book review / Susan O’Loughlin
A Gentle Antidote to Legalistic Lists
And we walk sightless among miracles.”
So says a Jewish Sabbath prayer quoted by Lynne Baab in her book, Sabbath
Keeping: Finding Freedom in the Rhythms of Rest (InterVarsity
Press, 2005). This prayer describes our experience in the frenetic,
materialistic, productivity-driven milieu which is the twenty-first
century West. We miss the incredible treasures God has for us
because we lack eyes to see and ears to hear.
As I read this book, the words of Jesus in Eugene Peterson’s The
Message (NavPress, 2002) came to mind:
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion?
Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your
life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest…Learn
the unforced rhythms of grace…Keep company with me
and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew
This is the gracious spirit in which this wonderful book is written.
In a gentle antidote to legalistic lists of what we may or may
not do on the Sabbath, Baab invites us to experience the gift
of the Sabbath in all its freedom and creativity. She offers helpful
questions about how each of us might approach establishing Sabbath
traditions, described as encompassing both praying and playing.
Do our activities promote rest, bring delight, and give us a sense
of holiness? What might be drudgery for one person may be the
very thing that meets these criteria for another.
Baab writes persuasively that we have completely lost the biblical
rhythms of time. Sunset means nothing in a culture with twenty-four
hour lighting, instant messaging, voice mail and e-mail which
keep us tethered to our jobs regardless of the time of day or
day of the week. Sabbath-keeping is a gift to us, a chance to
recover the gentle rhythms that God intended.
It is also an opportunity for us to sever the tie between productivity
and self-worth. Baab says, “We want to have one day a week
when we act out the reality that ultimately our worth comes from
being loved by God, not from what we do.” She points out
that Adam and Eve were created on the sixth day, so they spent
their first day on earth resting in God’s presence. Only
then did they turn to tending the garden. It is a refreshing difference
in perspective from our culture’s emphasis on “earning” the
right to a day off by first working hard.
Lynne Baab spent years living in the Middle East (first in Iran,
then in Israel), and began her journey of Sabbath-keeping in the
context of two cultures in which it is naturally woven into the
fabric of daily life. She invites us join her in humbly learning
from these cultures.
One of the things I most appreciate about this book is the way
Lynne describes the changes in her habits of Sabbath-keeping in
different seasons of her life. Her Sabbath day shifted as her
and her husband’s work schedules changed over the years.
The practices she follows also have changed as family life moved
from one with young children to teens to empty-nesters, and as
her professional life shifted along the way. She talks in very
practical terms about discerning what constitutes rest in different
seasons and for different personality types. She also does a wonderful
job balancing the solitude and rest of the Sabbath with play and
community-building. All these examples give the reader freedom
to explore what would create Sabbath rest for them rather than
following a rote set of practices that might stifle the very openness
to God that the Sabbath was given to foster.
Lynne cites other authors who have written about the topic, but
her primary sources for this book were her own experiences and
those of many others whom she interviewed. That approach lends
the book a practical authenticity that makes it both accessible
and very appealing. She covers the theological underpinnings of
Sabbath-keeping well without getting bogged down. This is a book
for us “every-day” Christians (all of us who try to
live out our faith and hear God in a frenetic world). The guidance
offered is practical. This is not one of those books that lays
out three easy steps to change one’s life and become a better
Christian. It is far more subtle. It invites us to enter into
the mystery of God’s precious gift of the Sabbath, not analyzing,
but experiencing God’s grace as we create space for Him.
Each chapter concludes with a prayer and several questions for
reflection, discussion and/or journal writing. It would be a wonderful
book to read alone, with a spouse or children, or in a discussion
group. Its message is one we all need to ponder more deeply.
Finding Freedom in the Rhythms of Rest
by Lynne M. Baab
InterVarsity Press 2005
Sabbath Keeping (2005)
Listen to Lynne Baab interviewed on the sabbath by a New Zealand Christian radio station.
A Sabbath Testimony
A Gentle Antidote to Legalistic Lists
Susan O’Loughlin Ward
Reflections on Rest From the Neonatal
on This Sumptuous Feast Rev. Monica
A Day of Rest from the Should's
A Day Off From God Stuff? "Leadership Journal," Spring 2007
Gifts of Freedom: The Sabbath and Fasting to be published in "Conversations"
The Gift of Rest
Today's Christian Woman (Sept 2005)
OK to Start Small Presbyterians Today (July/Aug
A Day Without a ‘Do’ List Discipleship
Journal (July/Aug 2005)
Stopping: The Gift of the Sabbath Congregations (Summer
The Sabbath Doesn't Have To Be Perfect
Beyond a Sunday Nap
buy the book