Posted in Personal Development, Vision & Goal Setting

Time to Recalibrate

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Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done (Genesis 2:3).

For six years you are to sow your fields and harvest the crops, but during the seventh year let the land lie unplowed and unused. Then the poor among your people may get food from it, and the wild animals may eat what is left. Do the same with your vineyard and your olive grove (Exodus 23:10-11).

Then [Jesus] said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27-28).

Dear friends, I am taking the next several weeks off from writing. There is a lot going on in my life that I need to attend to. My youngest son is getting married in a few weeks. My husband and I are also getting ready to sell our home in order to move closer to work.

I love writing. The written word inspires me, and it is a blessing to encourage others with it. It is hard to lay it down, even temporarily. However, in the spirit of the Sabbath, I am taking a break from writing in order to recalibrate.

In our fast paced culture, it is easy to give lip service to the Lord’s instructions to rest. I know that He has established a rhythm of work and rest for my good. However, it so tempting to excuse myself as an exception, and that God will understand why it’s important for me to keep going. Nevertheless, I must not fool myself that I am more than human and am above the Lord’s design.

I appreciate your prayers. It is my hope that I receive fresh vision and direction from the Lord, to continue to love and serve His people.

I invite you to take some time to slow down and recalibrate as well. Open your heart and mind to receive refreshing and renewal from the Lord.

God bless you!

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Posted in Faith, Personal Development

Sometimes It’s Okay to Rest

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I was a mess. For days sickness had visited my household, each of my children suffering from some kind of stomach and intestine bug. I had held vigil around the clock, assisting them as needed and cleaning up afterward, trying to provide some measure of comfort. But I had reached the end of my strength. As I looked around me to assess all the work that needed to be done, I broke into sobs.

I called my husband on the job for some sort of assurance. (This was before cell phones, and getting a hold of him was a feat in itself.) He kindly suggested, “Why don’t you get some rest. The kids are fine right now.”  I hung up the phone, angry at his lack of understanding. I didn’t need rest. I needed to disinfect the house. I needed to plan for the upcoming Sunday worship service. I needed to complete the 25 things on my to do list.

Looking back 20 years, I smile at my absurdity. My husband was right. I really did need rest. I just couldn’t see it then.

So many of us find it difficult to rest. Difficult is probably an understatement. Our culture idolizes busyness. We may not like being so busy, but we accept it as an inevitable way of life. We run on a hamster wheel, not going anywhere, but at least we’re still moving. Sometimes we just need to get off the hamster wheel, stop, and re-calibrate.

Some of us are ambitious and driven. We are intentional about our activities, and prioritize our calendars, but we overestimate our own physical abilities and stamina. Everyone around us suffers, because we are sleep deprived and our blood sugar is low. We keep going until we get the job done, or until we hit the wall of exhaustion, which ever comes first (but the job had better be done when we stop). We need to remember that sometimes it’s okay to rest.

Where has God placed you as a leader? To be an effective leader, you must have rest. You are not meant to carry the weight of the mission on your own shoulders alone. Be faithful and responsible. Do not become prideful and think the mission cannot be accomplished without you. Yes, you are important. No, you are not indispensable. Failure to rest can be a sign of pride and lack of trust in the Lord.

We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps (Proverbs 16:9, NLT).

To be honest, I am writing this as a reminder to myself. I am thankful for my friends who encourage me not to push myself quite so hard, and for my husband who loving mentions when I’ve spent too many late evenings at the office. As you read this, I hope that you are also challenged. Your family, your job, your ministry is a gift from the Lord to steward well. Take time to rest your body and soul, so that you can thrive as a leader.

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You for calling me to follow You in building Your Kingdom. I take your calling seriously and am passionate about fulfilling Your plans. Help me to honor and trust You by taking time to rest. Remind me that I am not in control. You are. I am blessed to partner with You in this great work. Every good and perfect gift comes from You. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Posted in Faith, Personal Development, Servant Leadership

Take Time to Fill Your Cup

There’s a simple life principle: You can’t give what you don’t have. It applies to finances. It applies to time. It applies to experience. And it applies to leadership.

Authentic, servant leaders realize that in order to pour into the lives of others they must first be full. Too often we allow the passion and excitement for God’s call to pull us along. It drives us to put in long hours and sacrifice healthy self-care. We justify our behavior by telling ourselves it’s only for a short time, and that after this (task, event, challenge, etc.) is taken care of we will get back to a sane schedule. Unfortunately our zeal and great intentions will only carry us so far. Without taking time to fill our own cup, we will find ourselves parched, weary, and discouraged.

We may be able to function in performance mode for awhile, but eventually leading on empty will catch up with us.

This is a reminder to take time to fill your cup. Do not continue to work without rest.

There are many ways to fill your cup. Each person is different in what they consider to be life-giving. Some people are replenished by being out in nature and listening for God’s voice; others are refreshed by reading an inspirational book. Regardless of what is meaningful to you, there are some common things we all can do.

Unplug from distractions. Turn off your phone. Take a break from social media. Refrain from using any kind of screens. We weren’t meant to be accessible to others 24/7 or to have our brains electronically engaged non-stop. It’s good to give your mind and spirit some breathing room.

Connect with Jesus. Our Lord has issued an invitation to come and abide with Him. Our call to relationship with Him is higher than any call to leadership, no matter how important our role may be. We can only accomplish His will by spending time in His presence and following His lead.

Spend time with friends. It is important to be with others that love and encourage you, those you do not lead in any capacity. Find people with whom you can be completely yourself and enjoy their company without filling any role.

To thrive as a leader means to lead with a full cup. How full is your cup?

What changes do you need to make to ensure you take time to regularly fill your cup?

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing (John 15:4-5, ESV).

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light” (Matthew 11:28-30, NLT).

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, I rely on You. I need Your strength and wisdom to love and lead as I should. Please help me to hunger and thirst after You. Empower me by Your Holy Spirit to do Your will. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Posted in Faith, Personal Development

Finding a Place of Rest

I have been engaged in an intensely busy season. Full time work, transitioning from church ministry, and preparing to move into a different home have demanded my attention and energy. I am tired. Yet I am acutely aware of the presence of Jesus carrying me through a full schedule. I don’t practice this perfectly, but I have learned that connecting with Jesus daily is crucial to thrive when life is hectic.

Finding that sweet spot with Jesus every day must be a priority. As a personal reminder to myself and to encourage you, I share an allegory about resting in Jesus that I posted previously.

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The Ivory Tower—An Allegory of Rest

I live in an ivory tower. I love it here. It is peaceful. It is quiet, far from the hustle and bustle of the city. There are no people rushing to and fro, no racing the clock to accomplish as much as possible before the day ends, no horns, sirens, and shouting piercing the air. I am safe from the slave driver, mercilessly demanding his servants to put in one more hour, earn one more dollar, exacting productivity at any cost.

It is beautiful in this ivory tower. The soft breeze enters through my open window and dances gracefully through the chamber. The sun smiles, inviting me to sit in golden radiance. Most glorious of all is the voice of my King. I can always hear him.  Sometimes he commands his troops; other times he calms a storm. Sometimes he  rejoices in song, and other times he gently whispers my name. No matter what he speaks, my King imparts his love, his strength, his acceptance, his confidence deep within my soul. You see, he is so much more than my Sovereign. He is my Friend, my Comforter, my Beloved, my Life. He fashioned the ivory tower for me. Then, he beckoned me to join him there, just the two of us. Of course, I accepted.

And yet when I first accepted his invitation, it was not with joy. I liked the city. I thrived on the rush of adrenaline from schedules and deadlines. I was strangely comforted by the demands of the slave driver and derived some sort of pleasure from striving to surpass his goals. But because I was acquainted enough with my King to know that his plans are best, I assented, somewhat unwillingly, to his invitation.

The ivory tower is not at all where I envisioned I would live. I imagined a palace of excitement and lavish living. I would host extravagant parties and entertain people of importance. I would open my palace to the poor, needy, and hurting, offering them food, drink, healing, and hope, and then sending them on their way. It would be the hub of activity, all done in the name of the King. And I would be at the center of it. In my home, I would embody the pinnacle of achievement, success, and generosity in service to the King.

The highlight of festivities in my home would no doubt be when the King would come visit. He would always be welcome, and I would hope he would come often. There would be a special guest room just for him with a secluded parlor so we could visit together, away from the clamor of my company. My mansion would be perfect.

But I never got a mansion. The King found me in the city. I was tired and broken, spent from the endless pursuit of significance. He sat with me, speaking words of life, pouring strength into my weary soul. Then he entreated me to come to his tower, where I would be close to him. Everything I could ever need would be there, and no matter where his travels may take him, I would always hear his voice. My heart was drawn by his tenderness. I was torn between the King and my intense desire that my dwelling, at the very least, be located near the city. That was the life I had known. The sincerity and earnestness of the King’s request captured my attention. I followed him.

The ivory tower was everything the King had said, and even more. I was awestruck by the elegant simplicity of the design. The surrounding gardens were impeccably manicured. It was what the King said, though, that won my affection. “I created this place for you, and I created you for this place.” That was the day when the King truly became my King.

I can leave the ivory tower whenever I please. It is my dwelling place, not a prison. I often visit the residents nearby and invite them to enjoy my King’s presence. But I have learned that I can never journey far from home. I depend on the rest and peace my King provides.

As odd as it sounds, sometimes, even now, I get restless in the ivory tower. Yes, even in the presence of my King. My former dream of palace life comes back to haunt me. Or the old lure of the city demands my attention. The voice of my King blends into the background and, I confess, I get easily sidetracked. Dissatisfaction sets in, and I envy the others that live where I used to be. I even toy with the idea of moving back. But only for a moment. My King silences the clamor and lovingly reminds me where he found me before bringing me here. I come back to my senses and rejoice in the knowledge that the ivory tower was created for me and that I was created for the ivory tower. This is my King’s gift to me, and I am a gift to my King.

I live in an ivory tower. I love it here, because this is where my King and I call home.

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Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly (Matthew 11:28-30 MSG).

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, it is all too easy to get busy and distracted by life. I come to you, the Source of Life. Fill me with Your presence, and pour out Your peace on my heart and mind. Thank You that as I walk with You throughout the day, You carry my burdens and concerns. Help me know that You are near in each and every situation. In Jesus’ name.

Posted in Character, Faith

The Gift of Sabbath

Our culture prizes productivity. People bemoan how tired and busy they are, but they do not stop to evaluate how to live differently. Everyone is caught in this rat race and there is nothing they can do about it. The value of activity and busy-ness has infiltrated the Church. Although Christians may have different Biblical interpretations about Sabbath, most of us would agree that Sabbath is important. However, it is all too easy to give lip service. Yes, we know it is a good thing. However, we are under grace not under the Law. We don’t have to observe Sabbath.

When we approach Sabbath from a legalistic bent, I believe we miss the point. Jesus Christ taught that “the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27 NIV). The Sabbath was created to meet the needs of people to rest and worship. In order to thrive in life and in God’s calling as leaders, it is crucial to invest in our own well being by regularly setting aside time to honor God and enjoy His blessings.

Up until a few years ago, I did not really understand the importance of soul-care. Over time I have learned the power of Sabbath in renewing my soul. If you are still pondering the merits of Sabbath, here are some things to consider.

The Sabbath is a gift from God. During the week of creation in Genesis 1 and 2, God modeled the Sabbath for His children. We were made to work hard for six days, and then cease from work on the seventh day. The day we set aside to rejuvenate is not as important as the rejuvenation itself. Our Creator knows that our bodies need rest. It seems counter-intuitive, but the most productive people are not the ones who burn the candle at both ends, continually pushing themselves beyond their limits. Research shows that the most productive people nap when they are tired, get eight hours of restful sleep at night, and are in tune with the needs of their bodies. Sabbath is a gift, not a restriction. When we enter into a rhythm of rest we function according to God’s design.

The Sabbath emphasizes simplicity. We cannot do everything. In order to incorporate the gift of Sabbath in our lives, we must listen carefully to the Lord about how to arrange our time. There are certainly many good things in which we could be involved. However, we must only say “yes” to the things that are best. That means letting go of things that are good to build margin in our schedules. Life becomes simpler when we guard regular times for rest, relaxation, refreshing activities, and worship. Last year my husband issued a challenge to our congregation. He gave a blank monthly calendar to each family and instructed them to select one day each week on which no work, appointments, or other non-restful activities were scheduled. This exercise helped families to simplify their lives by deciding and focusing on what is really important.

The Sabbath reveals our trust in God. When we take the bold step of incorporating Sabbath in our lives, we affirm that God’s ways are best. We demonstrate that we really believe that He is in control. We can take time to rest and refresh with confidence that the Lord will give us the time and strength we need to accomplish His will. We stop making excuses. We cease our striving to “make things happen,” and learn to lean on Jesus. We discover the joy, peace, and beauty of His presence as we observe Sabbath as an act of worship.

Do yourself a favor…don’t wait until you encounter burnout or health issues that force you to slow down. Do what is necessary to include Sabbath as a life style, and reap the astounding benefits.