I stand on the bow of the sailboat and shove hard against the pier piling. Our small boat slowly spins away from the dock and I turn and begin raising the sail as my husband uncleats the backstays and holds the tiller steady.
Soon, we are skimming over the water, both of us seated on the high side of the boat. I look down into the lake and can see the bottom 15 feet below through the clear water, which occasionally splashes up and soaks me—a welcome refreshment on this warm summer day. I look up and just sigh at the sight of the white sail against a perfect blue sky.
For Scot and I, there is no better way to spend a Sunday afternoon than out on the water. The beauty of the lake and its tree-lined shores, the wind in our faces, the physical exertion of pulling ropes and trimming the sails—it brings us joy. Both of us are people who see God in the beauty of creation, and sailing puts us right in the middle of that loveliness. On the boat, we can talk, or just be together in quiet. No cell phones, no computers. We reconnect with God, and with each other. That’s why part of our Sabbath practice, in the summer, includes sailing.
For more than a decade, I have made a spiritual practice of stopping my work on Sundays. I set aside my employment, chores and household tasks in order to worship God and just enjoy my family and close friends. I revel in the freedom of doing very little and not feeling guilty. It’s been a life-transforming practice that draws me close to the Creator.
As you know, I’ve written about this in my book Rest: Living in Sabbath Simplicity.
No matter the season, I try to make time in my Sabbath for spending time in nature—it rejuvenates my soul. I see God in the beauty of creation, feel his presence in its intricacies.
Depending on the tradition you come from, you may think of Sabbath as restrictive, boring, legalistic—a day full of things you cannot do. But the Bible simply tells us to put aside our work on Sabbath, and to focus on God. What better way to do that than to play (not work) in the beauty of creation? I would bet that there were times that Jesus sailed on the Sabbath, since a couple of his disciples happened to own a boat. I’m just following his example.
Think about it—where did Jesus spent most of his Sabbath days here on earth? More than likely, after synagogue, he spent at least some of his time outdoors—one gospel passage tells of Jesus and his disciples walking through a field of grain, other passages mention time in boats. Jesus said, “come to me and I will give you rest.” What better way to follow him out into the great outdoors (which he created, after all)?
Sabbath is a day to respond to that invitation to rest—and there is something restful about being outdoors. We breathe more deeply, we slow down. An important practice that is part of my weekly Sabbath is to “unplug” and turn off my computer. That’s easier if I get outside. Whether I’m going for a walk or bike ride, sitting on the front porch, going for a boat ride with my family, I am refreshed by interacting with creation.
Sabbath afternoons often find me on my knees, in the dirt of my garden. Whether I am picking tomatoes or pruning my roses, I see the wonder of creation. Even weeding can be an act of worship. Sometimes I will go for a walk in the woods or my neighborhood. I stroll and talk quietly with God. Sabbath is a day when I move slowly enough to notice the small and wondrous things, whether in a carefully kept garden or a meadow full of wildflowers.
If you’ve never practiced Sabbath, start with small steps. Back away from the computer and cell phone, and get outside, where Jesus invites you to meet with him and rest in him.
What life-giving activities can you include in your Sabbath practice?