“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
–Matthew 11:28 ESV
The Sabbath moments of the soul are those brief glimpses we all have of unexpected wonder and unlooked-for surprise—the feeling of being ambushed by beauty. In our everyday Sabbath moments, look for joy, pay attention to what’s going on, hold life carefully as the precious gift it is, and notice when God is nudging you awake to blessing. Sabbath provides us with opportunities to learn together to live gratefully, and enjoy the Sabbath moments of the soul.
In Shelly Miller’s book, Rhythms of Rest, she writes, “Sabbath invites Christ to come into our everyday life, to rethink priorities and celebrate his faithfulness” and reminds us that “Sabbath rhythms are generous; they are not about guilt.” Sabbath gives us permission to set aside our phones, our to-do lists, and our calendars to be present, attentive, expectant, and simply be.
I’ve found that scheduling full days of Sabbath has never worked for me. But, In the midst of my busyness, I’ve learned to seize small, sacred moments throughout the week to cease doing and to refocus on God. I’ve learned to engage my senses, and I’ve learned creative ways to weave Sabbath moments into my short- and long-range plans
1 | START SMALL
Based on suggestions from Wayne Muller’s book, Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives, I’ve made a list of Sabbath moments that can typically be experienced in under 15 minutes. Some of my favorite Sabbath moments include…
- Lighting a candle and reading Scripture from the Daily Text,
- Reading Richard Rohr’s daily meditations (they arrive in my email inbox),
- Listening to Taize music (which ushers me back to my weeklong experience at the Taize community),
- Walking around the pond in my backyard and making note of the bright spots and God sightings through writing in my gratitude journal,
- Brewing a fresh cup of coffee throughout the day, or enjoying lunch on the deck while listening to wildlife, and
- Longer Sabbath moments such as biking through a nearby park or fasting from social media or my cell phone for an hour or an afternoon.
2 | INVOLVE THE SENSES
I wanted my Sabbath moments to look different, feel different, and sound different than the rest of my daily routines—so I created Sabbath events that took into account how they engaged my senses.
- Sight. Take a moment to admire God’s handiwork in the night sky. Soak up a sunrise or a sunset. View images from your Photo Library and relive memorable moments from the past,
- Sound. Listen to a song. Listen to birds chirping while on a walk. Turn on some jazz or taize music. Listen to a podcast or Scripture being read.
- Smell. Enjoy the smell of coffee brewing. Refresh yourself with a cup of ice-cold lemon water.
- Touch. Hug or hold hands with loved ones. Take a 20-minute power nap wrapped up in a flannel blanket.
By connecting these moments with my senses, I became more aware of the present moment, my surroundings, and God’s active presence in the world.
3 | USE SABBATH MOMENTS TO REINFORCE WHAT MATTERS MOST
As part of the Leading Well Learning Community for the past several years, I’ve created annual goals, habits, and Sabbath moments that are aligned with the “6Fs” that reflect how I experience well-being and wholeness in my life. They include:
- Faith. I often start my mornings by brewing coffee while listening to Scripture or playing Taize or piano music. My morning ritual usually includes reading and reflecting on the Daily Text. At the end of the day, my evening routine often includes practicing Daily Examen or writing in my gratitude journal. None of these practices take more than 15 minutes each.
- Family/Friends. During the week, I enjoy a few leisurely dinners and conversations with family members or friends. I may meet a friend for a cup of coffee, play cribbage with my son, go for a walk with my wife, or connect with friends or family members via Facebook, FaceTime, or a phone call. More recently, I’ve been experimenting with sending text and email messages to people that include words of affirmation and encouragement.
- Fitness. I aim for 50,000 steps/week and find that rebounding or walking 5-15 minutes several times a day makes me much more alert and energized. Doing a few planks or stretches has also been a gift. If I’m not traveling, I try to go hiking, biking, or kayaking for a few hours on the weekend.
- Future. I’m an avid reader and I find books I read to divert my attention away from work and also stretch my imagination. Through reading, meeting with a spiritual director, or even watching certain YouTube videos, I often gain increased clarity about where God might be leading me in the next chapter of my life.
- Fun. I think everyone benefits from frequent doses of fun in their lives. It may involve trying a new recipe, playing a board game, going to a baseball game, or watching a comedian on Netflix. I think joy and laughter should punctuate our church meetings, family gatherings, and alone time. What might that look like for you?
- Finances. You may not think that finances and fun go together, or that finances play a role in honoring Sabbath, but I’ve come to believe they do. As I’ve more fully embraced a “journey of generosity,” I’ve found the practice of giving financially makes me more mindful of what God has given me to bless others. The practice of giving reminds me that God is the source of all that I have, and that I have “more than enough.” Giving to God and to other lightens my grip on possessions, and frees my from a mindset of scarcity which I believe squelches the Spirit. I am free to discern how I might serve others rather than focus on my own needs. Lately, I’ve created Sabbath moments around giving to causes that other people are passionate about in recognition of people’s birthday’s, anniversaries, graduations, retirement, or job transitions.
A series of Sabbath moments I’m looking forward is Vibrant Faith’s Leading Well Learning Retreat—November 16-19 in Carefree, Arizona. Leading Well participants gather every year (onsite and online) for Sabbath rest, practical learning, and collegial support. If people are to lead well, they must also live well, and that includes making space for Sabbath moments. It’s a community that pushes back against a society that glorifies busyness and views rest as laziness. The truth is that observing the Sabbath and resting is not laziness or weakness, and God never intended for it to be a burden. God created Sabbath as a gift for us—an opportunity for us to be refreshed physically and spiritually.
What are the wellsprings you wish to embed in your life? If you were to “try on” just one Sabbath moment this week, what would it be for you?
Jim LaDoux is the longtime Director of Coaching & Coaching School for Vibrant Faith. Jim lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota with his wife—he has two adult sons. He’s been a coach since 1992, and has a Master of Management Arts and is a certified PCC (Professional Certified Coach).