Stress Management – What does God think?

Stress Management.

It sounds nice, but trying to manage stress is kind of like trying to find the end of the rainbow- it’s ever elusive. I mean, how DO you manage stress?

A quick Google search will render plenty of how-to articles with 5, 7, or 10 “simple steps” to manage stress in your life, but let’s get real. These steps are not so simple – exercise, healthy diet, a good night’s sleep. Please. These steps may sound simple, but to actually do them requires a life change. A life change usually requires a thought change and if you’re concerned about managing stress in your life, chances are you don’t have a whole lot of time to focus on changing the way you think. You’ve got a lot to do in a short amount of time and probably the self-care things have fallen by the wayside (and the waist side – see what I did there?). I hear you. I feel you.

It can be difficult to make the time to take care of yourself, especially if you are in ministry. It’s so much easier to neglect yourself and help others. You are a caretaker. You see a need and you meet it. You just do not ever take the time to look in the mirror and see your own needs staring back at you. You felt the call to go and make disciples, to feed and care for God’s flock, and you jumped right in. How could you not? When God calls, He calls, and His calling is good! It is very good and very important to do God’s work in expanding His kingdom. I totally get it, and I’m not the only one who does. A lot of people are in the same boat. You are not alone! (You never are.)

So, remember just a bit ago when I said that a life change requires a thought change, which requires time and attention? Well, change oftentimes also requires a great deal of talk before do. SO maybe you’re not ready to do. Maybe you’ve been talking a lot about changing things up to better manage stress levels in your life or maybe you’ve just started talking about it. Maybe you haven’t even considered this kind of change to start talking about it. Wherever you are in your process, let’s talk because a little more talk will get us that much closer to doing.

Why do you need a change in your life? Well, we’re talking about making a life change to be able to better manage stress. So why is stress management important? If you do not take time to manage the stress in your life, it can and will start breaking down your immune system, and it can definitely shorten your life, not to mention lessen the quality of it. How many of you have heard the saying “I’ll sleep when I’m dead”? Well, if you’re not getting enough sleep now, you’re gonna end up dead a lot sooner! That whole saying implies that you can be more productive without sleep and rest. Guess what? It’s wrong, wrong, wrong! So just stop thinking that way. Stop it. It’s way wrong. Don’t believe me? Then I challenge you to prove me wrong. I warn you, I’m trained in empirical research, so your argument better have accurate data to back it up.

Okay, so back to our talk. What do you think God thinks of taking care of yourself and resting?

Seriously.

Why do you think he created the Sabbath day of rest? God rested, so why aren’t you? The command to take a Sabbath and keep it holy is for EVERYONE. Maybe as a minister, your Sabbath can’t be on Sunday. Big deal. Pick a different day, and keep it holy, keep it sacred. Why? Because God said so, and He said so for a reason. He knows what is best for you.

If you are better rested, healthier, and happier, you are going to be able to help and take care of others better anyway. It’s true, I promise. So maybe we need to talk more about this and keep talking for a bit, or maybe you are ready for change. If so, then throw away the guilt and myths about rest. We all need to manage stress in our lives and it will look different for you than it will look for me. Maybe exercise is really hard for you; maybe trying to change your diet at this present moment is more stress than stress relief. Maybe you feel that you have to be all in or nothing at all. (You don’t, by the way! Every little bit helps, start small. Start with a 10 minute walk, add some veggies at lunch, go to bed 10 minutes earlier.)

What are some ways you can blow off some steam and decrease stress? What are some activities that help you rest? If you have a hard time answering that, maybe it’s time to find out.

Alexie Gonzalez is a Licensed Professional Counseling Candidate in the state of Oklahoma. She also enjoys being a wife, playing with her puppy, and hosting parties as a jewelry lady with lia sophia Jewelry Company.

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From one pastor to another…

Today’s Friday Forum comes from Pastor Andrew C.D. Haire, a man integral to the establishment of Barnabas House of Oklahoma.  You can follow him at: andrewhaire.org, FB is acdhaire as well as Twitter

When I began to contemplate posting this blog for Lisa, I said I would write on my reflections the past six-months as a young pastor. I immediately could begin to think of all of the negatives and the warnings that I could give, and then I heard a hymn. That hymn was “When Jesus Came To Jordan”. The lyrics are:

When Jesus came to Jordan
to be baptized by John,
he did not come for pardon.
but as his Father’s Son.
He came to share repentance
with all who mourn their sins,
to speak the vital sentence
with which good news begins.

He came to share temptation,
our utmost woe and loss,
for us and our salvation
to die upon the cross.
So when the Dove descended
on him, the Son of Man,
the hidden years had ended,
the age of grace began.

Come, Holy Spirit, aid us
to keep the vows we make,
this very day invade us,
and every bondage break.
Come, give our lives direction,
the gift we covet most:
to share the resurrection
that leads to Pentecost.

When I heard this hymn, this summed up the advice that I could give to anyone in the pastorate or coming into it. Come to your church as Jesus came to Jordan. Come as the Father’s Son, an under-shepherd who follows direction of the Chief Shepherd, to share repentance and share the Good News. Come knowing that you will walk through things with the congregation and allow grace and love to flow out of you. And finally, continually pray, Come, Holy Spirit, Who we need to aid us and help us to stay true to the faith and to His call. He gives our lives direction and allows us to speak direction into the lives of our flock.

Let me be clear, tough times will come. But when they do, know that you can stand firm on the rock which is our foundation who is Jesus Christ! To sum it up, preach the Gospel and stand firm!

God bless you all as you embark on the greatest task ever given to man.

-Pastor Andrew

True Confessions from a Daniel Fast

“So what are you hearing from God?” images

An innocent question from my husband about the modified fast we’re currently doing with our church.  Not a question I really wanted to answer.  But to be completely honest, in my 43 years of being a Christian (yes, I started very young) this is the first fast of any kind I’ve ever done.  A week and a half in, and I had nothing.  Bubkes.  I hadn’t been sure of what to expect, but frankly I hadn’t been expecting much at all.  I’m not proud of either.

My husband was shocked.  You see, he’s only been a Christian for 30 years.  Only.  So he generally expects me to be way ahead of him on most things “church.”  In fact, he was fasting – the whole thing, not a modified Daniel Fast – when we met.  The truth is, I’ve never really gotten the whole fasting thing.

“Then why are you doing it?” he questioned.

This was an easy question to answer.  “Because we’re supposed to.”  To me it was a matter of obedience.  At least that’s what I’ve been telling myself.  In all honesty however, I’ve had a really bad attitude about it from the day I learned we were being called to fast.  I’ve been cranky and hungry and resentful.  Unless, of course, you call that a good attitude.  “I may be sitting down on the outside, but on the inside I’m standing up!”  Is it any wonder I hadn’t gained any new insight?  But by golly, I was being obedient.  and hungry.

In my all-too-short regular prayer time, I took the situation to the Lord.  Perhaps I was expecting some kind of “brownie points” because of the huge sacrifice of obedience I was making.  That’s not what I heard from God.  The uneasy sense of God saying, “Give me a major break,” hung in the air.  I decided to let it remain there and not deal with it.

As I sat down to read the handful of blogs I follow, words jumped off the page of Seth Godin’s blog, “If you come to my brainstorming meeting and say nothing, it would have been better if you hadn’t come at all.”  Hmmm…well, that couldn’t possibly be God speaking through a secular business/marketing blog.  I moved on to my next choice.

“Create a life that feels good on the inside, not one that just looks good on the outside.”  Thank. you. very. much.  Jon Acuff.  Surely this was coincidence, not confirmation.  In line with the theme of  “phoning it in,” I shelved this, too.

Since this was Saturday and I had a Monday post to write, I began to consider what I might put together.  Maybe something about pastors going through the motions.  This wasn’t a fully formed idea.  I contemplated it for awhile, even as a small voice whispered to me, “You’ve lost your joy.”  I pushed the voice to the background.

Sunday morning came too early, as only Sunday morning can do.  I prepped for church and worship team; the voice in my ear got a little louder as I sang.  I toyed with the idea and finally submitted my heart to think about it.

Joining my husband in the congregation, I settled in to listen to my pastor bring the Word in his gentle, yet confrontive manner.  He is a strong proponent of doing “the work.”  This should have been a nice confirmation of my obedience.  Instead, he turned to Revelation 2:2-4.  “I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false.  You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.  Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first.”  The hot flush of shame crept up my neck and stained my face.  I could deny it no longer.  I had been called out – Laodicea.

Somewhere in the pursuit of my calling ( and the day job necessary to fund that), combined with the sheer volume of stressful life events in the last two years, I allowed the survival techniques meant for coping to become my life pattern.  This iniquity of people-pleasing in my life has become a life-sucking identity.  It manifests itself through sarcasm, disdain, and despising of others through criticism.  Harsh words served up with a laugh to soften the blow can be defended as a dry sarcastic wit.  Until someone who knows me well calls my hand.  But even I know how much I want to feel the joy of my first love.  To not build a wall against the hurt.  To risk again.

I may not get any other message than this during our fast.  I do know this one is spot-on.  I need to step back and reassess how that first love has crept away in the night.  I must find that way back into the tenderest of graces.  Yes, I have been and will at times still be “that Christian.”  One who has no business leading if perfection is the measure.  I have played false and taken out my frustrations on others.

I know, however, the Redeemer of all, the Restorer of all, the Joy-Bringer.  He is replete with mercy.  His benevolence to me knows no   end.  I have such a long way to go!  Not only has God been these things to me and more, I am thankful for my family that gives me permission to be who I really am.

What have I gotten from the fast this far?  A call to return, to come up higher, to be real, to recapture the joy of my first love.  I’m not fooling anybody but myself.  I refuse to settle for “this is as good as it gets” living.  I also need to grasp this wake up call to the danger that is lurking at the door, waiting at my door.  God has a work for me to do, but He never intended that I should it in a joyless state.  Therefore, he must have a plan for me to live life more abundantly.  I embrace that plan without seeing it clearly or knowing what I will face.  Obedience is commendable, but it isn’t the same as submission.  I plan to take back what the enemy has stolen so I can be Lisa, only seeking to please the One.

Do you struggle with people-pleasing, have you lost your first love?  Are you going through the motions,

unknowingly placing yourself in the lion’s grasp?  Let me know.

true confessions from a Daniel Fast

12 Words of Encourgement for Pastors (Or Other Leaders)

It’s Friday Forum!

12 Words of Encourgement for Pastors (Or Other Leaders)

I love pastors. Each week, through this blog and my personal ministry, God allows me to partner with dozens of pastors, helping them think through life and ministry issues. I’ve learned that many pastors struggle to find people who will invest in them and help them grow as individuals, leaders and pastors.

Recently I had a pastor ask me for my “best advice” for other pastors. Wow! That’s hard to say. I’ve learned so much through the pastors who have invested in me and by experience. It’s hard to summarize all that I’ve learned. It could probably fill a book or two…but at least more than one blog post!

I put some thought into the question and decided to come up with a list of encouragement, one that I would give to all pastors, to answer his question. I’m sure there’s more (and you can help by adding yours), but this post is at least a start. Of course, wisdom is transferable to other fields, so change a few words around and I’d give this advice to any leader…some of them perhaps to any person.

Here are 12 words of encouragement for pastors:

Choose your friends wisely…but choose friends. Don’t attempt to lead alone. Too many pastors avoid close friendships because they’ve been hurt. They trusted someone with information who used it against them. Finding friends you can trust and be real with means you’ll sometimes get injured, but the reward is worth it.

The church can never love your family as much as you do. Your family needs you more than the church does. They can get another pastor. Your family doesn’t want another you. You’ll have to learn to say “no”, learn how to balance and prioritize your time, and be willing to delegate to others in the church. (You may want to read THIS POSTfrom my friend Michael Hyatt on saying “no” with grace.”

If you protect your Sabbath day, your Sabbath day can better protect you. You’ll wear out quickly without a day a week to rejuvenate. God designed us this way. Take advantage of His provision. Take time to rest. You may not rest like everyone else…for me rest doesn’t mean doing nothing…but you need time away from the demands of ministry regularly. Lead your church to understand you can’t be everywhere every time. You owe it to yourself, your family, your church and your God.

You have influence…use it well. The pastorate comes with tremendous power and responsibility. It’s easy to abuse or take for granted. Don’t. Humility welcomes the hand of God on your ministry.

No amount of accountability or structure will keep you from temptation if you’re heart is impure. Above all else, guard your heart. (Proverbs 4:23) Avoid any hint of temptation. Look for the warning signs your heart is drifting. Keep your heart saturated with God’s Word and in prayer.

Let God lead. You can do some things well. God can do the impossible. Whom do you think should ultimately be leading the church? You’ll be surprised how much more effective your leadership will be when it’s according to His will and not yours.

If you can dream it, God can dream it bigger. Don’t dismiss the seemingly ridiculous things God calls you to do. They won’t always make sense to others or meet their immediate approval, but God’s ways will prove best every time.

Keep Jesus the center of focus in the church. You’ll never have a money problem, a people problem, or a growth problem if people are one with Jesus.

Your personal health affects the health of the church. Take care of yourself relationally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. This, too, requires discipline, balance and prioritizing, but if, to the best of your ability, you strive to be healthy in every area of your life, as a good shepherd, your people will be more likely to follow your example.

The people in your church deserve authenticity. Not only will be honest about who you are help keep you from trying to meet unreal expectations, but it will help the people in your church be transparent with you and others. Don’t be someone you’re not. Be someone worthy to follow, but make sure you’re living it…not just teaching it.

You’ll never make everyone happy. If you try, you’ll be very unhappy…and very unproductive.

Now, make this post better. As you can count, there are only 11 here. I’m counting on you to add your best number 12.

What word of encouragement do you have for pastors (or other leaders)?

 

Ron Edmundson is a follower of Christ, husband, father, church-planter, pastor, writer, idea-man, strategic thinker, dreamer and teacher.  You can read more of his work and follow him at:

email – ron.edmondson@gmail.com

Google+ athttp://www.gplus.to/ronedmondson

Twitter at www.twitter.com/ronedmondson

Facebook atwww.facebook.com/ronaedmondson

My devotional site iswww.mustardseedministry.com

When It Hurts

It’s PK day at Apples of Gold/Barnabas House of Oklahoma.  Our first PK guest post comes from Kassie Rutherfold – full-time nanny (and writer, and student), part-time choreographer,
occasional dancer, and pastor’s kid from central Texas. 

Image

When It Hurts

“What do you mean he isn’t the pastor anymore?”

The rosary hanging from my rearview mirror swayed as I drove back to my dorm. I had just celebrated Easter at my godmother’s house in Tulsa, OK — my first Easter not spent visiting my family. I glanced at the face of Jesus staring back at me, and whispered a prayer. This phone call from my mother would mark the second ending of an era in a weekend: I was baptized and received into the Catholic church the night before, and now I was no longer a pastor’s kid. As a child I wondered what this moment would feel like. I didn’t resent being a PK. I did sometimes resent the pressure of being the praise and worship leader from the ages of 12-18, amidst puberty, high school, and college.

“Not for good,” mom amended. “He’s going on furlough. Pastor Cain* is taking over services for a while, but dad will still be in charge of big decisions. We need a break. He’ll be back by the end of the year.”

That much I couldn’t argue with. None of my family had taken a real vacation in over ten years.

My family poured their lifeblood into the church, a congregation in central Texas that originally met in the tiny office of my dad’s used car lot. As the church grew, I began leading worship at 12. My sister (the superior singer among us) helped out with vocals. My brother taught himself how to play the drums by trial, error, and attempting to follow my frantic, micro-managing hand signals from my perch at the keyboard.

The church became an extension of our family. The central element of our life. One woman on the music team called me her granddaughter. We counted the elder and his wife as Aunt and Uncle. Church staff shared holidays with us. They were there for birthdays, adoptions, and to listen when the tension between being a worship director and a teenager growing up in a pastor’s family hit the boiling point. While I planned a wedding during an engagement that ultimately collapsed and crumbled, several members of the staff were included with my family, without an ounce of hesitation.

There were challenges that we conquered, and challenges that threatened to crush us. We had stuck together, but by the time Easter 2011 rolled around, we were wearied and war-battered. The impact of exhaustion and the financial strain of church leadership could be felt 350 miles away, where I was attending college at Oral Roberts University. I knew it was even more stressful in the heart of the fire at home, and was grateful that my family had a chance to recover, to recharge, and to hit the ground running in 2012 with a fresh mission. We were happy, and we were hopeful.

We were very, very wrong.

My family, particularly my parents and teenaged siblings, faced betrayal over the next several months from the very people that we counted on as family. I could only listen as my brother and sister cried over the phone, their sweet spirits heartbroken over the lies that slowly poisoned their relationships with friends in the church.

I fought soul-drying bitterness, not for me, because I had the benefit of distance on my side. For my parents, who would give up anything for anybody, and worked themselves into the ground for a decade to keep a roof over our family’s head while providing spiritually, physically, and sometimes financially for the church body.

For my sweet siblings who were persecuted and demeaned by the very adults that were supposed to lead and guide them.

For the first time, I truly resented being a PK. I resented the thousands of hours poured into a church that now had the potential to destroy us. I resented the people who turned so quickly on the pastor that had given them a chance when the rest of the world considered them a societal casualty. I resented the fact that this time that was supposed to be a gift of preciously needed rest and renewal for my parents was turning into a nightmare we couldn’t shake off. I resented being unable to physically do anything to help them.

I’d like to say that a blinding epiphany happened. But it didn’t. What happened was a slow, steady poking and prodding. Angry, dirty, bitter pieces of my soul stripped away bit by bit with every prayer I prayed, every angry fit, every time I cried kneeling in my parish or tucked into one end of my best friend’s couch.

Healing happened, but it didn’t happen with the flashing lights of a Benny Hinn crusade. It happened with my family coming together, standing up and saying “We refuse to let our call die. We refuse to give up”. It happened when I found my identity in what God was calling me to do in the season of my life I’m living now, not clinging to what he called me to do in the past.

Healing happened when I stopped trying to make it happen.

I still fight to forgive everyone involved in what happened. But the words “Please, Jesus, help me forgive” are slowly being replaced with “I forgive you” whispered in the quiet of my soul.

As we approach the two year mark, my parents are back in ministry, and I can once more say I’m a PK without cringing. Because in all of the pruning and emotional calisthenics, I abandoned my dependence on the title as some kind of sacred spiritual credential. The important thing is running the race, not the number on your back.

*Name changed.

from the cocoon

This has been an amazingly contemplative first week of the year.  Not that I have had scads of free time on my hands, just that rumination seems to be the order of the day.

The good news is…it’s good news!  Here’s the thought process:

Preparing music for church, I’ve been planning to sing Israel Houghton’s Moving Forward since early December.  It is a logical/appropriate song for the new year, so really it’s a logical choice.  Yet I can’t listen to it without being captured by the lyrics.  Music speaks to me at molecular level; it goes into my heart and wanders around in my brain.  And this song speaks mercy to my inmost parts.

God’s mercy is boundless!  This mercy means that I am transformed – think Romans 12:1-2.  Haven’t we all been taught this scripture from the sacrifice angle?  I think it reveals itself in amazing new ways when it is approached from the transformation angle.

There is a fundamental difference between change and transformation.  If I change my mind, I can always change it back.  Change is situational choice.  Transformation is something else entirely.  If I am transformed, I can never go back.  The butterfly can never become a caterpillar again.  That simple, complex, beautiful transformation is the visual representation of the incredible power of God.  Can God do this in you?  Does He want to do this in me?  Isaiah 43:14-19 answers with a resounding YES!

On the face of it, this homely little creature bears no resemblance to his final form.  But the truth of it is, the potential, the elemental form of the butterfly is within the caterpillar from the beginning.  However, the caterpillar must submit to the recreation of the Master.  Yes, the compulsion to do so is there.  The choice to submit is still required.  He weaves the cocoon and shuts himself into the quiet place of transformation.  There the work is done.  I can only guess it is an uncomfortable process.

God’s glory is contained within the caterpillar – it is revealed in the butterfly.  There will undoubtedly be days ahead where all I see is the reflection of the creepy, crawly creature when I look into the mirror.  But I know – I am promised – that transformation is there waiting for my submission.

Because, you see, He makes all things new!Butterfly_Morpho_rhetenor_helea_(M)_KL

Practice what you preach?

Practice what you preach?

The most curious thing (though not surprising) we found on our trip to Pastors Retreat Network was the assertion by the pastors that while they thought Sabbath was right and good, they didn’t see how it was possible for them.  The following article is reprinted with permission from Preacher on the Plaza.  Elizabeth Hagan is “Pastor at Washington Plaza, Writer, and Seeker of Meaningful Conversation in Everyday Life.”

Sabbath for Pastors

Taking time off from work seems as simple as this children’s drawing doesn’t it? Step one: you don’t pick up your blackberry, your laptop, or telephone.  Step two: you participate in activities which renew your joy. Step three: you provide space in your life to care for what needs to be attended to within you, such as awareness of God. Step four: repeat as necessary. 

Yet, clergy (among many other professions) are usually so bad at it!

This has I lot to do, I believe because of the “on call nature of the job” and the fact that we just don’t get traditional weekends like other professionals.

A friend recently passed on this New York Times Article to me about what researchers are saying about clergy health and wellness.  In a month like this one when everyone seems to be taking a vacation from church and pastors are not, I thought would be a good starting point for conversation.  Do you see your pastor (whoever they may be) modeling good Sabbath keeping practice? Or do you just keep feeding your pastor in an effort to keep him or her happy through the burdens of the day-to-day?

Taking a Break From the Lord’s Work

By PAUL VITELLO
Published: August 1, 2010

The findings have surfaced with ominous regularity over the last few years, and with little notice: Members of the clergy now suffer from obesity, hypertension and depression at rates higher than most Americans. In the last decade, their use of antidepressants has risen, while their life expectancy has fallen. Many would change jobs if they could.

Public health experts who have led the studies caution that there is no simple explanation of why so many members of a profession once associated with rosy-cheeked longevity have become so unhealthy and unhappy.

But while research continues, a growing number of health care experts and religious leaders have settled on one simple remedy that has long been a touchy subject with many clerics: taking more time off.

“We had a pastor in our study group who hadn’t taken a vacation in 18 years,” said Rae Jean Proeschold-Bell, an assistant professor of health research at Duke University who directs one of the studies. “These people tend to be driven by a sense of a duty to God to answer every call for help from anybody, and they are virtually called upon all the time, 24/7.”

As cellphones and social media expose the clergy to new dimensions of stress, and as health care costs soar, some of the country’s largest religious denominations have begun wellness campaigns that preach the virtues of getting away. It has been described by some health experts as a sort of slow-food movement for the clerical soul.

In the United Methodist Church in recent months, some church administrators have been contacting ministers known to skip vacation to make sure they have scheduled their time, Ms. Proeschold-Bell said.

The church, the nation’s largest mainline Protestant denomination, led the way with a 2006 directive that strongly urged ministers to take all the vacation they were entitled to — a practice then almost unheard of in some busy congregations.

“Time away can bring renewal,” the directive said, “and help prevent burnout.”

The Episcopal, Baptist and Lutheran churches have all undertaken health initiatives that place special emphasis on the need for pastors to take vacations and observe “Sabbath days,” their weekday time off in place of Sundays.

The Lilly Endowment, a philanthropic foundation based in Indiana, has awarded grants of up to $45,000 each to hundreds of Christian congregations in the past few years, under a project called the National Clergy Renewal Program, for the purpose of giving pastors extended sabbaticals.

And while recent research has focused largely on mainline Protestant churches, some Jewish leaders have begun to encourage rabbis to take sabbaticals.

“We now recommend three or four months every three or four years,” said Rabbi Joel Meyers, a past executive vice president of the Rabbinical Assembly, the international association of Conservative rabbis. “There is a deep concern about stress. Rabbis today are expected to be the C.E.O. of the congregation and the spiritual guide, and never be out of town if somebody dies. And reply instantly to every e-mail.”

Some nondenominational evangelical Christian ministers have embraced a similar approach, outlined in two best-selling books by the Rev. Peter Scazzero, pastor of theNew Life Fellowship Church in Elmhurst, Queens.

Mr. Scazzero, 54, is the unofficial leader of a growing counterculture among independent pastors who reject the constant-growth ethic that has contributed to the explosion of so-called mega-churches.

In the books, “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality” and “The Emotionally Healthy Church,” he advocates more vacation time for members of the clergy, Sabbath-keeping, and a “rhythm of stopping,” or daily praying, that he learned from the silent order of Trappist monks.

Mr. Scazzero said that depression and alienation from his wife and four children prompted him a half-dozen years ago to try living more consciously and less compulsively.

“It’s hard to lead a contemplative life on Queens Boulevard,” Mr. Scazzero said. “But the insight I gained from the Trappists is that being too ‘busy’ is an impediment to one’s relationship with God.”

Clergy health studies say that many clerics have “boundary issues” — defined as being too easily overtaken by the urgency of other people’s needs.

Dr. Gwen Wagstrom Halaas, a family physician who is married to a Lutheran minister and who wrote a 2004 book raising the alarm about clergy health (“The Right Road: Life Choices for Clergy”), described the problem as a misperception about serving God.

“They think that taking care of themselves is selfish, and that serving God means never saying no,” she said.

Larger social trends, like the aging and shrinking of congregations, the dwindling availability of volunteers in the era of two-income households, and the likelihood that a male pastor’s wife has a career of her own, also spur some ministers to push themselves past their limits, she said.

The High Mountain Church of the Nazarene in North Haledon, N.J., started with 25 members 10 years ago and grew to 115 before its pastor, the Rev. Steven Creange, noticed strains in his marriage and decided to slow down.

Mr. Creange said he and his wife feel lavishly rested — and much happier — since they began observing Sabbath days on Fridays and making occasional weekend getaways.

“I just don’t go to every graduation and every communion anymore,” he said. “And people accept it.”

In May, the Clergy Health Initiative, a seven-year study that Duke University began in 2007, published the first results of a continuing survey of 1,726 Methodist ministers in North Carolina. Compared with neighbors in their census tracts, the ministers reported significantly higher rates of arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure and asthma. Obesity was 10 percent more prevalent in the clergy group.

The results echoed recent internal surveys by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, which found that 69 percent of its ministers reported being overweight, 64 percent having high blood pressure and 13 percent taking antidepressants.

A 2005 survey of clergy by the Board of Pensions of the Presbyterian Church also took special note of a quadrupling in the number of people leaving the profession during the first five years of ministry, compared with the 1970s.

Roman Catholic and Muslim clerics said the symptoms sounded familiar.

“We have all of these problems, but imams are reluctant to express it because it will seem like a sign of weakness,” said Imam Shamsi Ali, director of the Jamaica Muslim Center in Queens. “Also, mosques do not pay much and many of them work two jobs.”

Catholic canon law requires priests — “unless there is a grave reason to the contrary” — to take a spiritual retreat each year, and four weeks of vacation.

That vacation regulation has led Msgr. Gus Bennett of Brooklyn to take a camping trip on horseback in the Wyoming wilderness with friends every year for 30 years.

Monsignor Bennett, 87, a canon lawyer, now semi-retired, who spent most of his working years setting up and managing the pension plan for priests and lay employees of the Diocese of Brooklyn, says he has always felt his religious side to be most alive during those nights in Wyoming, “sleeping on the ground, under the whole of creation.”

He does not know how it affected his health. “I just know it made it easier to come back and jump into the books,” he said.