What a Shabbaton!


I’m writing this Shabbat encouragement on Mother’s Day as I look at the lake from my bedroom window at Pilgrim Pines. Sid and I are here this weekend for the (hopefully second annual) Ruach Shabbaton. Despite the forecast of rain the weather has been perfect, cool but gorgeous.


Enormous thanks to those who worked tirelessly to make this “adult camping” experience a reality – Shayna and Vicki last year, Cheryl, Betty, Brandon, Vicki, Sue, Rabbi Nathan, countless others – So much work, but so worth it to those you have served.


The Shabbaton is designed to be just that – a time away from our secular lives to be with God and our community. As a retreat it takes our weekly routine of Shabbat to a deeper level by removing us from our usual environment and tucking us away in a beautiful slice of heaven close to nature in New Hampshire away from the usual distractions.


As we entered musically and prayerfully with Dave Nichol’s deeply engaging Kabbalat Shabbat service on Friday we were able to begin to decompress from the challenges we all face in our lives. As the candles were lit, as the prayer-filled songs were sung, as the faces of those familiar and new exchanged loving glances, our ability to center ourselves on Him began.


So many opportunities for fellowship and heart-to-heart connections with others. So many acts of love and service. Torah study, beautiful worship services, scenery, stories, sisterhood, smiles, sincerity, seeking.


On Shabbat afternoon one choice was a walk with Rabbi Nathan to discuss the Sermon on the Mount. A group of us walked to a hill overlooking the lake and listened to Rabbi Nathan read these passages (and a little bit more 😊) aloud to us. As some shared reflections on the passages’ meanings and the experience of listening to Scripture read aloud, it did feel as if we were experiencing what it may have felt like for the apostles as they listened and learned the Way from our most famous Rabbi.


A refreshing Shabbat nap followed. Then to be able to learn Israeli dance from Abby, more prayer, more music, more fellowship, Havdalah around the campfire, more music, more fellowship. Then to a well earned night’s sleep.


My night’s sleep on Saturday was anything but usual.


It is not unusual for me to awake in the night and check my watch. On some nights I may have trouble falling back to sleep. At those times my thoughts often go to my to-do list unless I wrangle them back with prayer and meditative music. This night was different.


I woke up from a terrible dream, realistic, scary. Then fell back into the same dream and it had a resolution with a clear message to me, one I may find hard to follow but that will give me comfort if I do.


I then fell into a frustrating dream, but when I thought about it in the morning I had new ways to look at a situation, new direction for my life and for those involved. It also gave me comfort about a situation that had been troubling me.


When I awoke I also had very clear thoughts to share with a person here. I can’t say I heard from God. I just feel confident I am to share these thoughts. (Update: on the day we were leaving that very person was standing at the foot of the outdoor stairs at exactly the time I was “randomly” walking outside to leave. Yes, we did talk.)


My dreams were not like dreams. I was able to wake up and go back into them and clearly remember them in the morning, these not being characteristics of my usual dreams. Usually when I awake in the middle of the night my mind starts thinking about my life instead of being able to fall right back asleep and be back in a dream. These dreams also were more meaningful and logical than usual. They gave me insights I otherwise did not have and direction for meaningful actions.


Being able to immerse our lives completely in Him for a weekend enabled me to separate from the secular not just for a Shabbat but for an extended period of time. I did so not by myself but within my faith community. This combination is powerful!!! It enables us to hear God in ways I truly believe we are not otherwise able to do. We get evidences of His Hand on our lives at other times, but the Shabbaton provided a true immersion. It is no coincidence I was able to hear Him so clearly here!


I am listening to Chagigah radio this morning as Hal just finished playing Paul Wilbur’s “Shalom Jerusalem” at my request. I just told Sid this is the best Mother’s Day ever and it’s only 8 AM. (Update: okay add to that Tom Jones singing “My Yiddisha Momma” on Chagigah radio (!) followed by the Ruach men serving us Mother’s Day breakfast so lovingly and their rendition of that song too!!)


We can’t have retreats all the time. Yet this insight has reinforced the importance of making space for His Presence in our lives in every opportunity we can create. We will need to create these opportunities since we can’t retreat from our daily lives. Instead let’s maximize daily prayer, morning, throughout the day thanking Him, before bed. (As if an affirmation just as I wrote this, Chagigah is playing a song with lyrics based on “Modeh Ani” our morning prayer).


Serve, serve, serve, for that brings His Love to others as we feel His Love and want to share it. Don’t skip experiencing Shabbat fully. Welcome it timely on Friday night, immerse in it, and extend it to Havdalah to start as late as allowable on Saturday night.


Every moment that we read Scripture and pray we are with Him. Every time we serve we are bringing through us His Love to others. Every time we stop trying to solve problems on our own we are bringing Him into our lives. Every time we seek guidance our Abba listens. Do we? Every time we fail and are filled with sorrow, Yeshua is holding us in His arms. Every time we seek Him He is here. Are we listening?


May we bring back the blessings and the lessons of the Shabbaton better able to live more intimately in His Presence, for ourselves and for those we serve. May those we serve be all whom we know and meet.


Shabbat shalom.



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