How to Sabbath… some ideas to start
The quickest way to kill a new spiritual practice is to go all in. Just like starting a new exercise regimen requires that you ease into it – don’t try to run a marathon on your first day – starting a new spiritual practice requires that you give your spiritual muscles some time to adjust, to learn, and then to grow. This is especially true when it comes to practicing Sabbath. For us busy people who can scarcely slow down for 5 minutes, starting with a whole day of Sabbath is not going to work. We’ve got to ease into it.
So what follows are some starters to help you begin to experience and discover the gift that God gives us in Sabbath. Don’t start with all of them. Just choose one.
• Put your phones and tablets away for meals – even if you are eating alone. Notice the people and things around you. Talk to the people at your table and try to discover how God is working in them.
• Use an actual alarm clock instead of your phone. Who needs to start your day with the day’s to-do’s, news feed, and every alert from the night that is now on your home screen?
• Turn off notifications on your phone. Unless it’s a phone call or a text (maybe an email) will your day really be improved in reading that notification from ESPN about the details of an athlete’s contract extension? Much of what comes to us in the day is just a distraction from the things that are important.
• Start reading books or journals – even if just a few pages at a time. You will be amazed at how much richer and deeper reading is when it is not tied to social media or the news. SAPC’s library has a ton of books you can read.
• Go outside. Instead of talking to a friend or listening to music, talk to God, listen for the sound of birds, notice the wind blowing through the trees, take delight in neighbors laughing. Instead of taking pictures of everything you see, look for God’s beauty and wonder and simply thank God for his goodness.
• Limit the time you spend in the daily news. Seriously. As important as it is for us to know what is happening in the world, I’ve found that an intentional and brief read of the paper or even the news feed on my computer keeps me just as informed – and far less wound up – than following the 24-hour news feed. Spend the time you save by praying for the world and your community, and asking God to show you how you might make a difference in it, or just going and doing some good in this world.
• Start or end your day with a short scripture. Don’t try to read twelve chapters of Leviticus in one setting. Don’t try to spend ½ hour in meditative prayer. Start where you are. Read one verse from a Gospel. In what ways does that verse connect with your own life. Or, use that as your prayer – even if it is only for 30 seconds. And if you struggle to even pray, start there with asking God to help you pray in ways that help you grow in your faith. I’ve also found that prayer books – especially the prayers of others – can be a wonderful kick start to my own prayers. Take one line of their prayer that speaks to you or sticks to you, and put it into your own words and it becomes your prayer.
• Start or end your day with a brief prayer. Don’t try to spend ½ hour in meditative prayer. Start where you are. Maybe use your scripture verse as your prayer – even if it is only for 30 seconds. And if you struggle to even pray, start with asking God to help you pray in ways that help you grow in your faith. I’ve also found that prayer books – especially the prayers of others – can be a wonderful kick start to my own prayers. Take one line of their prayer that speaks to you or sticks to you, and put it into your own words and it becomes your prayer.
Thanks for reading. I’d love to hear how these work for you and what else you do that helps you Sabbath.