Archives For Sabbath

wendell_berry-247x300 copyWendell Berry is one of my favorite poets. For 35 years he has been writing what he calls Sabbath Poems. They are crafted mostly outdoors; on-foot walking his beloved Kentucky hill farm on Sundays. He has published some of these in different poetry volumes, the first of which was A Timbered Choir (1979-97). Now, he has two new poetry collections, one this dayof which is dedicated solely to his Sabbath poems. It’s titled This Day: Collected and New Sabbath Poems.

The introduction is a beautiful essay on the importance of Sabbath.

I deeply enjoyed reading it on my ‘sabbath’ today:

Here is his description of practicing sabbath, and what can happen there – though not automatically, and not without attention and intention.

In such places, on the best of these sabbath days, I experience a lovely freedom from expectations – other people’s and also my own. I go free from the tasks and intentions of my workdays, and so my mind becomes hospitable to unintended thoughts: to what I am very willing to call inspiration. The poems come incidentally or they do not come at all. If the Muse leaves me alone, I leave her alone. To be quiet, even wordless, in a good place is a better gift than poetry.

On those days and other days also, the idea of the sabbath has been on my mind. It is as rich and demanding an idea as any I know. The sabbath is the day, and the successive days honoring the day when God rested after finishing the work of creation. This work was not finished, I think, in the sense of once and for all. It was finished by being given the power to exist and to continue, even to repair itself as it is now doing on the reforested hillsides of my home country. 

We are to rest on the sabbath also, I have supposed, in order to understand that the providence or the productivity of the living world, the most essential work, continues while we rest. This work is entirely independent of our work, and is far more complex and wonderful than any work we have ever done or will ever do. It is more complex and wonderful than we will ever understand. (p. xxi-xxii)

Are you making space for ‘Sabbath time?’


Since I always take some time on my ‘Sabbath’ Monday to soak in some great poetry, I thought I would share a poem each week for a while.  I call it “Poetry Monday.”

I discovered Anne Porter this summer.  This is the ‘title’ poem from her collected works called Living Things. She was 83 when she published her first book of poems! I’ll take the  liberty to add some comments at the end, noted by the (*) in the text.

Our poems
Are like the wart-hogs
In the zoo
It’s hard to say
Why there should be such creatures

But once our life gets into them
As sometimes happens
Our poems
Turn into living things *
And there’s no arguing
With living things
They are
The way they are

Our poems
May be rough
Or delicate
Or great

But always
They have inside them
A confluence of cries
And secret languages

And always
They are improvident **
And free
They keep
A kind of Sabbath
They play
On sooty fire escapes
And window ledges

They wander in and out
Of jails and gardens
They sparkle

In the deep mines
They sing
In breaking waves
And rock like wooden cradles. ***

* I can relate to how poems take on a life of their own and give voice to our heart – or to what God is doing in our hearts – like no other kind of expression. Sort of like the Psalms! Interesting how for Porter also, poems “keep a kind of sabbath!”

** “Improvident” – I had to look this word up – it means risky or done without much forethought.

*** Her last stanzas are cataloguing how poetry shows up everywhere, from coal mines to prisons to a baby’s lullaby.

From Beaver Tail – Jamestown, RI

I am so blessed to be a part of a church and a denomination that intentionally ‘shepherds its shepherds!’

My summer sabbatical was a beautiful and timely gift and I want to say ‘thanks.’  Let me share a short version of what made it so special.  There are principles that all of us can glean. I believe these five sets of goals were realized through this summer sabbatical:

Retreat and Reflection… I began the summer with a retreat at a monastery (SSJE) in Newburyport, MA, worshipping and spending time in the Word and prayer. I also enjoyed meeting with a counselor friend and my regular ‘spiritual director’ at different points in the summer. Our week speaking at  Pilgrim Pines was both work and rest, and included times with 2 other pastors discussing some ideas and questions that were timely for Christ Church.

Reading and Riting… I read widely and deeply – on the Psalms, poetry, book-project-related articles and books, and other works for my own spiritual formation. I attended the URI Writers Workshop, and picked the brains of other writers through the summer. I prepared and taught some new material on Experiencing Christ in the Psalms at Pilgrim Pines (These talks will be downloadable at their site. I’ll be sharing highlights in future posts on the importance and practice of the Psalms.)

Writing is work, and this summer gave me inspiration and a “platform” for making progress – with the days needed to go to the library, etc. and discipline myself to write. I also started restructuring this blog site. Continue Reading…

Abraham Joshua Heschel was a Jewish rabbi and brilliant thinker and activist.  His book, completed by his daughter, called The Sabbath is a densely beautiful description of the Sabbath that takes us to its core.  Several quotes for our Sabbath series come from the book and I found by ‘Googling,’ a more complete list of quotes that you will want to browse! Numbers refer to the page in Heschel’s book, The Sabbath.  (NOTE: for the whole list , click Read More and Comment below)
Creating holiness in time requires a different sensibility than building a cathedral in space: “We must conquer space in order to sanctify time.”

There is a realm of time where the goal is not to have but to be, not to own but to give, not to control but to share, not to subdue but to be in accord. Life goes wrong when the control of space, the acquisition of things of space, becomes our sole concern.” 3

In our daily lives we attend primarily to that which the senses are spelling out for us: to what the eyes perceive, to what the fingers touch. Reality to us is thinghood, consisting of substances that occupy space; even God is conceived by most of us as a thing. The result of our thinginess is our blindness to all reality that fails to identify itself as a thing, as a matter of fact. 5 Continue Reading…