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Finding God in the Story of Your Life

Living in Sabbath Simplicity

The writing life includes, oddly enough, speaking. While they are two different skills, being an author means connecting with readers through a variety of media, including face-to-face interaction.

After speaking about social media marketing at the MacGregor Literary Marketing seminar in Chicago, I flew to Buffalo New York, then crossed the border to Ontario, where I’d been invited to preach at the Niagara United Mennonite church, located in the Niagara on the Lake area not far from the famous falls.

If you’d like to listen to my message, you can find the church’s audio archive here—my name’s at the end of the list. Click on it to listen to my message, The Gift of Sabbath. I explored the theology of Sabbath.

Listen to the short intro from associate pastor Stephen Cox, and you’ll hear why they invited me to speak: the couple that pastors the church recently left on a sabbatical, the first ever in the church’s long history. The Sabbatical committee read my book Rest: Living in Sabbath Simplicity, and decided that to help the whole church learn about Sabbath, they’d have me come and speak.

So the first Sunday the pastors were gone, I was in the pulpit. Yes, that felt a bit pressured, but I was warmly welcomed by the congregation, which has been meeting in the same red brick church since 1937.

The Mennonites, especially in that area, are hard-working, simple people, farmers or sons and daughters of farmers, many of German or Russian descent (some first or second generation immigrants). The church still holds one of its Sunday services in German.  A zealous work ethic makes it hard for some of them to practice Sabbath at all. For others, that same ethic makes it hard to let go of legalism about the Sabbath—they wanted rules.

In addition to preaching at the main service, I did two informal, interactive sessions, where I taught in short bursts, allowing for discussion and questions in between. I love the opportunity to answer questions, to have to think on my feet. Often the questions went far beyond the scope of my topic, and I found myself responding, “That’s really a church culture issue.” I was only an hour over the border, but in many ways, in a completely different culture than my own.

For example, the people who teach Sunday School each week would love to take a sabbatical as well. I agreed that would be great, and told them that at my church, we actually give our youth ministry volunteers a summer break. To allow that, we need to have a church culture that values that, and a call to those who don’t normally lead children to cover one group for one Sunday. They looked at me with a mixture of incredulity and longing.

How would you describe your church culture? Does your church support your efforts to keep Sabbath? To balance ministry and times of rest? Is “rest” a value in your church? In your life?

2 Comments

  1. My current Pastor’s father was a Mennonite (PA) and his mother belonged to a Bible Fellowship church in which he was raised. He joined the Lutheran church in his teens and went on from there. I feel that even in different parts of the country, the same denomination can be practiced differently. My own upbringing was in the Lutheran church with a Pastor who was raised in the Lutheran church. I grew up on Long Island which is a little world in itself. When I came to PA, I sensed a difference in the churches I attended while trying to find my home church from the area I was from. And, when I settled into my current church, I felt yet another difference because of my Pastor’s background. I will be attending a conference of Presidents in Chicago for my church women’s group and will encounter another style of lutheranism in the Midwest. And, yet, we are all Christians! Hmm!

  2. I need to go listen to your talk…..but my off the cuff comments are: I came from a family in Washington, DC where my Dad and I went to church. Supposedly my Mom stayed home due to “constipation issues”. My Dad was a general practitioner who went to the hospital after church and got home about 3 or so. All I really remember about Sunday was it being kind of boring. But I wanted to go to church and Sunday School.

    I married a farmer from South Carolina (long story) and the culture here at that time was legalistic about not washing clothes or playing cards etc… on Sunday. I had not come from that background and it puzzled me. Once I got saved the Lord began to show me that the Sabbath is for man not for HIM. (you may disagree) That we need a day to wind down and refresh…. so that is what my family did as I raised children. Now that they are grown hubs and I stick to pretty much the same schedule. Sunday School and church….eat lunch at home….nap maybe take a walk or go visit a relative or neighbor. Stores here still have blue laws….can’t sell anything that is not a necessity until after 1:30pm…. we don’t usually shop on Sunday but may pick up something needed for dinner on our way home from church. I wish stores were still closed on Sunday…..we’d all manage but that is not going to happen in todays culture.

    I think I’ll bring up this topic on my blog. By the way I’m a Midday Connection listener and when they mentioned you yesterday it reminded me to stop by your blog again.

    May God continue to bless you, your family and your ministry!

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  1. Deep Breathing for the Soul » Rest: Living in Sabbath Simplicity - [...] Hey, it’s Free Book Friday. Because we’re focusing on Sabbath this month (although Living in Sabbath Simplicity is …

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