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Permission to Slack Off

I have a friend who has no problem accomplishing absolutely nothing for several days in a row. This blog is not for him or people like him. It’s for me and people like me-I feel guilty when I’m not doing something profitable.  I struggle with that work/play balance.  I multi-task relax time with work time to relieve the guilt.

Last weekend my son and I took a long road trip.  While he drove, I worked on a notepad, and while I drove, he worked on his laptop.  We talked some, but we both had a hard time just sitting there and enjoying the scenery and the presence of each other.

Nothing wrong with the multi-tasking since it helps get things done-except if it interferes with the recoup time I need. I know I need downtime, playtime, and renewal. I find it hard to fit into my schedule. So I started scheduling it-put it on my calendar.  And when I finish the relaxing time, I check it off as a task completed. When downtime becomes a scheduled task for me, it’s permission for me to relax.

“Work hard. Play hard. Live happy.”

Mark Reed

Author of Rehearsing for Heaven

See Mark’s Heaven blog at http://www.hopeworthy.com/blog

Relational Storms

Watching weather forcasts often helps many of us prepare for our day or outdoor plans.  Sometimes though, unexpected storms blow up, causing frustration and disappointments.  Like the weather, relational conflicts, disappointments or unmet expectations can catch us by surprise.  Before we know it, we react with a hurtful expression and/or say something hurtful.

Have you seen a relational storm lately in your house? Office? While driving? If you have, welcome to the club. We all know “relational storms” are quite normal and expected.

Do you like to watch tornados on the weather channel? What about watching ”relational tornados” that occur in your place of employment? While driving? How about at home? Others of us like to avoid those “relational storms”, run for cover and hide due to the destructive nature of conflicts.

The next time you see a “relational storm” or “tornado” coming, consider how you feel and want to react.  Whether you feel awkward, frustrated, anxious or just wanna laugh, try tuning into your body’s signals which warning signs.  For example, if you feel awkward, you may choose withdraw or ignore the conflict.  If you feel frustrated, you may want to say something to prove your point.  If you feel anxious, who may sound/act confused, or just laugh.

Being aware of your emotional, internal reaction can help you predict and prevent a hurtful reaction.  Forcasting your reaction can prevent further damage and help other(s) work through the conflict.  Surrendering your feelings to God, the Holy Spirit before we react can open us up to respond in love.

If your area of ministry at church, home or work is normal, a storm is developing.  What are you going to do?

No Parking Here To Corner

This is a guest post from Scott Couchenour. Scott is passionate about the health of ministers and leaders and has one simple mission, to make your mission less burnout. You can find more information at servingstrong.com where Scott provides useful content and dynamic coaching. Also follow Scott on twitter @servingstrong.

Park between the sign and the intersection and you risk receiving a ticket on your windshield. Pack your day so full you can’t possibly get it all done and you risk burnout.
Simple. The road sign provides margin for safe traffic.
Using time wisely provides margin for effective ministry leadership.

We all agree – it’s impossible to fit 9 pounds of anything in a 6-pound bag. Doesn’t matter how hard we try to stuff it all in. Why? Because we live in a finite world. Only so much time in our day. Only so much energy in our being. We need daily margin.
But how do we build margin into our daily routine?

From Hundreds… Place every task into ONE SINGLE LIST. The minute you have more than one place to look, your mind spends energy trying to keep up. This is energy you can’t afford to lose. Knowing it’s all in one place frees mindspace for being present in the moment. This goes for one single calendar as well.

…To A Few… Prayerfully prioritize. Ask for God’s wisdom as you scan your master list. Allow Him to lead you to the important few among the trivial many. Lift those key items out of your master list and place them on a weekly planner.

…To Three… Plan no more than 3 tasks per day. I know what you’re thinking, “Only three? You must have it made.“ But here’s the deal: when you put a dozen tasks on your list for the day (knowing full well you will never get it all done) you put your head on the pillow at night in a defeated mindset – not a good thing to sleep on.  The key benefit of 3 tasks is this: If you get all 3 completed, you can borrow from tomorrow’s 3. Then, at the end of the day you feel ahead of the game.

The truth about time is that interruptions will happen. It’s not a matter of “if”. It’s a matter of “how many”. A phone call, a bunch of email messages, a family’s crisis, a broken kitchen sink pipe… we never know what the day holds. Be realistic and learn to never “park too close to the intersection.”

Serious about building margin into your leadership? Here are some additional resources:

Margin (Dr. Richard Swenson)

The Big Rocks (Steven Covey)

10 Ways To Create Margin Time (Ron Edmondson)

 

Are you contemplating “self-care”?

Becoming aware of your personal and health needs is a great start!  Reviewing options helps one move towards “self-care”.  Now, contemplation about one’s care options is crucial in making a decision to receive care.

Let me explain, thousands of thoughts stream through out our mind every day.  Of course, it is impossible to put all of these thoughts into action, even half or ten percent can be overwhelming.  This is the reason contemplating taking action on a thought is so important, especially one that is uncomfortable (eating healthy food, talking to a co-worker about a conflict, etc).

Contemplation does require action in your mind, heart and body.  When buying a car, after looking at one or more, the sales person says … “Do you want to take this car for a test drive?”  (read more)

Moving from thoughts about your own physical, emotional and spiritual needs to a commitment to take action also takes time in front of God.

What thoughts and needs are you lifting up to God today?

Easter Hangover

Easter recovery is a drag.  After numerous,  Christ filled Easter services, feeling tired, emotionally spent and on edge is to be expected.  So what can you and I do to recover well, bounce back into my ministry routine with energy and motivation?

Be Realistic

The way our body feels and our mind thinks is based upon the balance of physical energy and mental clarity.  Both energy and clarity combine to empower us to meet the demands and expectations around us.  Refueling the body’s energy will bring our mental capacity to think rationally.  Just like using reason can help discipline ourself to physically recharge well.  So let’s take a balanced approach at Easter recovery.

 

Consume Renewable Energy

Today, a nice grande of Sumatra from Starbucks’ will not refuel the energy that has been spent over the weekend.  Caffeine will only give our neurons a “super charge”, not the required nutrients needed.   Though realistically speaking, since many of us already had that “caffeine shot” this morning, it’s time to find the needed nutrients to refuel.  If you know the food and drinks that help you refuel, then consume them over the next three days, limiting sweets and artificial energy boosters.  If you’re looking for healthy items, consider eating 5 small meals a day, consisting of fruits, vegetables, lean meats and peanut butter.  And remember, you will never go wrong drinking plenty, yet moderate amounts of water.

Access Relational Support

Relational support builds emotional energy.  Talking requires us to go to a deep area of our brain, where emotions are activated, sorted and released.  Conversations with people who care, about our daily activities, relational interactions and ups and downs help our mind release the emotional pressure that has built up.  The brain looks for ways to help the nervous system to relax, calm down from the day’s tension which can be stimulated by intimate conversations.  Merely watching TV dramas or zoning out to unwind initially helps, though relational interactions help to bring about order to the brain and recharge emotional batteries needed to endure the rest of the week.

Let’s not forget to do some type of physical activity over the next 24 hours to wake up your muscles and joints that tend to stiffen up while resting.

If you haven’t taken your first step to recover, decide what it will be and do it.  Otherwise, what is in your way to get started? If you need help, consider the links below.

For further assistance, contact Gary Reed at Ministry Care.

What is Emotional Resistance?

James waits to get out of bed until the second snooze alarm sounds, his way of preparing to get out of bed.

Jason sees Tracy coming down the hall at church.  Jason jumps into the bathroom before Tracy sees him.  ”Whew”, Jason sighs, another close call.

For Gerry, paying personal bills twice a month is difficult.  After paying a late bill she asked herself, “Why do I wait so long to write the check and mail the envelope?”

Putting off, avoidance or even waiting are descriptions of resistance.  Commonly known as “procrastination”, resistance is generally an internal struggle, often a emotional and mental battle.  How do you fair with your internal resistance?

Anxious, worried and even fearful feelings about people and situations, often affect our thinking and behaviors.  In fact, these uncomfortable feelings generally cause us to make impulsive decisions about awkward situations.

What can be done to rescue yourself from resistance?  Here’s a few ideas:

1.  Remember a time when you were disappointed by giving into your emotional resistance.  How did your procrastination affect you?  Others?

2.  How do you want the next awkward situation to be different?  Write the specific difference down on paper.

3.  Write down what you are willing to do to make the situation different.

4.  What are you willing to give up to be different?

Here are some examples below:

Abby found herself remembering a time last week when she did not know what to do about a noise her car was making when driving down the highway.  She ignored it, hoped it would go away.  Later that week, her care made the same engine noise again causing her to worry about how she can not afford to pay a car repair.  Today, she decided to schedule an appointment with an auto repair shop cause she does not want to pay for tow truck costs if her car breaks down.  Abby had to give up her anxious feelings, face the uncomfortable call to the auto repair shop and take time off of work to get her car fixed.

Ryan arrived too late to visit Mr. Jones at the hospital, since he was discharged about an hour before Ryan came to visit.  Ryan thought visiting Mr. Jones before he went home for the day would be a good idea, though not this time.  Ryan felt disappointed, missing an opportunity to see Mr. Jones at the hospital though a little relieved, since making hospital visits is not easy due to difficulties finding the right room and the smell is pretty bad.  On his way home, Ryan felt convicted of the importance of caring for people who are sick, as Jesus did.  He considered making hospital visits a priority in his schedule by putting a note in his calendar the morning of his hospital visits.  Ryan realized, giving an hour or two to visit hospitalized, church members may require him to come into the office a little earlier that day.

Sounds simple?  What’s holding you back?

 

Edgy

Often times people do things to be edgy. Maybe they get a tattoo, grow their hair out or buy that motorcycle (or maybe that is just mid-life crisis stuff). But there is another kind of edgy, and that is being on edge. This kind of edgy is less about standing out and more about stepping out into a dangerous world. It could be an emotional break down, a irrational outburst, or a complete meltdown.

Here are some questions to ask yourself about being on edge:

  • Lately, have you found yourself feeling uneasy when around other people?  Or easily agitated and mindfully critical of what another is saying?  If not now, maybe sometime in the past?  If so, rather than pushing the feeling away or trying not to let it bother you, take a moment to stop, ask yourself, “Are my needs being met?”  “What do I need right now?”
  • Busy schedules and others’ needs usually motivate us to not take care of our own needs.  After a while, we can feel depleted and edgy.  We may end up saying or doing something that is insensitive to someone.
  • After being unable to get away from His followers for a time of rest (Mark 6:31-ff), Jesus later sent His disciples across the lake and followed them walking on the water.  Jesus was concerned about his disciples need for time away and so He is concerned about your needs too.

If you resonated with any of these ask yourself this:

  • What are some general needs?
    • Rest, relaxation, quiet or just letting go the clutter in your mind.
    • Prayer, spiritual nourishment and confidence.
    • Hunger, nourishment and hydration, especially when we are busy.
    • To feel respected, needed and understood by others at home and in ministry.
    • To laugh at yourself and/or at a situation.
    • Peace, hope and strength.
    • To be touched, supported and encouraged.

     

Self-Care for Field Workers

What is self care?

Simply put, caring for one’s own self.  Another way to put it, loving your self the way God loves you in order to glorify God.  Self care enables your self to be equipped to serve.

Throughout our spiritual development we have taken time in silence to be spiritually equipped by reading His Word and petitioning His grace.  Though when our emotional needs are drained or cognitive resources depleted, we may ignore refueling or push on for the sake of the cause.  Later we wonder why getting out of bed can be so hard or why we resent making another call.

Ok, so we see the picture clearly, loving our self means to care for all of our needs, whether spiritually, emotionally, mentally, physically or relationally.

You may say, “If self care is necessary for glorifying God, then why is it so hard”?  Why so much personal resistance or obstacles beyond my control?

Time, energy and financial means are often barriers to “self-care”.  We know taking time for our health is important, though looking ahead, preparing for our own and family needs is often not our focus.  So take time now, review the checklist below to identify your need(s) and the last time your took time for yourself.

  1. I have seen a medical provider or my primary care physician in the last 8-10 months.
  2. Relaxed when I ate my lunch, without reading or talking about work or my schedule.
  3. Talked to someone other than my spouse about an emotional struggle, hardship or challenge.
  4. Faced a conflict with my spouse, co-worker or neighbor in order to reconcile differences.
  5. Had an eye examination and/or had corrective dental work; a dental exam would suffice.
  6. Went out with my spouse (if married) or best friend (if single) for fun, without an agenda.
  7. Relaxed while waiting in line at the grocery store or smiled while waiting in the car for my spouse.
  8. Looked inside at what you’re feeling and thinking after hearing disappointing news about … .
  9. When have you added one physical activity (exercise) to your weekly routine?
  10. Told someone outside your family “no” in order have time for … .
  11. Went to a worship service other than your place of service for no other purpose than to worship.

If led to do so, try one of these “self-care” activities.  Let me know if any of these ideas are of an interest to you or if I can support you in any way:  gary@ministrycare.org.

Recharging

What energizes your battery?

What keeps you spiritually charged? I keep a list of things to do when I’ve got writer’s block. Like take a hike, teach an imaginary crowd out loud, do some outlandish brainstorming or read something I wouldn’t normally read. Those things can recharge my creativity cells, but I need another list of activities that fights off spiritual block.

The list is different for all of us. It’s not deep meditation and prostrate prayer for everyone. It might be prayer while fishing, sailing or surfing. I like to hike, find a rock near a stream and meditate. It might be hanging out with Christian friends, listening to inspiring speakers or the Bible, or singing worship songs at the top of your lungs in the car. Whatever works for you, make a mental list for reference when you need a recharge. And schedule a recharge moment once a month. Don’t wait until you’re running low.

Contributed by Mark Reed

Author of Rehearsing for Heaven

Accountability: Consequences and Grace

A man once told his mentor, “I still hear my father’s voice, telling me to get my work done”.  Upon remembering our father’s words, some hear a supportive voice to be responsible, others hear critical words of not “good enough”.  The battle inside, to be responsible, to accomplish the work and tasks around us is great.

No matter if you are triggered by a supportive or critical voice, accountability is a tool for responsibility.  We daily experience the rewards of being responsible such as taking care of our self by simply brushing our teeth or house expenses as paying a utility bill.

What is gained by taking care of personal hygiene needs and a warm, comfortable house is worth the time and expense.  If being accountable has such great rewards, why do we struggle with it?

Accountable is a two edge sword at times, a mixed bag of feelings, both challenged and inadequate.  Experiencing mixed feelings is often uncomfortable, just enough to avoid the task altogether.  If this is your struggle at times, there is hope!

Find truth and confidence by answering these questions:

  1. What did I do in the past to overcome mixed feelings in order to complete the task(s)?
  2. How did God’s grace work through me to accomplish the task?
  3. What were the positive consequences of what was accomplished?
  4. How can God work in me now?
  5. How will myself and others be blessed because of completing this task?
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