Editor’s Note: In this week’s Scripture passages, we read how Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath and how in Him we have freedom in how we celebrate the day of rest. With this freedom in mind, we are featuring different women each Friday to encourage you that just as you were uniquely created by God so your habits of rest should be unique, too. While one woman’s practices may provide ideas for your own times of rest, they are not the outline for your story. God longs for you to establish your own routines and habits with His guidance. Today you’ll see similarities and differences in the sabbath testimonies of Phares Gilchrist and Julie McKerrow, and we hope their stories encourage you in your story!
Phares Gilchrist and her husband Brett have been married 38 years. They have three children and seven grandsons with a granddaughter on the way. Phares is a southerner who has adjusted to the Pacific Northwest 75% with 25% in reserve.
In this week’s study, Jesus faces the religious establishment’s legalism surrounding the holy day of rest. We see how our past — how we were raised and the voices that spoke into our early days — impacts our story of rest today.
How did your family observe the Sabbath? How have those practices of rest — or lack of rest — carried over to your view and practice of sabbath as a adult?
I was raised going to church on Sunday (equating sabbath with Sunday) without context. We weren’t given a reason for why we went, and we had no discussion of what was said or what we believed. I remember Sundays being sad, lonely and hollow. After coming to Christ at 17, the void was filled, and I do not remember a hollow Sunday since. Sundays, maybe more than any other day, have the most context for my week. I don’t approach it with ritual, but I do have expectation. I know that all over the world those of us who know Christ are meeting to worship Him. It is quietly powerful.
Brianna has two questions that guide what she does during her day of rest: Is it restful? Does it bring joy? How do you determine in your own life what will fill you up one day a week and what will cause you to toil? How are you practicing sabbath rest in your life today?
What I hear being asked is how intentional am I about sabbath rest. My approach is pretty different from Brianna’s with the same goals. I hear a personal design to hers. I love that. We get to do that. Create, with intention, an environment conducive to healthy engagement with Christ and our own emotional selves. Once I defined my boundaries and margins, I fell into a rhythm of rest that is malleable but consistent. I picture it like a piece of paper with clear borders and 2-inch margins. The body of my life is lived within those margins, and the borders are what is defined by the Christian life. The margins are not intended to be moved into permanently but are available for overflow or note-taking. I draw on these margins when my mother has unexpected health issues, needs come up in the family, the holidays and when myriads of little crises pop up at any moment. How I live inside the margins determines the balance left outside the margins. So I invest with these parameters in mind.
What is your favorite way to cease from toil and find refreshment?
The most consistent habits I have on a daily basis that provide the intentional rest I need is to wake up quietly in the morning, eat an egg, and then sit with my thoughts for 20 minutes or so. I just allow them to process. As my mind clears and settles, those issues that are most pressing percolate to the top. I discuss them with a kind Father who listens patiently and bathes me with His word. Slowly, I have His view and not mine. I can ruin this in a nanosecond when I get up and going with my day and allow some errant resentment to rise to the top, but having done this morning exercise allows me to bring thoughts into check sooner rather than later. And I have a 2-mile walk around the canal every day. (I am on a winter break from this.) It takes 35 minutes, clears my head and refreshes it with natural beauty.
Julie McKerrow has lived in Eugene for more than 40 years and is a retired teacher. She has an outstanding husband (Mike is 6’8’), three grown daughters, a wonderful son-in-law, and “three of the best grandchildren in the world.” She used to volunteer in her grandkids’ school and at Eugene Mission, but those days are on hold. She is currently serving with a team to care for the women of UFC’s second Dignity House. She also mentors a lovely college student, though she says, “I think she mentors me.”
When you were growing up, how did your family observe the Sabbath?
I don’t remember hearing the word sabbath until middle school, which was when I started going to church with my sister. As a young child and even into middle school, I believed that Sunday was a special day. Sunday meant church, a place we went every once in a while. It also meant dressing up, sometimes in a new dress, a frilly slip, a white hat with snappy elastic, and patent-leather Mary Janes. In those early days, Sunday also meant a big meal, maybe lamb with mint jelly or a platter of fried chicken. Grandparents and even Great-Grandma were there. Within these superficial components, I got the message — church days were special. As a teenager, I went to church with my sister. I had the idea that I should hang around and be bored for the rest of the day once I got home. I wouldn’t join in TV watching with the family but instead listened to a record of hymns my grandparents loaned me. Besides being bored (and feeling holier than thou since the rest of my family didn’t go to church), I was conflicted in my piety because youth group was Sunday night and was fun, so I always went.
How have those practices of rest, or lack of rest, carried over to your view and practice of sabbath as an adult?
I definitely don’t feel that sabbath is about being pious or bored anymore, and I don’t dress up much at all. The idea of making Sunday special has carried over, and so has church attendance. I’m part of the Sunday (Zoom) prayer team, and I “go to church” via YouTube every Sunday. The remainder of the day varies from week to week, but my goal is the same: attempt to rest from the work of the other days. Ideally, I would always reflect on God’s character and on His work in my life. What has He done? What has He provided? How has He led? I want to remember the times when God intervened, provided, or directed me, especially in ways that seem personal and unique. As I consider these things, it’s a chance to look out and look up and say from the heart, “It is good.” I also want to take time to review the previous week and listen for God’s voice, not audible, just an impression. What might He be saying about the way I spend my time and resources? Should I be making some changes? Are there things to repent of or to begin? I may also ponder the implications of salvation. Sabbath sometimes reminds me of an extended communion. Like I said earlier, that would be my ideal practice. Honestly, it’s not unheard of just to have lunch, a movie, and a nap after church.
How do you determine in your own life what will fill you up one day a week and what will cause you to toil?
I know from past experience that I feel much more rested when I have a renewed sense of God’s character. I can rest in all those omni words — omniscient and omnipotent, for starters. Magnifying God, purposefully naming traits, strengthens me and helps me let my breath out when I’ve held it in tension. Besides prayer group and the worship service, I try to do things that will refresh me and leave me in better shape to start the week. Praying and listening to a sermon is good, right, and necessary, but because of the concentration and active listening that’s required, it’s work for me just the same. So, the balance of the day is free floating. After-church activities often include family. We might have pizza with our kids and grandkids. Mike and I might go for a walk or a hike or a drive. I am drawn to new scenery and to favorite environments. I miss being able to browse Barnes & Noble and take up residence at the café. It’s also refreshing, though, to draw close to God through nature. Looking up at the clouds and watching them change, or watching a river flow or a tide come in, or just seeing beach grass blow back and forth gives me perspective and the ability to rest, to say, “It is good.”
How are you practicing sabbath rest in your life today?
As I write, today is a week day, and I am at the end of it. It has been a day of work and of rest. I was able to spend some time in prayer and in Bible study. I worked on some housekeeping chores. I cooked some healthy meals and ran some errands. I worked on these questions. I went for a walk and noticed early signs of spring. I think there are many sabbath moments in each day. I watch for them and try to have the sense to linger a bit and be grateful. Today I noticed that I was suddenly prayerful as I went down the steps to start my walk. The fog had lifted and so did mine. My prayers came easily and in fewer words. I was glad to have a sudden awareness of God’s presence.
What is your favorite way to cease from toil and find refreshment?
I think this might be pandemic and current events related, but I just really love to get in the car and go away! We’ve driven to the coast and back several times recently, just to sit on the North Jetty and look for seals. We’ve taken a ride to Portland just to get in the queue for Chick-Fil-A. We’ve found a few new hiking trails. I’ve got a weekend trip to the coast in the back of my mind. I need to sit with an ocean view for a longer while than quick trips have allowed.