Sunday, April 19, 2015

Why is God so serious about the Sabbath?

You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day must be a Sabbath day of complete rest, a holy day dedicated to the LORD. Anyone who works on the Sabbath must be put to death. (Exodus 31:15 NLT)

Sounds kind of harsh, eh? It's the exact opposite of what we would expect from someone in authority. When was the last time your boss told you to take a vacation day - or die?!?

As I am studying the Old Testament I am realizing how often we let our Western ideology steal from us great truths in the bible. We dismiss things we don't understand and we accept misconceptions about God because of it. 

So, why is resting on the Sabbath such a big deal? In Exodus 31 God refers to the Sabbath law as 'a sign of the covenant' between him and the Israelites. Which covenant? The original one with Abraham. 

'I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you.' Genesis 12:1-3

So how is observing the Sabbath a sign of God's promise to Abraham? What does rest have to do with it? I propose it's less about bumming around on Sunday and more about acknowledging who is really in charge. 

Genesis 1 is all about creating order from chaos. On Day 1, God created day and night. On Day 4, he created the sun and moon and stars to fill the day and night. On Day 2, God created the sky and sea and on Day 5, he filled them with birds and fish. On Day 3, he created the earth and the vegetation to fill it. On Day 6, he filled the earth with animals, first and then humans. 

Do you see what he was doing? He created a space and then created the thing that would rule over it. The stars and moon would control the sky and seasons. The fish and birds controlled the sky and sea. Animals filled the earth to dominate over it, but human dominated over it all. We had a special role to fulfill in order to maintain the order God had created. 

We think of the creation of humans as the grand finally. But God wasn't done. Why? Because he knew that chaos likes to creep back in. 

If the Israelites were really going to be a blessing to all families, there was a secret they needed to know about - the importance of rest. 

Wherever you sit on the creation debate, most scholars believe Genesis was written sometime after the Exodus. So, the audience would have been very familiar with slavery. They were a people that knew what it meant to work and work and work - sun up to sun down day in and day out. 

Sound familiar?

We do the same thing today. There just aren't enough hours in the day to accomplish everything we need to get done. What God knew long ago is that scurrying around more only leaves us tired and vulnerable. So he created the Sabbath - a regular time for us to stop, take a deep breath and remember that HE is the creator of order. HE is the only one capable of holding all of creation together. Only HE can give us real rest in the midst of our craziness. 

Not taking time to reconnect with God each week is a lot like skipping supper - you'll live and the world may compliment your weight loss, but you'll go to bed every night hungry. 

So if you skip the Sabbath, will we die? Probably not in a bolt of lightning from heaven, but definitely in a slow, painful exhaustion as we try to manage our own life being our own god. 


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Why So Many Rules?

God gets a bad rap for all the "boring" rules found in the Old Testament. At best, we assume they are outdated laws for a undeveloped nation. At worst, we see God as a control freak that has a law governing every step we take. In truth, though, both of those assumptions are wrong. Each and every rule written in the Old Testament points to God, our loving Father, who promises to never leave us or abandon us.

The Israelites had only known slavery - they were told what to do and when to do it. They were limited in their ability to worship God and they had a limited understanding of who God was. They were like high schoolers. They sure thought they were ready for freedom in a new land, but God knew better.

Here are the words of a father's direction for his son in Proverbs 7.

Follow my advice, my son;
always treasure my commands.
Obey my commands and live!
Guard my instructions as you guard your own eyes.
Tie them on your fingers as a reminder.
Write them deep within your heart.
- Proverbs 7:1-3

The father knows that as his son steps into independence there will be temptation at every turn. His son will need a solid foundation, a strong sense of identity to be different than the pagan culture all around them.

Garrett and I feel the same way about our kids. That is why, from early on, we have been establishing rules and teaching them wisdom. When they were little we could get away with "dos" and "don'ts," but as they get closer to leaving our home we know that they must self-identify with God's path for their lives because we won't be able to force them to make good choices.

God was about to send the Israelites off to college. And he loved them too much to send them off unprepared. So we get a plea like this one found in Deuteronomy 11 (which sounds a lot like the concerned father in Proverbs 7).

18 “So commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these words of mine. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. - Deuteronomy 11:18

God dearly loved Israel. He wanted them (and us) to thrive! But he knew college was a corrupt place that would try at every turn to get his beloved children off track, so he spent lots and lots of chapters in the Old Testament preparing them - not because they weren't sophisticated and not because he is a control freak, but because these wayward kids meant everything to him. You and I mean everything to him, so he left all those crazy rules for us read and see his real heart for us - He is a father that will never abandon us.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Stuck on a Deserted Island with YOU?

I recently read an article with a simple, but compelling piece of business advice: find a place where you can commit.

As a Millennial with an assorted career past, it got me thinking about what it means to commit. Very few people stay at jobs for decades anymore, especially younger generations. And honestly, I think older generations have stayed in their jobs for the long-haul, not because they loved it, but because it was easier that way.

So what does commitment look like?

The article I read talked about the team he joined and the companionship they developed over time.

But sticking it out with people for the long-haul requires being around people you actually like - people you respect and that respect you. It requires just as much chemistry as it does skill.

So, what if we went into job interviews asking, "Would I want to be stranded on a deserted island with all of you?"

In my early career life I was job hunting - looking for a place to pay me for some kind of work I didn't hate so I could support my family. And it left me desiring something more. I could have saved myself a ton of workplace pitfalls had I asked this question.

I would have ran from bosses that were control-freaks and avoided bland, lifeless teams that didn't know how to (or weren't allowed to) have fun - because on my deserted island we have lots of fun!

So, would you want to be stuck on a deserted island with your team? Not just some of them - ALL OF THEM?

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

A Heart for Learning

I believe that when leaders stop learning, we stop growing.
When we stop growing, we start dying.
- Shawn Lovejoy

Learning has nothing to do with taking classes or reading books. It has everything to do with activating a curious, humble heart. My uncle frequently told me when I was growing up that people will tell you anything you need to know if you'll take the time to ask and then listen to them.

This has been true as a parent, a leader at church, a co-worker, and a wife.

I never want to get to a place that I have so many book smarts that I forget to cultivate my curious heart. God has so many things to show us when we take our eyes off of ourselves and begin humbly asking questions.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Off the Ivy

I played softball nearly all of my childhood. I wasn't an athletic kid, but I loved being on the diamond. I loved cheering in the dugout with my friends (what I lacked in physical ability, I more than made up for in raucous encouragements for my teammates). And I loved the giant pickles and double bubble you could only find at a softball concession stand!

I wasn't an exceptional batter. I wasn't a fast runner. And I didn't have a good enough arm to get the ball from Short Stop to First Base, let alone from the outfield. My one contribution, though was a snappy glove at First Base. My height gave me an advantage (in elementary and middle school anyhow) to catch nearly anything a Short Stop or Third Baseman threw my way. So I bought a first baseman's glove and owned my spot like a little league champ.

But deep down I wanted to be an Outfielder. Prior to the major league strike, I LOVED watching the Cubs play. My heroes were Sammy Sosa and Derrick May and I wanted to be like them. And I wasn't shy about saying it. I wasn't angry about playing first, I loved it there, too. It was more like a dream of mine - to be in the outfield when a ball was hit in my direction. I would leap up and catch the ball from the ivy!

But, like I said, I wasn't fast or athletic. It was a pipe dream - practically a joke. So, you can imagine my surprise when one night near the end of our game my coach said, 'Sandhagen. You're at Center!'

I picked up my (now-illegal) first baseman's glove and trotted out to center field with a new found leap in my step. This was going to be EPIC!!

As the first pitch went out, I dropped down in an infielder's ready stance and grinned from ear to ear. I had to look like a lost duck without a clue! You can imagine my surprise when one of those first pitches rang off the bat and headed MY WAY!! This was my big moment.

I started running toward the ball, watching it's trajectory with absolutely no idea what I was doing. I had never practiced catching a fly ball - not one with any arch.  Now, you give me a popup and you might as well go sit back down because this girl was quick. But as the fly ball came directly at me, I quickly realized I had really crappy depth perception. Had I stood in place, it would have hit me in the head, but instead as I ran in, it fell behind me and I was in trouble! 

Luckily, the Right and Left Fielders were there to cover me and kept the girl at second, but I spent the rest of the inning DEEP in center field praying earnestly for nothing else to come my way.

It wasn't that I didn't know what an outfielder was supposed to do - I had watched Derrick and Sammy (and to some degree, my teammates) catch nearly a million fly balls. The problem was, I had never actually caught one myself. For all the "want to" in the world, I had no skills to back up my dream.

How often do we fall into that trap in life! We want to take a great vacation, but we don't want to sacrifice to save up for it. We want to find a great husband/wife, but we aren't willing to do the work to be content with who we are alone first. We want to become a great speaker or writer or boss, but we don't develop our skills, our character, to match the dream we have in our hearts.

As a little girl I remember spending hours looking at and eventually reading my Precious Moments bible. There was just something about that book (and subsequent bibles that weren't in King James) that I just loved. I knew there was something amazing in there - if I could just figure it out.

Since then, I have taken some classes, read some book, and have been an avid learner of great bible teachers around me, but I've never really taken it seriously. It was a hobby, like watching Sammy and Derrick.

When some circumstances in my life shifted, I started to do some actual study of the bible (a process I had been taught, but put on the back shelf) and as I systematically worked through 2 Timothy 1:1-2, I felt my heart come to life! I couldn't stop thinking about it and talking about it. Who knew 2 short introductory sentences could pack so much punch! It was like getting a glimpse of the outfield again.

So, a couple months ago, I decided to step (back) into the equivalent of Spring Training for bible geeks - Seminary. Classes started last week and I can't believe how much I am loving it. It's not my dream coming instantly to life - metaphorically, I'm still playing First Base - but I'm spending real practice time, getting real reps, that help me get ready to step into my dream.

And there has been some real risk and some real cost in doing that. It would have been much easier to just toss the ball around in the backyard rather than step out and declare, "I'm going to be an Outfielder!" Because honestly, I don't feel like a Seminarian. I read about biblical scholars who dedicated their entire life to rectifying dates in 1/2 Kings and 1/2 Chronicles and I think, "what a bore!"

But, the truth is, that was THEIR Outfield! And they dedicated their life to practicing and perfecting their skills. And, regardless of what we think about their work, we have to admire their dedication. There is something magnetic about a person who knows their dream and pursues it with all their heart - despite personal cost and risk.

So, I'm done with "safe" infield practice. I may drop every fly ball that comes my way, but I will eventually get good enough to catch one off the ivy at Wrigley - or whatever that equivalent is for a bible geek like me!