Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Vacation, Holiday, and Sabbath-Keeping

I am the world’s worst about taking vacation. Not working and sitting idle seems lazy to me. I am a workaholic. Some people praise me for that. Unfortunately, avoiding Sabbath is breaking a commandment. Not good.

I am allowed four weeks of vacation. I’ve never taken it all; I used to think it a sign of my “good” work ethic and devotion. But I am slowly realizing that not only is that flawed; it is possibly sinful.

In some ways, this is an American phenomenon. Most Americans are allowed two weeks of vacation. Brits average four weeks. Germans average 27 days. The French average eight weeks. Yet a third of Americans don’t even use all of their vacation time. Why are Americans reticent to take vacation? Here are a few of the reasons given:
(1) Job security: “My boss won’t like it.” However, studies have proven that Europeans are more productive in their work environments than Americans. Maybe if bosses knew that they’d encourage vacation rather than frown on it.
(2) Stress: Some people don’t know how to deal with down time, and the stress they carry from work into vacation. They also worry about the pile-up of email, messages, and to-do lists when they return.

Here is the catch: if we catch ourselves saying "I'm so busy... I just don't have enough time to complete all my work,” what we have just done is say that God didn’t make the day long enough! Now, are we wiser than God? Or are we defying the God of creation… who took a day off, too, and called it holy?

Sabbath-keeping just isn’t a nice idea. It’s one of the Ten Commandments. How can we get around not keeping it?

A fellow sinner,


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Older Adult Sunday

At the 10:45 service this Sunday, we will celebrate the ministry and presence of our older adult church members. As the planning for the worship service took place, those working on the service learned several facts:

• In the past 100 years, our life expectancy in the United States has increased by about 27 years.
• We not only live longer, but we are more active in our later years.
• Older people today enjoy learning and continue to grow in their knowledge and spirituality. Although our physical bodies decline, our spiritual selves will mature.
• Christ's death set an example of how suffering can be reconciling, even though it is painful.
• The experiences of older people bring wisdom and insight to our congregation. There is joy in the harvest of a life-lived spiritual treasure.
• There are opportunities for all generations within our church to worship, work, and play together.
• Mature years bring a special opportunity to redefine our goals.

Unfortunately, we also learned that:
• Many older people have incomes below a subsistence poverty level.
• Many have no medical insurance or very poor medical coverage that pays less than 50% of their medical needs.
• Older people sometimes must be dependent on others for life's necessities.
• Lifestyles today often result in older people having to live a distance from other family members.

Just as we lift up children and youth in our congregation, we also should lift up our older adults. They contribute to the life of our church, and we stand tall upon their shoulders. This Sunday gives us an opportunity to celebrate their wisdom, guidance, and presence in our community of faith.

Won’t you join us?


Thursday, July 05, 2007

Change and Vision

Dr. Lovett Weems was a professor at St. Paul School of Theology in Kansas City when I was in seminary at Emory. I was part of an interview team that interviewed him for Dean of the seminary at Emory, and I really liked him. He wasn’t hired, but he has made an indelible mark on the United Methodist Church.

He wrote a book a few years ago, entitled Take the Next Step: Leading Lasting Change in the Church. In his book, he makes some very keen observations.

One observation is about change; he suggests that there are seven unchangeable rules of change. They are:

1. People do what they perceive to be in their best interest.
2. The change must have positive meaning for them.
3. People thrive with creative challenge, but wilt under negative stress.
4. People are different, there is not one single key to all change.
5. People believe what they see and previous deceptions can lead to present suspicions.
6. The way to make effective long-term change is first to visualize where you want to go, and then go ahead and inhabit that vision till it comes true.
7. Change is always an act of imagination.

No one likes change – unless, of course, it’s his or her idea! One of our prayers might be, “God, I pray that your will might be done, instead of ours.” Sometime, change may be God’s idea.

What I am learning as a leader is that change, vision, and leadership take time. Change takes time and imagination. Visions are never invented; they are discerned from prayer and active listening. And leadership takes perseverance. One of the reasons that leaders often don’t stay more than 3-4 years in leadership is that the years following are often difficult.

How much can we imagine? What can we discern from what God might be saying to us? And are we willing to persevere?


note: I've read a lot of articles and blogs on this subject - my apologies if I've failed to cite a source I should have.