sabbath routines

It’s Friday morning and the house is quiet. With the Christmas tree down, even the kitten has left the front room in search of more interesting play places. (Current favorite? Recycle crate in kitchen.) I’m left alone to sort the tasks and the feelings of the late January grayness.

Task wise it seems pretty straightforward. A trip to Goodwill is top of the list and necessary before I can vacuum the rug that lies beneath the piles. A trip to Costco for the cat-lady size cases of cat food and litter is also in the offing. Off the list and freeing the schedule is the Friday bread baking routine. With oven repair still “at least two weeks” out, both bread and cookies will come in packages. (And I think I need both today.) But before any of this, of course, is the ritual of writing and posting – preferably before the newsletter deadline @9am.

The routine is different on this day of the week because Friday is my Sabbath day, a day when tasks are secondary to spirit. Friday is the day when I can stay in my pajamas all day if need be, take a bath at noon, talk to no one, laugh or cry, shop or hibernate. Friday is the day when I make space for the habits of the heart to emerge. Or at least I try to. What generally happens is that when I make space for the buried me to emerge, her first order of business is a roaring tantrum for all the sins of the preceding week. My spirit unwinds much like a toddler’s. Friday’s invariably include a few tears, a nap, and then much needed laughter.

Somebody once said that it is darkest just before the dawn and while I won’t pretend to know the validity of the science, I think there is much spiritual truth in the axiom. As we watch the young child’s tantrum (preferably from a distance!), we see the essence of our human spirit pushing against itself in an effort to find release. In order to let go the emotional baggage that we carry in our hearts we must touch each bag one last time as we take it to the curb. By taking a weekly Sabbath day, my prayerful hope is that I can learn to carry the bags to the curb before they require a forklift. By making space to unwind each week, my hope is that the practice of coiling and uncoiling will come with more ease and grace. This rhythm of compression and release is something we practice hundreds of times a day most often unawares. It is the beat of our spiritual life and dangerous only when we find no safe release.

Yesterday a chance encounter showed the rhythm. I wasn’t even aware that I was holding my breath until a friend invited me to exhale. I’d spent a good share of the day sorting pictures for our congregation’s annual report, which is a genuinely pleasant task, but I’d become overwhelmed. Where does one even begin to describe the life and work of community over the course of a year together? With a few tweets mailed in and a pile of pictures, I opened a Publisher doc and started dropping pieces on pages. Pretty quickly I turned to Facebook to pirate more pictures. For hours it was a total mess and even now is many hours from a final project. My head hurt and my stomach grumbled as I walked to the printer to see what I had. Scott and Mickey happened to be in the office for a meeting and Scott looked over my shoulder and smiled at the fledgling report, “2011 was a great year for this church!” he proclaimed. And he’s right. Exhausted from the task of sorting, I wasn’t looking at the picture that was emerging on the page. He’s right. 2011 was an incredibly wonderful year for our community.

As I ponder the encounter, I am reminded that without doing the sometimes-tedious work of pulling out the detail and organizing the memorabilia, we might miss the opportunity to celebrate and honor.

So we tend the tasks of gray January days.

But first, another cup of coffee to honor the most important task of all: listening to the spirit alive within.

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