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?

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.

I Was A Burned Out Pastor

Today I’m so thankful for a wonderful writer and brother who shares his story of ministy with us – Darrell Vesterfelt.

I Was A Burned Out Pastor

One of the hardest conversations I have ever had in my life came the week after my birthday this year. I sat down my pastor and told him that I could no longer be a healthy individual and be a staff pastor at the church where I was serving.

I was burnt out, and I couldn’t do it anymore.

This was not the first time I had experienced “burn out” but it was different this time for one important reason. I was married — newly married — and the mistake I had made half a dozen times before, the subsequent “burn-out” I was experiencing, wasn’t just effecting me anymore. It was taking a toll on my wife.

When I agreed to join the staff team of this church, I told myself it was going to be different. I was going to finally “mature” and not leave angry, hurt and unfulfilled. So you can understand why I was so disappointed when circumstances led me to the same place of burn-out again.

I could feel it rising up in me, slowly. A familiar feeling.  Anger toward my church, my pastor, and an overwhelming hatred of my circumstances. I felt the urge to run from ministry — again.

But as angry as I was, it was becoming clear: I could no longer blame my circumstances for the way I felt. Several different churches. Several different leaders. Several different circumstances. Same resentment. Same burn-out.

The common denominator was me.

It was all my fault and I felt so ashamed.

As a single guy in ministry, it was really easy to take on 70 hours a week. I was the only one to suffer the consequences, and it felt good to work hard. I received constant praise for being the “hardest worker” which fueled me to work even harder. But as a newly-married person I was beginning to see the consequences of my actions.

My wife was stressed. I was stressed. Our marriage was stressed. We were tired, overwhelmed and it was creating an unhealthy foundation for our marriage.

Why had I done this to myself again?

This time I had to do something different. And because I wasn’t sure what else to do, I resolved to at least talk about it. I started conversations with my wife, my family and my pastor. I wanted to get to the root of the issue instead of running from these circumstances into yet another situation that would end just as tragically.

What I found, as I talked, was that I was insecure.

I was using my work (which happened to be for the church) as a validation for my wounded understanding of myself. I didn’t think I was worth much, so I was trying to prove my worth to God, to myself, and to others by contributing something of value to the church community.

I would have never admitted this out loud, since I knew that I was saved by grace not by my work in the church, but the story I was living wasn’t in line with what I believed.

My insecurity was causing me to be really arrogant.

It hurt me, and it hurt other people, and the only way to fix it was to start being honest with myself.

There are two really important lessons I’ve learned about burn-out in this season.

First, I’m less likely to burn out if I’m doing what I was made to do, what I love to do, instead of what other people expect me to do, or what I perceive as “valuable” for one reason or another. For me, this meant admitting I wasn’t gifted as a pastor.

For you, it will mean something different.

The second thing I learned is that no matter what work I’m doing for work, I have to make sure that my identity doesn’t get wrapped up in it. When that happens, I’ll burn out no matter what I’m doing. And my burn-out doesn’t just affect me. It affects everyone else around me, and it impacts my ability to love people and be myself.

Have you ever been burned out? Tell me your story.

bio — Darrell Vesterfelt is the CEO of the Prodigal Media Group, a storytelling firm based in Minneapolis where he lives with his wife Ally. Darrell is the original #unblogger. You can connect with him on Twitter or call him at (612)802-5227.