Readers say Sabbath is God’s gift of a day to ‘unplug’

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, June 20, 2007

It seems like many of our readers are longing for “licence to still,” as Cochrane coffee companion Elaine Phillips put it in last week’s column.

Morley education consultant Bill Groeneveld was grateful for the reminder to “stop and smell the roses.”

Media producer Ken Fast wrote: “I can relate to this, as I find myself needing more time alone. As well, I’ve been a ‘low-energy person’ my whole life, and even by the time I was 12 remembering that I enjoyed being alone.”

Creativity coach and songwriter Leo Peters was especially enthusiastic. “Wow!” he wrote. “I thought Elaine was speaking directly to me. If I don’t have my daily nap, I’m cranky. It’s people like Elaine ... who inspire us songwriters to create our best numbers. Thank you.”

Longtime Edmonton coffee companion Leanne Forest reflected back on her lengthy recovery from a traffic accident in the early 1990s:

“Elaine really touched me deeply with her sharing,” she wrote. “I guess I often feel the same way. Since my recovery from the car accident when I knew the job of stillness, I have allowed myself to speed up again. ’007: licence to still – what a wonderful way to remember a powerful lesson I once had, but had forgotten.”

Another or our e-mail coffee companions, reflecting on the spiritual goodness of rest in her life, wrote:

GOD HAS REPEATEDLY reminded me of the need to s-l-o-w down. My biggest struggle in life is learning to just be at peace with the idea of taking things slowly. I got a huge reminder that when God tells you to wait, it doesn't mean that you're doing nothing. Walking through life at the pace which God guides you doesn't mean you’re lazy, falling behind or not accomplishing much. It means you're being obedient to the prompting of God's Holy Spirit.

I've been off from my full-time job with a shoulder injury and I've actually been taking the time to fully heal the shoulder. Normally I'd be rushing myself to get back to work only to wear myself out or re-injure my shoulder. This time around it's given me the opportunity to spend time doing devotionals, reading books that have been on my "to read list" for a while, and spending time enjoying the beauty of my new neighbourhood on the south side of Edmonton.

I'm still amazed how in the creation story God took his time with creation. Had I been God I would have been rushing to get the job done and over with. In the end God said, "It is good." I thought about how I hardly ever look back at my rushed days or rushed tasks and say, "It is good." I'm too exhausted in the end to look back and see "It is good."

I'm glad God can't be rushed.

—Yo’vella Mizrahii, Edmonton

YO’VELLA’S EMPHASIS on “It is good” is shared by coffee companion Jack Popjes, globetrotting public speaker and retreat master. He’s about to leave for the Far East to speak on this very topic.

“One presentation includes the discipline of silence,” he wrote; “another, the discipline of solitude; another, the discipline of Sabbath – stopping to rest and look back on work accomplished and saying, ‘It’s good.’”

The Sabbath has special importance in the Jewish community. You may recall Calgary coffee companion Sandy Corenblum’s beautiful description of this day of rest in a letter I ran last year:

“About the Sabbath we always say that ‘it is not we who keep the Sabbath, but rather the Sabbath who keeps us,’” she wrote. The Sabbath “invites us to rest our weary bodies and weary souls and recharge our batteries after a hectic week of work.” (For her entire letter, see, Feb. 15, 2006.)

Interestingly, in her own response to last week’s column, Elaine Phillips wrote that she, too, has decided to return to the practice of one quiet day per week.

“On this day I ‘unplug,’ so to speak, and allow technology to work for me by giving me a break. I let the answering machine take phone messages, and I switch off my computer for a whole day.” As a writer/editor, this gives her eyes and hands a rest. She still struggles “to balance the need for stillness with the desire to be there” for friends, students and clients, but, she said, “I’m learning that my renewed energy makes the struggle worthwhile.”

All of this reminds me of a line from Psalm 127 I learned as a child – a fitting conclusion for this week: “It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so [the Lord] giveth his beloved sleep.”

© 2007 Warren Harbeck

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