We’ve had so much turmoil in the last few weeks. We’ve had a terrorist attack on the Boston Marathon and followed the discovery and apprehension of the terrorists on live television. Now we’re following the weather and the destruction it brings in the spring. Our weather is somewhat of a terrorist herself. Add in a couple of murder trials on TV and a grab bag of scandals in government and it is just so wearing.
I started to say that I would take a break from writing this week because I’m just plain old tired of thinking—the words just weren’t coming-- but then I realized I could write about that. I’m supposed to lead a workshop on Sabbath in a couple of weeks so I can use writing the blog to help me organized what I want to do at the workshop.
I need a break. A Sabbath.
I thought I would take time while Beaven was gone last week but it never happened. There were too many fun things I wanted to do. I couldn’t make myself eliminate any of them. I’m too engaged in the world. I have to have Sabbath forced upon me. Somebody, please, send me to prison or something.
Whenever I get to thinking about the Sabbath I always think of Nancy Greenfield, my Jewish friend. Her family really does observe the Sabbath. This meant when her kids were little they couldn’t watch TV, the universal babysitter, so Nancy and her husband played board games with them. They spent all day in their pajamas playing games with their kids. I could go for sitting around in my jammies but I hate board games. Absolutely hate them. In hell, I would be forced to play board games. I’m good for about 20 minutes of Monopoly and that is only because I love my grandkids so much.
I went to a Christian definition of Sabbath. Thankfully, it said nothing about board games.
I’m reading a book called Sabbath in the Suburbs written by MaryAnn McKibben Dana. The suburbs typically have very rigid rules about being as busy as you can possibly get, 24/7 with no break for Christmas. You can imagine her struggle with taking a Sabbath. In the early pages she says she decided her definition of Sabbath would boil down to not doing “any activity that changes one’s environment .….Sabbath would be a day of giving up trying to change things”.
The act of Creation was sheer change and God rested from it after making six major changes in our planet. Even God gets tired and needs a rest.
“Not changing anything or creating anything” was starting to sound like a definition I can live with.
Not changing anything. This includes cooking, which changes the food. But I could eat raw things. Carrots, celery. Ouch!- no popcorn (massive change to the corn kernel) Maybe eating at a restaurant would be OK since I wouldn’t do the cooking. Watching TV would be OK. I decided I could change the channel because that still wasn’t changing the program itself. No need to do laundry because that would change things from dirty to clean. Same with dirty dishes. I’m on a roll here.
Getting back to the basics, I remind myself, Sabbath is principally for resting; for being still. I’m not very good at being still.
Then I read a quote from Wayne Muller in a book he wrote about the Sabbath, called Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal and Delight in Our Busy Lives:
When we breathe, we do not stop inhaling because we have taken in all the oxygen we will ever need, but because we have all the oxygen we need for this breath. Then we exhale, release carbon dioxide, and make room for more oxygen. Sabbath, like the breath, allows us to imagine we have done enough work for this day. Do not be anxious about tomorrow, Jesus said again and again. Let the work of this day be sufficient.
I’m all about long-term planning. It’s a very smart thing to do in my book. But it has its place. Once in a while we are called to just BE for the moment. Jon Kabbat-Zinn wrote a whole book called Everywhere You Go There You Are and the title says it all.
In full disclosure, I have just mentioned three books and I have to confess that I have never actually finished any of them. It appears my most basic problem is lack of attention span. I am going to have to muddle through this and find different ways of slowing down, a different way from how the ordinary, book-finishing person would approach the project.
For this moment, as I write, I have had my coffee and want breakfast. Right now, I can tell myself to not be anxious about anything further than a bowl of cereal.
I ate. I’m not hungry anymore. I don’t have to DO anything until I’m hungry again. But within five minutes I started feeling antsy. I read my email and sent out a couple of replies. Technically this wasn’t “change”; rather attention to details or, it you must: sheer procrastination. I decided procrastination on a Sabbath is OK. Probably even something to be proud of.
If you spend your time procrastinating on a Sabbath you are actually observing Sabbath.
So now I have two exercises:
- Don’t create anything. (Genesis 1:31)
- Live in the moment. (Matthew 6: 25-34)
And, best of all: Lookie here, I wrote 962 words for the blog! Maybe I’ll go get into my jammies.