Sabbath Keeping: Finding Freedom in the Rhythms of Rest
by Lynne M. Baab
Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005
Reviewed by Rev. Monica McDowell Elvig
You are invited to a rich feast, a celebration of abundance, and an opportunity for rest and renewal—every week! This is where Lynne Baab’s book on keeping the Sabbath begins. Baab, who has practiced Sabbath keeping for twenty-five years, writes that this spiritual practice “more than anything else, has enabled me to experience (God’s) grace” (p. 17). Drawing from deep wells of personal experience and insights from a diversity of Sabbath enthusiasts, the author has compiled a fresh and refreshing look at this ancient biblical practice.
Because contemporary lifestyles are inundated with multitasking, 24/7, television on demand, and pretty much everything else on demand as well, you may very rightly be wondering how it is possible in this day and age to even consider taking a Sabbath, let alone taking a Sabbath every week. Baab’s inspirational reflections on this timely topic are grace-filled and avoid the common trap of legalism that creates more burdens than it lifts. With gentle and practical suggestions for harried young mothers, single adults, couples, the self-employed, students, clergy, and a great variety of others, she convincingly renders Sabbath keeping as within the reach of everyone. Moreover, she views God’s intentions in establishing Sabbath as redemptive medicine for our culture’s stressed-out, addictive patterns.
Grounding her study in scripture, the author covers many informative and helpful subjects: a summary of Sabbath keeping throughout Christian history, how to structure a Sabbath celebration, overcoming obstacles, and issues related to Sabbath keeping and community. Each chapter closes with questions for reflection, discussion and journaling, and suggestions for prayer. Although this book is written with a Christian audience in mind, Baab references multiple practices from Jewish sources past and present, including an appendix citing Jewish Sabbath prayers.
I would highly recommend spiritual directors read this book for themselves and then consider using it with a directee or with a directee group. There is much to glean throughout the book for use in personal ritual and in spiritual direction practice. For example, quoting a Jewish Sabbath prayer, “Days pass, years vanish, and we walk sightless among miracles” (p. 75), the author poses a wonderful question in light of this prayer that could easily be used in spiritual direction: “What will help me (or help you) see God’s miracles more easily?” (p. 84).
Although I have kept Sabbaths more or less for some time, after reading this enlightening book, I realized my view of Sabbath keeping was more “fast” than “feast.” I look forward to the many ways Baab’s wisdom and guidance will enrich my own Sabbath practice.
Set aside some time apart—perhaps a few Sabbaths!—to dine on the sumptuous feast Baab has prepared for us in this book. Sabbath Keeping is a spiritual companion to converse and relax with that encourages us in the hope of transforming our life’s rhythms so they are balanced and liberating. Reading this book is a Sabbath experience in and of itself.
Rev. Monica McDowell Elvig, MDiv, is an ordained minister practicing in Seattle, Washington, USA. She is the founder of Women’s Sanctuary, a contemplative worship service and dinner for women, as well as a spiritual director and energy healer. She has the distinction of being the first ordained minister in the USA to be granted civil rights in a federal ruling.