in community and in silence. And the tension is holding it out as a day of delight, first and foremost. That's what we want you to do. While also admitting without fear that it's often a day of sadness and healing before it turns into delight. And that's okay. For all of us, sabbath will look different. Some of you need lots of structure. Others none. Some of you will embrace the beauty of nature and art, and still others will settle into books and stillness. Some of you need something concrete to turn to when you begin a time and space and it all feels empty, and that's okay. Others of you won't need that. My point is, whatever your rhythm, and you will need a rhythm. Allow it to be the catalyzing space for an encounter with God.


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