Presence in Absence

Good morning. Today is Sunday, the thirteenth of March, 2022, in the second week of Lent.

May the peace of Christ reign in your life today!

Day 23,376

And today marks my 64th revolution around our sun, the beginning of my 65th year. I almost gave myself an extra year. Must have gotten a little carried away with “spring forward,” there. Today also marks the beginning of Daylight Saving Time, or, as I like to call it, “Fake Time.”

I got a couple of early birthday presents Friday evening, delivered by carrier, from R. I went ahead and opened those, and received a library scented candle, and a book, Just Kids, by Patti Smith, that has been on my Amazon wishlist for quite some time. It’s memoir, by a singer/songwriter who was influential in the emergence of punk rock in New York City, in the seventies.

Last night, we cut into this wonderful thing:

It is very delicious, although we may have finally succeeded in getting too much icing on the cookie. “I wasn’t aware that was something a person could do,” to quote King George, from Hamilton.

We will be going to our house church gathering, in a little while, and since the time is later than usual (fake time), I need to get moving. I’ve only had one cup of coffee, too, for Pete’s sake.

Who is Pete, even? I’ve always wondered that.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
(Psalms 16:11 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that I have successfully completed another revolution around the sun; by "successfully," I mean still alive
2. for the legacy of faith in my life; it's not perfect, but it's consistent; through all these years, God has kept me in His hands
3. for a godly wife and mother; between the two of them, they have helped keep me on the path
4. for days of rest
5. that God is always present, even when it seems He is absent

Today’s prayer word is “sabbath.” That is very interesting, considering that today is Sunday. Of course, Sunday is not the “sabbath,” even though the modern evangelical church has considered it to be so, as long as I can remember. The Sabbath is Saturday, the seventh day. That’s why we have denominations like Seventh-Day Adventists, who believe they are more righteous than the rest of us because they observe a literal, legalistic “sabbath.”

All of this misses the point of “sabbath,” in my opinion.

For he has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.”
(Hebrews 4:4 ESV)

Did God need to rest? Of course not! How would God be “tired?”

He will not let your foot be moved;
    he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.
(Psalm 121:4 ESV)

But humans need rest, and God knew that. Which is why there were laws concerning the Sabbath. I insist that we, who are under grace and not law, and who are not Israel, do not observe the Sabbath, as such. There are some who disagree with me, and that’s fine. But we need rest, and the principle is still in play.

Rest is important for the human body. When we sleep, it repairs itself. I have learned more about sleep and what it does for the body, in the last couple years, than I knew my whole life. Rest is crucial. So taking a “sabbath” rest each week is good. It is helpful, and it is necessary. Just don’t get legalistic about it. For me, “rest” might be sitting in my easy chair playing on the Playstation. Or it might be reading a book. But it also might be bowling. Recreation can be rest, in my opinion.

It has nothing, however, to do with whether or not I can buy pantyhose on Sunday. Not that I need pantyhose. I don’t even know if “blue laws” are still a thing in Texas. I just did a small bit of research and found that the only thing that cannot be sold at all on Sunday is hard liquor. Beer and wine after noon, and car dealerships must close either Saturday or Sunday and have the ability to decide for themselves. But there was a day when you could not buy certain items (like pantyhose, which was ridiculous, because the likelihood of church ladies needing new pantyhose on Sunday morning was, at one time, pretty high) on Sunday.

But I digress.

The important thing is that we, as humans, recognize our need to have a day of rest, at some point in the week. In my opinion, it could be Wednesday. Doesn’t matter what day. Just rest.

How does this fit into prayer? Honestly, I’m not sure. But I think the soul needs rest, just like the body needs rest. So, maybe there need to be times where we turn off all the social media and televisions and podcasts and simply turn our spirits, restfully, toward the heavens for a while.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Maybe we can make some correlation between “sabbath” and Lent. Honestly, I never thought of that until today’s reading in Daily Guideposts 2021.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
(1Peter 1:3 ESV)

We are in between times. In between the wonder of Christmas and the joy of Easter. It’s a long stretch, and this season of Lent lasts forty days, in the middle of it. Many people never recognize Lent at all. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t think I even heard of it until at least my college years, and possibly after. And, although I may not actively participate ever year, at least it is on my mind, during the time.

I think the placement of it, in the Church calendar, is good. While we know that God is always present, there is a sense of “absence,” during this time of Lent. And maybe, just maybe, what Lent is about is “finding God in the in-between times of life, seeing how He might be present in a veritable absence.” (Rick Hamlin)

Father, I pray for more of a sense of Your presence during this season. As I consider the relationship between the sabbath and Lent, may I have a heightened sense of You and Your presence. Help me to rest better. Help me to “sabbath” better. And may the season of Lent be a sort of long sabbath for me, especially along the lines of that which I am trying to give up or avoid, the act of being critical about things and people. It’s going “okay,” but could be better. You have given me more of an awareness of when I do fall into it, and that is good.

I thank You for sixty-four years, and pray for a few more. Maybe many more. I don’t know how many I want. I want however many You want for me. I’m not picky. I do enjoy this thing we call life, though. And it is more enjoyable when You are surrounding me. Thank You for being part of my life all these years, and please keep being part of it.

I love You, Father. Through the Son and by the Spirit.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.