Archives For rest

From my back porch: Today I’m writing my first post/tweet/FB status update in over a month. The mallards and sandhill cranes that nestle on the pond behind our home don’t seem to notice I’ve been offline. This is day #29 of my sabbatical and I’m feeling pretty dialed in to nature.

The verdict is in: Sabbatical works. With only two days left, I feel refreshed, restored and eager to reengage. If you’re considering a sabbatical anytime soon, here are some of my takeaways:

1. Intentionally break your routine on Day #1. At the advice of two close friends, on Monday, March 1st I packed a small overnight bag and checked into the Canterbury Episcopal Retreat Center about 10 miles from my home. Just one night and two full days. This provided the clean break and a mental ‘reset’ button to help me escape the pull of gravity around my home. I took long prayer walks on the grounds. I fell asleep on a bench in the sun. I packed a few books on Contemplative Prayer, a topic I had been eager to learn more about but ‘never had the time.’ I read one or two chapters from each and tried some of the forms. I threw my road bike in the trunk and explored a new 40-mile bike trail. I worshipped.

2. Don’t hurry. Donna, another friend who just finished her sabbatical in January, offered this wise counsel. I had to repeat this to myself several times the first few days. It became pretty natural after the voices in my head quieted down on Day #4. Grace and peace are yours for the taking.

3. Pursue the people and activities you love. Sabbatical is all about fueling your soul. Don’t do the stuff you don’t want to do. Avoid obligatory social events if you really don’t feel like going. I did a few small projects around the house – ‘quick wins’ – but left the major stuff for another month. I took my Taylor guitar out to the beach and sang my way through about 30 of my favorite praise songs. Indulge in family and friends.

4. Have a plan, but flex as you go. I broke the month of March into four weeks, each with its own focus on being, learning, doing and/or writing. It really helped me, for instance, to save reading any books on leadership until week #4, since that tends to be my default setting. I also used the month to train my palate to enjoy eating healthier foods and lost a few pounds along the way. Days #30 & 31 have been set aside as an onramp back to reality.

5. Have a strong support system. Hebrews 4: 11 exhorts us to “strive to enter God’s rest.” It takes a village and a lot of advance planning to rest well. Ann amazed me in her strong spousal support. She was virtually silent on any work-related issues for a month. Kudos also to my assistant Kelly for deleting… um… handling… most of my email; to my teammates for honoring my boundaries; and to my boss for his whole-hearted support of this time away.

6. Go public. By publicly declaring my intentions and my dates away I was able to set reasonable expectations for colleagues and people I care about. My ‘out of office’ reply clearly communicated that I would not feel obliged to respond to any email received during this month and asked colleagues to resend important email on April 1. This also helped maintain accountability when I was tempted to cheat.* Worthy of note: Michael Hyatt (CEO of Thomas Nelson) and John Piper (preacher, writer, speaker and book-writing machine) both went public this week, saying they are taking social media sabbaticals for the next 3 weeks and 8 months, respectively. Piper’s explanation is worth a read. Maybe we’re starting a movement….

7. Don’t break your rules. Exercising your ‘no’ muscle allows you to say ‘yes’ to the deeper yearnings burning within. For me, this meant no meetings, no business travel, no work-related phone calls or email, no Tweets, no Facebook posts, no blogging. I fudged once or twice for unique circumstances, and upon reflection I honestly don’t even think those were necessary. For one month away most things can wait. Here are two great HBR posts on unplugging and not breaking your own vacation rules. Be self-aware enough to know if you’re crossing the line into legalism or obnoxiousness in the process. Just like authentic Christian faith, sabbatical isn’t about what you avoid. It’s all about what you pursue.

How are you doing in exerting sufficient self-leadership to enter into regular days or seasons of personal restoration?

*Pulling away revealed deeper heart issues that I’ll tackle in another post.

God Works When We Don’t

February 26, 2010 — 7 Comments

Sabbath, noun, a period of rest.

For the past 15 years I have enjoyed what I call “distance leadership” roles. Ministering over geographic and cultural distance taps into my gifts and passions. It also demands a lot of travel and emotional energy.

In 2002 a number of challenges led to me to begin taking a regular weekly Sabbath. My goal was simple: no email, no phone, and no wristwatch for 24 hours each week. Since that time I’d say I’ve averaged about 35-40 good Sabbaths each year. Not perfect, but definitely profitable. I’ve also managed to squeeze in one or two “mini-sabbatical” weeks each year which have been devoted to reading, reflection and prayer.

Last August the Lord showed me that my soul needs to take an extended rest from ministry. There’s a subtle temptation, almost unnoticeable, that creeps in when one is constantly positioned to help others enjoy Jesus: we can stop enjoying Jesus for ourselves. When this happens we can be in danger of drying up as a branch, or worse, losing our First Love. To combat this condition, most missions organizations provide for regular sabbaticals to refresh one’s soul. It might help to think of this period as an athlete looks at off-season. In off-season, athletes continue to work out and to cross-train, but their bodies enjoy a break from intense competition. It’s a chance for the body to recover and for the mind to gain new perspectives on its craft.

Campus Crusade offers senior staff members one month of sabbatical for every four years served. Stunningly, very few people take this gift. We talk about how we long for rest, but we’re too busy to take it.

In his eternal wisdom, God has provided for us regular periods of rest. It began with creation (“on the seventh day, God rested from his work.”) It continues throughout Scripture. Here are a few passages of the many that highlight our need for regular celebration and rest:

  • See! The Lord has given you the Sabbath. (Exodus 16:29)
  • Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. (Exodus 20:8)
  • Be still, and know that I am God. (Psalm 46:10)
  • And Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. (Mark 2:27)
  • So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. (Hebrews 4:9)
  • Draw near to God, he will draw near to you. (James 4:8)

In March I will be taking a one-month Sabbatical. My goal is simple: To draw near to Jesus in fresh, unhindered ways so I can experience fresh power and fruitfulness in the next season of ministry.

This is a HUGE step of faith for me at this time. For the next 31 days I will not be answering any work-related email or phone calls. No ministry-related travel. No meetings. No trips to the office. Nothing. Nada. Everything has been placed in the capable hands of my Lord and my team. I am fairly confident the world will continue to spin without my help.

It requires faith to believe God works even when we don’t. I’ve learned that in Scripture, and in life, Sabbath is not so much a day off, but a day with. It’s a time to be with the Lord and with special people who restore our passion for living and loving well.

As the Lord prompts you, would you pray for me during March? Pray those verses above for me. Ask that Jesus would give me the discipline to wean myself from work, from Facebook and Twitter, and from other cultural white noise that clutters my soul. Pray that my Father the Vinedresser would prune me so that I could bear much more fruit. Ask that I would return on April 1 like Moses, whose face shone after he had been with God.

Thanks, and feel free to take the rest of the day off.

Suggested resources: The Rest of God by Mark Buchanan and Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership by Ruth Haley Barton.

Inbox Zero = Sabbath Rest

September 26, 2009 — 4 Comments

Sure, Hillary climbed Everest. But how often did he do this?

InboxZero

How does one achieve such a blessed state? As with all great human endeavors, it begins with a compelling vision. In my case, this vision takes the form of “I want to go home every weekend seeing the bottom of my inbox. I want to savor a Sabbath rest. I want to exit that Sabbath with energy and hunger for next week’s new opportunities and not just manage what’s been going on.”

At some point we have to answer the question: What’s the difference between hovering at 500 or hovering at zero?

Answer: Nothing, really.

Kudos to:

  • David Allen (Twitter: @gtdguy) and Getting Things Done for believing in me
  • InboxZero.com for practical how-to’s and “mind-like-water” thinking
  • Erik Butz, MySan McGowan, Jason Dencklau and Kelly Sasser, my fellow Inbox Ninjas over the past five years