We made it! Seven weeks to undo our excess.
We began our mutiny against excess seven weeks ago. My journey started on a plane boarding in the Philippines headed for home via Chicago. Two weeks with my new friends in Calamba (Philippines) awakened me to a great chasm between wealth and poverty; privilege and the less fortunate. And it forced me to take a look in the mirror.
We have spent the last seven weeks experimenting with fasting in various forms. We’ve limited our food choices and food consumption. We limited our clothing options. We limited our possessions and spending habits. We limited our media and technology. And we learned to reduce, reuse, and recycle more. Our team of Excess Warriors has waged war against excess well!
We discovered some new insights about ourselves during this journey. Here are some of the thoughts and insights of our warrior team:
- I can survive without cake, bread, coffee, chocolate, etc.
- So many [food] options can cripple us
- I realized I am an emotional overeater
- It’s difficult to find unprocessed, unsweetened food
- Dear ____, feed the hungry!
- Try to be nicer when you are hungry
- My lifestyle influences my food choices
- Weather makes a small wardrobe challenging; imagine being homeless
- An unexpected trip to court required a change to our [limited] wardrobe for the week
- It is a luxury to be able to change clothes and not worry if you will have something to wear tomorrow
- I have a lot of laundry
- I have a lot of junk
- It was difficult to part with some of my possessions [books, clothes, etc]
- Less stuff, less stress
- I now keep a “donate box” to fill as I go
- It expands my global views
- It discourages me
- It challenges me
- It creates FOMO
- I will adopt Meatless Mondays
- I will switch to reusable shopping bags
- I will stop using napkins/paper towels at home
- I will handwash my dishes more often
- I will switch to stainless steel straws
- I need to decrease my dining out budget
- I need to spend more prudently
- I will look for options to shop locally
- I will reduce spending to give more generously
- God is there even when I forget to pause
- I need to continue this fast to spend more time with God
- My online connections keep me from feeling alone
- God is Lord of the night and the day
- I need to plan more time with God in order to reduce my stress level
The most difficult part of these seven weeks seems to have been consistency. Most of the Excess Warriors struggled with one or more weeks. We got caught up in our regular routines and forgot about the fast. We were caught off guard by changes in plans and our access to excess made it easy to cheat. Even though some of us have more than others, I think we each realized we have been blessed with abundance.
As we take time to look outward, we discover we are more alike than we realize. We all struggle in one way or another. We find courage and strength as we journey together. Dear reader, find some friends to take this challenge. Rise up against excess to discover that God truly has supplied all your needs in Christ Jesus.
I’m taking a sabbatical!
But in the seventh year, the land is to have a year of sabbath rest, a sabbath to the Lord. Do not sow your fields or prune your vineyards. – (Leviticus 25:4)
I am an ordained elder in the Church of the Nazarene. Every seven years, a pastor is allowed a sabbatical. And mine is fast approaching. I served as the Pastor of Outreach in my first assignment for six years. I then left that assignment to plant a new church. In September, it will be eight years since I left that assignment. So, August first, I will take a Sabbath rest for 30 days.
Many people have asked me what pastors do on a Sabbatical. And the answer varies from pastor to pastor. After talking to a few clergy friends who have taken sabbaticals, I have discovered it’s a “create your own journey” sort of thing.
I will probably read a lot of books and definitely drink too much coffee!
I am not going radio silent. But I am delegating my regular pastoral duties to my Family Pastor and Youth Director. They are very capable leaders who will care for the flock with tender compassion.
I have a one-week prayer retreat scheduled for the beginning of my sabbatical. I am also meeting with a friend for a coaching session about some ideas that are stirring. And I plan to do some writing and research and vision-casting for the future. It is a time for God to prune my heart and my ministry. He has the freedom to point me in new directions, to challenge me to dream new dreams, and to consider what the next seven years should look like for me in the Church.
If you are the praying sort, then I covet your prayers for the month of August. God has been faithful for the 26 years I have been following Him. I haven’t always liked it and I usually didn’t understand it. But He has always been faithful!
Not all of us have the opportunity to take a sabbatical in our areas of vocation. However, we should all use our vacation time. Vacation isn’t only about having fun. It is also a time for God to prune us, shape us, heal us, and move us to new things.
Dear blogging friends, look at your calendar and put that vacation on there. Schedule it or you will never take it.
The church bulletin read, “Circle ‘C’ if you would like to serve communion”.
Communion. For a short time, my family attended the Catholic church down the road when I was a young girl. When I close my eyes, I can smell the pungent incense and hear the chimes of the organ. Communion was a sacred and beautiful moment between God and His people. Each Sunday, a few men and women would step forward to assist Father Jim as he served the sacraments to the people.
As a young girl of eight, I watched intently as I leaned forward, my small hands grasping the pew in front of me. I didn’t always understand Father Jim’s words to the people. But this sharing of the bread and wine? This needed no words. Jesus was calling. He was calling me to Himself. He was saying, “Feed my sheep.”
I took the comment card from the bulletin and confidently circled the letter ‘C’. I would have to wait an entire month until communion was served again. They didn’t celebrate the sacraments every week like St. Alexander’s Church did. And those four Sundays seemed to go by so quickly.
It was communion Sunday again. No one had called me. No one had sent me an invitation to serve communion. I imagined that there must have been an overwhelming response. Surely, there were many who desired to serve the sacraments. And only a handful of people would be needed. Of course. Next time.
The church bulletin read, “Circle ‘C’ if you would like to serve communion”.
I was certain my comment card was lost. The ushers who collect them have an important task. It seemed reasonable that a comment card or two would get lost. But I had circled ‘C’ for communion four consecutive months. Four months had come and gone. And my dream of serving in this sacred way was still an unfulfilled desire.
One Sunday, my friend arrived to church wearing his finest suit. Was there a funeral? He never wore a suit. Ever. My friend reassured me no one he knew had died. Instead, he had been asked to serve communion that Sunday. There were two missing ushers and no one to fill their place.
Oh that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach! I transformed into that eight year old girl with her chin resting on her hands overlooking the pew in front of her. The tears. I could hear Jesus calling. He was calling me to Himself. He was calling me to feed His sheep. But there was a stumbling stone keeping me from answering His call. And I wondered who would help me move the stone.