On Rear Views and Thanks

Often times, I find myself stopping somewhere in the living room or hallway and reflecting on the past year of my life.

Truth is, I cannot believe how blessed I am. I have long held the belief that “all of life is grace;” that I should feel owed anything, and expect nothing good or to my benefit – in fact – I should expect the opposite. Ironically, I am also a steadfast optimist.

In light of that worldview, I am frequently brought into a position of gratitude for whatever small measure of joy, peace, and comfort that comes my way. With that being said, I wanted to take a moment and list off some things I am thankful for in the past year:

  • My wife – how on earth an introverted young man living in the country met an incredible woman of God, and happened to share multiple friends and connections, and ended up getting married is completely beyond me!
  • Our home – When looking for a place to live, several landlords turned us down or demanded unreasonable sums of money because of our financial situation. (For those who don’t know, pastor’s finances are always fuzzy and strange to those who have never seen how Church financials work. Most landlords thought I was a drug smuggler/dealer). Nevertheless, God brought us to a house owned by someone who not only asked 0 questions regarding finances, but – against the listed policy – allowed us to have our dog Bella move in also! Turns out, the landlord is a former director of CRU ministries!
  • Theft – while moving in, someone went into my wife’s car and stole her wallet. We had to close down all of her accounts, reissue her IDs and cards… it was a mess. However, our new church family quickly came to our side and supported us in so many ways – through prayers, financial gifts, food donations, and loving messages.
  • New neighborhood – despite the instance of crime we experienced, my wife and I commented recently on how fortunate we are to have such good neighbors. They never have loud or obnoxious parties, never leave a mess in their yards, and are always friendly and cordial when we see them outside. Having had bad neighbors before, this is a huge blessing!
  • Jobs – after moving to the area, I took on a part time job as a window cleaner. It wasn’t working out after a couple months, so I had to leave the company. However, I was also offered a position (several, actually) by someone in the church. That work has proved to be an enriching part of my life, and my boss is incredibly flexible with me and desires that my top work-priority should be the Campus Ministry. What a blessing!
  • Campus Ministry – on that note, I am incredibly thankful that God called me to do something that I love doing – pioneering new ministry initiatives! I have a phenomenal team of supportive, creative people who are passionate about seeing our young people grow in the Lord. And, even though there are certain hurdles and politics to work through, I go to bed excited to wake up and continue working!!
  • Time with my wife – When I moved to the area to begin this ministry, the District leaders were adamant that I not begin this right away. I was going to be a newly-wed, and they wanted to make sure that my wife and I had time to spend together before the ministry started. Although it was a brief few months together, I am so blessed that we had that time. It made a huge difference in our relationship!

Gratitude

There is one more story I wanted to tell. In truth, there are many more, but I don’t want to bore anyone…

While on vacation in the Smokey Mountains, my wife and I were driving up an incline to our cabin. On the last incline, a tee-connector for my van’s coolant system broke and sprayed the entire system’s coolant onto the engine. We were stranded in our cabin.

We were able to get a Lyft from a man named Michael, who drive 20 minutes just to pick us up. He helped us again a couple days later – the only Lyft driver in the area. He was a blessing to us, certainly.

But, what stunned me the most was that, in spite of all of the hills and mountains we drove through to get to the cabin, that broken tee-connector didn’t give-way until the very last hill. It could have given out at any moment. In fact, upon discussing it together, we figured that the tee-connector had been cracked for at least a few weeks prior to our trip.

I am convinced that it was an act of grace from God that our van held together all the way until we were safely within reach of our cabin. Then, having been stuck there, we were forced to spend quality time together for a few days.

I tell that last story to illustrate how this past year of my life has been. God is constantly at work, always watching over us, and knows exactly what we need and when we need it.

Life following Christ is not always comfortable, but it is always worth it.

 

On Snow Banks and Pilgrims

More than once I’ve had to help move a vehicle that broke down. Once, it was a car that had stalled on the road. Another instance was a bus that needed an engine repair in the middle of nowhere.

One thing I’ve learned is that moving a large object always becomes easier if you at least have some momentum. So long as the object is moving, it is easier to direct where it is going than if it is totally still. Even if it’s moving in the opposite direction, you can always shift weight and turn it around. But an object that has stopped dead in its tracks? That’s going to take a lot of work!

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I’ve found that same principle at work in ministry. When the COVID panic happened, it seemed as though everything in life came to a dead halt. It was tempting to view God’s plan being affected in the same way, and say, “let’s hunker down and wait for all this to blow over.” God had other plans.

Rather than taking an early Summer Break, the lockdown period has seen the most activity for Campus Ministry than any other time so far. We have been trying new things, expanding in several areas, examining more of who we are and what ministry looks like for us… it’s been pretty exciting!

 

In working with people over the years, I have discovered that growing as a disciple of Christ always works best so long as we keep momentum going. Being shaped and challenged by the Spirit seems to take less effort and struggle is we are already integrating spiritual disciplines into our lives – reading the word, spending time in prayer, hearing from God, practicing loving our neighbors, to name a few.

In my experience, the people who struggle the most with spiritual growth are those who have stopped moving. They walk a short while, spurred on by a sudden rush of excitement and emotion, and then pull off to the side of the path because they become bored or tired. If anyone has every had to push a car out of a snow pile, you know how frustrating it is to start making progress only for the car to get stuck again. It feels like you have to start all over.

That’s what following the Lord is like. Whenever we say, “I’ve done enough for now, I’m going to take a nap,” we find ourselves regressing.

In The Pilgrim’s Progress, the character called “Christian” is walking along the narrow path to the Celestial Gate. On his way up a large hill, there is a resting place – intended for pilgrims to find refuge and a brief respite. However, rather than catching his breath, the Christian falls asleep. He awakes only to find that the sun has set, and he is in danger of being devoured by the wild beasts of the night.

How many of us have found ourselves in danger of being devoured by those fears we thought we left behind? Has our walk with the Lord become a start-and-stop relationship often turning our lives into a tumultuous roller coaster?

Take heart, and in the words of Dory: “Just keep swimming”

On Announcements and Ministry

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Hey everyone!

I know I haven’t written anything in the last couple of weeks. My wife and I were on vacation, enjoying some much-needed time away (COVID didn’t exactly give us “time off” because of the nature of our work; we actually had more on our plates because of it). Anyway, I wanted to announce some of what I’ve been up to over the last few months.

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As several of you know, I moved to a new area last Fall to begin work on a new ministry focused on college students. As you can imagine, the Coronavirus threw a wrench into our plans, but I’ve been busy working on a lot of different ideas that should set us up for new opportunities down the road. And, I wanted to share that with you!

First, we have a website that directs people to everything we have to offer.

Second, a friend from college and I have recently begun a weekly podcast that explores the Christian Faith. This will be going on iTunes, Google Podcasts, and Stitcher in the near future.

Third, We host a YouTube channel. Right now, there is only an ongoing video series teaching Biblical Hebrew (I was about to begin an in-person class, but had to switch to an online format because of the Quarantine), but we have plans on expanding our resources soon.

Fourth, we have a devotional that we email out every morning. They are based off of the Daily Readings, and include a brief reflection.

There are several other aspects to what we are doing, and there is a growing backlog of plans we hope to implement in the coming year to better serve and equip our college students in their walk with Christ.

I invite you to check out our website, and subscribe to our Monthly Newsletter to receive regular updates if that is something you are interested in.

I’m hoping to get back on my regular schedule soon and have a new post out every Thursday.

 

Thank you for all of your support!

On Impostors and Achievement (Part 2)

Several years ago, I had a friend tell me something that I wrestled with for a long time. She was in an interview for a pastorate position and was asked what her daily routine looked like. As she told it, “I wake up every morning and say to myself, ‘I’m awesome!’”

She got the position, and was phenomenal at what she did.

You may be wondering why I wrestled with that. Was it because it came across as prideful, and I took issue with a pastor saying that during an interview (or at all)? No.

Fast forward to a couple years back, and I’m settled in my new position as a pastor in Gagetown. I was also in an unhealthy relationship that eroded my sense of confidence and self-worth. I began to question almost every choice I made, and even though I didn’t realize it at the time, I was in a pretty pathetic state.

Those words came back to me, “I wake up every morning and say to myself, ‘I’m awesome!’”

“How,” I wondered, “could someone be so confident in who they are?”

I tried it once. I looked in the mirror and said, out lout, “I’m awesome!” it felt weird. But, it also stirred something within me.

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It’s one thing to have people congratulate you and sing your praises; “You are so good at…..,” “You are an incredible person!” and so on. It’s quite another thing to say those to yourself.

I once heard someone say that the most important relationship in your life – second to God – is your relationship with yourself. I think there is a lot of truth to that. I lived a long time being in an abusive relationship with myself. I would tell myself things like, “You can’t do X,” “You aren’t good enough for X,” etc. Many people – in fact, more people than not, have this kind of relationship with themselves.

What began as a confused wrestling with someone’s morning routine turned into admiration that someone would so intentionally rage against that self-abusive tendency we all share.

“I’m amazing!” And I refuse to look down on myself.

“I’m amazing!” And I won’t tell myself that I’m not good enough.

“I’m amazing!” And I reject the notion that I’m mediocre.

Do I feel such sentiments can go too far? Certainly! We can all achieve an inflated ego. By the same token, how many of us refuse to give ourselves a passing grade at life? How many, when confronted with a new situation or opportunity, say, “I can’t”? How many go to bed at night saying to themselves, “I’m not amazing”?

Tell yourself that you’re amazing.

Tell yourself that you can.

Because, sometimes, you’re the only person who will.

You have a relationship with yourself. What kind of relationship is it? Is it healthy, or abusive?

On Rehearsals and Comparisons

This is an interesting time for ministry. Weekly Zoom meetings, daily emails, hourly text messages… it’s a lot to take in. It seems everyone is working to innovate and find some semblance of “normal” during this season. I applaud the countless hours of work my fellow pastors have contributed to ensure the spiritual growth and overall health of their people.

But, these innovations are not without their stressors. Just as social media shifts us into evaluating our lives according to everyone else’s posts – feeling like we need to provide the perfect Timeline pic so that we can feel good about ourselves – pastors are fighting against feelings of inadequacy. We hear about what other churches are doing, and there is almost a sense of pressure that we need to emulate that.

Certainly, there is room for sharing ideas to address a lacking area of ministry. I, myself, have ‘borrowed’ ideas of pastors around me and integrated them into my ministry routine. However, I wonder how many pastors are facing the self-judgement of “I’m not doing enough” that comes from comparing how we are doing ministry compared to someone else.

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Recently, I read about someone’s experience with practicing piano. They were sharing how frustrating it is to be practicing a piece over-and-over again, and nearly always messing up at the same part. Then, when they play through the music and get distracted, they somehow manage not to make the same mistake. “Why does that happen,” the writer asked.

I had to laugh when I read that, mostly because I know exactly what that is like from my own piano practicing. It also reminded me of something I learned many years ago while in band: How you play in rehearsal will always be better than how you play during your performance. It’s the same psychological phenomenon at play…

“When you focus so much of your attention on your music,” someone responded to the author, “especially the parts that you struggle with, the self-judging part of your brain is active – constantly evaluating every note, intonation, dynamic, and accent. But, when you’re distracted, that part of your brain shuts-off, allowing yourself to freely move through the music with natural expression because you are no longer critical of yourself.”

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from ministry, it’s this: If you want to fail at ministry, copy exactly what everyone else is doing. Being a spiritual leader isn’t about chasing trends. It’s about exploring how God has uniquely equipped you for this task. He didn’t call someone else to pastor your church. He didn’t put someone else as the teacher of your Sunday School class. He placed you where you are, because you have a way of doing things that no one else does.

Ministry is not lais·sez-faire, of course. I’m not advocating that people throw caution and reason to the wind and “just do whatever you want, man!” Listen to people’s ideas, see what other people are doing. But, at the end of the day, do ministry the way you do ministry; put aside the comparisons and self-deprecation, and allow yourself the freedom to lead during this pandemic the way that feels best for you. God is no less active in your creativity now than he was a month ago.

Your gifts and graces are adequate to lead well.

On Lockdown and Anxiety

I think this is the first time it has ever happened to me…

I forgot it was Holy Week.

I forgot it was Easter.

I even forgot it was my wife’s and my 6-month wedding anniversary. (I kind of get a pass on this one, since we both forgot about it until a family member asked, “Does it feel like it’s been 6 months already?” Apparently not.)

I would be lying if I said I haven’t felt immense anxiety over the past few weeks. Last Friday, as my wife and I were out shopping, I had to walk off into a corner and calm myself down because I felt like I was going to have a panic attack.

Maybe it was the tightening of the lockdown in my state. Maybe it’s because of the constant barrage of “unknowns.” Maybe it’s because… you know what – it doesn’t matter. Fact is, these past few weeks have not been easy. They haven’t been easy for me, and they certainly haven’t been easy for anyone else.

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While I attended college, I was blessed with several opportunities to go on an international mission trip through my school’s Missions department. Each year, every mission trip group would gather for a few large training sessions. People who were going to the Philippines, Mexico, Kenya, Thailand, and wherever else would get together and do team building exercises and cross-cultural orientation. Many of the lessons taught will always stick with me (mostly because the “Missions In Action” leader was phenomenal!), but one lesson in particular comes to mind during this time in life.

That one lesson was broken down into two parts: First, “That’s different, and that’s okay.” We were taught that just because we experienced something different in another culture, that didn’t de facto make it something bad. That’s because we tend to measure other cultures against our own (a natural thing to do), and establish something different as ‘bad’ or ‘below expectations.’ It was hammered into us that, when we saw something different, to think to ourselves, “That’s different, and that’s okay.”

The second part of the lesson was this: “That’s different, and that’s not okay.” Some things we witnessed were not doing to be good. Human trafficking, abuse, child neglect, theft, mob justice… Things we may not have normally encountered in our lives here, but things that we did encounter on the field. I remember one of my team members telling the story of how she was woken up in the middle of the night to the sound of screams from a women being raped in an alley by our hotel. “That’s different, and that’s not okay.”

That lesson was significant not just because it helped us to process the things we would witness, but because it gave us permission to be able to say, “[This] is not okay.” Sometimes, I find it helpful to have space to say, “this isn’t okay.”

That’s where I think a lot of us are right now. We are being kept from seeing our loved ones. People we know are suffering and dying alone. People are losing their jobs left and right. A quiet anxiety is creeping into our lives from almost all sides. There is near-constant fear, and it seems there is no way to escape it. Stores are closed, some are closing for good. We can’t purchase the things we need or want. People are contracting a disease that we don’t know much about, and no one can be sure if they even carry it or not. Workers deemed necessary are becoming more and more afraid of doing their job, and getting ready for work is a test of stress control.

I tend to be a very optimistic person, but those who know me also know that I’m not shy in recognizing when things look bad. This is a different time for us, and it sucks.

Am I advocating for protests? I’m not sure, to be honest. I do know that this post is not intended to rile anyone up or propose some movement. What I am trying to do is say, “It’s okay to recognize that none of this is okay.”

In this culture of extremes, it seems that the only places to land in the conversation are: “All of this is wrong, and we need to rebel against the government,” or, “We need even more restrictions, and people need to be forced to stay in their homes.”

I personally don’t care where you land on the political spectrum in this circumstance. But, I think we can all agree that “What we are all going through is different, and it’s not okay.”

On COVID and Conferencing

2019 was a year of change for me. I got engaged, changed jobs, moved, got married, changed jobs again, changed churches, and started a brand new ministry (to name a few of the big changes). Here’s the problem, though: the year of change was supposed to be just 2019.

Just as things began to show some normalcy; getting into a routine, starting to make progress and have clear goals month-to-month, this virus shows up.  Back to the drawing board!

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I won’t lie, this has been a difficult time for me. When starting a new ministry, there are many small moving pieces that – depending on how they land – can define the trajectory for years to come. I moved carefully, only doing what I felt confident doing, and focusing my energy where it made the most sense. And, just as I was getting ready to start some new things, campuses shut down and now I’m stuck at home.

It’s frustrating. I hadn’t even had a solid version of what Campus Ministry would look like, and then the format entirely changes! While most other pastors are asking, “How can we continue to minister to our people?” I was just beginning to ask, “Who are my people and how do I minister at all?”

Thankfully, I have had time to try some new things. I have been sending out daily devotionals every morning for the past 3 weeks now (If you would like to subscribe, check out the EMD Campus Ministry Facebook page!), I am offering free Hebrew reading lessons on a new Campus Ministry YouTube channel, and this week I will be sending out the first episode of a new podcast.

Still, though, I wonder how many other ministers are feeling similar to how I am. Even if some have been serving in a church or other ministry capacity for a while, I am sure there are many who are feeling just as frustrated. Is it okay to be feeling this way? I think so.

If anything, this has been a time for me to truly reflect on what it means that God is my peace. It’s easy to say that when things are going well and we have it all figured out. But, most days – especially recently – I lay down at night and struggle to feel any peace at all because so little makes sense, and it is easy to feel like I’m missing some piece of the puzzle; like there’s some niche that’s slipping through my fingers that will make all this go so much better.

I remember a video I saw several years ago while I was a student at Olivet. It was a parody of the stereotypical guest Youth speaker – young, hip, always using pop-culture references and being risqué. And, at the end of the video, the youth leaders of the local church kick out the ‘hip pastor’ and one of them says (and I’m paraphrasing), “you know… we don’t have to dress everything up. As long as we love these students in Jesus’ name, I think we’re doing alright.”

Certainly, that doesn’t answer all of the questions we are still asking during this time. But, perhaps, there is some comfort and peace to be found in saying, “I’m doing what I can, even though it doesn’t seem like much. And, what I’m doing is enough.” Maybe we tend to expect too much from ourselves when crisis comes.

Maybe I expect too much from myself when I’m at bat against a curveball.

Anyways, I hope there was some insight or encouragement that can be gleaned from my ramblings on this one. Stay safe, friends.

On Work and Sabbath (Part 4)

When my wife and I went on our honeymoon, there were several times when we thought about our dog and wanted to check up on her.

“I hope she’s doing okay.”

“Do you think she’s feeling lonely without us?”

“What if she got into something?”

I was not expecting to have to exercise trust while we were away. Thankfully, our dog sitter did an excellent job and there were no issues when we returned home and picked her up.

Sabbath rest is like that. We get so used to having dominion and oversight over all of the work we do, that it becomes difficult to let go. I wonder if that is why rest is can be so challenging for us.

I remember being at home on Friday’s (my chosen day of rest), and thinking about the sermon I had finished writing. Or, the board packets that I was going to send out the next day to my board members. Or and number of things that I had been working on all week…

“I think I need to redo this part of my sermon…”

“What if I’m missing something in the board packets?”

“I forgot to call so-and-so about Sunday Morning!”

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One of my mentors recently told me, “Sabbath is such a discipline, because it needs us to trust God with our work.” I think there is a lot of wisdom in that. Taking time to rest is a way of saying, “I’ve done what I’ve done, and I’m trusting God with my work today.”

This is also where personal discipline during the rest of the week comes in. A part of being able to trust God with our work during rest is taking responsibility for our part all the other days. One of the most beneficial things we can do to rest well is: working well.

I found that my most restful days came after my most ‘workful’ days. Not days where I worked long hours, but days where I was focused and being as diligent as I could be on the tasks at hand. My Sabbath days would quickly be ruined by worry and anxiety when I had spent the previous week slacking off and not working well.

Still, even when I had done all the work that was required of me, it was a matter of trust to use those Friday’s for rest. There was always a good reason to not rest; perfecting the Sunday Morning announcements, tweaking an Facebook post that was scheduled to go out the following morning, going to visit someone… but, in the end, I had to trust God with what needed to be done instead of feeling like everything was 100% up to me.

What about the rest of us? Are we able to trust God in our times of rest?

If not, is it because we aren’t doing what we should all the other days given to us? Or, perhaps, is it because we feel like everything is dependent upon us?

On Work and Sabbath (Part 3)

I didn’t plan this.

When I began writing this short series on Sabbath, I had no idea that the country would effectively come to a screeching halt. It is a bizarre situation.

What also been bizarre is how people have responded to being essentially forced to stay at home. With so many restaurants shut down, and social venues taking a hiatus, people have been taking it pretty easy.

My computer desk is right by a street-facing window. I don’t recall ever seeing so many people simply walking down the street like this. Children riding bikes, adult couples taking a leisurely stroll, people walking their dogs. Almost every hour my small dog is growling at someone passing by our driveway. It’s as if life has finally slowed down.

Don’t get me wrong. The reason for the world coming to a standstill isn’t something to be happy about; it has been a very confusing and stressful time for many people – myself included. I even had a conversation yesterday in which I said, “It’s odd. I’m not driving anywhere or having meetings, but I have more on my plate now than two weeks ago!” There are a lot of lifestyle and work adjustments going on. And one of those adjustments people are making is that they have to figure out how to live with less “stuff” going on. That, in itself, is not such a bad thing.

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We have become all too accustomed to being “busy.” When asked, “What have you been up to,” we tend to list off as much as we can as if that’s impressive. I find myself doing this with me wife. When she asks, “What have you been up to today?” I find myself rattling off every little thing so I can sound more impressive. We have developed a bad habit of focusing on quantity of activities rather than quality.

It’s a lesson I learned when I became a salaried employee. When I was an hourly worker, my concept of “effective work” was based on how much time I put into it. However, when I became a salaried pastor, I had to learn a different metric for “effective” work. Rather than “how much time did I spend on X,” I was thinking, “Is X done well?” I learned how to focus on the quality of my time spent, not the quantity of time I spent.

That perspective began to ripple into other areas of my life. And it was incredibly liberating! I had my list of tasks that I needed to get done in a week, and sometimes I could get them completed within a few days, leaving my schedule open to do other things. It also allowed me space to give myself permission to take a break. I wasn’t going to force myself to be busy for the sake of being busy.

Granted, the flow of my life changed regularly – some weeks I would feel like I only worked for 15-20 hours, and other weeks I would put in 60-70 hours before the weekend. It all evened out in the end.

The point is: maybe this is a good time to reflect on where our priorities sit when it comes to how we approach our schedules. Since we are all being forced to slow down, do we find ourselves anxious that our lives aren’t “busy” enough to feel productive? Do we feel like we’re just wasting time because we don’t have to force “going for a walk” into our daily routine?

Perhaps we can take a moment to ask ourselves, “Have I been more focused on maintaining a busy schedule?” And follow that up with, “Or am I more focused on living life well?” Are the activities we involve ourselves in worthwhile, or just time-sinks? Are we allowing ourselves to dream beyond our workplace goals, or finding ways to enrich ourselves?

Sabbath isn’t about sitting around like a couch potato. Yes, it does mean unplugging from exhausting activities so our bodies and minds can take a break, but it’s also about building into our lives a rhythm of restful time that is well spent. Sabbath was made for us, so that we don’t become robotic slaves to “busyness”

On Work and Sabbath (Part 2)

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There I was. The new pastor in a lovely church, full of wonderful people, in a small town community. Life felt laid-back, and I loved being able to walk to my office every morning and smell the fresh country air while listening to the birds chirping and the farmers running their equipment in the distance.

I had my mug of coffee in one hand, and my keys in the other. I’d wave either to the couple on their morning walk, or the man with his two small dogs as they walked by – depending on how late in the morning I was that day. I would unlock the church doors, swing around the desk in my office, pull out my tablet, and turn on some music to begin my work.

And two hours later, I was zoning out and felt completely drained.

It was embarrassing! I honestly don’t know how I was able to go so many months without forgetting to write a sermon, or neglect a Sunday Evening study, or show up late to a board meeting. I felt like I was running on fumes 24/7, just barely staying above the fray. “How,” I wondered, “are other pastors able to keep up the pace with all of their commitments, and I can’t even make it to lunchtime!”

When I began my pastorate, I informed my board that Tuesdays would be me “off” days. It worked. That is, until I would get asked to lead a devotional at the local Senior Living facility. “Well, that’s just in the morning. I can do that and then rest. It’s only for a month at a time, so it’s no big deal.” Except, instead of resting myself for those days, I would spend all of my time trying to unwind from the morning’s devotional. Not very restful.

Then, other events started coming up. The parishioners of the local Catholic church kept asking me to come to Mass on Tuesday mornings with them. And other pastors in the area would schedule meetings on Tuesdays. And so on and so on… The frustrating part is that I wanted to do all of those things, so I rarely turned down an opportunity to lead a devotional for the elderly, or attend Mass.

However, rather than building up my ministry, using my Tuesdays – my designated rest times – only served to hinder my ability to minister. I was worn-out every week. Yes, I had a “day off” every week, but it wasn’t restful. And, truthfully, it wasn’t even a “day off.” I continued to allow it to be interrupted. That’s when I learned how protective I had to be of my own rest. No one else was going to do it for me. Something had to change.

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That’s when I decided to get real with Sabbath. Because I enjoyed the Tuesday events, I change my weekly Sabbath day to Fridays. I told the church this was my Sabbath day, and directed everyone to contact the secretary if they needed something and the secretary would contact me in an emergency. I never committed to a Friday event (unless it was a rare occasion), and I refused to even go out of my house so that I could avoid being pulled into pastoral work (everyone in town knew I was a pastor, so I had to really shut myself away so I could shed my pastoral duties).

When Thursday night came, I would shut off my phone. I only turned it on twice on Fridays to check for emergencies. I didn’t check my email, didn’t go on Facebook, and only went outside to work on my garden. Instead, I engaged in restful activities (well, they’re restful to me); I would do the dishes, maybe clean a room or two, but most of the time I would listen to music, play some games, watch a movie, and generally detach myself from my responsibilities as a Pastor.

It was truly a day of resting from work. I refused to let myself do any activity that caused me stress. And you know what happened?

Suddenly, I wasn’t so tired at work anymore. I was able to go a whole month – even more! – without feeling like I needed a vacation. I was getting all of my work done, and catching up on the back-log of unfinished projects I had built up. I was more productive those 6 days of the week than I had ever been working all 7, and I didn’t feel drained!

Why? Because once Friday came, everything in my world stopped. I forced myself to rest. I even got in the practice of taking a bath at night with all of the lights off, putting myself into a sensory deprivation, until I had completely lost track of time, just so I could get my mind to relax. But, that’s what I had to do. And the other 6 days of the week thanked me for it.

Rest isn’t easy. It’s funny how we all desire rest, but yet so many of us actively resist it. We continue to find excuses to not give ourselves permission to do it. “There are a million things that need to get done,” we say. And it’s the truth. There is always a good reason to not rest.

But, that doesn’t mean we should avoid it.

Rest is a discipline. A discipline that is so easily neglected, but so very necessary in our lives.

I know the Lenten season has already started, but if you feel led I would encourage you to begin practicing a day of rest during Lent. See for yourself the difference it can make.