Snowed In for a Sabbath

For a kid who grew up in Southern California, the notion of a ‘snow day’ may seem like a foreign concept. But, the eleven years we lived in the Chicago area taught us something pretty amazing. On those unique days when snowstorms overwhelm the city and life comes to a halt, the unplanned respite from work and regular ritual does something powerful for your soul and your relationships.

A snow day is like a spontaneous vacation. Because you can’t go anywhere, most people hole up at home with their kids. They play cards. They build puzzles. They start reading a new book. The bake cookies. And they wonder, “how come we don’t do this more often?”

What if God intended for us to enjoy days like this on a regular basis? What if human beings weren’t designed to work 24/7? What if the well-being of our souls called for time to pull-back from the drivenness of our normal life for a chance to replenish and refresh in relationship with those we love on a frequent basis?

What if God’s design of a weekly Sabbath was just such a plan?

Pete Scazzero, suggested the correlation of Sabbath and snow day in his book, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, and I find it powerful. In the ministry world in which I live, there seems to be no real boundaries between when work starts and when it stops. Email is sent and waiting 24/7. People I work with live across multiple time zones. My cell phone is accessible in every state and almost every country at any time.

Yet, without a Sabbath break, my soul starts to run thin. So, I am trying to do a few things differently these days. Much as possible, I try to shut down from email and phone calls on Friday afternoon and let things sit until Monday. I try to get in some kind of extended exercise-usually a long bike ride. Church services are not something I squeeze in, but a relaxed place of worship and renewal. And, along the way, I try to enjoy extra time with Margaret and Tiffany.

I have to admit that at times, these Sabbath breaks create a backlog of work I have to dig out from the next week, but they leave me so much more refreshed.

It’s almost like a rhythm we were made for.

“God Demolished Me”

man made structuresAn intriguing comment by a Romanian pastor gave me the words to describe something I have been thinking a great deal about recently. With the weight of deep appreciation he said, “Thank you so much for this week. I want you to know, God demolished me.”

Granted, this was the first time anyone ever used the word ‘demolished’ in reference to my ministry, but it was a good thing. He was saying something profound. That very morning we had processed some of the deeper challenges God was confronting in him-some areas of needed change.

“Demolished” is the perfect word for something I have been thinking a lot about recently. You see, in his deep love for us, there are times when God “demolishes” us.

We habitually erect superstructures upon which we might hang the stuff of life. We frame the steel beams and girders of security and try to lock things down just as we prefer them. We construct a life that puts us in control and makes us feel safe.

However, this manmade life stands as an obstacle to the life of intimacy and dependency for which God created us. So, God demolishes these structures because of his deep love for us. His severe mercy leads him to tear down the very super-structures we have been so earnest to build. He does it so that we might discover all over again that He is enough.

This demolition happens through a variety of mechanisms. Children rock your world when they walk away from Christ. Illness reframes your capacity for engaging life. Finances dry up and send everything sideways. Your spouse walks out. A crisis at church shatters your spiritual community. Your boss nudges you out. And, on it goes.

In moments like these and in hundreds of others, God pries open the welds that hold the structures of our lives in place. He does it so that we might learn that “man does not live by bread alone.” He does it so that we might discover anew that he alone is sufficient. He does it so to release us from our addiction to acquisition. He does it so that we might discover the true source of security and meaning in life.

Leadership Radar

It’s a simple concept really: Wise leaders consciously pay attention to and sharpen their radar.

Everyone knows what radar does. It creates a picture of what is out there on the horizon that a pilot should be paying attention too. In my pathetically non-technical version, radar systems pick up signals from a wide variety of stuff out there and then through sophisticated programming software sorts through all the signals to determine which are truly important.

Some radar signals are welcome and some function as a warning.

Wise leaders rely on their radar as well. On the positive side, leaders utilize their radar to watch for the “blips” of potential new leaders, for new opportunities, for trends to be seized upon, chances to position their ministry or organization for expanded influence, and more. On the negative side, they are always alert for troubling trends, for financial challenges, for approaching conflicts, etc. etc. You get the idea.

The question is: how does a leader sharpen the programming and sensitivity of her or his radar?

The answer is found in the habits of life-long learners. Life-long learners are intentional about their own growth through mentoring, reading, training, and by putting themselves into stretching experiences. These kinds of activities literally program the software of your radar. They enable you to sort through all the incoming signals of a demanding life to spot the ‘radar blips’ that you need to respond to.

The question is not simple are you a life-long learner, but what are you doing as a learner to increase the capacity of your leadership radar?

Life is Long……and fragile

watchLife is long and paradoxically fragile.

In spite of the fact that we blaze through the demands of our daily lives at an impatient pace, the truth is, life is long. It takes time to accomplish anything great. It takes time to build deep relationships. Nothing happens as quickly as we would like. It takes time.

At the same time, it can be threatened in a heartbeat.
A few weeks ago, I led a ceremony for a married couple renewing their vows on their tenth anniversary. The day before the ceremony, the ‘grooms’ brother said to me, “this really is an accomplishment. I don’t have any friends who are still married and happy about it after ten years.”

A cruel word, a careless decision, a selfish choice, and a host of easy missteps and you do long-term damage to any relationship. Yet in contrast, the stuff that strengthens a relationship tends to be small, daily, non-dramatic, easy to dismiss. What takes a long time to build can be damaged with amazing speed.

It’s the same with your health. Right eating and exercise generally builds a healthier body. But a random DNA flaw, a weak heart valve or a rogue cancer cell and that temple of health is undone. A careless driver or mechanical flaw and a traffic accident can change your future forever.

I think this is part of what God meant when he spoke through the Psalmist telling us to number our days.(Psalm 90) Today is the only day we will ever have within our grasp. Tomorrow is unknown and yesterday is a memory. Today is sacred. Holy. So, seize opportunities to influence others. Celebrate more. Relax more. Choose to love the people who populate the fabric of your life. Laugh. Enjoy. Take God and his mission in the world seriously, but lighten up on most of the other stuff. Learn all there is about all you can. Today is the only moment of eternity you can touch, so drink it in as a gift. And do those things today that will make tomorrow better.