Tag Archives: sabbath

Does Your Life Feel Too Jam-Packed? That’s Perfect.

 

Robert and I attended an event last Saturday evening. It was the final thing in a long string of almost back-to-back events that day. When we got in the car and fired up the GPS, we saw it would take 40 minutes to get there.

The event began in 40 minutes.

That’s a terrible feeling.

It worked in this case, despite bad weather, DC traffic, and the need to find on-site parking. A bit of a miracle, honestly. But it could have been otherwise. In this case, being late would’ve meant awkwardly slipping into a pew before the bride walked down the aisle. Not a good situation.

I write a lot in my Sabbath musings about the importance of margin. So many of us live lives without any margin. We schedule back-to-back events, overstuff our days, and hop on social media at every idle moment. This takes a toll on us physically, mentally and spiritually.

We need space to pause and breathe. We need a buffer to absorb the unexpected, the things that don’t go according to plan.

But the opposite is also true. Sometimes there is no room for margin. We have to adapt to life without it. And doing so can even be energizing.

I’m reading a book about Charles Lindbergh. (It’s Bill Bryson’s delightful One Summer: America, 1927, so it’s also about Babe Ruth and other amazing figures and events from that time.) One of Lindbergh’s big challenges was to reduce the weight on his plane so he could save fuel on his trip across the Atlantic. He took absolutely nothing he didn’t need. He even trimmed the pages of his flight book, eliminating the white spaces on the sheets of paper.

No margin.

For Charles Lindbergh, this was a deathly serious process—nobody had pulled off what he was attempting to do—but there’s also something creative about such an effort. What do I absolutely need? What can I get away with not having? It reminds me of the few times I backpacked as a Girl Scout. There’s something profound about whittling down the essentials so you’re not carrying around extra weight. (Don’t take the entire tube of toothpaste. Squeeze what you need into a ziplock bag.)

This metaphor could apply to time in one of two ways. On the one hand, you might consider what’s weighing you down, the ballast in your life that needs to drop. But today I’m intrigued with the other side of that image: to eliminate all margins such that there is no time to “spare.” To live a life as precisely calibrated as Lindbergh’s plane.

Today was one of those days in which one thing bumped up against the next such that there was no slack time. I could have dropped a bunch of stuff to allow for some margin, but instead I decided to go for it. It all worked beautifully, to my amazement. I had just enough time to pick up a few groceries between kiss and ride and the pastoral visit. And when I got home from clergy group, I managed a short run, breezing past my kids walking home from the bus so I beat them to the house. Of course I was ready to adjust at any moment, to jettison my plans if something went awry. But it didn’t. And it was a full, lovely day in a full, lovely life.

There’s a big caveat here. Be mindful of the impact your lack of margin has on your mental health—and on others. Making people wait because of your chronic lateness shows a lack of respect for other people—and I say that as someone who has made people wait because I’ve tried to do too much stuff in too little time. But if others will not suffer, why not go for it? Cram your life full! You may discover hidden resources and creativity you never knew you had. (The only time I made the honor roll in college was the semester I was working three part-time jobs. Of course, I got pneumonia at the end. Maybe the trick is knowing when you need margin and when you don’t.)

I know a lot of people who feel overwhelmed a lot of the time. Like the 40 minute trip downtown for an event that starts in 40 minutes, that can be a terrible feeling. And sometimes we do it to ourselves—holding on to standards of perfection we could let go of, refusing to let other people step in to help, keeping ourselves busy in an attempt to feel important.

But the truth is, a crammed-full life is a privilege.

Yes, sooner or later our busy lives catch up to us. We need breaks.

But it’s a gift to be needed. It’s an honor to have people counting on us. It means we are connected, that we matter to our families and our communities, that we have skills that are of use to the world around us. As much as I celebrate the gifts of Sabbath, I celebrate the gifts of a crammed-full life too.

The Work of Sabbath: Do Things All Together

Originally posted at the Sabbath in the Suburbs blog.

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What a month it’s been! This past weekend was the first weekend in four that I’ve been home. We made sure to take things slowly and Sabbathly, with lots of quiet lounging-around time in addition to chores and errands to catch up on. (The house was in fine shape, but when there’s only one parent in town, things go into batten-down-the-hatches mode.)

In the Sabbath book I wrote a series of sections called “The Work of Sabbath”—twelve different ways to think about observing Sabbath beyond the standard “don’t work” command. There are sections about seeking novelty during Sabbath, saying yes, fasting from one aspect of your work, etc.

This weekend we stumbled on another: Do All Things Together. 

We had the standard Saturday errands to complete: Costco, grocery store and the like. Rather than dividing and conquering with an eye toward efficiency, we decided to tackle them all together. (“All together” meant everyone but Caroline, who is away with her grandparents.) Costco in particular is a fun time for our family. (Free samples! Admiring the bounce house hanging from the ceiling! Hiding in the giant shed! Begging for the jumbo box of Apple Jacks! OK, I could do without the last one, but you take what comes.)

I remembered fondly a family from a church I used to serve, who decided to make it their Sabbath activity to take the dog for a walk all together, rather than leaving it to whoever drew the short straw. The mother described the excitement on the dog’s face the first time she saw all five of them standing at the door ready for the walk. What joy.

How’s your Sabbathing going this summer?

~

photo credit: daviesg via photopin cc

What’s Done Is Done

What Has Been Done Has Been Done

What Has Been Done Has Been Done

I use this quote in Sabbath in the Suburbs, and I have it posted on the bulletin board in my study. I try to let go of the unfinished work of my life when it is time to rest, or play, or sleep, or simply go to the next thing. Sometimes I feebly succeed.

I’m in a busy season of travel, which also sadly coincides with a couple of kid events: concerts and the like. I often feel some sadness and guilt when I leave town—Robert is a full and capable partner, but his work schedule is not as flexible as mine—and this time those feelings have been compounded by the missed concert.

I am thankful beyond measure for the privilege of being with congregations and other leaders, whether as a preacher, conference keynoter, or retreat leader. It is my joy and my vocation. But I do miss my family when I’m away.

I deal with these feelings (or not) with a pre-travel ritual that I call “guilt cleaning and overcompensation laundry.” I was in the midst of this flurry last week and said to Robert, “I always feel a little bad about leaving,” and he responded, “What’s done is done.”

I stopped for a moment, because I didn’t know what he meant. My initial interpretation of his statement was, “Well MaryAnn, it’s a little late to worry about that now. You’re committed to these events.”

I thought he was judging me, or expressing frustration. But actually, he was quoting the New Zealand Prayer Book to me: What you finish, you finish. Don’t feel bad about it; we’ll be fine; let it be.  

Huh. The dude actually listens to stuff I say!

Now if only I would listen…

~

Image: The Episcopal Church Facebook page

“More, More, More”: A Sabbathy Call to Worship

More More More...

My time at Myrtle Beach with First Presbyterian Church, Sumter SC, closed with a wonderful worship service, planned and led by the pastoral and music staff. I preached, but as is sometimes the case with these things, we did not coordinate a huge amount. Still the Holy Spirit wove everything together.

I was particularly taken by the call to worship, which pastor Ray Fancher says he adapted from another source.

Sabbath confronts the culture of relentless production and our fears of scarcity… and this responsive call to worship captures it perfectly:

Temptation surrounds us:
do more, take more, have more.
More food, more money, more power, more life!
‘What could it hurt?’ we hear—from friends, the media, our own souls:
More hunger, more suffering, more need, more fear, more anger.
So we gather in God’s abundance and remember: God rested. We were slaves.
God gave us Sabbath for renewal. In Christ we have everything!
Let us drink deeply from God’s spirit. God gives us all we need to
Live fully, love deeply, and serve faithfully. Thanks be to God!

~

My blog practice during Lent is to Rest in the Words of Others. Interested in original content? I will be writing short reflections each week on my email list through Easter. 

photo credit: kevin dooley via photopin cc

Ideas to Spark Your Sabbath Time

This past weekend I was in Myrtle Beach with the good folks from First Presbyterian, Sumter for their annual congregational retreat. They were a fun, lively group of folks who got it.

As I often do with groups, I shared the ten principles of the Sabbath Manifesto (things like light candles, drink wine, avoid technology) and asked people to get in groups and offer additional principles. They wrote these on post-it notes and we put them on a flip chart.

I find the list inspiring and joy-filled. Some are activities; some are states of mind.

Which ones resonate with you?

  • Dance!
  • Solitary time
  • Find balance
  • Remembering God is a focus for our day intentionally
  • Involve the world outside the family
  • Find your quiet place to pray and meditate
  • Quiet
  • Cup of coffee
  • Stay attentive to your family and children
  • Communal/family meals
  • Celebrate life–past, present, future
  • Avoid negativity–push F9 to “refresh” and renew
  • Incorporate the church family in Sabbath practice (covered dish) alternate classes as servers
  • Devotion–scripture
  • Finding joy in the day
  • Prayer–meditation
  • Take better case of ourselves; as a result we take care of others
  • Give back
  • Simplify transportation
  • Place priority on our personal relationships… church, personal, familial
  • Volunteer
  • Turn off TV
  • Walking
  • Gardening
  • Read Bible and other spiritual material
  • Keep spiritual journal
  • Identify what restores you. Be conscious of it and realize it is a gift from God and to God
  • Don’t get “overchurched”
  • Turn off TV
  • Study the Bible
  • Family dining time
  • Find a resting place