the fire of rest


Today is my sabbath day.  Waking up to it is like waking up on Christmas morning as a child.  For a moment there is a lack of recognition.  Thoughts stream without the editing of a brain which has fully woken up and become hyper-vigilent of its surroundings.

“Where am I? …Kai is licking my head.What day is it? …What time does the light tell me it is? …How does my body feel?  …How does my gut feel about life? …What flavor coffee shall I make?”  (I LOVE coffee as a morning ritual – all caramelly and rich with smokey burnt undertones, cream – sweet and hot…and decaffeinated lest I become jittery, productive and mean.)

But when the fog of sleep leaves like a slide advancing in a slide show, the next image is that of a day of Sabbath.  I like to call my day off “a sabbath day.”  I do not do this to annoy the people for whom this is an annoyance.  That is a side benefit.  I do it because it reminds me and the people around me that what I am doing by resting (though defiantly un-American! – dare I stop for a moment from contributing to the economy!?) is a religious observance of a command by God, and again by Jesus. Not a suggestion.  Not a nice idea of wellness.  Not a shimmering metaphor for the life eternal.  Sabbath is a command to Rest. Without rest people (mostly men) make war.

And so today I will drink delicious coffee, eat a buttery crumpets (Sprouts sells them just inside the door on the right in the bread section! YUM!) in my pajamas, write some for pure joy, and go to the pottery where a bunch of deliciously pagan friends will work with me to fire two kilns in a massive firing of reduction stoneware pottery.  I have four teapots, 12 mugs, 18 bowls and five platters in the kilns which we will simply load and candle (as in the photo above) overnight and then fire for 12 hours tomorrow. So wonderful! I am doing stir-fry in the studio parking lot all day to feed us all.  Delight.  Pure delight!

I am not so naive as to think that everyone has the luxury of rest.  Single mothers who are the working-poor will keep three jobs just to be able to pay for food, occasional lodging and heath care.  They work seven days a week with a kind of courage which makes me look down at my shoes in shame if I think on it too much.  The other day, I was in my cassock when a wise and holy single mother approached me and called me “Father.”  I felt a bit the way Jesus might have felt when he tried to rejigger the tone of the evening by kneeling and washing feet.  I felt like the world was upside down.

But when one is able to rest (and I would argue that even the one who must work seven days a week, can have minutes and even hours of sabbath time with self-imposed rules of rest around them.) – when one is able to rest, then Sabbath becomes not just a stopping of work but a welcome of delight.  My experience as a diocesan canon in New Hampshire is that clergy who cannot rest are usually fighting demons by imposing self-exhaustion or self-distraction as a way to “not feel” the pain of the demons – and as a way of avoiding exercising the courage needed to face and fight them. The damage that over-work and/or hyper-vigilance can cause to congregations by a clergy person living without a rule of life is painful to watch unfold. It usually bears its teeth during stewardship seasons.  They project their own anxiety and insecurities on their congregation and the congregants come up confused and hurt.

So I keep a Rule of Life (most days) which requires that I care for myself and that I care for this body which is the container of my soul and the light of God to the world.  I try (often failing) to live a balanced life, so that my day off (Sabbath Day) is not simply recovery, so that, recovered I can move into work again.  Rather, I try to live a life (often failing) which is so balanced and so well that the sabbath day is a day of bliss, joy, comfort, enjoyment and delight. The irony is that I had to leave a monastery to find this balance – and to face my demons.  That modern monasteries are so small is no wonder.  The cat seems to be out of the proverbial bag.

I love that the first time the powerful word “holy” (“qadosh” in Hebrew) is used in the Bible it is not used to describe a mountain or a temple or a well or a people (which is what the word “holy” is so often used to describe throughout the bible,) rather the word HOLY is used first to describe a TIME.  In the stories of creation, God made the Sabbath and named it “quadosh- HOLY.”  And all of heaven bowed. And so should we.

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