Work & Rest: 2 Helpful Questions for Finding Balance

Is your candle burning at both ends and melting in the middle too? I think a lot of us would have to say yes (at least sometimes). Truth is, balancing work and rest in our modern environment is challenging. A simple list of “dos & don’ts” to clean it all up would be nice, but real life isn’t like that. So, instead of a list, I have a couple of questions to offer. They’re based on some recent discussions in our small group.

Question #1

“Are the things I do (work, vocation, position) defining me, or am I properly defining what I do based on who I am in Christ?”

Consider Paul’s charge in Colossians 3:23:

“And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord.”

It helps me to remember whose approval I should really be seeking. Paul had experienced great success in the inner circle of Jerusalem “movers & shakers”, but after conversion gained a new perspective on how to invest His life (Philippians ch. 3). He continued his trade as one working hard with his hands making tents (Acts 18:3), but his objectives and influence in the marketplace changed. Instead of trying to win among his peers, he modeled the attitude of laying aside hindrances to finish well “as the cloud of heavenly witnesses looked on” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

Question #2

Do I incorporate a natural rhythm of work and rest (as God modeled it by creating 6 days and resting 1) or am I mostly “On” 24/7?”

When God created the world, He set certain “rhythms” in motion; for example day & night, wake & sleep, growth & dormancy. Once, when I spent a couple of months in the woods, I actually began to sense the natural “rhythm” of the created order and it was fascinating. In the Psalms, there is a word “Selah” placed at strategic points to direct the reader (originally singers) to pause and reflect on the potency of the words. It’s a pattern worth noting and incorporating into daily life.

Finding ways to pause and reflect is incredibly valuable. Of course it looks different with everyone, but it wouldn’t surprise me if soul searching led to smart phones being silenced more, radios turned off occasionally during commutes, and Sunday afternoons less crammed with activity. Unfortunately, there is no magic answer to the problem of “busyness”, but I’m confident the Lord will provide guidance when asked.

“Hold that thought!” 3 Questions to ask before Posting

Social media is a powerful tool. Welcome or not, it’s become a common thread in the fabric of our lives and influences many. That being said, I was reminded this week of something I want to pass along. You see, there was a subject I considered writing about; but after honest reflection, I stopped because my approach failed the test. I call it the “3 Question Test” and it helps me stay on track (at least somewhat). You may want to develop your own, but here’s how it goes for me.

1. “What’s my motive?” – Am I sharing an encouraging or affirming word? Am I passing along something I’m learning? Or does the “Like” button motivate me more than I want to admit? It’s a subtle little thing, but its presence (like “retweets” and “sharing”) can influence subject, tone and content. It can even involve forgoing a post for fear of not getting “likes” and appearing foolish.

2. “Am I Whining?”– Nobody enjoys whiners. Whether it’s personal, business or spiritual, the temptation to vent frustrations can destroy credibility, friendships and opportunities to share what Christ is doing in my life. Yes, as a Christian, I should be ready to share God’s truth unapologetically, but in an authentic spirit of love (Eph. 4:15, I Peter 3:15).

3. “Do I value my opinion too much?”  -I like my own opinion (as most of us do), but it isn’t always important. Contrary to pop-culture, all opinions are not equal and certainly not always welcome. With comment boxes everywhere, we sometimes offer answers to questions not asked. When in doubt, the old saying, “silence is golden” fits well.

The Bible teaches that I’m the temple of the Holy Spirit, a part of Christ’s Body, and not my own (I Corinthians 6:19 & 12:12-27), so ultimately the goal should be to represent Christ well. To be certain, there are times for boldness, subtlety, forgiveness, humor and encouragement, but all should be in agreement with Christ’s model. My prayer is to know when the proper times are for each and simply let the rest go.

More than Silence at Ground Zero

Today, with a moment of silence our country remembers the terrible events of 9/11 in Manhattan, DC and Pennsylvania. I understand the reasons for generic “silence” and appreciate it being included, but what if there’s more? What if God is speaking? Can we hear Him through the silence?

A few weeks ago, some friends and I visited Ground Zero in New York. It was a sobering experience to see where it happened and yes, there was a lot of silence. People of all descriptions quietly viewed the memorial pools and displays. As I walked around pondering it all, there was a question on my mind, “What have we learned from this?” I thought of how we were reminded on that tragic day years ago of life’s most treasured things, resulting in our priorities changing as a people. However, over time we slowly slipped back into celebrity worship, status updates and distractions…and I started to feel depressed. That’s when I saw it.

For some reason, while standing by one of the trees on the site (with those thoughts literally on my mind), I looked up and noticed a huge rainbow. It wasn’t just a rainbow in the distance; it was horizontal over us like a circular statement echoing 9-11-Rainbowback to Genesis 9. I could sense in my spirit, God’s reassuring presence and Him saying, “Relax, I’m still in charge as always.” Man, I’m glad He is. I get frustrated, worried and angry when it comes to culture and national direction, but I must let those emotions go. God is still very much in charge and true hope is only found in Him. The Psalmist said it best and we can take comfort in these great words of promise:

“Behold the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him, on those who hope in His mercy, to deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine. Our soul waits for the Lord; He is our help and our shield. For our heart shall rejoice in Him, because we have trusted in His holy name. Let Your mercy, O Lord, be upon us, just as we hope in You.”
– Psalm 33:18-22 NKJV

Hot on Sunday, Cold on Monday

As I’m preparing to lead small group discussions this week (using The Gospel Project material), I’m pondering a principle that helps me visualize properly relating to people. Whether it’s personal, professional, or in small group; there are some interesting applications. Here’s what I’m learning:

The Principle: When engaging people, I’m faced with a choice to be a “thermometer” or “thermostat”. As a thermometer, I simply reflect the temperature of the other person and/or the environment I’m in. As a thermostat, I help set the temperature of the environment and/or the tone of the conversation.

In Jeremiah 9:24, the Lord describes the tone that He sets when dealing with us, “…showing faithful love, justice, and righteousness.” He even goes on to say that He “delights in those things”. When we consider God’s words to Jeremiah, along with Jesus teaching us to love others as ourselves (Matt. 22:36-40), then it’s clear; we’re to be “thermostats” not “thermometers”. So what does that look like exactly?

Being Proactive – Lazy Christians are likely to be thermometers. For years I didn’t understand how someone could be so fired up on Sunday and then be cold on Monday. Yes, sometimes it’s from not having a relationship with Christ to begin with, but other times it comes from a spiritual life that only reflects the surrounding environment, not one helping set it. Hey, to be honest, I have my share of thermometer moments, but being proactive in prayer/personal study helps lessen the number of them.

Proper Focus – I must remember to look in the right direction. It’s easy to focus on the person and rationalize my response, instead of looking at God’s model toward me. Whether it’s very personal, (in our home) or out-and-about in work and community; a smile, a kind word, or proactive measures to defuse conflict can often change a situation for the better and even open up doors for deeper conversation.

Realistic Expectations – Quite often, striving to be the thermostat goes against the flow. Come to think of it, every time the thermostat in our house kicks in for the heating/air conditioning, it’s because the temperature needs adjusted. It’s either too hot or too cold, so by default its purpose is to implement change when needed. As followers of Christ, that’s our job too; to be change-agents bearing Christ’s love and values. Will we always be welcomed? No. Is it worth the pursuit? Absolutely!

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