Saturday, July 28, 2012

Keeping Sabbath And Staying Home

Maybe I’m imagining it. I can’t give you hard data. But whether it’s because of the price of gas, the economy, or Orange County’s peerless weather this year, I’m pretty sure that more St. John’s congregants and school parents than ever have told me that they’re staying home this summer.

Staycation is a word, by the way – or technically, a neologism, which means a term that’s on the way to being accepted as a word. Its working definition is “no extra baggage charges or lost luggage, jet lag, jellyfish stings, or gaining five pounds on a cruise to Alaska.”

What staycation doesn’t mean is no fun, rest, or change of perspective. It doesn’t mean no Sabbath. The psalmist sings, “My boundaries enclose a pleasant land” [16:6]. We take our capacity for Sabbath wherever we go, just as we can ruin our vacations by packing our accustomed anxieties (and our e-mail-loaded iPhones) along with our sun block and swimsuits.

It’s the same with church. We don’t need to be in church to thank and praise God, talk to God from the depths of our heart, seek and obtain forgiveness for our sins, participate in sacrament, and live a more abundant life. But the discipline of regular attendance helps turn our minds toward the divine. By the same token, while we don’t need a folding chair, Corona with a wedge of lime, Daniel Silva novel, and stretch of beach on Maui to relax and enjoy life, they sure help set the stage.

If I’ve just described your vacation, you may not be even be reading this. If you are, put down that laptop get back to having fun. If not, here’s your guide to a five-star staycation:

Take little trips. Do we really need to be reminded of the diversions within a few hours’ drive? Since Kathy and I were on the St. John’s Holy Land pilgrimage, I decided not to take much more time away this summer. But I’m taking five or six days in August to drive to San Diego, see friends, and spend a couple of days on retreat, ending up at Camp Stevens in Julian to check up on my younger daughter, Lindsay, who’s on the staff. A six-day cruise to Mexico? Just fine. Spending six days (or six hours, if that’s all that’s available) doing exactly what I want? Priceless.

Do exactly what you want. A spiritual counselor told me that her definition of Sabbath was watching a whole season of “The West Wing” in one day. That’s because she loves “The West Wing.” Her point was that Sabbath is whatever you find enjoyable and reinvigorating – watching sports, baking cupcakes, playing video games, hiking, talking to friends, going to the movies by yourself, or just sleeping in. Above all, never feel guilty for indulging yourself. Remember that, at least in English, Sabbath doesn’t start with “sh” (for “should”).

Try something new in your life and at St. John’s. What I love most about vacations is the new or atypical: Seeing historic places, scuba diving, eating four meals a day. The staycation dictum is the same: “Just try it.” Rent a flute and sign up for a lesson. Download Scrabble or Angry Birds on your phone. Amaze and confound your grandchildren by learning to text or joining Facebook. Have a frozen yogurt with chocolate sprinkles. Have another.

At church, sample the noon healing service on Wednesday or the Saturday evening community Holy Eucharist. They only last about a half-hour, giving you more time for “The West Wing” or Angry Birds. Come to the fellowship dinner on Aug. 11 or yoga and the labyrinth on Aug. 16. Join a parish reading circle. If you’ve been tempted to try spiritual direction, what better time for a deeper conversation with God than the lazy days of summer? Call me and ask for a referral. If you’ve never tried the discipline of daily prayer by the hours, get out The Book Of Common Prayer and turn to pps. 137-140. Tell God I said hello.

Above all, if you’re not traveling this summer, remember why people go on vacation to begin with: For refreshment, reorientation, and (if we’re smart) relationship. We can fly around the world ten times without ever finding such comforts. We can rejoice in them without even leaving the house.

This post originally appeared in the Vaya Con Dios, the St. John's parish newsletter. My thanks to JP Allport for the labyrinth photo and for this cartoon:

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