Don’t Just Do Something

by | Jun 5, 2013 | Uncategorized

Mark Buchanan

I’m thrilled to host one of my all-time favorite authors and Sabbath-keepers — Mark Buchanan. I mean who doesn’t like a pastor who rides a Harley and loves Jesus? He is a Professor of Pastoral Theology at Ambrose Seminary in Calgary and the author of seven books, including The Rest of God: Restoring Your Soul by Restoring Sabbath (Thomas Nelson, 2005). I’m giving away one copy of The Rest of God to one lucky person who leaves a comment. Mark’s books have not only shaped my spiritual pilgrimage but also provide weekly inspiration for the Sabbath Society. Please give Mark a warm welcome.

I became a Sabbath-keeper by being a Sabbath-breaker. Restlessness was killing me. I tried to solve the universal problem of too much to do with too little time by just getting busier, driving harder, working longer. And for a while, it worked. Greater effort translated into higher production.

And then it didn’t. Past a point, the faster I went, the further behind I fell. The harder I toiled, the less I accomplished. And even when this self-task-mastering continued to produce results – an increased quota of bricks! – my pleasure in the accomplishment was nil. The fruit of all my heroic effort was bitterness.

In economics, this is called the law of diminishing returns. In the spiritual life, it’s called stupid.

Pop open your Bible to the 10 commandments – Exodus 20 or Deuteronomy 5. Scan down the page. Look at, say, the 6th commandment, the prohibition against murder. Now the 7th, the admonishment against adultery.

How many words does God take to warn us clear of such things? Depending on the translation, 3 to 5.

Now look at the 4th commandment, the call to Sabbath-keeping. How many words does God use? Depending on the translation, anywhere from 95 to 120.

It seems God is trying to make a point. I think it might be this: really pay attention to my gift of rest. Receive it. Enjoy it. Bask in it. Delight in it. Treasure it. Make it a high priority. Oh, and also, don’t kill people, steal from people, sleep with other people’s spouses, covet their stuff, that sort of thing. But I don’t need to say too much about all that, as long as you’re well rested. Just keep Sabbath, and Sabbath will keep you.

The irony is that most Christians who wouldn’t dream about breaking the 6th commandment routinely break the 4th.  No Christian would publically confess to adultery, but I often hear Christians bragging or lamenting that they haven’t had a day off in 3 weeks.

And then we wonder why we’re so angry, lustful, covetous, and the like.

I’m going to ask you to do us all a favor: get some rest. Take Sabbath. Receive the day. It’s about the least selfish thing you can do. It will make you more productive, more creative, more pleasant to be around.

And you’ll be less likely to kill somebody.

That’s a good gift to a hurting world.

So, really, don’t just do something. Stand there. Or even better, go lie down.

Mark BuchananMark Buchanan and his wife Cheryl live on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, and are soon moving to Calgary, Alberta. They have three children. Educated at UBC and Regent College, Mark is a pastor, professor, speaker, and the author of seven books as well as the forthcoming novel, David. He has also written numerous articles for Christianity Today, Faith Today, Leadership Journal, Discipleship Journal, Conversations, Seven and several other magazines. He enjoys scuba diving, fishing, and motorcycles.

Are you a Sabbath-keeper? What keeps you from taking a day of rest? Join the Sabbath Society, more than 100 people who say, “I’m all in,” when it comes to observing a day of rest and receive weekly encouragement delivered quietly to your inbox. Leave a comment on today’s post to enter a drawing for Mark’s book, The Rest of God. A winner will be announced on Friday.

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  1. Elizabeth

    Thank you Mark and Shelly for words of encouragement to restore, recharge, relax and rejuvenate ourselves. (I miss Mayberry 🙂 ) There really is something to that porch rocking and just “wasting time” though there is nothing wasteful about idle time on the Sabbath.

  2. Carolyn Counterman

    Definitely something to think about. Hoping God shows our family (all 11 of us in one home) a way to rest together.

    • Mark Buchanan

      Thanks, everyone. What a great company you all are. I’ve been refreshed & inspired reading through your responses. Thanks for that – and thanks, Shelly, for carving out room for me on your blog.

  3. Sarah

    I’ve never intentionally focused on resting…taking a Sabbath day. Sundays are low key mostly, but not necessarily by my doing. Hmm…going to need to read more about this…and check out the Sabbath Society. Thanks for sharing!

    • Shelly Miller

      Sarah, we’d love to have you. It’s a great way to get some encouragement to rest when everything is tugging toward busyness.

  4. HisFireFly

    I like the way Mark calls it “gift of rest” —
    How can I refuse to receive the gift He offers?

  5. ThandiweW

    Selah and Amen. Once I started keeping Sabbath (thanks, Shelly) I became a nicer person. My family liked me better. I liked me better. I had greater reverence for so much. This is good stuff; a genuine blessing. Thank you, Mark, for the balm in your words. Thank you, Shelly, for being who and Whose you are.
    Chasing Grace and Peace,

    • Shelly Miller

      So glad to have you along the journey. What a privilege it is to see the way observing Sabbath is transforming your life.

  6. ro elliott

    Rest…to cease striving in our performance driven culture….the Rest of God…amen….enter into our sabbath rest…for me….it is more of an inward work….manifesting itself outwardly….thanks for the opportunity to win the book…

  7. kelli woodford

    this is so good, y’know? i’m reading lately about our culture of scarcity. how we never think we have enough and we’re always afraid to lose what we *might* have. the answer we are handed seems to be to “keep after it” and “get more” – but i love what you said, Mark, that in the spiritual life, it’s called stupid.

    these are good words. thank you for sharing, Mark, and Shelly, thanks for hosting.

  8. Mia

    Dear Mark
    This reminds me than man was not created for the Sabbath, but Sabbath for the man to take one day of rest! It is a gift from our God’s hands. We should not make a law out of the day we took off to rest, but we should see the common sense in resting on one day a week!

  9. Tanya Marlow

    Hi Mark
    I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about work and rest, and the balance of it recently. I have severe M.E., which means I spend much of my day in bed, resting. I am not well enough to go to church: my church is a mixture of online and home visits. My rhythms are different to most people’s, but it is the principle that is the same. Sounds like an important book.

    Shelly – nice to connect with you via Emily!

  10. Lisa notes...

    I love this advice, Mark:

    “So, really, don’t just do something. Stand there. Or even better, go lie down.”

    I have been *attempting* to do that more and more the past few years, but I need constant reminders like this to just stop. Rest. Soak in the Lord’s presence. Thanks for sharing today.

  11. Jillie

    I agree with Mia–We must not make “Sabbath” into some kind of Law–but we simply must have one day a week where we rest, recharge, restore. You have so eloquently shown here, Mark, how vitally important this is to our Maker, and how vitally important we need to make “Sabbath” for ourselves. We become, quite simply, better people for making rest our focus for one single day of our week. I love the way you write, Mark, and I hope to see guest posts from you here at Shelly’s again. Love that you love Harley’s–Best bikes ever made!

  12. janetb1

    Thank you. Wonderful words of wisdom.

  13. DeanneMoore

    Thanks for the encouragement. I find that I really keep the Sabbath on the day I give God the “rest” of me. I always try to remember that God’s commands are for our good. I can stiff arm the One who wants to sit a while with me. That’s pretty incredible isn’t it? Praying for a heart to keep the Sabbath.

  14. Starla K Smith

    No rest makes for bedraggled people with touchy nerve endings!~ Great post!
    I have noticed REST as a theme word lately…we either rest or resist its our choice

    • Shelly Miller

      Rest or resist, I like that Starla. And it really is our choice isn’t it?

  15. jennifer hansen

    My husband and I have been keeping Sabbath for nearly fifteen years, but this encouraged me none-the-less, because it isn’t an easy thing to keep (not nearly as easy as not killing people)… Can’t wait to read his book.

    • Shelly Miller

      You will love this book Jennifer. I re-read it and never get tired of Mark’s words.

  16. Sandra Heska King

    Rest time is not less time. It’s not wasted time. As a recovering doer, it’s taken me a long time to embrace this–not just intentionally on one day a week but as a lifestyle. In the resting, I give Him the rest of me as Dea says, and He gives me the rest of Him–and I become more. Thank you, Mark. And Shelly, I already have this book. It’s well worn.

  17. Lynn Morrissey

    Shelly, thank you so much for the gift of Mark today, and Mark, thank you so much for saying, “Yes”! And thank you for saying yes to rest. Before your post, I had never realized the extent of God’s emphasis on it, and that’s a powerful reminder of its importance. Interestingly, the Lord gave me a baby girl when I was forty as a way to give me rest. I had been the executive director of a large non-profit that translated often into sixty-hour work weeks. To top it off, I added to that crushing load leading Bible studies and community work. I rarely saw my husband and extended family, and I was worn to a frazzle. Enter God’s surprise–a surprise pregnancy. God showed me so clearly after I had Sheridan, that I needed to let go the career and come home to raise her. And while many would not associate an infant, then toddler, with Sabbath rest, my pace slowed dramatically as I experienced life at her slowed-down, wonderstruck, all-discovering, everything-is-new-and-it-takes-time-to-explore-it pace. I have never returned to franticness for the past twenty years. Your opening line here is arresting, and I never realized with such force till you wrote it, that I, too, was a Sabbath breaker. I don’t like the sound of that. And you know what, Mark? Being one nearly broke me. So thank you for writing this book which has inspired Shelly’s Sabbath sojourning. You are both helping people to slow down to savor God, and it seems to me that that is what true, deep, restorative rest is all about–savoring the Lord, coming to Him, all we who are weary and heavy-laden and just lying down at His feet and knowing that He will give us real rest for our souls.
    Please keep writing when you’re not resting. I love your depth and lyricism, and loved reading Your God Is Too Safe. And you know what, Mark? I’ll just bet that God gives you breathtaking ideas for your writing when you’ve rested long enough to hear Him. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR TODAY’S POST!!!! It’s so meaningful.
    Lynn Morrissey

  18. Denise J. Hughes

    “I tried to solve the universal problem of too much to do with too little time by just getting busier, driving harder, working longer.”

    Ah, yes, the universal problem — and most common solution — indeed. To submit to God’s prescribed plan for rest seems counter-intuitive, but so much of Christ’s example was counter-intuitive too. It requires,at first, a step of faith, an act of obedience. And it’s so amazing what God shows us once we’ve truly entered into Sabbath.

    Thank you for the words you pen and thoughts you share.

  19. Crystal

    I was convicted of this after reading Hebrews 4… verse 11 sums it up (“Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.”), though the rest of the chapter is a great meditation on why it’s so darn important to keep a Sabbath. I never had equated “lack of rest” with “lack of trust.” And with disobedience. Not wanting to be a legalist, I had thought that the Old Testament laws were done away with in Christ, I mean, now the new law is “love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself,” right? But loving God is trusting Him, and a bitter, stressed-out person for sure has a hard time loving one’s neighbor. Thanks for posting this.

    • Shelly Miller

      I love your thoughts here Crystal, so glad you left a comment. Thank you.

  20. Laura Boggess

    When I think of Sabbath as a gift, it changes everything, doesn’t it? Such wisdom in these words. I’m still chewing on the law of diminishing returns. Feeling a little like my toes have been stepped on there…trying to figure out a way to come up for air. Thanks for this, Shelly. For hosting Mark and for your continual encouragement to keep Sabbath.

  21. Kelly Greer

    You got it! And I am cracking open my bible to read those ten comandments again just to see them in the light you shed on them today. “Come unto me all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest”……Yes, Lord, Yes!

    • Lynn Morrissey

      Kelly….told you you would love it here. I am amazed at how God used an “enforced” rest in your life in such deeply productively spiritual ways. You are one of the most precious saints in the Lord I know, who deeply rests and abides in your Savior! I learn so much from you!!

      • Kelly Greer

        Lynni – You right! You right! And, I do love you too! You have a way of bringing out the best in me:-) Thank you dear friend!

  22. IfMeadowsSpeak

    I’m more of a Mary-type, so Sabbath rest comes quite easily. My husband, however, a definite Martha-type who is diligent about task-keeping. We have a perfect balance, however, between the two of us. Not that there are just two types, but it does help. So this Sabbath rest is very helpful for my Hubs, who is finally starting to get it, take it, and try to actually enjoy it {with or without guilt}.

  23. Lyli Dunbar

    Mark: Well said. Nice bike.

    Shelly: This book has been on my wish list for a while. Pick me. PIck me pretty please… 🙂

  24. Denise

    So true!

  25. floyd

    I was one that used the Sabbath as my secret weapon, while others rested I worked to get ahead. Since we belong to our Father their is no such thing as short cuts. He will not be mocked. The time spent “wearing myself out,” as Solomon warned against in Proverbs, is exactly what happened… Rest, wisdom, and true riches can’t be measured by a number… it has more value than can be calculated in God’s economy. Well said. Thanks.

    • Lynn Morrissey

      I knew you’d relate to Mark. Wow, secret weapon! Only you could put it that way, Floyd. I’m so glad for your wife and precious daughters that you have learned to Sabbath-rest. My beloved father worked two full-time jobs for thirteen years, and it nearly killed him. Sadly, we saw very little of him growing up, b/c he had not learned to rest. I’m so glad you have!

      • floyd

        Thanks, Lynn. Good call. Mark’s great and I always appreciate Shelly’s word-smithing. My dad was much like yours, providing via hard work was their way of loving… I was a “Cat’s in the Cradle” analogy as well. Glad I got a smidgen of wisdom before I missed it all.

        • Lynn Morrissey

          I know what you know, but it’s a very good reminder to hear it….that they did it out of big hearts of love. They called it providing. Thank you for underscoring that!

  26. rachel lee

    This is a good, good thing to focus on. This week, my husband and I actually found ourselves in a fight because I wanted to get up and go do something on a Sunday afternoon when he was utterly desperate for a time of rest. I’m bad at resting, I’m bad at taking time off for myself.

    This is most certainly the thing I need to take away from this, this week. God bless you, Mark!

    visiting from Emily’s place of imperfect prose. <3

  27. Nikki

    The gift of rest…now what adult –parents especially– in their right mind refuses a day off? And He offers one each week…even makes it a commandment so I don’t have to come up with excuses or feel guilty…

    Crazy how now that I’ve taken Him up on it, my other 6 days are more productive…why, even the rings under my eyes diminished! and I haven’t hurt anyone yet;)

    • Shelly Miller

      So glad you won Mark’s book Nikki, I know it will bless you.

  28. Emily Wierenga

    LOVE this. Just, thank you. Both of you. For giving us permission to breathe.

  29. Kris Camealy

    I’m so thankful for the conviction and reminder to really embrace and participate in the Sabbath. Of course I’ve known it for years, and ignored it, by way of excuses for the 100 reasons why I dont have time to take time off from working. So thankful for this reminder–it is always needed here.

  30. MsLorretty

    Needed this more than I can ever tell. Living this day by day is the only way.

  31. Emily

    If I am totally honest, I am not a true Sabbath-keeper. I’d like to think I am, but busy creeps in, another week goes by and I have not really rested. This must change. Thank you for the encouragement to do this!

    • Shelly Miller

      Emily, we’d love to have you in the Sabbath Society if you need encouragement to observe rest each week. We all struggle with busyness that creeps in and bullies our days.Sometimes having community helps a discipline stick.

      • Emily

        Thank you for your warm welcome. I am looking forward to being a part of the Sabbath Society.

  32. pastordt

    I Love This. Thanks so much, Shelly and Mark, for this strong encouragement to slow down, to be and stop doing for a while. Why is this so dang hard for most of us??

    • Shelly Miller

      I’m on a pilgrimage to make rest more hip than busyness Diana. So it won’t be so hard. That busyness is a bully.

  33. Melissa Anthony

    My husband and I have been trying our best to intentionally take a sabbath each week. Sometimes it’s a fight with myself to not do laundry or clean the bathroom, but I try to remind myself that if I can trust God with 10% of my finances, I should also be able to trust Him with 1/7th of my time.

    • Melissa Anthony

      Oh, and I’m visiting from Imperfect Prose!

    • Shelly Miller

      Melissa, if you need encouragement to keep at it, we’d love to have you in the Sabbath Society. Sometimes disciplines are easier accomplished in community.

  34. soulstops

    Love! This is the best exegesis I have read on the commandment to rest…Thanks, Shelly 🙂

  35. Dena Dyer

    I am reading “The Rest of God” right now and am loving it. My favorite insight so far was the fact that the Chinese join two characters to form a single pictograph for busyness: heart and killing. Wow. Thanks, Mark, for writing the book, and encouraging me to go deeper with God and deeper into His rest. I love the way you write–it’s beautiful; so lyrical yet accessible.

    • Shelly Miller

      Love knowing you are reading it already Dena. Isn’t he a fantastic writer?

  36. Amanda Johnston Hill

    I never really sat this long to think about what it means to really cherish the Sabbath -good words for me to sit with and really ponder. Thank you both!

  37. Patricia W Hunter

    I didn’t understand Sabbath until I moved my bedridden mother in with us and cared for her until her passing a year and half later. She required 24/7 care – more so than the 3 children I was homeschooling. It didn’t look at all like the Sabbath I thought I knew or the one I experience today, but God led me into a way of Sabbath keeping on the Lord’s Day – even when I was the only person, besides my mother, of course, who couldn’t go to church – that paved the way for making the keeping of Sabbath in our home a priority and to know that God’s ways are for His glory and our good.

    Thank you, Shelly and Mark. My husband drives a Harley. That alone would make Mark’s book a treasure in our home. =)

    • Shelly Miller

      You know, I’m not surprised your husband drives a Harley Patricia. You just seem like the wife of a man who rides a Harley. Hip and confident.

      • Patricia W Hunter

        Oh, Shelly…you are hilarious!!! But I’ll tuck that “hip and confident” into my memory bank for the many days I feel much less than and remind myself, “But Shelly said….” xox BTW, my ringtone for my husband’s incoming calls is a motorcyle revvv. Isn’t technology grand?

  38. Ashley Tolins Larkin

    I need to be reminded of this again and again. I am like one of those “faithful” 10 Commandment followers who routinely does not rest. There should be no pride about this, but sadly in the past there has been. I’m coming to believe that part of the freedom Jesus desires to give is through his rest. And that it is far from selfish. It is the very rest God spoke about in the beginning…the rest that draws us closer to his own heart. Thank you for this, Mark and Shelly.

  39. Sylvia R @

    I wanted to wait to comment till my husband got to read this, too. We both loved it!

    Favorite lines: “In economics, this is called the law of diminishing returns. In the spiritual life, it’s called stupid.”


    “…do us all a favor: get some rest. Take Sabbath. Receive the day. It’s about the least selfish thing you can do. It will make you more productive, more creative, more pleasant to be around. And you’ll be less likely to kill somebody.”

    It’s true! I know it’s true!

    • Shelly Miller

      Sylvia, those were my favs too. So glad to have you along the journey. And I’m smiling about waiting to comment until your husband read it. Love that!

  40. Duane Scott

    I don’t know this writer but I’m about to. Adding his book to my “to read” list.

    I think I’ll go take a nap. 🙂

  41. Lisa Kerner

    We began taking the Sabbath as a sort of forced day off… living in Europe, enough said. We begrudgingly took the day of rest, as Americans we complained that life shut down on Sundays. But then, it became life and life would be living ciaos without it now. And now, now that we’re back in the US I see myself getting caught up in the business of Sabbath.

    A little honesty, I wasn’t going to share this on my sight but now I am, because DUH, it’s good stuff! Especially this, ” No Christian would publically confess to adultery, but I often hear Christians bragging or lamenting that they haven’t had a day off in 3 weeks.” And now, I think I need to read the book, because I need the reminder of why Sabbath is so valuable!!

    • Shelly Miller

      Living in Europe is on my bucket list Lisa. I probably idealize living there but I love the lifestyle I hear about and engage with when we visit. Thanks for your honesty too, its refreshing. You’ll love the book. Mark’s writing is beautiful.

  42. bettymk

    Great topic! I don’t always manage to take a day each week but I do insure at least a few hours of downtime each week. I also make it a point to take a silent retreat annually. I cannot recommend anything more rejuvenating and reviving for the spirit!

  43. April

    Thank you SO much for this post. Just what I needed to hear. Such encouragement! I plan on reading The Rest of God.

    • Shelly Miller

      So glad this was a timely message for you April. You will love the book.

  44. Marjory Zaik

    Thanks for the inspiration to return to a habit I have not practiced since childhood.

    • Shelly Miller

      I know Marjory. We did this as kids as part of the natural rhythm of life didn’t we? Now everything is scheduled and intentional if we want it to happen. Glad you were inspired.

  45. cheryl

    I relate to the comment about being as Sabbath breaker. I had to come to the end of myself before I would look a how the Sabbath is really important part of living fully and well.

  46. Elizabeth Stewart

    Oh my, I didn’t realize how much I needed to read this! It put sabbath in a whole different perspective for me. And oh, can I take that rest on Vancouver Island please…one of my very favorite get away spots!

    • Shelly Miller

      It’s one of my favorites too Elizabeth. We took our honeymoon there and our tenth anniversary. Beautiful.

  47. Laura @ Pruning Princesses

    I am not familiar with Mark Buchanan. I will have to add him to my stack of books. We keep a 3/4 Sabbath. Most of the time. Kids sports have pretty much grabbed Sunday as an open day. It’s like having a foot in both worlds.

    • Shelly Miller

      I’ve read all seven of his books Laura, you will love his writing.

  48. Amy Hunt

    YES! I get this! and, I’m ready now . . . all in!

    • Shelly Miller

      So glad to have you Amy!

  49. Janis Cox


    Right on. I am now taking every seventh week of blogging – OFF. And I also take Sunday – no computer, no work but I do love gardening, sewing and painting so those are allowed. I haven’t been fully committed to my Sabbath Sunday – as I check emails, and link for my post Sunday Stillness – but very little computer. And no shopping – I try not to shop. I am not legalistic. I want to relax with my decisions on how God wants me to rest in Him.

    But the most important thing is always a morning time with God and a few stops through the day to breathe in the Spirit.

    We have NO excuse for being tired, frustrated, angry. We make the decisions. So YES to adding in Sabbath rest.

    Heading to Write!Canada next week with peace, patience and eyes wide open to see where God leads.


    • Shelly Miller

      I’m enjoying no screens on Sabbath too Janis. And I’m hearing more people say they are taking intentional weeks of sabbatical from blogging. Good food for thought. Thanks for stopping by.

  50. Beck Gambill

    Great post, I love it – get some rest and you’ll be less likely to kill somebody! Isn’t that the truth! Mark has been one of my very favorite writers for several years, thanks for sharing this!

    • Shelly Miller

      So glad you stopped by Beck. It was great to connect with you here and through email.

  51. Nancy Ruegg

    Love the humor with which Mark makes his point. That word “bitterness” caught my attention. It’s so true that pushing ourselves to exhaustion brings out this emotion. Why have I done this to myself? Foolish, indeed.

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