Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Home Work

I try to not work on Friday night and Saturday during the day.  If Caroline (my older daughter) wants to read a book - my goal is to read it as often as she wants.  I try to cook something for my girls (and my wife potentially).  Sometimes I get to play basketball early, and it is fun to do that then drink enough coffee that I am not tired the rest of the day.

This past week I decided to install a new garage door opener (motor and everything, not just some pansy remote).  I happened to try to do this on Friday Night, and it ended up (as home-work often does) taking me most of Saturday morning.  Now, I pulled it off, the door goes up (and down - which is trickier with those little sensor guys which almost ruined me) but I lost my Sabbath.  

Lately I have even been able to encourage my wife in her Sabbath taking, and she got to take a short nap and run on Saturday.  The irony is that I have been slowly encouraging her to plan around Saturday so she doesn't have errands to run and such.  And, there I am freezing, feeling masculine because the motor is working and the light on the wall is green, and not resting, not playing with my daughter, not reading a book that has nothing to do with my graduate school, definitely not going to see a movie during girls' nap time (a new favorite Sabbath pass-time for me).

I am medium-ly convinced, and moving towards firmly convinced that we must plan out our "house work/home-work" throughotu the week.  Mow the lawn on a Thursday afternoon (unless it is supremely relaxing to you...  sometimes is to me; especially if there is a cigar).  Hang that picture on Tuesday morning before leaving for work.  Plan out what you have to "get done" at home, so that you can Sabbath.  

Important note: I am not talking about the aspect of the Sabbath that includes corporate worship.  That is certainly an aspect, and I will get to it.  However, when it comes to the "on six days do all your work" aspect of the Sabbath I think we need to plan out our Home-Work and watch out that Garage Doors don't interfere with the 7th day.  Good luck.  

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A Difficult Beginning

I find that I struggle to help people rest. I think the reason is that - as brilliant as I am - it is difficult for people to rest. I was talking with a friend, let's call him Casey because let's face it - very few people read this blog! Casey is working nearly full time in ministry and nearly full time at Starbucks. Casey doesn't take a day off. I am almost finished with Seminary, I have spoken at several conferences (2) about the Sabbath, and probably read more books about it than you have... And, my thought is that Casey has trouble taking a day off because it is hard.

2000 years ago the Graeco-Romans thought is was absolutely ridiculous to take a day off - only royalty and the very wealthy could consider such a thing. 3000 years ago it was suicide - you hunted, gathered, and farmed for your food (farmed is the wrong word, but it was a bit more than just gathering) - taking a day off meant you didn't eat or cultivate eating other days. We might have to revisit this in a subsequent post...

Today it is more the norm to take an entire weekend off. But taking a true Sabbath, really not working, really not checking your email or staying busy... is just as rare.

I think it is difficult because of the overlapping problems of busy-ness and guilt. We LIKE being busy. We feel greatly encouraged in our busyness, we are getting things done, people see our busyness, we don't have to worry about ourselves, we will sleep better, we might make more money (or at least some money), we are good at getting things done.

Or, we feel guilty for some of the mirroring reasons - maybe we're not good at it, so we feel guilty for not being good. So, we work more. Or we feel guilty for more explicitly evangelical reasons - especially if we're in ministry. Doug Fields, youth pastor at Saddleback, talks about being guilt-tripped into working on his day off after a conference and the guy doing it was using Rick Warren (who was "coming in on his day off"). I mean, if Rick Warren can work on his day off to further the kingdom of God - then you should too!!! I mean, if other pastors are working 60-70 hours a week (which is what church planters talk about... maybe that is why they fail, not because of the technique, but because people are KILLING themselves for the Gospel and thereby ignoring the 4th Commandment... Elusive indeed!), then I should too... What if I got ONE person to convert on that day... I am exaggerating because I know we struggle with this. But, what a narrow view of God and what a broad view of ourselves.

Rest. It is difficult, but it is worth it. The Gospel of Jesus - which does not conflict with the Sabbath, but encourages its true sense - is a living argument. Take that living argument and set it against whatever is keeping you from taking a day off for rest, prayer, rest, non-work, and worship (in the broad sense). The world will make it without you (busy-ness). You will make it without you (guilt). God, and his plan, will make it without you. In fact, God's plan is furthered by your Sabbath, it is a call into mission. In this case a mission of omission, but a mission nonetheless! Take a break, take a day off. If you don't want to be alone - then Don't be! If you need to be alone - make sure you get some alone time! Spend some time with God - but not the whole day, set yourself up for success. Spend some time doing things you love and feel like you never have time to do.

It will be a difficult beginning, but you are worth it, you are commanded to do it, and it is actually a huge way to participate in the Kingdom of God inaugurated on Earth.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Hotels and Rest

I was downstairs cleaning my office last night when I came upon some brochures I took from a hotel I stayed in last time I was in Kansas City. I was in the room with my brother and I was joking about how deep and spiritual they were trying to sound (or succeeding in sounding). Alex said, "I think they are just hotel brochures Matt..." in his voice that is also saying, "You think about everything way too much... maybe you should go find the hot tub in the picture instead of analyzing it." Probably some ironic truth to his tone for sure, but I was definitely right about the hotel's ads.

The title of the brochure that is principally about the beds is called, "westin at home" and the one about the hotel's amenities is, "experience renewal". "welcome to westin" (are capital letters un-relaxing???) says, "calming colors, elegant florals and ambient lighting greet you in the Westin Lobby. Music elevates your mood, while our White Tea by Westin fragrance creates a soothing atmosphere. Experience a destination where you can be at your best (this is a recurring theme of the brochure... The copy editor was apparently reading Joel Osteen). The headings for this section go like this, "living well, energize your mind and body, refresh your mood, personal wellness, destination discovery, breathe, your personal space, endless possibilities, new doors open..." I won't even get into the westin at home brochure (although they seem to overlap).

My point in talking at length about a hotel (where the thread count was nice, but I don't recall all of this metaphysical wholeness enveloping my heart, mind and soul), is to point out that we have trouble resting. I have trouble resting, and I am trying to write a book about the Sabbath! We are either working too hard - see any of the Vacation Movies - or we are seeking to do nothing and it is driving us nuts - see Office Space or About a Boy - whereas the balance is probably something in between. I enjoy reading, but it can seem daunting. I enjoy surfing the net, but it is difficult for that to be restful - especially when I'm trying to accomplish something. I enjoy church, but it is rarely restful/renewing/see Hilton Brochure. I enjoy sleeping, but either get too much and am annoyed, or get too little and I can't put my contacts in. I enjoy people, but they wear me out. I like a walk in the woods, but not enough (apparently) to go more than a few times a year. When is a vacation ever really relaxing, especially since we are in a perpetual orange level security threat (am I really supposed to be more attentive to other people's bags?).

It is difficult to rest. It is difficult to Sabbath. It is difficult to embrace the good gifts of God that offer respite for our souls. it is difficult to stop working for some of us, others don't really work hard enough to feel that we deserve a rest. Yet, we are commanded to rest, God models this rest in Genesis, Jesus doesn't alter this command when he comes, the Jews developed 39 categories to understand what rest is and isn't (not rules, categories for rules!), and I have trouble resting. I don't know if the Westin (westin) has the answers...

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


There is a lot of argument over whether the Day of Rest is to be Saturday or Sunday. Some of it is good, some not, and we will take it up again (albeit lightly) later. However, those arguments are among Christians. Jewish men and women celebrate the Sabbath from 18 minutes before sundown on Friday Night, through Saturday night at sundown. Almost 25 hours.

Furthermore, the world recognizes the Sabbath as Saturday and acknowledges Sunday as the first day of the week. Now, I promise I am not arguing for Saturday! The first day as a celebration of the resurrection is certainly important, and the argument only overlaps with where we are going here. The point is that the world has been aware of the 7th day that god set aside at Creation for a long time.

We observe a 365 and 1/4 day cycle for each year because of the earth's orbit around the Sun. The 12 months of the year are loosely based upon the lunar cycle. And, the 24 hour day is based upon the Earth's rotation upon its axis - 24 hours equals one full spin. Well then, where did we get the week?

From the beginning of time, God ordained it - he set it amidst the fabric of Creation, he modeled it in his own action and inaction, he gifted it to his people as they were coming out of slavery to remind them whom they were dependent upon. Note here that the Sabbath is given before the Law, even as it is the 4th Commandment, it is first given as a gift and test of trusting faith. The world has since observed a 7-day week. It did not spread immediately as Craig Harline shows in his book, "Sunday: a History of the first day from Babylon to the Super Bowl", and in fact before modern times and the "weekend" taking a day off was simply lazy. Who had the resources to actually stop work for a day? Only Royalty and the very wealthy... And, those who rely upon Yahweh, and acknowledge his kingship over all things.

We ought to take the Sabbath Command seriously for many reasons, but the first reason is that it is part of the created order, recognized universally - if not accepted and practiced by many! It has been around longer than almost anything else (regardless of whether the Creation Account is metaphorical or literal), God observed it - we ought to take it seriously.

The Purpose

So, I have written and spoken a lot about the Sabbath. And, rather than attempting to organize those papers, seminars, talks, etc. I thought I would start a blog.

If you're looking at it you either have too much time on your hands or I invited you because I desire you opinion as a writer, Christian, or a friend.

I have a desire to turn my thoughts into a book. The passion is there, the skills are suspect (generally a B+ writer) - so, your help is appreciated. And, we'll see what happens from here!