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: The Transformational Power of the Psalms (Philip Yancey, Anatoly Shcharansky, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Walter Brueggemann)

“In 1977, at the height of the Cold War, Anatoly Shcharansky, a brilliant young mathematician and chess player, was arrested by the KGB for his repeated attempts to emigrate to Israel. He spent thirteen years inside the Soviet Gulag. From morning to evening Shcharansky read and studied all 150 psalms (in Hebrew). ‘What does this give me?’ he asked in a letter: ‘Gradually, my feeling of great loss and sorrow changed to one of bright hopes.’ Shcharansky so cherished his book of Psalms, in fact, that when the guards took it away from him, he lay in the snow, refusing to move, until they returned it. During those thirteen years, his wife traveled around the world campaigning for his release. Accepting an honorary degree on his behalf, she told the university audience, ‘In a lonely cell in Chistopol prison, locked alone with the Psalms of David, Anatoly found expression for his innermost feelings in the outpourings of the King of Israel thousands of years ago.'”  Philip Yancey

“The psalms wonderfully solve the problem of a praise-deficient culture by providing the necessary words. We merely need to enter into those words, letting the content of the psalms realign our inner attitudes. Dietrich Bonhoeffer suggests that the psalms are God’s language course. Just as infants learn the mother tongue from their parents, Christians can learn the language of prayer from Psalms. …Walter Brueggemann has coined the term ‘psalms of disorientation’ to describe those psalms that express confusion, confession, and doubt. Typically, the writer begins by begging God to rescue him from his desperate straits. He may weave poetic images of how he has been wronged, appeal to God’s sense of justice, even taunt God: ‘What good can I do you when I’m dead? How can I praise you then?’ The very act of venting these feelings allows the authors to attain a better perspective. He reflects on better times, remembers answered prayers of the past, concedes favors that he may have overlooked. By the end of the psalm, he moves toward praise and thanksgiving. He feels heard and cleansed. The psalm, or prayer, works out the transformation.” Yancey

“Holy Scripture is the table of Christ,
from whence we are nourished,
from whence we learn what we should love
and what whence should desire,
to whom we should have our eyes raised.”
Alcuin

Accept, Lord, the willing praise of my mouth
Psalm 119:107

 Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • What do the Psalms mean to you?
  • Have you prayed through them lately?
  • Will you let them teach you what to love, what to desire, and to whom to raise your eyes?

For More: The Bible Jesus Read by Philip Yancey

_________________________________________________

I hope you’ll follow and share “Daily Riches.” I appreciate your interest! –  Bill (Psalm 90:14)

 

 

Daily Riches: Faith (Nadia Bolz Weber, Romero, Tillich, Stott, Packer, Edman, Bounds, LLoyd-Jones, Yancey, Cook, Brueggemann, Merton, Willard) *

“Catholic theologian James Allison [talked] about how we think faith is about striving – keeping parameters, calling people out for not having it right, spiritual practices, doctrinal purity… whatever – but that really faith is about relaxing. Specifically, relaxing in the way we do when we are with a friend who we know for certain is fond of us. We don’t have to strive around them and we somehow still become our best self – funny, spontaneous, free. Allison suggests that faith is trusting so much that God is fond of us that we just …relax”. Nadia Bolz Weber

“Faith consists in accepting God without asking him to account for things according to our standard. Faith consists in reacting before God as Mary did: I don’t understand it, Lord, but let it be done in me according to your word.”  Oscar Romero

“Faith is the courage …to accept that God loves me as I am and not as I should be, because I’m never going to be as I should be.”  Paul Tillich

J. I. Packer – “self-abandoning trust in the person and work of Jesus”
Raymond Edman – “trusting in the dark what God told you in the light”
Martin Lloyd-Jones – “the refusal to panic”
Philip Yancey – “trusting in advance, what will only make sense in reverse”
Bob Cook –  “expecting God to act like God”
Thomas Merton – “convinced of the reliability of God”
Dallas Willard –  “confidence grounded in reality”
Walter Brueggemann – “openness to wonder and awe in glad praise”
Oswald Chambers – “unutterable trust…which never dreams that He will not stand by us”
Martin Luther – “permitting ourselves to be seized by the things we do not see”
John Stott – “a trust which reckons thoughtfully and confidently upon the trustworthiness of God”

“Though He slay me,
yet will I trust Him.”
Job 13:15a

Moving From Head to Heart

  • Can you relax with God like you do with your best friend?  Does he love you “as you are and not as you should be?”
  • Are you “seized by” things unseen? trusting what will often only make sense later? refusing to ask God “to give an account?”
  • Can you “abandon” yourself to God like Martin Luther, Oscar Romero and Job did? If not, why not?

Abba, I will trust in you. Only you have the words of life.


_________________________________________________

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: Faith (Nadia Bolz Weber, Romero, Tillich, Stott, Packer, Edman, Bounds, LLoyd-Jones, Yancey, Cook, Brueggemann, Merton, Willard)

“Catholic theologian James Allison [talked] about how we think faith is about striving – keeping parameters, calling people out for not having it right, spiritual practices, doctrinal purity… whatever – but that really faith is about relaxing. Specifically, relaxing in the way we do when we are with a friend who we know for certain is fond of us. We don’t have to strive around them and we somehow still become our best self – funny, spontaneous, free. Allison suggests that faith is trusting so much that God is fond of us that we just …relax”. Nadia Bolz Weber

“Faith consists in accepting God without asking him to account for things according to our standard. Faith consists in reacting before God as Mary did: I don’t understand it, Lord, but let if be done in me according to your word.”  Oscar Romero

“Faith is the courage …to accept that God loves me as I am and not as I should be, because I’m never going to be as I should be.”  Paul Tillich

J. I. Packer – “self-abandoning trust in the person and work of Jesus”
Raymond Edman – “trusting in the dark what God told you in the light”
Martin Lloyd-Jones – “the refusal to panic”
Philip Yancey – “trusting in advance, what will only make sense in reverse”
Bob Cook –  “expecting God to act like God.”
Thomas Merton – “convinced of the reliability of God.”
Dallas Willard –  “confidence grounded in reality.”
Walter Brueggemann – “openness to wonder and awe in glad praise.”
Oswald Chambers – “unutterable trust…which never dreams that He will not stand by us”
Martin Luther – “permitting ourselves to be seized by the things we do not see”
John Stott – “a trust which reckons thoughtfully and confidently upon the trustworthiness of God.”

“Though He slay me,
yet will I trust Him.”
Job 13:15a

Moving From Head to Heart

  • Can you relax with God like you do with your best friend?  Does he love you “as you are and not as you should be?”
  • Are you “seized by” things unseen? trusting what will often only make sense later? refusing to ask God “to give an account?”
  • Can you “abandon” yourself to God like Martin Luther, Oscar Romero and Job did? If not, why not?

Abba, I will trust in you. Only you have the words of life.


_________________________________________________

Thanks for reading!  –  Bill (Psalm 90:14)