Tag Archives: Physical Disciplines

Evangelism and Physical Fitness: Avoiding the Sin of Gluttony Part III

27 Dec

Last week in “Avoiding the Sin of Gluttony Part II”, we discussed the importance of recognizing that gluttony isn’t just about how much we eat, but also about what we eat. We explored why moderation (not eating more than you need) is important not just as it pertains to our caloric intake, but also as it pertains to where we get those calories. This week, we’ll be reflecting on the more philosophical side as we discuss the role that the heart plays in the sin of gluttony – and why our thoughts about our food matter as much as the food, itself.

If you’re anything like me, you probably really enjoy a good buffet. With generous portions of everything from salads and desserts to ethnic delicacies, the options tantalize our taste buds. As a kid, I’d eagerly load up my plate with just a little bit of everything – often far more than I could actually eat. My eyes were, as my mother put it, “bigger than my stomach.” It is here, in the buffet line as we wait for our shot at the BBQ chicken wings and pasta salad, that we encounter the crux of gluttony: greed.

In Luke 12:15-21, Jesus tells His followers to, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions. And He told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man was very productive. And he began reasoning to himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?’ Then he said, ‘This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.” ’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?’ So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”

Jesus goes on to explain that greed isn’t just about our wanting more. In fact, ultimately, it isn’t about our wanting “cool stuff” or seeking our neighbors’ approval or fitting in at all. Greed is about our failure to trust God to provide us with the sense of satisfaction and fulfillment that we seek through owning (or eating) too much. (Luke 12:22-34) The things we value (or overvalue), show the world Who or what owns our heart. And while we may tend to think of treasure in the sense of material goods like money, fashionable clothing, or fast cars, those aren’t the only things which can capture our minds and control our actions.

In Colossians 3:5, the Apostle Paul warns believers to, “consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.” Indeed, we are to view Christ as our all-in-all (v.11). When we do, we avoid the sin of gluttony and show honor to the One who gave us food both for our sustenance and our enjoyment!

Evangelism and Physical Fitness: Avoiding the Sin of Gluttony Part II

20 Dec

Last week in “Avoiding the Sin of Gluttony”, we discussed importance of moderation in what we eat. We explored the value of monitoring our caloric intake to ensure that our bodies are actually using what we put into them. We also considered how that intake varies for different people at different times in their lives. But is balancing your calories enough to help you steer clear of the sin of gluttony?

If you played along and tracked what you ate this last week, you probably noticed a few patterns in the what, when, and how much you eat. You may have noticed that you have a weakness for doughnuts, coffee, or a really good steak. Perhaps you even noticed that you do demonstrate moderation in what you eat and don’t eat more (in a caloric sense) than you actually need to maintain a healthy body.

If, however, you were tracking the nutritional value of what you ate and not just the calorie count, you likely noticed that there is far more involved in a balanced diet than simply subtracting the calories you expend from the calories you take in. If you’re a bit like me, you eat more sugar than is strictly healthy (at least according to the current views of the American Heart Association) and could use just a bit more protein and fiber.

And this leads us to our second point about gluttony: the concept of moderation applies not just to the overall energy we take in, but also to the way we take in that energy. Does this mean that if we don’t want to be gluttons, we need to avoid doughnuts? Hardly! It doesn’t even mean that we can’t splurge a bit and have two. What it does mean is that we need to ensure that our bodies aren’t getting too much of one thing and too little of others. If maintaining a healthy weight means that we can only take in so many calories each day, but we take in most of those in the forms of sugars or carbs, we end up short-changing ourselves on other things like protein and fiber. Balance and moderation, therefore, require us to pay attention to not just how much we eat, but to what we eat.

Gluttony, however, isn’t just about how much we eat or even what we eat – it’s also about why we eat. Like most sins, dishonoring our bodies through excessive eating or eating the wrong types of things begins not with the head, but with the heart. Next week, we’ll take a look at the role that our thoughts about food play in whether we do or don’t become gluttons. Meanwhile, feel free to share your thoughts on the subject in the comment box below!

 

Evangelism and Physical Fitness: Avoiding the Sin of Gluttony Part I

13 Dec

While the Bible doesn’t share many universal dietary commands, there are two which do deserve our notice. Proverbs 23:20,21 advises, “Do not be with heavy drinkers of wine, Or with gluttonous eaters of meat; For the heavy drinker and the glutton will come to poverty, And drowsiness will clothe one with rags.” Proverbs 24:7 goes on to emphasize that, “He who keeps the law is a discerning son, but he who is a companion of gluttons humiliates his father.” The advice? Just because a little is good doesn’t mean that a lot is better. Anything we do (including eating and drinking) can cause damage if it isn’t done in moderation.

So what exactly is moderation? Simply put, it’s not taking more than you need. This doesn’t mean that we don’t enjoy what we eat or drink (the professional chefs amongst us need not worry), but it does mean that we aren’t stuffing our bodies full of calories that we aren’t going to burn.

At the same time, it doesn’t mean that we starve ourselves either. While there are some aesthetics who believe that a constant sense of hunger can be used to remind us of those who live without enough, this belief goes well beyond the concept of moderation that we find presented in Scripture.

Instead, one might argue that moderation is about balance: ensuring that the calories we take in are roughly equal to the calories we expend. If this is the case, “moderation” is going to look different for everyone and, in fact, it may even look different for the same person at different times. While dieticians warn about varying an individual’s calorie intake too dramatically over a short period of time, it’s reasonable to presume that I’m going to need a bit more energy to hike Mt. Everest than is required for a lazy day curled up with a good book. Keeping this in mind can help make a difference between maintaining a healthy body that allows me to actively engage others with the Good News of God’s Love or finding myself steeped in a constant battle with preventable[1] disabilities.

So how do I know whether I’m eating moderately? One of the best ways to start is to keep a food journal like the one provided through http://www.myfitnesspal.com/. I like this particular program, since it helps you track more than just what you eat, but also what’s in what you eat from sugars and fats to protein and calcium. It also allows you to set the program based upon your general activity level and log any exercise efforts outside of the norm, so you’ll get a rough picture of whether your weekly caloric input matches or exceeds your body’s needs. Log everything you eat from the time you get up until the time you go to bed, but don’t try to make any changes just yet. The goal here is to observe.

By the time you reach the end of the week, you’ll likely have picked up on some patterns healthy or otherwise. We’ll share some good advice for addressing those patterns in a Biblical fashion next week. Meanwhile, feel free to share your thoughts in the comment box below!


[1] It’s important to recognize that the key word here is “preventable”. While Christians ought to do what they can to maintain the gift God has given them in the form of their physical health, not all efforts to do so will find success. Genetics, hormone production, and other factors often play a role in our ability to prevent disease and burn fat. The question being addressed here is not one of how much an individual Christian weighs, but of whether they are living a life obedient to God’s command for moderation.

Evangelism and Physical Fitness: What Scripture Says About Food Part III

22 Nov

Last week in Part II of our series, we took a look at the New Testament perspective on the Old Testament dietary laws. Unfortunately, Peter’s vision in Acts 11 didn’t entirely clear up the issue of what a Christian should or shouldn’t eat. The Church remained conflicted about which dietary rules did or didn’t apply and even found some new ways to argue about those rules.

The Apostle Paul spent more than his fair share of time trying to clear up these arguments and we find him addressing them in Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8-11 (among others). While it was clear that Jewish believers and Gentile believers weren’t likely to come to any agreement on the matter (the Gentiles were even divided among themselves regarding meat sacrificed to idols), there were a few ground rules which could be put in place. Pay attention, because these rules still apply to Christians today! Among them are:

  • Don’t judge. (Romans 14:3-8) Not every issue is as clear cut as we like to think. While we may be deeply convicted that we aren’t doing honor to our bodies (God’s temple) or to God’s Name by eating or drinking certain things, other believers may not share our conviction. What may be “obvious” to us isn’t always “obvious” to everyone else. When this is the case, Christians ought to approach each other’s dietary choices with an attitude of grace.
  • Don’t ignore your conscience or encourage anyone else to ignore theirs. (Romans 14:14,23) If you think it’s a sin to eat a certain food or to drink a certain beverage, it is… for you. God often convicts individual believers about what they shouldn’t do in their situation. This means that we have an obligation to support each other in these beliefs. We may discuss the relative merits of certain diets or even spend time examining the Biblical text for support, but in the end, we ought never to do something which violates our conscience or encourages our brothers and sisters to violate theirs.
  • Don’t destroy members of the Body. (Romans 14:20,21; 1 Corinthians 8:9-12) While we aren’t responsible for the choices of other believers, we do need to be sensitive to the ways that our actions may tempt or influence them. Not everyone has a will of iron and plopping down your box of doughnuts right in front of a diabetic may result in an unrestrained binge which does serious physical damage to their body. This doesn’t mean that you should never eat another doughnut or that you shouldn’t eat doughnuts in public, just that you need to use discretion when determining what, where, and when you eat. (Hint: this means that you need to take the time to get to know other believers and understand their strengths and weaknesses.)
  •  Don’t make an issue out of food. (1 Corinthians 8:8) In the big scheme of things, what God does or doesn’t want us to eat is not as important as who He wants us to be: people who demonstrate His love. There is a time and place for discussing the Biblical view of food… but it isn’t when tempers are likely to flare. If you don’t see eye-to-eye with another believer concerning what you should eat, don’t debate them. Let it go. God is working in both of your hearts and the Holy Spirit will bring you to the conclusions He needs to bring you to in His time. Don’t separate other believers from the fellowship of the body over the issue of food or drink.
  • Glorify God always. (1 Corinthians 10:31-33) Paul was careful about what he said and did when he sat at someone else’s table. He recognized that sometimes, conveying the message of the Gospel meant saying “yes” to what was offered and that other times it meant saying “no”. He also recognized that the food which received a “yes” at one table might receive a “no” at another. What he ate wasn’t about what he ate it was about the people with whom he was eating. Our decisions to eat, moderate, or abstain should follow the same rule.

Next week, we’ll begin to examine two very clear Scriptural commandments regarding what we take into our body and how they apply to what we will or won’t eat. In the meantime, feel free to share your own thoughts in the comment box below!

Evangelism and Physical Fitness: Fitting Rest Into Your Schedule

11 Oct

From keeping our minds sharp and at the top of their game to helping us to maintain a positive and gracious attitude towards others, there can be no doubt that rest plays a vital role in our ability to clearly and effectively present the message of Christ.  Yet finding time to relax, enjoy a sunset, or take a nap isn’t always easy.  That’s why, this week, we’re taking a look at some ways to effectively fit time for rest into our schedules.  We’ll start with the most important suggestion:

  1. Actually schedule time for rest.  “To do’s” get lost.  Appointments don’t.  If you block out a few minutes on your calendar, you’re far more likely to fulfill the goal of resting than if you simply add “rest” to the interminably long list of things you need to accomplish each day.  Select the times which work best for you and follow through.
  2. Let others know about your schedule.  While issuing an “informational bulletin” doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be left alone, it does lessen the chances of your being interrupted once you’ve settled in with a cup of coffee and a good book.
  3. Find a place to hide.  While we don’t recommend becoming a hermit, it can be worth your while to find a place to retreat for your “resting appointments”.  By minimizing your availability to others and changing the scenery a bit, you’ll be maximizing the chances that your time of rest will be… well, restful.
  4. Plan your rest.  Blocking out an hour to listen to Rachmaninoff, go for a meandering walk, or watch the birds at your feeder can add the kind of structure that makes that “scheduled rest” feel more like a “must-keep appointment”.  The result?  You’re more likely to keep your commitment.
  5. Don’t plan what to do during your rest.  While planning rest works for some folks, it doesn’t work for everyone.  Sometimes a glorious hour of “nothing” is more effective than a well thought out plan.  Do whatever works best for you – even if it’s a bit of both!
  6. Determine when to quit.  There’s no end to our revolving “to do” lists, so it isn’t a surprise that they appear at both the beginning and the end of our “resting” advice.  Quite frankly, we can run ourselves ragged trying to keep up with all of the tasks which need to be accomplished.  Determine a time each evening when you’re going to call it quits then stick to it.  Put the “to do” list away, change into your jammies, and just relax.  You’ll find yourself sleeping better and waking fresher as you reap the full benefits of rest.

These, of course, are only a few ideas to help you make rest a regular part of your life and it may take time to fully implement them.  Schedules change as do the demands presented by family, church, school, and work.  The blocks of time available for rest this week may not be the same next week.  That’s okay.  The idea is to make resting a priority in our lives.

Next week, we’ll be concluding our series with a look at how hobbies help or hinder our attempts to relax.  Meanwhile, feel free to share your own tips for scheduling rest in the comment box below!

 

Evangelism and Physical Fitness: Respecting Others’ Right to Rest

4 Oct

Over the last few weeks, we’ve taken the time to look at a few techniques to help us get the rest we need to serve God at our best.  This week, we’re flipping the coin as we examine the importance of allowing others to get the rest that they need.

You’ve probably heard the old saying, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  While Jesus wasn’t the originator of this phrase, it does summarize a great deal of His teaching.  (That is, of course, presuming that you generally like others to approach you with grace, mercy, generosity, etc.)  It’s an important phrase to remember when we discuss the value of rest.  After all, everyone needs some time to relax… and helping others get away, even just for a moment, can be a powerful presentation of our Christian faith!

In Matthew 11:28, Jesus said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.”  Notice He doesn’t qualify His “all”.  He doesn’t say, “Come to Me, you Jews who are weary” or “Come to Me you slaves who are weary” or even “Come to Me you temple-goers who are weary”, but “Come to Me, all who are weary.” He doesn’t seem concerned with the sex or social status of those who approach Him for rest and shows no interest in their career choice or political affiliation – His only concern is that people need rest.  Perhaps the appeal of this phrase is that in seeking to have a physical need met, a spiritual one is met as well.  And if having the one met by Christ leads to the other being met in a more important, eternal sense, then we who are “imitators”(Ephesians 5:1) of Christ ought to do all we can to help those around us experience rest.

So what does this look like in application?  To begin with, we need to be alert to the needs of others.  Stop talking and start listening.  It’s likely that you’ll begin to recognize the signs of exhaustion in the words of your siblings, the tone of your boss, or the actions of your professor.  When you do, this alertness ought to lead us to action.  Here are a few examples of the form that action might take:

  1. Respect for break times and off-work hours.  We’ve all been there:  We’re lounging in the break room enjoying our lunch when someone comes in and asks our opinion on a problem they’re facing out on the sales floor.  It isn’t that we mind weighing in, but we’d prefer to do it on the clock.  Though it may seem surprising, we aren’t alone in this sentiment.  If you see your math professor headed into the baseball stadium or your employer relaxing with a magazine, now isn’t the time to approach them for comment!  Let them enjoy their time off and wait to approach them until they’re back on the clock.
  2. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that just because your boss is salaried, they don’t have a right to enjoy lunch undisturbed.  Unless it’s a real emergency (like the store is burning down), leave them alone and address the issue once they’ve packed away their munchies.  Many employees won’t afford them this kind of basic human decency, so you can bet they’ll notice if you do!
  3. Don’t assume that you know what everyone else’s life is like.  It’s easy to rationalize pressuring a high performance out of someone who we feel isn’t justified in their weariness.  Unfortunately we don’t always know the full story behind why our co-worker always shows up yawning or a particular church member never seems to have the time to serve.  That exhaustion could be from a party that went on until the wee hours of the morning… or it could be from an unavoidable late-night study session.  Give the benefit of a doubt and cut others some slack when it comes to adding to their burden.  Respect their boundaries when they say they just can’t work the overtime or tend the nursery.
  4. Head off the tension at the pass.  Romans 12:18 tells us, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” I probably don’t need to say it, but conflict isn’t conducive to rest, so do your best to avoid it.  Even when you’re justified in your frustration, approaching your pastor employer, parents, or coworkers with a tone of sympathy and an expectation that they’re man or woman enough to resolve the problem can go a long way towards creating a restful environment and actually fixing the situation.
  5. Do the unexpected.  Go out of your way to teach an extra class and give another Sunday School teacher a break or sneak your boss a candy bar and keep watch for a few minutes while they consume it.  You may be surprised at how much impact an unexpected, rest-inducing act can have!

While these ideas just scratch the surface, you’re likely starting to get the picture.  We live in a stressful world and, when we take the time to relieve the stress of others and afford them an opportunity to rest, our actions get noticed.  If we take these actions in the right way, they point observers straight to the One who can give them rest not just now, but for all eternity!

Evangelism and Physical Fitness: Setting Boundaries Between Rest and Ministry Part II

27 Sep

Last week in “Setting Boundaries between Rest and Ministry Part I”, we discussed some of the dangers that we encounter when we fall prey to the false belief that the only way to serve God is through the doors of the church.  We considered the importance of taking the time to prayerfully consider opportunities to serve and determining whether we have the time and energy to do so.  This week, we’ll be looking at the tension which sometimes exists between our need for rest and our prior commitments to serve.

If you’ve been in any form of ministry for long, you already recognize that the energy you can commit to service isn’t a constant.  Some days go better than others and, while we always want to give our best, it isn’t always possible to do so.  An overlong day at work, a grumpy customer, or an irritating classmate can put a crimp in our day… and in our physical reserve.  When this happens, our best bet is to pray and press through, allowing God to handle our energy deficit and enable us to accomplish His will.

Other times, however, the pressure which pits rest against service comes from within the congregation.  There’s an old statistic (I’ll let you decide whether or not it’s true) that claims that 90% of the work is performed by 10% of the church.  Once you’ve accepted one position of service, don’t be surprised if someone approaches you about another.  This isn’t always a bad thing, but it isn’t always a good thing either.  If you’re going to keep your sanity and get enough time for the relaxation that your body so desperately needs, you’ll need to learn to set a few boundaries.  Here are a few top-notch ways of doing just that:

  1. Make a habit of considering each offer to serve on an individual basis.  Just because you’ve helped out in a capacity before doesn’t mean that you’re obligated to do it again… nor does it mean that you may not be willing to do so in the future.  If, after prayerful consideration (I can’t emphasize the importance of this enough), you determine that you can’t serve and get the sleep you need, feel free to say no.  But don’t forget to let the party (or parties) asking that you may be willing to reconsider the situation in the future.
  2. If you have to decline an offer to serve, don’t feel obligated to explain why.  In our overworked world, it isn’t that uncommon for people to have trouble understanding why someone else won’t overwork themselves.  A full-blown explanation of the factors you considered while making the decision can sometimes lead to an argument… and may lead to your being cowed into doing something God didn’t call you to do.
  3. If you’re asked for an explanation, there’s no sin in keeping it vague.  A simple “I had other obligations” is usually sufficient to stave off further enquiry and often goes much further than a statement that you failed to feel God calling you (even if the latter is more precisely the case).  Your obligation is to God first and is expressed in obedience to His Word – even when that Word indicates that you need some time to yourself!
  4. Don’t feel compelled to answer every ministry-related call or e-mail immediately.  Set specific hours during which you pick up the phone (though you may want to keep them to yourself) and let calls outside of these hours go to voicemail.  If there is an emergency, the caller will leave a message.  Don’t feel pressured to pick up just because the person on the other end happens to be your pastor or a particularly needy member of your Sunday School class.  And don’t feel compelled to break your hours if the caller is persistent!  They need their space and you need yours.
  5. Just because there is an event related to your ministry doesn’t mean you need to be there.  This can be a particularly difficult boundary for others to accept, but a failure to set it may lead to exhaustion.  If you teach a Sunday School class and everyone decides to get together once a week for dinner, you are under no obligation to show up.  Weigh your commitments, then prayerfully make a decision.
  6. Don’t show up just because the ministry event will be “fun”.  I admit to struggling with this.  Truth be told, I really enjoy the ministries in which I’m involved… and I find it difficult not to jump at every chance to fellowship with certain members of my congregation.  But just because an activity is “fun” doesn’t mean it’s also “restful”… and sometimes that means that I don’t need to be there.

Next week, we’ll be looking at the importance of respecting the boundaries of others when it comes to getting rest.  Meanwhile, you can probably think of a few more good ideas to tack on to this week’s post.  If you do, please feel free to share them in the comment box below!

Evangelism and Physical Fitness: Setting Boundaries Between Rest and Ministry Part I

20 Sep

Rushing home from work, I crammed my dinner down my throat.  Taking a quick glance at the clock, I hopped in for a three minute shower, then out of the tub, back into my clothes, out the door, and to the church.  A long day at the office resulted in my leaving late and everything between that and the time I walked through the doors of the sanctuary was just a blur.  I was exhausted, but the night was still young.  Inside were kids (lots of them) waiting for my attention.  “Did I even eat dinner?” I asked myself, truly wondering whether I had as I plopped my Bible on the music stand.

We’ve all been there.  School and work can be tiring and sometimes overly so.  We look forward to our time off, but before we reach that blessed relief, we find another demand or two knocking on our door.  Unlike the demand for an education or the money to pay our bills, these demands are more persistent: they come from the church.  Often wrapped in the sentiments of “will you please pray about God’s call regarding your service” or “could you do this just once… no one else will”, it can be hard to see these demands as “optional”.  After all, if we love God, we should be about His work.  Right?

While it’s true that those who belong to God will serve Him (John 12:26), we are severely mistaken if we believe that the only way to do so is through the doors of the church.  After all, Jesus’ commission to us was to “Go into the world…” (Matthew 28:18), not to ask it to come to us!  The result is that, while service within the church is important, a good deal of our work as believers ought to take place outside it… in the halls of academia, in supermarket aisles, and even in the company break room.  It is in these places that our ability to shine the light of Christ matters most because here, the darkness is greatest.

This doesn’t, of course, mean that we ought never to serve in our local body of believers.  Scripture is pretty clear about the importance of service within the body of Christ.  (Galatians 5:13, 1 Peter 4:10)  What it does mean is that we ought never to serve simply because we (or others) feel that service is somehow more “godly” if it is done from a pulpit or the front of a classroom.  There are plenty of ways to be a useful member of the body of Christ and each of them is important to the health of the whole!  (Romans 12:6-8, 1 Corinthians 7:7 and 12:4-31)

How does this relate to rest?  Quite honestly, it means that whenever we are given an opportunity to serve, we need to prayerfully consider the whole equation.  Has God gifted you for a particular task?  If He has, doesn’t always mean that He’s calling you to exercise that gift right now.  Take the time to consider whether you have the resources in both time and energy to do the job well.  If not, there’s a good chance this isn’t the right time for you to commit to being the church organist or teaching a preschool class.

While some would argue that those whom God calls, God equips, there are others who equally rightly point out that there is a time and a season for everything (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8).  Take some time to pray about the opportunity.  If you receive peace and the pieces fall into place, say yes.  If you don’t, bow out gracefully.  You may disappoint others, but I can guarantee that you’ll disappoint them more if you show up grumpy and unprepared because you really did need some rest!

What about those who are already in regular ministry?  We’ll take a look at that next week, but for now, feel free to share your own thoughts in the comment box below!

Evangelism and Physical Fitness: Setting Boundaries Between Rest and Work I Enjoy

13 Sep

If you sometimes have difficulty finding the line between work and play, you aren’t alone!  Engaged in a form of employment that allows me to explore my passion and utilize my creativity, it’s sometimes difficult to see where rest ends and work begins.  Unfortunately, this pleasant blur doesn’t change the fact that rest is still essential if I’m going to effectively share God’s love with others.

Unlike the cranky Christian discussed in “Resting One Moment at a Time”, those who love their work run the risk of becoming an obsessed Christian.  Instead of grumping about everything, obsessed Christians often find their ability to relate to others limited by the things which they feel most passionate about.  The result is that they are often incapable of sharing God’s love outside of the very limited circle of people who share those passions.  I probably don’t need to point out that this isn’t the best profile for anyone seeking to follow Christ’s Matthew 28 commission!

To avoid becoming obsessed Christians, we need to learn to rest… and cultivate interests beyond the sphere of our employment (no matter how thrilling that employment may be).  To do this requires effort, so here are a few tips to get you started.

  1. Set aside time to avoid work.  It may be a full day or just a few hours, but applying your brain to something other than what you do for a living or the subject that you’re studying in school is a healthy habit.  A good rule of thumb is to avoid any activity that may even appear to be related to either of these venues.  (If you aren’t sure whether an activity fits, ask a friend or family member.  Their observations are usually spot-on.)  If you’re studying for a degree in horticulture, don’t spend your “rest time” reading books on plants.  If you’re a graphics designer, set the sketch pad aside.  I may be tempting to cheat, but don’t!  You need this time away.
  2. Explore other people’s passions.  You aren’t the only one completely in love with your vocation!  Take some time to find out more about the hobbies and occupations of your friends and family, then participate with them as they indulge their passion.  Even if it’s work for them, it’ll be a break for you!
  3. Try something new.  The world is full of interesting things to do.  Never picked up a brush?  Why not check out a local painting class?  Wonder why martial artists yell when they attack?  Take a  Karate class!  Never read a fantasy novel?  Ask your local librarian to recommend a good one.  There are plenty of things to explore, so use your rest time to do just that!
  4. Cultivate relationships.  Most Americans don’t have many close friends… so why not fill that gap for someone else?  Take a break from the things that consume you to get to know those within your family, church, or community.  A few hours and a cup of coffee may be all it takes to make a new friend.  If all goes well, you’ll both walk away feeling rested!
  5. Deepen your connection with God.  It’s amazing how quickly He can get sidelined in our lives… even though He’s the One who gave us our passion to begin with!  Why not rekindle that connection?  Instead of doing a quick devotional every day, set aside a larger chunk of time for Bible study and/or prayer.  You may be surprised at just how refreshing this time can become… and how odd your day will feel without it!
  6. Finally, surround yourself with people who have your best interests at heart.  More than once, it’s been my family that has intervened to let me know that I need to slow down a bit.  From the outside, they can see the lines between work and rest quite clearly… even when I can’t.  Find yourself some close friends who are willing to keep an eye on you and who are strong enough to tell you when it’s time to quit.

These are, of course, just a few ideas to get you started.  Apply yourself and you’re sure to come up with a few more!

Next week, we’ll be exploring the tension which often exists between our need for rest and the needs of Christian ministry.  Meanwhile, feel free to share how you escape from becoming an “obsessed Christian” in the comment box below!

Evangelism and Physical Fitness: Resting One Moment at a Time

6 Sep

Last week in “Setting Boundaries between Rest and Employment”, we took a look at a few of the employment-related obstacles which stand in the way of our setting aside a scheduled time for rest.  We examined the difficulties encountered by those who live paycheck-to-paycheck and considered the reality that “taking a stand” for our “right” to time off isn’t always prudent or wise (at least not if we want to eat our next meal).  And we discussed the importance of recognizing that God’s provision for us doesn’t always result in our having a great deal of control over our circumstances.

How we react when confronted with such obstacles can make a big difference in both our lives and the lives of others.  Will we give up and simply accept that getting enough rest just isn’t possible?  Will we become the cranky Christian no one wants to be around?  Or will we find a way to navigate the obstacles, find the time to relax, and put ourselves in a position that will help us better demonstrate God’s love?  Those of us who want to fulfill Christ’s commission in Matthew 28:19-20 chose the latter and learn the fine art of resting one moment at a time.

This can be a difficult skill to acquire.  To begin with, we need to throw away the notion that real rest takes real time.  If you’ve ever seen someone return to work looking worn out after spending an entire week just relaxing on the beach, then you know this isn’t true.  What is true is that “a change is as good as a rest”.  And if we are to become skilled at acquiring rest through moments rather than hours or days, that’s where we need to begin.

Think back over your day, paying special attention to “free moments” you may have had while walking to school, taking a break at the water cooler, or even performing some mundane chore like dusting the living room.  “Free moments?” you ask.  Indeed.  While you were physically occupied during these tasks, it’s doubtful that your mind was very deeply engaged.  And it’s from this “free time” that we can sculpt opportunities for rest.  Consider the following tips for turning this time into a mini-vacation:

  1. Read or listen to a devotional.  This activity often takes just a few minutes, but it has the power to draw you closer to God, reset your brain, and influence your outlook for an entire day.
  2. Block out the break room chatter.  Few things are as toxic and non-restful as the gossip which goes on in company break rooms.  Instead of increasing your tension by listening in, plug in a set of headphones and listen to something else: a great podcast, some energizing music, or soothing nature sounds.
  3. Step it up.  Believe it or not, exercise often heightens our ability to rest.  If you’re in a physical job, challenge yourself to step up the intensity… not so much that you hurt yourself, but enough to leave you with a feeling of pleasant soreness when you’ve finished.  If your job isn’t physical, take advantage of your break time and take a stroll around the parking lot.  The change of scenery will do you good!
  4. Take a cat-nap.  Set an alarm, then take a snooze on your lunch break.  Even fifteen minutes of extra sleep has the power to reenergize your day.  If you’re afraid of missing the alarm, then just sit quietly with your eyes closed.  Breathe deeply and enjoy some time on an imaginary beach somewhere with a frosty glass of lemonade.
  5. Work a puzzle.  Instead of stuffing your face with a candy bar during your break, try working a puzzle instead.  Crosswords, Sudoku, chess puzzlers, and other mind-benders take you out of the world around you while helping to sharpen your cognitive abilities.
  6. Explore new ideas.  Grab a book or magazine and disappear into another world for a while.  Like a vacation on a paper, the printed word can take us to places we’ve only dreamed of!

Next week, we’ll take a look at the difficulties that confront us as we try to set boundaries between rest and work that we enjoy.  Meanwhile, feel free to share some of your own relaxation tips in the comment box below!

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