Sabbath Rest

“In a culture where busyness is a fetish and stillness is laziness, rest is sloth. But without rest, we miss the rest of God: the rest he invites us to enter more fully so that we might know him more deeply. ‘Be still, and know that I am God.’ Some knowing is never pursued, only received. And for that, you need to be still. Sabbath is both a day and an attitude to nurture such stillness. It is both time on a calendar and a disposition of the heart. It is a day we enter, but just as much a way we see. Sabbath imparts the rest of God—actual physical, mental, spiritual rest, but also the rest of God— the things of God’s nature and presence we miss in our busyness” (Mark BuchananThe Rest of God: Restoring Your Soul by Restoring Sabbath).

I’m still mulling over what Chris Brooks said at Kairos tonight about Sabbath rest. We don’t rest from our work as much as we work from our rest.

Most of us go non-stop full speed ahead for five days and then come to a screeching halt for two days. Then we start the madness all over again.

Some never stop. They go all out, thinking that sleep and rest can wait. Unfortunately, their bodies often have different ideas.

I think very few of us know how to work from our rest as a form of worship. That’s what the Hebrew word for work also means– worship.

Rest sounds really good to me right now. Actually, sleep sounds great. I think I’ll take myself up on my own advice and call it a night, but not before leaving you with this little nugget.

May you find the rest of God by resting in God, staying your mind on Him throughout the day and working not for but out of your approval as a son or a daughter of God.

 

 

My Cat Is Older (and Probably Smarter) than Your Honor Student and Other Thoughts


For those who are new to me and my blog posts, I have an elderly feline. Her name is Lucy and she’s 17. I realized while I was volunteering yet again for the Youth Evangelism Conference a couple of weekends ago that my cat is probably older than most of the students who were in attendance there. She may or may not also be smarter.

Think about it. She doesn’t have to get up at a ridiculously early hour to go off to work. She doesn’t run around like a headless chicken in order to feel productive. She does what she wants when she feels like it. At this point, that consists of mostly napping with the occasional snack and poop thrown in to keep things interesting.

I confess that I’m a bit jealous sometimes. I wish she could go to my job and I could stay home and do some napping. After all, she’s old enough to drive, right?

I refuse to engage in the debate about whether cats are better than dogs or visa versa. I like both. Right now, I have a cat and I love the fact that she’s super low-maintenance, as well as the world’s best lap cat. I also love dog sitting and hanging out with all manner of pups.

I think life’s better with pets. Unless you’re deathly allergic, I highly recommend one. They’re great companions and their love isn’t based on your looks or money or personality or anything other than you exist. Plus, it keeps you humble when you realize they love sniffing their own butts just as much as you.

So go get a pet if you don’t have one. Take care of it. Don’t abandon it when it gets old and less cute. If you’re going to have a dog perpetually chained up in the backyard 24/7, don’t get one. You’d be better off with a lawn ornament. But that’s definitely another topic for another blog post on another day.

 

Grace for Today

“My message, unchanged for more than fifty years, is this: God loves
you unconditionally, as you are and not as you should be, because
nobody is as they should be. It is the message of grace…A grace
that pays the eager beaver who works all day long the same wages
as the grinning drunk who shows up at ten till five…A grace that
hikes up the robe and runs breakneck toward the prodigal reeking
of sin and wraps him up and decides to throw a party no ifs, ands,
or buts…This grace is indiscriminate compassion. It works without
asking anything of us…Grace is sufficient even though we huff and
puff with all our might to try to find something or someone it cannot
cover. Grace is enough…Jesus is enough” (Brennan Manning, All Is Grace: A Ragamuffin Memoir)

I had a decent sort of day. Not fantastic. Not horrible. Just decent.

On days like these, I need the grace of God.

I’ve had days where everything goes wrong and I have two left feet and I can barely remember my own name.

On those days, I need the grace of God.

I’ve also had days where all the traffic lights were green and I got the coffee/creamer mix just right and I was in rare form at work.

On those days, I need the grace of God.

There’s not a day that will ever go by where I don’t need grace.

My advice for those of you reading this. You need grace every day, so give grace every day.

Social media these days is filled with vindictiveness and spiteful words, mostly along the lines of my side is right, therefore yours must be evil and wrong and stupid.

Buck the trend by showing and giving grace to everyone, even those on the other side of the political aisle who say things you don’t agree with.

Give grace because you may one day need it from someone else.

Give grace because you have already received it in abundance from the God of all Grace.

I love grace because it comes to me when I don’t deserve it and is always more than I expected and always leaves me better than when it found me.

That’s God’s way. That’s grace.

 

Finding What You Love and Loving What You Do

I attended my company’s 55th anniversary celebration at Maggiano’s on West End. One of the unexpected highlights of my evening was watching the balloon guy.

It probably doesn’t sound like something a grown up would enjoy, but this guy was incredibly talented and obviously enjoyed what he was doing. I never thought making balloon animals and such could be an art form, but this guy elevated it to that level.

That’s the ultimate goal of everyone who works for a living– finding that dream job where you get to do what perfectly suits your talents and passions. Something that doesn’t feel like work most of the time.

The reality is that most of us for whatever reason aren’t in a position to live out that dream job fantasy. Most of us have to make the best of the work situation we’re in.

My advice is to treat it like your dream job. Find the parts that you enjoy and do those with great enthusiasm. Whatever you do, remember that your employer is ultimately God, so work as though you reported directly to Him (which you ultimately do), and not for a human boss.

“Work is love made visible.” That quote still haunts me long after I finished the book. That sums up everything. If you view your job as an opportunity to serve others —  whether that be customers or fellow employees– it changes the way you view what you do. It changes your whole outlook to where you actually care about making a difference versus merely earning a paycheck from week to week.

Whatever you do, do it with love. Do it as unto the Lord, as the verse says. Remember that your job is not your whole life. You still have family and friends and hobbies and other things. Bear in mind that you do spend most of your waking day working so make it count for good.

 

 

Choose Your Own Adventure

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I used to love a series of books called Choose Your Own Adventure. In these books, you  went from completely passive reader to active participant in your own story. Well, sort of. You’d come to a decision on page 13. You come to a hallway with a creepy door at the end of it. If you proceed down the hall and enter the creepy room, turn to page 26. If you decide to be a weenie and stay at the end of the hall, turn to page 14.

Whenever I’m at Goodwill or any other used bookstore, I always look for any of the books in this series. So far, no luck.

Life is like that.

So many of us see the days in a week as merely exercises in existence, something to get through until the weekend arrives. Then we look back at our lives and wonder why they seem for the most part to be empty and vacuous.

What if you viewed each day of your life as a brand new adventure? Not in the sense of zoning out of reality and living in a fantasy world, but seeing the challenges and obstacles as opportunities to grow and learn.

Each day you get to choose to be a passive observer or an active participant in your own life. You can mark time until 5 pm, or you can see even the most menial of tasks as holy and sacred as unto the Lord and see everything as an spiritual act of worship (see Romans 12:1-2). That’s the choice you get each morning.

So what will you do with this great and amazing gift called life? If life is the grand play and you may contribute a verse (as Walt Whitman and Robin Williams put it), what will your verse be?

“I’m going to live my life inspired
Look for the holy in the common place
Open the windows and feel all that’s honest and real until I’m truly amazed
I’m going to feel all my emotions
I’m going to look you in the eyes
I’m going to listen and hear until it’s finally clear and it changes our lives

There are so many ways to hide
There are so many ways not to feel
There are so many ways to deny what is real

And I just showed up for my own life
And I’m standing here taking it in and it sure looks bright” (Sara Groves).

Another Post About Nothing

Am I the only one who has no idea what day this is?

That’s what a holiday weekend will do to you. You have this nice extended weekend then reality comes in and sucker punches you in the face. Tuesday becomes Monday on steroids.

Still, it’s been a good week. As my boss from my old job said to me, “Any day without a toe tag is a good day.”

Last time I checked, no toe tag. Thus, it’s a good day.

I can tell that it’s slightly less hot and humid out there. Every now and then, I can feel a fall breeze blowing. I’ve even been able to drive home a few times at night with the windows rolled down (which I recommend you do whenever possible). It helps if you have good music playing loud during the drive.

Today, I choose joy. I choose to be happy. I choose to participate in my own life and not set the day on auto-pilot. There will never again be another day like today for as long as I live.

I choose to live it.

The end.

 

 

 

 

The Workplace as An Altar

“When you work you are a flute through whose heart the whispering of the hours turns to music” (Kahlil Gibran).

There’s a famous little book written centuries ago called Practicing the Presence of God that came out of a monastery. The author was a man whose livelihood was as a cook and dishwasher.

There has been a false dichotomy between the sacred and the secular. There has been an underlying and unspoken rule that you can only worship in places considered sacred and holy. You can only worship on Sunday.

The truth is that the admonition is to do all that you do to the glory of God and to offer your bodies as living sacrifices as your act of worship. That includes your work day.

When you view your job not as drudgery and a paycheck but as a calling and a mission field, it changes the way you work. You go from doing the bare minimum to giving your very best. Your job goes from performing tasks to serving people.

You may not be in your dream job. You may wish that you could be someplace– anyplace– else other than where you are. The best advice I can give to you (that did not originate with me) is to bloom where you’re planted. Thrive in your present circumstances by learning to cultivate a heart of gratitude.

I can certainly attest to what it’s like to go through long periods without having a job. Not only does it drain the bank account but it affects your sense of self-worth after a while.

The best testimony I know of is someone who does everything with joy and gratitude. That’s what makes people stand up and take notice. No one cares about your faith if you have a bad attitude and a poor work ethic.

So make your workplace an altar and your job and offering.

 

Work Is Love Made Visible

“Work is love made visible” (Kahlil Gibran).

That one little sentence jumped off the page at me while I was sitting in my car in the parking lot of Radnor Lake State Park.

There’s so much profound depth in those five words that both comfort and convict.

How can my work be love made visible if I come to it with a bitter attitude and an ungrateful heart? How can I be loving in my actions and yet hateful toward others at the same time?

The truth of the matter is that all work can and should be sacred. All work is an act of worship. The question is whether it will be like Abel’s acceptable offering or Cain’s rejected offering.

Work is part of my witness. If I see my vocation as a way to serve others either directly or indirectly, then even the menial parts of my job take on a whole new meaning. There is no wasted effort, nothing meaningless. All of it means something if I do it out of love for God and for others.

The Bible says that whatever you do– whether you’re a lawyer, doctor, plumber, or a janitor– do it all to the glory of God. Do everything as an act of worship to show forth the goodness of God to those you work with and those you work for.

I love what Kahlil Gibran says next:

“And if you cannot work with love but only with distaste, it is better that you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms of those who work with joy.
For if you bake bread with indifference, you bake a bitter bread that feeds but half man’s hunger.
And if you grudge the crushing of the grapes, your grudge distils a poison in the wine.
And if you sing though as angels, and love not the singing, you muffle man’s ears to the voices of the day and the voices of the night”

One Year Later

It dawned on my today at work that it was exactly one year ago that I started my first day as a temp at All-American Pest Control.

I remember that I was originally only supposed to be there for two weeks, but they kept extending my assignment and finally hired me in December. I suppose hard work really does pay off.

I do know that what really pays off is almost too simple to be true, but it is true. My goal is to to the best job I can today and not worry about what happened yesterday or what might happen tomorrow.

I love my job because I know what it’s like not to have one. I know what it’s like to feel defeated and purposeless (plus broke from the lack of income). It can be very demoralizing if you let it.

I give thanks every day for having a job, even one that has a lengthy commute (plus waking up at an ungodly hour of the morning). I’m thankful that what I do is making a difference, albeit small, in people’s lives. Me doing my job with a good attitude not only benefits the customer but also my fellow employees.

I truly believe that everything you do to the glory of God is sacred and everywhere you work can be a mission field and a ministry. Your best witness is your work ethic and your attitude. As I was reminded again, you and I are the only Bibles that some will ever read and our actions (way more than our words) will go a long way toward attracting people toward or repelling people away from the God we serve.

Attitude is everything. The best attitude is the one that receives everything as a gift and is thankful for the little things. That makes a world of difference.

Who Holds the Day

“Our circumstances are not defined by what the day holds but by Who holds the day” (Aaron Bryant, Campus Pastor of The Church at Avenue South).

You and I both know what the day holds. There are already not enough hours in the day to get it all done. Some of you are already hyperventilating at the mere thought of the overwhelming list of tasks that await you when you get to work on Monday.

I have a new mantra based on a sermon I heard this morning at The Church at Avenue South. Our circumstances aren’t defined by what the day holds but by Who holds the day.

God is more than enough to handle what your day brings. He is more than enough to calm your fears and carry you through your stressful day. He is more than enough to make up for your woeful inadequacy to face what’s coming.

The One who holds the day holds every single day of your life in His capable hands. He’s the one who knows when a sparrow lands. He’s the one who knows the number of hairs on your head. He’s the one who clothes the lilies of the field and feeds the lowliest of those sparrows. He will take care of you.

I’m still not a fan of Mondays. I’m thankful they don’t come more than once every seven days. I seriously don’t think I could handle more than one Monday a week.

I’m even more thankful that the Lord of the Sabbath is Lord of the Mondays, too. He’s just as able to save and deliver you on Monday as He is on Sunday (and on every other day of the week as well).

Once more. Your circumstances are not defined by what the day holds but by Who holds the day. You will be just fine.