Breathe: Experiencing God’s Shabbat

by Karen Nicholson

Go fix a cup of tea. Turn off all electronics. Sit in your favorite chair. Now, close your eyes and take three slow cleansing breaths.


The light of God found in Shabbat

You have just experienced Shabbat—Hebrew for pausing or ceasing. Didn’t it feel good? In Exodus 16, God showed the Israelites how to change their slave mentalities and enjoy Sabbath—a time of rest to enjoy God’s gifts. God taught them to set limits, find freedom in their busy lives, and ways to develop Sabbath hearts. God took them out of Egypt and its internalized demands. God desired for them to breathe and enjoy Shabbat. Those same lessons are relevant today: God knows it’s not going to be easy!

Are you in bondage to things in your life (family/friends, job, ministries, etc.)? Are you possibly even addicted to being exhausted at day’s end? “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free,” (John 8:32). We first have to admit we are overwhelmed with misguided priorities, then we are to obey God and not let blessings become burdens. God made Sabbath the capstone on Day Seven of Creation, and included it in the Ten Commandments. (The Pharisees tried to sacrifice Christ on the altar of their man-made rules as they elevated the Sabbath above the Creator of the day in Matthew 12:1-14. Isn’t that ironic?)

God doesn’t want us to be enslaved. God wants us to have boundaries to free us to enjoy God’s provisions. As women, we need to learn to say “No,” and mean it! To clear our schedules, closets, desks, and so forth, we are saying “Yes” to God and “No” to Satan who delights in our “guilt trips” if we are not in constant motion. We don’t want others following in our footsteps to miss out on God’s riches that are meant to be soul-settling. We want to be great examples to them. This summer, dive into Priscilla Shirer’s Bible study Breathe with a group of friends. Grab a picnic basket and take a hike with your family to enjoy God’s design. Photograph a “gift” from God for your devotional area. Or simply grab a glass of lemonade, go to your front porch, breathe and taste God’s gift of Shabbat, Sabbath.

Karen Sanctuary 005Karen Nicholson serves as Personal Development Coordinator for West Virginia American Baptist Women’s Ministries. She is married, has two adult children and stays busy homemaking and working part-time at her local YMCA, and is active in her home church in Hurricane, West Virginia.


“A Time of Grace: Aging and Faith”–Upcoming Event

shutterstock_142939927“A Time of Grace,” September 29-October 3, 2014, is a virtual mission encounter for women offering the opportunity for participants to explore issues of aging from the perspective of faith. Themes and activities will offer the opportunity for those who are of mature age themselves to experience this season of their lives with grace and purpose; those who are experiencing the aging of their loved ones will find encouragement and increased awareness of how to be in relationship as needs change over time. Daily activities will address the spiritual side of aging, physical issues and changing needs, legal concerns, family relationships, how seniors may engage in needed ministries, and how congregations can reach out to seniors in special ways.

Special guests for “A Time of Grace” include Rev. Jennifer C. Streeter, chaplain at the Fairport Baptist Homes in Rochester, New York; Rev. Randy Frederikson, chaplain at Trail Ridge Retirement Community, an American Baptist Homes of the Midwest facility in Sioux Falls, South Dakota; Mr. Stacey Lucich, an estate planning attorney in Twin Falls, Idaho; and the Rev. Dr. Bobby Joe Saucer from Decatur, Georgia, author of The Judson Press title Our Help in Ages Past: The Black Church’s Ministry among the Elderly.

Virtual mission encounters are a way for women to explore mission topics more deeply while still being able to attend to their responsibilities at work, home, church, or in their communities. Suggested activities to explore each day’s focus are emailed to participants: each participant determines how many activities she may have time to do within her daily schedule. Activities may include such things as reading the newspaper, exploring websites, reading and responding to blog posts, taking prayer walks, researching a topic of interest further, listening to audio files or watching videos, and other activities. Every evening includes a conference call featuring a special guest with particular expertise or stories to share on the daily theme; participants may attend as many or as few conference calls as their schedule and interest allow.

For more information, speaker bios, and online registration, visit

Are You a Well-oiled Servant?

By Jonna Turek

"Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins," by Friedrich Wilhelm von Schadow, 1789-1862. Used by permission,

“Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins,” by Friedrich Wilhelm von Schadow, 1789-1862. Used by permission,

Scripture: Matthew 25 (NIV)

The Parable of the Ten Virgins

25 “At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.

“At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’

“Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’

“‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’

10 “But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.”

Women in Christian ministry are like the women in this parable, in that we yearn in our hearts to serve the bridegroom, Jesus Christ.

We can liken the lamps in the story to our various gifts of talents, time, and abilities. In this symbolism, the oil is the stores of time, energy, and creativity we maintain by wise use and care of those gifts. If we wish to be capable of responding when the bridegroom calls us to service, we must keep an ample supply on hand.

We care for our physical selves by maintaining good health habits – no one puts good oil into a leaky jar! So, wise women include regular exercise, a balanced diet, sensible sleep habits, and ample doses of fresh air and sunshine in their routines.

Our spirits must be refreshed frequently in order to have good quality oil in our jars. That means sitting as students in Bible study and as participants in worship (not just always leading them!), fellowship, and retreats. What is poured out in leadership must be replenished.

This applies equally to individuals and to ministry groups. Take care not to over-schedule your women, allowing a balance between leading them in service and in providing nurturing opportunities for them.

We must take care of our precious jars of oil so we will always be ready to serve when Christ calls.

Jonna TurekJonna Turek is active in her congregation and in women’s ministries. Jonna writes the blog “Power Walking with Jonna,” and under the pen-name J.B. Hawker, Jonna has published several mystery novels.

Do you enjoy this blog? Help it continue by supporting American Baptist Women’s Ministries. Click here to donate. American Baptist Women’s Ministries is a diverse community of American Baptist women and girls engaged in ministry in Christ’s name. With local, area, region/state, and national levels of ministry, AB Women’s Ministries creates a community of passionately faithful, mission-minded women and girls engaged in worship, service, and friendship.

Is Self-Care on Your Schedule in 2014?

By Rev. Sandra Hasenauer

self-careGolden Retrievers have got it goin’ on.

Food, friends, and fun. They don’t need much else from life, really. Just food, friends, and fun. The order of those priorities can change from moment to moment, of course, but they like to keep things simple. It’s all good if you’ve got a tennis ball, someone to throw it for you, and a treat waiting for you when you go back inside.

I like to try to learn from the Golden that lives with me in my house. For me to stay balanced, those three “fs” could certainly go a long way. Of course, I’d also add another “f” to that list: “faith.” I can deal with a lot in life if I just keep myself focused on faith, friends, fun, and that occasional meal to keep me going.

For women of faith, the phrase “self-care” can often feel too self-ish. Aren’t we supposed to pour ourselves out for others? Aren’t we supposed to sacrifice, put everyone else before ourselves, and work tirelessly for God’s will here on earth?

Well, yes and no. We are supposed to work for God’s will, we are supposed to have compassion for others and work towards the betterment of all, and sacrifice does come into it. But there comes a point at which, if we don’t care for ourselves, we no longer have anything left to give. We can become physically unhealthy, thereby limiting our ability to be out and about in the world. We can become emotionally strained, our interactions with others cased in feelings of resentment or irritability. We can become spiritually dry, no longer experiencing that deep and personal indwelling with God that gives us our purpose in the first place.

In the last couple of years, I’ve been working hard on changing how I look at my calendar. Rather than looking at the calendar as a series of empty time slots waiting to be filled, I’ve been training myself to look at it as chunks of energy. For years, I had been in the habit of responding to every request or opportunity that came along by thinking, “I don’t have too much going on that week…I guess I should say yes,” or “Sure, that won’t take too long. I can fit it in.” You can predict the end of that story. In fact, I’m positive you’ve lived that story yourself–and are, perhaps, even living it now.

The change came when I realized I was tired of being tired. I was tired of feeling unhealthy and, frankly, cranky. It took me awhile, but I figured out that time wasn’t the issue. Let’s face it: Some things take more out of us than others. Just because something may not take too much time, doesn’t mean it doesn’t take an extraordinary amount of our spiritual and/or emotional energy. Once I learned how to look at my calendar as units of energy rather than units of time, I was able to reframe the question. How does God want me to expend my energy? What are those things I should prioritize in my schedule that will help me build or renew my energy reserves? What are things that–while they may be great things–are not things that I should be spending my energy on? And how will my saying ‘no’ actually empower others?

And all that means, if I have empty slots of time on my calendar, that emptiness is exactly what needs to exist in those moments. I’m renewing my energy for the next thing God would have me do. And if I say ‘no’ to something, that leaves room for someone else to say ‘yes.’ Who am I to predict how God might be wanting others to expend their energies?

What a concept.

If this is ringing bells for you, here are some questions you might want to ask yourself next time you look at your calendar: What are those responsibilities that will take more energy than others? How can you make space for them, to be more effective in meeting those responsibilities creatively? What are those things you need to make time for that will help you gain or renew your energy? Are there responsibilities you’ve taken on that aren’t high on God’s priority list for you–that you’re doing out of a sense of obligation, not wanting to disappoint someone, simply because you feel like you should? If you said ‘no’ to something, would it give someone else a chance to say ‘yes’?

It’s time for me to stop writing blog posts and go play with a certain Golden in my house. He and I will both be the better for some time with a tennis ball. How are you going to care for your energy today?

headshot higherresThis blog post is contributed by Rev. Sandra Hasenauer, associate executive director of American Baptist Women’s Ministries, and companion to two dogs who make great sermon illustrations on a regular basis.

Do you enjoy this blog? Help it continue by supporting American Baptist Women’s Ministries. Click here to donate. American Baptist Women’s Ministries is a diverse community of American Baptist women and girls engaged in ministry in Christ’s name. With local, area, region/state, and national levels of ministry, AB Women’s Ministries creates a community of passionately faithful, mission-minded women and girls engaged in worship, service, and friendship.

New podcast episode: “Depression and Women,” an interview with Rev. Dr. Judith Craik

revdrjudithcraiknov2013Depression is a very real problem in the lives of many women, and it can become particularly difficult during the holiday season. In this episode, we have conversation with Rev. Dr. Judith Craik, American Baptist pastor and pastoral counselor. Our conversation looks at depression from the perspective of faith: It includes definitions, symptoms, and healthy ways to address depression in our lives.

Click here for the episode, or find it in iTunes.

Put on Your Own Mask First–The Importance of Self-Care

Photo by Miikaa H; Permission via

Photo by Miikaa H; Permission via

“When the oxygen masks appear, lift up and pull a mask towards you starting the flow of oxygen. Place your nose and mouth inside. Be sure and put your mask on first before assisting others. Oxygen will be flowing even if the bag does not inflate.”

If you have flown in an airplane in the last 20 years or so, the above set of instructions ought to be quite familiar to you. It is standard operating procedure for the flight attendants to share when going over the safety features of the airplane you have just boarded. The phrase “be sure and put your mask on first before assisting others” has become my mantra when it comes to my self-care. How can I help anyone else or be present for anyone else in any capacity if I am not in the regular habit of taking care of myself first?

Let’s face it: Our lives are jam-packed caring for and doing for others, and that’s not a bad thing. It’s good to care for others and to be present to our families, friends, and the strangers we encounter. But it’s not good if your motivation for doing it comes from a personal wellspring that has been experiencing  emotional and physical drought. How many times have you found yourself overworked and overwhelmed, but just kept going, even knowing that you weren’t at your best?

“Putting your mask on first” means observing a regular Sabbath in whatever form make you happy; it’s the activity, or non-activity, that you do just for you and for nobody else. It’s what gives you joy and gets you back in touch with your best self. Maybe it’s quilting or needlepoint, getting a facial or massage regularly, going for a walk or run, bird watching, going to the gym, reading a book with a nice cup of tea, maybe it’s journaling or meditation or yoga…. I could go on and on because it will be different for each of us. But the point is that there is something that you can do on a regular basis to take care of you. It doesn’t have to be expensive but it does take a commitment on your part to put yourself first. For some of you, that may sound like a really selfish thing. Put your needs above everyone else’s? Well, I’ve got Good News for you. It’s NOT!

Another way to look at this idea of self-care comes from the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 22, beginning at verse 37. When speaking of the greatest commandment, Jesus says: “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the greatest and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” Ask yourself, how have I loved myself? What am I doing to take care of myself so that it is reflected in the way I treat others?

Friends, as the summer winds down and the hint of fall whispers, demands for our time and energy will increase. Now is the time to take stock, and find ways to love yourself so that you can joyfully love others. It’s time to put your mask on first so that you can bring your best self to every situation you encounter in the living of these days ahead.

Jackie SaxonRev. Jacquline Saxon serves as Vice President for Student Affairs and Vocation at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Austin, Texas; she has also volunteered in numerous national positions with American Baptist Churches USA.

This blog post is part of a series on self-care in ministry which will appear over the 2013-2014 program year. We too often forget, in our concern to care for others, that it is important for us to attend to our spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical health so that we are best able to serve as whole women of God.