Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Remembering the Sabbath

"And you - what of your rushed and useful life?  Imagine setting it all down - papers, plans, appointments, everything - leaving only a note:  "Gone to the fields to be lovely.  Be back when I'm through with blooming."  -- Lynn Ungar

I have an informal rule in my life.  Whenever two or more people tell me the same thing in a short time I need to pay attention and do something.  Sometimes it's a book or movie I need to read or see, sometimes it's a person I need to meet or talk with and sometimes it's something I need to start doing, or often, doing again.  In the last week two of my closest advisors - my spiritual director and my writing coach - have reminded me about honoring and celebrating the Sabbath.  Perhaps I have been working a bit too hard.  Perhaps.

The fourth of the ten commandments tells us "Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy."  Bill Gates once said about attending church (which is one way to honor the Sabbath): "Just in terms of time resources religion is not very efficient.  There's a lot more I could be doing on a Sunday morning."  Two quotes that crystalize the challenges of busy people like you and me every day.  Should we take a few hours, let alone a day, when we put aside our work and refresh our bodies, minds and spirits or should we work and work to more efficiently live our life and pursue our dreams?

My favorite definition for Sabbath comes from Wayne Mueller’s wonderful book, Sabbath:  Finding Rest, Renewal and Delight In Our Busy Lives.  Mueller writes: “In Sabbath time we remember to celebrate what is beautiful and sacred.  Sabbath is more than the absence of work, it is not just a day off, when we catch up on television or errands.  It is the presence of something that arises when we consecrate a period of time to listen to what is most deeply beautiful, nourishing or true.  It is time consecrated with our attention, our mindfulness, honoring those quiet forces of grace or spirit that sustain and heal us.”  Mueller uses a word we don’t hear much – consecrate.  Consecrate simply means to make sacred.  When we honor and practice Sabbath we consecrate our most precious resource – our time – and declare it, as well as ourselves, to be sacred.

As a minister, I'm sensitive to practicing what I preach.  I've preached about the importance and wisdom of taking a Sabbath, of regularly nurturing our souls, on more than one occasion.  Unfortunately preaching about Sabbath has always been easier than practicing it.  Taking one day a week to unplug, to rest, to play, to sleep, to do what we want instead of what we must is a gift we give ourselves and those we love.  Some religious traditions have specific rituals and rules of what one can and cannot do on the Sabbath.  Those practices can be very powerful.  For others who don't have a religious tradition and/or whose tradition doesn't provide guidance, or maybe even encouragement, to honor the Sabbath, we need to be more creative.

 Sarah Ban Breathnach writes in her book Simple Abundance one of the best prescriptions for the Sabbath I know:  "This is what the Sabbath is for:  reverence, rest, renewal, rejuvenation, reassuring rituals, recreation, rejoicing, revelation, remembering how much you have to be grateful for, and saying “thank you.”  You can do this in a church, mosque, temple or synagogue, on a walk, while antiquing, sitting in bed propped up on pillows reading something wonderful with a breakfast tray, working the crossword puzzle before a roaring fire, attending a marvelous art exhibition or movie matinee, or listening to opera in the kitchen as you sip sherry and prepare a fabulous feast.  What matters is that you do something special that speaks to your soul and that you revel in whatever you do.” 

Find something that speaks to your soul and revel in it.  Go to the fields and be lovely.  Come back when you're through blooming.  This is the invitation and challenge in our busy lives.  Lives full of information overload, demanding jobs and commitments that keep us up late at night and rob of us sleep every day.  Calltrepreneurs remember, eventually, that we must take time for the ancient practices that nourish and feed our spirits, if we are to create, innovate and change the world.  Perhaps it was easier in the time of St. Francis than it is in the time of Steve Jobs but it's just as important.  Maybe even more so.

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