March 31, 2014


"We do this every year so people will come to know Jesus."

I was in my first full-time pastorate, and had just been told that the church put on a musical every Easter. A community musical, that I would be supervising, down to costumes, animals, sets, and of course, volunteer actors and actresses.

It's not that what she said made me especially upset, more that something in the sentiment ... bothered me. While I knew her enough to know that her motivation was for the Glory of God, part of me wondered if putting on this huge production really made a difference in the community the way the church thought it did, if amateur theater was being presented in the name of Jesus so that they could add a few names to the rolls for the next few weeks before the newcomers went back to ... whatever they did before.

Sometimes, I don't think we understand how art fits into the world of the Church very well.

There are two mistakes often made regarding the theology of the Mission of the Church, and they both directly impact how churches understand art. The first is to begin our story from a place where humanity sinned and fell short of God's glory, i.e. starting in Genesis 3. The task then comes to fix the problem, to get the world to come back to Jesus. And it's an honest mistake, because it's easier to see the problems of the world all around us than anything else, and it would make sense from this perspective - with ample evidence - that we are fundamentally flawed, broken from the start. It's a story that's about how we need to stop doing certain things and the world will mysteriously be better. And to a degree, this is true; Jesus came into the world to save the world from sin. But sin management isn't the ultimate goal of the Mission; redemption, reconciliation, restoration to relationship with God is. We're not supposed to be living against something, we're supposed to be living FOR something bigger.

Which is why the second theological mishap is a reaction to the first; we start the story with the Mission itself. We go to Matthew 28 or even Genesis 12 and see how we've been called a sent people, and so we focus on the mission of reconciliation. And again, it's an honest mistake, because like I said, we are supposed to be living FOR something, not against something. But this version of the story still begins with a solution, which means it really begins by alluding to a problem. This is still a gospel that is about managing sin, despite the grander vision of working for a better world. 

It's not where the scriptures start. The scriptures are a story, and they start in the beginning, and they say that in the beginning, God created. 

Art is everywhere.

Because of God.

God is an artist.

The first thing God ever did was crack His knuckles (or at least, I imagine He did) and whip up existence. He made galaxies and platypus and grass and selenium and slime mold and giant squid and ice and all sorts of crazy other things. Like people. People are crazy things. But we're part of God's latest art project! In the beginning, the Creator took chaos and brought to it order.

And before anything bad happened, He called Creation GOOD. 

That should change how we see ourselves.

It should change how we see others.

It should change how we perceive our relationship with God.

It should even change how we see salvation.

The Mission of God is what God is up to in the world He created, not what we're up to. We don't have to get the world to come to Jesus, He is already wooing the world to himself ... sometimes through us. Yes, we are being reconciled to God, and yes, we are to participate (God acts, we join in), but ultimately re-creation happens because God is re-creating.

And that is why art belongs in the Church: it is not there so we might increase the roster, or to convince people of their sinfuless, or to get people to hear the gospel message, or so we get some fuzzy nostalgia or weepy emotional highs. Art is not a tool to be used for some other ends, though things like transformation, worship, and learning often happen because of and through the art. No, art IS an end, and it belongs in the Church because God is an artist, because the very heart of God beats for a new creation, a new work of art that's going to be even more amazing than the original.

To be artists is to imitate our Creator.
"We are the product of His hand, heaven’s poetry etched on lives, created in the Anointed, Jesus, to accomplish the good works God arranged long ago." [Ephesians 2:10]

March 27, 2014

In the Tension (Repost and Edit)

In light of recent events, I decided it was worth reposting this with some edits. I have very few answers, lots of questions, and a ton of uncertainty. And I hope admitting that is ok. And frankly, being prophetic doesn't mean you have to be a jerk about it, so I hope that I'm coming at this with humility, pastorally, as much like Jesus as I can. I want us to all acknowledge our own humanity within this, that this is just hard and that, no matter our position, be it solid or undecided or in-process or whatever, that other people are no less made in the image of God than I am for their position or their struggles.

I have a confession make: I've struggled with homosexuality most of my life.

I don't mean I've struggled with same-sex attraction. I think we can all agree that Mark Wahlberg and Brad Pitt are fine specimens of the male gender, but for me, that appreciation turns quickly into envy and possibly jealousy; I wish I looked like them, though preferably without the effort it takes them.

It's a problem.

No, my struggle is more basic than that: I don't know what to make of homosexuality at all. I struggle to reconcile the people I know with the scriptures I believe, the friendships and relationships and emotions with the principles. When I read the scriptures, I see principles that teach us to love our God and our neighbors, to respect each other, and a way of life that is full of grace and mercy and justice. But I also see a lot of things that show us where the boundaries of sin are, and I find it hard to read scripture in a way that says acting on homosexual urges, regardless of their origin (the nature vs. nurture debate is still far from over), is inside that boundary.

What makes it harder are the names I can put to people I know and care for who have followed those urges. My emotions want me to simply accept their actions, since who am I ("just" a sinner) to judge? They seem to love each other, and who am I to say they shouldn't be able to marry who they love? I did, why shouldn't they?'

That would be fair.

And frankly, I don't want to lose the friendships and respect of those who so strongly support gay relationships; it seems that these days, if you were to speak out against, or you were to even doubt the “ok-ness” of homosexuality, you lose the right to speak at all, about anything.

Apparently, that’s called being "tolerant."

Of course, the same thing is true for the "other" side. As has been so eloquently demonstrated by World Vision in the last few days, if you speak out for LGBTQ equality, you lose all street cred in the evangelical world (and apparently, so do small children who can't defend themselves). Even being misinterpreted to that end will end you in some weird theological prison.

Apparently, that's called being "biblical." It says so right in Matthew 18.

In fact, it’s the very reason I nearly didn’t post this about a thousand times (both times), why I edited it a thousand times, why I rewrote whole chunks: if somebody misunderstands, misinterprets, or simply is offended, then I lose the right to speak to them; pro-gay or anti-gay, it would make no difference. I could lose job opportunities if someone reads this and says "oh, he's clearly (for/against the issue)" and decides I'm too great a risk. Offense apparently means cutting off the relationship entirely.

It's scary.

So then I go back to scripture. Some things in scripture are contextual and others are cross-contextual. Women as leaders, for example, is a contextual issue. The ECC is unashamedly egalitarian because there are actual examples of celebrated female leaders in the scriptures (both old and new testaments), and the two passages we see speaking against this practice are both rooted in the context of their respective situations. However, homosexuality seems, to me, to be cross-contextual, since it's addresses in multiple contexts and multiple authors and multiple cultures, and every time they seem to say the same thing: acting on the impulse is a sin.

I see so many of my peers, particularly in my generation, advocating for homosexual egalitarianism within the church. And I respect their opinions, since they're very smart and well-read and travel to Bolivia to care for orphans. Their character in other areas is so much like Jesus. They make me think hard about the way I read the scriptures, the way I see my neighbors.

And what if they're right?

What if I’ve been reading the scriptures wrong? What if I misunderstood the context? What if this whole thing is wrong in MY head and it’s not actually my peers in the church-world that are crazy? On the other hand, what if they’re reading too much of a 21st-Century perspective on love into the scriptures in a way that was never intended? What if they’ve unintentionally compromised their beliefs in order to sound politically correct or to feel like they fit in or to give themselves a voice where they wouldn’t have one otherwise?

And the argument just goes back and forth,

back and forth,




back and forth in my head, a pendulum whose near-perpetual motion is starting to make me a bit dizzy.

The fact is that "hate the sin, love the sinner" doesn't help me, since the people who usually say that to me don't seem - to me - to love others that are different from them very well. But I also don't want to compromise the truth contained in the scriptures by trying to make them say something they don't simply to resolve a cognitive dissonance between my culture and my religion.

What seems to keep coming back is the tension within love that you see in the scriptures. The kind of love God has is patient, kind, generous, and trusting. But it also speaks truth into the lives of others, honestly, openly, albeit carefully. Some things are not beneficial, the scriptures say, and you shouldn’t do them no matter how strong the urge, no matter how harmless it seems. And so when someone is wrong, love says so, because the relationship it is based on can handle that tension. Love looks out for others. Love doesn’t seem concerned that you always FEEL love in order TO love.

There's a difference between love and permissiveness. 

It seems to me that the "accept me for who I am" argument doesn't work for several reasons. First, I doubt anyone saying that to me would respond too kindly to being told the same in return; nobody accepts a racist "for who they are" anymore, and the same goes for anyone labeled a "homophobe." Even if we say otherwise, we all BEHAVE as if we believe that our actions - and even our beliefs themselves - are actually choices. We behave as though we are not genetically programmed, but that we can choose to do something, choose to believe something. Which means that we really do believe people can change their actions and beliefs, even if we only believe that only OTHERS should change.

I suppose it raises the question though, who ought to change? That could be the crux of the culture war.

Second, while God always accepts us as we are, for Him that is not an end, that is only a beginning. God is ever-challenging us to grow in faith and holiness, to become closer to His image and character, and that means leaving sin behind, a piece at a time. His love is big enough to be dissatisfied with where we started. God believes we can and should change.

It's part of love.

And so my struggle is, how do I imitate God here, in the tension? How do I live authentically, true to both the scriptures and my friends, so they can see that God loves them fiercely, but that it doesn't always mean He'll just sign off on everything we want or feel? How do I come out the other side having represented God well to my neighbors? How do I best love God and people in a culture that believes love means encouraging you to do whatever you feel is ok, regardless of the consequences and regardless of how it affects others? In a culture that is passive-aggressive, how do I confront in a healthy way, a way they understand?

How do I live in the tension?

How do I love?

March 21, 2014

Lament (ECC Worship Blog)

As you may know, I contribute to the ECC Worship Blog on a monthly basis. This month's post was put up today. An excerpt:
"I saw my own tears streaming down the cheeks of brothers and sisters alike, and found that my pain became bearable, that I could keep putting one foot in front of the other; on both sides, others were walking with me, supporting me, even carrying me."
More here.

March 20, 2014


The last few weeks, I've spent a lot of time painting. Mostly I've been using a color my wife calls "Noncommittal Beige" and I'll be honest, I'm getting quite tired of it. It's the purgatory of paint colors - it's not really white, because that would feel like a sterile hospital, but it's not really vibrant color either, because a potential homebuyer might not like the same colors that I do. So we put up something that's neutral, something onto which color could be added, without too much trouble.

There's a metaphor that's gone around a lot, likening the style of worship music to a coat of paint. Changing a worship style to make the church look more relevant and attract new people is like putting a new coat of paint on a condemned building; sure, it might look good, but soon the cracks appear again and the building still collapses - the structural damage was never addressed, and in the end, a couple hundred bucks spent on paint didn't amount to much if the building ended up as rubble anyway.

I agree with that.

Music alone won't fix a dying church.

But it's not the whole story.

You see, paint can make a room or building beautiful. We must be careful when we debate this not to swing our pendulums too far the other direction and say "your style doesn't matter" because that would not be true; every family paints their house in colors that they find pleasing, something that expresses their unique personalities and preferences. Likewise, every Church has a style. You can see it in their music, in the way they choose to literally paint their building (or lack thereof), in their food, and in the way they practice hospitality. You'll likely discover, with some digging, that there are multiple cultural preferences ("worship cultures") floating around in the background. Lots of people like lots of different colors, and some like multiple colors in the same room (though oddly enough, beige isn't often used alone).

So really, the paint matters; if you care about something, you make it beautiful. You can see a lot about a group of people by the way they paint or by the songs they sing and the way they sing them.

Do they sing loudly or softly?

Do they sing lots of words or the same ones repeated?

Do they sing with guitars or organs or no instruments at all?

Do they sing for nostalgia or to sing themselves into a new reality?

The metaphor of paint only goes so far, because music - beauty - is not simply a nice thing to have around in the Kingdom, it is alive. Beauty is strength; beauty is expression; beauty is formation; beauty is structural, both an effect and a cause. So sometimes, changing the music means we start to repair the structure. New poetry, new melodies, new instrumentation can start to build a new infrastructure, new motivations, new habits.

New music breathes new life.

It's no wonder that God says to sing a new song. The old songs won't always do, because we've sung those already - they're expressions of a time already past. We sing them to remember who we once were, to remember the place from which we've come, but if they're the only thing we sing, we're missing out on what God is doing now, and what God is about to do.

So take care with what paint you choose, and if your community changes, make sure you don't try to hold onto only the old colors; hold them with open hands. Let your colors change with the people, and likewise your music. Sing the old and remember, sing the new and anticipate. The God you sing of, with, about, and to remains the same, He is ever-loving, ever-leading, ever-creative. He breathed life through the old colors, and He will still breathe life through the new.

March 17, 2014

Happy Saint Patrick's Day

It's Saint Patrick's Day, which means that it's time to get these little gems out again. Enjoy ...

March 13, 2014

400 Years

There are times we can't hear God's voice because we've simply become too noisy, where we've filled our lives with so much activity and chaos (visual and auditory and other sensory cacophony) that we manage to drown out the still, small voice described by Elijah. But sometimes, I wonder if we don't hear from God to make his next conversation with us that much more profound, if God's silence is the equivalent of needing silence to hear music.

Think about it - the psalms echo with a yearning for God to speak in the midst of the angst of their authors. In the silence, the authors desperately want to hear God's voice again. Psalm 83 begins,
O God, do not remain silent; do not turn a deaf ear, do not stand aloof, O God. See how your enemies growl, how your foes rear their heads. With cunning they conspire against your people; they plot against those you cherish. “Come,” they say, “let us destroy them as a nation, so that Israel’s name is remembered no more.”
The psalmist weeps for God to once again speak deliverance into the life of His chosen people, because His silence means death. Likewise, Psalm 109 begins,
My God, whom I praise, do not remain silent, for people who are wicked and deceitful have opened their mouths against me; they have spoken against me with lying tongues. With words of hatred they surround me; they attack me without cause. In return for my friendship they accuse me, but I am a man of prayer. They repay me evil for good, and hatred for my friendship.

The scriptures contain story after story of people who plead to hear God speak, not when He is present and noticeable, but when He seems silent, distant. God exiled the people to Babylon, and upon their return they rebuild the city. And then God is silent for 400 years. That's a really, really long time. That's enough time for multiple civilizations to conquer Israel. Again. That's enough time for empires to rise and fall. 

But after 400 years of silence, the still, small Voice broke into our world again and told Zechariah that the elderly Elizabeth was going to have a baby, and that he'd pave the way for the Messiah. And far away in another town, an angel visited a teenager to tell her that, despite her virginity, she'd soon be pregnant, and that her son was to be named Jesus.

One who brings salvation.

You who yearn to hear God speak, you are in good company today. If God seems silent, don't try to clutter your life with noise to fill that void, but let yourself be still, expectant. Let what feels like absence grow, so that when God speaks again, you will know His voice. Let the silence birth in you a yearning for the Creator to speak into your life so that you will hear what He has to say.
But you, Sovereign Lord, help me for your name’s sake; out of the goodness of your love, deliver me. For I am poor and needy, and my heart is wounded within me. I fade away like an evening shadow; I am shaken off like a locust. My knees give way from fasting; my body is thin and gaunt. I am an object of scorn to my accusers; when they see me, they shake their heads.
Help me, Lord my God; save me according to your unfailing love. Let them know that it is your hand, that you, Lord, have done it. While they curse, may you bless; may those who attack me be put to shame, but may your servant rejoice. May my accusers be clothed with disgrace and wrapped in shame as in a cloak. With my mouth I will greatly extol the Lord; in the great throng of worshipers I will praise him. For he stands at the right hand of the needy, to save their lives from those who would condemn them.
(the end of Psalm 109)

March 11, 2014

Play the Rests

My high school band director is a pretty awesome guy. I was in his band for all four years, and for the first two, if we wanted to be in concert band, we were also required to be in the field band. I remember being pretty upset about it at first ... until our first show, and then I was hooked. Even when it wasn't required anymore, I kept at it.

Field band was all about pure, vivid, unadulterated volume. There's nothing like a band, drum line pounding, horns popped towards the press box, blasting out a final chord at their biggest volume, to drive the crowd wild. But Dr. E was also our concert band director, and so he knew the value of musicianship, of dynamics and tempo and playing everything *just so*. And Dr. E always said, 

"You can't have music without silence."

I don't know if he knows how much that simple statement has changed my life, but it has. You see, music is defined, not by sound, but by silence, because without silence, music is merely noise. Even in a field band, when it feels like it should be all about the intensity of sound, the volume is nothing if there isn't something against which to compare it. That final push towards the press box means nothing if you don't first start small, giving yourself room to grow; you'll never, for that matter, hear the music from the crowd. It's the contrast between the two that makes each one special, each one something to savor.

Since I've lived in the midwest, I've discovered that living next to train tracks isn't really that bad if the train tracks are busy. See, if you spend enough time there, you stop noticing the rumble of the trains. Our brains are designed to block out things that are constants in favor of the things that are special, the things that are worth noticing. Your clothes, for example, sit on you without you even noticing them, because of the constant nerve stimulation, but if someone taps your shoulder, you'll still notice. And background noise becomes just that, part of the background, so that a conversation can stand out from the sound of the trees rustling in the wind or the chirping of birds. Amp up the wind, however, and it'll compete with the conversation. 

It's why so many of us are numb these days.

We spend our lives so busy, in such motion that we never take the time for the contrast. The wind and the conversations and the trains battle each other for our attention, and what's more, we give it to them. The irony is, we notice if the trains stop for a little while. When I was living in Kentucky, we lived in student housing a mere fifty yards from some busy train tracks. One winter, a snowstorm hit, preventing them from running. And suddenly, for a few days, there was silence. 

And it was deafening.

It was as if, simultaneously, a weight was released from my shoulders and an anxiety was introduced into my psyche; when would the old familiar sounds of trains rumbling through town return? When would everything be normal again? But then, after a while, the anxiety drained away, and peace remained. Stopping to be silent is like that. At first, it was scary, like the feeling you have on the way to the airport, as if you're forgetting something but can't quite place it. Then, slowly, the anxiety fades.

And then you can hear music.

Dr. E gave us one other piece of advice. He said that, in order to do the music justice, you had to treat the silence just like the sound; you had to learn how to play the rests. You had to be intentional about the pause, count it out, and make sure you didn't start the music too early. If you did it right, the music became bigger, broader, and more beautiful.

But it took the silence to make it work.

March 6, 2014


There's this moment in The Lion King when the mysterious Rafiki interrupts the comfortable, care-free life of the grown-up Simba to remind Simba who he is - you're Mufasa's boy, Rafiki says, the child of the true King. Simba had forgotten his identity; he'd fallen for a lie, abandoned his family in his guilt, and run away, and now the world suffered because of it. For everyone's sake, he needed to remember.

Forgetting who we are has consequences. For us. For others. 
"The good news: We Christians are actually pretty dang good at loving our neighbors as ourselves! It’s true! The bad news: We hate ourselves! We’ve bought the enemy’s lie that we cannot be trusted. That we have a wretched heart. Therefore we love our neighbor about as much as we can muster the strength to love our sorry selves." [The New Bart]
I just read this a couple days ago, and it makes me wonder if our culture's narcissism is a mask that we pull over our faces to hide the self-loathing and the anger and bitterness we sometimes hold towards ourselves, towards life, the universe, and everything. It's as if we still think we are still sinners in the hands of an angry God who takes out his wrath upon us with justified intensity. No, I don't think we like ourselves at all - we know we can be hypercritical and hypocritical, and we don't really believe God when he says that he's forgiven us.

There's a debate we have on a regular basis in the ECC worship forum: what to do with the song "In Christ Alone." It's a hugely popular song, with a catchy melody and great lyrics ... with one problem: 
"Till on that Cross, as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied"

Everything before and after those words ring true, but they sit there in the middle, a theological boulder in an otherwise smooth highway. The Evangelical Covenant Church was born following a debate over God's wrath; a theologian named P.P. Waldenström (hereafter referred to as "PDubs") compared one of the current theories of the atonement called "Penal Substitution" (PSA) to divine child abuse; even if Jesus volunteered for this, according to the theory, the Father still poured out His wrath on His Son. So PDubs asked, "where is that written?" and said that didn't describe the God he followed, a God who came not to assuage his anger, but came in love to reconcile with us, to redeem and restore us to the dignity with which He created us.

PSA basically works itself out like this: God had a good plan for you, but you, you horrible sinner, you screwed up. You did lots of bad things, and God would smite you, heathen, because the rules he put in place demand that anyone who screws up pays the price. Except that his son volunteered to take your punishment. So it was YOU who put Jesus on the cross and made God kill his only son. And, now that Jesus died in your place, God's wrath is burned out. Except that you're still just a sinner and every time you sin, you're proving again the necessity of God torturing and murdering His Son in a cosmic vendetta. But good thing Jesus pulled off that resurrection, or else ...


I hyperbolize (or maybe it's not so exaggerated) because this little narrative has wormed its way into the backs of our collective western mind and plays itself out over and over and over again. Despite the gospel of forgiveness and grace and mercy and freedom we preach, we are still insecure, still bound, still gagged, still unconvinced of our own message. Yes, it is true, humanity has sinned and fallen short of God's intentions for us. Yes, we chose that path. Yes, the consequence of sin is death. And yes, we need to be reconciled with God. ... But no, God did not take it out on Jesus as payment; that payment didn't go to the Father, it went to sin itself, a ransom, in the same way a gambler's debt could be paid by someone else. And no, no, a thousand times no, that is not the end of the story; the Cross gave way to Resurrection. To pay death with the life of Innocence is to destroy death entirely, what C.S. Lewis called "the Deep Magic" - death could not contain the Author of Life. When Jesus said it was finished, he meant it; our poor choice could no longer hold us back from the reconciliation we so badly need.

And yet, we often place ourselves back in the chains of the slave, even though we've been freed, by relabeling ourselves with a word we should have left behind:


And so we abuse each other.

In her book Undaunted, Christine Caine writes, 
"You can allow the names you call yourself to define you. You can let the labels that others give you define you. ... and those labels can stick, can hurt, can damage you because you start to believe them. ... Even when those names reveal something true about you, they are at best a partial truth - as well as a misleading one. If you allow those labels to loom larger in your heart and mind than the promises of God, they can fool you into missing God's truth about who you are ..."
Words have so much power. The words we say, the words we hold inside, and the words we sing all hold enormous sway over our lives and, as we live by those labels, the lives of others. The words you choose can do one of two things: they can maim, or they can breathe life into those you shepherd. If your songs say that God calls you a sinner, that he's still nailed to a cross and you put him there, you'll behave like a sinner. But if your songs say that the cross is empty, that God is alive and working, that He calls you family, you'll start to behave like family.

If you remember who you are, it will change everything.

You are a child of the King.

You are loved.

You are family.

So when you preach, don't make it up as you go, be intentional; speak like it. When you plan a worship set, don't just string a few songs together, write sets that say something true; sing like it. When you prepare liturgy, don't wing it, make every word count; respond like it. Treat words with respect, and use fewer of them so they hold more weight because words are too important to waste; write like it. And in those words, remember the sacrifice, but even more, remember that God thinks you are worth that sacrifice; remember the victory!

March 5, 2014

Creating Space

I just finished a remarkable little book, one that has left me feeling inspired. 

I'm constantly searching for books that will help worship teams, tech teams, and creative teams understand better what they've been Called to do. I've found a few already, which I'll list at the bottom, but this one in particular stands out. First of all, it's short - I read it in an hour - which is good for a lot of creative types I've met who don't read a lot, especially the volunteer Creative who's also holding down a full time job. The book is very accessible, and easy to read, but don't let that fool you - it's simplicity also makes it very deep. Creating Space is about why we should take the time to create, why creativity is important, why living into that calling is one of the most important things that we, as artists, will do.
"God isn’t freaking out that he accidentally made you a poet, seamstress, chef, or musician. These are sacred gifts that you dare not neglect." 
"Creativity is a form of service. When you create something using your talents, you can certainly choose to hide it and keep it to yourself. However, art and creativity are at their best when shared with others."
It's unfortunately only available on Kindle, but it's all of $1 and the app is free (you can even read it in a kindle app on your browser), so go download it and spend some time reading.

March 3, 2014


So here's how it was: every 7 years the farmers of ancient Israel were supposed to let the ground lay fallow, give the soil a rest, and trust God for their provision. Then, once ever seventh-seventh year (49 years), the whole nation of Israel was supposed to, as it were, take a break. Slaves were to be set free, confiscated land returned to its original owners, debts cancelled. It was a big deal, the pinnacle, the crown jewel of the Old Testament law; nothing like it has ever been seen before or since.

But unfortunately, that's just the thing - nobody's ever seen it done. One thing a lot of people don't seem to know is that it was never actually celebrated. Not once. In fact, if you count the years Israel was exiled in Babylon, it adds up to the exact number of Jubilees they missed while living in the land God had given them. God took time on the seventh age of creation to rest, to enjoy His creation. And when Jesus came, He lived a life among the people, but He also took time away, to rest, to pray, to be silent. He set an example we're supposed to follow. We're not slaves, and we're not known only by what we do, what we produce, what we do for society.

We're God's family.

I think that this is something that our society, and especially the western church, has forgotten. To rest, to really enjoy the fruits of our labors, is something that's been drilled out of us in the constant pressure to produce. In my experience, pastors don't get a day off, not really, because they're "on call" in case something happens to somebody. And while it's not like we pastors wouldn't want to help our family (the Church) when something happens, something is - always - happening. And it doesn't take long before we're stealing five minutes from our sabbath to answer just one more email, to finish that one chord chart, to catch up on reading, to visit one more person in the hospital ... we're still very good at ignoring the rest of Sabbath. (side note: I use pastors as the example because I am one, not to single out a profession; if you apply it to your own field, I'm quite sure you'll see what I mean)

Here's the problem: you can't sharpen a blade while it's still spinning. We turn off our power tools because trying to maintain them when they're still active is how fingers are lost. To keep a saw doing what it is supposed to be doing means turning it off to sharpen it, to lubricate the moving parts, to let it cool off. A burned-out saw is no good for itself, or for anyone else. And while people aren't merely tools in the hands of some divine architect (again, we're called family), it IS important to have rhythms in the year where we can be quiet, less intense, even silent.

We still need times of Jubilee.

Our churches need times where there aren't a plethora of events planned into everyone's schedule. Our parents need times of rest (so badly). Our teachers need times of rest. Our firefighters. Our laptops. Our engineers. Our flight attendants. Our stockbrokers. Our stock market. Our janitors. Our president. Name your profession or your institution, it needs life-giving times of silence and stillness, of Jubilee, because these times remind us that it's enough to simply be, that anything we produce comes from our identity (children of the King) and not the other way around. These times are when we remember again that we are loved, not for what we make or do,

but for who we are.