Life Skills: The Practice of Sabbath

Introduction (Keeping the Focus)
“Has anyone already started working on a practice? If you have, can you share what that is, and specifically, how you practice it?” (one or two people)

Quotations to Prime the Pump

“The burden I give you is light.” Matthew 11:30b NLT


“Truly my soul finds rest in God . . . .” Psalm 62:1a NIV


“Then Jesus said, ‘Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.’ He said this because there were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his apostles didn’t even have time to eat.” Mark 6:31 NLT


Sabbath “. . . invites us to rest. It asks us to notice that while we rest, the world continues without our help.” Wendell Berry

“Sabbath is about withdrawal from the anxiety system of Pharaoh, the refusal to let one’s life be defined by production.” Walter Brueggemann

“Resting in the presence of God, without work or speech . . . one becomes more aware of the companionship, grace, and love of God than one has been of the companionship, demands, and duties associated with other people. . . . Contemplative practices . . . are exercised more or less in solitude, making the first cluster [solitude, Sabbath, and silence] in many ways the key to the rest.” Brian McLaren

“And now we’re all tired. We dream of that day when our work will be done, when we can finally wash the dust of it from our skin, but that day never comes. We look in vain for the day of our work’s completion. But it is mythical, like unicorns and dragons. So we dream . . . . [But] God, out of the bounty of his own nature, held this day apart and stepped fully into it, then turned and said, ‘Come, all you who are weary and heavy-laden. Come, and I will give you rest. Come, join me here.’” Mark Buchanan

“As long as we are working hard, using our gifts to serve others, experiencing joy in our work along with the toil, we are always in danger of believing that our actions trigger God’s love for us. Only in stopping, really stopping, do we teach our hearts and souls that we are loved apart from what we do. During a day of rest, we have the chance to take a deep breath and look at our lives. God is at work every minute of our days, yet we seldom notice. Noticing requires intentional stopping, and the Sabbath provides that opportunity. On the Sabbath we can take a moment to see the beauty of a maple leaf, created with great care by our loving Creator. . . . Without time to stop, we cannot notice God’s hand in our lives, practice thankfulness, step outside our culture’s values or explore our deepest longings. Without time to rest, we will seriously undermine our ability to experience God’s unconditional love and acceptance. The Sabbath is a gift whose blessings cannot be found anywhere else.” Lynne Baab

Questions for Discussion

  1. Which quote really affected you (convicted, provoked, challenged, etc.)? Talk about that.
  1. How does the inclusion of the Egyptian exile image in quote #2 strike you regarding your Sabbath-keeping?
  2. “Solitude, Sabbath and silence” – which is most difficult for you to practice? Quote #3
  3. How do you “join God” on the Sabbath so that it is a valuable exercise? Quote #4

REMEMBERING APPLICATION:
Moving From Head to Heart,
Moving From Words to Deeds,
Moving from Self-love to Love of God and Others

  1. After this discussion, is there something specific, measurable, and realistic that you are going to practice in order to develop sabbath keeping as a new skill?
  2. How does the practice, as you understand it, make you more able to be a person who loves well (who practices compassion and justice)?

CLOSING PRAYER
“Heavenly Father, you do not lead us all by the same path. Here in your presence, take our yearning to speak with you and what words we have, and make of them a prayer worthy of your love for us. Lord you’ve heard the cry of our hearts and seen our deepest needs. Before we leave this gathering, we want to ask you . . . to commit each person here into your loving hands. If you have us . . . if we have you, God, we will want for nothing. You alone suffice.”

The quotes from this week come from Wisdom From the Margins. This is the book we will use for this discussion. If you can, try to read one reading daily in the book (perhaps the reading for that calendar day).


For further consideration (to do before or after the session)

Set aside at least 10 minutes, find a quiet place, settle yourself when with some deep breathing, and read through these words slowly, phrase by phrase, asking God to make clear to you what you need to hear most. (Maybe write that down on a 3.5 card.)

“Sabbath-keeping is the primary discipline that helps us to live within the limits of our humanity and to honor God as our Creator. it is the kingpin of a life lived in sync–with the rhythms that God himself built into our world–and yet it is the discipline that seems hardest for us to practice. Sabbath-keeping honors the body’s need for rest, the spirit’s need for replenishment, and the soul’s need to delight itself in God for God’s own sake. It begins with the willingness to acknowledge the limits of our humanness and then taking steps to live more graciously within the order of things. . . . I am not God. God is the only one who can be all things to all people. God is the only one who can be two places at once. God is the one who never sleeps. I am not. This is pretty basic stuff but many of us live as though we don’t know it. . . . There is something about being gracious and accepting and gentle with ourselves at least once a week that enables us to be gracious and accepting and gentle with others. There is a freedom that comes from being who we are in God and resting into God that eventually enables us to bring something truer to the world than all of our doing. Sabbath-keeping helps us to live within our limits because on the Sabbath, in so many different ways, we allow ourselves to be the creature in the presence of our Creator. We touch something more real in ourselves and others than what we are all able to produce. We touch our very being in God. Surely that is what the people around us need most.” Ruth Haley Barton


If this discussion sounds like something you might be interested in, please contact me for more details. (Bill at wm_britton@mac.com) Also, if you’re in a completely different time zone and you’re interested, also please let me know, since a second gathering time, designed for people in the Eastern hemisphere may be possible.

Daily Riches: Your Power to Crush or to Bless (Mark Buchanan)

“‘Look, Daddy! What’s that?’
I stopped talking with my neighbor and looked down.
‘A beetle,’ I said.
David was impressed and pleased with the discovery of this fancy, colorful creature.
My neighbor lifted his foot and stepped on the insect, giving it an extra twist into the dirt.
‘That ought to do it,’ he laughed.
David looked up at me, waiting for an explanation, a reason. I did not wish to embarrass my neighbor, but then David turned, picked up the hose, and continued spraying the raspberries.
That night, just before he turned off the lights in his bedroom, David whispered. ‘I like’d that beetle, Daddy.’
‘I did too,’ I whispered back.

“I used to think the spiritual life was mostly about finding and using our gifts for God’s glory…. More and more I think it is not this, not first, not most. At root, the spiritual life consists in choosing the way of littleness. I become less so that Jesus might become greater. Its essence is No–No to ourselves, our impulses and cravings, our acts of self-promotion and self-vindication, our use of power for its own sake. It calls us to deny ourselves possessions, rights, conquests that we’re temped to claim just because we can. It is growing, day by day, into the same attitude that Christ had, and by exactly the same means: emptying ourselves, giving ourselves. It is refusing to grasp what we think is owed us and instead embracing what we think is beneath us. Simply behold, in love and wonder, what you have strength to crush. Exercise power–power you might use otherwise–to serve, bless, protect.” Mark  Buchanan

“It will be good for those servants
whose master finds them watching when he comes.
… he will dress himself to serve,
will have them recline at the table
and will come and wait on them.”
Luke 12:37

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Choosing “the way of littleness” is usually counter-cultural. Is this something you aspire to do?
  • The phrase “growing day by day” reminds us that spiritual growth is a slow process. What can you do daily to practice “emptying and giving” yourself?
  • Do you think of yourself as having “strength to crush” others? Think about your relationships with this in mind.

Abba, I want to serve, bless, and protect, not harm. Remind me when I go astray.

For More: The Rest of God by Mark Buchanan

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek after God and he seeks after you. I hope you’ll follow my blog, and share it. My goal is to share something of unique value with you daily in 400 words or less. I appreciate your interest!  –  Bill (Psalm 90:14)

“I practice daily what I believe; everything else is religious talk.”

Daily Riches: Suicide Dives, Collision Courses … and Sabbath (Mark Buchanan)

“There’s an exercise that some pilots go through late in their flight training. The student pilot gets the plane airborne, at cruising altitude. Then the instructor places a loose-fitting, thick-woven sack over the student’s head, so the student can see nothing. The instructor takes the controls and starts stunt-piloting. He loops the loop. He pushes the plane, Turkish-headache-style, skyward, then flips belly-up and swoops earthward. He rollicks and spirals, careens and nosedives, tailspins and wing-tilts. He gets the student utterly discombobulated. Then he puts the plane in a suicide dive, plucks the bag off the student’s head, and hands him the controls. His job: to get the plane back under control. The exercise is called Recovering From an Unusual Attitude. To keep Sabbath, most of us have to recover from an unusual attitude. We find ourselves disoriented, in vertigo. We’re dizzy with all our busyness and on a collision course.” Mark Buchanan

“When salvation comes to your house [like it did with Zacchaeus in Luke 19], first you think differently, then you act differently. First you shift the imagination with which you perceive this world, and then you enact gestures with which you honor it.” Buchanan

“But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord!
Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor,
and if I have cheated anybody out of anything,
I will pay back four times the amount.’”
Luke 19:8

“The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways,
but the folly of fools is deception.”
Proverbs 14:8

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Are you “dizzy” with your busyness? Are you on a “collision course” with reality? Are you too busy for deep thought but wide open to “deception.” (self-deception)
  • Have you “enacted gestures” for your days to allow you to “shift your imagination” and “give thought” to your ways? (e.g., practicing something like the Daily Office, the examen)
  • Have you enacted gestures for your weeks, to allow you to “recover from an unusual attitude” that may be spiritually suicidal? (e.g., keeping a weekly sabbath)

Abba, help me as I embrace new rhythms that create space for me to contemplate my course, your ways, and the foolishness of my noisy world. Deliver me from an unexamined life.

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For More: The Rest of God: Restoring Your Soul by Restoring Sabbath by Mark Buchanan

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“There is nothing new except what has been forgotten.” (Marie Antionette) , and thus “Men more often require to be reminded than informed.”  (Samuel Johnson) The purpose of Daily Riches is to return again and again to a list of critical concepts at the core of the spiritual life. “Therefore, I will always remind you about these things—even though you [may] already know them and are standing firm in the truth you have been taught.” (2 Peter 1:12)  I appreciate your interest! When you find this helpful, please share! – Bill