Last week I made my way to New Orleans to attend the Christian Community Development Association's national conference. What is this association? A few are people who work in suburban community ministry like me. Others are people who work in inner cities or rural areas, working to give the people hope. They lead charter schools. They create jobs. They train for jobs. They are people who fight for immigration reform, healthcare reform, orphans, refugees, you name it--and they do this for Christ. It was a multi-generational and multi-cultural group. I really love this organization and the people with in it.
We attended morning Bible studies, workshops, and sessions that included testimony about the work of others and wise counsel from these leaders. The constant theme was "Cultivate," but even more than that it was to remember the Sabbath.
Not the "Sabbath" that means "go to church." For many of those in attendance, church and ministry is their career. Sundays are a day of work. Not that you can't experience God through work, through worship, through fulfilling your calling. But the commandment is to remember the Sabbath, keep it holy and as a day to refrain from work. It is sandwiched between the commandments that guard our relationship with God and our relationship with others. Keeping the Sabbath deepens our relationship with God and with others. It is a crucial commandment and yet one that is consistently downgraded and sidestepped. But to skip Sabbath with God is sin like all the rest on the list.
The speakers told of the walls they hit and how God redirected them to Sabbath. When we hit those walls, our choice is to quit that job or to repent, to turn away and direct that time to God. Wayne "Coach" Gordon encouraged us to spend one hour in the Triple S Three P time: Solitude Silence Scripture with Praise, Prayer, and Putting it down in writing. Devote that day to spending time with God and in rest, whether that means literally sleeping or in those things that rest your soul, like hiking, spending time with your spouse, creating something, stuff like that. Turn off the work phone. Do not check the work email or any email if it is all intermingled like mine. This was a crucial reminder for me as I start this interim job again, especially in the midst of transition (unlike last time). It is a huge thing. It is an anti-culture thing. Hopefully I won't drive my co-workers crazy telling them to take a Sabbath every week.
The last time I was in New Orleans was 15 years ago for my honeymoon. I did not venture out too far from the hotel. A day trip to the French Quarter and a couple of trips to the Garden District was it. The one difference I noticed between then and now, and this was a post Katrina change was that the Riverwalk area was deserted. It was booming last time I was there. The mall was closed but will reopen soon as an outlet mall (plan a trip mom!). The remaining restaurants were empty at 7 p.m. But recovery elsewhere seemed to progressing well. I did not go to the Ninth Ward.
It was a great trip but as always I was ready to come home. As we flew out around a storm, we got to see these clouds. God makes beautiful things.