Of pancakes and Psalms

Yesterday (Saturday) was our day for sabbath. For us, Saturdays have made sense not only because of the biblical precedent but also for practical reasons: after all, Sundays are busy days for pastors and their families, and often feel like just another work day than a day of rest. If there’s any day when we can unplug a bit, Saturday’s it.

Our re-awakening to the importance of sabbath occurred about 8 or 9 years ago, shortly after we were married. A dear friend had recommended we read Mark Buchanan’s The Rest of God, so we did, and it deeply affected us: sabbath as a commandment, yes, but also sabbath as a gift. Why wouldn’t we want this in our lives?

And so we made the intentional decision early in our marriage to start setting aside Saturdays for whatever the Lord would have us do on that day. At the time, I was still a student and my wife Courtney was working as a teacher, so we agreed not to do any school work or textbook reading or grading on Saturday. It was a sacrifice. But once we started it and made it through the bumpy first few weeks (which almost always accompanies any new discipline, and is to be expected when incorporating healthy habits into life), we knew there was no going back. The benefits were extraordinary and almost immediate.

We’ve been through seasons with our sabbath observance. For a time it looked more like study hall: Courtney and I would drag out some of our religious books and spend hours reading and comparing notes and drawing parallels over hot tea and Nick Drake tunes. Other times, it involved just keeping our schedules open so we could be free to do something with family or friends on a whim should the opportunity arise. (And those opportunities did arise more times than I can count.) Now with two young kids, our sabbath is more about staying offline as much as we can manage; we really try to avoid checking email and Facebook so that we can be particularly present for our boys. We want them to know work can wait.

Through it all, though, two constants have remained: pancakes and Psalm 92.

I wrote that sentence expecting a better epiphany would follow, but now I really don’t know how else to elaborate other than the obvious: we always cook pancakes for breakfast, and before we eat said pancakes we read Psalm 92, the only psalm specifically designated as “for the sabbath.”

“It is a good thing to give thanks to the Lord…”

This sets us on the right path for a day of rest. Moreover, it seems this psalm is always releasing new truths to us, as biblical passages will often do on the hundredth-or-so reading of them.

Yesterday was no exception. We cooked our pancakes (A’s current preference: a pancake shaped like an owl, complete with some silver dollars for “owl eggs”) and sat around the table together. As we read Psalm 92, the word “just” popped out at me in a way I’d never noticed before:

92:13 — The just shall flourish like the palm tree

92:16 — The Lord is just

The Christian’s goal is to be just so that we may flourish, but we also recognize that the Lord alone is truly just. We emulate Him as we follow Him; we are to copy what we see our Father doing. He is just, and part of His justice is a desire to see us flourish. Wow.

After pancakes we drove down to St. Augustine and spent some time (and money) there. Then did a library run. Then helped out a new friend who needed some help with pet-sitting. Then went out to dinner. Plenty of time throughout the day, too, for reading with the boys and playing some music and making up silly games. I don’t think we ever turned the TV on, which was nice. Yesterday was fun and refreshing, which was exactly what we needed after a long, weird week (which included a hurricane warning, plus all the time and energy spent prepping for that).

There is so much more to say about sabbath, but this post is long enough and there will be other opportunities for unpacking more about it. What I hope emerges over these future posts, though, is the relative fluidity of sabbath observance (at least for our family). Resting with God and with one another can take many forms.

For us, sabbath isn’t so much about creating an ever-growing list of “do’s” and “do nots” for any given Saturday, but rather cultivating a mindset of asking, “What feels like work?” and then making the conscious effort to avoid those things… for at least one day.

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