Tag Archives: Cat Stevens

Why God Likes Vacations

 By Eugene C. Scott

Where do you go for rest and relaxation?

Is it twelve miles from nowhere up a mountain in the Pecos Wilderness? I’m willing to bet most people don’t consider strapping on a 50 pound backpack and hauling it into the wilds a restful idea.

I mean seriously.

Rest? You have to walk the whole way. There’s no escalator.

Relaxation? There are bears and mountain lions and mosquitos. And dirt. And you eat out of the same pot you cook with and wipe your spoon on your pants when you’re done. And you sleep on the ground in a tent and poop in the woods.

And there’s no Facebook or Twitter.

Still that is exactly what I’m going to be doing over the next few days.

And I will love every inconvenient, dirty, grueling, quiet, slow, peaceful, real minute of it.

A lightness of soul

Why? Mainly because there is a moment after hiking for miles that you shed your heavy backpack and feel a physical lightness that makes you want to grab onto something for fear you might float away. Then later, before crawling into your tent, that physical lightness turns into a lightness of soul as billions of stars salt the night sky. With those stars comes a lightness–a freedom, as if my soul has taken flight and is soaring and breathing again for the first time. To see the vastness of God’s creation–of God himself–is to be reminded I am not in fact the center of the universe. Hunkering down below those mighty peaks and brilliant stars I remember I do not determine the course of world events, or often, even of my own life just as I don’t direct the stars.

Being busy does not equal being important

Up there I know I am not responsible for who becomes president, poverty in Haiti, global warming, or your happiness. That is not to say I do not play a role in these things. I do and so do you. But wilderness tells me in no uncertain terms, you are not all that. 

I believe this is why so many of us have a difficult time unplugging and truly taking time off. We are comfortable in our delusion that we are all that.

“How are you?” we ask one another.

“Busy!” we exclaim. “OMG, you would not believe all the things I have to do.”

But here is what we’re really saying:

“How are you?” we ask one another.

“Important!” we exclaim. “OMG, if I stopped doing what I’m doing for just one second, the entire world (at least the one that revolves around me) would collapse.”

The truth is, however, that our worlds do not collapse when we rest.

God likes vacations

Years ago–at the beginning of human time–God created rest saying, “Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Work six days and do everything you need to do. But the seventh day is a Sabbath to God, your God. Don’t do any work . . . .” Sabbath–taking one day or more off–is God’s gift to us so that we can feel that lightness of soul. So we know that God, not us, is All That.

Modern science is finally catching up with God on this concept. Elizabeth Lombardo, a clinical psychologist who wrote a book titled A Happy You, says, “Taking a break . . . affords you an opportunity to step back, put life into perspective, and remember what’s really important. It helps get your priorities straight.”

And all this time we thought God was trying to be unreasonable and bossy. And the funny–meaning ironic–thing is that Christians are the ones most guilty of believing being busy equals being important. And pastors may be the worst of the worst at unplugging and resting.

Cat Stevens’ (now Yusaf Islam) old song “Miles from Nowhere” speaks of unplugging and getting our priorities straight:

“Miles from nowhere

I guess I’ll take my time

Oh yeah, to reach there

Look up at the mountain

I have to climb

Oh yeah, to reach there.

Lord my body has been a good friend

But I won’t need it when I reach the end.

Miles from nowhere.

Not a soul in sight.

Oh yeah, But it’s alright.”

Eugene and Stasia

For me the beautiful thing about being miles from nowhere and falling asleep under the stars, and marking time based on hunger pains not calendar appointments, and spending several days with a fly rod rather than a key board in my hands is knowing that the world is in God’s hands and not mine. Under that vast dome of stars, I realize true importance comes not from busyness but rather from the fact that the God who created those billion stars and that towering mountain knows my name and has written my story in his book. And this is true whether I am resting or working.

When I return, and you ask me how I am, I hope I answer, “I’m not all that. But it’s alright.”

Eugene C. Scott also believes God likes us to take vacations because it gives God time to clean up the messes we’ve made. Join him in the year The Year of Living Spiritually. You can join the Living Spiritually community by following that blog and clicking here and liking the page. He is also co-pastor of The Neighborhood Church.

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Did God Make a Mistake in How God Created You?

“You sound like Cat Stevens,” my friend Linda told me. I was stunned. Cat Stevens had one of the smoothest, sweetest folk/rock ‘n’ roll voices going. No one had ever told me I had a good singing voice before, much less compare me to someone as talented as Cat Stevens!

I began singing Cat Stevens songs, constantly, especially around Linda. Finally, during a moving rendition of “Moonshadow,” Linda gave me a sharp look and said, “Why are you always singing so loud?”

I stopped mid-note and stared at her. This was not the affirmation I sought.

“Um, you told me I sounded like Cat Stevens,” I said.

“Not your singing voice.” She laughed and shook her head. “Your speaking voice.”

How many of us spend valuable time dreaming and wishing we were somebody other than who we are? All the while missing who and what we really are.

Philosopher and theologian Apostle Paul addressed this very question in chapter 12 to his letter to the Corinthians.

Eugene C. Scott joins Mike in writing A Daily Bible Conversation twice a week.

TODAY’S READING (click here to view today’s reading online)

Esther 4:1-7:10

1 Corinthians 12:1-26

Psalm 36:1-12

Proverbs 21:21-22

INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS

Esther 4:1-7:10: The story of Esther never mentions God. Yet God’s actions are written in between every line of this fantastic story. Esther’s God given beauty places her in the court of King Xerxes. Mordecai is an exile in Susa because God allowed the Jews to be conquered. This situation allows Mordecai to overhear a plot to assassinate Xerxes. His information saves the king’s life. All of this God uses to thwart a plan by one of Xerxes’ court members to exterminate the Jews. All the while God seems hidden.

My question is this: has God seemed hidden between the lines of your story? His name may not be written on each page, but God is still the author and finisher of your life.

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THE WORD MADE FRESH

There’s one reason my dream of being the next Cat Stevens died. I can’t sing. Not a note. Discovering that truth was very disappointing. Like many in my generation, I dreamed of challenging “the man” and changing “the establishment” by writing daring lyrics and becoming the next Bob Dylan or Neal Young. But I couldn’t even sing as well as they. Finally I gave up playing guitar also because I am rhythmically impaired. I can’t chew and chew gum at the same time.

So much for changing the world.

I wrote myself off. Then, in college, I had to take a speech class.

After my first speech my instructor asked me, “Has anyone ever told you you’ve got a great speaking voice? You should go into radio,” she continued.

Suddenly my friend Linda’s Cat Stevens remark took on new meaning. I have since learned God gave me a gift, just not one I at first wanted or understood. I was ignorant about how God wanted to use me. Apparently I’m not alone.

“I don’t want you to be ignorant” about spiritual gifts Paul wrote.

He then goes on to describe how God gifts each of us equally–though equal means value to God and his work not similarity–and gifts each of us uniquely.

But what Paul wants them (us) to focus on is the Gift-giver not the gift. Singing, speaking, healing, prophecy, tongues, leadership are just tools. The Giver of gifts is the key. No carpenter in his right mind points out and brags about his hammer.

Paul’s friend’s in Corinth seemed to be arguing over their version of who got to be Cat Stevens. No one wanted to be the dorky radio announcer. Everyone wanted to speak in tongues; no one wanted the gift of helps. This bickering about who had the coolest hammer, so to speak, divided them, as it does us today.

To make it worse, when we yearn for what gifts God has given others, we miss what God gave us to be and do. This makes us ineffective in our work, leads us to believe we are insignificant in our world, and convinces us God is unfair. God made no mistake in how he created you or me, though we may be mistaken about his design in us.

I don’t know if I sound like Cat Stevens. It doesn’t matter anymore. I’m thankful for who I am and what God gave me to do: communicate–with my voice and life–how God is writing his story of grace and love in our world. I am no longer jealous or disappointed but rather humbled to be of any use to God at all.

  1. What do these for passages share in common?
  2. Where do you see God between the lines of your story?
  3. What has God gifted you with?

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Eugene co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, CO and writes a blog eugenesgodsightings.blogspot.com

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