The Truth About Sloth

I have had the nickname Sloth since I was a teenager. There are people in college that probably never knew that my real name was Scott.

You would have to ask my friend David why he started calling me Sloth but apparently the name fits my approach to life and general countenance. It is interesting that Sloths are trending now. You can’t walk into a store without seeing stuffed Sloths, t-shirts with Sloths on them, or flip around the web and not see sloth videos and sloth references.

Strangely enough, the term sloth also makes the list of deadly sins. This has obviously nothing to do with the animal but is a life characterized by lack of motivation and effort. But are we just talking about work ethic and productivity?

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Rebecca DeYoung, in her book Glittering Vices, points the reader to the ancient Christian view on sloth. That the vice of sloth is not just a lack of diligence but a lack of diligence in matters of the faith. It is the unwillingness to work to care for Growing Up.

This lack of effort is a demonstration of a limited level of love for God. For if love for God was truly present then the person would have the motivation to work on their spiritual life and apply the discipline to take on hard tasks for the benefit of God and our own development. DeYoung states, “Both inner and outer manifestations of sloth are thus linked to one’s religious commitment and one’s attitude toward the demands of the spiritual life.”

And it is not just the couch potatoes that can be accused of slothfulness. The over-busy and the go-go overachievers can be just as slothful because in their constant effort towards productivity and industriousness they fail to take the time or the intention to devote themselves to God and develop into Christlikeness.

How does one remedy a slothful tendency to neglect love’s demands on our self? One thing that can be done is to stop treating God as a means to get what I want without any personal responsibilities of my own. Just like an effective marriage requires work and effort and sacrifice to cultivate the relationship, our commitment to God is not all mountain tops and worship highs and comfort zones. We need to take the long view and develop a sense of intention that sees past the immediate for the greater reward of a lasting, sustainable, and eternally rewarding commitment.

I am proud of my nickname for it reminds me of those incredibly interesting, monklike creatures but it also reminds me of the necessity of commitment, true love, and even sacrifice needed for a healthy Christian life.

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How My Journey As A Chick-Fil-A Cow Led To An Exercise In Faith

The last two years has been a pile-on of difficult, trying, desperately sad, and draining circumstances.

About a year ago, I began searching for a healthy escape, an outlet, that was not going to be dangerous to my health, my spiritual growth, or my family. Sometime in the Spring, I saw an announcement on Facebook calling for auditions for a Chick-Fil-A promotion called the Herd of Cows. This marketing team needed more people to serve as Chick-Fil-A Cows (in full costume) at birthday parties, sporting events, and community gatherings. Beyond my need for an outlet, I was instantly intrigued. One of my secret ambitions has been to be a professional sports mascot. Sometimes at games, I almost spend more time watching the mascot as I do the actual action on the field. This was my chance to fulfill a dream and to do something a little crazy and maybe let off some steam and frustration.

The audition turned out to be more a training than a rigorous assessment of my mascot chops. I was in and was ready to attend my first event. But there was one big problem.

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When I put on the cow head for the first time, I panicked. I didn’t expect to not be able to see, to not be able to breathe¬†very well, and for the tight, trap like quarters that giant head would present. Even writing this description gives me a slight sense of dread and unease bordering on panic. The claustrophobia was real and I had the base desire just to tell everyone thanks for the chance to do this but no thanks on the actual costume and that I had made a poor choice. Maybe I wasn’t cut out for this. Still, I wasn’t going to give up that easily.

It would be a month before I had a chance to participate in my first event, so I had time to work on my anxiety and develop some kind of strategy to overcome this. I was determined. I wasn’t going to let this tiny thing ruin something I knew I would enjoy and if I could overcome this, I would have a testimony about not being defeated by fear and anxiety.

My anti-anxiety regiment leading up to my first event included listening to inspirational podcasts, exercise, hot baths, and visualization. Yes, I went all in on this thing, as I am prone to do. But the single most effective means of overcoming my claustrophobia was something I had already been doing and had done in previous high stress situations Рmeditation and the Jesus Prayer. On the day of my first event, I laid down, closed my eyes, began breathing slowly and reciting the Jesus Prayer:

Lord, Jesus Christ,

Son of God,

Have mercy on me,

A sinner.

I would say the first two lines on my inhale and the last two on my exhale and just repeat for the time allotted. I don’t believe in magic formula prayers or some kind of repetitive number of prayers that will bring a resolution to a problem but in my base fear and human anxiety I needed something short, easily repeatable, soul-stirring, and rhythmic.

The meditation session was helpful and I was relaxed and ready to give this a go. And the beauty of this prayer is that I could repeat it very easily in the midst of putting on the costume and doing the thing. So throughout the lead up to the event and as it began to be showtime, I just kept saying the prayer and it remind me that God is with me, that I am perfectly safe in his hands.

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The time came to put on the head and the rush of panic started but I kept breathing, began intentionally noticing the things around me to get my bearings, and praying. The last thing I remembered as the doors opened and I had to perform was the thought, “Lord Jesus Christ…I am a cow.” As soon as my “hoofs” hit the ground there was no anxiety, no panic, and I was in the moment and having a great time.

I danced, I played tag with the kids, I pretended to want to eat all of the birthday cake, and tried to swing in a tire swing in my giant costume. I did it and it was tremendous fun and a big achievement for me. I did not let anxiety overcome me, I trusted God down to the second and let him answer my prayers, all for the chance to be a cartoonish cow for 30 minutes. It all was ludicrous yet glorious at the same time. I learned that God desires our good and wants to help us, even in the most silly of costumes.

Books, Music, Podcasts and Practices That Helped Me Grow Up in 2018

If 2016 was full of challenging and unwanted surprises and 2017 was full of struggle and hardship, 2018 may have been worse. But each moment of pain and disappointment was met with a moment of sweet discovery and refreshment from the Lord. God uses music to comfort and inspire me; he uses books to inject wisdom and awareness; and even technology to shape and structure my days. Here is a list of what God used this year to help me Grow Up.

Music

Waylon Live – Jennings was from the same home town as my parents, Littlefield, Texas. I have always been more of a Willie guy but this album is pure country rock and one great song after another. I can’t say any of the songs helped me Grow Up but each time I listened to it, I got a little buzzing in my chest and was able to break the scales off of some of my stress for the day. Music has the power to sooth and ease a burdened spirit, this album did it for me.

Podcasts

Renovare PodcastEpisode 111– I ended up listening to this podcast several times and even played it for my staff at a moment of deep despair and hurt. This episode is full of wonderful stories of the great saint Corrie Ten Boom. We can never be reminded enough that God is more powerful than our circumstances and deeper than our lowest points.

Things Above – I talked about this podcast recently and make a point of listening to it weekly. Hosted by AE creator James Bryan Smith, the focus is on mind discipleship, where we place our mind. Most episodes are less than 20 minutes and full of holy thoughts and keen insight to help with the spiritual life’s most difficult task – setting our minds on things above.

Tim Ferriss Show – Episode 319 – This is a special episode where Ferriss plays clips from the audio version of Ryan Holiday’s book, The Obstacle is The Way. I faced a debilitating fear during the summer that I desperately wanted to overcome. I listened to this episode over and over to help me to see that fear wasn’t going to win and if I could work through this, I would have a great sense of accomplishment and growth.

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Photo by Perfecto Capucine on Pexels.com

Technology

Kindle, Audible, Readwise – As a librarian, you would think that I would be partial to the printed work and in some ways I am. This year, though, I embraced eBooks and Audiobooks like never before.

Audible allows me to listen to books on my way to work, while Kindle allows me to always have books with me while keeping a better record of what stood out for me in the text.In addition, I discovered that my Kindle stores all of my highlights in one spot, so I can scroll through them without having to go page by page looking for highlighted sections. When I finished the Apprentice Experience, I went back through all of our readings and re-read my highlights using the Kindle. I don’t think I would have done this with paper copies.

Then, just last month, I discovered Readwise. This app accesses your Kindle highlights and sends you five randomly selected highlights in a daily digest email. I look forward to reading these everyday and have started to share some of my favorites on Social Media.

Practices

Miracle Hour – This manual for spending an hour with God has been exactly what I was looking for. Worship, scripture, confession, and surrender, it is all here. I have only done the full hour once but I will take one section a day and devote about 10 minutes to it as part of my meditation time. If you have the desire for a deeper devotional life but need structure to make it work, this practice is for you.

Small Group – God orchestrated the creation of a small group at my workplace with very little effort or organizing on my part. In fact, people started to approach me out of the blue to make it happen. This was a classic case of if it is to be, it will not be from me. I just facilitated what God was already doing and provided a little intention to it, God did the rest and our times together have been wonderful, convicting, encouraging, and Spirit-filled. This has been one of the great treasures of my year.

Books and Reading

Articles – I always think that I will have added time in my day to read articles that I have discovered while browsing the internet and social media. I often collect things to read that I never get around to. This year, I made a point to read one short article (about 3-8 minutes) and 10 minutes of a longer article on a regular basis (about 3 times a week). This has given me access to great stories, important issues, and helpful wisdom.

As Kingfisher’s Catch Fire, Eugene Peterson – A collection of Peterson’s sermons from his more than 35 years of pastoring a church, As Kingfisher’s Catch Fire helped me connect with scripture in new and fresh ways and helped me see God more and more in the day-to-day of life. I finished this just before Peterson died in October. I am glad I was able to appreciate him to such an extent in his final moments on this earth.

Becoming Dallas Willard, Gary Moon – I approached this book with caution. Being such a devotee of Willard, I was preparing myself to be disappointed or underwhelmed. Plus, I knew so much about him, I thought I would appreciate the book but not discover anything particularly new. Instead, I was transformed by the book and inspired to live a more personal, direct life with Christ. God working in and through Willard is miraculous and also rather ordinary, just they way all of us should want God to work in and through us.