A brother to one who destroys

Proverbs 18:9 (NIV) One who is slack in his work is a brother to one who destroys.

So in other words: lazy people don’t necessarily destroy outright, they are just intimately related to those who DO destroy…this concept is also displayed in the idiom ‘idle hands are the devil’s workshop’.

I haven’t had much time to ponder and write as December and January are busy times for my line of work (that is– my outside-the-home work, which is in addition to home and yard; family and community ‘work’). This year circumstances beyond my control have made this season ‘at work’ even busier for me.

However, because I’ve been working more than usual, I have had lots of time to observe the work habits, and sometimes the lack thereof, of others around me. As well as how one worker’s laziness then creates a damaging and reverberating effect on the surroundings – both coworker and client or customer deeply feeling and having to deal with the consequences of these effects.

So I thought I’d take a few minutes before heading into the office, to flesh out some thoughts I’ve been having about all of that.

To be fair: I have also noticed my own gut and heart revolting and straining over the tedium that is part and parcel of my job duties. I feel myself struggling to recover from what, in all honesty, I need to just call what it actually is: Laziness. There are any number of tasks that I just ‘do myself’ at work rather than watch a coworker half-heartedly complete them or complete them sub-standard to what I wanted. These are often tasks that I find myself groaning inwardly about doing myself. My lazy heart not wanting to do them anymore than anyone else wanted to, but the realization that part of my duties as a Christian is to take joy in these things, regardless, is often what spurs me onward. And so I put that lazy part of me ‘to death’ for another day. Lazy-me will undoubtedly resurrect sooner or later, though, so don’t go thinking I’m all that. (I’m not).

When I was in therapy for diagnosed PTSD and anxiety disorder, I eagerly went down the blame-it-all-on-workaholism-and-perfectionism-trail of ‘you worked way too much for too long, you set way too high of expectations, and that’s how you ended up needing therapy for stress and anxiety.’

That ‘workaholic’ trail is wide and well traveled. Followed closely by the ‘perfectionism’ trail, which seems equally wide and well traveled. Many self-help (Christian and other) books have been published to get us to recover from things like perfectionism, workaholism, and stress. One therapist, and one minister I visited with, introduced themselves to me as ‘recovering perfectionists.’

Many of those ‘Christian’ books and programs I bought, or bought into, included things that were way too close to contemplative prayer, eastern breathing practices, meditation, and yoga for me to actually FIND relaxing and restful. (And if you’ve been reading this blog prior then you pretty much know that I had to throw that detail in. Otherwise — there’s an X in the upper right corner if you believe such things are compatible with Biblical Christianity–as I do not.)

Now that I’m several years out of the therapy processes that were helpful in some ways (particularly in recovery from sexual abuse)–but which I then found that I had to process back out of again as I didn’t like what certain aspects had done to my belief system– I see several points where I was led astray, and other points which raised a whole lot of questions for which I do not have any clear answers.

For instance: do sloth like, gluttonous, lazy folks really need to recover from working too much? Do they really need to be told over and over again that ‘God wants us to rest.’ Clearly: taking a day a week off is one entire commandment, of a mere ten. What about the other six days though? If we truly had found ‘balance’, then shouldn’t there be just as many self-help books being written about how to be diligent, self-denying, hard workers who overcome our sinful lazy natures and do not cheat our earthly bosses (or God) out of the time we owe them or Him?

When I read the letters to the churches in Revelation for a fresh time, my experience in organized Americanized churches and ministries– usually has me seeing American Christians as being exceedingly: ‘laodicean’. We sure seem ineffectual, lacking passion, lukewarm…and, well, lazy. Lovers of pleasure, not sacrifice. Believers in wealth and self-esteem and learning to let God love us better; not prostrate on our knees with broken and contrite hearts before God confessing how poor we actually are in the midst of all our filthy mammon (a broken and contrite heart IS the sacrifice He desires).

I glanced longingly at my office bookshelf the other day — realizing it would be a while until I got to a point at work where I could settle into some winter ‘free time’ to read–and as I ran my eyes over the book spines, I noticed how many titles there were about ‘rest’ and ‘relaxing’. And how few books I had about ‘doing things’. Save for some business, marketing, gardening and homesteading how to books (some of which are all about being lazy, LOL, and others which seem to have ulterior motives of saving and remaking the world by our own merits).

All of which convicted me further. I have entire bookshelves of waste that only feeds into my own laziness and desire for money and means I didn’t earn honestly.

I think a great deal of why the world, and the church, seems to be harvesting the fruit of our sins — can be summed up by Paul’s words to Timothy: For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. (2 Timothy 3:2 NLT)

Many Christians I talk with have been trying to find their purpose or figure out their calling. Indeed: seeking our purpose and finding our calling seem to slip right by these words in 2 Timothy. As it seems like we want to turn our lives over to God, like we are being self-denying and God seeking; not materialistic lovers of self and mammon. But reading today’s (January 14th) Oswald Chamber’s daily devotion gave me pause. To quote Chambers:

God doesn’t single out someone and say, “Now, you go.” He did not force His will on Isaiah. Isaiah was in the presence of God, and he overheard the call. His response, performed in complete freedom, could only be to say, “Here am I! Send me.”

Remove the thought from your mind of expecting God to come to force you or to plead with you. When our Lord called His disciples, He did it without irresistible pressure from the outside. The quiet, yet passionate, insistence of His “Follow Me” was spoken to men whose every sense was receptive (Matthew 4:19). If we will allow the Holy Spirit to bring us face to face with God, we too will hear what Isaiah heard— “the voice of the Lord.” In perfect freedom we too will say, “Here am I! Send me.”

What if our ‘sending’ is more like quietly sticking with a job or the task at hand and going through the tedium of service wherein God opens doors constantly for us to ‘share the reason for our joy.’ A work and calling that mostly goes unnoticed by the ministry organizations of today, work which seems to have little effect, but nevertheless which pleases the Lord and makes great contribution to those around us.

When we think of ministry or a calling of God, do we immediately think of the person washing the dinner dishes, or the public toilets at a small business with a gospel song and a word of encouragement or Godly correction always ready on their lips. As for me, too often when I heard the word ‘ministry’ or ‘work of God’ I would think of the writers and speakers and front of the room people leading the sheep. But is that type of thing the best way to tend to the sheep? Or does it reinforce the idea that the chosen ones are those who have the ‘obvious’ ministries and the rest of us just haven’t surrendered yet or we’d be there too, on those platforms or working in some ‘actual’ ministry role — (playing on the construct that Jesus set forth when He said many are called but few are chosen).

What if the chosen prove to be the believers who listened to a call which has them in some wilderness places, away from the spotlights and platforms, fighting back against laziness and selfishness by their very witness and life examples, and knowing that in so doing they are being a brother and sister to those who sanctify and preserve what is left. Rather than being a brother to those who destroy.

Could responding to a call from God be as simple as: stop being lazy?

Whatever your hand finds to do…

Do it with all your might, for in the realm of the dead, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom. Ecclesiastes 9:10.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, Colossians 3:23

I’ve always loved those two Bible verses. The latter more than the first. Ecclesiastes can be a bleak book–it reflects King Solomon’s (if Solomon is actually its author) ultimate falling away from God.

Therefore, I feel it too often reads more like the life of an unbeliever (‘meaningless’!). Which can be a wonderful example and lesson of ‘what not to do’ (and believe). In comparison to someone who relies fully on God and knows that all we do for the Lord is NOT futile and pointless, but will last and/or be rewarded in the life to come, if not this one.

Ecclesiastes captivated me in my youth. These days I prefer the philosophy and life lessons in the ‘study to show yourself approved’, ‘let us not grow weary of doing good’, ‘I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength’ ‘take captive every thought to the obedience of Christ’…. ‘Jesus is coming soon and so is your reward’ (that one was paraphrased!) messages scattered throughout the New Testament Epistles.

Since the pandemic hit last March, I’ve added the following verse, also about ‘work’, to my list of favorites:

Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before. Then people who are not believers will respect the way you live, and you will not need to depend on others. 1 Thessalonians 4:12.

This verse was reflective of the vocational climate in my childhood. Were it not for the rampant emotional and physical abuse, the pornography exposures, and the whitewashed Christian veneer hiding the sexual abuse in my family, it would have been a great childhood. Honestly.

I grew up with a strong Middle American work ethic at a time when farm folks still had a measure of real economic independence. As Thessalonians encourages, most farmers I knew did NOT depend on others. They were self sufficient and admired for their character traits. Though they were often broke and/or in debt–they frequently helped one another out with their work –and they didn’t have the current yokes and collusions with government and big agri-business, on which they have now become quite dependent.

Therefore I grew up like everyone around me: suspicious of government interventions and corporate America. I stayed busy doing chores, working with my hands, learning my way around a pigpen, a cattle yard, an equipment shop, and a grain field. And I had plenty of time to read challenging things which were far above my young head (our Television was fuzzy and rarely on). We were also, for the most part, a great deal poorer than people living and working on the Corporate America Coasts.

I eyed visitors who came from the cities, with their fancy cars and clothes, with awe and curiosity. As well as a painful awareness that I was poor and backwards, with bad clothing and shoes.

The farm programs, government interventions, and involvement of Con-Agra, which swept in in the 1990’s, brought a decline in work ethic, the removal of the general wariness of government and corporations, and much nicer clothes and cars to the farmsteads around my childhood home.

Just the way I see it. Others might disagree.

These days we have oodles of thriving boutiques and home decor stores in my Middle American mid-sized town. Much of the style borders on the boujee to me. Nevertheless, when traveling or receiving visitors from elsewhere, it’s obvious that the middle income Midwesterner enjoys what once only belonged on the coasts, and now is hard to find there. Unfortunately: that old midwestern work ethic and wariness of government seems to be disappearing along with the poverty.

I suspect the rise of internet, cable/ satellite TV, video games, and smart phones also took a ding to the once prevalent: we-are-poor-but-at-least-we-know-how-to-work culture.

We do retain some ethical holdover from former eras though. I suspect that is why big companies will still ‘head hunt’ for young adults from the Midwest.

I didn’t always enjoy the hard work parts of my childhood. In part because too many of the good formative experiences were sandwiched between abusive and unhealthy behaviors.

Plus, that level of physical work is an acquired taste. The current popularity of gym memberships shows how many people do realize the value of sweat equity and physical activity. And God bless you if you just love the gym. I don’t love it. Plus, I would rather NOT pay someone else to vacuum my house and scrub my floors while I pay a gym to use a machine on which I’m not accomplishing a single thing at all… when my arms won’t really know the difference between that machine or a mop handle and then at the end of the day I can see that I actually did something productive…there’s my childhood talking again.

At one time I ran as far from my past as I could. Except then God stuck me right back in a very similar place to that in which I was born. I did the human thing and just rebelled against the place itself, in my own heart and mind.

It was easy to label all the hard workers around me as ‘workaholics’. People with energy were often just a reminder of how bleak things were for me as a child. And since I knew that being poor sucked, what was wrong with taking some government stimulus and bailout and disaster relief program money anyway? It’s better than remaining in poverty for the sake of dignity. Poverty is traumatic in and of itself and lacks any kind of dignity — I think I have written posts on that somewhere on this blog; they may be set to private now though.

I ventured into all the world’s wisdom, and the pointlessness of life and the downsides of hard work, more than once. When I got physically and emotionally sick, I also pretty much checked out of my social and my work life as well. I even tried being lazy, intentionally, to try and heal from my own presumed workaholism and stress effects.

I judged others who retained their hard work ethics. Ducking out of my former hard work lifestyle seemed to help me physically so maybe everyone just needed more vacation and meditative time… Until I woke up one day and realized I was too young to act like I’m eighty.

Turns out my brain remained as active as my body always wanted to be. And that even when my body is in pain; not moving it at all will only make the pain worse.

So now that I have worked through much of the child abuse, I am sifting out a distaste for the ‘place’ and personality in which it occurred from the actual abuse itself. In so doing, and by pushing myself physically far more than I am even comfortable doing some days–I am also now feeling my body heal to the point of being able to be very active again.

Perhaps that is a factor in why and how I have returned to an appreciation of many aspects of my own trauma filled childhood.

I am glad that I was raised amongst mostly-poor farm folk where the barns for the animals were often nicer and more costly than the farmhouse. Oh and barns used to trigger me, too. They were actually the ‘stuff of nightmares’ for most of my life.

But enjoyment and appreciation of the place, and the landscape is being restored to me now. I haven’t had a scary barn dream in a few years. I find myself eyeing the old barns and farmsteads with love; when we go for long country drives. I stop to take photos often.

Though it took me a while to reconcile it all, I am realizing that people who work extra hard and/or who truly enjoy their work are not automatically ‘workaholics’, and should not be labeled and judged as such.

Now that I’m more active again myself: I’m once again in danger of judging others as being lazy, though. There’s always some sin crouching at the door…

The way I see it, those who have stayed active even in the midst of health and other crises are probably going to be the same personality types who will continue to spread the gospel and hold steadfast to Jesus; even in times of great peril, confusion, temptation, and persecution. Therefore, getting one’s work ethic back in order is pretty important.

Since I no longer spend hours a day in therapy work, navel gazing and trying to heal from past trauma, my brain is once again picking up on what’s happening around me and trying to grasp many things which remain ‘far above my head’. Meanwhile, my yard and home and business is showing the recent influx of care and work. I am able to sleep soundly and restoratively at night, after a day spent working with my hands–just as I did growing up.

Now for the real point of this essay: as I have personally gotten back in touch with the childhood work ethic of my past in 2020: I have been noticing and grappling with the ironic and nonsensical system of beliefs rising up within my still-calls-itself-hardworking, ‘Trump country’ community; during Covid19.

We’ve had the opposite of an economic fall out, here, it seems–and that boon started long before 2020. A lot of farm people are restoring those old barns mentioned above, which now sit empty of animals; next to their fully loaded million dollar equipment sheds. A lot of the hard work does go on, even amidst the wealth, though. Therefore, it’s the source of the wealth which troubles me most.

I want to believe that our local economic escape in 2020 was from a good work ethic combined with our spread out and sparse population, a different, self-responsible attitude about risk and one’s own health, and many businesses courageously remaining open throughout the chaos. However, I suspect that our booming economy is actually far more from a combination of the socialistic actions of the government pouring money into our economy and our own greed in making sure we get our own share of that American Pie. As well as general self-interest and a stubborn refusal to conform, or truly care about, one’s neighbor above one’s self.

The government has poured out money into Agriculture-based hands for several decades now. Yet in the last several elections Socialism was frequently used as a pejorative by those same folks. And the idea was touted, (from both sides), that we had to get involved in politics to ‘save our democracy.’ As if democracy and capitalism and that kind of freedom is even a thing anymore?

To quote and to paraphrase some very wise and prescient things I read somewhere else (and am feeling too lazy to go search for it-how’s that for work ethic-LOL?)

It’s only socialism when someone else is receiving free government handouts. When I’m receiving it; it’s still capitalism!

Government handouts are now labeled ‘stimulus packages’ or ‘disaster payments’ or ‘relief packages’ in order to hide the fact that they are, in essence, socialism.

So let’s take a look at the socialistic things which swept into America under other names and let’s also note who was in charge when it happened.

The second George Bush signed the law which bailed out banks and big industry BEFORE Obama took office. Which was one of the many reasons I was able to easily remove myself from ‘being political’ after I felt the Lord chastening me for my heart and mind (and literal) involvement in that corrupted and worldly realm–back in 2008-2009.

This year, while he was still president (and by the way some of my friends think he IS going to actually remain president too) ‘Capitalism Loving’ (?) Trump signed into law and then extended the PPP Small Business Administration program and oversaw what came to be known as CoronaCash (for farmers) and that’s not even mentioning the stimulus package where everyone under a certain income level received a check ‘from the government.’

Still think Bernie Sanders is the only Socialist in Washington? Even he is taking some heat for voting for the PPP program by his own supporters; since it’s proven to be so corrupt.

BUT these things were all good, and needed, right?

No one wants to see a small business fail, right?

Or, perhaps hiding behind a cry of ‘we have to help the small businesses’ is a clever cover for more corruption?

And perhaps behind the socialism lies something with an even harder bite to it.

I don’t know the answers to the above questions. I just know that it seems few are even asking the questions, or pausing to think what we are really colluding with and accepting when taking ‘free money’ from the government. Perhaps we are all too busy to think—busy shopping and filling our barns and homes with more things; all thanks to the influx of Corona Cash. Meanwhile Revelation urges us to come out of her my people so that you do not partake of her sins or share in her plagues.

When a nearby farmer, who got both corona cash and a PPP loan… complained about the young adults voting for Biden because they just wanted their student loans forgiven… Can you believe their sense of entitlement? Don’t they understand that socialism doesn’t work! Without capitalism, our country will be toast! — I tried not to snort out loud as he drove away in a shiny new pickup with a Trump bumper sticker.

I realize I have a super power nose that often picks up scents before others can smell them.

But at what point is everyone else going to smell America’s toast burning?

Rethinking the Rapture? Not so fast.

This post has been modified from when I originally wrote it. When I first wrote it, I was questioning pre-tribulation rapture theology.

As of this updated writing, I do once again believe the rapture of the church is a real event and that it is going to be a separate event from the final end time coming (of Jesus back to the world). I also believe that we who call on Jesus will avoid both the worst of the tribulation, as well as the final destructive wrath of God.

But before I came to that amended conclusion, I wrote the following:

The last time I took a big trip, I had an exit row seat on several airplanes. If you aren’t familiar: before the plane takes off the flight attendant asks the people sitting in those seats for a spoken verbal confirmation, agreeing that you will help evacuate the plane in an emergency.

As the flight attendant was asking for my verbal confirmation, I had the thought that I should be the last one off the plane. As a believer I know where I am going (heaven) and others may not be saved yet. So it is only just, and right, that others who may not be saved should be the first people to get off the plane safely. That way they could possibly still be saved before they die. And so, after having that thought and knowing it was true– I braced and steeled myself, in case any destruction did come on that plane, I would actually stay there and do the right thing. Not succumb to the flesh thing and escape myself, but actually stay and help others evacuate safely–just as I had pledged to do.

I mean, when you are sitting in a seat right by the main exit hatch, it’d be pretty easy to open it up and DUCK out yourself just to be safe…

I also knew that fending for my own safety, above the safety of others, would be a real temptation in a disaster. Because I know just how human, fleshy, and fearful I am!

As I was pondering the current times we are living in, it struck me that the idea of a pre-tribulation rapture theology could come across as incredibly flesh-y.

It’s a lot like saying– I’m sitting by the exit door and going to be the first one off the crashing plane! See ya, wouldn’t wanna be ya, suckers! To everyone left behind.

Wouldn’t it be more in alignment with basic Christian principles, for those of us already saved unto eternal life to stay on a plane going down just as long as possible, to try and make sure those who aren’t saved yet, get saved– before the wrath comes and it’s too late to save anyone?

Like sitting by the exit door on an airplane. What would a Jesus follower do in such a situation? She’d stay on the plane and try to make sure others lived (eternally), if at all possible. Her days would be filled with attempts to wake people up to the seriousness of the hour. She’d use all her energy and talents to bring people closer to Jesus.

What would selfish, fleshy me do? bail and preserve myself/not keep my word to help others off the plane…

Christians do have an exit row seat and we will be pulled out of here before the wrath of God comes down to destroy the world. That part is and has always been VERY clear in scripture. But with that prime seating spot, I am thinking comes greater responsibility toward others on the same plane; not less.

When I first wrote the above, it all seemed pretty simple and I was willing to discard a rapture theology that I came into believing later in my life (I grew up protestant–and I was not taught to believe in a pre-tribulation rapture as a child).

Since then God has reminded me many times that He is God. He does the saving, I do not. And when He decides it is time, it WILL be time. I will either fall in line with His plan or be left behind myself. What makes me think I know better than God Himself, how to save people anyway? The Great Tribulation will have a sifting effect. In my eagerness to ‘help with the harvest’ and save souls, what if I am working in opposition to God’s plan for the world; instead of in sync with it?

Listening to some old podcasts and interviews with Dave Hunt also had me rethinking my recent rethinking of the rapture.

In one interview Dave Hunt said the following, “If the bride isn’t eager for the wedding, better call the whole thing off!”

That one got to me. In my eagerness to save other people from impending doom, I wasn’t simply eager for the upcoming wedding–for meeting Jesus face to face myself. Which should always be my first goal and earnest desire as a Christian.

In the end I concluded that it isn’t about keeping an eye on others. It is about keeping my eyes so fixed on Jesus that I am very eager for the wedding, and will not hesitate to leave all here on earth (including other people) behind me. So that I can go and be married to the bridegroom. Because, again, if the bride isn’t eager for the wedding; better call the whole thing off.