Category Archives: vacation

Spiritual Rhythms: Sabbath

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Be still—cease striving—and know that I am God.
Psalm 46:10

really stop signDoing, I have found, is much easier than ceasing. We never ask, “what are you ceasing today?” It’s always, “what are you doing?” Our identities are wrapped up in the question, “what do you do for a living?” Ceasing, stopping, and resting all feel like lazy cheating.

Psalm 46 begins by expressing confidence in God in the midst of earth-shattering, mountain-moving circumstances. It goes on to speak of raging nations and tottering kingdoms. In the midst of the tumult and tempest we are told to be still—for that is precisely the time we most want to take action: to run, to flee, to fight.

These words in the psalm seem almost too gentle, though, as if a mother is gently cooing to her crying baby, “Shhh. Settle down. Everything will be all right.” But lest we underestimate the importance of ceasing, we need only look back at the Ten Commandments to understand God’s priority:

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
Exodus 20:8

The Hebrew word sabbath carries the sense of cease striving, put down, lay aside. What does it look like to sabbath—to cease—in a culture that values work over rest, labor over lazing, doing over not doing? I like how Pastor Eugene Peterson described the Sabbath day for he and his wife: They did nothing they had to do; it was a day of play and pray.

At the risk of overlooking the importance of a Sabbath day each week, I want to focus simply on the ceasing aspect.

Play and pray. Good advice. Not only weekly, but daily we need to stop, put aside our work, take a break, and just rest. Read a comic. Sing a song. Take a walk. Pray. Get a drink of water.

It’s a wise principle: don’t rest from work, but rather work from rest. That is, the best work flows out of a rested person; rested mentally, physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually. It’s why weekends and vacations are important. It’s also why we need breaks in the middle of the day.

Another time we’ll look at a weekly sabbath. For now, take a break.

 

Legacy

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Cru logoOver the past week, I have been enjoying a vacation reminiscent of summer trips my family took when I was young, but unlike any that my wife and I have taken with our own kids. Starting out in San Diego, we have visited the Grand Canyon and Mesa Verde National Parks, stopped briefly to walk through Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico at Four Corners National Monument, watched as the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad train began its slow trek into the mountains, and rode the newly-rebuilt Royal Gorge Aerial Tram a thousand feet above the Arkansas River in Colorado.

For the past few days we have been with my parents, a treat that only happens every couple years. Many of our conversations have been about church ministry, family, current events, and the staff conference from which they’d just returned. There has also been plenty of catching up on old friends (“do you remember…?” or “have you heard from…?”) and reminiscing about the adventures we had as a family or that my parents have had in the thirty-plus years since I (their youngest) left home. And the adventures have been many, but far more than mere adventure….

Next year, my parents will celebrate fifty years on staff with Cru (known until four years ago as Campus Crusade for Christ). Those years have taken them from their childhood homes in Michigan to live in California, Minnesota, Texas, British Columbia, Germany, and Colorado. But they have served even more broadly on four of the world’s seven continents: Africa (Zimbabwe, Zambia, Kenya, and North Africa, to name a few), Asia (Mongolia, Siberia, and China), Europe (Germany, Austria, Switzerland, England, the Netherlands, and Russia), North & Central America (Canada, U.S., Mexico, Haiti, El Salvador, Dominican Republic, and Cuba).

And they have shared their faith in Jesus Christ more broadly still, with global ambassadors and diplomats, national presidents and prime ministers, business executives, college students, athletes, and military leaders. They have trained thousands of men, women, and children, whether through a Sunday School class with six teenagers or a Dallas Cotton Bowl stadium with 85,000; in a church with a few hundred adults or a dinner with dozens of international diplomats. Mom has taught hundreds in an international women’s Bible study and Dad has talked about Jesus one skier at a time as he rode chair lifts with strangers for forty years.

During many of the conversations with my parents the past few days, our daughters have read books or played games on their phones. But they have also heard the stories, the names, the challenges and blessings. And as they’ve walked through Oma and Opa’s condo, they’ve seen the evidences of these lives lived for God: memorabilia from their travels, gifts from friends, photos of family. And I think my girls have caught something of the legacy they are inheriting—a legacy of faith and faithfulness, of devotion and obedience, of love for God and people. My prayer is that they will see a similar legacy in my wife and me, even if it will look different than their globe-trotting grandparents.

Vacation

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Vacation, all I ever wanted

Vacation, had to get away

Vacation, meant to be spent alone.

-The Go-Go’s, Vacation (1982)

Did you know that the Hebrew word “sabbath” means “vacation”? Okay, not really. It actually means “cease, rest, complete rest, or desist,” according to the Lexham Bible Dictionary. That ought to be a good definition for vacation, though, shouldn’t it? Unfortunately, it’s not. Too often when Americans go on vacation, we really GO on vacation, seldom stopping – ceasing, resting, desisting. (How often have you gotten back home after vacation, only to flop on the couch and bemoan, “I need a vacation to recover from my vacation”?!)

I’m on vacation this week and it’s been good so far. Definitely not all rest – there’s a lot I need to think about and process through, and that takes energy; I’m not turning my mind off. But I’m being intentional about not going too much or too fast, not doing too much, and getting that thinking time in. Still, this is one of those “vacations” that, in hindsight, won’t have seemed particularly restful. Enjoyable, yes; restful, no.

I had lunch with a good friend and mentor the other day. He’s a police chaplain and gave me a couple books he uses in his work: Emotional Survival for Law Enforcement and Spiritual Survival for Law Enforcement. He talked with me about “The Hypervigilance Biological Rollercoaster”® that cops experience: in essence, it’s a cycle that swings from a hypervigilance that views everything as a threat or potential threat – and keeps cops alive on the streets – to the complete opposite when they’re at home, the essence of detached couch potato. Neither state (hypervigilance or couch potato) is biologically normal, and it takes 18-24 hours to move from one state into the normal range where we live like a normal human being. (I have a lot of friends in law enforcement; if any of you are reading this and haven’t seen these books, then I recommend you get your hands on them. Come on, you can read 250 pages – that’s both books combined – that might save your marriage and even your life, right?)

So what do vacation, hypervigilance, and couch potatoes all have in common? Sabbath. Or rather, the need for sabbath. God said we need a sabbath day each week; one day out of seven when we “cease, rest, complete rest, or desist,” – when we “shall not do any work” (Exodus 20:10). God even says the land needs a sabbath (see Leviticus 25:4) every seventh year (ask any good farmer if this makes sense!). My friend says we need sabbath every day; time to unwind, relax, put the concerns of the day behind us.

So there you have it: Sabbath. Rest. Vacation. Daily. Weekly. Annually. Sept-annually (I just made up that word; it means “every seven years”!).

“Vacation, all I ever wanted; vacation, had to get away; vacation, meant to be spent alone.” Maybe those Go-Go’s were pretty smart.