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The Art of Sabbath: Nothing New

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Nothing New Under the Sun

“Sabbath challenges the theology of progress by reminding us that we are already and always on sacred ground.” Sabbath (p.79)

In my many years of Sunday morning Church, the concept of Sabbath, “rest in the arms of the divine,” was swallowed up in the message of spiritual progress.

When we first attended a church that had been around for 175 years, I was overwhelmed by the unexpected relief that this place existed long before anyone I knew was born. The churches I had attended up until that time were new, they were modern, and of course, I attended because I thought they were  better-more real, more casual, more down-to-earth, more relevant.

Until I melted in the old wooden pews and soaked up the ancient liturgy, this experience of God’s presence holding me in the greater context of humanity had been lost in a version of faith where Jesus had passed me a relay baton and it was my job to keep on running until I got the job done.

My theology was focused on production-it was in my hands to change the world, to be Jesus to everyone I came into contact with, to make things better and to move things forward. This momentum and energy was conjured from my own sense of what I should be doing, a lot of shame, plenty of guilt and it continued receiving it’s fuel from a constant sense of never being good enough.

“There is no time to rest, because we are on a very important mission, to boldly go where no species has gone before. We never rest on our laurels, we never rest at all. Every moment is a necessary investment in the divinely ordained and completely unquestioned goal of progress.” Sabbath (p.78)

It always has been and it always will be in our nature to think that we are going to make the world better-that we will be The Ones. While there is a beautiful truth hidden inside of that theology, if we experience that belief out of context, we are not allowed to rest until our perception of the job is done.

“What if we are simply living and growing within and ever-depening cycle of rhythms, perhaps getting wiser, perhaps learning to be kind, and hopefully passing whatever we have learned to our children? What if our life, rough-hewn from the stuff of creation, orbits around a God who never ceases to create new beginnings? What if our life is simply a time when we are blessed with both sadness and joy, health and disease, courage and fear-and all the while we work, pray, and love, knowing that the promised land we seek is already present in the very gift of life itself, the inestimable privilege of a human birth?” Sabbath (p.79)

My Sabbath experiment has exposed and challenged my idea of what is important. I have some very real illusions of what is worthy of my time and what is not. I confuse doing something important with being important.

I must be cautious in how I define important things and in the power I give to those things to tell me who I am. When I take a seat at my equal place at the table of life with the rest of humanity, I realize I don’t even know what important means.

I have sweat blood trying to come up with the right words I could say to change someone’s life for the better. What I thought was better was not.

I gave someone a head of fresh cabbage many years ago and recently discovered it became a symbol of kindness that she had never known.

Seriously! What do I know?

Humility is a strange and wonderful land to explore. When I am spinning the top of my own world,  I cannot stop or I cease to be worthy because my identity rests in my own production.

When humility invites me to my small place in the eternal story of mankind, I realize it is okay to take a break every week or so, to melt into those big hands that hold the whole wide world.

 

 

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The Art of Sabbath: Quiet Generosities

IMG_3175Quiet Generosities

“In winter we are dormant, it is a a time for quiet generosities, and reflection on the endurance of inner light in the midst of darkness.” Sabbath (p.67)

Yesterday, I spent some time looking at the empty pages of 2016 in my new passion planner. After doing a little bit of research on what each season brings us through nature, I wrote some prayers for each month of this year.

For January, my favorite month of the year, this is my prayer:

Help me discover,

notice

receive 

and share

the quiet generosities

that are here today. 

I don’t really know what I am looking for. Before page 67, I had not heard the phrase quiet generosities. Then, I noticed one such example in today’s chapter of Sabbath.

“At a retreat Seiji tells me he stayed up all night long, in the middle of the forest, waiting to hear the singular moment, early in the morning, when all the birds would begin to sing. He waited patiently in the silent stillness. Then, long before the sunrise, ‘I heard the sound of a gentle inhale, as if all the trees around me, together, took a long, deep breath.’ All at once, he said, as if in the unison with the exhale, the birds commenced their morning symphony” (Sabbath, p.74).

I want to be generous again.

When maintaining my own life takes more than I have to give it, there are no “extras” to share. When my time is already spent, when the money we earn is going to pay for last month or last year, when my energy runs out several hours before I can put my head to the pillow, I find myself not only lacking in practical resources, but sharp resentments fill the places that are desperately in need of kindness and gentleness.

Generosity that comes from a place of rest is a gentle generosity. It is not birthed from determination, discipline, or a mission statement. This kind of generosity it honorable and what I hope to come from any work I do with my life, but it is not the kind of generosity I am looking for in this season.

Gentle generosities are so unintentional they are surprises to those who both give and receive them. They are fruit, not of labor, but of stillness, intimacy, and slowness.

It is my prayer that you discover, notice, receive and share the quiet generosities that are here for you today. 

Click here to order your own copy of Sabbath: The Sacred Rhythm of Rest by Wayne Muller.

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The Art of Sabbath: Winter

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Winter

“What we harvest in this season provides the seed for the next season. In Sabbath time we taste the fruit of our labor, and prepare seeds for the week to come…Every season brings forth its bounty in its own time and, and our life is richer when we can take the time to savor the fruit of each.”

~Sabbath (p.67)

It is in my nature to decide what is good (productive, happy, helpful, giving, active) and try to make those “good” things happen in my life always. But now more than any other season in my life, I can see what we need might be different than any other time in our lives.

Right after selling our home and most of possessions, we went on a weekend trip to visit some old friends. My precious college roommate was pregnant with her fifth child, refereeing a basketball game that was being played in her living room all while making dinner and graciously making conversation with us.

Her family lives in this yummy historic home full of games, puzzles and books at every turn. The basement is busting at the seams with toys for every phase of a child’s life: johnny jump-ups, ping pong tables, and costumes. Every crack and crevice is filled to the brim with the possibility of play.

With an air of exhaustion and a hint of shame, my dear friend said, “We could really use some advice on how to declutter this place.”

This is why we need other perspectives in our lives.

I knew with a certainty I have rarely known in my own circumstances that their beautiful mess was exactly what they needed. It was perfect. The only work to be done in that old house was the work of the day-the next meal, the next load of laundry, the next boo boo kissed and the next story before bed.

With the same appreciation I have for my new small spaces and simplified living, I was also thankful for their abundance.

…Remembering the days that my garage was so full of kiddie toys my new neighbor thought I ran a day care.

…Celebrating the season when we would wake up to a wide open day, a big back yard and no plan but to explore and take naps.

My life was a mess and I wouldn’t rush through one of those un-measureable childhood hours for the illusion of an organized home.

It has occurred to me several times during this Sabbatical that it is no accident my need for nourishing what is underground comes along side my own children’s transition from childhood to adolescence. It catches my breath when I come across these words in today’s chapter:

“So it is with the seasons of our children’s lives, with each passing year a different kind of care, now more holding, now more letting go. Successes are replaced by tender insecurities, confidence turns to awkwardness, until new triumphs straighten the spine and fill the emerging soul with courage” (Sabbath, p. 67).

My own confidences about parenting are also tinged with tender insecurities. I find myself awkwardly navigating areas of life that used to feel so certain. This Sabbath time is one where I (some days patiently, some days not so much)  wait in the beauty of the exposed winter branches trusting and honoring the vulnerability of the season.

Click here to order your own copy of Sabbath: The Sacred Rhythm of Rest by Wayne Muller.