Tag: sabbath

Running on empty

When I started driving at age 16, I bought a little Toyota Tercel. It was old at the time. It was a little beat up, and if you wanted to make it up a big hill you had to turn the A/C off. But I didn’t care. I was proud of that thing.

I remember one day pulling in to a gas station to get a drink. I had half of a tank of gas left, but figured that since I was there, I might as well fill up. I noticed it took longer than normal to fill up. Thinking it was just a slow pump, I went on.  A couple of weeks later, I was still at 3/4 of a tank but decided to fill up again. It took a long time again.

empty

empty

As I pulled out, the gauge jumped from full to empty to full. I pulled over to the side of the road.

I didn’t know what was going on, and I was just praying I would make it home. As I looked down at the gas gauge again, it was full. Completely.

And I was confused. Completely.

The next day, I was on empty again. But before I could pull in to the station, the needle had gone back to full.

What was happening was the mechanism that controlled the needle telling me how much gas I had in the tank was broken. So on a 10 minute drive across town, I would go from full to empty a dozen times. It was maddening. And anxiety-producing.

When I thought I was full of gas, I’d been running on empty.

Are you running on fumes?

It’s entirely possible that you’re running on fumes but you don’t know it. It’s possible you could be out of fuel but think you’ve got a full tank. Cruising around town, you’re about to have to call a tow truck.

If you’re a leader, you’re in an even greater danger of not just taking yourself out of service, but taking others with you. 

God has given us some gauges to help us know whether our spiritual tanks are full or not.

Sometimes they are broken (though more often than not, the problem is that we choose to ignore the warning signs). I’ve found that some of the best gauges are actually questions you can ask yourself.

5 ways to know you’re running on empty

1. How’s your family?
Start with this question. Because your family (or those closest to you) know you often better than you know yourself. And they’re a great indicator for you. If they’re worn out, but you don’t feel that way, your gauge might be broken. You may be physically, emotionally, and spiritually running them ragged. Check that gauge.

Our hearts deceive ourselves, and we need others to help us see what we’re blind to. Those that know us best can help. Have you ever asked them?

2. Are you growing more anxious?
The Bible says to be anxious about nothing, (Philippians 4:6-7) which is easier said than done. We can easily find ourselves anxious about everything. Finances, job security, spiritual growth, physical health, parenting issues, retirement, and tomorrow’s to-do list keep you up all night.

If you’re growing anxious, you’re running on empty.

3. Are you growing less patient?
Patience is a sign of peace. And peace is a sign of rest. And rest is a product of  intentionally sabbathing.

Better a patient person than a warrior,
one with self-control than one who takes a city. – Proverbs 16:32

If you find yourself with a short fuse, with patience constantly out of reach, you’re closer to *empty* than you think.

4. Are you resting well?

And I don’t just mean “are you sleeping enough,” though that may be part of it.

Are you working so hard you need the rest? And resting so well you need the work?

5. Are you feeling less fulfilled?
Fulfillment comes from doing what God created you to do. That’s based on your spiritual gifts, your heart, your abilities, your personality and experiences (HN: Class 301 at Saddleback). So your interpreting a lack of fulfillment isn’t your job’s fault. Or your marriage’s. Or your local church’s. Or your home’s. It’s a by-product of a heart that’s searching for fulfillment in the wrong places. Here’s where life’s found:

And this is what God has testified: He has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have God’s Son does not have life. – The Apostle John, 1 John 5:11-12

A lack of fulfillment should signal to you that your gauge should be on empty. Time to fill  up.

Have you been running on empty and didn’t even know it?

 

 

Work for the rest

At the box where I do Crossfit, we have this concept called “work for the rest.” We do workouts occasionally that are a prescribed amount of time, with a rest, then repeat. So that would look like this:
3 minutes of burpees
1 minute of rest
3 minutes of pull-ups
1 minute of rest
3 minutes of seated row
1 minute of rest

Photo cred: me Photo spot: CrossFitReform.com

Photo cred: me
Photo spot: CrossFitReform.com

So the idea is that you’d sprint the burpees, pull-ups, and the row because you get to rest immediately afterwards and because you’ve got to sprint again. Our coaches are harping on us the whole workout saying, “Work for the rest!” In other words, work so hard that you have to take the rest. Push yourself so hard that you have to stop at the prescribed time in order to rest. Work so hard that you’re gasping for air, barely able to stand up, not-able-to-talk tired. Don’t get to the 60 seconds of rest and think, “I could’ve done a little more.” You’re getting a rest for a reason! You should need it

  • because you’re tired, and you feel like your body is ready to collapse.
  • because you’re not done, and another round is coming in 60 seconds.

Spiritual lives

There are spiritual implications to this concept, too. Our bodies were created to work. And not just any work. We were created to do significant work. Work that matters here and echoes throughout eternity. Work that serves our families. Our communities. Work that gives back. That makes the world a better place.

But we were also called to rest. Rest replenishes our bodies. Helps us refresh. Allows our life rhythms to breathe. (ultimately, the “rest” that the Bible talks about finds its fulfillment in Jesus, who calls us to “rest” from our works: we don’t have to earn our relationship with God. That’s another post for another day.) It shows our dependence on God, as we rest instead of work, acknowledging He’s the one that is in control.

Did you know that we’re commanded to rest? It’s actually one of the 10 commandments:

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. – Exodus 20:8-9

 

We tend to think of disobedience as breaking the law. Doing something “bad.” But the Bible would say we’re being disobedient if we don’t rest.

The bottom line

Here’s what you need to know when it comes to work and rest.

1. Work so hard you need the rest.

Work so hard and so well that your body, soul, and spirit are gasping for air because you’ve given all you’ve got. Work so hard that you can’t go on because you need that rest. And while you’re at it, make yourself indispensable. Become a linchpin.

The Apostle Paul says this:

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men – Colossians 3:23

If you knew what you were doing was “for the Lord,” as in you were receiving a direct instruction from God himself, you’d work a little bit differently. You’d put a little more oomph into those “mundane” tasks. You may show up a little earlier. Stay a little later. Put more creativity in. Share more deeply. Lead more passionately. Give more generously.

Go! Go! Go! The rest is coming. [Tweet that]

2. Rest so well you need to work.

Work well, and take the rest. Let your body, soul, and spirit recover. Find those things that help your soul replenish. For me, that means a few things:

  • No email
  • Time with family
  • Sleep
  • Reading a good book
  • Walks around the lake in my city (“active recovery”)
  • Time with Jesus (reading Scripture, praying, etc.)
  • Coffee with friends
  • Running

Through rest, God breathes life back in to me. I need it, too. I give everything I have to my work. Every ounce of my experience, abilities, passion, and life. So I need a fresh wind every single week. I need Rest. Rest gives me energy, stamina, creativity, and the ability to get back up again. It also reminds me, each and every week, that  in my rest that I show my dependence on God. I could work. Or I could trust God to do the work He’s promised He will. I remind myself that my body’s not my own. The ministry’s not my own. My family’s not my own.

And after rest, I’m ready to go back out. I strive to rest so well that I’m ready to get back at it.

Just recently, a pastor friend of mine stepped down from his leadership role because he was burned out. He’d gone so hard for so long without taking rest for his soul. The scary part for pastors like us is that if we don’t rest well, we could lose the ministry we’re striving so hard to serve. [Tweet that]

When you don’t rest, you’re not ready for what’s coming. You end up producing less, being less available, and having less capacity. You can’t give your all to what’s coming because you’re still trying to run on empty.

So rest. Rest well. Rest hard. That next 3 minute sprint is coming.

Tomorrow’s coming. That next season is coming. That next project is coming. That next ministry opportunity is coming.

Your family needs you. Your friends need you. Your community needs you. And if you’re a pastor, your church needs you.

Not the tired, burned out, rode-hard-and-hung-up-wet you. They need the fresh, Rested you.

 

Why we love the hammock

You love a good hammock. Don’t even tell me you don’t.

image credit: me, in my backyard

Everyone loves a hammock. And I know why.

It’s reminiscent of a bygone era. One that was slower. And more relaxed. One that didn’t include 80 hour work weeks. One that didn’t include 4 nights of gymnastics/week. One that didn’t include having to eat fast food so many times.

One that didn’t have to fire up your computer late at night to catch up on emails. One that wasn’t conflicted between playing with your kids and doing work.

One that did include family nights. And laughing together over a freshly brewed pot of coffee.

One that included reading a book by a crackling, warm fire.

One that was much more relaxing.

A hammock beckons us to what could be.

The hammock has two purposes:

1. Cradle you like a baby.

2. Fling you to the ground if you try to not be cradled like a baby.

 In a hammock, you can’t do much but relax. You may be able to read a book. Or take a nap.

But squirm much, and you’ll flop right to the ground. Twist a little more than the traditional “nap” position and the hammock won’t take it. It’ll spin you right on to the hard ground below. “No!” says the hammock. “That meeting can wait!” “That email will still be there in 30 minutes!” “That YouTube video is hilarious…but I’ll break your iPad if you try to watch it right now.”

A hammock reminds us

Of our God-given desire for rest. Fight against it all you want, but given the chance, I’m certain you’d love a good nap right now.

Of our God-given need for rest. Studies show that adequate amounts of sleep are vital for productivity. God created the Sabbath, the day of rest,  for our benefit. (see Mark 2:27)

Of our flesh-given desire to find our identity in our work. Please, please don’t find your identity in your work. Your identity will be smashed to pieces when you rest it in your work. Choosing to intentionally rest is a way to fight against pride, which says that success lies in your abilities alone.

Of our flesh-given desire to seek God’s approval through our work. When you rest, what claim can you make in your “works”? None. God calls us to rest from the rat race of using “works” to justify approval. In Christ, we’re called “sons.” Rest in that.

You need rest. I need rest.

And we’re all better off if we take time to intentionally rest. Rest from your work. Rest from your emails. Rest from your frenetic life. Rest from earning your relationship with God.

So come on over to my backyard and kick up your feet on my hammock. I promise I won’t bother you.

Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. – Exodus 20:8-11

 

 

7 Phrases a Pastor Should Regularly Say Off-Stage

I recently wrote a post relaying phrases a pastor should never say.

Though this is important, there are also things that a pastor should regularly be in the habit of saying. And not the passing, “Good to see ya” that every pastor says. Not the trivial phrases that everyone expects.

image credit: Creative Commons, Franklin Photos

There are phrases that every pastor should say that take you off guard. These words help build culture and show what a local church values. As they say, “As the pastor goes, so goes the local church.” (nobody that I know has said that. It just sounds catchy and works here) They speak volumes beyond what a pastor communicates from stage.

 7 Phrases a Pastor Should Say Off-Stage

1. I’ll return that email tomorrow.

There are certain things that are pressing in nature. Everything else should be relegated to email…which can be checked and responded to tomorrow. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither were the problems you’re dealing with in this moment. Most of the time, your marriage isn’t going to be fixed if we wait until tomorrow. Your job crisis won’t go away before the sun comes up tomorrow. And your parenting woes can wait until later, too. It’s okay to say, “Tomorrow.”

2. No, I can’t meet on Tuesday evening. That’s my family time.

Setting aside time to be with your family is vital. Letting others know that you’ve made a priority out of spending quantity and quality time with your family is highly important, because your congregation takes its cues from you. If you want them to value their family, you’ve got to value yours.

3. I need rest, too.

Pastor, you’re not a superhuman. We need rest, too. And if we want others to experience the natural rhythms of life, and honor God with their rest, we’ve got to model that. Don’t work 6 days/week, and also Sunday. Take your Sabbath. The work God has called you to deserves your best, which you can’t give without adequate amounts of rest.

4. I don’t know the answer.

Pastor, you’re not a superhuman here, either. Unless you’re the Bibleman. Quit acting like you always have the answer, even when you don’t. We’re pretty good at this, aren’t we? We can fudge our way around theologically even though we have no idea what we’re talking about.

When you model humility in this area, those you lead will feel the freedom to not have every answer before they feel like they can lead. They’ll also not come to you for every answer, creating a culture of self-learners.

5. I need help.

There are certain pastors that try to do everything on their own. In the process, they cap their leadership. The local church was never meant to function under the leadership of one person. Varying gifts are utilized when others are given the chance to lead and flesh those gifts out. Pastors can’t do it on their own. They should bring others to the table. (the same goes for times in a pastor’s life when he needs spiritual/counseling/financial help. Modeling that it’s okay to ask for help in this area is an important step for pastors, too).

When you ask for help, you encourage others to do the same.

6. I value my wife more than I value my ministry.

Say this and mean it. Build your schedule around it. Block off time with her. And if you’re asked about it, don’t hesitate to let people know what you’re doing. (1 Timothy 3:4-5) Protecting your marriage is one of the most important things you can do as a pastor.

7. I don’t have time for small group either. But I make time.

You’ve got the same number of hours in a day that those you lead have. You can’t make time any more than you can make dirt. You have to take time if you want to live life in community. If this is truly a value of you and your church, then model it. Block off the time once/week to minister, and be ministered to, in authentic community.

Question:

Did I leave anything out? Anything else you think a pastor should regularly say off-stage?

* image credit: Creative Commons, Franklin Photos

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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