On Christmas morning, tucked into our stockings, H and I opened the gift of a one-hour massage from his mother, Geri. A gift she purchased from a friend at church because the word was getting around: the masseuse is good, and she works from home. We were giddy. What a fantastic gift!
Geri relished in coming up with something we both needed but would be hesitant to purchase for ourselves. And then she revealed one little detail that made the gift even more meaningful. “Wilma, the masseuse, is blind,” she revealed, “you might remember her escorted down the aisle for communion last Sunday.”
When Wilma greeted us at the front door of her home, I’m thankful she couldn’t see my facial expression. Because it’s safe to say that Wilma is older than both H and I, by at least two decades.
This is going to be interesting, I thought to myself as I watched her shuffle across the tile floor, arms outstretched as protection from bumping into anything harmful. I’m going to sheepishly admit right here that Tim Conway and his infamous comedy sketch, The Oldest Man came to mind.
I felt as if we had just showed up to my Grandma’s house and asked her to give us a massage.
Feeling her way around furniture and past walls, Wilma had us sit on the couch as she vanished out of view, into the kitchen. Her little dog curled up on a stool provided a helpful distraction. Hearing hints of her whereabouts–door of the microwave clicking shut, dial turning, hum of motor, refrigerator door opening and closing–seconds later, she appears holding a warm towel and a cold, water bottle.
“Which one of you wants to go first,” she asks gently through smiling lips while standing in front of us.
Tim Conway’s Oldest Man comedy sketch, I am quickly convicted, is a laughable comparison for this lovely woman. I offer to go first.
With surprising virility, Wilma’s hands rub away stress as she quietly recounts the Sunday sermon, love of community where she worships; punctuating moments of silence with stories of Jesus leading as her view slowly shrinks from panorama to porthole to pinhole to anticipated darkness.
“People are often skeptical when they see me, but I’m stronger than I look,” she admits through chuckles, as if she is discerning doubt like reading braille on the skin of my legs.
Wilma gives us one of the best massages we’ve ever had because of her heightened sensitivity. As her eyes rest from seeing, she is quick to listen and slow to speak; discerning tension where the body needs healing applied with the gift of her hands.
While lying face down on the table, I repent for incorrect quick assessments and ask God to meet Wilma’s needs.
“There some people brought to him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk, and they begged Jesus to place his hand on him. After he took him aside, away from the crowd, Jesus put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then he spit and touched the man’s tongue. He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, “Ephphatha!” (which means ‘Be opened!’).”
Wilma’s eyes may not be opened to capture the light, but her life is characterized as someone living free from spiritual blindness. And Jesus longs for all of us to experience the healing miracle of Ephphatha. Not only that your mouth and ears be opened, but your whole being lived in a posture of receptivity to the presence of God.
Hurry, hustle, and being characterized as harried means we are living fast, skimming the surface of things. Making critical judgments versus living as if every moment we have breath is critical for fulfilling purpose.
How might a posture of openness to Christ look like for you practically over the next 40 days?
What is it that you can lay at the altar of Sabbath and allow God to heal into wholeness?
The Sabbath is for healing whatever it is that has gone awry in your life.
Maybe your body is fit but you need healing from overthinking, over analyzing, self-criticism, and being guilt-ridden about everything. If shame has beaten you down, Jesus longs for you to be freed into the sound of his voice speaking truth.
“Steep your life in God-reality, God initiative, God provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.” Matthew 6:33 MSG
By the time I pulled my limp, relaxed body upright from the massage table, my spirit was awakened. I had experienced more than a massage but an awakening to holiness—something different, set apart, other than.
This week, we begin the holy, penitent season of Lent. Six weeks to discover the unexpected grace of an invitation by your friend Jesus to cultivate humility.
On Ash Wednesday, some will walk around with the sign of hope on the forehead declaring, I’ve made providence into a predictable formula and Christ, the servant of my self-reliance. Forgive me.
Why Sabbath for Lent?
Lent provides an altar for leaning into vulnerability; choosing the smudgy grace of a do-over through Christ’s crucifixion, and accepting that you are dust.
God is present, but we can’t see the evidence of His presence in undesirable circumstances.
God is knocking and waiting, but we can’t hear or discern when distracted by busyness.
God is trustworthy, but we are skeptical due to the current climate.
God is faithful, but disappointment halts hope, making us doubters.
Lent is an opportunity for God to reveal how he’s been at work in your one beautiful life.
While you are waiting for circumstances to shift, find clarity while standing empty handed and dumbfounded, God is longing to give fresh perspective to your spiritual blindness.
“The evidence accumulates that if we are to live out the reality and meaning of creation, we are going to be inextricably involved with Sabbath keeping. If Genesis is a text for getting us in on and participating in God’s creation work, Sabbath is our point of entry,” writes Eugene Peterson.
If you have are asking, “Why am I here,” and “What is my purpose,” join me here on the blog every Wednesday, over the next forty days as we explore A Sabbath Journey for Lent.
Once a week, we’ll surrender a day of keeping busy and abide with Jesus through rest. Forget being consumed with matters of the body to focus on matters of the spirit. By resting a specific part of your body each week, God will bring fresh revelation, meaning, and purpose into focus.
Through the entry point of Sabbath, we’ll discern the good God is creating for you amidst the chaos.
One day of rest, one week at a time, let’s sojourn on a pilgrimage from the darkness of sin’s grasp into the Light illuminating hope through resurrection.
How to join A Sabbath Journey for Lent
Subscribe to the blog here and every Wednesday, over the next six weeks beginning on Ash Wednesday, February 26, you’ll find a new reflection sliding quietly into your inbox at 6:00am EST. Stories to ponder, scripture to meditate upon, and questions to contemplate, all focused on resting a part of your anatomy.
And when you subscribe, you’ll receive access to the FREE download of A Sabbath Journey for Lent, an eBook I wrote especially with you in mind. For those who downloaded the book when it originally released, you are good to go.
Already a blog subscriber? You’ll find the link to free resources at the bottom of this email.
Do you have friends that need healing? Friends that need a reminder of Jesus’ love and truth? Share this post on social media as an invitation to join us during Lent.
And follow me on Instagram where I keep conversation fresh between us several times a week.
Let’s surrender time for rest during the Lenten season and find God’s love fresh and new on Easter!
Shelly so lovely. We often have preconceived notions about others, don’t we? When we’re open to the gift of them, as individuals worthy of love and dignity, God opens our own eyes about who they really are beneath the surface. As an author, I know you understand the pain of sitting. I too went to a most unusual masseuse, a nun, when I was writing my book. I wondered how on earth she would really help. A group of sisters had a massage therapy unit in a local hospital, and I had heard about it on TV. It was less expensive than going the usual massage route, so I thought I’d give it a try.. I was so pleasantly surprised, and before we knew it, though I remained completely relaxed, the nun and I were talking about spiritual things (beneath the surface things,, including my book–and she really encouraged me in my topic and writing of it). And she was one terrific massage therapist, and had been highly trained. Who knew? The nuns did this to bring a little income into the order (and no tipping allowed)!
I love it that you are taking a Lenten Sabbath Sabbatical (so to speak) ala Lev. 25. We will eat from the land of your past plentiful productiveness. The fruit will be sweet, I know. May the Lord continue to bless your life and your fruit and your writing. I hope to be in better touch soon. Still helping my beloved mother. Now she is in out-patient PT, and she doesn’t like it, but she needs it. This bossy daughter of hers, let’s her know that! 🙂
Lynn, you have the best stories! Thank you for always, persistently being in my corner. Praying the same for you–may He continue to bless you life abundantly. Lots of love to you!
What an interesting concept–to rest a different part of the body each week of Lent. I look forward to fresh perspective, revelation, meaning, and purpose, as well as discerning the good God is creating for us amidst the chaos. Thank you, Shelly, for your ongoing passion and effort to positively impact others for the glory of God–including me. 🙂
Thanks for being here Nancy. I hope Lent is a meaningful 40 days for you.
Another great read! I enjoy your writings and wisdom. Miss the talks at the counter! All the best!
Aw, thank you so much Lewis, that meams a lot to me. I miss those conversations too!
Oh Shelly, such a lovely post. I have made some snap impressions lately and they are rarely on target. I will be joining you for these 40 days of Lent. It sounds like just what I need as a gentle companion during Lent. Thank you.
So glad you are joining us Helen. What grace!