Sabbath Values

Gentle Reader,

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.

– Exodus 20:8-11 (NKJV)

Did you know that I’m something called a “content creator?” That I’m supposed to have 20-25 new graphics cycling through Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest every single day? That I’m supposed to respond to every tweet ever?

Oof.

There are a load of articles out there that purport to share the secrets to success, that will tell you how to do this writing thing “right.” Almost all of them encourage spending more time on the internet, specifically social media, than is healthy. How can it be healthy to dedicate most of your waking hours to attempting to “go viral” or catch clicks? Even with the use of scheduling tools, that’s a whole lot of minutes spent pinning and posting.

Minutes when the sun rises, bathing the new day in all its glorious color and promise.

Minutes when the snow falls, gently, covering the ground in a layer of pristine white.

Minutes when God beckons, His Spirit calling us to open up that Book and receive the goodness therein.

The first pages of Genesis tell us that work is God-designed and given. We get ourselves into trouble, and quickly, when we don’t have something useful with which to occupy our time. We need to live well and wisely, for the glory of God and the good of others. For me, this means writing, and writing in the year 2019 does equal social media in all of its weirdness.

What the year 2019 does not equal is a rejection of rest.

I work from home, here on this blog and as a virtual assistant for a couple of ministries. It’s hard to flip the “off” switch. Boundaries get fuzzy and the hours blend together until I’ve found that a whole day has gone by with me bent over my laptop or phone instead of actually engaging with the world. All right if this happens from time to time, but a bad habit overall. I ignore my body’s signals, the ones that tell me it’s time to get up and move around. I ignore my mind’s signals, the ones that tell me to step away and get a new perspective. I ignore my heart’s signals, the ones that tell me I’ve been too isolated and need some connection.

Worst, I ignore the Holy Spirit’s signals, the ones that tell me that I can’t serve Him if I don’t spend time with Him.

The classic, stereotypical issue for us all. The work becomes the driving force, the thing in which we invest our entire sense of self. We shift from “human being” to “human doing,” bound to ever-increasing productivity and chasing ever-elusive popularity.

Running at a feverish pace.

Into that, the Spirit whispers, “Stop.”

The command to keep the Sabbath was never meant to be a burden. The words – rest, quiet, holiness – came from God’s mouth as a way of showing us our limitations, reminding us to depend on Him for all of our needs (material and otherwise), and as a sign of His compassion. He knows that we can’t do it all. He knows that we are fragile and finite. He knows us better than we know ourselves.

And this Sabbath, it’s not just a day. Oh, it’s important to have a day. A whole 24-hour period set aside for worship and rest. (Doesn’t matter what day it is; let other people fight about that). As with all things involving the law, there is the letter and the spirit. On this side of the Cross, we seek to understand and apply the spirit behind the letter, and we see that Sabbath, that rest, that dependence upon God, is to permeate each day. It is an essential aspect of our faith.

A day, and more than a day.

A set of values. A way of walking through this life knowing that we are not defined by analytics. Or sales. Or whatever we are tempted to define ourselves by. We are, instead, defined by God Himself. And He says we are His children, the sheep of His pasture, the apple of His eye.

And so we rest.

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Five Minute Friday: Intentional

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com

Gentle Reader,

Thursday, January 18, 1:59 p.m.

Fatigue is breathtaking.

Even after all these years of chronic illness and pain, the days when I can barely lift my head off of the pillow surprise me. Yes, I’m always tired. Always ready for a 3-hour nap. Always down for going to bed early and sleeping late. No, I never feel refreshed or renewed, no matter how many hours I log curled up under blankets. Yet there’s this whole other level of tired, one that defies explanation.

My skin, always pale, turns a shade close to that of White-Out. Dark circles rim my dull eyes. Limbs feel heavy. Heart rate slow. It requires mighty effort to take a shower.

And pressing the keys to form the words that make the sentences that bloom into paragraphs – you’d think I was recovering from participation in a decathlon. Took me a full two minutes to type that out.

Kate says: intentional.

Go.

Friday, January 19, 9:15 a.m.

Done on purpose. Deliberate.

This is what the dictionary tells me the word intentional means. A move from intentions, mere plans, to solid, concrete actions. Plan the plan then do the plan.

In the back of my Bible is a one-year reading plan. Every week mapped out neatly, bouncing from the Psalms to the Old Testament to the New. As I tick the boxes each day, I begin to experience the overarching narrative of Scripture in a new way: human stupidity, God’s great grace. The highs of poetry to the long lists of “begats” to the mind-bending lines of apocalyptic literature.

While this is not the first time I have attempted to read through my Bible in one year, this is the first time that I am determined to finish. And that, I think, is what moves us from intentions to intentional. To avoid remaining in the dream state and to side-step the urge to quit, we must have determination. A stick-to-it-iveness.

In a world of distractions and excuses, determination is a highly foreign concept. Along with its cousins discipline and self-control, words we would like to forget we know. Irrationally, we want to do whatever we want to do while still achieving the things we’d like to achieve. Or, perhaps not achieve. Perhaps we want to do whatever we want to do and just have the achievements handed to us on a silver platter.

Meditate on these words, from the mind of God through the pen of Paul:

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown.Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.

– 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (NKJV)

Whatever thing you have been intending to do, small or big, will remain in the realm of theory and possibility without discipline. So lace up your shoes, literal or figurative, and get going. Put in the sweat equity, one drop at a time.

Rewards don’t come via intentions.

They are earned intentionally.

Stop.

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Photo Credit: Jacob Postuma
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Five Minute Friday: Work

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com

Gentle Reader,

Without preamble, because I slept little last night and it’s difficult to breathe. Kate says: work.

Go.

Smoke fills the air. Ash and dust fill our lungs.

Houston floats. Florida braces for impact.

The Northwest – 1200 fires. We burn.

I am not given to attempting to predict when the Lord will return, but I can’t help but feel that the apocalypse has begun. Natural disasters, wars and rumors of wars. Birth pangs or death knells; hard to decide. A winding down and winding up. My eyes look to the sky above, covered by a layer of yellowish, dirty particulates. I long to see it rend in two, split in half, unable to bear the weight of the Glorious King condescending, once again, to set foot on the earth He holds together.

He declared the work finished. Took His place, seated at the right hand of the Father.

And yet we wait.

Again, the “already” and the “not yet.”

Stop.

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Whatever You Do

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Gentle Reader,

Work.

A job.

I hear your collective sigh.

It’s true. Work is hard. Even if you have the opportunity to do something that you absolutely love, something that you were made for, there are still days that are tough. Coworkers can present real challenges. The monotony can get under your skin. The futility can drive you to pull your hair out. (Like when I catalog a book and then discard that book a year or so later). The financial strain of wondering if the ends will meet this month can keep you awake at night.

Work. It’s not perfect.

It’s also not part of the Curse laid out in Genesis 3. God clearly tasks Adam and Eve with taking care of Eden (Genesis 1:28). He invited them to partner with Him in the care of creation. They had a job to do. This all happened long before the Serpent and the fruit and the blame-game and the flaming sword.

We need to work. The drive to accomplish something, to take part in the creative process (and all work is creative; all work generates a product) is an inescapable part of who we are. God works (John 5:17; Romans 8:28) and we, even in our fallen state, continue to reflect the image of God. He poured aspects of Himself into us, and grows them as we walk in faith with Christ.

Our jobs are not the problem. The world in which we do them is the problem.

Futility and monotony are direct results of sin. When Adam and Eve worked in Eden, they didn’t feel frustrated. They had a sense of fulfillment that is always just out of reach for us today. Oh, we might grasp it now and then, but it never fails to fade. Thankfully, there is an answer. There is a place that we can come back to for an attitude adjustment however many times we need one, which, for me, is multiple times a day.

That place? Colossians 3:23-24 –

Whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ. (NKJV)

These words stand in the greater context of whole of Chapter 3, in which Paul talks about the character of the new person (the one who has been made new in Christ) and the importance of shunning sin, summing up with a Household Code that illustrates, briefly, how the Christian family is supposed to function in light of their newness and their turning away from sin. The words about work are directed to bondservants, those who served the family. (Note: “Bondservant” is a term that is best understood to mean “slave.” I don’t have time to get into this, but there are many great articles that delve into the New Testament and slavery. I suggest starting here).

Though  first directed to a specific group, this command can and should be extended to all believers, whether working outside the home or in. For example, in my house laundry is never-ending and a severe pain in the rear. I tend to fixate on having it “done” as often as possible. Chris has the uncanny ability to sense an empty laundry basket and put something in it. I just about can’t stand it. But as I wash, fold and put away his socks for the umpteenth time, what am I really doing? Who am I really serving?

When I’m at the library  putting that week’s order into the system or shuttling a cart of moldy donated books out to the dumpster, it’s easy to get bogged down and feel like I’m not getting anything done. It’s tempting to cut corners and rush through an assignment. But what am I really doing as I correct MARC records? Who am I really serving?

As we continue to think about the abundant life and what it really means, these are important questions. If I work only to serve myself or if I work to please other people, then I have a problem. I need to examine that. And sometimes changing jobs or careers is necessary, even commanded by God, in order to escape that malicious cycle of discontentment. But we’re never going to escape the struggle of work in the life, no matter how important the title, how great the pay, how cool the office. The job is never going to give us the identity or completion that we desire. Instead, we must constantly be shifting our attention back to Christ and do whatever is before us with…well, gusto. With heart.

Whether it’s changing the thousandth diaper of the day or heading up a massive corporation, walking dogs or digging a ditch, filing papers or styling the stars, do it with the sense that God is watching. Do your job to please Him. Work from a place of stability, the kind of stability found in knowing who He is and who you are. Navigate your workplace – the home, the office, the studio, the classroom – with integrity and honesty, as a true child of Almighty God.

And when you forget to do that, like I so often do, just start over.

My journey to faith. (15)