Sabbath Recipes and Perseverance

I’m finding it easier to identify what is NOT good Sabbath practice for me than to nail down what IS my best practice. And, while I’ve been experimenting and seeking Sabbath consistently, no two weeks have been quite the same.

I haven’t found a formula for Sabbath that exactly “works” for me. I have no quick and easy, tested and true, three or four step recipe for a perfect Sabbath that you can ALWAYS count on to turn out right (or that you can download for a small fee!)

I’ve been reading a lot and trying different ideas. One of the books I recently read, which touches on this topic, is “Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World.” Author Joanna Weaver suggests the closest thing I’ve found so far to a “Sabbath recipe” – as she lists three components of a Sabbath. To seriously simmer down her full thoughts (found on page 185-186 in the original 2000 edition for those who want to go back to the source), she suggests:

  • The Sabbath needs to be different, contrasting noticeably with the other six days.
  • It should be a day of devotion with time to focus our hearts and minds on God alone.
  • And, it should be at least partially a family day, with time spent with our family of faith in corporate worship and fellowship.

I think those are some really good ingredients for a successful Sabbath. For me, I know that I also need to intentionally include some sort of literal, physical rest – ideally a nap or maybe two. I find that I want to read or study, and have casual connections with friends. It is a good day to go for a walk, or out for coffee with a friend knowing that the work can wait.

In my weeks of experimenting, I’ve had some really good Sabbath experiences, and some gong shows. Literal gong shows. No rest, no downtime, no particular devotion to be found amongst the crazy! Sabbath fails, shall we say.

I found encouragement in Weaver’s book to persevere. Here’s what she says:

“When it comes to our spiritual lives, a lot of us are all-or-nothing people. If we aren’t automatically perfect, we just give up. When Christ-like virtues like patience and kindness seem hard to come by, we abandon our character development and decide holiness is for those better equipped. But when we give up, we’re giving up on our part of the partnership. Perseverance is one of our responsibilities in this process of being changed.” (pg 202, I added the bold emphasis myself!).

Perseverance is my responsibility in the process of being changed. Hmmmm… I need to name that, claim that, cross stitch and frame that! (but seriously… who am I kidding! I’m not making time to cross stich anything!)

Perseverance is what I’m bringing to my search for Sabbath. I’m going to keep on keeping on, and I sure hope that in the process, I am changed. And, I hope that you’ll stick with me. Maybe we can figure out this Sabbath thing together.

If you are interested in getting your own copy of “Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World”, it has been re-released since the 2000 edition that I have dog-eared on my shelf. I found mine at Value Village, but if you don’t happen to come across a copy and want to buy one, click on this link for ordering information from Amazon.ca.

Sabbath Imposters

A while back, I had a season where I felt like I was drowning in unending task management. I decided I needed “a Sabbath” and I stayed home from church – and I proclaimed to anyone who asked that I was taking a Sabbath and not attending service (where I often am in work mode).

My children went to church and I power cleaned for three hours. When my son came home and realized that I spent the whole morning catching up on housework, he said, “I don’t think you quite understand the concept of Sabbath mom!”

The boy was right.

I’m getting a better working definition of what good Sabbath practice looks like for me, but in my experimenting over the past few months, I’ve discovered a few things that I try to label as Sabbath that honestly just aren’t. 

Here are four Sabbath imposters, that need to be kicked out of my Sabbath practice.:

1.       Being sick… not a Sabbath!

I used to sort of joke about my various illnesses and injuries as being signs from God to rest. I say “sort of” because while it sounded funny, I wasn’t actually joking. I didn’t rest in any significant way until I was so sick or injured that I was incapable of anything but couch surfing. That kind of forced rest is not something I can qualify as Sabbath anymore.

2.       Catching up… not a Sabbath!

Power cleaning, or spending a day clearing items off a neglected to-do list might require a day set aside from “normal” tasks. That doesn’t make it a Sabbath. That is just a different kind of work day! Even though I may feel WAY better and more at peace when I’m done, catching up definitely isn’t rest.

3.       IKEA shopping… not a Sabbath!

I’m trying to find a good formula for my Sabbath that includes time with God, time with family/friends and time alone in real rest.  I recently tried spending a portion of a day that was set aside as Sabbath with my daughters walking through IKEA. Bonding time with the girls fits Sabbath for me – so this seemed like a good idea! Perhaps if you really love shopping and find it a relaxing way to connect in relationship, it might have worked for you. But, after two hours in IKEA, I knew 100% without a doubt, that shopping is not Sabbath-friendly for me! Not at IKEA, the mall, the grocery store or online… There is nothing restful or restorative about it for me. It’s stressful and I don’t like it. I can’t claim it as a Sabbath.

4.       Crap TV… (sadly) not a Sabbath!

This is honestly my go-to “relaxation” strategy. I turn on “time-well wasted” television that has little redemption value. OK, lets be honest – the stuff I like to watch in my downtime often is crap! Its fluff. Funny, mind numbing fluff. But, fluff all the same. Again, for you a sitcom or movie might very well fit into your definition of Sabbath rest. I personally have more sitcom dialogues memorized than Bible verses and I know it! I have to resist the temptation to turn that kind of TV on and turn my brain off at every opportunity. Binge watching is so easy once you’re comfortable and settled. So, even if by definition, watching television may be restful. It’s not a good choice as part of a Sabbath practice for me.

I’ve spent a few months now experimenting and failing and learning and succeeding with developing an actual practice of Sabbath. I’ve found things that work and fit well for me too, but those are stories for another post.

A disclaimer… I am aware that some of these things may be something you include in your Sabbath time. That is totally OK. We’re all wired a little different and, so this is not intended to judge. You do you!