Soil, Spirit, and Permission to Leave the Hum

sabbath restShonda Rhimes has one of the most phenomenal TED talks I’ve heard in a long time. In it, she talks about “the hum.” This is that churning force that drives our constant attention to our work. It’s the energy that wakes me up at 2:00am because “THAT’S WHAT I SHOULD’VE PREACHED ON EASTER!” It’s the constant flow of always having to do, make, produce, write, plan, schedule, be better, do better, visit more, check, double check, triple check, be here, now be over there, now be both places simultaneously — anyone know what I’m talking about?

I got stressed out just writing that last sentence.

What if we stopped doing this? What if we refused to participate in the madness of the hustle — even just for a day? What if we put the iPhone down, closed the laptop, shut off the television, and talked with your spouse, your kids, a friend, your mom or dad, your brother(s) or sister(s), the mail carrier, whoever? What if for just a small period of time each week, we pretended like the work was done and we sat back to relax?

Rob Bell has a wonderful podcast about a command from the book of Leviticus, early on in the Hebrew scriptures where there was a command for farmers to work their land for six years and, on the seventh year, to “let the land lie fallow” — to let the land rest for a year. This year of not farming allows the soil to rebuild essential nutrients so that it can be fruitful and productive the next six years. The idea is that even the earth has a rhythm of work, then rest, work, then rest.

In the creation story in the book of Genesis it says that when God created human beings, we were formed out of the soil and dirt and clay. Then God breathed life into us.

We are a combination of soil and breath — soil and Spirit. So if the command from Leviticus is to let the land lie fallow every so often, then the same would hold true for us, as creatures made from soil and breath. It’s the reason that one of the 10 Commandments is about honoring the Sabbath, because by honoring the Sabbath, we’re honoring the gift of our life. We’re honoring the gift of our existence as creatures of soil and Spirit.

This can be a hard thing to initiate, to start from scratch. How do we do this? How do we let ourselves rest in a way that allows us to re-build essential nutrients in our body and soul?

It starts with giving yourself permission to do whatever you have to do to take yourself out of the hum, to let the soil and Spirit that make you who you are lie fallow for a time.

For those of you who would still like a little structure to this rest time, feel free to print out the follow permission slip, or copy/paste to a Word document and use whenever you can feel the hum start to overwhelm you.

Permission Slip

Name: _________________
Date: __________________

In defiant affirmation that my worth is not found in what I produce or accomplish, in
remembering that I am a human being, not a human doing, do hereby give myself
permission to __________________________________________.

Signed: ________________________

You can do this. It’s okay. Everything will be here when you get back.

Step out of the hum. Step out of the flow.

And rejoice that God created you to be a human being, not a human doing.


Books I Read in 2013

It seems that every time it comes around to write out these year-end book posts, it always gets a little crazier, and I’m always left feeling like I should have spent less time reading and more time being a productive member of society. But I didn’t. And reading is fun.

I set out to read 90 books in 2013, which is admittedly insane. I completed 2/3 of my goal — 60 books!

Presented below is a list of all of the books I read in 2013.  As I finished each book, I added them in. So this is, more or less, chronological throughout the year. Following that is some highlights and favorites. And I finish with some trivial statistics and self-indulgent nerdery. Here we go!                          book cover of Ways of Going Home byAlejandro Zambra                                                                    

Now for the superlatives…

Favorite Fiction Book

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn is an incredible book in all of the ways that every review says it is. Read it with all of the awe and incredulity that’s meant to accompany its reading. Stay up late to finish it. Then later this year, go and see it in the movie theater. But whatever you do: READ. THE. BOOK. FIRST.

The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson is another wonderful book. It’s a story that you can get lost in as it follows a boy from his childhood through adulthood in a bizarre North Korean setting. You yearn with the character as he strives to survive and thrive in the midst of a brutal totalitarian regime. Here’s an interview with Johnson (who won a Pulitzer for this book) from the SF Weekly. Check it out here.

The Circle by Dave Eggers was one of the more recent books I read and got completely lost in. If _Brave New World_ would have been written when Twitter existed, this is what Huxley would have had in mind. Very engaging story that made me question and scrutinize the way I use social media and interact with everyone for a long while after I finished.

Favorite Non-Fiction Book

Anything by Brené Brown! If you’ve seen some of my posts on Twitter or Facebook, you’ll know that Brené was my big literary/intellectual/social work crush of 2013. It sounds weird, but I stand by it. If you’ve never read any of her books, she recommends reading The Gifts of Imperfection first, Daring Greatly second, and finish up with I Thought It Was Just Me. Highly recommend all of her stuff. Seriously. Read it. Now.

Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint by Nadia Bolz-Weber is a must read for anyone who’s worried they screw up too much to be a Christian. It’s a seriously good book that deserves all of the credit it has received. The way Nadia weaves through stories — both from the Bible and from her own life — is flawless. Can’t recommend this book enough.

Jesus Feminist: An Invitation to Revisit the Bible’s View of Women by Sarah Bessey is an excellent companion to Nadia’s book. Sarah is an incredibly poetic writer and beautifully explores her own experience as a follower of Jesus with the male-centric messages that are often implicit in popular (read: evangelical) Christianity. She finds that it’s actually Jesus who calls her to be a Feminist. She also writes about feminism in a loving, kind, and compassionate way as well. Again… Just read it. It’s awesome. I promise.


Total Pages Read (compiled by using Amazon’s pages numbers for each book): 16,267

Total Pages Read (adjusted for accuracy — subtracted 10% to count for indices, footnotes, and other numbered, but not read pages.): 14,640

Pages Read Per Day: 40.1

Average Number of Days It Took to Read One Completed Book: 6.1

What were some of your favorite books from 2013? What are some that you’re looking forward to in 2014?

Here’s to another great year of reading in 2014!


Shane Hipps on Rob Bell Leaving Mars Hill

Last night I saw that Shane Hipps, teaching pastor at Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids, MI posted some thoughts on Rob Bell’s departure from the church. There were some thoughts that were very poignant for pastors and leaders in every profession.

He writes,

I learned when I became a pastor that it is a unique vocation.  Becoming a leader in any profession can be a lonely experience.  This isn’t always bad, in many ways it forces you to grow up fast.  In time you learn to allow the loneliness to become a divine ingredient in cultivating depth and resilience. Over the years I learned to befriend it as a teacher.  And as I’ve said here before, there is a difference between being alone, and being lonely.

It’s a really great reflection. I’d encourage everyone to read it. You can find it here.


So Here’s the Thing About Rob Bell

Last night I, along with 1,400 of my closest friends, saw Rob Bell speak at Wayzata Community Church on his new, and always controversial book, Love Wins. And now that I’ve had some time to reflect on the experience, there are two things that stick with me. And the purpose of this post is nothing more than sharing these things because I’m excited about them. So first, Rob Bell gets me excited to be a pastor. And while that may sound trivial to some, I assure you it is not. In fact, it’s seldom that I get downright giddy about the fact that I get to be pastor. But, for some reason, when I read his books, listen to his sermons, watch his videos, something inside of me gets excited that I get to do that for a living. So that’s the first thing.

There was another thing that became abundantly clear as I was listening to Bell speak last night. As he was answering questions, an anecdote I heard a few years ago crept in my head and I think it definitely plays into this whole controversy over Love Wins. So here it is. For starters, humans generally have three primary things that they believe about God and creation. 1) God is good. 2) God is in control. 3) Creation is good. When pressed, or when we start to question things, we drop one of the three. And it’s a different one for each person. But the crux of Rob Bell’s new book is that when it comes to Heaven and Hell… God is not in control. He drops the second one. That became clear through reading the book and hearing him speak tonight. Most mainline Protestants would do the same, but like I said, it’s different for everyone.

A lot of people who have a problem with what Bell is saying, refuse to give up that second proposition. And that’s entirely okay, it’s just a fundamentally different worldview. In turn, they choose to give up the third position. They believe that God is all good and that God is in control. But we, as creation, are terrible sinners who aren’t worthy of the glory of God. This is where it gets tricky because the key phrase in that sentence is “as creation”. Mainliners believe that we sin and fall short of the glory of God, but that isn’t how we were created. We were once good and obedient to God, but then we fell. And now we’re not… at least not without the whole cross and resurrection thing, but we’ll talk about that next week.

I just wanted to drop a post and share that. Because I do believe that all of the differences assumed in the Rob Bell controversy can be explained by digging deeper into those three core beliefs. Which one do you drop? When you’re stressed and when things keep piling up and just aren’t going your way, which one are you most willing to part with? It’s an interesting question when put in that context, but I think it speaks volumes about what we bring to the conversation.


Rob Bell, Japan and Hell*

I hate to bring up the Rob Bell thing again. I know it’s tired. I know everyone’s said what they have to say on the topic (including me). But with the constant stream of terrible news coming out of Japan in the last 48 hours, it just seems appropriate to talk about Hell.

In case you’ve been completely under a rock, here’s what you’ve missed: On Friday, Japan experienced what scientists are now calling a 9.0 earthquake (4th largest since we started keeping track), which brought on estimated 30 foot waves, and now nuclear reactors failing left and right. The Japanese government estimates 10,000 dead. Most of the country is without running water and electricity. Hospitals can’t function. Parts of Tokyo are being evacuated because of the nuclear reactors leaking radiation. If you want to look at Hell… Japan is a good example.

If we’re honest with ourselves, we don’t need to picture a far off pit of fire and torment to envision Hell. It’s here. It’s in our midst. We look around our world and see Hell in places like Japan. Or in Libya where a government is actively killing its own people. Or down the streets of any U.S. city where families are divided by divorce, where careers are lost and dreams deferred, where new generations of kids continue to grow up without fathers.

We don’t have to hate on Rob Bell for saying there’s no one in Hell. It’s all around us. However, the one message of hope that we’re yearning for with all of our being is that there’s something more. That there’s a force in the world that is more powerful than our brokenness. That the God, who is love in and of God’s self, will win.


* Can you tell I’m excited for the book? Good grief…

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