The following is another excerpt from chapter five of Ten Essential Words.

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So how do we take the essence of the Fourth Commandment – how do we embrace the Sabbath – without grasping at the shadows?  We begin by going back to the original intent of this practice – rest and worship.  We begin to incorporate a rhythm to our lives that includes regular times of rest and practices that inspire the worship of God.  To do that, we have to engage the biggest enemy of rest in our culture: busyness.

Nothing robs our soul more of this rhythm of rest than a busy schedule.  Busyness or hurriedness has become almost epidemic in our culture today.  Initially, we learn that busyness is simply the necessary evil that will get us ahead in life.  Then we notice that it is not even regarded as evil anymore, it is just a way of life.  Eventually, we even begin to wear our busyness like a badge of honor that says, “I’m important.  I’m productive.”   Think about it for a moment: what is one of the most common responses to the question “How was your week?”  “Busy”, of course.  And we nod our head indicating our week was busy as well.  We even nod in approval as if to say, “Good job, keep yourself busy.”  How often do we decline social invitations with the reply, “I’m sorry, but I’m busy that day.”  Or simply offer the general observation, “I’m soooo busy right now.”  And the kicker is that all those responses are perfectly acceptable in our culture – even admirable.

Our western culture has become a culture of work, where rest is viewed as a luxury when all that needs to be done is accomplished (if it ever does get accomplished).  We fill our lives with devices to manage our busyness: daily calendars to keep our busy schedule, blackberrys and other PDA devices to tell us where our next appointment is, watches that constantly remind us we are late for that appointment, and cell phones so that we can squeeze another conversation into any spare moment.  We live fast-paced lives and tell ourselves that rest is for retirement spent out on a golf course.  Maybe one day, but not now – we are too busy.  Author Wayne Muller sums it up this way:

People who have a lot of money and no time, we call ‘rich’.  And people who have a great deal of time but no money, we call ‘poor.’  A ‘successful’ life is one in which one is always terribly busy, working hard, accomplishing great things, and making a great deal of money.

These things, such as productivity, money, and achievement, are not bad things in and of themselves.  But if we are going to take Sabbath seriously, we have to first admit that these things also have the potential to completely erase the notion of rest from our schedule.  Rarely do we write the word rest into our calendar.  Our iPhone seldom beeps at us, reminding us that it is time to slow ourselves and enter into a time of reflection and worship.

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