How to Find Rest in Jesus. Right. Freaking. Now!

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Today’s post is a special post from Jena Nardella. Learn more about Jena by visiting her website or following her on Twitter (@JenaNardella)

Can I confess something? My devotion to Jesus has caused my personal and family life to deteriorate. Let me explain:

Does the term Zerrissenheit mean anything to you?

It sounds like the cousin of gesundheit, but its meaning is quite different than an exclamation after a sneeze.

The German term is loosely translated to mean torn-to-pieces-hood.

Hurry, distraction, worry and pre-occupation are all expressions of the Zerrissenheit lifestyle. The Germans might even call it an insane way to live life. It’s one that I am quite familiar with, though, not proudly. Amidst the rush of trying to serve our friends in Africa with access to safe water and HIV/AIDS care for the last eight years, I have let the health of my own life deteriorate. The rotten fruits I have been producing are exhaustion, fear, jealousy and anxiety, things we all agree make up a lousy story.

On MySubplot.com, I committed to practicing the spiritual discipline of Rest.

You never realize how irresponsibly busy you are until you are forced to take responsibly for your personal health and sanity. What I realized, very quickly after seeking rest in Christ, is my life was full of useless noise.

I am a month into my sabbatical, and am just now beginning to taste the truth about what Jesus meant when he said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” In many ways, it’s easier to live the life of an over-achieving martyr. It’s been difficult to let go, to slow down, and to feel my smallness in the world. But I feel as though I am recovering my life, through rest.

For many, a sabbatical is not possible. But as someone who is just four weeks removed from the Zerrissenheit life that many, like me, are living, I have discovered some practices I believe we can integrate into our current life, and begin to live into the invitation of Jesus’ restful arms.

1. Moderate Your Relationship with Technology
You will feel freedom when you stop letting technology have control over your life. You will realize that the world will not end if you miss your former college roommate’s Facebook status or are unaware of the trending topics on Twitter. You will encourage others to stop staring at their screens if you practice it around them. Rest awaits!

2. Practice Silence
If you’re not careful, your day will pass with every minute filled with noise. Whether you know it or not, there is already a lot of noise in your own heart and mind – oftentimes the radio in the car, television at home or constant buzzing/beeping/chirping of your phone perpetuate a sense of stress. Where you can, choose silence, even if for a few moments in the car to begin with. Quiet your environment and you will begin to feel the quiet in your heart. Don’t be afraid of the silence. Listen for God. He’s there, but we’ve made it such a noisy world that it’s difficult to hear the whisper of the Divine.

3. Take Walks
Yes, it’s cold outside. No, you don’t have time to do it. Even if it’s just for 10 minutes in your day, leave your phone at your desk and step outside for fresh air. Begin walking. You don’t need any destination – in fact, it’s better if you don’t have one. Look around you. Slow down. Breathe. Repeat tomorrow, and the next day, and the next.

My prayer is that we all learn this unforced rhythm of grace, as offered to us by Jesus.

Are you aware of how much noise fills your life? What are some of the ways you seek and find rest?

Less is More

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“So what is the schedule/agenda/program for the retreats at Barnabas House?”  I’m asked this question over and over in many different ways.  Every time I hear it I think, “You don’t really get it, do you?”

The issue of pastor burnout isn’t solved with more – more activities, more information, more 5 hour energy, more conferences, more ideas.  Today’s pastor has unprecedented access to information, ideas, and conferences via the Internet than any other time in history.  The pharmaceutical industry has insured that we can get by on less sleep than ever before thanks to prescription and over-the-counter stimulants that drive us ever forward.  Thanks to the pace of our culture, if the pastor isn’t at church (or at the job that actually pays the bills), the expectation to attend every sporting event and concert involving a congregant is enough to keep him or her busier than a one-armed paper hanger.  
 
The answer isn’t more.  Or perhaps it is the right more – more rest, more peace, more margin, more real relationship, more breathing.  At BHOK we make room for the right more.  There is time for solitude, free of expectations. We create opportunity for spontaneous conversation in a safe environment. Counseling is available, but not required.  Good reading material lines the walls, though one need never pick up a book.  In this place, our priority is to provide an atmosphere where the still, small voice of God can be heard.  
 
Pastors, make room for the right more.  Find a way to sometimes say no to things that are good, so that you can say yes to the things that are God.  
 
Church members, help your pastors make room for the right more.  Allow them to say no without criticism.  Build into the budget and the calendar the margin that is so integral to their service and spiritual development.  Take joy in seeing your pastor and his family rested. You’ll never regret having a well-loved leader.
 
How are you making room for the right more in your life or in your pastor’s life?

Burnout Prevention (part 2)

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This is the second of a two part article written by Angie Buchanan.

I’m going to share with you some of the things I have found to be helpful in combating burnout. These are things that we should, as ministers, be doing all the time, but would be especially important during times when you’re not at your best.

  1. Find a mentor, confidante, or friend. I don’t care what you call it. Just get someone you can talk to, and do it fast. I like to    find someone I both trust and respect as a minister. I have had too many people give me bad advice in past years, I will no longer seek advice from someone whose ministry I do not respect. Be honest with this person about the positives, and the negatives. Let them speak into your life. (Bonus if it’s someone you really enjoy spending time with, and especially if they can make you laugh!)
  2. Evaluate your self-care. Do you have a medical problem which needs to be addressed? Hormones and blood sugar are two things that impact my mood, but there are many other possible culprits. If you’re not up to date on physical exams, try to get to the doctor. If you have a known medical issue, definitely get to the doctor. Don’t neglect yourself.
  3. Give yourself a break. Take some time away. If you can’t remember the last vacation you had, date night you had with your spouse, or free activity you did for yourself, that’s a problem. Be intentional in scheduling time for yourself, your               spouse, and your children. (Observing the Sabbath is a commandment for a reason.)
  4. Take advantage of perspective-shifters. Camp helped me with this, my conversation with Liz helped me with this, and my vacation helped me with this. These are all great, but look for what could work in your own life. A good                                  conference every year or two can be of utmost value.
  5. Extend grace to yourself. Don’t beat yourself up over your downfalls, or even the fact that you might be experiencing burnout. Recognize it as something that happens when we don’t take steps to prevent it, and then deal with it. This is a                      normal thing that many ministers can relate to, if we are honest.
  6. Don’t neglect your Jesus-time. Your personal devotional time is a necessary tool in keeping your heart soft, and renewing your mind. It’s hard to have a heart for leading people to Jesus when we aren’t feeling close to Jesus ourselves. Don’t let this fall prey to your time preparing sermons and devotions for those in your ministry. Put your devotional time first… spend some time lingering in the word for no reason other than just to feed your spirit.

Do you have other tips to avoiding and combating burnout? I’d like to hear them! I pray that you value yourself, your family, and those within your ministry to be watchful of these situations, and take action to avoid them!

Burnout Prevention (part 1)

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This is the first of a two part article written by Angie Buchanan. Angie Buchanan serves with her husband as youth pastors of a local church.  When she isn’t ministering to teens, caring for her husband, or wrangling her three children, she uses all her abundant spare time to pursue a BA in Community Counseling.

 

 

By the grace of God, I have never intentionally punched a student. (There was that one time that a kid threw a ball at my chest and knocked the wind out of me, so my reflexes kind of… got his nose, but I don’t count that.) But I can’t say that times don’t creep up on me where I find myself talking through gritted teeth to keep from snapping. That’s when I know something is wrong.

Mostly, I’m really thankful to be in ministry. I love it. Working with kids and youth feeds my soul, and I believe with everything in me that it’s what we are called to do. But other times, I’m not thankful. I get frustrated, exhausted, and whiny. I have a big, slouchy pair of grumpy-pants that I pull out of the back of my spiritual closet to wear in these times.

Recently, I was experiencing a time in which I was finding myself wearing my grumpy-pants more and more. There is a particular demographic of students which are prone to bring that side out, and I had an abundance of interaction with several very difficult students in that age and gender range over a few months’ time. …and then it was time to go to youth camp.

Not a single part of me wanted to go to camp. Well, okay. The part of me that knows I always am blessed and thankful once camp is in session wanted to go. But that part was deep, deep down inside, and mostly, I just wanted to stay home with my own kiddos. But I did what a good youth pastor’s wife would do (or so they tell me) and I went to camp. Last year, I was sad that the coaches had a separate area from the students at our new camp. I felt like it left us out of the conversations that happen amongst the students, and affected the amount of bonding we are able to do at camp. This year, I was thankful for the new setup.

I found myself hiding in the bathroom whenever there was time, just to escape the chatter. I remember saying, “I’m too old for this. God, I don’t want to NOT do this…. I can’t imagine anything else, but this isn’t fair to the kids.” And then I saw Liz.

Liz is a pastor’s wife who has to be in her 50’s, and she is still active in girls’ ministries. Liz was at camp with a group of girls, and I know she has been doing this for way longer than I have, so I had to corner her. I pulled her aside in the commons area of our dorm late one night, when our girls were safe in the room, probably complaining about their grouchy coaches. (Well, mine, at least. Probably not Liz’s girls.)

I asked Liz what her secret was for being able to be successful in girls’ ministries for so many years. Liz laughed, and said she was probably the last person I should be talking to about this, because she has struggled with it as well. She listened to my frustrations, empathized, and then asked me how my hormones are. (A valid point. I’ve known they were out of whack for awhile. I have an upcoming appointment with my doctor to have it addressed.)

I don’t remember everything Liz said, but the conversation definitely helped my perspective. The Lord continued working on my heart, and as the week went on, I found myself enjoying my girls once again. I was back in the place of wanting to love them, and shepherd them. Liz came to me after our initial conversation and said that the Lord impressed on her heart to tell me that I needed to do something fun, just for me. Take some time away and do something I could enjoy. We had an upcoming vacation scheduled, which definitely helped.

I am now several months out of that little scare, in which I actually considered whether my foul attitude would cause my husband and I to not be able to continue in ministry much longer. In retrospect, I began thinking about how to avoid that place in the future, because I definitely don’t want to end up there again.

 

See this bush?

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We have a mole in our yard. This bush has a root problem, thanks to the mole. In addition to this bush dying because the root problem was not addressed, if we allow the dead bush to remain there, it will begin to rot, and affect the bushes around it. Don’t let your burnout get to this point. Take care of your root problem.

Maybe your burnout symptoms aren’t as prominent as mine. I will readily admit that many people are much better at being meek and spiritual… it’s very possible you found yourself cringing at my admissions. Burnout, though, doesn’t look the same on everyone.

Evaluate who you are when you are passionate about ministry, fearless and doubtless in what you’re doing, and full of love for those you are ministering to. Then evaluate what you look like when you’re not at your best. Are you moody? Resentful? Whiney about things that come up that infringe on your personal life? Be honest with yourself, and get a good picture of what you look like in your “grumpy pants” so you can be aware of times that you might need to take some measures to get out of that funk!

 

Part two of today’s post will be posted Thursday, October 3.

Mommy Moore’s Sweater

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I have an electric blue mohair sweater hanging in my closet – the only memento I have of my Mommy Moore.  It’s an odd item for a tiny Pentecostal Holiness minister to own.  I can only imagine when it was purchased and where she chose to wear it.  Mommy Moore and her husband Poppy Moore pastored for more than fifty years – trading preaching and Sunday School responsibilities.  Long before the days of televangelists, it was a given that this was a co-pastor position, and that Poppy would also work a day job.  Bi-vocational wasn’t even a word yet, but that’s what they did.  Yet in everything they did, from carpentry, to preaching, to raising five children, joy was present.

I have a few items from my parents – mostly photos since I’m the fourth child.  I have Mom’s Bible, the leather cracked and worn soft in her strong yet gentle hands, pages highlighted, notated, loved.  It’s like the Velveteen Rabbit.  My brother has Dad’s Bible and his Commentaries.  My parents pastored in Oklahoma and Texas for about ten years.  Dad was also bi-vocational, a wallpaper hanger by trade.  Dad left the ministry when I was just a baby, hurt by his elder board and neglected by his supervisor.  His sadness about his experience aged into bitterness that eroded his life until he passed at the age of 66.

I have my brother still.  He pastored for thirty years and for a great deal of that time he was also bi-vocational. He and his wife are full of a deep, abiding joy and sweet spirit. Their faces become more beautiful with each passing year and they seem not to age at all.  Eric and Susan will tell you that it has been a privilege to serve together these years, but those they served will say the privilege was in having them as pastors.  Countless people all over the world testify of their wisdom, encouragement, and mentoring.

Three stories, three lives, three distinct experiences.  What made the difference?  It wasn’t money, leisure activities, or size of congregation.   Each of them studied the Word, prayed, felt a sincere call to ministry, and devoted their hearts and lives to the Church.  In retrospect it seems the difference was, at least in part, a Sabbath rest and a support system – denominational, relational, and personal.  

Interestingly, this is a theme that cuts across denominational and demographic lines.  The vast majority of pastors say they have no close friend or mentor, and take no personal Sabbath themselves on another day of the week.  When questioned, many reply that the demands of ministry don’t allow for either.

My family’s stories and those of pastors everywhere drive the ministry of Barnabas House.  What can you and I do to have a positive impact on our pastors in the areas of rest and relationship?  We can encourage, support, cheer, volunteer, and put action to the good thoughts we have toward our pastors.  We can forgive, change expectations, leave room for their Sabbath, promote healthy boundaries, and bless them with a weekend or a week long getaway.  We can understand that they are people – faulty, sometimes broken individuals that often don’t feel they can be real without risking their position.

This winter I will once again wrap myself in that scratchy, electric blue mohair sweater and the joy woven between each strand.  I will remember Mommy Moore’s legacy in our family and in so many others.  Because of her I will choose joy, rest, and relationship, and I will sow that into my pastor’s life. And I will build a place where other pastors can come to receive restoration, refreshment, and renewal. What will you do?

Make Sure You Rest

ImageEncouraging words for Pastors from Charles R. Swindoll

 

Following the sixth day of creation, the Lord God deliberately stopped working.

It wasn’t that there was nothing else He could have done. It certainly wasn’t because He was exhausted. He hadn’t run out of ideas or energy. He could easily have made more worlds, created an infinite number of other forms of life, and provided multiple millions more galaxies beyond what He did.

But He didn’t. He stopped. He spent an entire day resting. He marked off this one day as special. Like none other. If I read this correctly, it seems that He made the day on which He rested a “priority” period of time.

I’m of the belief that we’re no longer bound by the Sabbath command (Romans 14:5; Colossians 2:16). But I don’t believe we can sidestep the principle to set aside a regular time of rest.

That includes us pastors. We need to stop regularly—and not because we’re done working. If we intend to “be imitators of God,” as Ephesians 5:1 commands, we, too, will need to make rest a priority. As pastors, this includes:

  • A good night’s rest on a regular basis
  • A full day’s rest at least once a week (no, I’m not kidding)
  • Moments of rest snatched here and there during the week
  • Vacation times of rest for the refreshment and repair of both body and soul

These methods of getting rest help release us from the fierce grip of intense stress brought on by the daily grind.

I had a staff member one time in a former church who rarely took a day off. I remember driving by the church on a Monday evening, and I saw his office light on. When I got there Tuesday morning the light was still on! I marched into his office and asked, “When’s the last time you took a day off?” He seemed proud of his answer, “It’s been about three weeks.” So I said, “That’s unacceptable. You keep that up, and I’ll let you go.” You know what? Amazingly, he started taking his day off!

There is no value in not taking a day off. My former mentor, the late Dr. Howard Hendricks, had one wag tell him, “The devil never takes a holiday, so why should I?” Hendricks didn’t miss a beat and replied: “Oh really? I didn’t know he was your model.” I love it! There’s an old line that goes, “I’d rather burn out than rust out.” What kind of choice is that? Either way you’re “out”!

Let me urge you to change your routine, my friend. Blow the dust of boredom off your schedule. Shake yourself loose, and get a taste of fresh life. Need several suggestions for rest and leisure?

  • Begin jogging and/or a full-on exercise program.
  • Read some fiction for a change . . . or a great biography.
  • Get some music for your MP3 player, and lie on your back, drinking in the sounds.
  • Dig and plant a small garden, and watch God cooperate with your efforts.
  • Start watching a few sunrises and sunsets each month.

I’m not just writing about resting. In fact, I’m taking the next few weeks of vacation to practice what I preach.

-Chuck

 

Excerpt from the Pastor’s Blog, August 6, 2013

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.