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"…to the Rock that is higher…"


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A Sabbath Work

In my last post I wrote about getting well – and asking you to think about how you may be challenged to get well. I was challenged to answer that for myself.

Have you ever heard the saying, “love what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life”? I think it is true. I love what I do, but sometimes I love it too much. Jesus said that his food is to do God’s will (John 4:34). However, I was not feasting on the proper things. My diet had become unwholesome and unsatisfying and I so was prone to overeating – workaholism. I was seeking satisfaction from my work and not from the Father.

Classic addiction. Classic slavery.

I consider myself pretty well disciplined, but that discipline can get derailed and unbalanced. It takes energy to work on your inner life, but I was too tired to listen, or obey. “Drivenness erodes purposefulness.” (Buchanan)

Last month I had an unexpected opportunity to jump start the process of getting well over a long weekend on the beach. To hell with the budget – I needed to do this. God was giving me more space to get well and I recognized it. I played and read and wrote in my journal… and spent a lot of time just staring at the sea – just what the Great Physician ordered.

I have been “religiously” taking a Sabbath since residency. It felt good to be given permission to take time off – I loved and I rested in this command. But over the years I’ve been living it rather one-sided. Regarding my Sabbath, I try to ask, “what will nourish me today?” What do I need to be whole?

What I’ve recently discovered is that there are two parts to Sabbath: one part spent for re-creation/leisure, and the other part for growing deeper. I barely had energy for the former, and was largely neglecting the latter.

There is nothing wrong with brain candy movies or softball, or whatever other kinds of play you fancy on the Sabbath. Play is definitely part of “delighting in the Lord”. But that was all I had energy for. I wasn’t fed well enough through the week, and by the time my day off came around, I had no energy for deeper reading or reflection or for growing. My inner life had grown stagnant – stunted growth on poor nutrition of an unwholesome diet.

I’m learning a new rhythm of Sabbath now. Buchanan says that “Sabbath helps reorient us to our work.” And so I’m learning to re-orient my week towards letting God establish the work of my hands and getting more out of the “Lord’s Day” rather than orienting my week around my work and the Sabbath around “my day”.

How have you been been challenged to get well? How have you responded? Has it been difficult?

Mark Buchanan. The Rest of God – Restoring Your Soul by Restoring Sabbath.  Thomas Nelson Publishers. 2006. ISBN: 978-0-8499-1870-4

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Do you want to be whole?

I’m often asked, “Why don’t people just leave… [prostitution/ street life/etc]?” I’ve asked that myself, sometimes still do.

I meet young men and women who are prostituted – some of whom are paying off debt, some are paying for school, some are drowning in self-worthlessness and living a lie that they’ve been told their entire lives. As I encounter them offering health, it’s also an opportunity for freedom.

It is well known that some who have been rescued, run away back to their abuser, their pimp, their trafficker. Why do some who have tasted freedom return to bondage?

The Israelites, an entire nation of people, after having been rescued from slavery, wanted to go back to Egypt!

It’s as if some people don’t even realize they are in bondage.

Well, what about you? To what things or ideas are you in bondage and don’t even realize it?

Mark Buchanan in his book The Rest of God discusses the guy who has been sitting by the pool of Bethesda (John 5) for 38 years if he wants to get well? I’ve always thought that was a strange question to ask a guy like that. But I understand it better now after walking with people (including myself) that clearly sometimes do not want to be well.

Do you want to be well? Do you want to be made whole?

I do, but then sometimes I don’t. Haven’t you ever wondered sometimes if your life would actually be easier if you weren’t trying to follow Jesus? I have! I mean, c’mon! I should have taken the RED pill! It’s hard! God never lets up! Of course life with Jesus does have its sweet parts, but then it’s still a lot of work, and I’m good at giving myself guilt-trips, which just sink me deeper.

Buchanan writes, “Setting free isn’t work.” We all know that Jesus wasn’t really breaking the Sabbath when he healed people on the holy day. “But being set free can be.”

It’s a vicious cycle, even hard-wired to some extent as an addiction, as Gerald May in his book Addiction and Grace would say. It is confounding, that some people would not want to be well and whole, but I have to look no further than myself. I have an addiction to feed – an addiction to work. I’ve got do it, make it, know it, write it… It’s up to me. I don’t know another way… rather, I don’t trust another way. I don’t trust another. I don’t trust God. I lean too much on my own understanding and what is known to me seems to be safer, even if it really is not. I play with the dark side. I’m enslaved in my own mind, in my heart. Damn Pride!

Breaking free of slavery, whether it is physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual is a long process. You’ve experienced it. You’ve walked people through it. We may not be caught up in debt bondage or pimped out by my trafficker or trapped in a foreign country as a domestic service worker, but I’m still prone to enslavement.

Please, PLEASE do not take this as a belittlement of people’s absolutely unimaginable horrific situations. I’m not comparing situations here. However, as I meet people who do seem to have some sort of choice to make steps towards freedom and wholeness, yet still turn away, I’m confronted by these questions of human nature. I want to continue to break down the barriers between US and THEM. We are all broken images of our creator – it is not a matter of grading of circumstance.

There is much much more to discuss regarding Sabbath rest, addiction, grace, and slavery. Books and books, in fact. Here, I just want to present some questions and ideas to you and I hope you find them as challenging has I have.

I’m not yet finished with Buchanan’s book but I highly recommend it! Although I’ve practiced taking a weekly Sabbath for at least 15 years, I’m discovering more about the attitude of Sabbath rest is something that I’ve not fully understood. Perhaps more about Sabbath in another post…

Addiction and Grace is another excellent book. Book club material.


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I bonked. In endurance athletic terms applied to my work life, I bonked. Hit the wall. You know when your computer is stuck and keeps circling, circling… trying to load? That was me a couple of weeks ago.

I thought that I was keeping a good balance of my life and work. I have been eating well, practicing good sleep hygiene, emphatic about my Sabbath, in a small group, and of course exercising. (However, by the looks of my dirty house, I do not keep the balance in that department.) I was quite surprised when, a few weeks ago I totally bonked, quite suddenly at that. Kinda like what happens when your computer crashes. Circling, circling…

“Take care of yourself,” everyone says to me, meaning well of course, but it sometimes doesn’t come off very well as it usually means there is no follow up. To a self-sufficient, self-reliant, can-do-it-all-the-time kind of person, it can become a burden. It becomes another thing I’ve got to do for myself by myself. Not to sound whiny and needy, but sometimes I just want someone to take care of me – but isn’t that true of all of us? What I wasn’t doing is allowing my gracious Father to take care of me. I had taken over taking care of myself the way that I thought that I needed to. I wasn’t open to receiving, but going through all the “right” motions in my own way. Not that my way was bad, it was just incomplete.

I dragged through a couple of days, then took an extra Friday off, thinking I’d be OK. Sunday’s rest didn’t give me nearly what I needed. I needed a break and I couldn’t remember the last time I took a vacation. I was past due for one, but I limped through another couple of weeks anyway.

While the thought of taking a break was very appealing to me, another part of me was drawn to work even more and I kept putting it off. I felt addicted to work: I could stop for a day or so, but I’d soon get back to my fix. I slept well, but upon waking I was preoccupied with ideas and tasks. The solution to my restlessness was to do more, to feed the addiction. I was looking I knew that I needed to stop for a while but I became preoccupied with what shall I DO, even if I didn’t feel like doing anything? Furthermore, the thought of planning a low-budget holiday was stressing me out, so I just decided to have a “stay-cation” and try to be true to relaxation and restoration even while staying at home.

I asked forgiveness for the way I was living life on my own terms. I started to pray and ask God what would nourish and restore me. Goodness knows I didn’t have a clue.

So last Friday, I pulled the trigger and said, I’m OFF! I felt better immediately. It was great to spend a Saturday afternoon hanging out with my friends and their kids by the pool instead of in front of my computer. Saturday I also hatched a plan to knock something off my bucket list, which I will write about in the next post.

I do think that one can keep a good and sane margin and still have a break down once in a while. It is easy in this fast-paced and info-loaded world to forget the big story of which we are a part. We forget that our rhythm extends beyond the week through the whole year and beyond. Consider the Bible and the rhythm of feasts and fasts of the seasons, and on through the Jubilee years. There is a purpose to everything and every time, and we have to be more conscious of the way we live in the times.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” – Matthew 11:28-30 The Message