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This past Sunday I began a sermon series on the topic of Sabbath. In preparation for my renewal leave, which begins on September 1, I want to invite all of us to be thinking about ways that we can find rest and renewal in our daily lives. If you were in worship on Sunday, you heard me say that the word “Sabbath” comes from the Hebrew verb “to cease, to stop, to rest.” What are some ways that we can regularly stop working, stop producing, stop looking ahead and simply rest in the present moment with God and with others?

I’ve put together a selection of books that might help you ponder the meaning of Sabbath and think about these questions. A book table will be set up throughout the month of August, and I hope you’ll find some time to read at least one of the selections over the next few weeks. (Unfortunately, the ones on the book table are just for display, but you can go to Cokesbury.com or another book seller and find any of the titles there.)

Each week during August we’ll be considering “Sabbath” as a verb and we’ll look at ways we can practice “Sabbathing.” This past week we explored what it means to CEASE, to REST. This next Sunday, we’ll talk about how Sabbath calls us to LISTEN. (If you want a preview of the rest of the month, we’ll also be considering how Sabbath inspires us to GIVE and to PLAY.)

As I’ve mulled over the idea of Sabbath in my own life, I’ve realized how children seem naturally to understand Sabbath. Children know how to rest. And they certainly know how to play. Hurry and busy-ness do not come naturally to them. They can be present to the world around them in ways that we adults sometimes forget to be.

Last Friday afternoon I was at home working on my sermon for Sunday. The kids were at home, too, but our sitter was still in the house keeping an eye on them so that I could work. After I’d been working at it for about two hours, I was lying on the bed going through the sermon in my head. I’d been struggling with how to conclude (you know, “big finish!”) and was feeling sort of stuck. Then suddenly I heard the sound of my bedroom door quietly opening, followed by the sound of little feet padding toward me. I opened my eyes and saw my daughter Martha. She flopped on the bed next to me and said, “It’s nice and quiet in here. What are you doing? I think I’ll stay in here with you.”

At first I was flustered. I need to work! I needed to finish this sermon! But then I remembered what the sermon was about and felt the pang of conviction. “Okay,” I said to God. “I get it. I’ll stop already and trust you to provide the rest of the sermon later.” So, Martha and I laid on the bed and talked. And sat in silence. She noticed a bird outside of the window and pointed it out to me. “Look at that beautiful bird, Mommy.” Actually, it was an awkward looking juvenile robin that seemed to be molting. Not that pretty at first glance. But then I tried looking as she was looking, and began to see the wonder and beauty of this little, growing bird.

What a gift children are. Martha especially is my little walking Sabbath. No matter whether we live with children right now or not, finding ways to spend time with children and learn from them is one of the best Sabbath practices that I know.