Monday, August 22, 2011

Book: "Sabbath Keeping"

TITLE: Sabbath Keeping
AUTHOR: Donna Schaper
PUBLISHER: Boston, MA: Cowley Publications, 1999.

Sabbath KeepingThis little book essentially works on the theme: "Less is more." Calling the Sabbath keeping as an attitude reflected through a 'way of living,' Schaper's central thesis is this:

".... more is less. Keeping Sabbath is a conscious choice to restrict input. It is a decision not to work in all the available time, but rather intentionally to play in some of the time we have. Keeping sabbath is a method for focus, rest, and play in a life otherwise dominated and tyrannized by scatteredness, fatigue, and work." (xii)

Schaper begins by describing the Sabbath in terms of setting time aside for God. She acknowledges that Sabbath keeping is difficult, especially because it needs intentionality, and are often counter-cultural. Without being legalistic about it, Schaper understands that different people have different needs.Keeping Sabbath is also like music, where one flows with the beat, or the heartbeat of the Sabbath routine.

"People find music precious. When they cannot rest any other way, when they cannot find God any other way, they can find God through music." (24)

She has lots to say about de-cluttering, and distinguishes it from mere abstinence.

"Decluttering is not austerity. It is not getting rid of everything so that we have space for God. It may be rearranging things so that they are in right relationship to God, so that 'tidying' is not our life's work but rather an opening to God. We open in Sabbath deeply enough and often enough so that we can return, refreshed, to a messy room or an undone project." (36)

With other practical helps such as slowing down, prayer, doing things to remember by paying attention to people we love, Schaper makes Sabbath keeping not a chore but a delightful activity to participate in. Some of her insights are refreshing.

  • "Any physical activity, including sex can help us keep Sabbath to the degree that it is about self-forgetfulness." (72)
  • "Sabbath makes sure the page breathes. It gives us the time to ask questions of God. 'What do you want from me today, God? What must I do? What can I let go? What is the true shape of my life - not the distortion, but the true shape? Who draws me? Isn't it you and me? If so, how much space do I take up on my page? How much is for you?'" (78-79)
  • "Without time set aside for God and God's directing our lives, we become the prisoners of each other. We do what we think others want us to do rather than what God wants us to do." (80)
  • "We keep Sabbath by making these boundaries and sabbath is kept in the maintenance of these boundaries." (80)
  • "Sabbath is a gift that comes when God enters our time and our time becomes God's time, not when we calibrate our own comings and goings with more precision. Keeping sabbath is much more than a personal discipline: It is an act of faith and an act of resistance - or better, an act of faithful resistance. We resist the small gods of culture on behalf of the true God." (81)
  • "The best way to keep the Sabbath is to slow down." (85)
  • "In a culture that demands more and more, faster and faster, Sababth is a spiritual form of civil disobedience. Our marching orders are to speed up. Instead, we slow down. We do so out of love for God our Creator, and out of respect for our creation. We were not made to march fast. We were made to live and love and be. These things take time." (85-6)
  • "Consider housekeeping as a way to slow down. We can keep a house too clean, and we can let a house go. We can tidy at the time when we should be letting be, and we can let be when we should be tidying. We can fail to appreciate the beauty of a messy table, with leftover joy from the night before. Or we can enter Christmas with the bittersweet still hanging and arrive at Easter with the mistletoe still up." (91)

This is a great book to learn practical steps toward Sabbath keeping, and at the same time grow our spiritual awareness of God, and how we are to grow toward him.


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