Up to now I’ve been giving out the discussion guide for Sabbath in the Suburbs to anyone who requested it… but you had to email me for it.
This gave me the happy opportunity to connect with readers and learn about the different groups that would be using the book. But now the requests are coming in briskly enough that it makes sense to make the questions available to everyone. (I have word of mouth and the awesome Christian Century review to thank for that.)
So here are the questions. I’d still love to hear how the book is being used in churches, book groups, and other gatherings, but in the meantime, happy reading!
Sabbath in the Suburbs: A Guide for Reflection and Discussion
Note to the Reader and Chapter 1. “Beginnings”
What images, positive or negative, come to mind when you think about Sabbath?
Do you take time for rest and renewal in your life right now? If so, what does it look like? If not, what would your ideal “Sabbath” be like? Don’t worry about whether it’s a realistic picture or not. Just imagine it.
MaryAnn describes an experience at her child’s bus stop as a wake-up call to the need for Sabbath (p. 7). Have you had a similar experience that revealed a need for rest and play?
Chapter 2. “September”
What days make the most sense for you in terms of taking a regular Sabbath? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each?
How do you define your work? What are the activities you need to rest from?
The book describes a basic definition of Sabbath as a day not to change one’s environment (p. 15). How do you react to this statement?
What would it look like for you to “live Sabbathly”?
Chapter 3. “October”
MaryAnn writes, “Taking a break from the routine changes the way I think about the routine.” (p. 28). Do you agree or disagree?
Make a list of “delights”–things that bring joy to you and your loved ones. How might you incorporate these delights more fully into your life on a regular basis?
One of the sabbath “hacks” this month is to think about the boundaries around Sabbath in a fluid rather than rigid way (p. 35). How do you respond to this idea?
Chapter 4. “November”
What do the psalmist’s words, “teach us to count our days,” mean to you?
Sabbath can be a way to bring life back into balance. In what way does your life feel balanced or out of balance? What role might Sabbath play in recalibrating?
Chapter 5. “December”
How do your own holiday preparations encourage an attitude of Sabbath? How do they inhibit this attitude?
MaryAnn writes about a study that compares the happiness we receive from experiences as opposed to things (p. 55). How do you see that playing out in your life?
How do you react to the Good Samaritan study (p. 58)?
Chapter 6. “January”
What role should technology play on our days of rest and renewal?
MaryAnn describes missing two scheduled appointments in a week and sees these as a warning sign that life has gotten too hectic and full (p. 73). Do you have similar warning signs? What are they?
Chapter 7. “February”
What’s your reaction to the “extinction burst” (p. 84)? When have you experienced this? What are ways to reduce its impact when learning a new habit or pattern of being?
One way of thinking about Sabbath is as a time to fast from just one thing. What might you fast from?
Chapter 8. “March”
What do you think about the idea of the spiritual life as a process of subtraction?
MaryAnn writes about saying “No” to some things in order to say “Yes” to more important or life-giving things (p. 94). What would it look like for you to say “Yes” more often in your life?
In talking about a Sabbath “cheat” this month, MaryAnn writes, “I’ll take a messy and real imperfection over an impossible perfection any day.” (p. 98) What’s your reaction to this statement?
Chapter 9. “April”
MaryAnn talks in her “sabbath hack” about training our vision. Instead of seeing what’s left undone, let it represent something nourishing that we did do (p. 104). What are some examples you might use in your own life?
In what ways is Sabbath a time for authenticity?
What were your childhood experiences of Sabbath? play? hurry?
Chapter 10. “May”
Who or what is your Jethro (pp. 113-114)?
In what ways can the harder thing become the easier thing?
MaryAnn quotes Abraham Heschel who warns against kindling fire on the Sabbath, including “the fire of righteous indignation” (p. 122) How do you react to this idea?
Chapter 11. “June”
What do you think of J.O.Y. (p. 125)?
MaryAnn talks about the Reboot organization and their Sabbath Manifesto (pp. 128-129). What would yours be?
How does the idea of the Sabbath as a commandment impact your understanding of the practice?
Chapter 12. “July”
In what way is a vacation a Sabbath for you? In what way is it not? Do particular destinations lend themselves to Sabbath times and others not?
MaryAnn talks about “playing without a purpose” (p. 139). Is this easy or hard for you? Why?
The chapter describes a number of justice/economic issues relating to Sabbath. How do you respond to these, and what others can you think of?
Chapter 13. “August”
How do you understand scarcity? How do you understand abundance?
MaryAnn writes about learning to play softball. Knowing the rules meant she was able to enjoy the game more fully (pp. 152-153). What is the relationship between freedom and discipline?
In what ways might Sabbath contribute to the healing of the world?