Finding Sabbath

They explained that they needed the time of rest so that their souls could catch up with them.

by Patricia Brooke

The story is told of an South American tribe that went on a long march, day after day, when all of a sudden they would stop walking, sit down to rest for a while and then make camp for a couple of days before going any farther.  They explained that they needed the time of rest so that their souls could catch up with them.  (Sabbath—Restoring the Sacred Rhythm of Rest, Wayne Muller).

The first time I read this story, I was taken aback because I resonated so strongly with the images.   How busy I am—how busy we all are—always rushing to DO something:  taking and picking up children at school, working an 8-5 job or longer, running to the grocery store, doing the dishes, the laundry, the yard, checking emails, and the list goes on.  You can add your own “to-do” list to mine.  Thomas Merton calls this a “pervasive form of contemporary violence.”

Why is it so very hard to give myself /ourselves permission to stop?  I don’t think that is what God intends for us.  We have forgotten the Sabbath.  Sabbath is a gift of time for our dry souls to be nourished and restored.  The question is:  How do we pamper our soul?

The Hebrew word Sabbath literally means “to cease.”  Sabbath is an opportunity for us to break away from the pressures of everyday living and to refocus on what is really important.  So, how do I/we take Sabbath?  How can we take a “holy” pause in our busy lives?

Does it have to be on Sunday?  I would suggest not.  Sunday has now become a day to get ready for the week ahead.  Sabbath time can be whatever time we may choose: a minute, an hour, a day—where we simply stop.

Here are some ways I practice Sabbath:

My day usually begins with prayer, reflection, and journaling.  It doesn’t need to be hours and hours.  Try ending your day with a reflection of gratitude for the blessings seen and given.

Being semi-retired, I have made it a habit to take a nap most days.  Some days it is a short nap—15 minutes, other days, it may be an hour.  I wake feeling physically refreshed in body and soul.   Work at a desk all day?  On break or lunch, take a walk around the block.

Sabbath time is sharing a lovely cup of tea with my husband, John, in the afternoon.  We might sit on our patio and listen to the birds, watch the sky.  Drink your morning coffee on your patio.

We can embrace the activities of God where we live and move and have our being.  It is as simple as sitting on the front porch at the ranch in Goliad County—watching the barn swallows feeding their young in the nest—or watching the deer and turkey strolling across the pasture—being open to what God can reveal to us through creation.   Go on a picnic.

I just returned recently from a 7-day cruise.  It was lovely being pampered by good meals and service, in port seeing new sites, having leisure to walk the deck, read a book, and take a nap.  Give yourself a day of doing nothing.

Start simply.   What feeds your body, mind, and soul?

  • Take a bubble bath
  • Play golf with your buddies
  • Read a good book
  • Play games with your children/grandchildren
  • Share a meal with family or friends
  • Listen to classical music
  • Turn your cell phone off, maybe even your computer for an hour, maybe a day (a hard one?)
  • Go for a full body massage
  • Take time for a retreat

Sabbath will be different for each of us.  Joan Chittister says “that a soul without a sense of Sabbath is an agitated soul.   We must consciously do something different than we have been doing.  That’s why we have the Sabbath and rest and leisure.”

There is intentionality to Sabbath.  Sabbath is a gift from God—a sacred gift of rest.  Let us embrace this gift and walk gently with ourselves and those we love.


To Everything a Season, by Bonnie Thurston

Sabbath-Restoring the Sacred Rhythm of Rest, by Wayne Muller

Keeping the Sabbath Wholly, by Marva J. Dawn
Patricia Brooke is a spiritual director and a frequent retreat leader. Reach her at

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From The Episcopal Diocese of West Texas

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