Does Being a Parent Count as Working on the Sabbath?

Sunday is typically one of the most exhausting days for me; not that our family really does anything other than go to church, prepare and eat lunch, clean up, have the kids take a nap, clean the bathrooms and vacuum the carpet while they are asleep, prepare at eat lunch , clean up, and get the kids to bed.

Some might say that cleaning the bathrooms and vacuuming the carpet is considered work, and should not be done on the Sabbath. I totally get that.

However, it’s the only open window to get it done throughout the week, as Saturday typically is our day to run errands and do grocery shopping.

More fundamentally though, for me, it’s hard to differentiate how cleaning the bathrooms and vacuuming the carpet is more work than managing my kids. In fact, I’d say that managing my kids all day with my wife is more work than cleaning the house for an hour.

I’d even say that cleaning the house provides a bit of a break from being a parent. It gives me some time to not be needed by another human being for an hour. At least I can be in deep in thought, even though I am scrubbing toilets.

With both of my kids still being young (age 1 and age 6), taking care of them is truly a pleasure and a reward, but it’s also exhausting. It’s nonstop work from 6:30 AM until my wife and I fall asleep at 9:30 PM.

Whether a person acknowledges the Sabbath on Saturday or Sunday, I still see irony in the concept of trying to refrain from work on that day; as a parent.

Chilling out at the house all day with the family, when half of your family is dependent on the adults, is work.

It’s not resting or relaxing when I am having to remind my kids they are hungry or tired or bored, because that’s the reason they acting the way they are, and then having to feed them, help them get to sleep, or help entertain them.

As long as my kids are still young, I just think I’ll have to work on every Sabbath.

Dear Jack: We’ve Been In Our New House A Month… So Now What?

4 years, 3 months.

Dear Jack: We’ve Been In Our New House A Month… So Now What?

Dear Jack,

The way Mommy and I are wired, we have to always have some big project or plan or scheme we are working towards. It’s always been that way with us.

On the surface, there’s a decent chance our family appears to be pretty laid back. In reality, I think it’s that we’re always busy and moving because we aren’t that good at… whatever the opposite of that is.

So I have to admit, it has felt a little strange this week, not having some certain big challenge ahead of us.

We worked our way out of debt for the first 5 years of our (almost) 7 years of marriage (while Mommy earned her Master’s degree), then saved up for this house, then moved into it, and now here we are…

So now what?

Dear Jack: We’ve Been In Our New House A Month… So Now What?

I suppose we should simply enjoy our lives now. It’s just not that easy for us.

No, the answer is not simply having another child. Our current state of restlessness is not based on us wanting to grow our family. It’s an option to consider for the near future, as I can appreciate not having two kids in preschool at the same time; but just not something we’re focused on right now.

I think the reality of it is that we need to learn how to enjoy taking it easy. It’s somewhat unnatural for us, actually.

It’s time to start focusing on spending time with friends, learning new songs on the guitar, and planning some new road trips for our family- hopefully “car reviewing season” will be beginning soon.

This is, in essence, a season of the Sabbath for us. Sometimes you really do have to just slow down and appreciate the good things in life.

I’m in culture shock right now. Here’s to trying to just lay low for a while… until that new project presents itself, which I’m sure it will.

Love,

Daddy

Not Having A Smart Phone Is My Sabbath

November 13, 2013 at 11:17 pm , by 

2 years, 11 months.

Dear Jack,

In the midst of a dozen other bloggers at the GM and Buick headquarters last week in Detroit, it was discovered that I was the only one there who…doesn’t have a smart phone.

(Just so you know, back in the year 2013 when I wrote you this, that meant major cool points were deducted from my street cred score.)

I sincerely laughed along with my fellow blogger friends in their amazement:

“How is it that the daddy blogger of Parents.com doesn’t own a smart phone?”

We all laughed even harder when I explained to them that my “dumb phone” is brand new… I just got it like three weeks ago.

The fanciest feature my phone has is a full texting keyboard. Yeah…

But the more we talked, it made a little bit more sense to all of us: They all blog as their full-time career, whereas I have a day job in HR, in addition to blogging.

Second, I don’t know that my psyche could handle a smart phone. It would totally mess with my internal feng shui.

The thought of “being on all the time” stresses me out. I need time to mentally rest and meditate throughout the day.

In addition to driving you to school each morning (1 hour), working at the office (8 hours), then driving us back home (45 minutes), then helping with dinner and cleaning up afterwards (1 hour, 15 minutes), and writing to you (1.5 hours), it essentially means I work all day long.

What I would love is a routine, whole, solid day off each week, like the Seventh-day Adventists practice… religiously. In so many ways, I already live their lifestyle and subscribe to their doctrinal beliefs.

However, I’m not ready (if ever?) to be so literally serious about taking 24 hours off from any kind of work, as instructed in the Ten Commandments.

So until then, not having a smart phone is my sabbath.

It’s my way of having sanity throughout the day- to not have to wait and wonder who might have Tweeted me or sent me a Facebook message or emailed me.

Until I become a VIP, I will continue living with as much peace of mind as I can, not having a smart phone.

And more importantly, not having to pay for Internet on my phone when I already have it here on my $290 ASUS laptop from which I write to you.

I’m going to stop talking now, because I am losing street cred points by the minute…

[Changes batteries in Walkman Cassette player and continues listening to Collective Soul.]

 

Love,

Daddy

healthnutshell: “Gotta” Vs. “Get To”

I’m learning what it means to “observe the Sabbath.”

Recently I read an article that gave the top ten reasons why certain people live to be over 100 years old. Unsurprisingly, “a less stressful lifestyle” and “a more active lifestyle” were both on that list. At first glance, it seems those two traits would clash. But after stumbling upon some information on the lifestyles of Seventh Day Adventists, I realize they live out a great model of being active and yet less stressed. And reports show they live longer, healthier lives than the rest of us.

They take seriously one of the Ten Commandments that we tend to ignore: They keep the Sabbath holy. For Seventh Day Adventists and Jews, it’s Saturday. For the rest of us, it’s Sunday. I agree with them that that Saturday is actually the Sabbath, but I don’t care, I just go along with the crowd and pretend that it’s Sunday with the Protestants.

The day of the week isn’t important to me. The model of resting on the 7th day is. God worked 6 days to create the world then rested on the 7th.

What God didn’t do was this: Work 5 days, take off the 6th, then on the 7th stay really busy all day with church events. To me, that’s the Christian American model that is mainstream, and it doesn’t work. Because we’re not resting on Sunday, we’re busy with “Christian stuff”. That’s missing the whole point. And for many, it’s causing burn-out.

Something different about the church I attend in Nashville is this: They only have a Sunday morning service. (Not even a Wednesday night meeting.) The pastor wants his congregation to spend more time with their families, not working on church activities or having to go home after lunch, only to get out again for another church service and/or training class. Our pastor stresses the importance of meeting with a “small group” during the week at someone’s house. That takes the place of the church fellowship and Bible study that occurs at many churches on Sunday night.

The idea is this: Instead of being constantly busy all week long with life’s events, randomly getting lucky enough to find pockets of free time to relax, I have begun to set aside Sunday as the day of relaxation, as directed in the Ten Commandments.

My struggle at first with this was, “What is work?” I knew I didn’t want to be like the Pharisees of Jesus’s time who were so anal that they thought walking more than a certain distance or even feeding livestock was a sin. They got all judgmental over the issue.

The difference with my approach is this: I don’t care what other people do on Sunday. The observance of the Sabbath is for my own good. God intended me to be busy for 6 days straight, then relax on the 7th. My bodily was physically, spiritually, and emotionally designed that way.

As I have began truly observing the Sabbath for the first time in my life, what I have learned so far is that I am even busier now from Monday to Saturday. It means the grocery shopping, household chores, and random errands that my wife and I usually did on Sunday now have to been done on Saturday afternoon. It means not sleeping in on Saturday as long. It means those tedious tasks that got pushed off until Sunday afternoon are now completed after the Biggest Loser goes off on Tuesday night.

But then Sunday is free. We go to church on Sunday morning. Then the rest of the day is wide open. For long naps. To go out for a nice meal if we want to. To watch movies. To go for a drive. To visit with friends. To do nothing. Just to relax, whatever that entails.

I had the wrong idea for all these years, thinking that a day of rest meant “a day of boredom”. Or a day of sleep. Or a day of sitting in a quiet room meditating about things that made me feel “Christian”. But to better understand the concept, I’ve replaced the word “rest” with “relaxation”. Sometimes resting means sleeping, but it also means enjoying the day by just vegging out. Doing whatever I want to do.

The best way I have found to realize what I will or will not to on Sunday is the “gotta or get to” method:

I “gotta” go to Target to exchange that air filter. I gotta clean out the closet. These things I gotta do or, have to do, are the annoying things I consider work. Things that keep me from relaxing. Therefore if there’s anything I gotta do, I will not do it on a Sunday.

But there are also things I “get to” do. I get to finish building that Corn Hole set with my friend Josh. I get to go for a nice three mile run. I get to put together that photo album I haven’t had time for. These are all physical activities, yet I get to do them. In other words, I want to do them. I get enjoyment from doing them. They are relaxing.

Is the activity something I have to do or I want to do? Regardless of the amount of physical activity it takes. Resting is more than refraining from work. So much of what we’ve been missing by not truly observing the Sabbath is the mental and physical rest we deeply need. This day of rest is a way God allows us to have sanity through all our inevitable busyness.

So how is it possible to be both more active and less stressed out? Follow the 4th Commandment and see what happens. It works for the Seventh Day Adventists. And me.

Christianity and Wine

Wine not?

Taboo is an interesting thing. As the opening line to the theme song of the classic inter-racial sitcom Diff’rent Strokes goes, “Now the world don’t move to the beat of just one drum: What might be right for you, might not be right for some.” From the society of a small family, to a town, to a nation, certain collective behavioral beliefs help unify a group of people to identify as one, bringing a sense of safety in numbers as well as vindication that their own viewpoint really is the best one.

As I researched for my epic “Beauty and Self-Worth aren’t the Real Issues, Lack of Will Power Is” last week, I learned some interesting things about food and drinks that are considered taboo by certain cultures. For example, throughout the centuries coffee has been banned by different countries (including our own) and religious groups (at one time Catholics and currently Mormons). Caffeine is an addictive drug and many people have seen coffee as a controlled substance, as it causes its consumers to become dependent on a drink that can change their demeanor simply by its consumption or lack of it, after the tolerance is built up.

It’s hard to imagine that drinking coffee (and other caffeine-laced beverages like tea and Red Bull) would be taboo to anyone. But considering its addictive qualities along with its mood-altering and heart rate changing abilities, it does have some similarities to alcohol, which is more easily condemned by religious groups. Muslims, Hindus, Rastafarians (though they encourage/require marijuana use), and Mormons are the most solid in their shunning of alcoholic beverages.

As for Protestant Christians, it’s namely Baptists and Methodists that have a stance of little to no tolerance for alcohol, often stated in their church by-laws. (Being that my hometown is almost completely represented by Baptists and Methodists, the sell or purchase of alcohol was illegal in the county until 2006.) However, because of their proximity to the Catholic Church, Episcopalians and Presbyterians tend not to look down on alcohol consumption.

Being Baptist my entire life, I always thought it was weird that Catholics actually drink wine during the service, in particular for the Lord’s Supper. Obviously Jesus and his disciples drank wine for the Last Supper, but we always used Welch’s grape juice (a company that got its start by offering non-alcoholic grape juice to the American Christians who saw drinking wine as sinful). After high school I moved away from my “dry” hometown and graduated from a one year (Baptist affiliated) Bible college in Florida then earned my English degree from Jerry Falwell’s (openly Baptist) Liberty University in Virginia, both saturated in an “alcohol is taboo and prohibited” culture.

Then I moved to Nashville.

An interesting crossbreed between churches and bars. A culture where drinking beer is in the same category as drinking soda. In other words, it’s just another beverage. Like in Europe. And I quickly learned that judgmental attitudes towards alcohol were nowhere to be found, even in Baptist circles. A person could actually sincerely love both Jesus and beer. In fact, last Fall my Sunday School class took a tour of Nashville’s own Yazoo Brewery as a fun activity.

When I finally accepted the fact that alcohol was no longer a moral issue to me, a revelation I had was this: Alcohol use does not necessarily equal alcohol abuse. Before, my mind saw any consumption of alcohol as an instant link to drunkenness and alcoholism. That is a stigma that has since been dissolved from my mind.

An interesting exception to the alcohol ban in Christian circles is best expressed in a quote I would always hear from my friends growing up: “My parents don’t drink, except for a little wine on their wedding anniversaries.” The alcoholic content of the average beer is around 5%. However, wine typically starts between 12 to 15%. Why was strong wine overlooked for special occasions but weak beer condemned?

There are several reasonable answers to this paradox, just like there are many understandable points on why certain religions prohibit alcohol. And because good cases can be made for both acceptance and rejection, it’s remains taboo for some and completely normal for others.

Ironically, the same parts of the Bible that caused me to believe alcohol consumption was wrong before, are now the same verses that give me confidence that for me, it’s no longer a moral issue. In fact, some of the best spiritual growth I’ve done in my entire life was during the time period that I figured this thing out for myself. Whereas before I was either too young to drink, banned by my college, or a part of a culture that shunned alcohol, the independence I found by sorting out my view on the issue helped me become aware of the spiritual side effect that a “no alcohol” lifestyle had on me: I was secretly judgmental of those Christians who drank.

But in the classic case of “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em”, I realized that I had been treating the issue like some of the Jewish leaders did the law of Moses. They judged Jesus for healing sick people on the Sabbath. Even though the law more generically instructed the people to make the Sabbath day a time of rest and remembering God, the Jews stretched this and in their own interpretation added to the law, stating exactly how many steps a person could walk on the Sabbath, considering anything more than that to be work, therefore breaking the law of Moses. Judging the people by a higher standard of the law than God actually gave to the people.

I allowed myself to believe that the wine of the Bible was different than wine today. Because that excused Jesus of drinking it. And that helped me better accept the fact that Jesus’ first miracle was turning the water into wine at the wedding, and that he knew enough about wine that he might the good kind, and people at the wedding noticed it. But even if there was less alcohol content in the wine of Biblical times, it couldn’t have been much less. Jesus drank real wine. I finally stopped judging Jesus and others for it. And once I joined the crowd, not for reasons of peer pressure but because of personal conviction, I realized my walk with Christ matured.

Now I know that a person can have a daily personal relationship with Jesus, can read and study the Bible, can pray for others, and appreciate good wine and beer, because I have become that person. After daily praying for years that God would show me my flaws and my sins, my prayers were answered when I, in a sense, took real communion for the first time.

_________________________________________________________________________

Here are some excerpts from Paul’s letters to the church in the book of I Corinthians regarding eating food sacrificed to idols. These are the quotes that have bounced around in my head as I’ve established my own beliefs regarding food and drink:

“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not from your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body. (6:19,20).”

“But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak (9:11).”

“For through your knowledge he who is weak is ruined, the brother for whose sake Christ died. And so by sinning against the brethren and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ (8:11,12).”

“Whether, then, you eat or you drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (10:31).”

Water2Wine