Sabbath in the Suburbs, chapter 4 (November)

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In this chapter we discover the potential joy of the “unintentional.” What if Sabbath involved simply doing whatever comes to mind, rather than planning to go-have-fun? Could a day spent in pajamas, making homemade pizza or bread-machine-bread, coloring or reading and avoiding the screens be a balance to our lives that have so much input all the time? We are so often going, so often doing, so often receiving information (the average American sees nearly 5,000 ads per day!)…no wonder things are off-kilter in both our lives and our communities. Taking some time to seek balance is an important practice. And then finding ways to bring that Sabbath-mindfulness into our everyday lives is the next step! As MaryAnn says, “holy and blessed moments don’t happen unless I am present.” (p39)

One of the most common phrases we hear (and say!) is “I don’t have time.”

“I don’t have time to take a whole day off.”

“I don’t have time to go to the fair/take a walk/exercise/cook a healthy meal/visit someone who’s sick/spend time in prayer/etc.”

“I don’t have time to go to church/sing in the choir/volunteer at the food pantry/teach Sunday School.”

“I don’t have time for rest…I’ll rest when I’m dead.”

Yeah. Newsflash: if that is REALLY true, you’ll probably be dead sooner than you should be!

Does anyone really have time? MaryAnn suggests that really, it’s time that has us. What might that mean? What happens if we think about the fact that we belong to God…the creator of time…the one who took a day off…the one who commands us to take a day off? How might that affect our understanding of time and its role in our lives?

Neither I nor MaryAnn wants to minimize the reality that there are people for whom taking Sabbath is economically or otherwise impossible, or at least very costly. That is true. It is also true that we are prone to believe that reality when in fact it is not True (with a capital T). We often have an exaggerated sense of our importance, or our anxiety, or our financial reality, or any number of other things that contribute to our feeling that we can’t just rest for a while. Perhaps some time spent in prayer would help us identify where we are TRULY indispensable and where we might find 4 or 8 or 24 hours to rest in the glory of God’s care instead of always being in charge of everything ourselves.

What do you think? How can you bring some balance into your life? Where can you find some opportunities for rest? What is holding you back?

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4 responses »

  1. I learned to be truly present by doing theater. At least for me, time is immaterial when I am in the midst of a show and there is nothing else but the present moment. Fortunately I learned some of that before retiring. Now I can have “mini-Sabbaths” any day, any time. Hopefully I will be mindful to God’s voice in those moments!

  2. I guess if one considers volunteering at the food pantry, transporting senior citizens to appointments for Faith in Action, attending youth events at church or at the schools our youth attend, singing in the choir, etc. are ways of keeping Sabbath, then I do that much of the time. I find when I’m taking a Spanish class that because I’m a perfectionist I often think I don’t have time to do some of those volunteer activities because I have to complete my homework and not just check it twice but multiple times. However, last week I found time to volunteer at the Food Pantry, teach my ESL student at the Woodstock Library, transport people for Faith in Action two days in a row, go to a Youth Visioning team meeting, attend a WHS football game to hear/see Katy Holub play in the Pep Band, go to the Lake Forest Symphony on Saturday night and to the Goodman Theater on Sunday, practice the piano most days for an event on Nov. 3 and still get my Spanish homework done on time thanks to computers and the long train ride to and from Chicago. It seems that Teri is saying that volunteerism is or can be Sabbath time. When does volunteering become work? Or is it always a way of keeping Sabbath?

  3. That sounds pretty jam-packed, Ann! Do you take time to seek balance? Since MaryAnn says “holy and blessed moments don’t happen unless I am present.” (p39), are you “present” in all those activities or are you somewhat overwhelmed and thinking about the next thing on your list? I think you can have Sabbath moments multiple times per day if you are open to them. (I may be having one right now!)

  4. Ann, I guess my question would be: when do you rest? When do you stop and let God offer you the same kind of care you so often offer to others? It’s important to be the answer to prayer, and also important to remind ourselves that we aren’t indispensable–to have some Mary time in addition to being a good Martha. What would happen if you took a half a day to just enjoy the day without DOING anything? Read a book, watch a movie, take a nap, play the piano for fun, listen to a CD, go for a walk outdoors…something that is utterly unproductive?
    Part of the reason Sabbath is difficult in our culture is the sense that we’re wasting time if we’re not producing or helping. And part of the reason Sabbath is hard for those of us who understand God to work THROUGH us is that we forget that God can also work without us or in spite of us. When is the time when you listen for the still small voice of the Spirit? Or simply let your own body and spirit rest from your labors?
    Finding that balance is a big part of what Sabbath is about…

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