Tuesday, October 14, 2014

a few [incomplete] thoughts on the sacred practice of Sabbath

“The dream of my life
Is to lie down by a slow river
And stare at the light in the trees--
to learn something of being nothing
A little while but the rich
Lens of attention”
-- Mary Oliver, “Entering the Kingdom”

via Death to the Stock Photo

Get us to the place 
A farmer is helpless to grow grain; all he can do is provide the right conditions for the growing of grain. He cultivates the ground, he plants the seed, he waters the plants, and then the natural forces of the earth take over and up comes the grain. This is the way it is with the Spiritual Disciplines -- they are a way of sowing to the Spirit. The Disciplines are God's way of getting us into the ground; they put us where he can work within us and transform us. By themselves the Spiritual Disciplines can do nothing; they can only get us to the place where something can be done. 
Richard Foster , Celebration of Discipline
via the daily asterisk* 

I've been saying for many months here that I can't write because I'm too busy.  And that's mostly true.  Maybe even truer if I said it this way:
"I'm choosing not to write so that I can make space to follow God in other things He's asking me to do right now."  
Probably the most true way to say it is this:
"I'm choosing not to write because on some days I'm trying to obey God and make space for other things He's asking me to do.  On other days I'm just plain pissed about the things God's asking me to do and not writing is my way of getting even." 
Truth is, God gave us these amazing gifts of four children and a move to Austin to pursue Brian's ordination and relationship in a vibrant, healthy worship community, and an introduction to creamy jalapeno sauce.  Growing up requires me to recognize that good gifts come with responsibility.  My having to work full time, or lose sleep over my kids being flung hither and yon into adulthood, or deal with anxiety related to becoming a priest's wife, or roll up my sleeves to invest in this healthy worship community, or start eating more vegetables and fewer tacos are all decisions grown up people make in order to steward the abundance of good gifts that come down like lights from the Father.

Only a child wants it both ways:  good gifts with no responsibility.

My hope is to remain like a child with a simple faith and pleasure in my good Father while also becoming a grown-up in the way I respond to the things I don't like. I go back to the place of sowing to the Spirit in the act of spiritual disciplines, get into the ground where God can do the work of transformation in me.

This fall Brian and I and a couple of friends are co-leading a new small group in our neighborhood.  We'll focus on one spiritual discipline each month, starting -- appropriately -- with the practice of Sabbath. I realize that many of my ways to grasp for "rest" are not at all the same thing as Sabbath rest.  

Sabbath - We desire to set apart one day a week for rest and worship of God.

Our month to focus on Sabbath practices is over but I'm not letting go.  I need rest.  Deep down in my soul. I need to be at peace with myself in the midst of real or perceived chaos.  

I think the Buddhists call this Zen.  I choose to believe there is a way of Christian rest.  I believe the Christ who naps in capsizing boats follows the footsteps of his Father who takes days off even though the spinning universe depends on His attention.  

“Sabbath is the time set aside to do nothing so that we can receive everything, to set aside our anxious attempts to make ourselves useful, to set aside our tense restlessness, to set aside our media-satiated boredom. Sabbath is the time to receive silence and let it deepen into gratitude, to receive quiet into which forgotten faces and voices unobtrusively make themselves present, to receive the days of the just completed week and absorb the wonder and miracle still reverberating from each one, to receive our Lord's amazing grace.” ― Eugene H. Peterson, Tell It Slant: A Conversation on the Language of Jesus in His Stories and Prayers

A few possible exercises our small group discussed on the practice Sabbath (source: Spiritual Disciplines Handbook) :

1.  Plan a twenty-four-hour sabbath you can enter with anticipation. The night before your sabbath, remind your body how long it has to luxuriate and rest in God.
  • Consider the things that would nourish you: worship, music, a nap, making art, walking, reading, playing with children, afternoon tea.  Plan them spaciously into the day.

2.  Begin your Sabbath gently on the evening before.  Light a candle.
  • Invite the presence of Christ to guide you through your sabbath.
  • Eat with friends and family.
  • Go to bed early, speaking peace to one another.
  • Pray for Christ to give you deep, refreshing sleep. Rest in his arms. Commit your dreams to the Lord

3.  Prepare a “sabbath box or basket.”  Choose a basket or cover a grocery-size box with gift wrap. Each week on the evening before Sabbath, gather as a family or group of friends to put all the things you don’t need to take with you into Sabbath day. Drop cell phones, credit cards, laptops into the box. Put work projects and homework in the box.
  • Tell one another what you are looking forward to as you enter Sabbath.
  • Pray together to receive the gift of Sabbath.

4.  The night before your sabbath day, enter into sleep as a spiritual act of worship. Consciously let go of your compulsion to be indispensable. Drop all that brings you anxiety into the arms of your heavenly Father. Lay your head on the pillow imagining that you are putting your head into the lap of God. Commit your body and dreams to him. Relax in God and rest.

5.  Awake gently to your sabbath day. If it is possible, don’t set an alarm. Let your body wake naturally. As you come to consciousness, take several deep breaths and open your body wide to God for the new day. Stretch out and feel the full length of of yourself. Thank God that you are fearfully and wonderfully made. Thank him for the gift of the day before you.

  • Is God speaking to you in any way? Listen and respond.
  • Get up slowly and attend to your desire to encounter God today.

Resources on Sabbath

A few Scripture passages to meditate:

  • Hebrews 4:1, 9-11
  • Mark 2:27
  • Exodus 20:8-10
  • so many Psalms

My playlist of Songs for Rest

In what ways do you practice Sabbath?   
What art speaks to you of rest -- in general or in a particular work?   
It would mean so much to me to hear from you.

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