October 12, 2018
What I am Thinking About
Sabbath and Sloth are two very old and rather churchy words; today these words sometimes get rebranded as rest/self-care and laziness. Though, that wouldn’t be quite right.
Sabbath is a spiritual discipline – a time to shed our earthly work and immerse ourselves in what is holy – whatever that means for us. It is deliberative resting in God. It is conscious reflection on the grace which God extends, and I am in definite need of. Sabbath is a reorientation towards gratitude.
Sabbath is hard.
Because I want to fall into the rest/self-care idea of Sabbath: get back into bed after the kids are at school with a cup of coffee and relish in a few episodes of whatever on Netflix. Then maybe a bath…then a lovely lunch somewhere and a pedicure. And these are good and important things, but they aren’t Sabbath.
Fridays are the days I try to carve out for my Sabbath practice, but I have to be careful. I can slide sideways into sloth without even knowing it, and what is disguised as rest and self-care becomes laziness, and very quickly begins to affect my mental health. Today, I wanted to do what I expressed above: get the kids off to school and get back into bed. And some days that is necessary, but not today. Somehow today I knew (thanks God!) that bed would not be the best place for me. So I got on my bike…then I went into the woods. (though honestly, I am getting a manicure this afternoon with my mom!)
What I am Grateful For
Spiritual friendships. Yes, I know that this is the same as last week, but I am still feeling the gratitude!
This week my friend Rob came up from Victoria to share his experience with social activism and reflections at Coffee and Conversations that Matter in Cumberland (read more about that here and stay tuned for the next one Nov. 20). We had some beautiful conversations with folks at Whole Glow Café, and also spent the better part of the day reflecting together about wonderful churchy things and practices.
In the evening session, Rob brought up a Thomas Merton quote that landed hard after a busy couple of weeks.
Almost 50 years ago, Thomas Merton, a wild young man turned hermetic Catholic monk, wrote these astonishing words:
“There is a pervasive form of contemporary violence to which the idealist most easily succumbs: activism and overwork. The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of its innate violence. To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything, is to succumb to violence. The frenzy of our activism neutralizes our work for peace. It destroys our own inner capacity for peace. It destroys the fruitfulness of our own work, because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful.”
Merton describes violence against the self: to not rest and take gentle care, reflect, listen to our own inner wisdom. The pressure to perform, to live up to too high a standard, or some generalized societal pressure, the judgment that we are not enough if we don’t do something, are violent because they take us away from being our true self.
While Merton was referring specifically to social activism, which was the topic of our discussion group, it resonates so deeply in every facet of our (my!) lives.
I am grateful for friends who point out the places where I am inflicting violence on myself and do so in a gentle yet provocative way. It got me thinking about that narrow road between over-action and apathy, between flurry and sloth. And reminded me that the work is not mine to do alone, I am partnered with God in it all.
What Inspires Me
Yesterday, the staff from St. George’s and many of the volunteers who work in the drop-in, food pantry and lunch club (soup kitchen) met at St. John the Divine Anglican church along with other church leaders and volunteers to learn about how to safely care for someone in an overdose situation and how to administer the drug Naloxone.
The drive behind the folks there seemed to me not to be primarily about technical medical procedures for emergencies. The impetus seemed to be love. There is a reciprocity of relationship that occurs between the volunteers and the clients that flow through our church building everyday. It is not a work of charity, but rather a work of love, of connection, and of service. The folks gathered know who they are dealing with and want to be able to meet them as they are, not attempting to change or judge. To just be. I am grateful for and inspired by these on-the-ground Christians who take Jesus’ call to love our neighbours as seriously as they do.
How I am Practicing my Faith
As I mentioned, all I wanted to do this morning was get back into bed. Instead, I took my dog into the forest. As always, about 30 seconds into the woods I was grateful to have made that choice. Something mystical and healing happens when I enter the forest, when I cannot see buildings or hear trucks but see and hear only the beautiful creation around me. And I start to pray without even noticing. There I am chattering away with God in my head in a natural and uncomplicated way.
For me, the woods is a thin place: a place where the boundary between heaven and earth is especially thin. It’s a place where we can sense the divine more readily. (interested? Read more about thin places here) It is why I am so drawn to spiritual practices in the woods and why I am so excited about Forest Church: a chance for us to gather and experience intentional spiritual exploration surrounded by the beauty of nature. Check out https://www.weirdchurchcumberland.com/news/ for more details, or click here for the Facebook event listing.
The Forest was a part of my Sabbath practice today, as is this reflection on the past week.
How could you include a Sabbath practice in your spiritual routine? What would get in your way? How could you overcome that barrier?