Tag Archives: Sabbatical


Sixth grade class play.  Sitting on the dusty stage, gazing across at the little red-headed boy.  Who knew a heart could swell so big?  Little kids and country singers know the secret of grand dreams, great loves, and gargantuan disappointments.  You have to live with your whole heart.

I have been learning again lately about living by heart.  About rejecting duty and dogma in favor of deep-rooted, upwelling joy.  About the heart-need for heart-nourishment, rest, and protection.  About guarding my heart, remembering my first love (not the little red-headed boy), and putting a picket fence around what’s important.

At our house, we’ve been using the term “sabbatical heart.”  Having just come home from a five-month sabbatical, we gave our hearts a much-needed vacation, the chance to breathe.  So a “sabbatical heart” is thankful, not grasping, trusting, not fearful, rested, not rushed.  It’s a rocking chair on the front porch, a walk in the woods, pineapple upside-down cake and a game of Catan.  It’s a long soak in Psalms, prayer that’s conversation, and a good laugh.  In my new favorite phrase, it’s unhooked and unhindered,image free.  And it really doesn’t give a hoot what anyone else thinks.

What if you lived from the heart?  Made decisions on a heart-level?  Would it transform your marriage?  Your family?  Your vocation?  Grab a concordance, see what the Bible has to say on the subject.  God isn’t shy about wanting your whole heart.

  • Love me with all your heart
  • Serve me with all your heart
  • Trust me with all your heart
  • Seek me with all your heart
  • Praise me with all your heart
  • Follow me with all your heart
  • Obey me with all your heart
  • Have a soft heart
  • Have a heart that yearns for God, pounds for God, is fully devoted, stirred, steadfast, secure and undivided
  • Above all else guard your heart
  • Keep your heart pure
  • Rend your heart
  • Rejoice with all your heart

I heard the folk singer, Dave Wilcox, talking not long ago about a conversation his head had with his heart.  “I don’t understand,” his head said.  “It’s not in your language,” answered his heart.

How much do I need those conversations?  The ones where my heart gives my head a talking-to.  Not logic, not cut-and-dried or should-and-shouldn’t.  Love.  Joy.  Heart.

Everything You Need for 5 Months in the Back of a Dodge Durango

There’s something about packing that really brings home the big truths about life: I do not need that many shoes. I have bottles of cardamom, turmeric, and coriander that I have used maybe once but that have been occupying space in my little cabinet for a whole lotta years. And I really do not plan to ever rewatch the entire Lost series on DVD; I already gave 5 years of my life to that crazy train!

What do you need when you’re leaving for 5 months on a cross-country trip? What’s really, really essential? Because whatever you pack you have to lug, in and out of cabins and cottages, in and out in snow, rain, 100-degree days. Whatever you pack you have to sit on, under, crammed between — you’d better like it if it’s going to be poking you in the ribs for days on end. And what, when you’ve not needed it or missed it for 5 months, do you really need at all?

We threw things out on the way, outgrown clothes (and yes, in 5 months, the kids outgrow a lot), holey jeans. We lost a one-eyed stuffed tiger that turned out to be super-important after all — the whole family cried along with Little Guy — and watched together the miracle when it turned up in a Pennsylvania hotel and got Fed-Exed back to us. We learned that you can spend hours with the same crate of Legos and make something new every day, that long walks are better than Yahoo, and that the same 30 recipes over and over seems like more variety than what I produce when I don’t have a plan.

We stayed in places beautiful, places dumpy, lived in others’ houses and saw what they treasured. We learned what we didn’t miss, to great astonishment. We didn’t miss tv. We didn’t miss the internet. We did miss some books, our laundry room!, the grill.

We came home, looked with new eyes. We are sorting, separating, paring down. If it can’t fit in the back of the Dodge Durango, maybe it’s not so necessary after all.


You will find rest.

1645, “of or suitable for the Sabbath,” from L. sabbaticus, from Gk. sabbatikos “of the Sabbath” (see Sabbath). Meaning “a year’s absence granted to researchers” (originally one year in seven, to university professors) first recorded 1886 (the thing itself is attested from1880, at Harvard), related to sabbatical year (1599) in Mosaic law, the seventh year, in which land was to remain untilled and debtors and slaves released.  (dictionary.com)

I thought this year would be a year of jubilee, thought last June that God whispered the word to me. This year, after seven long years, would be the year of rejoicing, the year of harvest, celebration. I took a deep breath, expectant, and then came July. From the madman who mowed down a movie theater just down the road from our neighborhood, to the sting of hurts and the relentless ache of sorrows laid on our doorstep, the summer turned dark and broody.

Instead of celebration it has been a year of weariness to the bone. Have you been there? So depleted, so worn… So we planned for rest — sabbatical — we leave in 2 weeks. We will take some time, a few months, to recuperate, meditate, reconnect with God. We will study. We will pray. We will, as the Roman soldiers did, soak our shields, that the barrage of fiery arrows will fizzle out.

And I’m grateful, really I am, but I wonder. What happened to my year of Jubilee? What gives? I look up sabbatical in the dictionary and this is what I see: the year, according to Mosaic law, the seventh year, in which the land was to remain untilled and debtors and slaves released. The last sabbatical after 7 cycles of sabbaticals is also known as Jubilee.

So maybe we’re not there yet.

We’ve walked the fields, marked the boundaries, cleared away the rubble, stone by stone. We’ve hitched the plow, dragged the rows, churned the hard soil. We’ve knelt in the muck and dug deep, planted the seeds, patted them down. We’ve lugged the water, yanked up the weeds, tended the fragile sprouts. There have been mild days and warm rains, seasons of drought and vicious storms. And so, we wait. Like every farmer since the dawn of time, we’ve come up achy and exhausted, dependent on the whims of weather beyond our control. And now we’ve come to a sabbath season, time to soak the tired muscles, let the soil rest.

Plowed fields
Plowed fields (Photo credit: Peter Nijenhuis)

Come to me, you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. You will find rest for your souls. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Rest. Like a weaned child rests against its mother, I have calmed and quieted my soul. Hope in the Lord. Be still.

Ah, Lord, we need rest like we need water. You are the wellspring of life.

You go hard, you work long, you put the shoulder to the plow and you don’t look back until you just can’t go any more. What’s the alternative? Live easy, don’t risk? Maybe rest is the best reward. Orchards don’t spring up overnight. So we rest, we wait. I am hanging on for my bushel of peaches. Someday.