I’ve decided this summer I’m going to chase Sabbath, instead of big trout. I wonder what you’re going to do for your heart this Christmas/New Year break?

Dear Friends,

I’m guessing you’re bracing yourself for the family reunions that will occur around the Christmas Dinner table in a few weeks time (and dealing with the tensions that can come with family Christmas gatherings!). You might also be beginning to consider what New Year’s resolutions might sound impressive to announce to friends on the 1st January.  It's right about here I’d like to step in as an advocate for your heart —which probably needs some advocating for, if you’re like most adults. The pace of life, the constant demands, the drone of media coming our way make any type of kindness for our heart quite hard to come by.

Our lives are so full, we have lost track of our inner-world long ago.

Thus, my hope for this final letter of 2019 is to re-connect you with your own heart and the heart of God. That’s Ellel’s global motto by the way:- “Bringing the heart of God to the heart of man."

You’ll often hear us teach that we all have a human spirit. It is a lovely gift from God. Your spirit is what enables you to enjoy your life, to receive life from Holy Spirit!   When you find yourself laughing at something in a carefree way, that’s your spirit feeling happy. When you are moved deeply by someone else’s story, that’s your spirit being moved. When beauty makes you worship, when stillness allows you to exhale deeply, that’s your spirit doing well. Your human spirit is an extraordinary gift from God. And it needs some care. 

In Proverbs 20:27 it says “The lamp of the Lord searches the spirit of a man; it searches out his inmost being”… Father God is always searching us out, looking for ways He can refresh and enliven our human spirit. But we seem far more gifted at avoiding the subtle advances of our true Father, and instead losing our hearts in the mad rush of life; the unrelenting pressure, the hurry, worry, fear and lack of any real space to simply just be human again.

So ... what will you do this summer to be kind to your inmost being? Where is your sabbath going to come from?

To clarify, family “visits” do not count as sabbath or “soul care”. I understand the need for family visits, they play an important role in our relational networks. But they are not sabbath, nor even close to a real vacation, for the simple reason that they require from us – we have to give out. Often, they require a great deal. When we enter the gravitational field of family visits, we encounter all the dynamics of family “ecosystems”—everyone’s brokenness, their demands, their disappointments, and the controlling way they operate often with less than helpful advice. It’s just the way it is in a broken world. I’m not saying don’t do family visits and family Christmas dinners… I’m simply trying to point out that they do not qualify as sabbath rest.

Stop and check - what’s the condition of your heart when you return from a week with family? Don’t you typically say to yourself, “Man, that was tough!” And if you could choose between the obligatory family visit, or two weeks in Fiji, which does your heart leap at?

Yeah... I’d pick Fiji too!

Rushing out the door to get to some destination where you go-go-go for an all-out holiday can be loads of fun, but they do not count for sabbath either. Again—notice the condition of your heart when you get back and return to work; you’re exhausted; you need caffeine and Red Bull just to keep going.

You shall know them by their fruits.

Allow me to share personally… I am learning as I grow older that what my heart really needs is space. I need to have permission to be still. I need to just let myself stop - and I’m the only one who can really provide that permission.  I have to give myself permission to have no agenda, no deadlines, no one to take care of, or come through for, and certainly ensuring there is no ministry!

I may take my fly fishing gear, but there’s no guarantee I will use it that often - unless my leisurely evenings on a stream or down by the lake connect me more to the heart of God. As my spirit begins to catch up with my body, and I finally enter true rest - I suddenly realise that what my heart needed was not more excitement and fun catching big brown trout… what my heart needed was quiet. Ease. A very slow pace. I find these days I end up hardly fishing anywhere near as often as I used to when we get away for our summer breaks. Initially, missing out on the fishing and the fun used to feel like a disappointment - but I am coming to see it more now as a rescue.

This is very simple really … sabbath makes you feel rested. It makes you feel renewed. It “restores your soul”, to quote the famous Psalm.

Sabbath reconnects you to the God you love and allows you time to linger with Him, unhurried. It also reconnects you with your own heart, allowing you to feel, to think about stuff you normally don’t get to think about.

By its nature, sabbath was never meant to be an adrenaline experience. It’s meant to be a time where we sense the delight of a Holy God in how He sees us; to pause long enough to allow creation to speak to us.

So, as you make your summer plans, how will you factor in your sabbath?

It doesn’t have to be that amazing getaway in Fiji - thank goodness, have you seen the cost of flights and accommodation for a family to go to Fiji?! Sabbath is so much more available and more attainable. It can be a choice to simply set aside evenings every week over the Christmas/New Year break, where all you do is sit on the porch and enjoy the sunset. Or let the breeze caress your face. Or just do absolutely nothing at all… and get to be human again.

Sabbath can be long walks in the sand at the beach; or a park, or a woodland. It’s meant to be slow, kind, easy, simple. Sabbath walks let you notice flowers, birds, a stream—all the things we normally rush past. (My wife Joanne has taught me this).

Nothing in this mad world is going to encourage you to plan and protect sabbath. It’s something you’ll have to choose to do, choose to fight for. But it’s utterly worth it, I promise.

So, before you finish reading this and go on with the dozen other things currently demanding your attention, stay with this question for ten minutes … What will you do for sabbath this summer?

Write it down.

Block it out in your calendar.

Then do it.

Until next year,