What I have in common with Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove and Nadia Bolz-Weber (and you do too)

Seattle Pacific UniversityNo, I don’t have a hyphenated last name, and I don’t live south of the border in the USA, but I do have something in common with both Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove and Nadia Bolz-Weber because we each spoke at Seattle Pacific University this month.

I was excited by the invitation to speak as part of SPU’s chapel series on Sabbath, and when I heard that Jonathan would be speaking the week before in the same series, and that Nadia would be speaking two weeks before about her most recent book, I felt more than a little starstruck.

After all, I’m not exactly “a celebrated spiritual writer and sought-after speaker” like Jonathan, or a New York Times best-selling author like Nadia. What was I doing in the same line up as the two of them? Just thinking about travelling down to Seattle by myself and speaking in a new context seemed huge to me, and seeing their names on the list of speakers ramped everything up another notch.

SPU Chapel Speakers

When I tried to share how I felt, most people just didn’t get it. Why would you be nervous? they asked. SPU changed the date for you, so of course they want you to come. Of course you have something to share. Others simply stared at me blankly–and that’s when I realized that they had never heard of Nadia Bolz-Weber or Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove. In their world, I was actually more of an author and speaker, more famous and more sought-after than both of them put together.

And you know what? That’s true for each of us. To some people, YOU are the celebrity in their world. Your family, friends, and others in your circles may not have read Nadia’s books. They may not have heard Jonathan speak. They may not know whatever-well-known-name-you’d-like-to-insert-here. But they know YOU, and that means you will be able to speak to them more directly and more effectively than Nadia or Jonathan or me or anyone else.

That’s what we all have in common–we each have a voice, we each have a circle of people that we relate to, share our lives with, and who will hear us out. Some circles may be bigger than others, but none will have exactly the same kind of reach as yours.

So speak up, speak out, don’t be intimidated because someone else’s voice is louder or more celebrated or wiser or funnier or clearer or more whatever-you-would-like-yours-to-be. Every voice has a unique audience, and every voice counts.

Oh and my SPU chapel talk? I loved my time with the SPU community, and everything went well after all–I didn’t get turned back at the border, or lose my notes on the bus, or become suddenly and hopelessly tongue-tied, or trip on the carpet. I spoke on Sabbath, Self-Care, and Sacred Pauses, and outlined four key ingredients of sabbath:

Here is my conclusion:

So what does all of this mean for our Sabbath practice today?

Well first of all it means that I’m not going to give you a set of rules to follow. When God delivered the people from slavery in Egypt, God gave them a new freedom–not a new legalism. As part of the Ten Commandments, the Sabbath was given as part of God’s vision for healthy living, not as a heavy burden.

So instead of a set of rules, I will leave you with a set of questions for your own thoughtful reflection and prayer. As you consider your own personal Sabbath practice–once-a-week and in your Sabbath moments (or what I call sacred pauses)–which of these do you need more of?

Do you need more rest?

More worship?

More trusting in God?

More acting in life-giving ways?

Whatever your current Sabbath practice or non-practice, can you round out your understanding of Sabbath to include these four ingredients? Will you allow God to enlarge the meaning of Sabbath and its place in your life?

In our Sabbath practice, may we live out this promise from James 4:8:

Draw near to God,
and God will draw near to you.

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Categories: Sacred Pauses, Spiritual Practice

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9 replies

  1. Thanks, April. I needed that right now. I got kind of enmeshed in strata problems trying to help.
    Instead, my help seemed to make it worse. Yesterday the Lord reminded me of Psalm 34:4. The Lord has restored peace to my heart. Your message encouraged me.

  2. Thank you for your excellent spiritual suggestions. I almost always find myself encouraged and occasionally convicted by your gentle words. I used two suggestions from _Sacred Pauses_ when I went on retreat and found it valuable to me, spiritually.

    The questions you asked today brought me up short. Now that I’m a pastor, I find I am so oriented towards the weekly schedule, the Sunday sermon, the spiritual and pastoral needs of my congregation. It’s a good thing I have self-care ingrained in me (from CPE and my excellent chaplain training!). My spiritual director heartily agrees that going to the YMCA’s gym regularly is one way of wonderful self-care. And, I relish my daily prayer blog at http://www.matterofprayer.net – these questions of yours are a good reminder, too. Thank you for the nudge. @chaplaineliza

    • You’re welcome 🙂
      I know that some say Sunday morning worship doesn’t count as a sabbath for pastors since we’re most often preaching or leading worship or talking with people before or after about various ministries or pastoral care needs, etc. But I find that worship with my congregation on a Sunday morning really is worship for me, so that’s one element of my Sabbath. A rest day from ministry is important to me too– both for rest and trusting God with the work–and like you, I find that physically working out is life-giving in a different way.
      I love that you used Sacred Pauses for your retreat too – I’m planning an update on book news next week.

  3. April, first of all, thanks for visiting over at ThreeWayLight and commenting there. I’m honored. Second–your post echoes a conversation I was having with Kimberlee Conway Ireton (author, Seattlite and SPU grad…maybe you know her?) It was almost the exact same content.
    And third, your SPU talk is an echo of what K and I celebrated at a very small writer’s retreat a few weekends ago.
    Love that the message is being spread far and wide.
    (by the by, NBW is the only speaker I knew of that you mentioned. Jonathan–nada. Everyone’s little world overlaps in the thin places, yes?

    • Oh yes! Thanks for the return visit, Jody. I saw your post on your twitter feed–“Some surprising discoverings about writing less but loving it more”–and resonated with your account of your blogging journey. I’ve also experimented with blogging several times a week but have settled down to once a week with the occasional other post like this one. I didn’t know Kimberlee went to SPU–funny how I’m hearing more about SPU now that I’ve actually been there. And great to hear that you were thinking along the same lines at your writers’ retreat….keep writing, and I’ll see you again online!

  4. I really resonated with your feelings, and was nurtured by your comments. Thanks.

    • Always a pleasure to have you stop by, Elsie! I know you do a lot of speaking too, and I wish you continued energy and courage as you continue to share your considerable gifts and experience. God’s peace, guidance, and wisdom to you.

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