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Practicing Life-Giving Sabbath

  • 5 March 2018
  • Randy Wollf

field of flowersRivendell, an Elven realm in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy, is a beautiful haven of rest – a place protected from the dangers plaguing Middle Earth. In The Fellowship of the Ring, Tolkien describes the peace that Frodo and his companions experience in Rivendell after narrowly escaping the evil forces bent on destroying them. In Rivendell, 

The future, good or ill, was not forgotten, but ceased to have any power over the present.

Tolkien’s description captures something of the essence of Sabbath. When we practice Sabbath, whether it’s setting aside a full day or part of a day each week, we experience rest and peace amidst the rigors of life. In his book, The Rest of God, Mark Buchanan says we experience Sabbath when we stop doing what is necessary and do that which gives life. Life’s obligations and challenges don’t go away, but practicing Sabbath gives us a break from them and affords us the space to replenish ourselves and refocus on God and His priorities.

The Bible clearly teaches the importance of observing a Sabbath day of rest. God, Himself, rested after His creation work (Genesis 2:3). Did He need to rest? No. But by resting, God set an example for His human creation—the ones He made in His image—so that we would live maximum lives in keeping with His design for us.

Walter Brueggemann, in Reverberations of Faith, said:

Sabbath provides a visible testimony that God is at the center of life—that human production and consumption take place in a world ordered, blessed, and restrained by the God of all creation.

Practicing Sabbath is an acknowledgment that God is in control and that we trust Him to look after His creation (including us) as we rest. For those of us who struggle with workaholic tendencies, taking a daylong break from what is necessary breaks us free from our compulsion to engage in excessive work activities. Sometimes, we are motivated to work excessively because we believe we have financial needs. Other times, we simply work too much because we want more of things we don’t necessarily need. In both cases, taking a day off will help us to refocus on God as the One who provides and to realign our priorities in keeping with His desires. 

Going for Gold

  • 22 February 2018
  • Randy Wollf

Gold medalMy parents taught me to go for gold. They weren’t necessarily thinking of an Olympic gold medal, but they encouraged me to always try my best in everything that I did. For them, and for me today, going for gold means trying my very best.

The concept of going for gold is one reason why I love watching the Olympics. I get excited when athletes from my country do well, but I’m also impressed by the incredible dedication of all Olympic athletes. They have made many sacrifices to get to the level necessary to compete at the Olympic level. They are committed to going for gold. 

I tried my best as a young hockey player. Some seasons were better than others, but one year I received my team’s “Most Valuable Player” award.

I tried my best as a seminary student and ended up winning my one and only gold medal – the Governor General’s Gold Medal for academic excellence.

Of course, doing my best sometimes resulted in failure, or at least not meeting the expectations I had for myself.

Those of us with perfectionistic tendencies sometimes think that we need to be perfect or almost perfect in all that we do. That’s impossible and places an unbearable burden on us that will often lead to discouragement and a sense of defeat. What I have found more helpful is to think about achieving excellence, which I define as doing our best with the resources at our disposal. When I pursue excellence, I’m going for gold.

Several years ago, our family visited Barkerville, BC, the main town in the Cariboo Gold Rush during the 1860s. We even did some gold panning at the restored historic site and picked up some souvenir gold flakes. Just like other gold rushes, some people gave up everything they had to try to find gold. Their obsession was known as gold fever.

I would suggest that going for gold in life is ultimately not about gold fever; it’s about God fever. It’s giving up everything to follow God and His purposes for our lives.

The Apostle Paul had God fever. He chose to focus all his energies on running the race of life well, so that he would receive the prize, the gold medal if you will, that God awards to those who are faithful to Him (Philippians 3:13-14; 2 Timothy 4:6-8). He summed up his desire to please His Lord in 1 Corinthians 9:24-26:

Four Ways to Ignite Your Prayer Life

  • 19 February 2018
  • Randy Wollf

praying handsHow’s your prayer life?

If you’re like me, there’s room for improvement. I want to develop a lifestyle of prayer where I naturally worship, give thanks, and petition God throughout the day. How can we ignite our prayer life and move in a stronger direction? Here are four suggestions:

Try Some Different Approaches to Prayer

We sometimes need to shake up our usual approach to prayer to revitalize it. In her book Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: Practices that Can Transform Us, Adele Calhoun describes several approaches to prayer that you might find helpful for reinvigorating your prayer life (I have included some of her ideas in my list below).