Intimacy with God
There is a longing deep within that cries out of my heart. It manifests in many different ways, but at its root it is my spirit crying out to God's Spirit, yearning for intimacy with my Creator, my Father, my Abba. Sometimes I am gripped by a deep depression, but not one borne by chemistry; rather it is borne by the estrangement from God that my busy life often fosters. Funny. I'm a pastor. My "job" is to connect people with God. And yet in my own life, the busyness of pastoring often saps my own connection with God, my intimacy with Abba (my preferred Name for God-the-Father; it is akin to Daddy, but doesn't carry any negative images for me).
Right now I am re-reading and working through a book entitled Living in God's Embrace by Michael Fonseca. It is a devotional book that takes one through sixty different spiritual exercises, designed to help one live in God's embrace. It is helping me to discipline myself to sit in quietness, to "be still and know" Abba. My sense is that by practicing this stillness, I may discover anew that which cries out in me, and in discovery find a new intimacy with Abba. So be it.
We all hate our jobs at one point or another, perhaps all the time. But work is blessed by God and each of us is called to work at something. We don't always get employment that matches our calling, but, hey, we try.
This is great! From the book, The Rest of God (p. 15f), by Mark Buchanan:
When you have one of those take-this-job-and-shove-it-days, try this. On your way home, stop at your pharmacy and go to the section where they have thermometers. You will need to purchase a rectal thermometer. Made by the Q-tip Company. Be sure that you get this brand. When you get home, lock the doors, draw the drapes, and disconnect the phone so you will not be disturbed during your therapy. Change into something comfortable, such as a sweat suit, and lie down on your bed. Open the package containing the thermometer, remove it, and carefully place it on the bedside table so that it will be become chipped or broken. Take the written material that accompanies the thermometer. As you read, notice in small print this statement: "Every rectal thermometer made by Q-tip is personally tested."
Close your eyes. Say out loud five times, "Thank you, oh thank you, that I do not work in quality control at the Q-tip Company." (Source unknown)
I die laughing every time I read that! The obvious lesson is, no matter how bad your job seems, there are always worse ones! But each "job" we do is a vocation (literally, the work that the Voice told you to do) if it is done for the glory of God and in response to His call. Martin Luther put it well:
The maid who sweeps her kitchen is doing the will of God just as much as the monk who prays—not because she may sing a Christian hymn as she sweeps but because God loves clean floors. The Christian shoemaker does his Christian duty not by putting little crosses on the shoes, but by making good shoes, because God is interested in good craftsmanship." (The Rest of God, p. 23)
And this (ibid. p. 24f):
Virtually any job, no matter how grueling or tedious—any job that is not criminal or sinful—can be a gift from God, through God, and to God. The work of our hands, by the alchemy of our devotion, becomes the worship of our hearts.
My reading this morning was wonderful! I sat by the pond and read three chapters from The Rest of God and it was, well, wonderful! I even wrote a poem, at the suggestion of the author, to help me notice my surroundings. Right now here in the high desert, one species of tree is spreading its seed far and wide. These cotton-like puffs of seed are all over the place, and more is floating down all the time. So I wrote:
Seeds cloaked in cotton wings
glide gently groundward
seeking a womb of soil
to birth a mighty tree.
Life and Time proceed.
Then, talking about Sabbath Time, Buchanan writes (p. 33):
Transformation is the fruit of a changed outlook. First our minds are renewed, and then we are transformed, and then everything is different, even if it stays the same. God is more interested in changing your thinking than in changing your circumstances.
In this sacred space, I am (re)learning how to keep Sabbath. I had forgotten. I had let Chronos become my preferred time, rather than God's kairos. Instead of Sabbath, I had cultured Leisure. "Leisure is what Sabbath becomes when we no longer know how to sanctify time. Leisure is Sabbath bereft of the sacred." (Buchanan, of course, p. 35).
And, finally (for now), in speaking of wisdom and the changing of our thoughts (or thinking), Buchanan writes (p. 40) "Wise people ask, Does the path I'm walking lead to a place I want to go? If I keep heading this way, will I like where I arrive?" Proverbs 14:8 says, "The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways, but the folly of fools is deception." Aristotle said (or was it Socrates? College was a LONG time ago!), "A life not examined is a life not worth living." The lesson (for me) is that I can go through life blithely worshipping Chronos, or I can see my life through the eyes of Sabbath and appreciate the kairos that God is giving me. "The Chinese join two characters to form a single pictograph for busyness: heart and killing." (Wayne Muller, Sabbath: Restoring the Sacred Rhythm of Rest, p. 3, quoted in Buchanan p. 45) (Gosh, I sound like a research paper! But only because this is going out on a public blog, so I want to give credit where credit is due.)
This is such a rich time! I am so grateful for the gift that this sabbatical is to me, it is only the second day and already I am feeling renewed and refreshed. I'm not ready to come back, yet, so don't go there. I'm just thankful and I can't wait to see what else God has in store for me!