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Give Me a Break!

12 Mar

When you take a break, be careful where you are!

EagleInTree_morguefileAn eagle sat high up in a tree, just resting and doing nothing—taking a break from soaring in the sky.

A little rabbit observed the eagle and called out, “I really admire how you’re resting up there. Think I can do the same?”

“Sure, why not?” the eagle replied.

So the rabbit sat on the ground at the bottom of the tree. He got himself comfortable. Just resting. Doing nothing,

And along came a fox and he jumped on the rabbit and ate it!

Moral of this quirky story: If you’re going to take a break, make sure you’re sitting very, very high up!

I’ve been pretty stressed lately. In the stress, I’ve caught myself saying, “Give me a break!” I need more planned rest. (Sort of like the old Calgon commercial: “Calgon, take me away!”)

I rationalized that I didn’t have time for a break. Dumb.

It may sound counterproductive, but taking breaks makes us more productive, not less.

In a 2012 article, Phyllis Korkki, a writer for The New York Times, offered words of wisdom about taking breaks. She said taking regular breaks from mental tasks helps us be more productive and creative; and it helps us avoid stress and exhaustion.

She quotes a school of management expert:

“Mental concentration is similar to a muscle, says John P. Trougakos, an assistant management professor at the University of Toronto Scarborough and the Rotman School of Management. It becomes fatigued after sustained use and needs a rest period before it can recover, he explains — much as a weight lifter needs rest before doing a second round of repetitions at the gym.”

jesus_at_rest

Painting by Greg Olson **

We see in scripture that Jesus took breaks in His ministry. In the midst of His busy work, He often withdrew to rest and pray (example: Luke 5:16).

In Addicted to Busy,* author Brady Boyd wrote about Jesus taking many “well-deserved breaks.”

As often as possible, Boyd said, “Jesus withdrew to out-of-the-way places for prayer.”

“He withdraws in order to work through tragic news … to gain insight on important decisions … to enjoy time with his closest companions … as a means of teaching his disciples…

“When He senses it’s time to withdraw, he just goes. … Rhythmic—that’s how Jesus lived. It’s how we’re invited to live too.”

Brady described Jesus’s break strategy as: “engage, engage, engage, withdraw … engage, engage, engage, withdraw.”

We all need R & R (rest and relaxation). Whether a day off, a vacation, or even a short break during our workday, we all need to refresh our energy. We need exercise and sleep, and the luxury of “time off.”

Christ-followers need rhythmic refreshing for more productive, creative ministry. Besides all the things we do for our body and emotions to recharge, we also need prayer and time in the Word of God. We need spiritual refreshing.

“My soul finds rest in God alone” (Psalm 62:1).

We find rest in the presence of God (Exodus 33:14; Psalm 62:5Matthew 11:28).

Ah yes, rest in God. The perfect remedy for stress. 

Is it time for a break? Are you enjoying the rhythmic refreshing of Christ-like living—a pattern the Lord illustrates with His own life?

 * Book – Brady Boyd, Addicted to Busy: Recovery for the Rushed Soul (David C. Cook, 2014).

** Painting: © Greg Olsen | www.GregOlsen.com “Worlds without End. Used with permission.

Eagle graphic: morguefile

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Using Spiritual Gifts During the Holidays

16 Nov

There’s nothing funny about those throughout history who have been martyred for their faith. (I hope you know I get that.) But I have to tell you, I laughed when I read this humorous (obviously, made up) story about three Christians sentenced to die … and their “spiritual gifts.”

During the French Revolution, three Christians were sentenced to die by the guillotine. One Christian had the gift of faith, believing God for big things. The second one had the gift of prophecy, and the third had the gift of helps… a real problem solver.

The Christian with the gift of faith was to be executed first. He declined a hood over his head, saying he was not afraid. “I have faith God will deliver me!” he shouted. As his neck was positioned under the guillotine, he said a short prayer and waited confidently. The rope was pulled, but nothing happened. His amazed executioners believed it was an act of God and they freed the man.

The Christian with the gift of prophecy was next, and he also refused the hood. “I am not afraid to die,” he said as he was positioned under the blade. “But I predict God will deliver me from this guillotine!” The rope was pulled and again, nothing happened. The puzzled executioners assumed it was a miracle and freed this man too.

The third Christian – the man with the gift of helps – was next. He likewise refused the hood. “I’m just as brave as those other men,” he said. So the executioners positioned him, face up, under the guillotine. They were just about to pull the rope when the man stopped them.

“Hey, wait a minute,” he said. “I think I just found the problem with your guillotine!”

FourColorfulGifts

This is the time of year we’re all thinking about gifts.

During Thanksgiving we thank God for His gifts – all the “benefits” we enjoy (Psalm 116:12; Psalm 100:4James 1:17); and during Christmas we thank God for His perfect, indescribable (“unspeakable”) gift to us, the Savior (2 Corinthians 9:15).

But this year I thought I’d focus on “spiritual gifts” during this holiday season.

YourSpiritualGifts_tag

Let me explain …

There are references to spiritual gifts in Romans, 1 Corinthians, Ephesians and 1 Peter. Every Christian has at least one God-given gift to use in ministry. And …

We were not given spiritual gifts to keep them for ourselves; we were gifted to give of ourselves.

If you are unsure of your spiritual gift/s, LifeWay Christian Resources offers helpful Assessment Tools that can help you see how God has gifted you and how God might want to use you. I like the Spiritual Gifts definitions described in Gene Wilkes’ “Discover Your Spiritual Gifts!” on that site. (2)

I used those definitions recently when the Lord woke me up with this thought: “How are you going to use your spiritual gifts in others’ lives during this holiday season?”

Maybe it’s because I went to bed the night before needing a topic for a women’s meeting, or maybe it’s because the Lord just wanted me to think about this concept. Whatever the reason, I had fun thinking about the ministry opportunities our spiritual gifts can create for us.

Let’s explore the gifts a bit:

  • Do you have the gift of giving? Now this one should be obvious during the holidays … they are made for you! The giver gives freely and joyfully… with liberality … just like God Himself. Think of all the resources you have – not just money:  time, talents, wisdom, organization, etc. (Romans 12:8)
  • Do you have the gift of hospitality? Can you make visitors, guests and even strangers feel welcome in your home? In your church? Do you understand that hospitality isn’t about what you have, but rather an open heart? How can you reach out and be hospitable in a fresh way this year?
  • Do you have the gift of faith? Although the holidays are fun, they can also be a challenge for some. Help the struggler look to the Lord, her ultimate Provider. Help her “see,” with the eyes of faith, the One who is in control of all things. (And consider whether God wants to use your faith to encourage hers. Maybe God wants you to meet one of her needs as you trust God to supply your own.)
  • Do you have the gift of leadership … or administration? If you know how to lead, maybe you can lead a children’s play or choir, or head up a neighborhood party that honors the birth of Jesus. If you are an organized administrative type, perhaps you can help a women’s group stay on task as they plan a Thanksgiving program or an outreach for Christmas. Or could you help a friend or relative plan a party, a guest list or a dinner menu? You might even create and organize someone’s gift wrap station, or give her a step-by-step plan to keep her home clean throughout the season, or stay financially free as she budgets for gifts. (Romans 12:8; 1 Corinthians 12:28)
  • Do you have the gift of exhortation? Everything’s not “cookies and cocoa” during the holidays. Some people hurt; some are lonely. This is the perfect time to encourage people (especially in the Body of Christ), as well as to counsel them. And people with this gift also know how to motivate people to serve the Lord and others. Be their cheerleaders! (Romans 12:8)
  • Do you have the gift of teaching … or knowledge … or wisdom .. or discernment? Figure out a creative way to share the truth of the Christmas story. Plan some Grammy time and teach your grandkids about why we are grateful to God for His love and grace. Watch for teachable moments all throughout the season and create a legacy of truth. Help your family or friends use wise, biblical principles for finances, family, attitudes, etc. Discern the motives of those who try to destroy the truth of Christmas – and help them understand why the Father sent the Son into the world. (1 Corinthians 12:28; Romans 12:7; Ephesians 4:11; 1 Corinthians 12:10)
  • Do you have the gift of prophecy … of evangelism? Prophecy might seem like a tough concept during the holidays – but think about it. Prophecy isn’t about “predicting the future,” as the humor above suggested. The essence of this gift is proclaiming God’s Word boldly. What better time to approach people about the need for a Savior and the truth about Jesus, the Savior of the world, than at Christmas? And if you have the gift of evangelism, go for it! Be creative in sharing the truth with as many people as you can! (Romans 12:6; 1 Corinthians 12:10; Ephesians 4:11)
  • Do you have the gift of shepherding? You don’t have to be a pastor to “shepherd” people – to care for their spiritual welfare. Be alert to those who are wandering from the Master’s flock. Think of ways you can draw them in and build into their lives. Give a practical gift of love with no expectations. “Be Jesus” to people. And Christmas is a perfect time to invite the backslider back to church; pray God will make her heart tender. (Ephesians 4:11)
  • Do you have the gift of apostleship (like missionaries/church planters)? Look beyond the “borders” of your church or even your country to those who might be in need this holiday season. Encourage a new church plant with your presence or a “present” – a financial gift to boost their expansion. Or maybe your greatest Christmas gift might be a financial investment in a ministry designed to help people in crisis so they can have the opportunity to share Christ. (1 Corinthians 12:28; Ephesians 4:11)
  • Do you have the gift of mercy? Does compassion characterize your life? Empathize with those who hurt. Help others understand there are hurting people in your church body, and discuss how you can help. Mercy acts … with joy. It wipes a sweaty brow, comforts a weeping saint, reaches out to the broken. (Romans 12:8)
  • And finally … but this is certainly not the “least” of the gifts … do you have the gift of service (“helps”)? If you do, you will likely notice others’ needs, and the Spirit of God will move in your heart to assist in meeting those needs in practical ways, joyfully. You might work behind the scenes during a Christmas program … or ladle stew in a soup kitchen … or help an elderly woman publish her Christmas letter … or take care of a single mom’s children so she can do some holiday shopping … or … (I’m sure you can think of lots of opportunities). (Romans 12:7; 1 Corinthians 12:28)

We are most blessed and effective when we are ministering to others out of our gifting; and God can help us become more like Jesus, who exhibited all of the gifts during His time on earth.

So … how will you use your spiritual gifts during the holidays this year?

~ Dawn

(1) Adapted from humor at cybersalt.org

(2) Note: Wilkes says this particular list “excludes the ‘sign gifts’ because of some confusion that accompanies these gifts and because they are difficult to fit into ministries within a typical church ministry base.” But that is beside the point of this post.

Gift image adaptation Image courtesy of luigi diamanti at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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