a sabbath mentality

Sunday 19 July 2009

In many religions, there is an idea of a day set aside for rest from work and labor, and usually it entails some kind of worship or ritual as well.  It’s oftentimes called the “Sabbath.” Every religion does things a little bit different, as do the people within that religion.  For some, it may mean just a trip to a church, mosque, or synagogue, others may have a family meal together, and still others may refrain from riding in a car or turning on/off electric lights (among many other options!).

A few weeks ago, I had a good conversation with a friend about honoring the Sabbath.  We were walking around a lake, far away from her home, and she was reminded how good it would be to get away from home and work in a place such as this one, as to more easily refrain from the temptations of cleaning her room, doing dishes, or undertaking other chores and activities that “needed to get done.”  I told her I thought it was a good place to start, and maybe a good way to begin the practice of ritually honoring the sabbath, but I hoped that soon she might become more confident in herself and able to resist those temptations to take up “work” that seemed to be beckoning in other places. While getting away can be helpful, it can also be limiting in the scope of allowing for what the sabbath might entail.  Or maybe that time away is exactly what you need on your sabbath.

For me, sabbath is about doing things that bring me joy and pleasure and release, things that bring me rest from the labors of things that I don’t necessarily want to do but must do anyway.  I try to attend a worship service each week, as it’s a ritual that helps me step aside and recognize the holy, but I also like to fill my day with other spirit-filling activities.

I’ll play my banjo, write letters, or go for a bike ride, but I don’t restrict myself to that which others easily see as leisure.  It’s really about how what I’m doing affects me that is important, isn’t it?  Doing laundry, when I’m able to hang the clothes on the line outside to dry, is soul-restoring to me, so why not do it on the “sabbath?”  Today, I plan to pick some blueberries, which to some might be seen as work.  But if I find enjoyment in it, I see no reason to refrain from it on my sabbath.  And if I pick for a while and it gets cumbersome, I’ll stop.

It’s all about a sabbath mentality.  What brings you joy?  What revives your soul?  What restores you after a week that maybe brought you down?  Take a day to do that, even if others might see it as “work.”  For truly, that’s what the sabbath is all about.

a disarming smile

Tuesday 12 February 2008

We were lucky enough to have some freezing rain this evening, but it wasn’t so horrid that it kept me from biking home. As I approached my house (or what currently counts as my house), with my glasses thoroughly wet and my coat a bit heavier than when I had put it on, I looked up and saw this girl with her umbrella and she gave me a smile. I doubt she could see my face or much of anything except how crazy I must have looked with a wet helmet biking in the rain, but she noticed I looked up and gave me a smile.

A smile really is a gift, isn’t it? It’s difficult to feel anything but joy or reassurance when someone smiles at you. It’s a powerful tool that we so often forget about as adults, but the child rarely refrains from a joy-filled smile. It made me think of this story of a 7-year-old in Palestine, asking for her donkey back. The story mentions no smile, but I can just imagine it on such a girl, disarming the settler as she seeks justice and peace.

When I think of someone else smiling at me, I smile myself. I was doing some photography today, taking some pictures of people in and around my office, an it was interesting how many people chose to smile. We hear, “Smile for the camera,” as someone prepares to snap a photo, or else are implored to say, “Cheese!” ourselves in the hopes we will show our teeth. But why? Again, I think it’s that feeling of love and joy one feels when you see someone smiling, so why shouldn’t the person in the picture you look at when you’re in need of a pick-me-up be smiling back at you?

Could we take on evil with our smiles?  Why don’t we try and see what happens.

Enjoy these smiling faces as well: