God doesn’t call you to wear yourself out

I’m always busy, and I like it that way. But that means I burn out. Frequently. I try to head it off, but most of the time I have to crash and burn before anything changes.

For years, people have told me that I need to rest. But I’ve never really let myself do–well, because it doesn’t accomplish anything. At least, in my own mind, it’s a waste of time.

For me, what makes me feel rested is just being at home. Sleeping until I wake up, without an alarm. Having a real breakfast. And then spending the whole day just doing homey stuff. Cooking. Baking. Maybe watching a movie or two. Walking outside or playing in the snow–or just watching the snow fall with a cup of hot tea.

No word counts. No deadlines. No plans.

But when you have so much to do, so much to accomplish, so much to get done, it’s really really hard to take a real day off. Just because I’m not at my day job doesn’t mean I’m not working. At any given moment, I have five novels in progress, and the thought of taking a day off and not using the time to work on some personal project is horrifying.

So what if I need the rest? I only have a limited amount of time and energy, so I’d better be a good steward of what I have. And God will give me the strength and the energy and I need.

Won’t He?

Today’s verses are Matthew 11:28-29.

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

I do believe God gives us supernatural strength to finish the things He’s called us to do, but as with everything else in our lives, before we just assume He’ll do something for us, we need to check our hearts.

For me, I don’t think I’m always driven to be busy for Him. I’m driven to busy because I want to prove (to myself) that I have a purpose or that I’m useful. I think that’s my greatest fear is not being useful. But I think I’ve equated being busy with being useful for so long that when I’m not busy, I feel useless. And that’s not true.

This is why God gives us best friends: to talk sense into us when we’re being dumb.

Yes, it’s true that God calls us to work. He has great things He wants to do through us, but that’s up to Him. Not us. And just as He calls us to work, He also calls us to rest.

I fought it, but my best friend eventually convinced me to take a mental health day. Sure, I had to work overtime to get it, but I had plenty to do. And in other times, I would have used that extra day off this weekend to knock out 10,000 to 15,000 words on one of the four projects I have sitting around.

But I didn’t.

I didn’t write anything. For the whole day.

I woke up when the sun came up. I ate a lovely breakfast. I spent time with my parents. I cooked and baked. I Skyped with my best friend for two and a half hours. I watched a movie. And I went to bed when I got tired. And I didn’t allow myself to feel guilty that I didn’t get work done. I just enjoyed my day, and I woke up Saturday morning and felt–new.

How often do we push ourselves past the breaking point because we think it’s what God wants? I think I do it more than I would care to admit. But that’s not the life He’s called us to. A life following Christ isn’t easy, no, but it shouldn’t have the same burdens as a life lived without Him. That’s where we get it wrong.

The world tells us we have to be busy. We think we have to run around like crazy people so that everyone will know that we’re accomplishing something. But that’s a lie Satan uses to distract us and wear us down.

No, don’t be lazy, but don’t let the world set your schedule. Don’t let the world’s standards hold you to a timetable you’ll have to kill yourself to achieve. That’s not God’s path.

God’s road is narrow, yes, but there’s no weight He gives us that He won’t help us carry. So stop working yourself to death. Stop driving yourself into the ground. It’s okay to rest. It’s okay to take a real day off. You need it. Everybody needs it.

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Ministry team assembled from the US and Guatemala to reach the Kekchi, Peten, Guatemala

How paintballing taught me why teams matter

I don’t remember how old I was when I went paintballing for the first time. I think I was in high school. If you’ve never been paintballing, you should go. Just for the experience. It’s one of those ridiculous things people do–running around shooting each other with air-powered paint pellets. I thought it would be like a water gun fight, but it isn’t. Oh, no, it’s so much better.

But it hurts. Not going to lie.

I think we were supposed to be on teams, but I’ve never been really good at competing in a group. I’m not coordinated at all, and I usually have to move at my own pace, which is significantly slower than other people. So I don’t like being on a team with others because I slow them down, and that makes me feel guilty. It always has. So I prefer to be on my own.

But in paintballing…. well, let’s just say it’s better to have a team mate. Because when you end up charging at someone, your partner can take them out … just not before they shoot you three times point blank in the chest …. I won’t mention names (*cough-cough-Jimmy-Dinsmore-cough-cough*).

It’s better not to charge into battle without someone who’s got your back. You’ve seen in all those movies where the hero tells his sidekick to cover him? It’s like that. Somebody to help you out in the heat of battle so you can accomplish more than you could alone.

And maybe the paintballing metaphor is a little much, but it still gets the point across in my brain. If I’d had backup that day, sure I still would have gotten shot (three times point blank in the chest, Jimmy Dinsmore) but I would have had somebody behind me to pick up where I left off.

Today’s verses are Numbers 11:16-17.

Ministry team assembled from the US and Guatemala to reach the Kekchi, Peten, Guatemala

Ministry team assembled from the US and Guatemala to reach the Kekchi, Peten, Guatemala

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Gather before me seventy men who are recognized as elders and leaders of Israel. Bring them to the Tabernacle to stand there with you. I will come down and talk to you there. I will take some of the Spirit that is upon you, and I will put the Spirit upon them also. They will bear the burden of the people along with you, so you will not have to carry it alone.”

Moses is regarded as one of the greatest leaders in the history of the world, even by secular scholars. But even he wasn’t above his fair share of whining. Just being honest. And Numbers 11 is one of those chapters where Moses has had it with Children of Israel, and because they won’t quit whining, Moses takes it up with God.

And God, instead of smiting Moses for complaining, gives him this advice. God tells him to gather a certain number of people who are recognized and respected, and God would appoint them as rulers over the Children of Israel along with Moses, so Moses wouldn’t have to do it all by himself.

Aren’t you glad God understands our need for teams, even if we don’t? Honestly, I think Moses probably could have elected those 70 elders without God’s permission. He didn’t need God to tell him that it was allowed. He just wasn’t used to working as part of a team, I’m sure. Or maybe he wasn’t used to delegating. Or maybe he had my problem and didn’t want to slow others down because he couldn’t move as fast as they wanted.

In any case, Moses couldn’t manage the entirety of the Israelite nation by himself, and that’s why God told him to get a team together. And that principle is still good to remember today. Or do you think you can handle your life by yourself?

God has put some amazing people in our lives, and they’d probably be thrilled to death if you asked them for help. Don’t believe Satan’s lies that you have to do everything alone. That’s not true, and that’s not what God intended for you.

So what great challenge are you facing right now? How about next week? Or next month? Maybe even next year, if you’re planned out that far in advance. What do you have to do that is too much for you?

Yes, God is on your side. He’ll never leave your or forsake you. He’ll give you supernatural strength to be able to do things beyond your own capacity. But He’s also put people in your path to be on your team, people who love you, people who want to help you, people will skills that you don’t have. Don’t forget about them. Don’t cut them out. Don’t deny them the blessing of being able to be a part of what God is doing in your life.

Being tough is fine. Being stupid about it? That’s something else entirely.

Sunset on the wheat field

Unforced rhythms of grace

Do you ever get bogged down with work? Boy, I do. And most of it is self-imposed. I have a list of things I need to accomplish because if I don’t complete them, I won’t be able to view myself as a worthwhile person. But my value isn’t dependant on how much I accomplish in my life. That’s hard for me to wrap my head around, but it’s the truth.
 
Granted, understanding that my value isn’t based on my accomplishments doesn’t mean that I can just stop working. But it does mean that I don’t have to do things all by myself anymore.  And it means that there has to be a balance between laziness and the performance-driven mentality of the overworked. But what is it?
 
I live in a rural area, and there is always so much to do to keep the house up, to keep the orchard alive, to keep the outbuildings standing. I also work full time as a copywriter and web guru for a global corporation. I also am in the middle of writing three novels and a short story a month in pursuit of having a job where I can work from home so I’ll have time to take care of my house and keep the orchard alive and the outbuildings standing. And on top of all that, I’m involved in my church, in the technical ministry and in the drama ministry. And I also try to have a life, keeping up with friends, with a book club, with family.
 
I’m not a Type A person. But I’m beginning to think that I live like one, flitting from one thing to the next, so busy and so overwhelmed with life and living that I’m little more than a zombie. So when I read today’s verse, it resonated with me.
 
Sunset on the wheat field

Sunset on the wheat field, Haven, KS

Matthew 11:28-30

 
28 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”
 
That’s a pretty major claim. Notice that it isn’t really physical rest that Jesus is offering here, though. See that? This is soul rest.
 
And there’s a lot of other cultural statements in this verse that we could take hours to dissect. There’s so much more being said here than what is obvious. But this morning I’m going to focus on the obvious.
 
Everyone needs rest. We weren’t created to run 100 miles per hour all day every day. We need a Sabbath. And we need time for people, but if you’re the sort of person who never stops serving people, you need to get away from them.
 
This is the same passage in the Message.
 
28-30“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
 
What are the unforced rhythms of grace? What does that mean? It’s very poetic, but how is it applicable?
 
It’s living by grace. It’s believing that God has covered all your actions with Christ’s blood so there’s nothing you can do that will ruin His plan — there’s nothing you can’t no do either. It’s not trusting your accomplishments to make you worthwhile. And when you live by grace, nothing is obligatory. Service isn’t mandatory. Worship isn’t something you just do on Sunday mornings. And loving God becomes natural, just like breathing.
 
We aren’t supposed to run ourselves into the ground. We weren’t designed for that.
 
And this is the lesson I need to learn for 2012. I’m tired. I’m worn out. Not on religion, necessarily. I don’t really have religion, so I don’t get burned out on it. But I am burned out on everything else.
 
The key is keeping company with Christ. Oftentimes, I neglect Him for other friends or other duties or other plans. I know He’s always there, but I rarely take the time to actually sit and talk to Him. No wonder I’m exhausted. I need Him to teach me how to live, how to work, how to walk.
 
So that’s one my other goals for 2012, getting to know Christ better and learning to live by grace and not just by faith.