Monday, July 17, 2006

Grease, Summer, Slavery, and Sabbath

Have you seen the musical/movie "Grease"?

I have to confess that I'm not an expert on the subject. But I HAVE watched more of it than I'd care to admit, though never having seen the movie all the way through. (My wife and daughters think it is "the ginchiest" and have occasionally been watching it as I walk in and out of the room.)

One thing I DO remember about the movie is the way an encounter between Olivia Newton John and John Travolta over the summer break, is retold once they get back to school. If I remember correctly, Travolta is too cool to tell his friends exactly the way that it happened. Getting back to school makes him remember his reputation, and he has to reinterpret the story to maintain the cool factor.

I find summer does the same to me. It messes up my life, or more specifically, my routine.

During the other nine months of the year, I keep a pretty regular schedule (though for a minister, "regular" is often still quite fluid with trips to the hospital, impromptu counseling sessions, funerals, and other unexpected activities). But that aside, I get to particular tasks with some regularity.

One of the worst hits my routine takes during the summer is the computer. The blog and the e-mail are the most severe casulaties. During the fall/winter/spring I'm at the computer regularly. (Not at "addict level", mind you.) But a couple of times a day, Mon.-Thur. And once or so on Sat./Sun. I get to the computer. (Fri. is my day off. And with the exception of fantasy football [yes, I'm one of those geeks, {but not at an "addict level", mind you}], I don't turn on the computer.)

But the summer is crazy. I have little or no set schedule. I go days without communicating with people on e-mail, without checking in at my blog, without seeing who's doing what. (Mamacita, thanks for forwarding the Wittenburg Door e-mail!)

Now here's the weird thing. With the exception of my blog readership being down, NO ONE SEEMS TO MIND. I haven't had ONE PERSON complain, give me an inquisitive, "Where have you been?" or an indignant "I've been waiting for you to respond!!"

So here's what I'm wondering. Are we all too closely tied to our communication devices? Are we slaves of our cell phones, pagers, PDA's, e-mail, etc.? Are we too concerned about getting that message or answering that call? How often is it really life-or-death? How often is it much less significant?

In Exodus, God seems to anticipate this sort of thing when doling out the Ten Commandments. #4 reads: "Remember to observe the Sabbath to keep it holy. Six days a week are set apart for your daily duties and regular work, but the seventh day is a day of rest dedicated to the LORD your God."

Now if you grew up in a tradition like mine, they liked to make lists of things you can't do. And the whole Sabbath thing becomes a bit of a drag, a giant wag-of-the-finger exercise. (I remember one friend of mine saying he'd given up playing tennis with the family on Sun. afternoons because the minister frowned upon it.)

Anyway, my recent experience reminded me that the intent of Sabbath was maybe much more beneficial to me than a mere prohibition. Maybe it is the intent of Sabbath to remind me, as Eugene Peterson writes, that the world can go on without me...without me answering my e-mails and blogging for ONE DAY. That the world was here before I came and will most likely be here after I'm gone. That me and my tasks aren't nearly as irreplaceable as I'm duped into believing. That the world is not so fragile as to fall apart when I take an extra 24 hrs. to see what spam I've rec'd about the latest male anhancement formula, mortgage deal, or gambling-online opportunity.

So take a Sabbath. Use 1/7 of your week to cease from work, labor, honey-do lists, and chores. Take 1 day out of 7 and use it to recreate your mind, body, and spirit. Could be the best thing you've done all week. You could even use it to watch "Grease".

Grace & peace.

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