Dallas at Its Best

October 27, 2016

Living Life Between the Hash Marks

October 27, 2016

Time Out for Sabbath

October 27, 2016
Dallas skyline
football hash marks
Sunday morning

I am tightly wound—more so than ever since I became a widow—and occasionally I feel as though my spring has sprung. My body is talking to me. I simply have to stop and shut down.

Sunday morning was one of those days. After a restless night, I overslept. If I hurried, I could gulp down one cup of coffee before dressing and dashing off to the 8:45 traditional worship service at my church. I simply could not do it. After my second cup of coffee, I found the New York Times in the driveway. I read it from cover to cover for the first time in about six months.

James 3

As I pondered all the Presidential campaign news, rumors and opinions, I recalled the third chapter of James—that tiny letter from the brother of Jesus that hides near the end of the New Testament: But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison… [v. 8]

I thought of my Latina friend, a fourth-generation Texan with an advanced divinity degree, who was accosted last week by a stranger at the gym who began berating her about immigrants and quoting Scripture to her.

As I scrolled through Facebook, I saw a picture of my beautiful young African-American friend, who was recently the victim of racist posts by fellow members of the church where she served as a minister.

Feeling guilty about skipping church (my mother still admonishes me from her grave), I took time off to reflect on Sabbath, not observed in the Jewish tradition by most Christian churches.

My mind wandered back to the Creation story: And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made. [Genesis 2:2, 3]

How often do we truly rest on Sunday? Too often, early services simply free us to return quickly to our weekday busyness. Worship should be part of that day of rest from the routine. Still feeling guilty—and perhaps rationalizing my decision—I heard the words of Jesus when he rebuked the Pharisees: The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath. [Mark 2:27]

Sunday brunch

I decided to make my Sunday morning a time of rest and reflection. By now more than two hours had passed, so I decided to cook a true Sunday brunch and to eat in my breakfast room rather that at the kitchen counter. I grilled a bacon-and-cheese sandwich, topped it with a fried egg and served it with a side of black beans, tomatoes and pico de gallo.

Maria Shriver meme

As I leisurely ate, I checked out Sunday morning blogs. Four spoke to me in a special way, none more powerfully than Maria Shriver, in her weekly Sunday Paper, “It’s time to take a breath.” When I read her wise advice—“Get out a piece of paper, breathe in and breathe out, and start writing”—I took action. I left the dirty dishes on the table, threw the newspaper into the trash and, without dressing or making the bed, sat down to write.

During this timeout, I continued to mull over all that inspired me that morning. I recalled the heartfelt cries of a young widow, posted at 2 a.m., hurting over people’s needless cruelties—from thoughtlessness to malicious gossip. In my busyness, I am often thoughtless.

I was struck by the call from Jim Wallis of Sojourners to fellow Christians, especially clergy, to Witness the Vote: Protect Vulnerable Voters from Racial Profiling. Wallis and his fellow radical evangelicals like Tony Campolo always prick my conscience, as they try to live out the Gospel in their daily lives. I hope people respond to Wallis’ call. I will be much too busy on Election Day.

I reacted to the blog posted by the Christian Coalition, The Key to Evangelism in the 21st Century. David Mathis wrote:

“In our progressively post-Christian society, the importance of hospitality as an evangelistic asset is growing rapidly. Increasingly, the most strategic turf on which to engage unbelievers with the good news of Jesus may be the turf of our own homes.

“When people don’t gather in droves for stadium crusades, or tarry long enough on the sidewalk to hear your gospel spiel, what will you do? Where will you interact with them about the things that matter most?

“Invite them to dinner.”

I remembered a morning in the 70s, when I taught high school Sunday School. I urged my students to bring friends with them the following Sunday, but one young man disagreed. “I would never invite someone to church whom I had not already invited to my home.” To a great degree, the Church has yet to learn that.

Since Lev’s death, I have been grateful for couples who have continued to extend hospitality and invite me to dinner, as I am for single women who have reached out to me. I try to do the same, but too often, in my busyness, I fill my social calendar with time with good friends. I fail to include those I don’t know or like so well.

Teachers can teach, but only learners can learn. Learning takes place when change occurs. Time will tell whether I learned anything during my Sabbath timeout.


  1. Sunday I met a lady on the parking lot Sunday morning and she and I walked into church together. I asked if she would like to sit with me and she responded yes then she chose our pew.

    This was fine but I wondered if you were there and if I would miss you.

    Dear Ella, I missed you but fully understand that found-time that doing something totally different offers. You will remember this morning. A break in schedule can be creative and stimulating and God loves you anyway, maybe even because of. You are a creative person and creative people need space to work and time is space.

    I visited the Art Center Sunday afternoon and all kinds of ideas are bubbling up inside of me.
    Love Mary Ann

    1. Thanks for sharing, Mary Ann. I fully intended to be in church. But the morning turned into a meaningful worship experience. I’m careful how I say that. Lots of bad jokes–“being in nature to worship,” translated “out fishing on the lake.” In looking back on the day, I realize that I ran away from allowing time to think in the years after Lev died, part of not allowing my mind to wander in dark, sad places–whether to ruminate about a past I could not change or worry about a future I that scared me. Simply being still and letting one’s mind wander where it will, taking time for reflection, for hearing God’s voice may be a sign of recovery. I may be writing more about this in an upcoming blog.

  2. Wow! Maybe your best post yet, Ella! So powerful … and so beautifully written. In a column full of great lines, this one struck me hard:
    “I would never invite someone to church whom I had not already invited to my home.” To a great degree, the Church has yet to learn that.
    Thanks for sharing!

    1. Coming from you, Bob, that is high praise. Amazing what can happen when we let our minds wander. Memory from long ago—rebuke from a boy who was quietly rebelling, who struggled in college and who died much too soon. And yet what he said that morning is engraved in my memory, a significant life lesson. I remember another boy, a leader in the youth group, who challenged something else I said by quoting Matthew 25 to me. Another unforgettable life lesson.

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