online book group: Sabbath In The Suburbs, chapter 2


In chapter 2 we get into some of the nuts and bolts of Sabbath keeping–especially the When and the What.

WHEN: “Sabbath is more than a day; it’s a mindset” (p12) and “Jesus certainly wasn’t strict about the Sabbath; he violated it all the time for worthwhile things” (p13) makes it seem like really any time could be sabbath. But there’s something about setting aside a regular time–one day a week–that matters. Does it matter if it’s Tuesday or Saturday? No. What matters is that it’s on the calendar every week. Do things come up? Yes…but then “we’ll move it, not let it go.” (p12) While we’re usually wishing for more time or more days, Sabbath requires actually reducing the number of hours available to do/go/produce more. What might that mean for our jobs? Our housework? Our expectations of ourselves? Our expectations of others?

Is there a day of the week that you could set aside? What are the barriers to marking that time as separate from the rest of the week?

WHAT: what constitutes work? If we’re not going to be as strict as the Orthodox Jews (who even prohibit tearing off toilet paper on the Sabbath–they pre-tear!), but we also don’t want to get onto the slippery “well, I’ll just do this one thing!” or “no, really, I like checking my work email!” slope, how will we make a definition? Because if Sabbath time is going to be defined, have boundaries, then what we do with that time needs similar boundaries. The boundary MaryAnn’s family settles on is “any activity that changes one’s environment. So Sabbath would be a day of giving up trying to change things.” (p15) This means no housework or yardwork, no self-improvement-projects, no persuasive/provocative facebook posts, no fixing things via email. It means just letting it be. The work, and the world in need of help, will still be there tomorrow. Opinions to change, spaces to tidy, those last 5 pounds, and the leaves on the yard will still be there. For a little while, we can stop pushing and start being.

Often we go-go-go until something causes us to drop–an illness, a tragedy, a more pressing need. Could we cultivate the awareness of life’s beauty, of wonder, of love and hope and joy, of truly important things, without that massive break? “I wonder if Sabbath can be that reminder for us, every single week, under more mundane circumstances.” (p16)

Have you ever had one of those stop-and-realize moments, where you saw true priorities or recognized things of real value? Can you imagine keeping those at the forefront every week, rather than waiting to be forcibly reminded?

One of the things MaryAnn did was coin a new term–the idea of living Sabbathly. This is about acting like it’s the Sabbath–to act our way into a new way of living. Can we act as children do–as if we have all the time in the world? (could that be part of what Jesus meant when he said we need to become like a child?) Can we be mindful and live in the present, rather than always rushing ahead (or anticipating) the next thing? And, since the root of Sabbath is gratitude and focus on God’s gift–can we live Sabbathly by turning our attention to God’s gracious invitation to abundant life, rather than to our harried attempt to control and change life?

How can you, this week, try to live more Sabbathly? Just choose one area, and post it in the comments (for inspiration and for accountability). Let us know how it goes, too!


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