Keeping the Sabbath: Conceptual Elements

This post is a discussion of Cynthia Agnell’s Summit presentation, “Enough Already! Keeping the Sabbath in the 21st Century,” in relation to some of the conceptual elements presented by Daniel Pink in A Whole New Mind.


Mrs. Agnell looked at the big picture in regard to Sabbath in several ways.

First, she asked why we were there. She would not be able to connect with us if she did not know what our motivation was. Most of the attendees were adults looking to improve their own practice of Sabbath, but there were about five students whose teacher had chosen that as one of the presentations they could attend.

Second, she looked at both the Jewish and the Christian experience/expectation of Sabbath. The Jews were to practice Sabbath as a nation so that there was a cultural expectation of Sabbath, which, while not making it perfect, would make it easier. Christians, while not commanded to practice the Sabbath, have traditionally made an effort to engage with God and each other on Sundays.

Third, she looked at the American historical perspective of experiencing Sabbath. Up until about fifty years ago, the practice of Sabbath was widely kept in this nation. She engaged the audience by asking what they thought ended this habit of Sabbath for the United States as a whole.

Fourth, she talked about what keeping the Sabbath looks like and how it can be done in the modern age.


Mrs. Agnell touched on empathy, in her discussion of how since May her life has turned a bit topsy turvy and her habit of Sabbath keeping has suffered as a result. She gave specific details, like moving all the furniture in her house from the first level to upstairs to work on the floors. She also connected and made people laugh by saying that she and her husband had two fights as a result. One, this says that they don’t often fight. Two, it says that the situation was incredibly stressful. Then she explained that both fights, on two different days, were about switch plates! Her point was that tiny little insignificant issues get blown out of proportion when we don’t practice Sabbath. All of us can relate to stress overcoming us.


Mrs. Agnell told the story of this year in her life. She told of retiring from her full-time position, but getting to keep the parts of her job that she liked and being able to do those from her home. She told of her son’s engagement announcement and her other son’s increasing family, through his wife’s pregnancy. She went on to tell of how replacing really old carpet became an entire house remodel, including gutting the kitchen, and how that run-away train impacted her life negatively in several ways.


The meaning aspect came through in her discussion of how to keep the Sabbath. Her recommendations were to worship, give thanks, celebrate, reflect, and spend time in general with God. However, she also said that keeping the Sabbath means changing our patterns, giving up our normal rush of accomplishments, and slowing down.

What that means for me is that: A Sabbath rest for a mind set on teaching college students all week long might include teaching a two-year-old class at church, as long as the class was prepared before Sunday. A Sabbath rest for an English teacher could include reading, as long as it was not something for work; so Sabbath could include reading the newest David Weber novel in the Safehold series.

Mrs. Agnell used Isaiah 58:13-14 to explain the importance of keeping the Sabbath. She both introduced her talk with these verses and ended her talk with them, using them to pray a blessing over those of us in the audience.

The meaning of the Sabbath is to grow closer to God and to each other. God is invested in us resting in him and taking the time to rest from the life chores we have had set before us or have committed to.

13 “If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath
and from doing as you please on my holy day,
if you call the Sabbath a delight
and the LORD’s holy day honorable,
and if you honor it by not going your own way
and not doing as you please or speaking idle words,
14 then you will find your joy in the LORD,
and I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heights of the land
and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.”
For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

Dielli Sunday

Went to a different church to visit this weekend and a young girl came on stage and spoke. She told the Dielli story from the Bible perspective, with “young” being 13 or so. That’s a lot younger than I had envisioned. It was so well done.

Then the preacher got up and spoke on the same topic.

First, a Babylonian statement on what to do if someone got leprosy:
“He has been rejected by his god and so should be rejected by mankind.”

Note that Naaman was not rejected by his king (who was Syrian, not Babylonian, but…).

The servant girl could have been silent, made Naaman pay for his sins. Instead she said, “If only…”

She was the lowest of the low.
A woman.
A slave.
A foreigner.

And yet Naaman was desperate enough to listen to her.

A talent in money was as much as a man could carry. Naaman brought ten talents of silver. Shekels varied by year. Ten sets of clothing was a LOT. Most people owned one. Some owned two.

By writing the letter to the king of Israel, Naaman’s king was doing the normal thing. Talking to the person at his level. However, healing someone of leprosy was “a bit above the king’s pay grade.”

Naaman went as an important man, a military man, a rich man, to the prophet who did not even come out the door of his house, but instead sent a servant out to talk to him.

I would think that this would insult Naaman. He’s not good enough for the prophet to come out and talk to?

He expected the prophet not just to come out but to personally intervene in his life for his health. What is that saying? Pride. Certainly not the kind of humility the centurion showed to Jesus many centuries later.

The rivers’ listing is really a clash of gods. Gods were place limited. Listing his rivers meant that Rimmone (sp?) was his god.

Naaman listened to his servants (plural) when they advised him to go ahead and bathe in the Jordan.

He got his help from the help…

Naaman wasn’t just cured of his leprosy but his skin became as a young child’s. … I think this might be an interesting addition if Naaman is a lot older than the princess. His body and his life are rejuvenated by the Maker for trusting him enough to follow the directions.

Another point here is that he said he knew that God was the one true god. That means he has rejected the gods of place.

Yet he asks to take dirt back.


The minister said that he hopes that this means Naaman was thinking of Dielli. That he was bringing her part of her homeland back.

I don’t know why. What would be the point?

However, it would be interesting if there were a point.

Does Dielli come with Nakhaman when he goes to see the prophet? I always assumed she did. Figured she and the future husband were the servants who talked Nakhaman into the plan. If she did, then it wouldn’t be her the dirt was for.

Also, why would Nakhaman think of her enough to bring her dirt when he didn’t think of her enough to offer to free her? That is a very important question. I think it shows that Nakhaman (or Naaman) was still too aware of his own standing. He’s the prince of a country in the book. Why would a young slave want to be away from him? She would have more standing in his home than in her home country. And he’s never lost his standing, even with the leprosy.

So was the dirt to offer sacrifices on? Why would he need to do that when he recognizes God as the only god?

Hmm. I know where I can put dirt in. I can put it in the scene where the slaves are telling god stories. Toban and Dielli ask for dirt because the Maker made everything. So Nakhaman would be thinking of Dielli to bring the dirt back. Just not thinking much.

Interesting ideas.

Thanks, God.

My Mother’s Birthday

Today is my mother’s birthday. If she were alive, she would be 66. She would have celebrated her 50th anniversary this past March. She would have come to Abilene to see my new house and celebrated that her second grandbaby is at college.

But last year, last summer, on July 19th, my mother died.

She went home to be with Jesus. She went home singing. She went home dancing. She went home worshiping the Lord.

I want to do something for my mother’s birthday, but I don’t know what. If I had freshman during this day, I would pass out cards and make them write their mothers, or someone they love like a mother, or someone who has mothered them. But I have sophomores and it doesn’t match the class.

If it were my birthday, my mother would send cake and flowers, plates and forks, to my classroom. But I can’t send those things to heaven. And if I could, what kind of wonderful would the cake have to be? Even better than Lacey Williams Herring’s cakes, which is saying something!

So what will I do for this birthday?

I don’t know.

Except that I want to tell you that my mother, who got married incredibly young and stayed married until the day she died, who loved my dad and the four of us kids with every ounce of strength she had, who could find out more about a person (and remember it forever) than anyone else on the planet, who died of a brain tumor misdiagnosed as medically induced bipolar, taught me many things in life, some of which I recognized immediately and some of which I still haven’t figured out.

One thing I knew fairly early on, though, was that my mother taught me how to pray. My mother had an unshakable faith in God’s power and willingness, and even in his eagerness, to answer our prayers. She prayed with fervency. She prayed often. She knew that prayer was the answer to many dilemmas.

So, for my mother’s birthday, I am going to pray.

I am going to pray for my ten closest friends and their extended families (one per finger or toe–helps me remember).

  • Arnetts
  • Baldwins
  • Breauxs
  • Cogdells
  • Davises
  • Delonys
  • Goodriches
  • Hastons
  • Macons
  • Tanners
  • Williamses

I am going to pray for the ten lost sheep of the Davis oikos (including my mother’s oldest grandson and the devastated brother of a friend from my last experience as a teacher at ACU [Audra]).

  • Alec
  • Alex
  • Alyssa
  • Bethany
  • Chris
  • Elijah
  • Grace
  • Gwen
  • Jenny
  • Mark

And I am going to pray for whatever else God puts before me, including:
Kendra, and her brain surgery that removed 2.5 tumors today
my students, especially the freshmen as they deal with homesickness
my teaching, that God will work through me and give me wisdom
my community involvement, and whether or not I should commit to cleaning up the four blocks around my house for the next X years as the Jennifer Haston Memorial
my husband’s present and future health, work, school, especially as it relates to his move to Abilene

Tell me why the stars do shine.
Tell me why the ivy twines.
Tell me why the ocean’s blue
and I will tell you just why I love you.

Because God made the stars to shine.
Because God made the ivy twine.
Because God made the oceans blue.
Because God made you, that’s why I love you.

(Link to the song my mother used to sing to me.)

Mom, I know you are bending God’s ear about Elijah. Thank you for that. Tell Grama and Pappa Davis I said hello. And I hope God gives you the biggest and best birthday party ever, if they do birthday parties in Heaven.  I love you, Mommy.

God, thank you for giving me a godly mother.

Word Length

I wrote Dielli I and it was 140,000 words. I rewrote it significantly and shortened it to 114,000 words.

Today I am reading Mike Nappa’s 77 Reasons Why Your Book Was Rejected and in “Reason No. 11” it says:

Typical adult nonfiction book: 45,000-55,000 words
Typical adult novel: 80,000-100,000 words
Typical young adult novel: 40,000-60,000 words
Typical juvenile book (fiction or non-fiction): 20,000-40,000 words

That would explain a lot. My book is too long.

Dielli Revisions

Using Robert’s Rules of Writing:
Start the book with Dielli crawling out of the bedroom to find her aunt and uncle, not with the dream. (Really?)
“Figure out what the action is … and then start writing just a fraction before that action begins.”
Maybe reorder, so that it starts with Dielli killing the spider? Not telling her folks about the problem? What?

Start with the spider on the window? Dielli grabbing the broom out of Jeska’s hand?

Perfect the Villain.
I introduced a bad guy and then just dropped him out of the story. I need to make him a more substantial character. Someone needs to overhear him telling about Dielli’s dream.

Heroes are Imperfect.
What is Dielli’s flaw? It doesn’t have to be fatal, but she does have to have one. Insert it into the storyline. Make it something that does hurt her now and again and eventually becomes a huge deal.

That she keeps problems to herself? What?

What anecdotes do you tell best?
Use those in the story.

God’s intervention seems too fake, too deux ex machina. So what can you do instead? What will make it seem less strange? Tell stories that show the gods’ intervention outside of Dielli’s life too.

Make smaller mountains she has to climb.

Perhaps write the story of the power encounter as a short story. See where you go with that.

Revise the part on the scribe work.

Rework the standing outside the door waiting for K and L to open it. Maybe they can hear tears inside? What?

“[N]onfiction sells more easily than fiction. Newspapers… have a bottomless craving for news stories, features, trend pieces, profiles, travel essays, and humor columns. They don’t just want these things, they need them.”

Look at how your favorite writers catch your attention. What do they do with their characters? why do you like them so much? Scrutinize. Then try their tricks.

#96 When you pick a project, you find things everywhere that relate to it specifically. So you have to pick a project.

#97 “The more specific you become, the more generally felt your writing will be.”
Perhaps I should go back to Dielli and the guy at the door… but I wanted her to be unaware of what was happening, to not recognize it. How could I talk about the woman who was assaulted and how she felt while introducing Dielli? Perhaps she comes by to tell Dielli it’s not her fault and Dielli wonders why she thinks D doesn’t know that?

#99 “Writing is all about perseverance.

But it’s also a matter of knowing when to quit.”

#101 (Just because we were talking about wallowing earlier in class.)
“Writers wallow in words like pigs in a mud puddle, and the dirtier we get, the happier we are.”
Yes, exactly.

Life in My Universe

I got the two sets of Brit Lit essays back to them on Friday. We did what I said we were going to do in class and also about the assignment for Monday’s class, since there is a university-wide experience we are missing class for. Yay! We also voted in class to have the reflective essays replace the research project. Whew. Glad I got out of that too.

I graded the easy homework and in-class stuff for the freshman. 2 of the 3 reflective paper sets are still needing grading. I will grade those tomorrow when hubby is on his way home. I will also help son with his critical analysis.

So my grading isn’t outlandish.

The floors are done in the house and the reworking of the house, including dusting everything, was done by 6 last night for guests. R dusted two fans. Everything else to get the house ready I did. I actually wondered if he spends so little time helping with the house here (on anything) because he doesn’t plan on coming. I hope that is not true.

It’s hard to live apart. We’re grumpy and argue. Sometimes I don’t hear what he is saying. Maybe I have quit listening? I need to work to be more proactive on that. Make sure I know what is going on. We’re supposed to be going to do some filming, but we also have company coming in two hours. I hope the filming can be done in less time.

I’m not thrilled with how my classes are going. Brit Lit is better, I think. I hope it is where it needs to be now. I think it is.

Freshman comp though still isn’t getting the students where they need to be. I feel like I have thrown too much at them possibly. I don’t know. I did slow the semester down a bit yesterday while the movers were moving furniture. I hope I made good choices about what to drop. I really feel like the 111 class is not being as helpful for the students as it needs to be. There is too much that is higher level that the students really aren’t that good at because they are missing lower skills. I could be wrong. I hope so. We’ll see on Thursday when I get the first essays. Based on the two I have received so far, though, it’s definitely going to be a disaster.

Next time I teach fresh comp I am going to totally redo my syllabus and START with the things I think are most important. Then I will move on to the things the department mandates as essential. After that, nothing. That will fill up more than 16 weeks.

Oh, and goodie (sarcasm noted), my spring schedule is out. I am grateful to teach business writing. I hope I get to pick the book. I know I don’t have to follow someone else’s thousand point plan. I am also going to be teaching Brit Lit 2. Not my favorite class, but I did come up with a way to have fun with it in Houston. Hopefully it will work here too. Then I have two second semester freshman classes. I’m not totally thrilled with those as they are a bone of contention between the lit and rhet people. I’m a rhet person, but when the course description says lit, I’m going with lit. ESPECIALLY since the final is a literary analysis. So I will out myself as being in the lit camp if someone examines my syllabus/calendar. Then I’ll never get a chance at being freshman comp director. (Though I am not sure how I will feel about doing that, I would not like never getting the chance to do it.)

Next fall I will teach a class in which I have five weeks of theory to present to grad students. Guess what I’ll be doing next summer? Yep. Studying theory. Especially the “theory favorites” of folks in the department.

House is empty again, now that I don’t have six rooms of furniture in the den. I hate to say this, because R is a minimalist, but I actually was fine with all the furniture in the den. Now there’s little in the den or the living room or my study. R’s office is empty too, but I know it won’t stay that way, so I’m not really worried about it.

He wants to put the brown couches in the living room. I think that is a bit odd because of the color schemes. However, it may work, depending on how big the couch actually is and how much space the room has. I think I will get up now and go measure it.

Hopefully we are going to go do some filming soon.

Update: Couch will fit, though will block door a bit. R says it will be perfect. Hope so.

Filming has been put off till tomorrow. I have 1.5 hours to goof off or clean up or read.

Getting Stuff Done

I have been running behind for a while, feeling like I am not getting what I need to get done done, partially because I keep putting the house together and then taking it back apart for one reason or another. (Paint, wood floors)

Today I took off after my 8 am meeting, went home and sat with the dog and graded papers, got the new front tires to replace the bald ones (got Kelly Chargers, supposed to do 60K), got all the savory stuff for tomorrow’s party (the book baby shower for SS) and some of the salty, picked out dishes to put that in, got the cashier’s check for the floor, went and harangued the Taylor Made guys about my 3-months-ago-paid-for pantry that still isn’t done. (There is always a reason, but it is because they didn’t start on it until 6 weeks after they had the money. It might have been done by now otherwise.) Then I went and taught my class, saw M, hung out with him in my office, and basically had a good time.

I still need to go to the store again to buy felt to go on the bottom of all the furniture that is going in the wooded parts of the house, which is most of the furniture, since it is most of the house. I’m going to Ellen’s to sleep again tonight. I need to go walk the dog for the evening later.

But first I am going to grade five sets of papers (one per class of freshman comp and two for Brit Lit 1).

Then I will post those grades.

It will be nice to have it all done.

–You know I was thinking how serene Ellen’s house looks and why did it look that way. At first I thought it was how little furniture she has, but my house has very little furniture. Then I figured out (just now) that it was because she has nothing on the walls, or very little, so it doesn’t feel busy. Perhaps all my paintings are really too much for the house? Perhaps I should put them in a closet and rotate them in and out?

I also was thinking I would put the black dresser in the guest bedroom and the armoire in our room, but I need to talk to R about that.

Quote Journal

“Earth’s crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God; But only he who sees, takes off his shoes – The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.”
Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Wood Floors

We ended up not just putting wood floors into the living room but in all the rooms that did have carpet.

We ended up not putting in the wood floors that I had looked at (cheap) at Home Depot. Instead we went with the guy who redid our floors in KW.

We got 3x as much flooring of 4x as good wood at only 2x the cost. I figure that’s a pretty amazing savings, even if it cost a lot! It was totally worth it, as long as we don’t run out of money before the KW house sells. It may be totally worth it then too.

The wood is beautiful. I am sure the stain will look great too. Even though I got to see several other stains, I ended up going with the option, by name anyway, that we chose originally. The flooring guy said it had some red in it, but it is fairly light and that will, I hope open up the rooms even more.

It is beautiful.

Did I say that already? It’s still worth repeating. It is beautiful.

And it isn’t even finished yet. There’s no stain on it, no sealer… It will be truly amazing when it is finished.

Relief… Satisfaction.

I had a chapter turned in this summer for a book which was turned down wholesale. I thought I had gotten it just right, but I missed the audience (1 of the 3), and so the time was potentially wasted. This caused me a bit of depression and frustration, since I did spend a lot of time on the work and it was very important to me.

So when I had another chapter due, I hemmed and hawed and didn’t get around to it. Then I realized it wasn’t due in two weeks, like I thought, but two days… So it ended up being late. However, they were very gracious about it being late and said I could take till when I thought it was due (the 15th) to finish.

I emailed it to the editors last night. I also sent a note saying, “Did I do this right? Was it supposed to be like this? Did you want something else? If this is not what you needed, let me know.”

Both the editors have already written back (less than 12 hours after I sent it) and said it is overall wonderful and that I did far more than they expected. Now, there still may be minor changes, and I hope that will be as painless as the answers to the questions indicated, but, WHOO HOO!

I am going to have a chapter in a major academic press.

Of course, it’s not in my field at all. It’s in my undergraduate major and my father’s hobby area (and part of one of mine- holiday history), but not in my field. I don’t care, though! I have a chapter in a major academic press. Or I will come Dec. 2012.

If you know the name of the book, it’s already out on Amazon in the UK.


It will also count towards tenure, which is very cool.

Thank you, God. Thank you, God. Thank you, God.