5 Reasons I Still Struggle with Sabbath

When we live a blurred and hurried life, at the core of our busyness is an illusion that kills the life within us!Ever since I was a boy, I heard about the 10 Commandments.  Most of them made sense but one still messes with me until this very day. Here are five reasons I still struggle with Sabbath:

  1. I still believe in the illusion that I don’t need to stop.

As a type “A” personality, I have to face it: Going is better than stopping. Doing more seems more doable than doing less. Pausing, stopping, ceasing and resting are not in my mother tongue’s vocabulary. I speak “Let’s get ‘ur done!” Since working hard was modeled for me as a boy by the men in my life, I absorbed an ethos that I now see, decades later, has wreaked havoc in my soul and done violence to my life by choosing to always to more—not less—at least one day a week. 

  1. I sometimes do not believe in the sovereignty of God.

 When you stop for one day a week, we are given the opportunity to lean into the sovereignty of God. I take my hands off the plow, off the keyboard; off the gear-shift of my high octane life and let go of trying to control my life. Sabbath gives us one day a week to take the hands off of the control shift of our life and to surrender to the spiritual act of letting go. I have to face the fact that in my core, I want control more than I want to let go. To practice letting go—for one day a week—is perhaps an ultimate sign that you really do trust God more than you trust yourself. 

  1. I don’t really believe in my well-being. I believe in my well doing more!

 Doing more always costs us. Always being “on” and always being “available” costs a person their well-being. When we are in our 20’s and 30’s we push and strive. We achieve and perform. In our 40’s we begin to question this credo—yet secretly because we don’t want to be labeled “normal” or average. If we do more, then perhaps we believe, we can finally arrive. But well-being is state of being that requires a day a week to cease; to enjoy—to delight in something other than work and performance. 

  1. It’s easier to work than to rest.

 Keeping a day as a Sabbath is one of the 10 Commandments. God knew from the beginning that we would work, strive and live by the sweat of our brow. So when we practice Sabbath—we are practicing one of the oldest spiritual practices ever given and known to humanity. Just as we are told not to kill, steal and cheat on our spouses, we are told to rest one day a week. To choose to practice Sabbath is to intentionally chose to resist our culture. [tweetthis]Sabbath keeping, for me, is counter cultural as well as counter-intuitive.[/tweetthis] Sabbath keeping does not make sense to so many of us. As we lean into this ancient practice, we soon realize that God’s ways are truly not our ways. We would never cease; never stop; never Sabbath and that is our undoing. It has been my undoing in my life, my fathering and my being a husband. When I practice Sabbath, I am reminding myself “I do not want to be undone any more. “ Sabbath helps me really live. 

  1. Money seems more powerful than trust.

 At the root of Sabbath is the power of mammon—money. God’s intent in helping us rest is to help us put money in perspective. Money is not really everything. Money does not define us when we are burned out and used up. The rival God of the 21st century is money and Sabbath keeping deflates the over-inflated ego of the dollar—no matter what currency you use. When we Sabbath—note I uses this as a verb and not a noun—we live with bigger goals in mind and heart. Money intoxicates the soul. Sabbath puts everything into perspective. When we Sabbath, we live smaller lives and being small, one day a week is a very good thing for the soul.  For more help on Sabbath and living a rhythm of life that sustains you, and doesn't drain you, please get and read Chapter 5 of Inside Job: "Exposing the Lie of Being Balanced." Order the book here and get started!  Order Inside Job and the accompanying workbook here!

Two Kinds of People

There are two kinds of people in the world:Golfers will seek lessons in the game but what about in life?Those who love golf and those who hate it. If you are in the latter camp, you probably agree with Mark Twain's assessment that "golf is a good walk spoiled."But no matter which side you're on, golf has some practical lessons that can help us in our spiritual lives. (I know, that may sound crazy, but stick with me for just a minute and I'll explain.)You could hit the ball around the golf course with some friends once a year and have fun (or be completely frustrated!). But, like most sports, increasing your skill level in golf requires deliberate practice. Notice there that I said "deliberate" practice.We need deliberate practice.Being deliberate is important. Here's why. One of my sons is a golf pro. Let's say a beginning golfer comes to my son and demonstrates her swing. He notices that she is slicing the ball every time she hits the ball because she's lifting her head up. If she continues to practice in this way without making the necessary adjustments to correct her swing, then she'll build muscle memory that will ingrain this bad habit. And she'll never improve her swing. Her experience on the golf course will always be frustrating as she continues to hit the ball off target.However, by making the necessary tweaks to her stance, grip, follow-through, etc. my son is able to show her how to fix her swing so she can hit the ball properly. When she puts all those pieces together and then deliberately practices them, she gets better results - more power, better accuracy.Practicing the wrong things doesn't help.It just ingrains faulty skills. But once the golfer know the right way and deliberately practices the right things, she can improve. And that improvement makes her experience of golfing much more enjoyable than looking for her ball in the rough.So, how does this apply to our spiritual lives?If you are feeling stressed, anxious, or burnt out, there's likely something going on in your soul that is out of whack. Perhaps you are living what I call the High Octane Life. You feel constantly distracted and you're always moving in fifth gear. To find out more about the symptoms of the High Octane Life, watch this video where I describe the effects of this out-of-control lifestyle.Recognizing the negative impact of the High Octane Life is one thing, but understanding what to do about it is another. We need practices that will help us deal with the effects of the High Octane Life. But we need the right practices.[tweetthis]For many of us, it's been ingrained to just pray more, to go to church more, to serve more, or to join another Bible study. The list of doing more in our Christian lives seems to go on and on.[/tweetthis] And while all those things are good things in and of themselves, these may be the wrong practices for you right now.Notice that I'm not saying these are bad practices. But adding more of these practices probably isn't going to help you make the necessary adjustments to your life. (Remember our golf analogy - practicing the wrong things doesn't help.)If you are wondering why you are constantly running on empty and not experiencing the joy of the abundant life that Jesus promised, I suspect that maybe you are practicing the wrong things.Perhaps what you need aren't more practices that focus on doing more, but rather practices that focus more on being.Fortunately, there are just such practices. While they may not be as familiar to us as Bible study, prayer, and fellowship, these are in fact ancient practices passed down through the church by wise fathers and mothers of the faith. And deliberately practicing them can help us experience more of the joy of our salvation.So what are these practices that focus more on being?In today's video, I explain for you four of these ancient practices and some practical ways you can cultivate them in your life.In addition to the video, I've also created for you a Resource Guide which you can download as a PDF. This Resource Guide will not only help you retain the contents of the video better, but it also has some extra resources that you'll find helpful as you set up these deliberate spiritual practices in your life.Download the Resource Guide and watch today's video here.Click here to view the video and to download the teaching notes!I'll be back early next week with one more video for you, plus a special opportunity to go deeper.In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the video. Feel free to share it and the resource guide with anyone you think would find it helpful.With you on the journey,Steve Smith

Our Dilemma and God's Solution for our Lives

There is a better way to live and a solution to our dilemma! Our solution is life on God’s terms!Every day, I hear the complaints, laments and confessions of people who are tired, worn out and burned out. I am concerned because I hear these messages more than at any other time in my life and work. Being absorbed in the daily hassles of surviving; driven by the tyranny of the urgent and competing demands upon their time, energy and passion, life is demanding. Contentment feels as if it is life on another planet or perhaps only in eternity.We live frayed. We live fragmented. We live divided and we call this way of living the “abundant life.” Deep down, we know that any sense of abundance has eluded us and we resign to live our lives in a quiet resignation of desperation.[tweetthis]The solution to our dilemma is life on God’s terms. [/tweetthis]The fateful dilemma that we have found ourselves living in at this present time is assuaged when we realize that there really is another way of living and a solution offered to us. If we could live a life marked by robust sanity, we'd be crazy not to live our life in a way that promises us a true solution.The life of a person who is following Jesus is first of all a life! It is not ascribing to a doctrinal list of beliefs. Following Jesus is a new way of living—not just going to church; not just saying that we believe; not just adding Jesus into our already crowded lives. Jesus offers us a way of living that cultivates life—a life that is free from the brutal tyranny marked by exhaustion, speed and busyness.The Apostle Paul puts it this way, “In his Son, Jesus, he personally took on the human condition, entered the disordered mess of struggling humanity in order to set it right once and for all” (Romans 8:3 MSG). Our disordered mess is something Jesus came to address, rescue us from and offer us an alternative way that would be radically different from tending the grave clothes of our lives and calling that tending—life.In my work and every day in my work with people, I hear almost the exact same words that Paul again penned for us that describe so well, our every day lives:“I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question?” (Romans 7:24).The solution is life on God’s terms.Life on God’s terms is marked by several characteristics, that if embraced and practiced —actually yield a life that is marked by peace from our inner angst; well-being rather than sub coming to the malaise of our current condition and a life that is satisfying and fulfilling. The life lived by Jesus, described by the writers of the New Testament and actually lived out by men and women in other generations can be ours today. Many of us are so absorbed and exhausted by our day-to-day lives that we have forgotten and possibly ignored the fact that there is a solution for us.To live this life—to attain this new life—we must wake up from the lull of our sleep and the numbness our current condition has resulted in and start to live in a whole new way. We can live oblivious to this way of life and daily choose to try to survive—rather than thrive.The life lived by Jesus and revealed in the Scriptures is marked by several important distinctions.

  1. A life of rhythm. A life of rhythm is a life where we engage in our work and activities but then we dis-engage. We are not always on, available and obsessed with the doing of our lives. We discover a rhythm that is sustainable; a rhythm that fosters life within us not one that we endure with a slow, steady leak—draining us without any re-filling. Our obsession with work/life balance shows our predicament. We would rather try to “manage” our lives which few can do, to live in a rhythm where we are “on” then learn to truly “cease.” We see in Jesus’ own life a clear way of living that sustained and strengthened him to finish well—not burn out or give up or resign to a fate that was not his own choosing. Choose a daily and weekly rhythm. Choose to honor this rhythm and live in this rhythm for a month--a full 30 days and see what a difference you will experience.
  2. A life with attention to the soul. Our interior life needs attention. Otherwise we will ignore the place where true life begins and emerges from—inside us. When we examine the life lived by Jesus and offered to us, we learn that Jesus used silence and solitude to foster the life within. He pulled away from noise, people and things and entered lonely places (Luke 5:16). There, in the quiet and stillness around him and within him, a deeper way of living is born—a life more meaningful than all of this hurried existence we experiences. Inner silence is that place where peace, contentment and satisfaction is cultivated. Without attention to our inner life—we will live obsessed with outer markers of success and live divided; rushed; and annihilating our souls. All spiritual writers agree on this one and fundamental point. Silence and solitude promote well being and without silence, it is virtually impossible to live the life Jesus came to offer us. A healthy life—a life that is living well—is a life that honors the interior life. What results is an active life—a life of giving out but a life also of intake, receiving and being. Practice 15 minutes of quiet every say and one hour of silence and solitude every week. Build this into your life. Turn off your technology and fast from being on and available.
  3. A life of priority. Jesus made it clear—first things first. By this he raised our consciousness to live with a vertical perspective—a life continually focused with a Kingdom perspective. This is a perspective that we first establish in our lives—to live for what really matters. We then learn to re-focus and return to this way of seeing life as we lose focus, get consumed and need to return to our real and right priorities in life. We simply get back into the way of living with God as our solution and the ways of Jesus as our proven ways that nourish life. We can lose perspective and we can get off track—yet, we can also return and change our direction. We move away from “managing our lives” and spinning plates to a whole and other way of living. Wake up to the spiritual dimension of life and grow your soul by doing first things first!
  4. A life of prayer. When we learn to live by prayer, we live in a deeper, more reflective and less reactionary way of living. A life of prayer is a life of going to our inner room—our hearts and learning to pray with words and without words. We experience the God who is truly with us in our day-to-day living and we turn often and quickly into a posture of prayer that becomes a place of life and encounter. So many of us struggle here. Having never been taught how to pray, we limp along. And implement new ways of being with God through prayer.
  5. A life of living in a healthy way. True life is living with true health in mind. We honor our bodies. We rest them. We tend to them. We give the body what it needs to live and to live well. Since we are what we eat—we live with this in mind. We learn to make choices with our body that sustain us—rather than deplete us. We receive through good sleep, good movement and good nourishment. Since our bodies are the “temple” we live in a way that matters and does not abuse the physical address of our souls. Eat. Move. Sleep. These are the big three ways of honoring the physical dimension of our lives.
  6. A life of forgiveness. We live making mistakes, messing up and stained by sin. The life of Jesus is a life of continual turning from the results of our failures with God, others and self and living clean. Forgiveness is at the core of the teachings of Jesus. We forgive our enemies. We forgive those who hurt and disappoint us and we learn that we can forgive ourselves. The journey towards forgiveness is a necessary pilgrimage to live a life of peace. There is no peace without forgiveness. We let go of hurts and failures. Sin is assuaged and we live without self condemnation that plagues so many of us. Sit quietly and see if your attention is drawn to someone you need to move towards and take the initiative to forgive today.
  7. A life of serving others. The Dead Sea in the Middle East is dead because there is no outlet. The waters pour into this basin but there is no place for the sea to give out. A healthy life is a life of making outlets to give our lives to others and then we realize that this paradox happens. As we give—we are the ones who also receive. The hymn writer said, “Because I have been given much, I too, must give.” The life of Jesus is not an escape from human need and misery. It is a life of giving love, mercy and a simple cup of water to those in dire need. Choose to give to something to someone every day and certainly every week.

 Each of these seven distinctions require choices and action steps. We come to realize that this distinctive and living this way may not really be our normal way of living. But we can create a new normal—a life that is marked by these very normal and realistic, yet life altering ways of living. We sometimes live our lives on auto-pilot thinking that we do not have to give attention to some or all of these markers of true life. Yet, as we practice each marker—as we give each distinctive daily, weekly and monthly attention, we live our own healing and participate in our own transformation. As we live a whole “other” way—we discover that we are living a whole and other kind of life—a life marked by the ways of Jesus and a life sustained by God’s Spirit within us.What we need is a plan---a way to do this new life.  I believe that if practiced and embraced, these seven distinctives will yield the life we long for--the life we are attempting to live.  Take each of the seven distinctives and make a plan to begin to practice each one. These are not things to "add" to an already over committed life. The answer may well be to take away other things that over promise and under-deliver the life you want to live.For each distinctive, consider taking something out of your life and life style so that you can replace it with the markers that will sustain you and cultivate the life you long for right now.It's time to wake up and start living!