Rest That Sleep Can’t Provide

November 4, 2009

Josh Patterson, Executive Pastor at The Village Church in Highland Village, Texas, wrote this great post recently on the topic of real rest …

I spent the last two weeks away from work and one of those weeks in Jamaica on vacation. I had no agenda and not a lot of responsibility. I didn’t have e-mails to return, no pressure to return calls or make meetings. My most pressing decision was which book to read. It really was a great couple of weeks.

But, there is a kind of rest that sleep cannot provide. There is a kind of rest that a vacation or time away from work doesn’t produce.

During my time away, I reflected on the nature of rest and what is necessary to quiet the soul and rejuvenate the spirit. I was reminded of three things: 1) sleep always helps, but is not the panacea. It is important for me to have adequate sleep each night in order to function optimally. That said, sleep alone doesn’t cure a tired soul; 2) time away from the normal routine allows me to disconnect, but doesn’t ensure I will connect with the Lord. I can turn off my phone and e-mails to help quiet my mind. This is necessary and beneficial. It was great for me to simply engage with my family and not consider all the responsibilities at work. That said, time away and a vacation means that you will have to face your weary soul either at your house or on vacation. Your heart goes with you; 3) the rest that revives and rejuvenates is the rest that is promised in the gospel. God has promised His children that we can cast our cares on Him because He cares for us. He has promised His children that He is greater than the world. He has promised to exchange my burdens for His easiness. He has promised His children that there is contentment and peace in His promises. So, in the gospel of Jesus Christ I am promised rest today and for all eternity.

In the end, I am reminded that most nights I can make a decision to get adequate sleep. Each day, I can do the necessary things to unplug and disconnect from work. Each week, I am afforded a day that is completely and wholly undivided for the sole purpose of rest, worship and connection with the Lord. Vacation and time away has reminded me that rest is a grace I overlook daily. And, that’s the kind of rest that I truly need.

Even The Contemplative Struggle With Burnout

July 30, 2009

You may or may not have heard of Father Peter Norden, founder of a large social justice agency in Australia called Jesuit Social Services and a well-known Prison Chaplain down under. He recently announced his resignation from the ministry after 40 years, citing burnout.

Interesting juxtaposition, in that Jesuits are known to be practicing contemplative spirituality  in every way. You can click here to not only read some of his story, but listen to a radio interview done with him where he is very frank about recognizing the lack of self-care throughout his ministry career.

Also interesting is his take on what he calls the “institutional” church, and how he is carrying on his faith in God, but not necessarily a faith in the institutional church.

Many here know that I work alongside Pastor Pete Scazzero, author of Emotionally Healthy Spirituality. The thesis of the material is that you cannot seperate your spiritual maturity from your emotional health. Going further, Scazzero contends that living a life of contemplative spirituality is a primary way to bring the emotional life and health into line with your spiritual life.

Scazzero often says “the two, emotionall healthy spirituality and contemplative spirituality, go hand in hand. You can’t have one without the other.” Father Norden’s story seems to be additional confirmation to this assertion.

Read, listen, and share your thoughts below.

(Special thanks to Bernie Federmann, Pastor of Lompoc Foursquare Church in Lompoc, CA, for alerting us to this story)

Creating a Culture of Balance

July 5, 2009

I recently read a great paper available from Leadership Network on how Pastors in their 20’s and 30’s are dealing with the stress and strain of ministry life. It was an excellent read and encouraging to hear that these guys are thinking much differently than I was trained. It gives me hope for the future of the Pastor and the future of the Church.

If you’d like your own copy to enjoy, click here.

I’d be very interested in your thoughts and comments if you end up reading it. Post them here below.

Governor Mark Sanford Could Be You or Me

June 30, 2009

It has been stated throughout the unfolding of the circumstance for South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford that he often would retreat after legislative sessions because they would wear him out. Retreating and refreshing is good, but at some point, Mark made some dangerous decisions about his integrity. Most likely, those decisions came in weariness and fatigue. They almost always do.

Pastor Gary Lamb recently said that in the couple of weeks after his resignation as a result of his affair, he had received over 30 anonymous emails from Pastors who admitted in those emails they were currently in the middle of an adulterous affair.

As stated in this post, there are a number of politicians who have admitted their moral failings recently. Is it just me, or does it seem like this is happening left and right?

We could list (and it would be LONG) Pastors who have shipwrecked their families and ministries because of sexual indiscretions as well. In the last post on this issue, I stated that we too often make our public figures more than human.

I don’t mean for this post to communicate that we should do that, but I also can’t help but wonder if God is not cleaning house among us. I’m talking about Pastors, not Politicians. It’s very interesting to me that this is happening with Politicians as well, but my primary focus here is Pastors.

The focus of this particular post comes back to self-care. It sounds like Mark Sanford had somewhat of a good sense and rhythm of self-care, though not knowing him it’s hard to really say. But it’s notable that he knew himself enough that when he was tired, he would get away to refresh.

Obviously, his trip to Argentina wasn’t about refreshing himself. But Argentina didn’t happen overnight, and affairs never do. They start slowly and grow in a process of decisions that lack integrity and honesty with important people.

How are you doing in this area? Are you taking care of you? Have you gotten away lately to be restored in energy, passion and vision? Are you taking your Sabbath and spending honest time with your family and friends?

Erwin McManus & Dave Gibbons on Burnout

June 27, 2009

There’s an interesting conversation posted over here between Erwin McManus and Dave Gibbons. In it, they share the following on pastoral burnout:
________________________________

How to avoid burnout?

  • Erwin: Not the bible that helps someone live a moral life (it’s when people are truly connected to Jesus)
  • There are lots of lost people that live honorable lives
  • It’s about escape (that’s why someone kills their wife instead of divorcing); pastors want to get out so they self-destruct
  • Burnout is about doing something you don’t love way too much
  • When you do something you love, you become “addicted” (like athletes who get addicted to pain and practice)
  • Listen to your soul (it’s ok to change; take ownership); I once was this person but now I’m not; we don’t give each other an out
  • Don’t do things b/c you like the outcome idea, but b/c the process is rewarding
  • Primary movement of life is from illusion to reality (figure out a way to penetrate the illusions, and then you found something that’s a treasure; then it’ll help you live a fruitful life)
  • Create space for people and activity that energizes you (ministry isn’t supposed to just be “our cross that we must bear” but what are you doing that energizes you in realm of God’s will)
  • 1. Find out who and what energizes you
  • 2. Be intentional about having people speak into your life (what can I change about myself? What do you see in me?)
  • 3. What did you hear God say?

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Thoughts? Agree? Disagree? What would you add?

Summer Days Got You In A Daze?

June 23, 2009

Summer brings with it all of its splendor and, hopefully, the anticipation of some down time with family and friends. How are you facing it this year? Are you excited about, ready for some time to refresh relationships, maybe see some friends or family you haven’t seen in a while? Or are you feeling like closing the door on your bedroom, ready for somebody to wake you up when it’s time to go back to work?

There are lots of great assessment tools available to help you gauge your burnout potential and current status. I want to suggest one here that can give you an idea of where you stand as you dive into Summer. This is a perfect time in ministry life to wind down, ease back, relax a little more and let the rest rejuvenate and restore. Sometimes it can be helpful to know where you’re at in your own body, mind and soul, and what your level of need is to be refreshed.

Maybe it will help you plan what kind of vacation you really need this year. Go ahead, try it out.

If You’re Getting Very Sleepy….

June 12, 2009

I’ve posted about sleep before here. Napping, in particular. Numerous studies show that most of us are NOT getting the amount or the quality of sleep that we need to be have our internal batteries restored to full usage each morning.

While none of us will have perfect sleep, we all have habits that can be utilized to improve this crucial area of our lives. The Wall Street Journal had a great column on this, including some good tips and some incredible, albeit somewhat costy, tools. One quote that encouraged use of monitoring devices that was really good, stated, “If you can measure it, you can manage it.”

Read the article here.

Another Pastor Down

June 9, 2009

The news has sadly been circulating the internet over the last couple days regarding the confession of Pastor Gary Lamb at his blog of an affair with his assistant. There’s already enough opinion flying around about who is for who, who hasn’t said what and what ought to have been said, and more. I don’t have anything to add to that. Don’t really want to even be a part of all that.

I will only mention that probably the healthiest two places I have read response to Gary’s situation have been from Geoff Surratt and Ron Edmonson. They are certainly not the only two who are speaking painfully well of the circumstance, but they’re at the top.

Since the launch of Pastor For Life last Summer, I have endeavored to keep any commentary or review of stories like Gary’s to a minimum, just trying to bring about anything factual and pointing out what we can learn to keep such stories from becoming mine or yours. Frankly, sometimes you can and sometimes you can’t.

I’ll never forget being at Mountain Learning Center in June Lake, CA in May of 2001. I was 3-1/2 years into a Senior Pastorate at a church I had served for 12 years before being appointed as the Sernior Pastor. In those first 12 years, I had worked with the three previous Senior Pastors. All three pastoral transitions were painful for the previous Pastor’s family and the congregation. The last two had pains of immorality and both Pastor’s marriages ended in divorce.

When I became the Senior Pastor, I was sure of two things:

  1. I was nothing like my predecessors (watch out for that pride, folks!)
  2. The one thing that would never happen to me was “burnout”.

Yet there I was, deep in burnout, wondering how in the world I got there. My wife was with me, there had been no immorality or “sinful” mess that had been made of my marriage or ministry. But my foundation of inner life was in shambles and I was depressed and spent.

What I will never forget is my counselor at MLC, Dr. Russ Veenker, having no idea of my two certainties above, hearing my story and saying to me:

“Paul, you are just like your predecessors. I can guarantee you that before they messed up their marriage and ministry, they were in burnout. The only difference between you and them is that you sought help before doing something stupid.”

The advice to Pastors that I’ve scanned today on all the blogs in response to Gary’s situation has been good stuff for the most part.

  • “Don’t counsel alone with the opposite sex.”
  • “Have an accountability structure in place.”
  • “Don’t spend time at the church office with staff of the opposite sex.”

All of it is good advice. It’s good stuff to have in place. Bottom line, however, is that most people close to me were able to see my slow descent into burnout way before I ever saw it coming. And they were saying things. And I was giving blank stares. And before I knew it, when the pressure became too much, my inner life crumbled.

Thing is, at some point, we ALL crumble. Um, yes, ALL of us. I’ve seen it happen time after time, and so have you. If you can’t say that, you haven’t been around ministry long enough. Just wait.

So, what does it take to last? My belief …. do whatever it takes to monitor your heart regularly and keep it at Jesus’ feet. This requires that you adjust your pace to your current life and ministry circumstance, and “ruthlessly eliminate hurry” (from John Ortberg’s “The Life You’ve Always Wanted”).

Most of us Pastors, I find, are unwilling to do that. I was. That’s how I ended up where I was. I am convinced I was headed for a major life adjustment no matter what, even because of age. But it could have been experienced much differently had I been less “Superman” and more hu-man.

I realize, too, that for many Pastors, you serve in a system (church body) that doesn’t allow for much adjustment in these areas for you. That’s a whole other story of change and transformation that must take place for real health to occur, both for you and your congregation.

How about you? Your thoughts?

Emotionally Healthy Spirituality Conference is THIS week!

April 28, 2009

I just arrived in New York City, Queens as a matter of fact. I am excited for this year’s Emotionally Healthy Spirituality Conference. I plan on live blogging and Twittering highlights, so follow along!

On the blog, I’m using CoverItLive and as for Twitter, follow me at here.

You have to set up a Twitter account and them “follow” me, but it’s worth it. Give it a try!

Study & Planning Break

February 4, 2009

One of the practices I learned about through my burnout experience several years ago is the importance of getting away regularly for the purpose of clearing my head and heart, being with God, and hearing His voice. It’s not as intense as it may sound by the title I give it, but I call it a Study & Planning Break.

I try to do at least two of them each year, though the one I write from now is long overdue. It’s been about a year and a half since my last one. Sometimes, the personal pace of life, family, both spouses working, kids school schedules, let alone church life and schedules, just get in the way.

Matter of fact, doing these is like leaving home for vacation ONLY in the sense that trying to get out of town and away from home can be a big hassle. All kids of things to arrange, tasks you want completed before you leave so your mind can be free, and the like. This one was certainly that way when I left on Monday (today is Wednesday).

You can do these almost anywhere that they work for you. This one happens to be at a friends place in at Lake Tahoe, about 400 miles north of my home. Since I love to drive,and that’s one way that really helps me clear my head, the drive is part of what I need and enjoy very much. It may not be that way for you, so maybe that wouldn’t work.

I try to schedule them so that I can have AT LEAST 3-4 days of time. So, for this one, I drove on Monday and will drive home on Saturday. That gives me four full days, Tuesday – Friday.

I always plan for the first day (yesterday, Tuesday) to be a day of decompression:

  • Lots of sleep
  • Lots of quiet (I read this week that it’s good for preachers to remember that God’s first language is silence! It takes time to get acquainted with it. You have to do it on purpose.)
  • Moving slowly
  • “Mind Dump” (writing down tasks coming to mind that haven’t made it to my to-do list yet)
  • Light reading (usually something NON-ministry related – you can see a review of the book I just finished here)
  • Taking a long walk
  • Seeing a movie

Then, on the 2nd – 4th days, I’ll focus on mapping out my message direction for the next few months. This week, I am preaching Sunday, so I’ll use some time to write this weekend’s message. I’ll calendar, read (usually something related to an upcoming series or two, as well as reading larger chunks of Scripture than I normally do when  at home), write, take walks.

On these breaks, I follow my body clock. I’m a night owl, so I enjoy working late and sleeping in, which doesn’t happen at home very naturally. That means I’ll take naps when I feel them coming on.

I use Time and Newsweek magazines for some research, so I’ll let them collect for weeks and then fly through them, tearing out what I want to use and file. I’ve got a box of them to go through while I am here.

I do a lot of relfection on these breaks, and enjoy long periods of time just talking to the Lord and listening for what He wants to say as well. Sometimes I go home with a strong word and other times not. Either way, He and I have had some good, long periods of time just being together.

That’s kind of what the Study & Planning Break looks like. I’ve done them alone, but they’re always safer and more fun to do with a friend. On this one, a friend who I haven’t connected with in a long time was able to come with me.

It’s important in selecting your “break-mate” that you both understand and are not awkward about the need to give each other a lot of silence and solitude. I always look for someone who I know I won’t be a distraction to and he won’t be to me either.

I also purposely look for someone who I know I’m going to have fun with. I am too reflective and not very funny naturally, so it helps me to have someone who I know is going to get me laughing!

Any habits you’ve developed along these lines that you can share? I’ve had a number of Pastor-friends who have made mention that they wouldn’t know what to do with themselves on a retreat like this. Maybe sometime, if enough interest is generated, we’ll do a small group “Pastor For Life” Study & Planning Break. Would you be interested?

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