A Reason for Sunday–Ecclesiastes 2:22-23

Yesterday, I mentioned the work that Jim performed, transforming a 110-year-old dairy barn into a wonderful home. About a week back, I spoke about the ramp that I was building to allow handicapped access to the deck and therefore the interior of that home. Yesterday, I completed that ramp, applying two sets of boards between the railing and the floor to keep particularly careless scooter drivers from plunging to their deaths off the side.

So, aside from the momentary praise of my wife–which isn’t a bad thing–what do I get out of all the work that I put in on that ramp. For one thing, my bank account is several hundred dollars lighter. For another, and more lasting outcome, I’ll probably see a procession of people with blue handicapped placards in their cars parking at the foot of the ramp and rolling up to bless my home with their presence. Already, my mother-in-law has used the ramp to come over for lunch. What other travails await me?

My biggest chore yesterday was not the installation of those last 12 boards. They went in with little challenge. No, the biggest chore was getting all of the leftover wood and the vast array of tools and screws picked up and taken back to their dwelling place in the basement. As I did all of that, I had some time to think on my ramp.

What does our work give us other than a few dollars that buy transitory things and illusory security?

It will never look better than it does right now. It will never be stronger than it is right now. It will never be more plumb and level than it is right now. If I’m lucky, I won’t have to perform any adjustments, repairs, or reinforcements to the ramp for five years, but those tasks will come. The moment you put wood, even pressure-treated wood, out into the elements, it begins changing, and not for the better. I don’t know if that’s what Solomon had in mind, but it’s what pops into my mind when I read Ecclesiastes 2:22-23:

For what does a person get with all his work and all his efforts that he labors at under the sun? For all his days are filled with grief, and his occupation is sorrowful; even at night, his mind does not rest. This too is futile.

Part of me wants to accuse Solomon of being melodramatic. “You were the king, man! Snap out of this gloomy routine!” I want to shout. I understand what he is saying, but I feel as if he overplays his point. On the other hand, I’ve never been a king.

An old country song might describe the perils of being a king, whose mind does not rest:

How many times have
You heard someone say
If I had his money
I could do things my way.

But little they know
That it’s so hard to find
One rich man in ten
With a satisfied mind.

It seems that most people work at either mind-numbing or back-breaking jobs, or if their work is more in the head, then they can’t lay it down when the end of the shift comes along. And what does our work give us other than a few dollars that buy transitory things and illusory security?

Perhaps the real glory of the Sabbath is that it allows us to take a time out from this pointless work “under the sun” so that we can focus on the One who is beyond the sun.

The Cheapest Home Gym

I love the idea of effectively multitasking. A lot of supposed multitasking just involves task shifting. But there are things we can do while performing some mindless task. I’ve been contemplating a “Standing Desk Workout” for some time. Now along comes Kyle James with “10 Ways to Get a Good Workout…Even with Kids.”

My favorite of these ten ways is dropping to do push-ups while giving the kids a bath. Seriously!

While the kids are in the bath, grab 10 quick push-ups on the bathroom floor. When I first started doing this, I had a hard time doing more than five so I modified the exercise by doing push-ups from my knees. After a couple weeks, I was able to throw in some standard push-ups as well. Once you are able to do more of them, switch to “sets” of push-ups. Three sets of 10, several times a week, will quickly strengthen your abs, backs, triceps, and core all while your child splashes in the tub.

If you don’t mind the general oddness of that, I’m pretty sure that you can manage to do a set of push-ups while simultaneously making sure the kids don’t drown. That’s multitasking and a good stewardship of your time.

Better Homes and Hovels (Hebrews 4:8)

For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day. (Hebrews 4:8)

Three years ago, I moved in at the top of Shamayim Hill, living for the first time in my life, in the sort of place that I’d always dreamed of. After the documents were all signed, somebody–I can’t remember who–handed me the keys and congratulated me on my new home. It was a couple of days later that we actually managed to move in.

Contrary to the “lifestyle” and home improvement ads that we see on TV, life upon coming in to our new home did not consist of shady dinners on the back patio and barefoot romps across painfully green grass.

Instead, we had to eradicate half of the wasps in the western hemisphere and remove somebody else’s junk. One evening, as I walked in to the house from a long day’s efforts, I stopped and thought, “I have enough work to last me until…” I paused and then realized that the work would last forever.

When Joshua stopped the flow of the Jordan River and cleared the way for the people of Israel to enter the Promised Land, he did not take them to a land of ease. Yes, they took possession of orchards they did not plant, but the cultivation of those orchards fell to the new owners. The people of Israel did not enter into God’s rest any more than I entered into a life of rest upon moving here.

My rest will not come from any of the booths at the home show or the promises of glossy TV ads. My rest will not come from some mythical end to all my labors. My rest comes in midst of my labors as I adhere to the God who created me and emulate the Messiah who provided my justification.