Sabbath days (part 3)

This is the third post in the series Sabbath days. If you have not read the previous posts, you can read the first one here and the second one here.


“If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the Lord’s holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the Lord, and I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.”

For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

—Isaiah 58:13, 14

Sabbath had become kind of a pain. I certainly waited for it every week, but once it passed by I’d realize how disappointing it had been. I had great expectation for the Sabbath that never materialized.

During my sophomore year in college, the Spanish Sabbath school continued under new leadership, but it never took off. I can’t exactly remember when we stopped doing it but there was no point in continuing there when we could all probably have a more fulfilling Sabbath experience attending other groups.

So I began attending another Sabbath school which I liked because it combined feeling and rational thought. Many great professors are part of this group and they bring thought-provoking perspectives. Yes, I am a nerd.

Despite the great fit, I started to show up less and less often. I would stay in my room thinking I had things figured out. I thought, my relationship with Jesus is personal. I don’t really need to be part of a group. I can just stay in my room and read the Bible. You know, have my own devotional. That’ll be more fulfilling.

Deep down (or not so deep) I knew things would not get better. However, that’s what I told myself on Saturday mornings to be okay with myself for sleeping in. After all, I had been really busy during the week and was really tired by the time Sabbath arrived. I deserved my break, my alone time.

This changes to my Sabbath came as a result of how I felt during the week. By the end I was not only tired but extremely frustrated. Perhaps I did not get as far as I wanted or needed in my clarinet repertoire. Perhaps my ear was still as bad as the previous week. Perhaps my writing did not seem to get better. Whether it was knowing too little or failing at accomplishing relevance, I felt as frustrated as never before.

Sabbath became my day. It was a break, or so I told myself. Little by little, I made Sabbath a day where I could get ahead on the things I was behind. What if I worked on my ear or read a good book? It is for a good cause and, besides, there is nothing inherently wrong with those activities. So, I began doing those things. I began taking advantage of that day of rest to not rest.

I quickly noticed that doing these things frustrated me even more, because I knew I was cheating God. I did not feel okay going my own way on the Sabbath. And even if I wanted to blame my guilt on conservatism, that’d be futile. As Ezekiel 20:20 says, Sabbath is a sign of a commitment between God and me. This is not legalism, this is about a commitment with God. Sabbath is a sign of that and a reminder of who God is.

Whether it was trying to advance on my musical abilities or adding something to my brain or maybe even playing video games to give vent to my frustrations, I felt empty. The more I left God out of the picture, the more dissatisfied I became.

I had willingly distanced myself from God. Sabbath was no longer a Sabbath, it was just a day off.

When I went back home this summer, it hit me how much my spiritual life had changed. Before I left Mexicali in the summer of 2012, my relationship with Jesus looked like a linear graph with a pretty good slope. Three years later, I couldn’t help but see a parabola.

Going home was my reality check. It was time to realize where I really stood. I had to categorically admit I had screwed up.

I only had two options. Ask God for help or quit.

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#004 – Guillermo Ximenez

[audio http://traffic.libsyn.com/ofloversandfools/004_-_Guillermo_Ximenez.mp3]

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Hace ya un poco más de dos semanas tuve la oportunidad de platicar nuevamente con Guillermo Ximenez. Hubo un tiempo en el que lo acompañaba en el piano a las diferentes iglesias a las que visitaba, incluyendo una iglesia en El Centro, California, y otra en Yuma, Arizona. Ya ha pasado tiempo de eso y ahorita él se encuentra grabando su primer álbum.

De esto y más hablamos en este episodio.

Junto con este episodio, estamos lanzando una campaña en Indiegogo para juntar fondos para este álbum del que Memo habla. No importa si tu apoyo es de $10, $5 o $3 dólares, cualquier apoyo por pequeño que sea es de gran ayuda. ¡Checa la campaña y apoya este proyecto!

Sabbath days (part two)

Keep my Sabbaths holy, that they may be a sign between us. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God.

—Ezekiel 20:20

It’s Sabbath again. The week has finally ended and we get to rest once more. That is, if Sabbath has not become  a time of regretful reflection or, even worse, a day of non-stop activity. But hopefully, it is just a beautiful day filled with God’s Word and Spirit.

I began telling you last week about how my Sabbaths changed since I started college. While I thought my spiritual life would consistently move upward in whatever scale there is to measure this journey, I found myself in a game of snakes and ladders landing on snakes every other turn.

The year started and I looked forward to listening to a new pastor in a new church and leading my own Sabbath school. Being away from my home church and the conservatism that to me felt like a hindrance to developing a personal relationship with Jesus, handed me a wonderful chance to grow.

If I remember correctly, the Sabbath school averaged about 10 people the first semester. I was really excited and woke up relatively early so I could be the first one there. At the beginning, people shared responsibilities. One lead in singing, another person would tell a missionary story, and maybe then I would lead in studying the quarterly.

Soon (perhaps by the end of the first semester), we were down to five regular members who came at different times, which made us begin about 20 or 30 minutes late. Leading the Sabbath school became a burden I did not want to carry any longer. But I would, if I had to, because after all, I liked being involved in a kind of ministry.

Attending the Friday night vespers put on by the students (or one student) from Campus Ministries I started to feel like I didn’t belong here. It’s not just that things were different, I had expected something else.

When I came to visit the campus and sat through their Friday night service, I thought they had found what I was looking for. It was a service where balanced had been achieved between liberal and conservatives, where it actually felt wrong to use either of those labels. Although it still was neither conservative nor liberal, it showed poor showmanship. Not that showmanship is good in a worship setting, but a poor one is even worse.

While many people shared my annoyance, many others enjoyed it just as much as I didn’t. So things continued the same way. In return, I started to get more and more frustrated each Friday witnessing how no one seemed to try anything different despite an inspection and overhaul being so obviously needed. Together with my Sabbath school dissatisfactions, Sabbath days became a time of spiritual frustrations.

During my first semester, I did not grow in my relationship with Jesus. But it also did not move backwards. However, my second semester of college suffered a huge regression in my Sabbath keeping and devotional life overall. I was still being obedient in actions but not in spirit.

I don’t want to blame anyone for this. It is not the fault of those organizing worships who do it with the best intentions. It is also not the fault of those who stopped coming to Sabbath school.

Although these are situations that need to be changed, it is my fault for letting these things get in the way of my personal relationship with Jesus.

I am learning, but things don’t get easier. It is a constant struggle to fix my eyes on Jesus and let him guide me.


Next week, I’ll continue looking back on how my Sabbaths have changed.

That is it for now.

Have a great week!

Sabbath Days (part one)

Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the Lord your God has commanded you.

Deuteronomy 5:12

Last week, I traveled back to Lincoln, Nebraska. While I was in the plane, I wrote about how worried and tired I am. It was a Sabbath, a stop day. Yet, I couldn’t stop the fears of failure. I worried and worried about the future. I also mentioned that Jesus gives me a Sabbath. He wants me to surrender my life, including all this burdens I’ve been carrying. I’m supposed to let go and take his yoke.

While last week’s post was about the Sabbath, I only tried to show how Jesus gives me a time when I can stop worrying. This time, I want to reflect on what I do with that time God has set apart, the Sabbath day.

Since I left home for college in June 2012, my Sabbaths have changed quite a lot —sometimes for the better and many other times for the worse.

When I moved into the dorm, I realized there was no one who would wake me up Saturday morning to put on my  Sabbath attire and sit on a pew in the church across the street. Moreover, once in my room, I would do whatever I want. I could break as many “Sabbath rules” as I wanted.

With my newfound freedom, I decided I would attend church and keep the Sabbath because I wanted to. Pretty boring? Hey, with more freedom comes more responsibility (thanks, Uncle Ben!) and I wasn’t going to betray my principles just because I could.

The thing is: my Sabbaths did change.

I came to Union College excited about being in a Seventh-day Adventist school. I had felt God leading me to this place against my will a couple months before, but over the summer I learned to accept and even enjoy God’s plan. In this new school, I felt my spiritual life could blossom.

The church across the street looked so big in comparison to my home church in Mexicali I was scared. When your church is small, you get involved in everything. Here, I probably would just sit and listen because I was, and still am, too scared of being up in front in a church that size.

Even though the college only has about 800 or 900 students, I had never been in a community sharing a block with so many people. I did not want to rise as a leader, but I did want to have a smaller group I could be part of so I started a Sabbath school in Spanish. This, I thought, would help me study the Bible consistently and hold me accountable in my devotional life as I lead this small group.

Before the school year actually started, I judged that year would change my life spiritually. With great music and a new worship service structure and a small Sabbath school I did not expect the many spiritual struggles I experienced that year.


More on that later.

Today, I’ve had a blessed Sabbath. I took Jesus’ yoke because it is easy and his burden is light.

Shabbat shalom.

#003 – Home (Ricky Amimo)

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I just got back from my summer vacation. It’s that time of the year when the ones so fortunate to still measure their lives in semesters and breaks return to their “busy” lives. To many, myself included, that means being away from home.

That’s what today’s episode is about. Missing home. Why do we miss home? Is it the food, the people or something else? First, we’ll listen to a series of recording I did while I was at the airport this past weekend. The second part of the episode is a conversation I had with Ricky Amimo last Sunday. He talks about home.

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Note: the audio file is an m4a. You shouldn’t have a problem with it. If you do, contact me and I can send you an mp3 file. Although I wanted to upload an mp3 file for greater compatibility, the m4a offered similar file size with higher quality at the same bit rate.

Sabbath

I am flying back to Nebraska today. In fact, I write this as I fly to Minneapolis. It is sad to leave home, but at least I’m almost done with college. Life is uncertain, though. I don’t really know if I’ll go home after I graduate or what I would do there.

Last night, I thought about that while I had coffee with my mom. It was our last time hanging out before I had to go back to Lincoln. We talked about my siblings, taxes, and my life after college. Lately, I avoid talking about grad school or whatever else has to do with being an adult. Well, I’m actually okay talking about it as long as I don’t have to talk about me. The thing is: I really wish I knew what I need to do.

I can’t even write about this. And I won’t.

While I hope I can soon figure out what I will do after college, I need to remember Jesus’ words:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light”‭ (Matthew‬ ‭11:28-30‬ ).

Jesus offers me a Sabbath rest.

Jesus doesn’t want me to worry. He’ll take care of me. I must remember that. Whenever I forget it, uncertainty overwhelms me. It’s a burden I don’t need to carry.

Jesus gives me rest.

Shabbat Shalom.