I like to think of myself as being fairly laid back. Most of the time I am able to reflect calmly and intelligently on events and then respond appropriately (possibly). But I know that when I am tired I get grumpy more easily and little things that would not bother me normally now irritate me intensely.
Normally if my phone is not working properly I calmly resolve the problem (by turning it off and on again). But if I am tired and ratty all of a sudden the problem becomes much more difficult to resolve. I repeat the same process on the phone, somehow expecting that doing the same thing will bring a different result (d’oh!!).
One of the problems with this is that I know that I am acting irrationally and that I have moved up the grumpy index but I can’t stop myself. It’s almost as if I have to get to the full toddler strop before I can calm down and revert to adult again. My wife knows me well enough that she can tell me that I am being silly and to calm down, and sometimes that works, but the more tired I am the harder it is to stop.
In order to prevent the world being full of stroppy adult toddlers and prevent global catastrophes from happening on the whim of someone who’s not over-tired God has built in to us a rhythm of life that includes sleep and recreation. We tamper with or ignore these at our peril. It’s not a sign of superhuman-ness to exist on a couple of hours sleep a night. It’s not a commendable trait to work 24/7 and never take any time to rest, relax and be refreshed. The inevitable outcome is that you will end up behaving like a toddler – selfish, prone to irrational outbursts, ignoring the effect you have on others and demanding attention.
So how do we reverse the climb up the grumpy index? Build in regular relaxation, find things that make you laugh, find people who energise you and whose company you enjoy, maybe even take yourself off to the naughty step to calm down a bit… and as you realise that the inner toddler has taken control ask your heavenly Father to calm you down and renew his Spirit’s presence in you.
The last few days have been unbelievably busy. I think I met myself coming in the opposite direction!
I am not complaining- just observing. And perhaps putting a little disclaimer out there to explain why I have not responded to emails or phone messages yet. I will get around to it!
The problem with busyness is that it can become an excuse for sloth. Yes, really. Being busy can mask a lazy attitude because we justify not doing things by virtue of the lack of available time (and maybe post bloggages about how busy we are!). We can hide behind a full diary.
I think that’s why it’s important to put space into your diary too. Space to think. Space to reflect. Space to deal with the requests for your time and attention. Space to put things in God’s perspective.
Jesus often took time out when he was busiest. Re-creation is built into the fabric of the planet’s yearly cycle (autumn and winter).
So why do I think I know better?
Be blessed, be a blessing.
This will probably be the last bloggage… for a week.
(I can hear a strange noise all of a sudden. It sounds like cheering)
This weekend I am heading down to Devon for a week’s retreat* at the Society of Mary and Martha. It’s a retreat designed for Ministers and is called a ‘12,000 mile service’. The website says that “Guests are free to choose their own pace and activities as the week unfolds. A chance to recharge batteries, take out dents in the bodywork or test the brakes, perhaps?”
I would rather not have any comments about dents in my bodywork, please, and I will be going into hospital in Mid November to get a rechargeable battery fitted, so perhaps what I need to concentrate on is testing the brakes.
The sabbatical leave that I am currently enjoying has been a wonderful experience. I have stopped the busy activity associated with being a Minister and have had the opportunity to rest, relax, refresh, read, refocus and practice my alliteration. One of the things that has come to me afresh is the need to ensure that when the sabbatical time is over I need to make sure that I put regular and frequent time and space in the diary to do those things (perhaps not practicing the alliteration). Once every seven (or in my case nine) years is not sufficient to maintain yourself at peak spiritual condition. That is not only true for Ministers, it’s true for all of us.
For some people Sundays are those moments in their week. (Often less so for Ministers because it can be our busiest day). But can we honestly say that our relationship with God is going to be at its deepest and most amazing with just an hour a week spent focusing on him? Can we even think that this will be the case if we give him fifteen minutes every day as we do our daily Bible reading?
I have friends with whom I have not spoken or corresponded for months / years. It’s wonderful when we do catch up, but I can’t say that there is any depth to those relationships. Not when you compare them to the relationships I have with my wife and my children with whom I share so much more of my life. They get to see the good and the bad. They get to share the laughter and the tears. They experience the joy and the pain.
That may seem very obvious, but that does not make it any less true. If we confine our relationship with God to special moments in our day then we are short-changing him and ourselves. We are treating him like a hamster that we take out of its cage once a day to play with and enjoy and then put back to allow them to get on with running around in his little wheel while we run around in ours. God deserves and wants so much more than that for us.
I have sometimes felt that being a Minister is a bit like being a hamster running in a wheel. You run as fast as your little legs can carry you but if you are not careful and you don’t keep up the wheel will keep on turning and you will be spun around madly. That’s true for all of us, not just Ministers, which is why God designed a sabbatical for each one of us. It’s his commandment (not recommendation) to rest, recreate and relax for one day in seven (sabbath). The idea was not that we dedicate one day a week to being with God, but that we take one day a week to be refreshed. (If you feel like a hamster in a wheel, watch this video and enjoy the ride – perhaps there’s a team ministry analogy here?).
So how? Well I am sure I have blogged about this before, but I find it helps to associate different activities with him. When I wash at a sink and look in the mirror in front of me I try to remember that it’s a moment to reflect on whether I need God to cleanse and forgive me for anything. In my car I will sometimes put a CD of worship music on and sing my lungs out as I drive around. Regular time reading the Bible is essential: but don’t short-change yourself by limiting yourself to a quick burst in the morning.
But above all, have a dialogue with Jesus. The twelve disciples had that privilege as they travelled around first century Israel with him, but we have that privilege too – he is with us by his Spirit. Ask him about what you are doing, or going to be doing. Ask him to speak to you through it or through someone whom you will meet. Tell him how you’re feeling. When something makes you laugh, thank Jesus for the joy. When something makes you weep, thank him that he is there with you and ask that you will sense his presence (through others or more directly through peace within). Whatever you do has a Jesus-related dimension and as you involve him in your daily life more and more you will find that he feels closer (even though he has never been away).
Be blessed, be a blessing.
*retreat = running away, in case you wonder what the bloggage title has to do with the bloggerel here. Actually it’s often more tactical than that, but I had in mind the scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail where Arthur and his knights beat a hasty retreat from the onslaught of their foes.
I have spent the morning sitting in the garden, reading a book as part of my sabbatical leave. Having been challenged by the content of the book I paused for a while to reflect. My gaze was drawn to some nearby flowers on which some bees were busy (and buzzy) foraging. I want to share some disparate thoughts that have come to me so far today in the hope that by writing them down they may make sense to me and perhaps even to you!
My understanding of bees is limited and may be erroneous, so please don’t use this bloggerel as material for an educational paper. However, I believe that when a foraging bee finds some flowers it will return to the hive and communicate the location of the flowers by a complex ‘waggle dance’. The first book that I have read suggests that churches need to explore using creative arts far more in our communication, but I am not about to replace my sermons with some interpretive dance! However the playful part of me likes Eddie Izzard’s reflections that it would be far easier for the bee to buzz the instructions to his colleagues, yet instead the creative and excitable bee chooses to dance. I think there is something here about joyful communication of good news. If we communicate the most exciting news in the Universe in a boring way few people will listen.
The thing that blew me away was remembering the phrase ‘busy as a bee’. The nectar / pollen gathering of these worker bees is relentless. They go at it all day. (Perhaps the dancing is how they relax and let off steam?) I recognise in myself a tendency to be busy. I have seen it as a virtue, I have prided myself on comments from others on how busy I am. I feel that God must be pleased with me because of how much he sees me doing. Don’t get me wrong, being busy is not wrong, and it is certainly better than sloth (or sloths).
But I amtoo busy if I lack time and space to be with God, or if I justify not doing so (to myself or others) by reference to all the things I have to do for him.
Jesus invited those who were weary and burdened to come to him in order that he might give them work to do, that they might feel virtuous about all the things they do for him.
Jesus invited those who were weary and burdened to come to him in order that he might give them rest.
When is your time with God? Where is it? Are you too busy for him to give you rest?
Be blessed, be a blessing
Can you spot the tenuous link with this joke?
An old man was wondering if his wife had a hearing problem. So one night, he stood behind her while she was sitting in her lounge chair. He spoke softly to her, “Honey, can you hear me?”
There was no response.
He moved a little closer and said again, “Honey, can you hear me?”
Still, there was no response.
Finally he moved right behind her and said, “Honey, can you hear me?”
Last weekend Sally (my lovely wife) and I had a weekend off. We went away (leaving the children at home alone for the first time (ages 17 and 15 in case you were about to call the authorities)) and stayed at a hotel. It was a lovely, relaxing, special, re-creational time for us as a couple. Ostensibly it was to celebrate our recent wedding anniversary, but it was good to spend some quality ‘us’ time.
During the weekend I started to feel a bit guilty. Wasn’t it a bit self-indulgent to do this? Weren’t we being a bit extravagant? Had we ‘splurged out wastefully?
‘As these thoughts started to build into worry a phrase from an advert came to mind: “You’re worth it.”
On the whole I ignore adverts from cosmetic companies. I may perk up if they offer a cheap, painless and permanent way of replacing hair, but until then they will remain mainly ignored. Except for the ones that tell us what wonderful new chemicals are included in these products in order to make them sound more effective: ‘Pro-youthfulskinium 5’; ‘Dewrinklifier A’; ‘Sagliftupium B72’ and so on*. Those adverts make me laugh because someone somewhere has decided that people are more likely to buy these skincare products if they have new wonder-chemicals in them.
The other that I have clearly noticed is for a range of cosmetics by a French-sounding company whose slogan is ‘You’re worth it’. I guess it’s designed to make you feel that buying and using these products is important to show yourself how inherently valuable you are.
So, back to my thoughts / worry / guilt. I believe that this was a direct message from God: “You’re worth it.” That is not an excuse to be self-indulgent, extravagant or wasteful. But it was a reminder that our marriage is important and the time we had taken off to spend together was worth it. Our relationship is worth it. Sally is worth it. I’m worth it (ooh, that looks so self-obsessed and unhumble. I hope you understand what I mean).
It got me thinking about what we deny ourselves because we don’t think we are worth it, or don’t think…
Do we allow TV to replace conversation in our family? Turn it off. You’re worth it.
Do we forget to spend time with friends? Make a call. They’re worth it, you’re worth it.
Do you fail to get enough sleep because you work too hard? Slow down, you’re worth it.
Do you deflect compliments? Accept them (graciously), you’re worth it.
Do you think you are unimportant to God? Jesus hanging on the cross is God saying, “You’re worth it.”
You’ll notice that none of these things costs us anything. One of them cost God everything.
Be blessed, be a blessing.
*None of these is currently the name of a chemical in one of those products, but if you ever hear those names used, please let me know so I can collect the royalties.