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Monday has many promises attached to it. Traditionally, it’s back-to-whatever-your-work-is day after the weekend.  It might be a job, school, work out routines, yard work, household chores, errands and the litany of things that keep us busy and, theoretically, our lives running smoothly. Well, maybe not smoothly…but running. You know, back to the ‘old grind’, vacation’s over and the longing for a quick week so once again we can enjoy the change of pace on the weekend. That is, if we allow our pace to change. I am referring to the weekends that are filled with athletic events, social gatherings, yard work, house work …wash the car, tidy the garage, sweep the walks and try somehow to finish all the things we didn’t seem to have time for during the work week. Before you know it, Monday’s sunrise forces us to peel our eyes open and grudgingly pull our bones out of bed. It’s easy to feel like a hamster chained to the spinning wheel of produce, accomplish and succeed.

We know that Sabbath rest is a time for us to say, “no” to routine tasks so we can drift into the things that restore our souls and our outlook on life. Worship is one of those things. Picnics, baseball games, gardening, family gatherings, long walks with the dog, and peaceful naps are too. Sabbath is about remembering who we are and Whose we are. It’s a time to remember the One who loves us more than we can ever imagine and, out of gratitude for that love, seeing the world around us as a place to enjoy and nurture. It’s a time to laugh with loved ones and friends. It’s a time for compassion for all of creation. It’s a time to put aside the pressures of the week and remember who and what is important. It’s a time to refresh and restore.

So…what about Monday? The New York Times has reported that more heart attacks happen on Mondays than any other day of the week…a day when we should actually feel ready to meet the challenges that come our way.

The problem with Monday is how we practice Sabbath rest. When my kids were young and played organized sports, they were told, “how you practice is how you play.” Imagine a coach teaching detailed soccer skills at practice in preparation for a tournament. Unfortunately, it’s a basketball tournament. Did the wrong skills become routine? Or, were they headed toward the wrong competition?

The transition between Sabbath and Monday isn’t much different. Sabbath is an opportunity to practice what it means to be human – the kind of human that God intentionally and lovingly created. It’s not about practicing religious legalisms that show nothing except that we know how to follow the rules of our denomination; rather it’s about living life as God longs for us to live it – loving God above all things and loving our neighbor are ourselves. We have scripture and the example of Christ’s life to show us what Sabbath looks like. The Gospels offer stories about Jesus spending his Sabbath laughing with friends, caring for the sick and needy, sharing a meal, extending a hand and offering hope to those who have none – even if those things looked like something that ‘shouldn’t’ be done by a good religious person on a day that’s set aside for Godly things. In all reality, what can be more Godly than showing and sharing compassion?

Our theoretical tournament starts on Monday morning. Do we play the way we practiced? Or do we walk into Monday forgetting our Sabbath lessons? Do we get out our claws and methodically use them to further our position on the corporate ladder? Or forget that we aren’t the only person using the road to get to work? Maybe we tie up the line in the grocery store because we forgot an item and ran back to get it? How about our use of household and laundry products that harm the earth? Ever get frustrated and kick the dog? Do we become so obsessed with our desire to produce that we forget what we supposedly spent time trying to remember just a day or two ago? You know – the whole compassion, caring, loving thing?

You see Monday should be about the game…the one God calls us to play. Yes, production at work is a reality and yes, chores can become mundane and boring. But, if we play the way we practice we will “focus on whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, [we will] think about these things.” (Philippians 4:8) Our actions will then reflect that goodness.

If we neglect those amazing sabbath lessons, we run the risk of letting production and power guide our choices. Throw in a little envy for those who seem to have it better than we do, some contempt for those who we think have wronged us and a bit of prejudice and hostility for the things we think are wrong with the world and we have the perfect recipe for stress, anger and depression…the antithesis of God’s longing and hopes for us.

The thing is, it’s easy to get sucked into life as the world teaches it should be lived. So easy that unless we continuously practice sabbath rest, love and compassion we will fall into the abyss of life according to the gods of power, wealth and productivity.

Which life is on your game card? What will your practice be to prepare you for game-day?

Jesus calls to us in Matthew 11:29 as he says, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

My prayer is to practice the restorative and refocusing Sabbath rest found in living as Jesus calls us to live and to take that foundation with me as I play in this crazy tournament called life.