Book Review-Sabbath in the Suburbs

Sabbath in the Suburbs: A Family’s Experiment with Holy Time

MaryAnn McKibben Dana

Emotional Response-5

Scholarly Response-4

This book began with conversations between the author and her husband on the Isle of Iona (a place I highly recommend everyone visit). Life on Iona is slower and invites questions of life back at home. It is here that the author decides to make a major life change-incorporating sabbath into her life and her family’s lives. Their conversation reminds me of the Thanksgiving talk my husband and I have each year on our road trip. it is a time to share our joys, frustrations, and dreams. We make plans to change what needs changing and congratulate each other on our dreams realized. These types of conversations are an important part of life. Too often, we are too busy to stop and reflect. I encourage you to take time to think about what brings you and others joy and include more of that in your life. Think about what frustrates or discourages you and those you love and work to change or eliminate that from your life. And dream. Dream big and wild. Make lists and come back to them. Make the changes you want and ask others to help you!

And now back to the book…The author and her family undertake a year of weekly Sabbath. Each chapter is one month on their journey. I appreciate her honesty in sharing their struggles and triumphs. This book leaves me believing crafting a practicing of Sabbath is extremely difficult and extremely necessary.

It was difficult for me to select which quotes to share from this book. I highlighted so many phrases and ideas and paragraphs. This is a book you need to read for yourself to find what portions speak to you and your life. For me, these portions are the words and ideas that have stuck in head between readings of this book. I need to remember I am dispensable and wholly loved. I need to remember that I won’t do everything I dream about and yet I am grateful for the people in my life and the achievements I have accomplished. This book reminds me to keep things in perspective and to stop being so hard on myself.

“We would rest, and we would not expend energy except to do the things we enjoy. The world would go on without us. We would be  dispensable. We would let God’s grace seep into us in a way that it can’t when our lives are crammed full of activity” (17).

“Sabbath is a way of modeling a different relationship with time, one that values relationship over achievement” (34).

“I remember the psalm: teach us to count our days…A friend of mine tells me her mother’s declarations while on vacation: “Let’s leave something for next time.” It occurs to me how counterintuitive that is. Sometimes there isn’t a next time. Yet the best approach to travel is to savor and enjoy a place, not gorge on it. Much like life” (55). I love this idea so much that I have made it a part of my life. When I go away, I am okay leaving places unvisited because there may be a next time, and if there is not a next time I want to remember how much fun I had somewhere not how I did everything there was to do.

“Yes, the world falls apart, even on the Sabbath. Tomorrow I will do my small part to put it back together again, whatever that might be. But today, taking this time to cherish  family, self, and God is the most faithful way I can think of to begin” (86).

I’m sharing this with you as snow covers the ground once again, and so these words seemed especially meaningful today. “Snowpocalypse was a lot of work, but it also blanketed the area with peace. As a friend wrote on Facebook,”I wonder if snow days are God’s way of saying, “If you won’t take a Sabbath for yourself, I’m going to enforce on with this cold manna-type stuff. Have some cocoa and relax, will ya?” (90).

“Sabbath means “stop,” and death is the final stop. When a loved one dies, whether friend, family or feline, the nonessentials fall away. The day becomes a blur of hugs, tears and long wordless silences. What it isn’t is busy. Any chores we might have done seem trivial” (132).

“We aren’t loved because of what we do. And we aren’t loved in spite of what we fail to do. We are loved because God is love. We are loved, full stop. And so we can stop” (139).

“Holy scarcity. There isn’t ever enough time. Even when we strip away all the inessentials-even when we focus only on the things that are good and nourishing and important for ourselves, our families, and the world-there is still not enough time. But our hope is not in there being enough time but in there being enough grace to muddle through the scarcities of our days” (164).

For more information on the book, go here.

I recommend this book to anyone who doesn’t have time for Sabbath, anyone who wishes they had time for Sabbath, and anyone who has ever wondered if it was possible to keep Sabbath.

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