Choose a Rhythm of Rest or Ruin Your Life

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God has blessed my wife and I with two very active, young daughters. When it comes time for bedtime or a necessary nap time, they both fight the idea of laying down as if their mom and I were asking them to go swimming with sharks. 

Rest time is abhorred by our children.
They’ve even started to barter with us. 

I’ll do this chore or I’ll play in the playroom nicely or I won’t kick my sister in the stomach – all so they don’t have to lay down. 

If we allow them to skip a nap or if we allow them to act like every night is a slumber party and they don’t have to go to bed at a decent hour, they are going to be nightmares the next day.

The reason they don’t want to rest is because they are afraid at missing out on something. 

And I would venture to say, that when it comes to resting for you, if you don’t rest, then you are going to miss out on something going forward. And that something, is a lasting legacy. If you don’t rest, life will be a blur.   

As I look through the pages of the Bible there are a few reasons that show why inserting rest into our weekly rhythm makes so much sense.

1. A rhythm of rest RENEWS your body.

God has created our bodies in such a way that they work and function best when they are set and committed to a rhythm of rest. 

Physicians inform that 75-90% of doctor’s visits could be avoided if people could just eliminate the weight of stress and anxiety due to the lack of rest in their life. 

The magazine Business Weekly conducted a survey where they asked people in the workplace this simple question: How are you feeling? 

The number one answer in the workplace to, How are you feeling? was by far this answer: I’m tired.

Question: How are you feeling?
Answer #1: I’m tired. 

The 21st century has already been dubbed, The Century of Fatigue.

I was reading about this internal clock humans have in their body referred to as, The Pineal Gland. This pineal gland collects serotonin. Serotonin is released (how God designed this to work) when the sun rises in the morning. When released, this serotonin gives the human body energy and joy and anticipation for what awaits for us for that day.

Is that what happens to you when the sun rises? Is joyful what you feel right when you wake up? 

Not so much. 

When the sun rises, you’re not thinking, Oh what a beautiful mooooorning!
You’re thinking, Snooze alarm clock, and then you think, COFFEE NOW!

But my daughters, they wake up with a smile and with energy ready to go. 

Then in the evening, when the sun sets, the serotonin is converted to melatonin, and that’s what gives us this sense of being tired and pretty soon we’re ready to sleep. It’s why we are out like a light before 9:00PM in the winter time. When the sun is down early, we’re down early. 

A physician named Dr. Archibald says that most Americans ignore this internal clock in their brain. The pineal gland doesn’t know what’s going on so the serotonin and the melatonin are confused on when to be released and we’re up when we should be down but we’re restless and stimulated by TV and tablets and smartphones and then the next day we’re lethargic and easily agitated and slow and depressed-feeling. 

It’s all because we’re violating the way God wants us to function daily and when we continue to be on the run and not rest, our bodies will be weak, and weak bodies lead to terrible sins.

Fatigue will not prepare you to say no to the temptation that is waiting for you. 

Maybe you read a blog like this and think, More rest? Okay. Sign me up. I would love to rest but there are projects around the home I promised would be done last week and the contract needs to be written up or this client needs an email from me on the weekend and the kid’s have all these activities and I don’t want them to fall behind and I would love more rest but it’s all going to fall apart if I establish a simpler schedule.

In the book of Leviticus, God continued to instruct His people to have a life of rhythm where He says, Every 7 years, I want you to give the land a rest. Don’t plant or plow or harvest the field in the 7th year. 

The people say back to God what we would’ve said, Okaaaaaay, God. Sure, we’ll go a year without working. How are we going to eat?

Here’s how God responds,

You might ask, ‘What will we eat during the seventh year, since we are not allowed to plant or harvest crops that year?’ Be assured that I will send my blessing for you in the sixth year, so the land will produce a crop large enough for three years.When you plant your fields in the eighth year, you will still be eating from the large crop of the sixth year. In fact, you will still be eating from that large crop when the new crop is harvested in the ninth year. (Leviticus 25:20-22)

God is saying, When you take that 7th year off from farming, do nothing. It won’t make sense on paper. You won’t be able to rationalize it or predict it, but trust Me on this. If you honor Me with your time, if you to put Me at the center of your life you’ll see and experience change. You’ll get so much more from Me by taking time off than you would if you blurred your time together. And by resting your bodies you’ll be ready to go back into the mission I have in store for you.

A rhythm of rest doesn’t just renew your body, but also, 

2. A rhythm of rest REPLENISHES your relationships. 

If we violate this rhythm of rest we will also damage the special relationships God has put in our lives.

MSNBC did a report on a study done by UCLA’s Center For Every Day Lives. UCLA followed around 32 families for 4 years. They recorded each family for the length of 1,600 hours. It was like, The Truman Show. 1,600 hours of videotape over the course of 4 years for each of these 32 families. 

The researchers were stunned at the hectic pace these families were living their lives to and as a result, how distant and cold family members treated each other.

One of the clips from this study was of a man who came home from work late. His young kids were already asleep and his wife was sitting on the edge of the bed. She’s folding laundry and she’s got her bedroom television on. Husband walks into the bedroom and there was no, Hello, from the wife. No smile from her. No, How was your day? No hug, no kiss on either exchange. 

What does happen is the couple picks up mid-sentence an argument they had 15 hours earlier that morning about who left the milk out the night before and now it’s spoiled.

Another clip is of this business woman, dressed in an executive, silk suit. She’s got a forced smile on her face and she’s trying to get her daughter just to look at her. Her daughter refuses to look at her mom until finally the embarrassed nanny in the room, who is putting her daughter’s pajamas on, prompts the girl to acknowledge her mom’s presence. 

Another clip is of this big bear of a man walking into his crammed home-office and his teenage son is playing a video game on the office computer. Dad rubs the hair of his son playfully and the whiney response the son was, I thought you were going to get this monitor fixed?

The researchers found just 1 family out of the 32 families had unstructured, structured time together. 5/32 of the families had no time together. At no point in 4 years through 1600 hours of tape did 5 families spend time altogether in the same room.

We need to live life with a restful, slower, more intentional pace, spending quality time together. When we don’t, our relationships will suffer. We can’t choose be possessions over people. 

Where are the kids who want to go for a walk with their mom just to talk as they leave their phone at home? 

When was the last date night for mom and dad? 

What family would try going without TV for a month?

What household is kissing and hugging the spouse and the kids every single entry and exit of the home?

Do you see what we’re missing by adhering to the frantic pace of culture? 

Thirdly,

3. A rhythm of rest RESTORES your soul. 

More than rest for our body, more than rest for the relationships we love, this rhythm of rest keeps us close and aligned with God. 

“Be still, and know that I am God. (Psalm 46:10)

Be still and know God is God. You’re not. He is. You can’t change things. He can. You can’t heal it. He can. You can’t control it. Let Him.

When we refuse to honor God with our time (days without the Bible or prayer, weeks without church, months without making Christian friends, years without leading our family toward Jesus, decades of the same sin) when we refuse to honor God with our time we are saying to Him, God, You can’t do this. I have to do it. I don’t trust You to come through if I rest. 

One of the most healthy things we can do on a daily basis is to step away every single day from things and say and believe, God, You’re God. I’m not. I’m dependent on you. And I not only need You, God, but I’m thankful You’re strong enough, loving enough, more than enough for me, my situation, my family, my fear, my dreams, Thank You for taking the burden to put my life together.

Picture a three year old. If you know three year olds, they want to do everything adults can do. They want coffee. They want to drive. They want to stay up late. They want to watch shows mom and dad watch. They walk around the home in their parents loafers or high heels. 

What every three year old loves to do in the springtime is help mow the yard.

It takes a lot of energy for a pre-schooler to reach up, push and walk with a lawnmower while mom and dad are also mowing. After a while of mowing, the child gets exhausted and steps aside and stops pushing the mower.

Each time the parent mows with the child, it’s the child who thinks they’re pushing the mower but when they step aside to rest, the child sees the mower is going even while they aren’t. They sees their parent is the one making it happen.

What if God is thankful we take a break and when we do, He gets more done in our lives while we rest?

You’ve got to figure this out for you. Get some rest. 

Thanks for reading. You are loved. 

Z

3 Questions Your Church Leader Isn’t Asking You, But Should

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Picture the scenario in your mind: A person in church is struggling with temptation and giving into sin. They reach out to their pastor or ministry leader for counsel and prayer. Some typical questions asked by the pastor intended to help the person when temptation comes might be,

Are you reading your Bible enough?
Have you memorized the proper Scriptures?
Are you praying enough?
Are you fasting?
Do you journal?
Are you leaving your addictions behind?
Have you been baptized?
Are you in worship at church consistently?
Are you serving in the church?
Are you in a small group at church?
Are you giving financially to the church?

More than not, these questions are asked to someone struggling with giving into temptation. These cookie-cutter, habitual coat hangers church leaders hang their hat on. These aren’t the questions that should be asked by the church leader. At least not at first. There’s some merit in asking if someone is spiritually centering their focus on Jesus, with Bible-reading, dedication and prayer; not on money, not on sin. While somewhat helpful, these questions can do more harm by increasing insecurity around the ministry leader for not measuring up to the churchy works expected.

Plus they don’t help that much when it comes to resisting the temptation to sin.
(Whoa! Did I just say that?)

I’m not saying the typical church leader questions aren’t important, because they can be. I’m saying they shouldn’t be asked first. What initially needs to be discovered when it comes to a Christian sinning repeatedly is whether or not they are living a balanced life.

There are three divergent questions pastors and church leaders should start with when meeting with someone who is struggling and these can be asked in love and genuine care, without guilt or spiritual intimidation. They are,

  1. Are you eating healthy meals when you should?
  2. Are you sleeping the appropriate amount of hours each night? 
  3. Are you in vulnerable Christian community?

In a foundational question, How balanced is your life? Please recognize that,

You Will Be Tempted Greatly When You Are Hungry, Alone and Fatigued. 

I see this in the Bible in the book of Luke, chapter 4. Right after Jesus is baptized and before He enters into public ministry, He goes into the desert. He fasts from food for forty days (so He’s hungry), He’s isolated from people (He’s alone), and sleeping on the desert floor for six weeks has made Him exhausted (He’s fatigued). This is when the devil himself shows up to tempt Jesus three different times, when Jesus is hungry, alone and fatigued.

When my dad was alive, he would call me just to ask me a few basic questions. He would ask, Z, are you eating meals? Z, are you sleeping enough? Z, are you in Christian community? 

He wouldn’t ask me if I was praying enough or reading my Bible daily or putting God first in my finances, as important as those are. He knew that if I wasn’t eating right, sleeping well and being vulnerable with others, then I would be prone to sin more frequently in ways Bible-reading and prayer wouldn’t stop. And he was right. I sin mostly and easily when I can hide my true self from others, when I skip meals and when I stay up late at night.

As a church leader who cares about the daily lives of the people around me, let me ask these questions to you: Are you eating when you should? Are you sleeping the amount you should? Are you in good, close, genuine friendships where you can talk about struggles and still be accepted and loved? (Side note: just because someone is in a small group at church or says they have friends who are Christian, it doesn’t mean they are being vulnerable/ugly/confessional in order to be supported and checked in on. I’ve fake my way through small groups to keep up a mirage of holiness and all I really kept was sinning)

I guess I could ask all of those in one question: Is your life balanced? (Answer yes or no)

If your life is crazy busy and there’s too much in the schedule every day, week to week, that most likely means you’re skipping meals or eating junk on the run. It means you won’t rest because you’re trying to squeeze everything in and your brain is frantic with thoughts whenever you do finally lay down. It means you won’t take time to have friends over for a meal or have coffee with them or call them simply to see how they’re doing, or look forward to when it’s time to be around friends from church. I have lost touch with close friendships of people I trust being ugly about myself with because my life was unbalanced.

Is your life balanced? If not, temptation will be more difficult to resist.

There are days where your physical energy levels are low. You’re been working too much, volunteering too much, exhausted from the kids, or you’re on the road a lot, or there’s an illness – days when you’re energy is depleted and you’re not eating when you should, what you should. Be warned, temptation is near when aren’t eating meals.

You’ll get be tempted greatly when you’re isolated. It’s the kid tempted when away from home on a trip with friends, or with the travel team, or it’s the career-worker on a business trip, the person alone at night and online. It’s that feeling of no one is watching you, that false sense of freedom. Be warned, temptation is near when you are alone.

You’ll get hit with temptation when you’re tired. It’s a college student away from home staying up late playing video games, watching movies, missing assignments because they were undisciplined. Be warned, temptation is near when you’re beat.

It’s a young professional who moves to the city for their first job, has their first apartment, no mom or dad, gets to reinvent themselves. And because they don’t eat right, sleep right, choose to make and be transparent with godly friends, they struggle. Instead of living in freedom they enslave themselves by living for the weekend more than for a lasting legacy.

It’s the married person who hits the road for work, hits meetings earnestly, then after work hits the bar, then hits the hotel room with temptation hounding them. If they are healthy, rested and held accountable by friends, they’re more likely to choose what is right over what is easy.

Christianity is not about reading your Bible and checking that box each day.

I’ve sinned greatly on the same day I’ve read my Bible, prayed, journal and fasted.
And I’ve chosen holiness at times where I have gone days without Bible-reading or prayer.

Christianity is about living a loving, obedient life, which is best done by attaining balance daily. 

I’m more likely to be prayerful, loving toward others, obedient under God, hold fast to my integrity, choose what is godly over what is worldly when my life is balanced. And my life is balanced when I can answer “yes” to the three questions church leaders should be asking the people they say they love. We must eat right, sleep well and open up with loved ones about what we struggle with.

Think about Peter, one of Jesus’ closest friends in adulthood. On the night of Jesus’ arrest and trials, Peter is near with intended devotion, but temptation and fear overcome him as he chooses to deny to strangers even knowing who Jesus is. He does this three times. He is struggling with temptation. He doesn’t want to be asked by church leaders if he’s been reading his Torah.

Is Peter hungry? He had a Last Supper meal that may or may not have included meat (maybe Jesus was the Lamb to be sacrificed at this Passover meal, maybe there was an actual lamb to eat, let’s not be divided over it). What we do know in John’s writing of Jesus’ arrest and trials has Peter denying Jesus the third time right before the rooster crows. Meaning, the next early morning after he ate dinner the night before, Peter chooses lies and betrayal. Yes, Peter is hungry.

Is he tired? After dinner, after listening to Jesus teach at the table, after singing hymns, after traveling to the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus grabs His friends and asks them to pray for Him and to pray that temptation doesn’t overtake them. Jesus goes on to pray Himself intensely and three separate times He finds his friends, Peter included, falling asleep. And as mentioned in the pervious paragraph, Peter is up until sunrise the next day. Yes, Peter is fatigued.

Is Peter alone? After Peter tries to defend Jesus and defend his word at dinner that he would die for Jesus, (instead he cuts someone’s ear off intending to kill them), most of Jesus’ friends flee the scene as their Leader is arrested. Peter tails close behind the chaos to try to keep an eye on Jesus. He denies knowing Jesus and no other close friend of Jesus’ is near to hold Peter accountable to being one of Jesus’ disciples. Peter is isolated.

Be careful. You will be swarmed with temptation when you are hungry, alone and fatigued. Watch your loved ones when they are hungry, tired and spending too much time in isolation.

Take the brave step to invite accountability to someone who will ask you regularly if you are eating when you should, sleeping as much as you need and if you are continuing to open up about the temptations and vices you struggle with. It’s a gift to have those people in your life.

Thanks for reading. Even the longer blogs. You are loved.

Z