We love to lift the voices of women who speak truth into our souls. Today we are blessed to have Sally Eliza Cranham. And we'd like to dedicate this to our Jewish friends grieving the loss of their loved ones in Pittsburgh.
Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.
For at least the last ten years I have been on a journey of entering into Sabbath, or Shabbat. Shabbat literally means, 'to stop' and we first come across the word in Genesis where God, in the space of completion, stops and rests.
Having many Jewish friends, I have been gifted with a deep experience of making Shabbat a set apart moment in my week. They have also helped me unpack an understanding of the commonly used phrase among Christians of, "resting in God".
Shabbat is traditionally celebrated on a Friday night. The ceremony traditions around the meal are vast and I have sat in some of the most creative and simple spaces as people simply come together to stop. I have been at tables that have taken us on an hour-long practice into stopping before even getting to the food part, and in contrast to that I have shown up to a table with a take-out pizza, have lit a couple of candles and rested into Shabbat chatting with friends.
I continually learn by practicing this kind of stopping and what I have loved about living in the USA (I am originally from the UK) is the vast number of STOP signs that appear in the ordinary and extraordinary places.
Over the years of visiting the USA and now living here (I work as a volunteer for a non-profit), I started my own creative tradition of taking photos of stop signs. From these images I have written brief meditations on what I see in the picture or write what is bubbling away inside me as I need the stop sign as a gentle reminder. I have truly come to believe that stopping, Shabbat, is the most Holy idea of the biblical text. That it's a gift of space over time and rest over works.
This past week I was at an event where a guy was talking about his involvement in prison ministry and how those who are released often will re-offend for various reasons. The statistics and the stories were tragically sad, but it was one line that stayed with me as he shared a video testimony from a father who was in their program.
"We did time, instead of being present to my son, I was away doing time"
I was struck by the language used by this father who had once been in prison and had done his time. That the phrase, "doing time" is commonly used for those who are in prison. I was reminded of the scripture in Isaiah 47. In verses 6 and 7 it says; "…. we are called for a righteous purpose…..to bring prisoners out of the dungeon, and those sitting in darkness out from the prison house."
In a world where we can all get caught up in the throes of "doing time" where do you need to stop? Where do we need to remember that we have been set free from the prisons and who do we see that needs a dose of presence over time? Shabbat, from a textual point of view is more about space and presence than time in the way that we understand time to be. It's a day of presence where God tells us we will meet and seeing as it's the first thing in the whole of scripture that is called holy I think we have a whole lot to learn in and from that space.
So, next time you see a Stop sign see it as an invitation to practice the creator's gift of stopping. Ask God for the question on your heart, to recall someone you know who is "doing time" in a heartbreaking way, and well, if that person is you, simply know that this beautiful gift of stopping is for you too.