No Zoom Today

What should we make of today? In my own past praxis, nothing much, really. It has been the immensely blah, pay-no-attention, make-no-mention day of Easter weekend. At best, it’s been a day to run-around, shop for last-minute must-haves, and finish getting ready for tomorrow, the truly monumental day, Easter Sunday.

2020 if of course, different. Very different. We are all locked down, very busy staying at home and doing a whole bunch of nothing. Well, sort of. If we’re honest, some of us feel busier than ever in our spirits. After all, there are new tasks to do. Schoolwork. Baking. Online shopping. Kids. House repairs. Care calls to make. Videos to upload. Economic trends to chart. New strategies to craft. And another Zoom meeting. Isn’t it ironic during this time of so much staying home and such a shift of our life gears, now so much of our existence is run by the word zoom?

My own Friday was full in its own strange way. I won’t bore you. Yours was too. We just did Good Friday in all its horrific glory. And as good Christians, we are quick to say: “But Sunday’s comin’!”

I am struck this morning with the reality that I have seldom pondered today, Saturday, the day in between. For thoughtful Christians across the ages and round the globe, this is holy or joyful Saturday. From the cross on Friday, Christ cried out his last words, his sixth and seventh sayings: “It is finished!” and “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” Holy Saturday serves as a poignant reminder that his body was laid in the tomb by Joseph and Nicodemus (St. John’s Gospel, chapter 19), and there he rested.

We tend to want a busy Jesus, the sort of Savior who was still running off to do something, even in spirit. Over the centuries, scholars have debated: what was he doing in that in-between? Did he truly descend to hell, preach good news, and free the captives? Well, maybe, and maybe not. It’s a long-fought creedal debate, and since this is Holy Saturday, I am simply not feeling the compulsion today to actively engage the mental work or exert the energy necessary for full-on combat of the age-old controversy. (You can also have a pass today to not have to settle that one, if you’d like.)

What I am drawn toward is the sacred connection of Christ’s 2nd-day posture. He rested. In his incarnation, Jesus was fully inhabiting the fulfillment of the Hebrew sabbath. His body was at rest. His spirit was at home with his Father. And he rested. Full stop. Nothing more. No zoom for Jesus.

I have workaholic tendencies. I am not proud of that. Combine that with perfectionism. There’s a deadly-to-the-soul combo. So, I am extra-moved in this Holy Week 2020 when I realize that sisters and brothers across the ages have also referred to this day as Joyful Saturday. My soul is struck by the permission to do nothing today, nothing but rest in body and rejoice in soul.

That push-push, reach-for-something-more side of me as a leader, author, and speaker would typically grab two or three more books or articles and aim to craft another paragraph or two. I would consider my labor unfinished, my striving incomplete with what I am sharing right here.

And then I recall, my Lord said, “Tetelestai!” It is finished.

And so am I. Will you join me in making this a truly joyful, Holy Saturday?

Best we can, let’s do nothing, just a little bit better.

Let’s join Jesus. No zoom. Just rest.

 

Make Something

Wind and the wintry mix were pounding our roof as I awoke. (‘Must confess, the little kid deep inside me said, “Ah, the storm did indeed arrive.”) After a foray outside with Brody, our golden retriever, I began the joyous task of carefully stripping newspaper, strategically clumping kindling, and then lighting the flame. Within moments, my boys were gathered around, basking in the glow.

I’m struck with the integral connection between holy interruptions in our regular schedules—these God-appointed disturbances, like snowstorms—and the opportunity to make something. We learn of the God who oh-so-creatively makes things in Genesis 1. Many years later, Jesus reminded his critics that his Father is always working (John 5:16-18). So I’m challenged today with the opportunity.

I can make the most of the space, the sweet grace of extra time. I sense the Lord’s promptings today. “John, whatever you do during this storm, you must make something.” Just perhaps, we might each hear his whisper carried on the winds and driving flakes of snow. Build the fire and keep it burning all day. If you have a woodworking shop, use the time to build that table or refinish an antique chair that’s been gathering dust. Make french toast—and bacon, and eggs, and waffles. Go all out. Throw on your warmest snow clothes and go make memories—even just thirty minutes worth—with your kids. If you’re married, home alone, just the two of you, make the most of your time together. Wink-wink. (Need I really encourage this? All studies show there will be a significant spike in hospitals’ maternity traffic approximately nine months from this wintry blast.)

So, why not make something? You get the idea.

Perhaps such gracious time carved out by snowstorms might, after all, be more like what God intends for our normal Sabbath rhythms (Genesis 2:1-3). I too often forget that intentional holy disruptions are commanded and encouraged, integral to practicing God’s intentions for our workplace theology. We are too typically too busy. Snowstorms and accompanying Sabbath are made by our all-wise Father, for our good. When Jesus and his disciples walked through the fields and plucked grain on the Sabbath, the Pharisees’ critique and Christ’s summative teaching proved unique and mildly puzzling (check out Mark 2:23-28). At least one of Christ’s intentions was to help us embrace the empowering tension of Sabbath. Yes, it’s commanded. Yes, we’re to be spontaneous. Yes, it’s God-like. And yes, it’s VERY good for us.

Stephen Cottrell, describing more sensitive Sabbath principles, urges us: “So never speak of wasting time or spending time. Rather, say you are enjoying it or giving it away freely. Never say you have an hour to kill. Rather, say you have an hour to revive, to bring to life, to ravish.”[1]

Let’s ravish our way through the upcoming snowy hours. Now go make something!

[1]Stephen Cottrell. Do Nothing to Change Your Life: Discovering What Happens When You Stop. (New York: Seabury Books), 2008, p. 69.

Your Must-Do Work in the Snowstorm

blizzard

Wintry weather pounded our classic two-story, antique-Iowan home during January 1998. Nancy and I did not yet have kids, but we had a houseful of “kids” that weekend. Our church regularly hosted worship team interns, all late-teen and early-twenty-something students. This crew of courageous collegians regularly traveled two hours from Ankeny to serve on weekends. Typical accommodations involved guys bunking at our place, and the girls staying at another leader’s house nearby.

In typical fashion, the car full of friends made their trek on Saturday morning. By Saturday afternoon, a surprise snowstorm was brewing. By evening, Old Man Winter was blasting our vintage house with all-out-blizzard gusto. Sunday church was cancelled as wind and whiteouts piled on a foot of fresh powder. The “kids”—including a gaggle of other local young adults from our church—ALL piled into our place for the long weekend.

Our house was abuzz for three days. We watched movies (Harrison Ford’s high-energy, action flick Air Force One had just come out. “GET OFF MY PLANE!”). We gobbled homemade pizza, toppings-piled-high nachos, and thick pans of lasagna. We laughed. We teased (two of our interns were in their early stages of flirtation and dating). Feeling some compulsion to add a dash of productivity, we held a worship arts planning meeting (well, sort of). We philosophized. We fought and made up. (After all, who doesn’t squabble after being cooped up that long with that many friends?) We sang outrageously goofy songs, made breakfast together both Sunday and Monday mornings, and otherwise created some of the most marvelous memories.

Eighteen years later, there is a snowpocalypse forecast for a large swath of the US east coast. Pictures of empty bread aisles and abandoned milk coolers are posted across social media. While I cannot recreate that one-of-a-kind, blizzard ’98 experience, I can envision a handful of must-dos we can each carry into the forthcoming labor of these snowy days.

First, there will be surprises. So, let’s roll with joy. Looking back, it would have been easy to tell those young adults a polite “no, you can’t stay,” or even “GET OFF MY PLANE.” I do recall that Nanc’ and I had already experienced a jam-packed week. No doubt it would have felt good to have our own space and breathing room. But we have never regretted those three hilarious days, and we are so glad we rolled with the opportunity.

Second, work will emerge, accompanied by opportunities to lovingly serve others. While we thoroughly enjoyed the cabin full of friends, it was some serious labor to host and navigate that flight. During this year’s blustering storm, will you find neighbors to assist with shoveling or nearby friends to serendipitously invite for a meal? While making bread, stacking wood, or washing dishes—tasks that certainly seem mundane—we must choose Christ’s joy and servant-hearts.

Finally, make the most of the space, the sweet grace of extra time. With that crew of young adults, we made delicious food, played hysterical practical jokes, planned for upcoming Sunday services, and unearthed a treasure trove of marvelous memories. Whatever you do during this storm, you must make something. If you have a woodworking shop, use the time to build that table or refinish an antique chair that’s been gathering dust. If you’re married, home alone, just the two of you, make the most of your time together. Wink-wink. (Need I really encourage this? All studies show there will be a significant spike in hospitals’ maternity traffic approximately nine months from this weekend.) So, why not make something? You get the idea.

Perhaps such gracious time carved out by snowstorms might, after all, be more like what God intends for our normal Sabbath rhythms (Genesis 2:1-3). I too often forget that intentional holy disruptions are commanded and encouraged, integral to practicing our workplace theology. We are too typically too busy. Snowstorms and accompanying Sabbath are indeed for our good. When Jesus and his disciples walked through the fields and plucked grain on the Sabbath, the Pharisees’ critique and Christ’s summative teaching proved unique and mildly puzzling (Mark 2:23-28). At least one of Christ’s intentions was to help us embrace the empowering tension of Sabbath. Yes, it’s commanded. Yes, we’re to be spontaneous. Yes, it’s God-like. And yes, it’s VERY good for us.

Every one of those characters who camped at our house for snowzilla ’98 is now all grown up, working hard, and serving strong in God’s kingdom. Nanc’ and I would never dream of taking credit for such marvelous adults—they had exceptional upbringings with brilliant parents. But we can relish the reality that we were privileged to play a brief role, including those seventy-two hours. And oh, what a fun plane ride it was!

Stephen Cottrell, describing more sensitive Sabbath principles, urges us: “So never speak of wasting time or spending time. Rather, say you are enjoying it or giving it away freely. Never say you have an hour to kill. Rather, say you have an hour to revive, to bring to life, to ravish.”[1]

Let’s ravish our way through the upcoming snowy hours, fully embracing both the joyous work and wonderful people God brings onto our planes.

[1]Stephen Cottrell. Do Nothing to Change Your Life: Discovering What Happens When You Stop. (New York: Seabury Books), 2008, p. 69.