Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. Exodus 20:8-11 (NIV)
Because I had my head hanging over the toilet bowl New Year’s Eve, I have a hard time believing that 2015 is really here. Not only did I miss its arrival, but I didn’t really feel like contemplating the future for the first seven days of the year. But, everyone around me is talking about resolutions and new ways of doing things, so I guess I had better start thinking about mine or I will be really behind. Wouldn’t do to be dreaming up goals mid July now would it? It isn’t hard to dream with an empty calendar in front of me. Where would I like to go? What would I like to do? How would I like to live my life? It seems like so much time. But, my 56 years tell me otherwise. Before we know it, 2016 will be knocking at the door. What does 2015 hold? Only God knows. For all my plans, life may throw me some more curve balls. This year, instead of thinking of trips or projects, I have only two things on my mind and they both come from a book I recently read by Barbara Brown Taylor called An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith. Taylor’s book, Learning to Walk in the Dark, kept appearing on my suggested reading list for my Kindle. After a time of ignoring it, I felt compelled to buy it and the insights there, propelled me to buy An Altar in the World. Taylor, a former Episcopal priest, who now teaches World Religions at Piedmont College in Northern Georgia, was rated one of the top preachers in today’s world by the Southern Baptist Convention, a fact that surprised me since Southern Baptists are not known for favoring women preachers. Her writing is profound, makes you think deeply, sometimes reading a section several times not only to absorb it, but because the prose is so beautifully written. When you read her work, you can’t help but wish you had written it. Take for example, “The best thing I can say is that learning to walk in the dark has allowed me to take back my faith, removing it from the glare of the full solar tradition to recover by the light of the moon. Now, the sun still comes up, but it also goes down. Blessing the day means accepting my full quota of light and of dark, even when I cannot see what I am blessing.” (Learning to Walk in the Dark) But, still, I may not be reading quite so carefully which can only explain why after reading An Altar in the World, I immediately downloaded what I thought was a new book but was really just a chapter of the one I had just finished called “The Practice of Saying No.” On the second read, I got what Taylor was saying to those of us for whom “busyness is The Way of Life.” She says she knows “people who can do five things at once who are incapable of doing nothing.” Really? Have we met Mrs. Taylor, because I think you just described me? She adds, “Saying no is a more difficult spiritual practice than tithing, praying on a cold stone floor, or visiting a prisoner on death row-because while all of those worthy activities may involve saying no to something else so that I can do them instead, they still amount to doing more instead of less. Limiting my activity does not help me feel holy. Doing more feels holy, which is why I stay so intrigued by the fourth commandment.” She goes on to describe what God intended for the Sabbath to be, a day when all work, or things that make others work, is set aside not only to rest but to enjoy the life that God has given us. It is not a day when you decide you will sew three quilts and a handbag, cook meals for the rest of the week and clean the house all after spending the morning in the church nursery. (My usual interpretation of the Sabbath.) She notes that much of our current difficulties with the Sabbath comes from our consumerist society and our desire for “MORE.” Taylor does not only mean Sabbath in literal interpretation of the calendar, but of our attitudes in our heart which find us trying to cram one more thing into the day or closet. After reading An Altar in the World, I decided to set two goals for the year related to MORE. In 2015, I will say no to more and instead, be more present in the life I have. I will pay attention to what is going on around me, focus on the world in which I am placed, appreciate what I have and set aside time to enjoy it. Hello, 2015. This year it’s all about More. Or less.