Book Review: For Sabbath’s Sake

As a Seventh-day Adventist, I’m always excited and intrigued when I come across books by authors from other faith traditions exalting the virtues of the Sabbath. I was born into Adventism, and so the Sabbath has always been a central part of my faith, which is both a beautiful thing and an incredibly easy thing to take for granted. Reading about how others have discovered or rediscovered the Sabbath, what it means to them, and how they are reverently carving out a place for it in their lives is a delightful journey I never tire of walking.

And so it was with this eager anticipation that I opened J. Dana Trent’s latest book, For Sabbath’s Sake: Embracing Your Need for Rest, Worship, and Community. Trent instantly drew me in with her down-to-earth relatableness and refreshing wit. With heartfelt candor, she describes finding herself at her breaking point — stressed out from myriad professional and personal responsibilities, and dealing with debilitating migraines — and her yearning for a return to the restful God-centered Sundays of her childhood.

We’re invited on this journey of rediscovery with Trent, as she shares memories of Sundays filled with “daydreaming, reading, resting, praising, praying, fellowshipping, gathering, and moving toward the Divine,” (12) and her present day search to reclaim that time.

She starts by searching for Sabbath’s roots, not just in the faith tradition of her own family and childhood, but by sharing in a Passover meal with Jewish friends, dialoguing with her husband’s Great Aunt who is a devout Seventh-day Adventist, and visiting a Catholic retreat center.

She says that though each faith tradition emphasizes the Sabbath in different ways (and on different days), “the most important aspect of ‘authority’ when it comes to the Sabbath is not the individual’s or church’s idea of what Sabbath should or shouldn’t be. The essential ingredient of Sabbath is making it holy by making it God’s” (46).

This, of course, is easier said than done, and Trent is upfront about what a difficult struggle it was for her to shift from filling every minute of every day with busyness to setting aside time to just be. Even at the retreat center she visited, the distant sound of construction equipment and the jarring rifle shots of target practice reminded her that “no matter where I am, I will always have to contend with obstacles to the Sabbath — my yearning for production, my rambling mind, or someone else’s idea of an afternoon well spent” (85).

Trent also acknowledges that the ability to observe a day — or even a few hours — of sacredness and reconnection with God is a privilege not everyone has. “How can a person who is working three minimum-wage jobs, not making ends meet, and barely providing for children even think about a day off?” she asks (118). At the same time, many people whose socioeconomic status affords them the ability to experience the Sabbath still have trouble finding time. She encourages readers to start small. “We worry that if we can’t observe the fourth commandment in its fullest sense, we should give up entirely” (117), but it is the intentionality behind our efforts that matters more than our ability to set aside a full 24 hours a week at the get-go. Trent says “in addition to a formal Sunday (or any day of the week) practice, I’m a big fan of ‘sabbath moments,’ which are sacred glimpses in regular time — like a rainbow on a Thursday afternoon or a conversation with a close friend. Sabbath moments are a good place to start” (121).

Once she was ready to “stretch those moments into an hour, an afternoon, or a day,” Trent compiled a list of ten Sabbath practices she found helpful in her journey which she shares with readers. In the final chapter of For Sabbath’s Sake, she guides readers through crafting their own Sabbath plan, ending with the following wisdom: “this is your journey, take delight in it” (131).

I’m so appreciative of J. Dana Trent for sharing her Sabbath journey with readers in this intimate account. It helped renew my joy and appreciation of the Sabbath, and I’ve become more conscious of finding those “Sabbath moments” in everyday life. I think anyone looking to connect with the sacredness of the Sabbath God has gifted to us will be captivated by For Sabbath’s Sake and the wisdom and hope it contains.

Alisa Williams is managing editor of SpectrumMagazine.org. This review was originally published by The Englewood Review of Books. It is reprinted here with permission.

Image: Upper Room Books

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/8575

Thanks. I’m also intrigued with what authors outside of Adventism value in Sabbath-keeping. Since biographical information about the author was not provided with the review, I’ll share what I copied from Amazon’s site:

J DanaTrent is a graduate of Duke Divinity School and adjunct faculty member at Wake Tech Community College, where she teaches World Religions. Dana is speaker, workshop leader, and grant writer. Her work has appeared on Time.com, The Huffington Post, Religion News Service, The Christian Century, Patheos, and BeliefNet. She is the award-winning author of For Sabbath’s Sake: Embracing Your Need for Rest, Worship, and Community (Upper Room Books, October 2017) and Saffron Cross: The Unlikely Story of How a Christian Minister Married a Hindu Monk (Fresh Air Books, 2013). She, her husband, Fred, and Truffy the Cat live in North Carolina.

I like that part: “her yearning for a return to the restful God-centered Sundays of her childhood.”

She is married to a Hindu Monk and wrote a book about their marriage called, “Saffron Cross”.

Where does one find rest, except in walking in the way of God.

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I have had these in my library for several years.
They have offered refreshing views of Sabbath Keeping beyond our
SDA DON’T DO’s and you Can ONLY DO THIS Lists.

Sabbath Keeping – Finding Freedom in the Rhythems of Rest. by Lynne M. Baab.
InterVarsity Press, 2005.

Sabbath by Dan B. Allender. [in The Ancient Practices Series] Thomas Nelson, 2009.

Hiding in Plain Sight – Sabbath Blessings by Molly Wolf. The Liturgical Press, 1998 by
the Order of St. Benedict, Inc.

The Dusty Ones – Why Wandering Deepens Your Faith, by A. J. Swoboda. Baker Books, 2016.
A.J. is a busy pastor. works the hardest on Sundays – preaching day.
In chapter 8, title “A Wanderer’s Rest”, he discusses making a decision to make a Sabbath. Living in a rural area he begins by saying I, my son, my wife, and our chickens take a break – it is called Sabbath. And confesses that the challenges of taking a Sabbath day of rest are endless. No shopping, buying, driving, working. don’t even make the beds. Observes that Sabbath goes against American values, economic values. States that personal crises are challenges. The biggest – what to do with the phone. turning it off was like coming down from an addiction.
He states that just taking a “day off” is a “Bastard Sabbath”. Because we end up planning what to do when it is over.
He takes 17 pages to discuss TRUE SABBATH KEEPING. And True Sabbath Keeping even in the busy life of a Preacher

Again, they have been refreshing reads.

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Thank you, Alisa.

My own Sabbath-keeping has shifted from that of my parents–I no longer, for example, shine my shoes before sundown. Neither, to take one more example, do I eschew or forbid bike-riding.

Still, movement away from “legalism,” though very good, is dangerous for putting at risk the very Sabbath gift itself. The discipline of actually stopping ordinary preoccupations still matters, and still heals the work-savaged spirit with which post-Enlightenment ideology has saddled so many.

I am among the very grateful.

Chuck

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This is unfortunately nothing short of snake talk, none of us can “make it (the Sabbath) holy”, or make it God’s, as Jesus, the Creator of this world, the whole Universe, and the Sabbath day itself, already did. He blessed it, sanctified it, and asked us to remember it, to keep it holy, the “Seventh Day of the week that is. For this reason, no other day of the week can have the same meaning as we adore the Lord of the Sabbath, nor the same blessings as we receive them from Him, on the very day He appointed.
Jesus started His redemptive mission here on Earth on the (seventh day) Sabbath, and on this very day he fulfilled prophecy in proclaiming the “acceptable year of the Lord”, which most writers/commentators agree was the fiftieth sabbatical year (jubilee) after seven Sabbath of years. On this year, debts were forgiven, destitute people from the Hebrew society were cared for, property returned to the rightful owner, and slaves emancipated. Anyone missing these points misses the inextricably linked symbolic meaning of the Sabbath to the Plan of Salvation.
Being legalistic on this day as the Jews of Jesus’s day were, can only offend God’s intended benefits, but choosing legalism as an excuse to ignore it has its own risks, as you may be worshipping another god.

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