I went to the beach today. As I came up from my first swim in an ocean (well, a gulf anyway), in far too long, I saw a fin out of the corner of my eye. A pod of dolphins – I counted at least three – swam by. One passed less than 20 feet from where I was standing, chest deep in blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico. I breathed deep.
This was the start of my Sabbath.
This morning, after doing a time of personal prayer and worship, I decided to head to the beach. I thought it would be good to see what the people who don’t go to church on Sunday morning do. Because the reality is, in America,there are more people out of the church on Sunday morning than in it.
The other reason is pretty personal. I work too hard, especially if I’m having great time doing it. Most journalists will tell you that it’s tough to let go of a story (and there is always another story). There is this need to keep chasing them down; and if you don’t watch it, you spin right out of control. It’s easy to get caught up in the bubble of an intense event where so much is at stake.
So, for me, Sabbath is an intentional time of letting all that go. Of remembering the abundance of creation and the importance of enjoying it. As kids made sandcastles and a family ate fried chicken for lunch on the beach, I got back in touch with how good this life is when we take the time to notice.
My afternoon was a reminder that not everyone shares in that abundance. I headed to St. Petersburg for a late lunch. Like most downtown areas, poverty and wealth sit side by side, like two kids in the back seat of the car trying to push each other out of the way.
I remembered that Florida was hit very hard by the “Great Recession.”The Tampa Bay area was no exception.Florida’s foreclosure rate led the nationjust a year ago; and although the ratehas since fallen,the damage was significant. I saw it in the boarded up businesses and abandoned strip malls.
Here’s where I went back to work – a little, anyway. I decided to head over to a park and try to talk with people. It looked like several folks who lived on the streets were there. Note that I’m working on not using the word “homeless” aftermy conversationwithRev. Lorenza Andrade-Smithlast week.
That’s where I ran into James. He was busy picking up aluminum cans and stacking them in a huge shopping cart. I asked him how much money he made digging cans out of trash cans. “40 cents a pound,” he said. He told me it takes 28 cans to get to a pound. That means to earn five bucks, he has to pick up up 12.5 pounds, or 350 aluminum cans.
If James has a good day, he can celebrate by heading to McDonald’s for a Big Mac combo meal.
In the Gospel of John, chapter 10, Jesus tells the disciples that everyone who came before him was a thief: “But I came so that all might have life abundant,” he said. Maybe Sabbath is the place we re-connect with God’s abundance in our lives. When we enjoy what God has given us in creation, worship, and relationships through Sabbath, we “taste and see” what is good.
For me at least, on this Sabbath, stepping out of the bubble and frenzy that is General Conference meant I really saw James. I listened to him, because I slowed down long enough to look.
And maybe that’s exactly what I needed.Days of miracle and wonder, indeed.