Monday, October 4, 2010

Encouragement from Author Wayne Muller

Dear Friends,

I am deeply grateful that Jessica and Angie have given me this chance to be part of your family as you read and listen together, being challenged, comforted and nourished by uncovering what you may find – and what may also find you – in Sabbath.

Wayne Muller
It has been ten years since Sabbath was first published. I wrote it because I simply had to. I had created a life built on seemingly good ideas: ever-expanding acts of service, overcommitted, overworked care for anyone and everyone but myself, fueled by delusions of invincibility and flavored with a dose of grandiosity. It was as if I believed I could always call on some source of limitless energy and vitality to do, fix, or heal, anything, anywhere, anytime. But I slowly became bone weary, trying to save the world as I knew it. Still, surely God would support and protect his (rarely) humble Servant with a little extra insurance?

As it happened, God did provide me that insurance – just enough to cover an
extended hospital stay in intensive-care. My saintly frenzy had so corroded my immune system that I contracted a case of case streptococcal pneumonia, a disease as rare to get as it is to survive. The real insurance is my being alive to tell my story, which I do, in the book – but as a cautionary, not an example to follow.

We all, myself included, thirst for this Sabbath promise of rest, ease and delight. But we will also uncover our own particular challenges in creating Sabbath time in our increasingly busy, complex, and overwhelming world.

As we begin, I have the unique opportunity to share with you a few potent, valuable teachings I could only have learned from speaking with, and listening to, thousands of people who have already read Sabbath. Because they have lived with its message, and tried to make real its invitation into Sabbath time, I can now offer a few guideposts along the way that I could not possibly have known before the book was published. So I offer here the gifts unearthed by those many who have come before, in hopes they may offer some guidance and mercy as you plant these Sabbath seeds in the garden of your own life.

I have, for the past two years, been accumulating many of these lessons in a new book, A Life of Being, Having, and Doing Enough. I continue to learn from, and share with, many people who call me for mentoring. But for now, let me share a few insights I describe in the new book.

The first lesson I have learned, and would like to share, is this:

1) Regardless how beautiful its invitation, and no matter how clear our need for it, Sabbath time is fiercely elusive. Yet without Sabbath, many good- hearted people feel more exhausted, overwhelmed, and discouraged.

Wherever I go, I am privileged to meet with parents and teachers, business people and community volunteers, doctors, clergy, nurses, and civil servants. Each describes some relentless assault of increasing expectations and demands. They confess they feel bone-weary, spent, used-up. What is required of them feels impossible. Nothing they do ever feels like enough.

How many of us take on increasingly impossible pressures and responsibilities? Most good, ordinary people ache simply to do what they can, to help their families, communities, and their world become more beautiful and more loving. Yet each in their own way feels some corrosive pressure to go faster, produce, perform, more and more perfectly, every day.

The second lesson:

2) We rarely, if ever, feel any permission from anywhere or anyone that it is all right for us to stop, to rest, to take Sabbath time.

Even if we believe in taking Sabbath, we rarely know if whatever we have done is enough. We cannot feel when we have accomplished enough, given enough,loved enough - we are drowning in an inner maelstrom of heart-shredding self-judgment, and a shameful sense of insufficiency.

It is as if our soul’s inner thermostat is broken, incapable of sending or receiving reliable information that signals us to stop. We seem to have lost the deep exhale of knowing in our gut that now we can rest, without worry or regret. Without that permission from our own soul’s wisdom, we will never stop mindlessly shoveling more and more coal into the fierce and unbearable furnace of our overheated lives.

The third lesson I have learned:

3) There is a reason that Sabbath is a commandment, and not merely a lifestyle suggestion. Because, left to our own judgment, we may never make the choice, nor feel the permission to stop.

Only when we finish everything on our desk, to- do list, calendar, deadline, perfectly, every time, then (we say), we will have earned our rest.

But this ridiculously impossible moment never arrives. How can we feel safely comfortable enough to put it down, walk away, let it be, and call it a day?

Here’s the problem: We won’t. We can’t. We never will. Knowing this, God takes it out of our hands. Makes it a commandment…Do not kill, Do not steal, Take a day off. Leviticus makes it clear: at sundown, we stop. No excuses, no special circumstances, one more meeting, email, phone call, report. Nothing. Done. Stop. Now. God can take it from here.

This gets us to lesson four:

4) We need to find some deep, inner permission to take Sabbath time.

As silly as this sounds, even though Sabbath rest is a Biblical commandment, most of us never feel we can let ourselves take it. Nearly everyone I have spoken with feels guilty for taking time off; can’t justify it if others are still working; worries things will fall apart if they are not watching over everything; feel unworthy when they are not contributing; worry about being seen as lazy; worry if they stop, their latent, inner sloth will take over and they might never work again, eat ice cream on the couch and watch Oprah until they die; are afraid of what they may find in the stillness and quiet; and finally, we are actually worried that, in the end, God can’t really handle the universe very well without our help and, well…supervision.

Not surprisingly, this last one is most popular among church-goers and clergy.

I could go on, but I won’t. Let me end with a few observations, and offer a blessing on your own adventure.

We cannot do this alone. This is extremely important.

What we need instead is what you are doing together here, now. We must have honest and honorable conversations with our family, our work, our congregation about how we wish to live and work together in time. All things precious and sacred need Sabbath time. Children need unhurried, undistracted Sabbath time. Love can only flourish in time. Marriages and families can only work peacefully and compassionately together with sufficient time. Friendship needs time; trust needs time; community, prayer, worship, all need time. If we refuse to set aside sufficient time for what is sacred and undervalued by worldly time, everything we claim to hold as precious will get dropped, will break, will get lost forever.

We can only do this together. We need to remind one another that Jesus said to all who would toil, heavy laden, that he would give us “REST.” He didn’t offer Seven Spiritual Tools for Inner Success, or Time Management for Busy Christians, or anything like that. Just rest. Stop.

We need to remind one another that Jesus said “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.”

He actually says it twice, for emphasis. As often as we embrace the suffering servant, Jesus offers mercy and rest. Without the love of good, honest friends to remind us, we will forget.

May your journey be gentle, easy, nourishing, and filled with the grace of a loving community listening together for the innumerable sounds of the divine creator blowing through us as wind through a flute, as we are used to make the music that may heal the world.


Wayne Muller


  1. I just placed my order for your book and am looking forward to reading it with the Bloom Club. It's more fun that way! We get to discuss it and listen to Angie and Jessica too. That's always a treat!

    Most of the people I encounter are so busy! And many are so busy 'working for God'! Is that really what He wants? Does He really need us to do that?

    I love the reminder from Scripture you shared "I desire mercy, not sacrifice."

    Now I am even more excited to get into this book. How wonderful that you took the time to share with us before we begin. And I look forward to your next book.

    Being on Angie and Jessica's book list is almost like being on Oprah's but ...even better!


  2. Mr. Muller, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and encouragement with us! I think this book will be very good for a lot of people! I am excited to read it! I think it is so very needed in our culture today, especially among Christians. I have been convicted over the past year about being so busy that I become TOO busy for what is most important in life.

    The point about needing "permission" for Sabbath really resonated with me. So often it seems that among friends we are in this competition - who is busiest? Who has the most markings on their calendar? Who is doing the most at church? uggg! I want out of this rat race, and I hate that so often we are looked at as lazy or not doing "enough" when we have to say no!!

    I'm looking forward vey much to your book! Thanks for taking the time to stop in and share your wisdom with us!

  3. When you wrote about many people needing permission to have a Sabbath, I felt so validated! I had posted about this myself only a few days ago... I can't rest because there is too much to be done at home, and it would be selfish of me to take time for myself when so much needs doing. I look forward to see if you give us tips on how to overcome this.

  4. My book just arrived from Amazon!

    I'm ready to dive in and am looking forward to how I will learn to make some positive, restful changes. :)

  5. I have learned the hard way-through illness, collapse and exhaustion that to "do" what is the most impossible, least accepted act of all seems to be to rest. Not only do we have the outward pressure of performance to measure our worth-we have the inward pressure of the voices in our heads that tell us that it is noble to never rest and that we must just try harder. Jesus says clearly to not worry about anything, it is a command but oh the guilt that has deceived and lured me into the trap of doing more to worry less. To truly not worry requires submission to the One we can Trust to do His Will without our help. His call is opposite to my fleshly desire-
    I requested this book and am looking forward to receiving it, trying to rest in the fact that I am not sure if I am doing this book club thing right! This is my first time with you.
    Thank you for your generosity and love
    Today, I will rest.

  6. Mr. Muller,
    My family just got home from a wonderful vacation on Sanibel Island in which I took a little trip by myself every afternoon to sit on the beach and read. I opened up Sabbath to read the first 57 pages for book club, and my life will never be the same!! I believe those words penned were salve to my weary soul and what better time for me to take those thoughts in than on vacation. I will never forget that sweet time with the Lord on the beach learning how to remember to rest!!! Thank you, I cannot wait to continue the book and to continue this new practice!!!
    Abi Byrd

  7. Mr. Muller, thank you so much for sharing your story with us. I just started reading the book last night. Felt like it was just what I needed to hear at this point in my life. I have two little ones (3 and 16 months), my husband works both a full time day job and as a part time Worship Pastor for our church. I am mainly a stay at home mom although I have been working weekends some at my former pre-kids job. It's so easy to get caught up in the busy hustle and bustle of every day life. I loved the comment above that the book was like "salve to my weary soul"...yep..pretty much sums up what I was feeling as I read it!

    Thank you for sharing this book with us and thank you Angie and Jessica for your hard work and dedication to your readers. I'm so excited to finally join you!

  8. Mr. Muller,

    Thank you so much for sharing with us! I feel so encouraged, and I cannot wait for the book to come so I can dive in and read read read! :) Thank you for allowing us all to learn more about you and your purposes of this book and for all that you are adding to the study:)

  9. Hello girls!

    I am so, so excited for this Sunday's video post! I have been reading Sabbath (love it!) and just can't wait to see the video! This will be my first book club experience ever! I have gone back to watch all of your past videos on other books in spite of the fact I haven't read them! I know, kind of weird but I have learned so much and gained some insight for my life just through your reviewing the books! So, now that I have seen all of the past videos, I just can't wait to see this Sunday's! Yippee! (No pressure though :))
    Hugs to you and yours!
    Staci (Glass)

  10. Mr Muller,
    I am a weary soul desperate for rest and the Spirit's living waters. I just finished the section on "Legalism and the Dreary Sabbath". Over the years I have ignored the Sabbath command and felt guilty for this soul hunger to get away and be alone. As a home school mom with 5 kids on staff with a para church organization, I don't feel that permission. Additionally, down deep I know me...I am a distracted, selfish and lazy person...maybe I shouldn't be entrusted with rest. I have tried to get away for a few hours to read and pray, only to find myself making a grocery list, stopping to run an errand or thinking through an issue with a rebellious child while my time slips away. Last week one day, I took a shower....a whole shower and no one called me, banged on the door, walked in and asked me to spell was just me for almost 15 minutes! I hope that as I ponder the the words in your book and have the courage to make changes in my life, I will enjoy more minutes not just alone but with my Savior and others finding rest for my soul.

  11. My book is taking forever to arrive! I am very excited to begin this journey. Thank you so much, Mr. Muller, for inviting me along!

  12. BEAUTIFUL! I am sooo loving your book. Thank you for writing it!