Sabbath in Late Fall

For everything there is a season…

Sometimes on the Sabbath
all you can do is

settle into the soft body of yourself

and listen to what it says.

Listen to

the exhaustion that is deeper than tiredness

the hunger that is for more than food

the thirst that is for more than drink

the longing for comfort that is more than physical.

On the Sabbath
body and soul reach out for time of a different sort

time that is full of space rather than activity:

time to watch the burning bush in your own back yard…

the movement of the wind among bare branches…

the last leaf that clings to the branch before its final letting go.

Letting go is hard,

letting go of that which no longer works

that which no longer brings joy and meaning

that which is no longer full of life.

It seems cruel
That something that used to be so beautiful

should fall to the ground

sinking into the earthy mud along with everything else that is dying,

no longer recognizable for what it used to be.

It seems cruel but it is the way of things.

One generation gives its life for the next.

One season slips away so another can come.

One crop of fruit falls from the tree so that more can be borne.

One wave recedes while another gathers strength

to crash upon the shore.

It seems cruel

but it is the rhythm of things

                And rhythm has its own beauty.


© Ruth Haley Barton 2013. Not to be reproduced without permission.

Journey through Advent with words and music

Ruth Haley Barton

(Doctor of Divinity, Northern Seminary) is Founder and Chief Essence Officer of the Transforming Center. A teacher, seasoned spiritual director (Shalem Institute), and retreat leader, she is the author of numerous books and resources on the spiritual life including Life Together in Christ, Pursuing God’s Will Together, Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership, Sacred Rhythms, and Invitation to Solitude and Silence.

49 Comments

  1. Casual Advent Season Friday | Paracletos on November 30, 2018 at 5:08 am

    […] Haley Barton has some great words to share about Sabbath. We all can benefit from these thoughts. Forward them to everyone you […]

  2. Rica on November 26, 2018 at 9:28 pm

    This is beautiful.
    I am always blessed by reading your articles and often, I share it with my co-pastors’ wives.
    May I share this by including it in a print out I am giving out to the women that I am leading?
    I lead a ministry team of women from our church.

  3. Mary on November 19, 2018 at 4:32 pm

    Thank you Ruth. The letting go can be so terrifying that one can become stuck in hanging on when it is long past time to let go. The autumn winds help that last leaf to float to the ground and end its ‘stuck’ condition, just as God allows winds of change to remove unfruitful elements that we determinedly resolve to give new life to – resuscitate to continue to be part of our lives. Surrendering all into the open hands and loving heart of our heavenly Father knowing that only He can bring true, lasting life that will endure all storms/seasons we encounter. He is trustworthy and faithful.

    • Ruth Barton on November 21, 2018 at 8:19 am

      Amen to that!

  4. Melissa Hayward on November 15, 2018 at 8:20 pm

    This beautiful Poem is so Timely. I have felt sad about the baren trees in the snow coming. God just spoke to me though Lectio that he wants me to “sing a new song of Praise” and to welcome a new season life in ministry and parenting my kids (as they are getting older (9, and 12)). I had not made a connection between the seasons changing and what God was calling me to. Your poem brought them togetherIt was a gift from God at just the right time. Thanks!

  5. Michael Johnson on November 15, 2018 at 3:37 pm

    I wonder if Jesus thought thoughts like this before telling his disciples, “It is necessary that I go, so that the Spirit may come.”

  6. Tami Groth on November 15, 2018 at 1:37 pm

    Beautiful. thank you

  7. Elba Rodriguez on November 15, 2018 at 12:06 pm

    Just how I feel but could not put it into words….

    • Ruth Barton on November 15, 2018 at 7:56 pm

      Sp glad….poetry expresses things other ways of putting words together just can’t!

  8. Timothy Nelson on November 15, 2018 at 8:02 am

    Thank you for such beautifully chosen and ordered words.

  9. Wanda Bickers on November 15, 2018 at 7:18 am

    Wow just what I needed to hear this morning! Thank you Ruth!!!

    • Ruth Barton on November 15, 2018 at 3:28 pm

      You’re welcome!

  10. […] Ruth Haley Barton’s poem, Sabbath in Late Fall. […]

    • Paul Atwater on November 15, 2018 at 6:42 am

      Thank you for printing Sabbath In Late Fall. Great way to start this day.

      • Ruth Barton on November 21, 2018 at 8:20 am

        So glad!



  11. beth wright on November 9, 2015 at 4:47 am

    So so beautiful. thank you! what a wonderful way to start a new week.
    blessings,
    beth

  12. Space for your Sabbath | on November 8, 2015 at 7:06 pm

    […] For everything there is a season… […]

  13. For Your Sunday - emily p. freeman - on November 8, 2015 at 7:05 am

    […] Sabbath in Late Fall by Ruth Haley Barton for The Transforming Center […]

  14. Rica on November 8, 2015 at 12:33 am

    thank you, once again, Ruth, for blessing my heart. I have read your book but being reminded of this poem again refreshes my soul.

  15. Scott Holman on November 5, 2015 at 3:40 pm

    Wow, beautiful words and imagery, thanks! I’ve been in a similarly reflective mood the past few weeks, thinking of how watching leaves falling is such a beautiful form of dying and letting go, so invitational. For what it’s worth, I tried my hand at a similar reflection, but I like yours better 🙂

    http://messysaint.blogspot.com/2015/10/let-go-little-leaf.html

    • Ruth Barton on November 6, 2015 at 10:27 am

      Aww…you are too kind! 🙂 Yours is great, too!

    • Jen on November 15, 2018 at 10:32 am

      I like yours, too. Thanks for sharing!

  16. Lynette Leach on November 4, 2015 at 2:28 pm

    A beautiful, timely, deep reflection. I am on holidays but keep adding things to my ‘to do list’ for when I arrive home. Perhaps it’s time to let go of expectations and let a rhythm of grace determine the flow of my days, weeks, months. Letting go is about breaking free from those expectations and trusting God with my agenda. It is taking me a lifetime to learn this.

  17. Karen Mulder on November 4, 2015 at 8:22 am

    “Letting go is hard,
    letting go of that which no longer works
    that which no longer brings joy and meaning
    that which is no longer full of life.”

    These words are ringing loudly in my heart. Sitting with these words and what God is calling me to let go of.

    Thank you!

    • Kathy N on November 8, 2015 at 3:48 pm

      Letting go is rightly seen, not as watching something or someone simply drift away, but as an active offering up to the One to whom the cherished belongs despite the length of time we were given to caretake. Gifts can be placed only in open hands.

  18. Whitney Alexander on November 4, 2015 at 8:12 am

    I am learning to let go of everything and this has been a difficult season the past few months….I am excited to see where God takes my heart with new rhythms and anticipate the next season of my life….silence and solitude are needed in my soul….thank you for sharing this classic poem again.

    • Ruth Barton on November 4, 2015 at 10:07 am

      Solitude and silence are good ways to practice letting go–even for a little while. Then when the bigger letting-go’s come, we know how because we have practiced. I’m glad that even though this season is difficult, you are also experiencing a sense of anticipation.

  19. sibyl towner on November 4, 2015 at 7:11 am

    thamk you Ruth….reading as I sit in the quiet. sibyl

  20. Br. Daniel-Chad Hoffman, CG on November 4, 2015 at 7:04 am

    So I ended up being one of those persons who was retired but who took pleasure in being more active than before. Not sure what I was trying to prove. But it is clear that I was not wanting to let the leaf fall! Then I had a frightening trip to the hospital and started considering mortality and the most important things–most of which were not getting attention due to my post-retirement busy-ness. Thanks be to God, I did recover physically stronger and mentally wiser. Since then I have been letting leaves fall and life is good and seems to be what it was meant to be in the final season. I love this reflection and will use it for myself and also in spiritual direction sessions with others,

    • Ruth Barton on November 4, 2015 at 10:03 am

      Thank you for this honest response…a very concrete example of how hard letting go can be, but also how good. Bless you…

  21. celeste on November 20, 2013 at 9:42 pm

    One generation gives its life for the next . I just lost two aunts and my mom and part of me felt like they had to move on in order for me to grow spiritually, sounds crazy but God used that difficult time to draw me closer to Him. Those women gave so much of themselves for the next generation, but I still question why they died within a year and a half of each other? They were my spiritual director.

    • Karen theis on November 28, 2013 at 1:22 am

      Sorry you lost so much in such a short time..l relate to that

  22. Linda on November 6, 2013 at 12:14 pm

    Beautifully written…deeply encouraging

  23. Len Delony on November 3, 2013 at 6:33 am

    Beautiful. Thanks Ruth… and all! It’s so easy when isolated in the busy crowd to forget the wisdom of your words. In the midst of letting go… this truly is a life-giving community. Grace and peace to all.

  24. Leon on November 2, 2013 at 2:28 pm

    Thank you, Ruth:
    Nothing says it better than a poem.
    And nothing helps me take Sabbath better than reading poetry.
    Thanks be to God!

    • Ruth Barton on November 8, 2013 at 4:47 pm

      My sentiments exactly.

  25. Susan Gopeesingh on November 2, 2013 at 10:45 am

    I am learning to quiet down and just be ith God.

  26. Phil Foster on November 2, 2013 at 9:16 am

    Thank God for change. I wouldn’t want to be the same as I was and never see the person I am going to be.

  27. Biz on November 2, 2013 at 9:14 am

    Simply beautiful. Thank you!

  28. Karen theis on November 2, 2013 at 8:25 am

    My friend is dying of advanced stage cancer…letting go..

  29. Karen theis on November 2, 2013 at 8:22 am

    Tomorrow my church has their”Novembering” service to remember those who have gone before us…i love this rhythm..stop pay attention,, listen to what the spirit is saying…thank you for bringing me back to my real home

  30. Diana Thompson on November 2, 2013 at 6:10 am

    Thank you. That was beautiful. It fed my soul.

  31. Linda@Creekside on November 2, 2013 at 6:10 am

    Yes and amen, Ruth.

    And I see the need for a month of Sabbath, His invitation to let my striving cease, a sabbatical after 5 1/2 years of blogging.

    http://creeksideministries.blogspot.com/2013/11/later-my-friend.html

    This question stays with me as I let go of so much that defines me. ‘Is our commitment to God deep enough to risk everything?’

    And I say ‘yes.’ Absolutely.

    • Ruth Barton on November 8, 2013 at 4:46 pm

      Good for you! Blessings…

  32. Len Woods on November 2, 2013 at 6:06 am

    “time to watch the burning bush in your own backyard…”

    This is haunting and convicting and inviting all at once–but before it has time to register deeply on my heart, the cacophony of voices in my head begins: “One day you’ll get there. But have you seen your ‘to do’ list TODAY?” “No one lives like that–okay, except under-achieving oddballs!” “Who has time for THAT?!?!”

    Busyness, being “effective,” getting stuff done–just a different kind of crack or meth.
    May God help us to SEE. And then grant the grace and steel will needed to STOP.

    • Margaret on November 2, 2013 at 9:01 am

      Len I felt like what you wrote was exactly what I was thinking and feeling! My day is going to be different now….in a most excellent way!

    • Len Delony on November 3, 2013 at 6:29 am

      Len, and Margaret, thanks! It’s so easy when isolated in the busy crowd to forget the wisdom of your words. – Len Delony;-)

  33. Karen theis on November 2, 2013 at 5:57 am

    Wow Jesus give me eyes to see

  34. Susan Gopeesingh on October 31, 2013 at 4:10 pm

    This is so beautiful.

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