How is the Sabbath similar to Retirement

Finding your purpose outside of work

Those that read my blog regularly, know I led a group of men through Bob Buford’s book, Finishing Well.  It is a book that helps individuals transition from our working lives to how we will live our lives after we no longer are expected to show up at the office every day.  Bob Buford calls it the ability to leave the identity we found in our work to pursue a life of significance with the extra time given now that the daily work responsibilities have been left behind.

The one quote that got my attention was, “Life after we stop working is not meant to be lived on the front porch in a rocking chair waiting for the hearse to come”  This is where I started thinking about how the Sabbath can be compared to Retirement.  It started with a Sunday School class on the Sabbath.  My mindset has recently changed because of my decision to start the transition from full time work to retirement.  I started asking myself the question, what could I do that wasn’t work but allowed me to pursue God with the time freed up by not having to be in the office every day?

The Sabbath is supposed to be about rest so that you can go about your work the other 6 days of the week.  I am coming  to understand that the same can be said about retirement.  I don’t think there is any mention of retirement mentioned in the bible.  Everyone has different ideas of what are and not to do on the Sabbath and for that matter retirement. Although there are many, for this blog post, I want to focus on one general concept for taking a day or rest and for spending our time once we leave whatever has been our full-time work.

That concept is leaving work behind so that you can have the time to “Be Still and know that He is God.”  On the Lord’s Day, we are to take the time to come to the Father with the intent of laying our burdens down.  Making the day holy as He is Holy.  The question that needs to be asked is, “How do I make the Sabbath a day that is different than the other 6 days?”  I am asking the same question now that my work life has changed.  “How do I make Retirement different that what I have done for so many years now?”

It comes back to the desire to live a faithful life which creates significance and allows me to finish well.  My hope is to not fill the extra time I now have with busyness but instead seek God in ways I haven’t sought Him before so that I can determine what purpose He has for me in this new season in life.  Isn’t that really what the purpose of the Sabbath is as well? Taking that 7th day to stop and reflect on the fact that God loves us hopefully encourages us to live a faithful life during the work week.  This rest and worship pause should help our actions have a significant impact on the lives around us.  

One thing is for sure.  I don’t want to be that person waiting on the front porch waiting for life to end.  I want to continue to practice the presence of God in my life so I can seek His purpose in all that I do.  I hope you want to do the same.  Brother Lawrence sums it up this way.  “God has infinite treasures to bestow.  When He finds a soul penetrated with a living faith, He pours into it His grace and blessings plentifully. When He does, it will flow out like a torrent, finding a way around every obstacle; spreading out with extravagant and reckless abundance”  May your Sabbath and/or in Retirement, provide you this hope and desire.  I can be reached by email at [email protected]

How strong is your Core?

A Harvard article stresses why having a strong core is so important to our physical health. “Your core muscles are the sturdy central link in a chain connecting your upper and lower body. Whether you’re hitting a tennis ball or mopping the floor, the necessary motions either originate in your core, or move through it.“It enhances balance and stability when playing sports. It makes a difference even with the simple things like getting out of bed, bending to put on shoes or scooping up a package. Quite frankly, a strong, flexible core underpins almost everything you do.

I am leading my Friday AM Knucklehead group of men through the book, Finishing Well by Bob Buford. In his conversation with Peter Drucker, they leave no doubt the importance knowing what is at our core in our spiritual lives as well. We to know what is at our core and continually work to strengthen it. Buford writes, We have to find our core to know who we are with the understanding that how we go about life springs from it. We need to take the time to figure out what ultimately drives us. Another definition is finding our true identity. Out of that comes a freedom to live your life without the need for recognition, praise, or fame for the good one does. Knowing and acknowledging what is at our core, frees us up to live life for the way we were created.

I believe our core identity starts with God. In my Valentine Day blog, I shared He loves us and created us to be in a relationship with Him. When we comes to grip with this Truth, we are freed up to stop chasing success but instead, strive for significance. No matter what age we come to this realization, we embark on the journey of finishing our lives well, This new identity establishes a new core for us. Where we start striving for Significance versus being wrapped up in our own success? We realize what matters most is loving God and then as Buford encourages, “go out knowing what we do impacts other people and will contribute to the spiritual and emotional health of the communities to which God calls us to serve”

I don’t know about you but I have work to do on my physical core. I don’t spend time each day doing what is needed to keep it sturdy even though, Harvard Health shares it is the central link in a chain connecting my upper and lower body. I can say the same for my spiritual core as well. I know my faith in God is what links my heart attitude with my words and actions. I need to do the same daily work in remembering my true core comes from God.

When I do, the fruit of His Spirit in me is produced; “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” Galatians 5:22-23 When my life is exhibiting those characteristics, I know that they spring from my identity in Christ and will create eternal significance rather than earthly success. It allows me to know what Jesus meant when He said in John 15:11 “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. I wish the same for you.

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In the Prodigal Son story, which character(s) are you?

We all are the main characters in our own stories, the central planet in our life’s universe. Everything revolves around us. Dottie’s mom summed it up best by saying, “wherever I go, there I am”. Likewise, we all become the support cast for other people’s stories as protagonists, antagonists, serving minor roles, or even extras in your story.

A life changing book for me was Henri Nouwen’s Portrait of a Prodigal Son. Back in 1992 Henri Nouwen received permission to visit the museum which houses the Rembrandt masterpiece daily and even into the night after the museum was closed. Nouwen spent literally hours and days alone sitting in a chair gazing at each character in the painting, studying every detail in hopes of discovering its spiritual reality for him. Before being introduced to this book, I had studied and given talks on this Luke 15:11-32 parable more times than I can count. It wasn’t until I read this wonderful portrayal that I realized there was more than one main character in the story. I have no excuse because the 1st verse starts with “there were two sons and if you know the story, the father also plays a huge supporting role in Jesus’ teaching.”

The lessons most of us learn from or try to teach in the story is 1) How selfish and greedy the younger son is in asking for his inheritance. It is like he is saying Dad, “I wish you were dead” 2) The same son after squandering all he has been given realizes he would be better off as a servant to his father than living the life he had created by his stupidity. He chooses to go home and ask forgiveness knowing he is unworthy of any kindness from his father. 3) We learn how strong a father’s love is for a child. He has waited for this day; yearning for his son’s return and offers nothing but love and forgiveness. The moral to the story is quite obvious. We learn from these two characters that God knows we will screw up as we think we know how to live life best without Him. We also see that He will be waiting for our return and when we do, He will welcome us and restore our position of being his children. Isn’t it great that there is a happy ending for this wayward child? But wait, is it really a happy ending?

This book did not end well for me. Why? Because like I shared earlier, verse 11 says “there were two sons.” When I started reading what Nouwen wrote about the older brother, tears began to stream down my face. I had never seen what this passage of scripture was trying to teach me. Why? I am the oldest son in my family but my role in this story is I am always trying to do what is right and seeking the approval of my parents, family members, etc. It was like in 2nd Corinthians 3:14, “But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away.” Gratefully, a veil was lifted and I saw myself before God in an entirely new way. I could not relate to the Prodigal. What I was made to see was my “older brother self-righteous mindset.” My Father you owe me attitude was just as bad as what the younger brother had done. It was like a slap across the face when my thinking I could earn God’s love was not unlike what the younger brother had done by asking for his inheritance.

The sad part of this lesson from Jesus is, unlike the child who came home with a repentant heart, we don’t know if the older brother ever realizes his selfishness. Verse 28 says, “he became angry and refused to enter the celebration for his wayward sibling.” I am so glad this particular blind spot of my character was removed. Like the Father waited for the Prodigal, I know he also kept watch hoping the older brother would see the error of his ways and return to the party asking for the same forgiveness his brother had rehearsed over and over on his way home. I am so glad I read this book many years ago. It allowed me to realize God’s forgiveness and joy because, like the Prodigal Son, I had returned into His waiting and outstretched arms. I also know when I stumble and find myself back in an older brother mindset, God is always there to love and encourage me forward regardless of how many times it happens.

I hope you will take the time to read and meditate on Luke 15:11-32 and then read this insightful book. When you figure out which character best suits you, ask your loving Father to forgive you. He promises to restore you to your rightful place as an heir to the throne, his adopted Son or Daughter in Christ. Romans 8:17

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Were your Christmas expectations met?

Did you get the present you really wanted? Did people’s faces light up your gift to them? Unfortunately, many times we are disappointed by what we receive or see that what you gave wasn’t what they wanted. I am not sure why but this has been a struggle for me since I was a little boy. I can remember the sadness I felt when the gifts were all unwrapped and I hadn’t gotten what I wanted. Even then, I knew it was selfish and that made me feel worse. It was like my identity or how I was loved was measured in what had been given to me. As a parent, I tried to make sure my kids got exactly what they wanted because I remembered how I felt as a child. It bummed me out when I could see that I had missed the mark with my gift. Again, I realized the unmet expectation feelings that arose were selfish. Yes, I wanted the kids or my wife to be happy but I also wanted to feel the happiness too. Maybe that is why I love Thanksgiving because you don’t have the pressure of presents. ?

As I have journeyed through Advent with you, I wrote what the four candles in the wreath represent. If you are new to my blog, you can scroll back to the previous posts on Hope, Joy, Peace, and Love. Yesterday the tallest candle placed appropriately in the in the middle of the wreath shined brightly. It represents what Christmas is all about. The true present, the Light of the world, yes, Jesus Christ.

I read in a devotion this week that “One must understand the larger storyline of Scripture—Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration to identify this baby in Bethlehem as the Christ child. Jesus is the eternal Son of God who was born, lived, died, and praise God was resurrected so that we might have eternal life. Without Jesus dying on a Cross and coming back to life there would be no reason to celebrate Christmas. And yet………………..

Like me at Christmas, many people in Jesus’ day, were disappointed with the gift God gave them. There expectations were not meant. They thought His description in Isaiah 9:6 (“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder. And His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace” meant something very different.

It is still true today isn’t it? As the song says, “we continue to look for love in all the wrong places” We wallow in the world of “if only” (fill in the blank) If only I had_____, If only I could____, If only this would____,If only this hadn’t____ and therefore our expectations are never met and we continually find ourselves disappointed and discontent. If that is you or someone you know, the greatest Christmas present I can share is that God loves you and through His Son, has made it possible for you to be in a relationship with Him. He created you and therefore knows how your life is meant to be lived. When we live it His way, He promises to dry every tear, care for every sorrow, and meet our every expectation. That is why they say “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift of God, which is why we call it the present.” Merry Christmas everyone! I hope you can find your identity in the One who created you and wants us to Remain Thankful in all Things! When we do, like Mercy me sings, We can only imagine!

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