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Engaging Sabbath

May 12, 2010

I just started reading Dan Allender’s book on Sabbath.  Dan has a way of taking me to another place with his writing, and I have yet to read one of his books without being moved to tears at some point.  He simply has a magnificent way of painting beauty in the mind of the reader, a skill I am working hard to learn; which is why I am a bit surprised that this book actually gathered some dust on my shelf before I decided to open it up. 

 Normally, his books shoot to the top of my must-read list when they enter my possession, but this one needed to “age a little” – like a fine wine.  I would pick it up.  I would turn it.  I would think of pouring a glass, lounging in my study, enjoying the subtle complexities in it.  Yet, each time I would hesitate to open it.  Something inside me kept it shelved.  Perhaps this says something about my unconscious reaction to its content, and perhaps I am reading it at precisely the moment that my palate became mature enough to handle all it has it offer.

The Sabbath has never really been a part of my life.  Growing up in a little charismatic country church in Kansas, I don’t recall spending much time talking about Sabbath.  Assuming the Sabbath was another way of spending your Sunday; my experience with the Sabbath consisted of a big home cooked meal at Nana and Papa’s house, followed by a cup of coffee and a football game. 

After leaving home and starting my own story, keeping a Sabbath just never made it into my plotline. 

Now I am fast approaching thirty.  I am feverishly trying to get a counseling practice off the ground.  My wife is a full-time stay at home mom with a full-time work from home job.  My eleven month old just took her first steps, and life seems to be getting busier and busier.  How in the heck are we going to find a full day to simply rest?

Remember how I said earlier that Allender always finds a way to make me cry?  Allow me to share with you the scene that brought me to tears:

I lit a candle.  I knelt before I wrote and prayed along with the sonorous artistry of Yo-Yo Ma, who offered as part of my prayer Bach’s Cello Suite no. 1 in G.  I rose and stared out the window at the feast of gray colors surrounding my Seattle view.  I lit a pipe with dark Scottish tobacco and settled to reread a portion of Ruth Haley Barton’s Sacred Rhythms. My heart is full, and Sabbath is only four hours away.

As I read this it was as though a geyser of joy burst from my heart.  The book fell to my lap and I began to weep.  I was at once gripped with pain and pierced by delight.  How I longed for the time in my week where I could be still before God, and yet a part of me felt like a traitor to my family.  With all the responsibilities and stress in our life, how could I be so selfish to take a full day to turn my gaze toward something so beautiful?  Then I was reminded of something I read a few pages back, “Sabbath is not about time off or a break in routine.  It is not a minivacation to give us a respite so we are better prepared to go back to work.  The Sabbath is far more than a diversion; it is meant to be an encounter with God’s delight.”

I am only a quarter of the way through the book, and I already feel it dragging me into a new direction that I am troubled by yet desperate for.  Allender speaks of four major pillars that comprise Sabbath: sensual glory, rhythmic repetition, communal feasting, and just playfulness; and as I interact with each I will post my experience.  With that I will leave with the lines from my place in the book.  May it be as though we are enjoying this fine wine together…

Open your senses and take in all that is moving before you.  Quiet the questions as to why or even how.  Silence the accusations or doubt.  It will not serve us well if the Sabbath is entered, or even planned, in busyness. 

All that is required is to know that God dances in his creation.  Tune your senses to the play of God, and when you are ready, join in the Sabbath dance.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. matt inman permalink
    May 12, 2010 3:37 pm

    It is so difficult to slow down,
    to not check facebook, to tune into
    your 5 senses. I look forward
    to reading what you learn, who
    doesn’t want communal feasting
    and playfulness in their life?!

  2. barb permalink
    December 4, 2011 7:34 am

    This is interesting. I too held off for months before I opened this book. The message I got from the book was that we were to “engage” in sabbath. I don’t think the author used that term in his book, but that word stayed with me for days. I decided to google the term “engaging in Sabbath” and your blog page came up. It is interesting to note that I never even mentioned the author’s name and that you had the same reluctancy to open the book as I had. Just thought I would pass this along…

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