Give It A Rest


Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 96; 148, Exodus 16:23-36, 1 Peter 3:13-4:6, John 16:1-15

The first Sabbath (except maybe for the day God rested) occurred shortly after the Israelites fled Egypt. The people began to complain because they were thirsty, so God provided water. They complained because they were hungry, so God provided manna on the ground each morning. They complained because they weren’t eating meat, so God sent quail in the evenings. All that complaining was a lot of work. Moses told the people that on the sixth day of the week, God would provide twice as much food as normal so they could rest on the seventh day; no one was to go looking for food. Of course some people went looking, so God asked Moses: “How long will you refuse to keep my commandments and instructions?”

We might cluck at the disobedient nature of the Israelites, but these were a people traumatized by centuries of oppression. They barely knew God and had not yet learned to trust Him again, so each step toward freedom seemed to be a step toward annihilation. Over the next forty years of wandering, the Sabbath became essential to their national and religious identity. For Jews a Sabbath is more than a day of rest – it is a day of holiness set apart from ordinary days. Christians have mostly lost that sense of Sabbath holiness. We may go to church, but we also prepare family dinners, mow the lawn, and crowd the mall. For many, Sunday is a day to accomplish tasks left undone earlier in the week. Businesses cater to our demand for convenient hours, but “convenience” has robbed us of any excuse to rest.

Paradoxically, preparing for a day of rest and holiness is hard work. It requires planning and little extra push just as we are hoping to wind down for the weekend. But what value might we find in actually observing a Sabbath? Is there anyone who couldn’t use more rest? Imagine how our lives might change if once a week we devoted an entire day to re-energizing our relationship to God and the world. Jesus observed the Sabbath. Maybe we should consider it.

Comfort: The Sabbath does not exist to deny people, but to replenish them.

Challenge: Create space in your life for a Sabbath.

Prayer: Merciful God, thank you for the gift of rest. Amen.

Discussion: What do you think would be most likely to distract you from a Sabbath? What benefits might you find?

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I get knocked down, but I get up again…


Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 15; 147:1-11, 1 Samuel 25:23-44, Acts 14:19-28, Mark 4:35-41

Resilience, a term long used in medical circles, is becoming a staple of life and leadership coaches. For medical purposes, resilience means the ability to resist and recover from disease. In the area of personal development, it describes the ability to bounce back from stress. Either kind of resilience depends partially on traits we’re born with, but with some knowledge and effort we can positively influence how resilient we are in both senses.

Paul was a paragon of resilience. The man was nearly impossible to keep down. In Lycaonia, Paul and the other disciples won many converts among the gentiles. When Jews who were hostile to Paul came from Antioch and Iconium to Lycaonia and turned the people against him, the crowds “stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead.” But when the disciples gathered around him, he got up, regrouped, and went from city to city encouraging the disciples and appointing elders.

It seems Paul’s resilience depended on his faith and his interaction with other people. We can all draw on our reserves of resilience, but we need to learn how. For some of us that means interacting with loved ones, and for others it means time alone. Maybe it’s art. Maybe it’s running. The benefits one person gets from time in prayer and meditation may be the same benefits someone else gets from kickboxing lessons. Because we are all so different, we should be careful not to ridicule or belittle someone else’s means of stress reduction. Nor should we feel pressured to explain or modify our own to suit someone else’s expectations.

Cultivating resilience – even if it takes time away from other people’s priorities – is not selfish; it’s self care. Stress attacks the body in many of the same ways disease does, but we can build immunity. Why deny ourselves mental health exercises any more than we would physical exercise? Our ability to serve God and the Kingdom only improves as our resilience does. If we’re going to love our neighbors as we love ourselves … don’t we first have to love ourselves?

Comfort: You are part of God’s creation; treat yourself like you would the rest.

Challenge: Reflect on the ways you deal with stress and whether they increase your resilience or simply suppress it.

Prayer: Lord, teach me healthy ways to care for myself so I may be at my best to serve you. Amen.

Discussion: What helps you build resilience?

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