Gimme Sabbath: How an Ancient Practice Heals Modern Woes

Pensive Student in ClassroomThis article preview comes from a piece I wrote for the October editor of devozine. Click here to read the full piece.

When autumn sets in I am confronted with a new reality. Gone are the long days of summer with their permission for sun lounging and twilight porch gazing. In their place arrives a full calendar; playtime quickly yields to shorter days and more homework.

Once the semester’s deluge sets in, we start counting the weeks until final exams. At the start of each class, I ask my students to check in quickly with themselves: How am I coping with the endless to-do lists?— and with one another: “How are you doing?”

“Raise your hand if you need a break,” I ask. I don’t want my students living in a world of countdowns. I want them to take time to refuel and refresh now. I want them to embrace hours for play, quiet time, and rest.

Though students typically don’t work demanding full-time jobs, they do live their lives feeling as if they work all the time. According to research, many students are online about 10 hours a day, often using multiple devices to do school work and homework, watch videos, and connect on social media.

While most young people view this time online as a break, media, whether for work or play, stimulates our brains. The result? We feel “on” 24/7, even if we think we are using our devices to unwind. We remain plugged in, unable to unplug for reflection, reconnecting, and renewing.

But there is an alternative. Sabbath, the ancient practice of ceasing from work, is both countercultural and counterintuitive: How do we gain something by doing nothing? How do we refill ourselves by emptying our schedules?

Continue reading at devozine.

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Interested in learning more about sabbath tools? Save 20 percent off your purchase on For Sabbath’s Sake at the Upper Room Bookstore with the promo code WOMEN2018 at checkout. 

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When Your Dreams Do Come True: Reflections on Five Years as an Author

I’m speechless.

Well, sort of. Y’all know that can’t be totally true, because it’s hard to get me to shut up.

But today, October 1, 2018, five years after the release of my interfaith memoir Saffron Cross: The Unlikely Story of a How a Christian Minister Married a Hindu Monk, I don’t have words to adequately convey how I feel.

I can try—clumsily—to tell you how much my life has changed with this book (it has). I can try—without clarity—to explain the mysticism of what it means to achieve the dream of signing a traditional publishing book contract (four-fold!) and seeing your family and friends literally hold your life’s work in their hands. I can try—bashfully—to share with you that For Sabbath’s Sake has just won a 2018 Evergreen Award for spiritual leadership, beating out the New York Times best-selling Jesus Calling in its category.

But my words can’t and don’t do it justice.

Gratitude.

That’s all I got.

My heart explodes with gratitude today–for my loved ones, Upper Room Books, Chalice Press, family, faith communities, and all the angels (seen and unseen) who have believe in me and guided me during these five years as I waded into the waters of “author.”

Author.

It’s still crazy.

Thanks to y’all—you who endorsed my books, read their words, believed their messages, who pray prayers, and cheer cheers. You—who bought books and felt so much moved by God’s work in our ordinary lives that you gifted and shared them. You–who joined me on this journey, invite me to your universities, churches, faith communities, homes, and gatherings to talk about how we are all in this together.  

YOU. Thank you.

Fred, Ron, and Mom the week Saffron Cross debuted (October 1, 2013).

We’re celebrating YOU and five years of Saffron Cross and the 1st book birthday of For Sabbath’s Sake by inviting you to use the promo code WOMEN2018 at the Upper Room Books check-out to save 20% off one or both!

Weathering the Storm: Hurricane Florence and Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

My best friend Lindsay would have turned 37 this week. She also would have embraced every witty Hurricane Florence reference. This is because behind the scenes, Lin’s mother was known to us as the red-leather Thriller jacket-wearing “Sister Mary Florence.” Hence the  jokes would be flo-ing (see what I did there?). Even as NC faces destruction, Lin would have us smiling, reminding us that weathering the storm together is what matters most.

This summer, I organized a few high school memory boxes and found all the notes and cards Lin gave me. It was odd premonition that I kept them, but on the other hand, it was no surprise, as she’d been a consistent source of encouragement since I was a friendless middle schooler in 1992.  She and Kate were the first to embrace me, cracking open their partnership to make room for a renegade 3rd wheel. The three of us were inseparable.

For seven years I’ve been writing posts about her suicide. Each year, I approach it with more heartache, because it means one more year has passed without her. Lindsay’s death was driven further home with my own mother’s death last August. Mom’s life-long severe depression and suicide attempts caused me to review my own life, too, as each loss is a missing piece of identity: who are we without the people who gave witness to our lives from their beginnings?

I also imagine what society has missed without its Lindsay K. Apple. At 29, she already had the world by the tail. What heights would she have reached by now? How would her already tremendous impact have spread? Would she have had a daughter as funny and brilliant as she was? A life cut short by pain has its own perpetuity of “what ifs.”

But then I remember what Lindsay continues to accomplish—even after her death. She’s brought friends and family together through a narrative that champions a cause that not only affected her—but is real for every community, regardless of location, race, religion, or politics.

Lin’s suicide, too, was on the cusp of an era in which our very public social media profiles actually increase our risk of loneliness and isolation, an oxymoron we’ve yet to fully grasp. And yet, those same platforms can be life-saving—because they offer us an outlet to reach out at 24/7, because someone, somewhere, is watching and listening.

September is suicide prevention month; Monday was World Suicide Prevention Day. Every day, every week, every month, and every year, too many people—some we know well; others who occupied a public, celebrity status—die from a cause that is preventable. From our children, siblings, parents, other family members or friends—to our role models—we all know someone (directly or indirectly) who has committed suicide.

A bookmark made by Lindsay and gave me on my 18th birthday.

Lindsay’s sunshine lives on in us and in mystical ways in which we cannot fully understand. Though she is not physically here with us, neither is her light hidden from us. It helps us weather even the toughest of storms.

Do you know someone who needs an ear? Listen. Do you know someone who could benefit from suicide prevention resources? Help them call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

We can all make a difference—in honor of Lindsay and many others who felt they had no choice. Join me in supporting “Team Loving Lindsay” in their annual Triad American Foundation for Suicide Prevention “Out of Darkness” community walk on September 22, 2018. Donate today.