Today we have a guest review by long-time RevGal Beth Birkholz, who blogs here. Her mini-bio: Pastor at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Marietta, GA.
She offers the following review of RevGal MaryAnn McKibben Dana's Sabbath in the Suburbs, which will be released in just 6 short days (September 30th).
On the same day in which I received “Sabbath in the Suburbs,” I also received a notification that a book on my digital library list was ready for download, after a multiple-month wait. I don’t want to slam that book….let’s just say that it involved a Project about Happiness. It was well-reviewed and raved about by critics, and I was excited to read it personally and as a theologian.
I never made it all the way through that book, because I was busy getting practical suggestions about the happiness of myself and my family from MaryAnn McKibben Dana. Whatever chord I was hoping that would be struck by the first book was far and away hit perfectly by “Sabbath.”
The author and I both have young-ish children, although mine are a bit older. She embarks on an initiative of Sabbath-keeping throughout one year, springing from time at Iona, Scotland (from what I’ve heard from her and others, one of the “thin” places where God is a little more visible and present). I mentioned this book to a Sunday School class of young parents, and their reaction was the same as mine: “Oh no. There is NO FREAKIN WAY.” That’s an actual quote.
I think we are all tempted to think the same thing when we read about Dana’s ambitious project: to set aside 24 hours (or so) for doing…..nothing. Or a little something, but no hardcore cooking, no picking up socks, no errands. Games are okay and some TV, but mostly to set aside the time to just BE, as a family. My first thought was the same as hers: I’m a PASTOR. How am I supposed to set aside weekend time for this, when I have precious little as it is?
MaryAnn McKibben Dana addresses this concern: “This is why Sabbath is becoming important o my family. On one day a week, I don’t need to be organized…on one day we simply get to be…and maybe engage in a monster tickle fight with our kids. And in doing so, we make a statement of faith: the tickle fight is as vital as our work is—perhaps even more so.”
Every concern I had, every snarky comment in my mind, she addresses them in the book in a way that shows me she struggled with them too and came out in a place where the Sabbath is still gifting her and her family with something that is worth every bit of the struggle. I am hoping to use this book as a point of discussion with that same Sunday School class, to help us to view this commandment as they all are; something GOOD for us.
At the end of the book, I was so satisfied with where she ends up, and will end up referring back to this book if I dare take on this project. After reading it, I cannot think of Sabbath in the same way. It IS do-able, even for a pastor mama of two or three who is married and has a house to clean (what blessings! She is not unaware of this either). And it’s do-able precisely because God gives us freedom. She writes,
“True freedom, it seems, comes from participating in a particular pattern of life that seems restricting but is actually life-giving.”
Will my family engage in a Sabbath project? The excuses are already crowding into my brain. My kids are older. We already take enough time away from them by being pastors on weekends. Etc. Etc. But I can definitely move into what Dana describes as a Sabbath state of mind, even if it’s only for a few hours, an afternoon, a day. The work of the Sabbath is life-giving, and MaryAnn McKibben Dana’s work on this book was life-giving and hopeful to this pastor mom in the suburbs.