Does What I Do REALLY Matter?

Photo by Dino Reichmuth on Unsplash

This is guest post by fellow Tribe Writer, Kandi Johnson. She is a writer, blogger, published author, and a certified health coach. Her blog celebrates life by offering people hope and inspiration from God’s perspective. Please check it out and sign up for her email list at kandijohnson.com. She also has a 5-star rated book at Amazon.com called Healing Anorexia: Learning Acceptance by Embracing God’s Love.


Do you question if what you do REALLY matters?  Who it matters to?  Is there a REASON that you not only exist but that there is something directing the paths of your days, hours, minutes?  I often question this myself.  As one who has served in many aspects of ministry leadership, I feel the weight of “making my life count”, and yet often find myself wandering aimlessly through days, and without notice, seasons and years pass by too quickly.

Recently, I had the awesome responsibility of writing the obituary for my mother, who passed away at the age of 92.  My mother spent her entire life as a Pastor’s wife, as well as holding numerous church leadership positions.  How would I sum up the life of such an amazing person who meant everything to you, as well as impacted the lives of so many around her, in 300 words?  As I considered her life (in chronological order), I realized that it was best to sum up her life based upon her favorite scripture, then expand from there.  At the top of the page, I penned Proverbs 3:5,6  which said “Trust in the Lord with all your heart.  Lean not to thy own understanding, but in all thy ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.”  As I considered this wisdom, I was able to grasp the true meaning of what her life meant, because she LIVED this scripture – she TRUSTED, ACKNOWLEDGED and allowed God to DIRECT her life.

TRUST

Are you trusting in God?  Do you trust that He will not only provide the basics for you but also give you the desires of your heart?  Do you realize that Trust is rooted in Faith and is displayed by an optimistic outlook on life?  In Jeremiah 17:7 (NIV), scripture tells us that “Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord…”  When we view our lives with a negative outlook, we are not trusting in God.

ACKNOWLEDGE

Do you acknowledge God each day? “Do you give God credit where credit is due, or do you say you were “lucky” or “the stars were in alignment”?  Acknowledging God is also known as having a grateful heart and giving thanks to God.  Psalm 100:4,5 (NIV) says “Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name.  For the Lord is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations.”   When we greet each day with a thankful heart and go through each moment with a heart of appreciation, we not only have a more peaceful day, but we grasp a glimpse of our purpose in life, often in the eyes of others.

Do you give Him credit where credit is due, or do you say you were “lucky”Click To Tweet

DIRECT

Do you allow God to direct your life, or do you want to hang on to the wheel?  Psalm 25:4 (NIV) says “Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths.  Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.”  Instead of walking through each day in a fog, choose to make the most of each day by allowing God to guide you to His path – no matter what your tasks or day looks like.  Give your best because EVERYTHING you do is for Him.

As the scripture says in Proverbs – “In ALL your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths”.  When He is directing your path (which He IS when you acknowledge Him), you will find yourself looking back on your day and realizing that you did have meaningful encounters that you hadn’t planned, and your life, for that day, fulfilled His purpose.

Kandi Johnson, The Vibrant Author
www.kandijohnson.com

Five Ways To Make Your Sabbath Count

A while ago I was asked to be a part of a local pastor’s ordination ceremony. As a new pastor myself, this was a first for me and I was excited to be a part of it. That Sunday morning, I took my place on the stage with several other pastors. As the ceremony started, each of us was asked to share an encouragement–some bit of wisdom we had acquired during years of service as a minister. I had no idea they were going to ask me to say anything. I had not prepared for this! I racked my brain to think of something eloquent, something deep, something witty. But my mind was empty and I didn’t know what to say. When it was my turn to share the only thing that came out was, “Don’t forget to take your day off.” The audience laughed a little while other pastors smiled and nodded their heads.

That was almost 10 years ago and at the time I felt a little stupid. However, since then I’ve realized that it may be the most important thing I could have said. It is so important to make sure you take a Sabbath day of rest as a minister.

It takes practice to ensure that your day off is actually relaxing, refreshing and God-honoring.Click To Tweet

Don’t forget, taking a day off and honoring God is one of the 10 commandments. Yes, it’s that important. So, here are several pointers to make sure your day off is restful.

Turn Your Phone Off

This is difficult for some people to even comprehend, but if your congregation or ministry team calls and texts you at all hours of the day and night they will most likely call and text you on your day off too. Perhaps you’re disciplined enough to ignore those texts and let the calls go to voicemail, but I’m not. I would wonder what they needed and also worry that people felt ignored if I didn’t respond back quickly. To avoid that feeling, I just turn the phone off completely and focus on an interruption-free day. Then, when I begin work again the next day I turn my phone back on and receive a flurry of text messages and voicemails. I return each beginning with the following phrase, “I just saw your message, yesterday was my Sabbath so I had my phone turned off…” To date, no one has complained about this but quite the opposite. They are glad to know that their pastor is willing to observe one of the 10 commandments faithfully.

Avoid Social Media & the News

Studies have proven that Facebook is depressing and most other social networks aren’t much better. Most of the news is pretty depressing too. I’m not saying that we should ignore the plight of people on social networks and the news completely. I’m just saying that it’s not something to focus on during your day off. Perhaps Paul said it best in Philippians, “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” So, rather than wake up and update your Facebook status, scroll through Twitter, and see what’s happening in Washington, it’s much better to wake up and focus on the beauty of nature, or scripture, or just about anything else.

Eat Healthy

One of the biggest challenges that I have on my day off is eating good, healthy meals. In the past, when I was less intentional about taking a good Sabbath, I would wake up late, eat whatever I could find, and spend the day lolling around with no purpose. Once I began to realize the purpose of Sabbath, to recharge and refill my tank spiritually, emotionally, and physically, I take the time to prepare good and healthy meals that make me feel better and prepare me for a week of hard work taking care of other people.

Take A Nap

My wife always says “catching up on sleep is a myth.” Perhaps she’s right even though I hope it’s possible. On my day off I really enjoy a good nap. I enjoy a good nap on other days too! But, while the regular challenges of day-to-day life in ministry rarely affords you the chance to catch a few extra moments of sleep, a day off is a perfect excuse to sleep in the middle of the day.

Do The Opposite of Your Work

Some people really don’t like to do “nothing” all day. It’s difficult for them to envision the idea of “sitting around” or “relaxing” by doing nothing. For some, it’s important to keep moving. If that is true of you I suggest that you see your Sabbath as a way of doing something that is not associated with the work that you normally do. I think this is the spirit of the 4th commandment anyway. As a pastor, I spend most of my week talking with people, listening to their struggles, and offering encouragement and prayer. So on my day off I try to do the opposite. I work on my cars, or I write (it’s my day off today) or I golf. Sure, it’s activity, but it’s different than what I do most of the week. It recharges me.

No matter what you choose to do on your day off, I encourage you to follow the fourth commandment to the best of your ability. We need good people in ministry to be recharged and refreshed each week in order to face the challenges of working with people.

Behind Your Pastor’s Smile

This is a guest post by fellow Tribe Writer, Alicia T. Rust. Alicia is a writer and an educator and she writes to shine light on the day-to-day struggles of mental health battles. You can read her work at lifesodaily.com. Be sure to sign up for her email list for updates.


Wedding day…baptism…hospitalization…death in the family…emotional or spiritual crisis.  Whom do you contact?  Most likely, your pastor.  A pastor’s life includes emotional events of other people’s lives. They are invariably expected to be on call.

In addition, they attend meetings, write sermons, lead services, support and oversee the running of the church, and show leadership in all they do through their expected higher standard of behavior. The perpetual work of helping others can be emotionally and physically depleting.  Due to such a schedule, ministers generally neglect regular exercise, personal devotions, and relaxation; taking time for oneself is tethered to guilt.

Numerous people feel burn-out within their careers, and pastors are no different.  Inevitably, depression can set in.  Today, an increased number of pastors are on antidepressants. Thom Rainer mentions that most are “reticent to say anything about their depression lest they be viewed as … unable to help others.” They are not protected from the stigma of mental illness. Part of this stigma includes believing that those with mental illness have little value. Yet, having a mental illness doesn’t automatically mean one cannot be high-functioning.

In order to turn coping into healing, begin with seeking help. Not only can counseling and medication be beneficial, but self-care is of utmost importance. Taking a day of rest makes sense, yet most pastors don’t allow themselves to do so.  Their ministry swallows them up. They choose to serve others 24/7 to their own detriment, and their congregants are unaware of the effect they may be having on their pastor’s health.  They take their spiritual guides for granted…calling upon them only when needed.

Furthermore, pastors often feel isolated even when surrounded by people because these relationships are generally not reciprocal. A sense of social isolation can lead to depression, anxiety, and emotional exhaustion. A study by researchers from Duke University, Azusa Pacific University and the University of New Mexico found that clergy who are supported in their times of need and are shown appreciation are more likely to be satisfied in their ministry and have a higher quality of life. I find it astonishing that we needed a research study for us to realize this. Is it not common sense? Showing appreciation allows a person to feel significant and loved.

Have you ever had a friend in direct sales who is constantly pushing products on you? It’s a turn off. We start feeling as though we’re no longer being valued as a friend but for what we can provide for their sales.  So, quit endlessly taking from your pastor, and begin to give back.

Make every day Pastor Appreciation Day. Here are a few suggestions…

  • Take your pastor to lunch!
  • Write a letter explaining how God has used him/her in your life.
  • Offer your services (bring a meal, mow the lawn, assist with odd jobs)
  • Support your church financially
  • Remember your pastor on his/her birthday, Christmas, and other holidays
  • Offer event tickets or gift cards
  • Add to his/her personal library
  • Serve in the church
  • Sit up front during a service! (I’m sure a seat is available!)
  • After a service, comment on something specific from the sermon; don’t just say it was “great.”
  • Honor your pastor with an appreciation party!
  • Encourage a day of rest, a sabbatical, or a vacation.

Religiously showing appreciation (ᵔᴥᵔ) (rather than solely during our own poignant life circumstances) lets your pastor feel valued and strengthens relationships. Become fluent in appreciation by practicing it often.

1 Timothy 5:17 (NIV)

“The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.”

An Open Letter to the “Christian” Who Ripped Me Off

Dear Christian Car Dealer,

I just want to say please, please stop telling other people that you’re a Christian. At least if you’re going to conduct business the way you did with me. See, when I saw the crosses on the wall of your showroom and perused the selection of Bible tracts you had available on your desk I thought I could trust you.

Boy, was I wrong.

See, I told you that I needed to buy a car for my kids to drive around. You know, to get to school and practice and stuff. You said you had just the thing and then I bought a nice little 10-year-old car for $3,700. You should remember me, I paid cash. 37 crisp Ben Franklins in your hand.

Yes, I test drove the car and did a basic check of the engine. Everything seemed fine.

But, not two hours after I got the car home it started acting up! It wouldn’t shift into gear and when it finally did it was such a jolt I thought I would see the transmission trailing behind me in the street.

I brought the car right back to you. What you said next floored me. You said, “Well, this isn’t going to end well for you.” Yes, those were your exact words.

I said, “I haven’t even owned the car 24 hours. Can’t you do something? Like take it back and put me into another car on your lot?”

You said, “I’m real sorry. You bought it as is so there’s nothing I can do.”

Yes, sir, there is something you can do. You can act with integrity. You know that you sold me a bad car. You knew it and still, you did it.

Please understand, I’m not perfect. I mess up too. But, I would never screw a brother or sister over on purpose. Not for $3,700–not for $100,000.

So, please, take down the crosses and put away the gospel tracts. Stop telling people that you’re a believer. You’re making it hard for Christians everywhere. You’re feeding into the perception that we are greedy and that we don’t care about others.

Our culture is hurting and losing hope. People are more distrustful of each other than ever before. Know this, the world is watching Christians carefully to find out if what we believe makes a difference. They want to know if Jesus is real.

In the long run, I’ll be fine. My best friend actually gave me a car for my kids to drive. He did that because he felt bad for how badly you treated me.

In closing, I hope that you are treated better by other believers than you treated me. I hope that you’ll have more opportunities to make the right decision later. Because, honestly, I felt more betrayed by your deception than by just about anything else that has happened to me lately.

Sincerely,

Phil

4 Simple Ways To Beat Stress & Avoid Burnout

Slowing down is a matter of survival. I learned this the hard way on a Saturday afternoon in 2013.

I was doing what I always did on Saturday–running around like a crazy person, dropping kids off at sports, texting church members about upcoming events, and fielding calls about an upcoming baptism at my house.

While I was driving that day I felt my chest constrict and I was having trouble breathing. “This can’t be happening,” I thought. “I don’t have time for a heart attack!” Reluctantly, I headed to the hospital. In the E.R. they ran all the usual tests, echocardiogram, chest x-ray, and so on. They found nothing.

“Everything looks good” the doctor said. “It’s probably an anxiety attack. Are you under a lot of stress?” When I told him I was a pastor and a police chaplain he flashed me a concerned smile and suggested that I see my doctor to talk about stress reduction.

Since then I’ve changed a lot about the way I work. Besides hiring an assistant, seeing a therapist about once a month, and taking a small dose of anti-anxiety medication, here’s the most important thing I do now.

I slow down.

 

If you have been feeling stressed here’s four simple steps you can take, along with the acronym “SLOW” to help you remember.

1 – SILENCE

Don’t be afraid of silence. It’s hard to be quiet in our culture. If I had time driving or waiting in line I would make a phone call or text. Now, I just allow myself to be quiet. Call it prayer or meditation, if you wish, but I’ve learned that my mind comes alive in the silence.

2 – LISTEN

Like silence this is difficult. Listening is an art form. I don’t mean listening to music or a podcast. I’m talking about slowing down enough to hear what people around you are really saying. This is not listening for problem solving, but listening for understanding and empathy. Also, in the quiet moments of silence you can listen for what God is saying to you too.

3 – OBSERVE

I had lost the ability to see and notice the beauty of the world around me. Taking time to notice things helps you remain in the present. Yes, life can be ugly, but there’s a lot that is appealing too. Make a decision to observe what’s good for your head and heart. That means avoiding the news for a while and going to an art gallery or taking a walk on the beach at sunset.

4 – WAIT

Learn to wait. We are so impatient! Next time you’re in line for something at the post office or tax collector’s office don’t whip out your phone, don’t text, don’t put in your earbuds. Try waiting patiently…quietly. This is a trick that I have to make time slow down. It’s a ninja-like skill to wait without distracting yourself with an electronic device. Waiting forces you to slow down and when you do it’s easier to observe and listen.

Since 2013 I’ve relapsed a couple of times. I’ve allowed myself to become over-involved, over-extended and generally worn out. Whenever that happens I come back to this acronym and put it in place again. It always helps.

So tell me, how do you deal with stress, busyness, and potential burnout? Consider leaving a comment and let me know!