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Monday, September 24, 2012

RevGalBookPals: Sabbath in the Suburbs

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.
Mama to M and J, Wife of S.  Suburban farmer, runner, and yogi.

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.

1 comment:

  1. Great review! Thanks Beth! Looking forward to reading this.


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