Happy End-of-Monday everyone!
Ok–confession: I realize I probably should have posted this to usher in the sabbath, or at least while it was still the weekend, but as you’ll read below, I was busy actually observing the sabbath, so here’s my sabbath message, three days late.
I did have a wonderfully relaxing and looooong-feeling weekend. I say “long-feeling,” because it wasn’t really a “long” weekend. After all, I only had my usual Saturday/Sunday off after making it through the M-F/9-5 grind (which isn’t really a grind for me as I love my job and the many interesting people with whom I work). But, this weekend felt particularly long because the sabbath did what it was supposed to do–it slowed me down, so then time slowed down, so then the weekend felt like it was about five days instead of only two. It was “nice” because in fact the weather was bad. “Bad” weather for Boise means the sky wasn’t full-on blazing, blistering sunshine all day–in fact the sun barely peeked out all weekend (Hallelujah, praise Jesus for once!). You see, being someone who grew up in the area of the country that by contrast gets the least amount of sunshine, let’s just say it’s been a “challenge” for me to adjust to the sunniest part of the country. (You know the Twilight vampire books/movies? Those are set close to where I grew up–which my former [thank God] mother-in-law used to always tell people when she first introduced me to one of her socialite acquaintances: “This is Liz, our daughter-in-law. She’s from Washington where those vampire books are set…”) Some days I just wissssssshhhhhhhh it would be cloudy and gray–and I pray for rain, not really in the biblical sense, but more in the selfish sense so that I can hole up inside with a good book, my furry blanket, a cup of tea, and no guilt. When you grow up somewhere with very little sunshine, you both learn to do anything you want outside no matter what the weather is like, while also learning that when the sun pops out, you better get out and soak it in because it’ll likely be covered up in ten minutes, and you might not see it for another ten days. So here, it’s really hard for me not to feel guilty when I want to be inside reading and it’s a beautiful day out. Whenever my mom visits, every day she’s like, “Oh my gosh, what a beautiful day!!!” And I want to be like, “Every day is a beautiful day………can’t I just have an ugly day for once?!?!”
So almost all of last week, including the weekend, was ugly (again, according to Boise standards), and it was beauty for my soul. I actually had penciled it in my calendar to have a yard sale this weekend. My garage is about half-full of stuff I wasn’t able to get rid of before I moved in the middle of winter, and the OCD part of me is dying to heave it onto the driveway and dole it out to my neighbors in exchange for some bucks. But, again, the weather did not cooperate for that to happen this weekend. That’s okay, because at one point last week I walked into the library to pick up a book I had on reserve (Lynsey Addario’s memoir about being a war photographer, It’s What I Do, which I highly recommend you do–read, that is. As a hospice chaplain, I found a lot of similarities between her draw toward death and destruction and my calling to ministry. More on that later… Although it reminds me also to recommend a phenomenal movie I saw last summer with Juliette Binoche–A Thousand Times Good Night–so watch that too and let me know what you think, k?) and walked out with a sackful of several other selections (phew, thanks for sticking with me through that last sentence). So this weekend, I proceeded to spend lots of time holed up inside, covered by my furry blanket, drinking tea, reading my stack of books, and not feeling guilty at allllllllll. I made it through 3 out of 4, so I considered it a pretty productive weekend.
I love observing the Sabbath, and sometimes I wish I had been raised either Seventh-Day Adventist or as an Orthodox Jew, not so that I could have less religious freedom as a woman and an even more restrictive diet imposed on me than I already impose on myself, but rather so that I could count on having the full sabbath experience every week–you might say, “religiously…”
Shortly after I graduated from seminary, I went on a trip to the Middle East that was both a study of the religious roots of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict while also a cultural exchange between Christian seminarians and Jewish rabbinic students. It was an amazing, life-changing experience–in some ways good, in other ways, not-so-good. I got engaged while on the Sinai Peninsula, which was pretty amazing at the time, but we all know how that turned out, so there’s that. Aaaaanyhoooooo, definitely one of the highlights of the trip was when shabbat came, and we Christians went to the Friday night service with our Jewish partners, followed by a dinner with them and either family or other friends they knew in Jerusalem (because which American rabbi-to-be doesn’t have either family or other friends in Jerusalem, ready and waiting to host shabbat dinner? I know.). My roommate, Molly, was hilarious–she’s a gay Reform rabbi who does stand up in New York while not bat-mitzvah’ing (err, let’s just say I was much better at Greek than Hebrew…). Anyway, we went to dinner at her fabulous friends’ chic apartment near the Old City. Her Canadian-gone-alliyah-friends served a lovely and simple shabbat dinner, which we enjoyed from the patio deck in the warm summer night. I particularly remember sipping a few shots of espresso vodka and eating the most delicious chocolate mousse I’ve ever tasted (well, maybe second place to C’est si bon at home). So having that “authentic” sabbath experience taught me the importance of truly taking time to stop at the end of the week, to celebrate what happened in life over the past seven days, to pause, to worship, to gather with friends, and to enjoy the pleasure of good food [and drink…]. I’ve always had a fantasy that maybe I would start a weekend ritual of hosting a shabbat dinner at my house every Friday night, complete with a little candle-lighting ceremony and some sort of prayer ritual. I don’t think I have enough friends to do so at this point (not to mention that I currently don’t have an oven either, and that my refrigerator presently lives in my garage), but maybe that dream will come true one day.
Until then, I’m still trying to experience a real sabbath on my weekends. True, there are weekends that are more full or booked with other activities–I preach about once a month for various local congregations, sometimes have weekend church meetings, and in the summer I’m hoping to do at least a few backpacking trips which require some preparation and a few hours of driving. But for all my other “normal” weekends, I’m so grateful that I can enjoy lots of unplanned time to rest, read, enjoy the quiet space around me, and simply be. My sabbaths do still include going out–usually to the farmer’s market, an indie movie, and to church on Saturday nights, if not also Sunday morning–but mostly I have enjoyed staying home, sitting on my patio, and going for a walk around my park to get a bit of fresh air.
So even though it’s Monday night, that means only four more days until we can light a candle and again wish one another, “Shabbat shalom.”