Enjoy the ride

cropped-enjoy-the-ride-dribbble.jpgSunday was a gorgeous day.  In the afternoon my wife and I decided to run to the store for a few things.  On our way back, we jumped on a four lane road back towards our house.  We decided to go with the traffic.  It was a beautiful day.  We didn’t have to be home at a particular time.  Why not enjoy the ride.  Clearly, the car behind us thought this was a mistake.  The person sped up and passed us, clearly annoyed that we are not going twenty miles over the speed limit.  As soon as the person passed us, they raced ahead only to get slowed by the car in front of us.  The person got inches from the bumper of that car then veered into the outside lane and whizzed on to the next obstacle, all the while nearly clipping the car it passed.

The person could have been facing an emergency which necessitated the reckless speed.  I doubt it.  It is probably more of a person wanting to get to a place in the quickest possible way.  I laugh at times when a person races to the stop light only to be caught by everyone they just passed.  I want to roll down my window and say, “Did it really save you time.”  Why not enjoy the ride?  Go with the traffic.  Take your time.

Most days in my life resemble this impatient driver.  I race through the day getting as much done as possible.  I quickly check off task after task.  I check emails while I am organizing an agenda for a leader’s meeting.  As I rush to the hospital I put in my ear buds so I can make a call along the way.  I eat lunch while going over decisions with my secretary.  Standing at the checkout line in the store, I check my emails to see if there is anything I can quickly respond to.  Efficiency is the key.  Delays along the way are annoyances to my sense of accomplishment.  My mindset is to get as much done as possible so that I can get to the end of the day and rest.  I am motivated by the belief that the end of the day is the goal.  Then I can sit back and do nothing.

What if I switched the mindset?

What if I learned to enjoy the ride, go with the traffic, and take my time?  What if I let the day come to me rather than striving to conquer the day?  What if I stopped the manic pursuit to accomplish as much as possible?  What if I attempted to enjoy each task rather than surviving them?  What if I built in some margin so that I listen to the radio for a few moments on my way to the hospital (or better yet what if I just enjoyed the ride)?  What if I sat back and took a breather over my lunch rather than doubling down on work?

Chances are I would get to the end of my day with a lot more joy.  I would most likely be more rested since I didn’t have the emotional stress of a manic schedule.  And my hunch is that I will have accomplished just as much as I would have otherwise yet without the irritations of a slower moving car in front of me.

God gives each day to me – all of it not simply the end of it.  It is to be cherished not survived.  Since this day is a gift, it really becomes a matter of stewardship.  How will I take care of the day entrusted to me?  What will my pace say about this gift?  Are tasks viewed as obstacles or opportunities to live out God’s calling in my life?  Can there not be rest in the task rather than in the absence of it?

Jesus had this approach to life.  He enjoyed the interruptions.  He stopped along the way.  The day came to him rather than a need to conquer the day.  He did not incessantly look at his watch but rather enjoyed every stop along the way.  Joy was in the journey not the completion of it.  He models for us stewardship.  If only we too can slow down enough to enjoy the ride.



It is good to decompress

Everyone needs to decompress from time to time.  It is good for the soul.

I enjoyed a few days off last week.  I couldn’t have asked for a better week to do so.  It did not rain one day.  The weather was gorgeous with temperatures climbing throughout the week.  It was cool in the morning but the late mornings and early afternoons were ideal.  I decided to do a few projects.  The kids were in school and my wife had to work.  It is hard for me to truly rest, if by rest one means doing nothing.  I can watch TV for a few hours but then I get restless.  I feel like I am squandering the day.  I could read a book.  Yet, I find myself wanting to implement the thoughts in the book.  For me, rest involves doing projects.  There is a sense of accomplishment after I complete a task.  I can look back and say it is done.  Finishing something provides a sense of completion.

So, I wrote down several projects I wanted to tackle during the week and went at them.  The biggest task was redoing parts of our deck.  This was tedious and physically draining at times.  Yet, it was enjoyable.  I tied up our dog on a leash, ditched my phone, and spent entire days outside working away.  By the end of the day I was tired.  My son frequently said, “You have a weird definition of rest.”  True!

But, for me, it was thoroughly refreshing.  As I worked, I thought through life.  I realized priorities that had gotten mixed up and tried to put them back in order.  I reflected on the blessings God has given me and thanked Him for them.  I let go of silly things that had consumed me.  As one day flowed into the next I found my emotions becoming less tangled.  I spent time praying to God about various life issues and decisions.  Life became clearer.  Worries and concerns began to dissipate.  By the end of the week, I found myself watching my daughter’s track meet and son’s baseball game with a very light heart.  I was in the moment undistracted from all the duties and burdens of life.

Everyone needs to find time to pull back from life.  However, what works for me might not work for you.  A walk.  Getting out-of-town.  Reading a book.  It makes no difference as long as there is time to decompress.

Life is so hectic.  We race through each day oftentimes responding to other people’s expectations and demands.  In the process, emotions pile up.  Disappointments occur.  Priorities get mixed up.  At the end of the day we just crash because we need to rest.  When we do this for weeks, it is no wonder we start to feel like life is handling us rather than us handling life.

Jesus experienced the busyness of life.  Crowds demanded to see him.  There was opposition from the religious leaders.  He had to teach, heal, and minister to countless people.  He spent the entire day giving to other people.  Certainly, it was draining!  It is no wonder we find him on numerous occasions slipping away to a quiet place to pray.  He needed to be refreshed.

As do we.

I am suffering….

Is there room in our theology for suffering?

It is interesting when we think about the cushiness of American culture.  For the most part, we have grown up in relative ease compared to other countries.  We don’t have to be concerned about a national famine.  Our country is not worn torn.  We do not live under a dictatorship.  A majority of Americans can go to the store and choose from a plethora of products that people in other countries would dream of.  By every historic and global standard, we are incredibly wealthy in the United States.

With wealth comes a potential curse.  The curse is entitlement.  In our heart of hearts, we believe life should be easy.  Ingrained in our minds is the belief that we deserve comfort and stability.  It is something that is promised to us from an early age.  The American dream can be ours if we put our minds to it.  So, we grow up with this notion that suffering should be the exception rather than the norm.  More so, we are taught that suffering can be minimized if not eliminated through hard work and perseverance.  And, to be honest, a little bit of money goes a long way towards avoiding suffering.

This is a myth and I think we know it.

Throughout our life, we will encounter difficulties.  In some cases, they are a result of our own actions – a poor financial decision or a selfish act.  In other cases, they are outside of our control.  We receive poor health news.  Even though we work hard our company is downsized leading to unemployment.  A relationship in the family becomes strained and we have to pick up the pieces.

Life is difficult.

My wife recently showed me a video of some Sudanese Lost Boys.  These are young boys who left their worn torn country in the hopes of finding freedom.  They walked thousands of miles through horrific conditions.  Many of them died as they attempted to cross rivers.  Others succumbed to starvation.  Those that survived eventually arrived in a refugee camp where they found food and safety.  Quite a number of the survivors were able to come to the United States where they got jobs and security.  One of the young men when interviewed made an incredibly challenging statement, “I am called a lost boy.  But I am not lost from God.  I am lost from my parents.”  There was no resentment or bitterness over the suffering.  In fact, there were very few comments made on it.  To him, suffering was part of life; the focus was on God’s love.  God was present with him thus he had hope.  For him, suffering was not in conflict with God’s love.  It was in the midst of the suffering.

We oftentimes view God’s love and suffering in conflict rather than intertwined.  God must not love us if we are encountering pain.  This is entitlement talking.   It is American culture framing our theology.  The end result is inevitable disappointment when the inevitable difficulty comes.

Paul talks heavily about joy in the book of Philippians while he was in chains.  Pain and joy were able to coexist at the same time.  There was room for suffering in his theology.  Is there room in ours?

“I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.”  Philippians 3:10