Work and Rest

“Blessed be the LORD, who daily bears us up, God is our salvation.”                                                                 selah ~~Psalm 68:19

Our retreat group at Mount Eagle was not only the original designers of the project “Stations of the Cross,” but since we were also the first to lay hands on the materials, we were also laying the foundation for all the groups that would finish the project.  As the awesomeness of this opportunity dawned upon us, we caught fire! I believe people are hungry for creative experiences because so much of modern life denies the time and space to create. Our homes are filled with high tech devices that claim our waking moments and call us:  the beeps of our smart phones alert us to an email, text, or update on Facebook; our DVR’s have hours of TV shows recorded on them that we haven’t stayed home long enough to watch; we have fancy stoves and gourmet kitchens for reheating food we buy from restaurants because we are too busy to cook from scratch.

Retreat times may be the only time some of us have to enter into the creative spirit of the Holy Trinity.  For that we must be grateful for the bug that laid our leader flat on his back and gave this dream a chance to become reality.  We finished one station completely, “The Rooster,” and several others are nearly complete. One lady made all the backing boards by gluing the panels together. Pretty impressive for twelve folks and 2 1/2 days.  Then again, retreat times are often the only opportunities we take away from our ordinary busy-ness and do something different.  This retreat was more like a mission trip combined with the silence of a Benedictine retreat, but that is part of the attraction for me.  Most mission trips I’ve been on have been too hands on and not enough silence or reflection time.  For us to engage in creative work, use power tools, recycle old materials, enjoy the feel of the materials at our fingertips, and to come home with all our fingers still attached was a true blessing!

One of the lessons I took home was the importance of “selah” —rest, reflect, take a break.  The psalms give instruction for this to happen periodically, and we would do well to institute “selah” in our own lives throughout the day.  When I am working on a painting, I’m excited, focused, and in the moment. Then the moment comes when suddenly my concentration slips, I no longer can make the instant decisions and the painting no longer flows from my brush.  This is the moment to step away! Now! The next stroke will not be a pretty one, and I’ll regret my decision to keep going.  If I am paying attention, I will rest to clear my mind and then return when I am fresher.

The same thing happened on our retreat: we worked excited and focused, watching the stations of the cross come to life and anticipating the finished project and our sense of accomplishment and joy when the whole would be complete.  But a time would come in our work sessions when we’d start making mistakes, measuring and cutting too short, splitting the wood, or having to recut a piece or reshape it.  Then our lead craftsman or I would have to call “Break time!” and even though people wanted to keep on working, we knew that too many errors were being made, and resting was needed.  A short break away clears the mind so we could come back fresh.

During the week we call our break the Sabbath, a holy rest, sacred unto the Lord. What we fail to realize is that we need daily sabbaths, little rests and renewals of our spiritual energies and lives.  If most of us are “up and at ’em” 12 or 14 hours a day, we probably need the seventh hour of our day as a rest/selah.

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