How I’m Learning to Rest

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When I hear people describe me words like loudenergetic, hyper and other variations on the theme seem to be a recurring refrain. And, to be fair, that’s true enough. In fact, I often tell people that I stay up late on Saturday nights, just so calm me down a bit for Sunday mornings. If I started a Sunday well-rested, I don’t think the congregation could keep up!

And so, in my early days of pastoral ministry, I didn’t sleep a whole lot. During Seminary, I’d stay up studying most nights until 11pm or so, then get up at 3:30am to throw papers for the Denver Post. Probably once a week I’d crash during an afternoon and take a nap, and on Saturdays I’d go back to sleep after finishing my paper route and sleep until noon. In my youth ministry years, I thrived on all-nighters and retreats where I would barely sleep. I seemed to need very little sleep to maintain my high-energy life.

But, this side of 40, and trying to pay more attention to my body & soul, I’m starting to recognize how tiredness affects me, affects how I think and how I relate to other people. So, here’s a brief description of the life this pastor lived during Holy Week:

  • Wednesday: I led worship at our weekly Lenten prayer service.
  • Thursday: I did a 15 minute teaching at our Foot Washing Service, then led worship again
  • Good Friday Service and Christmas Eve are our most creative services of the year. I can’t begin to tell you how much energy I pour into these services.
  • Saturday morning: Tear down all the decorations in the sanctuary, re-decorate for Sunday.
  • Saturday afternoon: Complete Easter Message
  • Sunday morning: 2 services, lots of people, brunch.

So, for me, here are the symptoms of tired: I cry easily. A friend prayed with me after the Good Friday Service and I had a small breakdown. I start to avoid the people in my life who see through me. You know these people. They’re the kind of people who when I see kindness and concern for me in their eyes, I cry.  So, when tired, I avoid them. I get super critical. I only heard the wrong notes I hit while leading worship, it was hard to see past the small technical glitches Friday night, or the things I wished I would have said better on Sunday morning. I can’t find satisfaction in things I should be finding satisfaction in. I eat senselessly. I find myself powerless overt the small jar of miniature Cadbury eggs that was sitting on the counter all weekend. And finally, I shut down, and don’t do the things that actually restore my soul like exercise, be with the people who love me, etc. I choose instead mindless television watching and stupid games on my iPad.

So, after the 2nd service on Sunday I chose to rest. I went home, took an hour nap, went on a geocaching hike with my wife, kids & parents. Had a simple, but delicious dinner of grilled rack of lamb, asparagus and buttery herbed potatoes. I went to sleep by 11 and didn’t get out of bed Monday morning until after 9. The church office was closed Monday, so I spent the day binge-watching Breaking Bad, did some woodworking (really not work. I enjoy it!). I read a little, went to Kickapoo and pitched to the boys for awhile, avoided my email and Facebook. I could have taken another nap – I was tired enough – but I feared I wouldn’t be able to sleep Monday night, if I did. In short, I really rested. And today, I’m still a little tired, but I’m much, much better than I was two days ago at this time.

Anyway here’s what I’m learning about resting:

  • Jennifer gave me the gift of no expectations on Monday. Ahhhhhh. So good. There was no pressure to get to “the list.” And even though I chose to hang some trim in the afternoon, I did it because doing things with my hands is important to me, not because I felt pressured.
  • This sounds strange, but I have to give myself permission to rest. That’s really hard for me. I had to tell myself over and over again that my job on Monday was to rest.
  • In order for me to rest, I have to stay off my phone. No emails, no Facebook, nothing. My brain needs very little stimulus to go into work mode.
  • Usually, I exercise. However, because I’m running a marathon on Saturday, I’m very strictly following my regimen this week, to make sure my legs are well-rested on Saturday morning at 7am. Anyway, I wasn’t scheduled to run yesterday, so I didn’t.

I’m sure there are many more things for this high-functioning, energetic extrovert to learn, but at least I’m starting to learn something…

Praying the Prayers of Others – Ted Loder

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This is the final week of this Lenten series, where I’ve been posting some of my favorite prayers. Ted Loder has become my favorite contemporary prayer writer. His book Guerrillas of Grace is full of honest prayer-poems that seem to often bring tears to my eyes. This excerpt of his prayer-poem “There is Something I Wanted to Tell You” is my favorite in a book full of favorites, and seems like a great prayer in the midst of Holy Week for those of us who find ourselves often busy and distracted.

“There is Something I Wanted to Tell You”

Holy One,
there is something I wanted to tell you,
but there have been errands to run,
bills to pay,
arrangements to make,
meetings to attend,
friends to entertain,
washing to do…
and I forget what it is I wanted to say to you,
and mostly I forget what I’m about
or why.

O God,
don’t forget me, please,
for the sake of Jesus Christ….

O Father and Mother in Heaven,
perhaps you’ve already heard what I wanted to tell you,
What I wanted to ask is,
forgive me,
heal me,
increase my courage, please.
Renew in me a little of love and faith,
and a sense of confidence,
and a vision of what it might mean
to live as though you were real,
and I mattered,
and everyone was sister and brother.

What I wanted to ask in my blundering way is
don’t give up on me, don’t become too sad about me,
but laugh with me,
and try again with me,
and I will with you, too.

How does this prayer-poem resonate with you?

Has this series been helpful? What’s been your favorite prayer?

Welcome to Holy Week

Holy Week

Drop the balloons, shoot the confetti and break out the piñata! It’s Holy Week. (Maybe that’s not the right feel!)

Six weeks ago I was talking about Ash Wednesday, giving things up and all the ways that I was going to live differently for the next six weeks tending to my soul in anticipation of resurrection. But as with everything in my life these days it seems that I blinked, went on Spring Break, came back and all-of-the-sudden we’re standing on the threshold of Easter.

I had such big plans for Lent. I was going to give up some things, replace those things with better things, read some poignant books about Jesus, practice the prayer of examen every single night and put the final nail in the coffin on at least one or two or my vices. If there were awards given out for Lent, this was my year to triple medal. But can I confess? I didn’t do nearly everything I intended to do. Sure, I gave up Facebook (which has been so good for my soul, more later) but I chose to read Stephen King and John Grisham on Spring Break. (“Real spiritual, pastor!”) And instead of doing the prayer of examen every night, I watched television in bed or played Plants vs. Zombies. And, if I’m honest, I’ve probably added vices.

But, I’m choosing today to put all that behind me and to just look ahead. It’s Holy Week. This is the week where we read again the stories of Jesus’ final week. We think about Jesus and ask ourselves again, “why did he have to die?” In my faith community we have special services and events, we go all-out to drink deeply of the season. This week, despite my shortcomings, I can choose to lean in, to pay attention, to spend extra time in prayer & reflection.

Here’s my invitation: join me. It doesn’t matter if you took ashes on Ash Wednesday 6 weeks ago. It doesn’t matter if you gave up meat on Fridays or even if you failed in your Lenten commitments. Today, you can choose – for one week – to put your faith front and center, to live intentionally, to think deeply about what you profess to be true. You don’t have to do everything. It’s not a contest, there are no trophies. What happened during Lent is past, nothing can be done about that now. Today is Monday. Resurrection Sunday is only 6 days away.

Let’s start together here. In the comments, let’s give each other ideas. Let’s discuss some of our practices and strategies for journeying through Holy Week. I’ll commit an internet faux pas and Icomment first on my own post. Don’t leave me hanging!