Why the Christian Must Model Slow

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I used to live in a little cabin in the woods. Just me. I would walk there after quitting time, cook my meal for one, hand clean and dry my dishes, and settle in for the evening.

That simple housework amid solitude proved to be some of the holiest times I’ve experienced in my life. To this day, I can think of few mountaintop experiences with God that matched the simple joy of making food and cleaning up afterward in His presence. It was slow work, never hurried. While it asked for concentration on the task, I never felt overwhlemed. I did, however, feel holiness in the moment.

Something in those basic, careful actions in a quiet cabin in the woods centered me on God. He was there. Always. I could feel Him connecting with me in my doing.

I don’t believe most people today ever experience that kind of focused yet unhurried connection with God in their work. It’s one reason why so many people see their jobs as soul-inhibiting. Paycheck, yes. Personal meaning, no.

Much has been written concerning the recent New York Times piece on the frenetic atmosphere at Amazon. Frankly, I think many people will wonder at the singling out of Amazon, given how blender-like corporate life has become for everyone.

People in a blenderWhat’s the most commonly used phrase in job postings today? I’ll cast my lot for fast-paced environment. It’s ubiquitous, a badge of corporate honor. Businesses stopped pushing the blender’s Stir button and progressed with boasting to Liquify.

What’s being “liquified” is people.

Let’s get real here: Fast-paced environment most likely expresses itself as a needlessly disorganized workplace that is understaffed and poorly managed at all levels due to horrendous forecasting and unrealistic expectations. Companies use that phrase with pride when they should instead be soberly calling it failure and correcting it.

Yes, I went there.

I’m not alone, though, as the NYT Amazon article and this one, “Work Hard, Live Well,” show us. Our harried work lives are getting noticed as a negative. Finally.

Beyond our jobs, the general pace of life is killing us as well. Too much incoming data to process. Too many commitments. Too much striving to stay on top. Too much structure to maintain. Too much need to control. Too much.

We can’t live in a perpetual state of being overwhelmed and still maintain our mental and physical health. It’s time to stop lying to ourselves about what we can and cannot do.

We were not created by God to be little flesh-bundles of process optimization. Being counts as much, or more, than doing.

The blur that is our daily existence leaves no room for God. This lie that we can cram an entire day’s spirituality into a 15-minute quiet time is just that: a lie. And it always has been, despite whatever some nationally recognized pastor, spiritual leader, Christian author, or life coach says.

Why? Because God is to be found in EVERY moment. In something as basic as cooking dinner for one. Or in handwashing the dishes.

Julie, a friend and essayist in the vein of Annie Dillard, rebooted her Lone Prairie site and elected to hand code the HTML and CSS. Most would say that’s the hard way.

But some would contend it’s the way God connects with us in our work. It’s slow. It may even be tedious. Yet I think that pulling back from the most optimized, GTD-approved way is how we can reconnect with the holiness of our professions. It’s how we can slow down enough to find not only ourselves but God.

If we Christians are not the people who stay off the dance floor when the world says mambo or who cannot laugh in the face of demanded mourning, who will?

Christians are supposed to be the most countercultural of all people, yet more often than not, we American Christians, through a grace-less misunderstanding of responsibility, instead lead the parade toward dis-ease.

Slowing down enough to find God in more than just the “holy moments” but in ALL of the day will cost us. It must.

If lost people are going to find God, we Christians must be the examples of how to connect with Him. If we’re racing around like headless chickens, we will have no time for perception and observation, either of the natural world which God created or of the spiritual one, where He is found. Neither will we have time to process the crucial connections between the two, where wisdom dwells. We will instead become blind guides. There won’t be any counterculture left, only concession to the deaf and dumb spirits of the age.

“I’ll rest when I’m dead” is no statement of integrity but of stupidity. Christian, find ways to slow down or risk losing everything that truly matters.

Once off the highway and on the backroads, we’ll find God on the curves, near that spot with the stunning vista. Take time to stand there and breathe. That’s where redemption abides.

Christians: The Despised of the World

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“Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man!”
—Luke 6:22

A boot to the neckEvery day, news stories proliferate of Christian believers being killed, raped, tortured, and persecuted by the people of the world. While there are isolated incidents of the same occurring to people of other beliefs, Christians bear by far the brunt of this hate.

Christians in the United States are disliked primarily because we have strong opinions about cultural issues. But in most other countries, Christians are hated for Jesus’ sake, because they are light amid darkness. People love darkness and hate the light, because it exposes their wickedness. The light doesn’t have to do anything but be the light. By its very nature, it reveals darkness for what it is.

If anyone needs proof of the veracity of the Christian faith, the blood of the martyrs speaks volumes. One can’t look at the number of people who have died with the name of Jesus on their lips and blithely dismiss that faith as fanaticism or wishful thinking. Honest people can’t look at those numbers and wave them off. They have to ask the question: Why are Christians worldwide so despised for their faith?

Christians built the world’s hospitals, schools, and orphanages. Go to the worst places in the world and Christians are toiling there anonymously to make those places something othen than hellholes.

Christians gave the world much of its stunning art and architecture, music and literature. If it’s inspiring and noble, chances are, whatever it might be, it has the touch of the Christian message in it.

In most places around the globe, Christians go quietly about their business, ambassadors of Jesus in a world otherwise filled with sickness and strife.

Yet somehow, the reaction of the people of the world to the above is to hate Christians, often to the point of wishing them dead. And sometimes, the wishing turns real.

If you are not a Christian, ask yourself how it can be that one group of people can inspire such opposition. Don’t shrink away, but ask why. Ask yourself what it is about a couple in Pakistan that is so wrong that a mob would drag them out of their home and set them on fire. Or that Christians would be beheaded for no reason other than believing that Jesus is Lord.

God sent Himself through Jesus to die for our failures, hidden depravity, and rebellion against all that is good and right so that we would not have to die because of them. Instead, He offers us grace and a place in His Kingdom that never ends. We can’t earn that place. He gives it as a free gift when we place our faith in Jesus. Because of this, we can love God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and love our neighbors as ourselves. Subsequently, no matter where we go, we are ambassadors for that Kingdom, reconciling people to God, who desires that all come to Him and find rest for their souls.

This message and its realization in the lives of Christians get us hated and killed the world over.

If you are not a Christian, ask yourself what sense that makes, that people would be burned alive or beheaded for such a message. Why does this trouble so many to the point of hatred and violence against Christians?

Does it makes sense to you? Think hard. Ask yourself the tough questions. Go there.

Because this hatred of Christians isn’t going to get better, only worse. If you are not a Christian, you’ll watch this happen. Maybe it will be enough to show you the truth of the Christian message amid the lies of the world.

My prayer is that it will.

Sad Stats and a Sobering Trend for the Church

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Baseball is a game of numbers. Oddly, blogging can be also.

Now, I’m not a statistics hound when it comes to Cerulean Sanctum. I’m not analyzing every bit of data generated by the operation of this blog. Still, from time to time, I do check stats because they reveal the heartfelt questions of people on the Internet.

One trend I’ve noticed this year is the increasing number of search hits coming into this blog from people looking for guidance on what to do when someone they know walks away from God. Recently, searches in that vein have been moving up from nowhere to be in the top two or three for the last few months.

This blog post from late 2013 has been getting more than its share of hits lately:

When Someone You Love Turns Away from God

Say what you will about “lies, damned lies, and statistics,” but I see this as a warning couched in numbers.

Much has been made about the supposed weakening condition of Christianity in America. Some pundits who wish to diminish the handwringing have claimed that the folks who once attended church but now do not were not serious about their faith anyway.

But people tend to hang with others like themselves. “I can take it or leave it” Christians don’t tend to hang with the ardently devout. They befriend people who can take Christianity or leave it too. Those lukewarm folks are not the kind who care enough to scour the Internet for what to do about apostasy.

'Girl on Tracks' by Barta IVNo, I think the people coming here to find out what to do about prodigal friends and family are more serious believers. They’re distraught that someone they know and love, someone like them who once was a serious believer too, has seriously flown the sacred coop.

Are we seeing the first trickles of a genuine falling away?

It’s too early to say yes, but we Christians need to be on our watch, noting the signs of folks ready to give up on God.

Some Christians are so concerned about losses to the flock, they’re invoking anew an old idea, which is being dubbed The Benedict Option. To generate some search engine stats of your own, Google that phrase and check out the results.

I’ll be writing more on The Benedict Option in days to come.

Until that time, consider someone you know who might have walked away from the Lord, and pray for him or her.