La Querencia of Sabbath

Our family of 6 just embarked on a two month trip in a 26′ RV and we are traveling around country chasing good weather, family, and friends who are intentionally living out the mission of God in diverse contexts. This is a trip of a lifetime for us, especially since I just graduated from grad school, have no job, and no home to live in until the end of July (thus the RV). Leading up to this trip, God has prompted many thoughts and topics in my heart and mind that won’t leave me alone, and I have found myself reflecting a lot about: patience, pace of life, food and how/what we eat, being present with my wife/kids/family/friends (in the moment), and sabbath (rest).

This morning I was reading a copy of a book called Slow Church (I will write a short book review about it in the next couple weeks) and there is a chapter talking about sabbath rest and they quote the American author Barry Lopez writing about the Spanish word querencia which is sometimes translated as the “haunt of wild hearts”:

“[He] describes la querencia as a place on the ground from which one draws strength of character.”

It is clear to me already on day two of our trip, that sabbath rest was meant to be our querencia. In a world full of busyness that drives us to live at a pace that is not based on a biblical worldview; and culture that “forces” us to eat whatever is placed before us (or is cheapest and easiest to get); and a society that has placed work and money at a level that turns people and places into commodities to be consumed… we are in desperate need of alternative lifestyles that display a different kind of pace, a different kind of patience, a different kind of work ethic… all of which are not possible if we are not a people who know how to rest and trust during the “unproductive” days of rest.

Time. Time reminds us that God is not in a hurry and rest is a way of trusting God in the midst of world that feels like there’s not enough time in the day. Time reminds us that we are living in eternity now before God. Time reminds us that God shows up in the now; he dispenses grace, mercy, forgiveness, reveals beauty, and matures us in the “now”. Learning to live in the present, pacing myself, eating slower and being more aware of what I am eating are all being sharpened and awakened as I slow down, rest and trust God in the seemingly “unproductive” now.

This trip is the beginning of a new kind of sabbath for me, a sabbath that leads me to places of querencia that I believe God wants his people to inhabit with him daily. A querencia that charges up God’s people to live holistically productive lives which means a healthier pace, more responsible eating, divine rest, and a holy patience with work, people, and life in general.

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What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas

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Las Vegas is famous for many ‘riskay’ things, and this phrase has become the trademark of the city’s gambling sector: “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas”. This is implying that what you do here in Vegas won’t hurt your wife, husband or loved ones, as long as they never find out what you do here. Worse yet, there is a belief that illicit behavior won’t even hurt the person doing it.

This same thinking is wrapped up into the old adage that goes like this: “What we don’t know, won’t hurt us.” When I was a kid, I used to talk about things like, “What if the fast food worker spit in your hamburger?” or “What if your hamburger was dipped in the toilet?” You know… things that everybody worries about, right? I remember talking and thinking about this every now and then when we would eat out. The conversation always ended, in my mind at least, “As long as I don’t know, I’ll be fine.” I was a garbage disposal as a kid.

I was thinking about all of this when my brother showed me this picture of a McDonald’s sign in California. Some of McD’s food is hazardous to your health, so much so, that California McD’s, by law, must post this warning in their stores. My brother told me that even though this sign has been posted, sales have not been hindered. This made me rethink the old adage and I began wondering what it takes to change people, even though they know something will cause harm to them.

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Eating a McD’s big mac that has so many preservatives bugs or mold won’t even eat it, or going to Vegas and giving your soul away to someone who is there just to pay rent and cover their bills, have caused so much damage to our bodies, but we still do them. Seems strange that this belief of what we don’t know won’t hurt us is still allowing us to ignore dangers and toxins in our lives.

We didn’t know so many toys were made with lead, but they hurt many people. We didn’t know certain foods were infected with salmonella, but it got us sick. We didn’t know building products with asbestos were bad, but they’ve been very toxic. We didn’t know that porn was destroying our minds (it’s scientifically proven that sex addicts destroy their brains, literally), but now we have a sexually addicted culture that consumes and marginalizes predominantly children and women.

What we don’t know can and has hurt us, but what’s even more disturbing is that this McD’s picture reveals to me is that even though we know things hurts us, even destroy us and others, we still do them; we still offer them to others. Not only that, they are some of the most profitable industries in our ‘sophisticated’ culture (fast food, porn, and cheap consumable products). What we desire, we get. So the problem is that we have desire issues.

What we desire, we get. So merely saying, “I want to act differently” or “I want to stop doing those things” isn’t enough to get people to stop the foolishness. We are still eating cancer causing food, we are still performing sexually illicit, brain damaging acts, and big industries are still producing cheap consumable products for a profit only to waste our resources and environment, because we consumers buy them.

Our desires are what need to be challenged and changed, and this doesn’t happen by mere will power or behavior modification. It happens by realizing and owning that we’re all part of the problem, and as hard as humanity tries, as ‘sophisticated’ as we get, we can’t solve the problem of evil and illicit human desires.

What we need is to desire something or someone who is not corrupt, and will not corrupt. What we need is people who are willing to submit and surrender, not to their desires, but to the only One who is not corrupt, and will never corrupt.

Coram Deo

Coram Deo is a Latin phrase that means to live ones life in the presence of God, literally ‘before the face of God’. This means that there is never a moment when life is hidden from God. If God is who he says he is according to scripture and the Christian tradition, then he is always present, in all places, at all times. Boy, this sure makes life a little more interesting if one believes this, indeed, if one lives their life in such a way that this is true.

When I pastored Kineo Church, I would send us all off with a liturgical blessing every Sunday at the end of each service with this ‘priestly blessing’ that God told Moses to tell the priests to bless the people of Israel with:

“The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.” (Numbers 6:24-26, NIV)

Those two phrases: “the Lord shine his face upon you… the Lord turn his face toward you…” have always pierced my heart. Think about it. The Lord of all creation, allows his glory (power, beauty) to shine on us, and then in acceptance of us, he turns towards us in love, not away from us in disgust. This is a hard truth for many people to believe.

It’s hard for me to believe many times, because if ‘coram deo’ is true, then God has been with me and has witnessed me do many terrible things, as well as seen many terrible things done to me, even behind my back, and it seems God is passive in these moments. Oh man, I wrestle with this, and I’m not sure I’ll ever have a ‘pat’ answer on why, and this post wasn’t meant to seek any answers to that right now.

The point I’m getting after is this. If ‘coram deo’ is true, and one lived their life to the rhythm of this truth, then this would create a very consistent life, a non-hypocritical life, an honest life. If one lived as if they believed this, then there would be no denials of their corruption or masking of their behavior; one would simply admit what is true because they would know that God is with them and knows what really is true.

I struggle living like this. I struggle being okay with the reality that God is always with me, and I am before His face, and life can still suck. I struggle with experiencing his presence in a way that is tangible, but I also have freedom to real and honest and not try to pretend to you or anyone else who I am, or who I’m not. There’s freedom in that. This is why Paul says that there is freedom where ever the spirit of God is, which means freedom is present for you… right now, if you’re willing to believe that God is before you right now… He is not disgusted with you, and he isn’t hiding his face from you. This is how we get to the place where we have “nothing to hide, nothing to fear, nothing to prove, nothing to lose, and nothing to manage.”

God doesn’t play hide and seek. We do. God is like the kid in the closet yelling, “I’m not in the closet!” with a big grin on his face, because he wants you to find him. God, in Christ Jesus, took what you deserved so you could get what he deserves. Do you believe that? Does your life live like that’s true? Do your thoughts think in such a way that proves that’s true? I’m on a journey to believe this daily, and today, it’s a struggle. Good thing my beliefs and struggles aren’t what’s true all the time.

How to be Happier

“How much happier you would be, how much more of you there would be, if the hammer of a higher God could smash your small cosmos, scattering the stars like spangles, and leave you in the open, free like other men to look up (at something bigger than yourself) as well as down!” G.K. Chesterton in his book Orthodoxy, page 14.