Theme Park Sabbath

September 9, 2011

I just feel like I am not meeting God’s plan for me.  He has given me talents that I barely use.  He has given me wealth that I hoard.  I just go  through each day without thought or emotion.  I feel grey.  I have no passion in my work.  I long to go home and be with my family.  I just need some time without interruption.  I am always trying to get something done.  I can’t remember the last time I just stopped and took some time to rest.  If I am not working I am cleaning. When I am not cleaning I am doing other household stuff.  Then I need to fix various things around the house and on the cars. I always have to go somewhere, do something or be somewhere.  By the time my wife and I both work all week and do all of the kid stuff and clean the house, we have no time left. We just go through this vicious cycle of rush to get done over and over and over.  What is the point of this?  I hate the money I allegedly need.  I hate being a slave to my life.  I just feel like I am living Satan’s plan and not God’s.  I never have time to read my Bible or study.  I never have time for prayer.  I feel like if I maintain a relationship with God, then my relationships with my family decline.  If I maintain my family relationships, then my relationship with God declines.  I just need more time.  I spend 40 hours a week at work and I don’t want to be there. Sure I enjoy my job, but I don’t have any passion for it.  I only go there so I can pay for all of the things that I supposedly need today.  I think it is all a big lie and that we are marketed into a belief system that enslaves us for eternity. When will this cycle end?

These words are not mine. They are those of a friend, but I think a lot of us can relate to his thoughts. We are a society that rushes, runs and is goal and output orientated. And we are too busy doing to be enjoying. We are tied to our phones and email and thus tied to our responsibilities with little to no opportunity to refresh our bodies and more importantly our souls. The authors of The Power of Full Engagement write, “We live in a world that celebrates work and activity, ignores renewal and recovery, and fails to recognize that both are necessary for sustained high performance” (Loehr and Schwartz, 37). We are a people who do not celebrate rest.

This rush is against our Creator’s design for us. The Bible commands, “Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Work six days and do everything you need to do. But the seventh day is a Sabbath to GOD, your God. Don’t do any work—not you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your servant, nor your maid, nor your animals, not even the foreign guest visiting in your town. For in six days GOD made Heaven, Earth, and sea, and everything in them; he rested on the seventh day. Therefore GOD blessed the Sabbath day; he set it apart as a holy day” (The Message, Exodus 20:8-11). We misunderstand this command as the gift that it is, a gift form a loving Father.

But don’t worry, like you I have had a hard time with Sabbath and have found a tool to help me jump start the refreshment of my soul: theme parks! It fills the adventurous side of me by inserting me in fantastic stories that pull me out of my everyday life. What is this Sabbath thing we all seem to be ignoring?

Disney California Adventure at Night

Disney California Adventure at Night


The Sabbath is Rest

The Lord commanded the nation of Israel to do no work on the seventh day.  No one living or visiting within the community was allowed to perform any activity that could be considered work.  In fact, during the Exodus, the people were not even to gather their manna for food, as the Lord allowed extra manna gathered on the sixth day to not spoil as to provide substance for the day of rest.  Any extra manna gathered on other days was filled with maggots by morning.

Now, our Father’s directive to rest comes not from the Mosaic law of the Old Testament; it instead comes from creation and is an example set by our Father.  In Genesis 2, we find the following: “On the seventh day God had finished his work of creation, so he rested from all his work.  And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because it was the day when he rested from all his work of creation” (Gen 2:2-3, NLT).  So God rested on this first Sabbath, though he did not need it.  But during this rest God was able to see what he had created and celebrate what was to come including you.

What is rest?  For me, it’s taking a break from those things that must be done.  I’ll be honest that I cannot do that from home; it is too easy to read email from my weekday job and my ministry.  And watching television may not take physical effort but it just gives me a television hangover that leaves me groggier than when I began.  I need to get out and do something; something that gets me moving and relaxing.  For some, reading may be a tool for this rest, but I read too much and at times, this interferes with even meeting God in Bible study.  I do not have the patience for slower activities like fishing, which others love.  At a theme park, I can watch a show, experience a ride and eat food I am not used to.  Let’s be honest, my typical day is nothing like “Indiana Jones and the Forbidden Temple” at the Disneyland Resort.  Being put into the adventure story in which I face danger, seek treasure and help Dr. Jones, and escape a mysterious temple refreshes my spirit.  Theme parks can insert me physically into those stories as I sit in StarSpeeder, which whisks me to Hoth or dives through the Death Star.  Additionally, a relaxing tour down the rivers of the Jungle Cruise and all its puns helps me to reset my soul.  Everyone needs a laugh.  By taking myself out of my everyday environment I find rest.


The Sabbath is for You

Another aspect of the Sabbath is that the Sabbath is for you.  In Jesus’ time, as today, the Jews followed very complicated Sabbath laws.  One aspect of the Sabbath laws in his day was the ruling that anything considered work could not be performed by a practicing Jew.  One Sabbath, the Lord was walking through a grain field and he and his disciples harvested some of the grain for a meal.  The good Law following folks, the Pharisees, accused him of breaking the Sabbath through this act of “work.”  Jesus’ response is one that we need to take note of today.  “Then he said to them, ‘The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath’” (Mark 2:27 NIV).  In the end, the Sabbath is not about what specific thing you do or don’t do. The Sabbath is a gift to you.  It is not about doing or not doing; it’s about being.

So, what does that mean?  First, since the Sabbath is for you, you need to define when and what your Sabbath is.  Jews observe the Sabbath on Saturday.  Most Christians today believe that the Sabbath should be celebrated on Sunday, the day the Lord rose.  But the practice of Sunday Sabbath has only been tradition since the 12th Century.  Jesus gives us no hard and fast rules about when a Sabbath is to occur.  In fact for many, including pastors, Sunday is not a day when one can escape from “working” activities.  So you

must set when your Sabbath will occur.  There is no Law that states when.  Additionally, there is no Law that states what.  So, Theme Park Sabbath, if that is what refreshes you, is available to you.  In fact, any activity that brings you closer to God is an option.  But the key is that it’s for you – not me, not your neighbor, not your pastor.  You need to choose Sabbath activities that match you.

I love what Rob Bell says about this gift from the Lord:


Sabbath is a day when my work is done, even if it isn’t.
Sabbath is a day when my job is to enjoy. Period.
Sabbath is a day when I am fully available to myself and those I love most.
Sabbath is a day when I remember that when God made the world, he saw that it was good.
Sabbath is a day when I produce nothing.
Sabbath is a day when I remind myself that I am not a machine (Bell, Velvet Elvis, 117-8).

What a powerful gift our Father has given us. When I read Bell’s words make it so apparent to me that God established the Sabbath for me to enjoy. It was in his plan for you, his most precious creation, to rest, recharge and most of all slow down to remember what He has given to us, guilt free. Sabbath is one of his very special gifts for you. And theme parks help some of us enjoy that gift most effectively.


The Sabbath is Holy
In the end, the Sabbath may be a time of rest for us, but this rest is insufficient unless we come to understand that that Sabbath is holy. Sabbath is a time for us to share with the Lord. For Israel, the Sabbath was the most holy day of the year; it was a representation of the holiness that God’s people were to live in daily. When Israel entered into Sabbath special prayers and ceremonies such as lighting candles were initiated to show the specialness of this time.

In Matthew, Jesus explains that he, the Son of Man, is the Lord of the Sabbath. It is highly appropriate that we look back at this when understanding the holiness of the Sabbath. The holiness of your Sabbath rest and all Sabbath rests since creation are a shadow of the holiness of our Lord. And it’s from our Lord that we find our rest, including our ultimate rest. In Matthew 11:28-30 Jesus states, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Jesus is not promising us the easiest of lives or material prosperity, but he does promise that He will give us the ultimate rest if we simply accept his gift of his crucifixion. Every time we celebrate a Sabbath, we are celebrating the gift He laid out for us.

In my eyes, a theme park is extremely holy because it’s a setting where I can meet with God and rest in him. I fully let God into the experience and we dialogue constantly:
Thank you for making sure I did not fly off to my death riding California Screamin.
• Thank you for the giggles of my children as they ride the Mad Tea Party.
• Thank you for the time to be alone with my family without distractions.
• Father, how awesome is Space Mountain, you created really smart people who will never know the enjoyment they will give me.

A theme park is a place where I don’t flee from God but I fully invite God into my experience. If God is there, be it standing in front of a burning bush or standing in front of the World of Color water show, the place is holy. It is His presence and not the location that makes an activity holy.



So if you want to practice Sabbath, what do you do?

● Schedule It.  Sabbath is not going to occur spontaneously.  You need to find a time on your calendar that works for you.

● Lock It In.  Don’t let the business of life steal your Sabbath.  Once it’s on your calendar, commit to it.

● Don’t Short Yourself.  There is a rhythm to Sabbath that goes back to creation.  Israel worked six days and rested for one full day.  Let’s be honest; two hours of Sabbath is probably not going to be the rest that our Father wants for you.  Also, don’t skip Sabbaths frequently with the plan that a two-week vacation is going to completely recharge you.  Theme Park Sabbath is a good way to kick start a habit, but if it’s only part of your plan you are going to burn out before you get back to a roller coaster.

● Plan It.  Make yourself a plan for Sabbaths and stay with it for three to six months before giving up.

● Welcome Jesus.  Sabbath is holy, so find ways to include God in your Sabbath activities, be it in special prayer, study, family rituals or just watching your little ones laughing on a roller coaster and find yourself thanking the Lord for that precious smile.

Be it in a theme park or in being lost in a book or movie, we need to get serious about accepting the gift of the Sabbath.

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4 comments on “Theme Park Sabbath

  1. Michael Sep 9, 2011

    Thanks for reminding us all of an important discipline, Daniel. I particularly appreciate your emphasis on “welcoming Jesus” through the small, spontaneous prayers; I think the apostle Paul must have had something like that in mind when he told us to “pray without ceasing.” And I’d never really thought about a strong connection between the Sabbath and the Atonement before, but, surely: Jesus did the work of salvation that we could never do (though God knows, literally, we’ve tried).

    Being a sci-fi Christian, of course, I am also put in mind of the original Trek episode “Shore Leave” when I think about Sabbath! Spock says, “On my planet to rest is to rest. To cease using energy.To me it is quite illogical to run up and down on green grass, using energy instead of saving it.” But, of course, as you illustrate, “rest” oesn’t mean (necessarily) just taking a nap!

  2. Michael Sep 9, 2011

    (I meant to add: I am concerned for the friend you quote at the outset. It sounds like he or she may need more than a sabbath rest. I hope your friend is fiding all the help needed.)

    • Daniel Sep 9, 2011

      I’m happy to report this quote is several years old and the buddy is a balanced and today more rested Sci-fi Christian.

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