Missing God’s Gift (Something Misplaced?)

Yesterday a friend told me how different he is from who he was just 18 months ago. Earlier this week a group discussed how a coaching program has altered their life’s rhythms in just 7 weeks. These people were expressing how receiving a gift from God, such as leaving a successful corporate job to start all over or exiting the routine of life to enjoy Sabbath, has changed who they are. And they want more.

God’s gifts come to us in various formations. Sometimes they are clearly seen as coming straight from God. Other times, we are a little more challenged to determine if an opportunity or unforeseen blessing are indeed gifts from God. That is, unless we live from the viewpoint that God works at all times and through all things in our lives. Until we reach that viewpoint, it’s likely we will often miss God’s gifts.

Why don’t we automatically have this viewpoint? What keeps us from it? How can we move toward it? In talking with these people, I’d say they would say they had some things misplaced.

Misplaced Contentment-Yes, it’s possible to be so content that you miss noticing an offer from God. Our contentment can often lead us to settling, stubbornness, and even pride. So a God-given opportunity can appear unsettling, unnecessary, maybe even unworthy. Think rich, young ruler.

Misplaced Fear-In this case, fear of just about anything (loss of job/income, ability, identity, power/influence, health, security) or anyone (family, peers, leaders, employer, yourself) has been given higher rank than God. Think Moses’ initial bush response.

Misplaced Stewardship-Stewardship covers more in our lives than just finances. Stewarding your family, your talents, your choices, your time, your emotions, your mind, your body, for example. Think about most kings in the Old Testament.

Misplaced Allegiance-Satan is committed to leading us to misplace our allegiances. We can become more allegiant to so many earthly kingdoms that we miss God’s leading us toward his heavenly kingdom. Think about the Pharisees and Paul’s warnings about false teachers in the church.

Misplaced Commitment-Commitments lead to routines, obligations, and expectations-some short term, others long term. These can become idols causing us to be completely blind to something more aligned with God’s plans for us. Think Eli, Saul, or Martha.

We often miss God’s gifts to us because our misplacements lead us to consider way too many “what ifs.” So consider a few reverse thinking “what if” results when God’s gifts are missed:

  • What if you miss God’s gift because you ignore a burning bush?
  • What if you miss God’s gift because you run toward Joppa instead of Nineveh?
  • What if you miss God’s gift because you always look backward rather than forward?
  • What if you miss God’s gift because you follow the crowd and declare, “Crucify him!”
  • What if you miss God’s gift because your faith is so small that your reply to God’s offer is, “No thanks.”

Three Ways to Let God Out of Your Box

(Third and final entry for this post)

The first two entries talked about two ways to let God out of your box: don’t give up and stop believing lies. Read Nick’s quote again to see the third way.

Too often we tell ourselves we aren’t smart enough or attractive enough or talented enough to pursue our dreams. We buy into what others say about us, or we put restrictions on ourselves. What’s worse is that when we consider ourselves unworthy, we are putting limits on how God can work through us! When you give up on your dreams, you put God in a box.

As a long-distance runner, I often hear people say something like this after they hear about some race I’ve done or I’m preparing for: “I could never do that. You’re amazing.” If I were to bluntly respond what I’m thinking when they say that, it would be something like this: “That’s ridiculous. Of course you could. And by the way, amazing I am not.” This is a simple example of what we often do to God as well. We tell him what’s possible…so in the box he goes. The third way to let him out of your box is to do the opposite.

Resist Putting Limits

Nick said we put limits on how God can work through us. And this can have tragic consequences. Case in point: the Israelite spies in Canaan (read Exodus 13-14). Twelve went in to check it out. Ten said, “No go.” Two said, “We should go.” Forty years later, the ten got want they wanted and so did the two. God showed up for the two who resisted putting limits on him. They experienced what God can do through those who allow him to work through them (read Joshua 6,14).

So how can we resist our human nature and give God all the freedom in our lives he deserves?

  • Foster a mindset of submission to daily prompts from God-“Sure, I’d be happy to ask my neighbor how I can pray for them. What else?”
  • Keep your finger on the “yes” trigger when God comes with a big ask-“Yes, I’ll take a vacation week to go on a mission trip. And I’ll stay open to even moving my family to live there permanently.”
  • Seek counsel from those we believe live submitted lives-“Can we have coffee soon? I’m needing some guidance on something God has challenged me to do.”
  • Surround yourself with other “resisters”-“God, who should be in my corner? Holy Spirit, surround me with fellow resisters.”

In what area(s) of your life is God in your limit box? What could God do through you if you’d resist putting limits on him? Tell God, “I’m sorry for not giving you my ‘yes’ more quickly. I desire to experience what it’s like to give you full access. Show me what it’s like to let you out of my box.”

Three Ways to Let God Out of Your Box

(Continued from yesterday’s entry)

Too often we tell ourselves we aren’t smart enough or attractive enough or talented enough to pursue our dreams. We buy into what others say about us, or we put restrictions on ourselves. What’s worse is that when we consider ourselves unworthy, we are putting limits on how God can work through us! When you give up on your dreams, you put God in a box.

There are three phrases in Nick’s quote that explain how we put God in our box: we tell ourselves, we buy into, we consider ourselves. These actions aren’t generated by God. They are generated by ourselves and others, and they reveal the second way to let God out of our box.

Stop Believing Lies 

Have you noticed you are one of the biggest liars about you? Nick gave you some examples: “I’m not smart enough. I’m not talented enough. I’m not attractive enough.” Sure, maybe someone actually said those or similar things to you one time, but who keeps repeating them more than anyone else? You do. Stop telling yourselves lies that you end up believing. 

Yes, others say things that we have a choice to buy into. A choice. In middle school, my music teacher said I wasn’t good enough to get a college degree in music. I chose not to believe that and got that degree anyway. And in my ministry career others have said I wouldn’t be able to get hired by churches because my marital status is single. For over twenty years now God has chosen otherwise.

To stop believing ours and other’s lies, we must fill our hearts and minds with God’s truths. Instead of undermining what God wants to do in our lives by considering ourselves unworthy, we should believe scriptures like Zephaniah 3:17: “The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.” Who in their right mind wants to believe lies and box up the God of that verse?

What lies do you need to stop believing? What God truths could replace those lies? Tell God, “I’m tired of the lies. I’m going to stop believing them and stand in your truths. Show me what it’s like to let you out of my box.”

(Blog completed tomorrow)

Three Ways to Let God Out of Your Box

You read that title right. You may not be almighty, but you are capable of stuffing God in a box of your making. It’s so easy that most of us do it without even knowing or thinking about it. And then we marvel at those who live what seem like extraordinary lives, not knowing that they have simply let God out of their box.

Case in point: Nick Vujicic. He was born without limbs-no arms or legs. Can you imagine the box he had as a child where he stuffed God? That box must have been filled with lots of whys, hows, whens, and seriouslys. And who could blame him? Sounds perfectly natural to think God had messed up-you might say he put himself in Nick’s box.

Somewhere along the way, Nick decided to let God out of that box. Nick is now 35 years old, married, travels the world speaking, and directs an organization that helps share the message of hope in the God he let out of his box. I started reading his devotional book, Limitless, this week where in the first day’s reading entitled Free from Limitations he wrote this:

Too often we tell ourselves we aren’t smart enough or attractive enough or talented enough to pursue our dreams. We buy into what others say about us, or we put restrictions on ourselves. What’s worse is that when we consider ourselves unworthy, we are putting limits on how God can work through us! When you give up on your dreams, you put God in a box.

From Nick’s quote, we can see three ways to let God out of any box where we’ve decided he belongs.

Don’t Give Up

Giving up is another one of those easy-to-do human things. What if we looked at giving up as putting God in a box? What if we stopped exercising our finite power in such a life-sucking way resulting in squelching the infinite power of God? For some other cases in point, consider the following people who didn’t give up:

  • Noah
  • Esther
  • Joshua
  • Daniel
  • Martin Luther
  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Alexander Bell
  • Winston Churchill
  • Martin Luther King Jr.
  • Jesus

How their lives and those impacted by their decisions would have been changed had God stayed in their box!

Are you considering giving up? On your marriage? On your education? On your faith? On your passion? Tell God, “It’s all yours. I’m not giving up. Show me what it’s like to let you out of my box.”

(Blog continued tomorrow)

The Worst Case of Being Misunderstood

Ever been misunderstood? I’m not asking have you ever had a misunderstanding. I’m talking about being mislabeled, mischarged, or mispegged to the point that trust was broken. In some cases, these events lead to years of damage and loss, such as years in prison for being accused falsely. If it’s been that bad for you, that’s rough. I can’t relate to that depth of being misunderstood. But I can tell you this, that’s not the worst case of being misunderstood. No, the worst case happened a few millienia ago.

The worst case of being misunderstood happened to God. Yes, that’s right. And just like the case usually is, it was because of a lie. The lie led to mistrust. The mistrust led to the worst decision known. And God and his creation have been suffering ever since. Yes, that’s right. You have been suffering because God was misunderstood.

You’ve probably guessed where this happened. If not, here’s a hint. The lie had to do with becoming like God. (Now that’s a whopper of a lie.) The lie caused Adam and Eve to lose trust in God’s character. The choice to believe that lie in essence said to God, “You can’t be trusted.” The first person to ever be misunderstood created those who made him feel misunderstood.

So here you are. Either being misunderstood right now or thinking about when it’s happened to you in the past. Find comfort in these thoughts:

  • God is the one person in the world who does get you, all of you.
  • God knows what it feels like to be misunderstood. It started soon after he created us and has never stopped.
  • God found a way to offer reconciliation to those who misunderstood him. You can do that too, most likely. But remember, just like his offer, yours may or may not be accepted.
  • God’s character wasn’t impacted by his being misunderstood. At his core, he is love. Strengthen your core with love.
  • God continues to do his work. So can you. Being misunderstood is not your identity. Your identity is found in your Creator. Don’t believe the lie that started this whole thing. 

2018 Resolution: Closing the Spiritual Gap

This afternoon I finished reading my final book for 2017, The Rest of God by Mark Buchanan. I shared a thought from his book a few days ago regarding a sabbath type exercise, which he offers many of in this book. Here’s one from chapter 10 that seems fitting for New Year’s Eve:

A good Sabbath exercise is to take stock. It is to sit and reckon where you are spiritually and calculate the gap between that and where you want to be – or, at least, where you know you ought to want to be. Do you want more grace, or trust, or peace? Do you want a greater sense of God’s presence and goodness? Do you want to live by Paul’s exhortation in Ephesians 4:29, to “not let any unwholesome talk proceed out of your mouth, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen”?

What if our resolutions for the new year were spiritual in nature? 

What if our first priority was about our souls, our spirits? 

What if a year from now we could say, “Thank God my spiritual gap isn’t as big as it was“?

Real Sabbath: God’s Sovereignty

My latest reading has been on the subject of Sabbath. Why? It’s a curious subject; we all need it; and I’m putting together a coaching program on the subject.

The two books I’m reading through this month are excellent; they’ve made the resource list for the program. Here are links to them: The Rest of God and Rhythms of Rest.

To give you a taste of the goodness of these books and what you could look forward to in a program on this subject, here’s a quote from chapter four of The Rest of God:

Real Sabbath, the kind that empties and fills us, depends on complete confidence and trust. And confidence and trust like that are rooted in a deep conviction that God is good and God is sovereign.

To give the reader a practical way to seek the sovereignty of God and therefore achieve an attitude of Sabbath, the author gave this challenge based on the storyline found in Acts 3-4 (you might want to read that now):

To practice the sovereignty of God today when you pray, start with God. Survey what he has made. Recite what he has done. Proclaim who he is.

So I tried that this afternoon as a journal entry. Give it a shot and see if your mind and spirit aren’t entered into a deeper place of trust and confidence. 

The Gift of Balance: Ministry and Service (Part 2)

(This is part two of the final topic in a series on the subject of balance. It being the holidays, we thought titling this series the gift of balance seemed appropriate. By “we,” I’m referring to the series contributors. Joining me in this series are Mark Stanifer and Tonya Waechter. At the end of this entry are suggested resources.)

Tonya: The million dollar question is, “How do you distinguish God’s plan?” If we are making God first and really trying to follow the Holy Spirit, one thing is to pay attention to what’s in your heart, the passions of your heart. Pray that he will open and close doors. It doesn’t mean you won’t miss the mark sometimes, but then you have the chance to recalibrate. We don’t have to go forward fearfully; we can just go forward.

John: I thought about that question by comparing my plans to God’s plans, what characterizes them. So for instance, my plans tend to be my first choice and God’s plans tend to not be my first choice. The reason for that is my plans tend to not require a whole lot of risks, they are comfortable and fit naturally; God’s plans tend to require me to trust him more and to have courage. So for me, I have to say, “Just because it looks good and looks easy doesn’t means it is God’s plan.” God’s plans tend to require me to figure out new boundaries and to step out in courage. They mature and grow me. In that talent parable concept, I shouldn’t try to hide talents as much as allow them to be worked on and developed and let God take care of wherever they go and accomplish. That’s not easy, but the more I live in it the more fulfilled I am; his work is getting accomplished, not mine.

Tonya: He doesn’t always make it easy. He likes us to stretch.

Mark: Well, it’s at that point that we are really trusting and leaning on him, not what we can manage and control on our own.

Where I am at this point about this question about my plans versus God’s plans, first, there are times when God asks us to specifically do things, and as his follower, there really is just one choice. Even Jonah ultimately got to yes. Recognizing his voice and learning to listen over time makes it easier to hear those when they come. I also think there are lots of other opportunities where we just simply love others. There’s no law on how to do that. There are suggestions and guidelines throughout the New Testament of what that might look like, but really we have a lot of creativity and flexibility in being unique by how we were designed-like what you were saying, Tonya, following the passions of our heart. He’s already given us permission, wired us with gifts and passions to do that. Loving people inside of who he’s made us to be is part of being obedient to what he wants us to do.

Tonya: God gives us room and choices. When my husband first graduated from Bible college and we were trying to choose where we were go and sending out resumes, a couple of opportunities came that made it a tough decision. Everything about them was good. I remember asking, “How do you know which one?” A pastor friend once said, “God may be saying this is the direction I have for you, but which one you choose is your choice.” So I think there are those times.  I also believe there are times he is very specific about you needing to be at a certain place. I think he gives us freedom at times in some choices.

John: As you say that, I think that may go back to personality as well. I don’t live in the idea that I have to have 100% approval before I’ll step out. I know as I’ve moved from a church position to the next church position, there’s a moment of solid peace in that process that I know I’m supposed to be there next or I’m supposed to leave this place now even if I don’t know where the next place is. I’ve learned to wait for that moment or I’m not moving yet. That’s for me. Someone else could be willy nilly and be totally fine. I need to have that peace about those big ministry movements before I’m going to move in that direction.

Mark: I can relate to that, for sure. My thinking has also expanded into what Tonya was talking about. I often have this visual of a bowling alley. There may not be a whole lot of room in a lane, but there’s room to move left and right in the lane. I think of God sometimes as the bumper guards that keep us moving down the lane. Sometimes we drift right or left, but the guard rails keep us moving in a specific direction with freedom to move left and right in that lane.

John: I feel it’s important to add that we can’t always wait for the green light. We can’t always have every little jot and tittle clear before we’ll say yes. There are times we know enough, and it’s all we need to know. God will take care of step #29. If you know step #1 and #2, go on. You’re not going to get #29 because he’s not ready to give it to you. Those moments are trust tests on my part. “He’s given me the green light. Why am I not moving?” 

Tonya: That seems to flow us into our final question we wanted to discuss, which was “What one belief best fortifies your balance?” I asked my husband that and he said, “Do it Jesus’ way.” His example was he did what the Father asked him to do. That’s it. He came and did what the Father asked him to do. He discipled people, spent time with them one on one, and he took rest. That was his example. I always love pointing out that he was in ministry three years. He discipled twelve, and eleven of them then created the church which still exists. He walked side by side. He rested. That’s my fortification for balance. Do it Jesus’ way.

John: The scripture that came to my mind for this question was 1 Corinthians 6, “We are not our own. We are bought with a price. Therefore glorify God in what we do and in our bodies.” My best fortification is to be reminded that I am not my own. You could say Jesus’ modeled that also. He gave up everything for everybody. Another way to test myself when I’m not responding well to either current ministry or something new that I feel like God is pushing me to, “What is it I’m holding onto that’s not really mine or shouldn’t be mine?” That is a challenging statement to people in our culture. There’s this tension between “it’s not about you” but “of course it’s about me.” This presents the challenge to figure it out for myself, “How do I live in a surrendered place rather than a selfish place?”

Mark: I’m thinking, John, that takes a lifetime of practice to perfect. For me, the undergirding belief is twofold. Kingdom living is full-time, whether it’s called work or service. What works for me as someone wired to be drawn toward legalism, what helps me to stay grounded is just two laws that we’ve already referenced: Love God and Love Others. If I stay focused on that, I 100% agree with what you said, Tonya, things just work out the way God wants them to work out. They may not be my plans or expectations, but certainly better because it works out the way God wants it to work out.

Tonya: Yeah, it may not always be comfortable or feel good, but in the end it’s what he’s doing. Jesus always did what the Father wanted, but it certainly wasn’t always comfortable. He had to go through torture. It doesn’t mean it’s all going to be gravy, but it is all going to be good.


Suggested Resources:




The Gift of Balance: Ministry and Service (Part 1)

(This is part one of the final topic in a series on the subject of balance. It being the holidays, we thought titling this series the gift of balance seemed appropriate. By “we,” I’m referring to the series contributors. Joining me in this series are Mark Stanifer and Tonya Waechter. This entry will be the first half of the conversation continuing tomorrow with the second half.)

Tonya: All of us as Christians are called to some kind of service, in some capacity. The service may not be within the church, but it doesn’t mean you’re not serving. The right mindset is determining what God has for me and my family to do. Like when I’ve talked about hockey, those were moments when we are able to share with other families and coaches through what God had for us. It is seasonal, so we could also ask, “What does God have for me in this season, in what capacity am I supposed to serve?” This should take into account our gifts both individually and as a family.

Mark: Kingdom work is not constrained to church work. Often there is this imbalance or perception that our service is contained within a church activity. As Jesus’ followers, we are challenged to be doing kingdom work all the time, regardless of where we are. That is a key mindset for this topic.

John: When you mention seasons, Tonya, it reminds me of teaching on spiritual gifts in church membership classes and helping people find places of ministry.  One thing that is very clear is giving them the freedom to think seasonally. Maybe right now they don’t have the time to do the ministry they would like to do for multiple reasons. It’s also possible they’ve outgrown their current ministry of involvement.  They may be ready to move into a different type of ministry or into a different level of leadership. As believers grow, ministry is probably going to look different.

To answer this question, I was drawn to Matthew 22 where Jesus answered the question about the greatest commandment by saying, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind; and the second is like it, Love your neighbor as yourself.” With that mindset, ministry is not confined to a location or an organization. My ministry mindset is to love God with all of my being. Out of that flows how I am to love others. I mess that up all the time. When I realize I’m off track, this is my marker to come back to. “Where am I off track on these two things?”

TonyaI’m a strong believer that if we really do take that first commandment seriously the rest of it all falls into place. We will truly be trying to hear the Lord, to do His will. We are going to make mistakes because we are human, but we are going to know it right away because of conviction. Everything we’ve talked about is about keeping God first and truly loving Him with our whole being. We’ll better love our spouse, our children, even the person in line at the store.

John: This has been a particular step of obedience for me this year. In thinking about what to do during my sabbatical, I had to work through what I wanted to do versus what God wanted me to do. If I had done what I wanted, it would have looked differently out of my own selfishness. When I put myself back in the space of answering who am I living for when I’m given an opportunity to do something, who am I to say no? If I do the Jonah thing and run in the opposite direction, my balance is wrong because it’s all about me.

Mark: That makes me think of a book I read earlier this year, Love Does by Bob Goff. His personality is so different than mine, so I lived vicariously through him. What he says in the book is, “God presents me with opportunities all the time, and I want to just keep saying yes. I don’t want to miss out on the adventure that he has for me.” When we say no to something God is inviting us into, we miss the adventure he wants to take us on and how he wants to love and bless us others through what he’s asked us to do.

John: So that brings up a big question. Why do some of us tend to be the “no replier” and some tend to be the “yes replier”? I tend to be the no replier. Now, once I’m in I’m all in, you know, get out of my way. Getting me all in may take a little while. Whereas other people, like what you’re describing, are on the opposite end of the spectrum.

Tonya: There’s so much that goes into that-personality, past history, so many pieces that go into that. That’s a hard one to answer.

John: Maybe we can come back to that next year after we’ve had time to think about it.

Tonya: Yeah, that’s a book, a title to a book.

Mark: Actually it is a title to a book. It’s called Resisting Happiness by Matthew Kelly. His assertion is beyond just responding to God, but certainly set in that content. We often tend toward resisting happiness; and in the context of following God, it’s being the person and doing the things He’s created us to be and to do. There’s a tendency for some of us to resist the change or the difference or the invitation or the unknown. When we lean into that is where we can find happiness. Some people may have that figured out or are wired that way, and other people, like myself, tend to struggle. My tendency is to resist at first; and then when it’s really important, God makes it very clear and then I make the decision to be all in also.

John: To be honest, I don’t look at these things as my avenue to happiness. I’d have to sit in that and marry the two together. My brain doesn’t naturally marry them together.

Mark: To play the other side, there are people who say yes all the time for the wrong reasons. They say yes looking for some validation, to earn something that can’t be earned through doing, or other emotional or psychological reasons. You can say yes out of an unhealthy place and contribute to some unhealthiness.

John: That makes me think of something that, Tonya, you’ve probably also witnessed. I have seen multiple guys really feel convinced that they were called into church/pastoral work and within a short amount of time they realized they were wrong and crashed and burned.

Tonya: Yeah, going in for the wrong reasons. Maybe they were a PK and felt expected to follow in dad’s footsteps, or the idea that they can only have impact for the Lord in ministry through church work. I had a pastor say to me not long ago that he has no passion for his people and he really despises being a shepherd. He was totally a square being pushed into a circle. He’s a professor; that’s what his passion is, not being a pastor.

John: To make that broader, you don’t have to be a church staff member to fall into that trap. Anybody can feel like they’ve been drawn into doing something and not fully aware of why they are saying yes. And once they get in, it doesn’t work, because of your analogy, Tonya, square and a circle.

Mark: My experience in this context is watching new believers say yes to everything and quickly get burned out. They were overbooked in this ministry space, and it wasn’t a good scenario for them.

Tonya: My husband was talking about this last night, how that pastors are doing so much of the work and people aren’t seeing themselves as helpers or servants. Some pastors also have a hard time giving up control in certain areas. Helping people find their gift and plugging into that one ministry, not ten, but the one ministry where they are gifted, the church that is plugged in like that, the labor is not overwhelming. People can get caught up in pleasing people instead of understanding what God has for them.

The Gift of Balance: Rest/Play/Sabbath (Part 2)

(This is part two of the fifth topic in a series on the subject of balance. It being the holidays, we thought titling this series the gift of balance seemed appropriate. By “we,” I’m referring to the series contributors. Joining me in this series are Mark Stanifer and Tonya Waechter. At the end of this post are suggested resources on this topic.)

John: What are the key components for balance in this part of our lives?

Mark: A couple of thoughts. One that Tonya has already expressed is that we are wired differently. We need to understand how we are wired and recognize what healthy is in terms of resting mind, body, and spirit. Another one is acknowledging and understanding that it is important.

I came up with this analogy of junk food. When we are hungry, we eat; but we don’t always eat the healthy foods. Our body and minds can be craving rest, so we have to feed ourselves healthy rest. Sometimes we feed ourselves junk rest where we are not fully disengaged or something like watching TV three hours a night and calling that rest. It’s not the same thing as unplugging from electronics or work, or going out for a bike ride or a run. So being able to distinguish between healthy and junk rest is also important.

Tonya: That’s really important.  I agree with that need to understand ourselves.  Like, I know what time of night my brain is shutting down. So it’s stupid for me to think I can push through and do a little more work, and I can’t.  If I try, I get frustrated or angry, and then I’m upset with people around me. So I have to know my body and set up my schedule to fit my body.  So I like that, knowing when you need rest and what kind of rest.

John: Using your junk food analogy, Mark, what is healthy food for you?

Mark: I have always been fond of sleep. I’ve often used the phrase, “Sleep is not overrated.” I’m in tune with what I need in terms of sleep. And if I don’t get it, I feel it physically, emotionally; I’m more irritable. Even 30-45 minutes in change of bedtime makes a difference the next day in how I feel.

On the flip side, I’m not so good with play. Part of me being comfortable and valuing play is continuing being present. Being in the moment to laugh, to see an opportunity with the kids or my spouse to be in the moment and just let go of everything else to be creative, whether it’s with a puzzle or a walk or a game, whatever it is to be in the moment.

John: What works in California?

Tonya: Well, we have lots of sunshine, just like you, so a lot of outdoor activities. I agree with the area of sleep; I have to get about eight hours of sleep. If I don’t get that, then I’m not good.  I also know that I need to be in my bed by 9 o’clock.  I might be reading, but I’m winding down. If I try to push past 10, it’s going to go all bad for me.

The other part for me is I need a quiet morning. I get up early, but I don’t necessarily like to talk to anybody. That’s my time with the Lord. I often take that time to go on prayer walks or sit and read in my favorite chair and read; that time helps me get my mind prepared for the day.  I don’t want to be up and moving fast.

Play has also been important to us as a family. Going outside and shooting hoops, just goofing around in the yard throwing a ball; that’s always been important to us. At times, the margin to do that was being lost with traveling with the boy’s hockey. So we had to adjust; sometimes that meant going early ahead of the team or stay a day late and just goof off. That was important to us, but we had to be intentional about it sometimes.

John: Following thoughts about sleeping needs, I read several years ago that the optimal hours of sleep is from 10-2.  That’s when your body most gets what it needs from sleep. When I started paying attention to that, I realized how helpful that was. So it’s rare that TV stays on past 10. I’m working more toward turning it off an hour or two ahead of that, which I believe is a key thing for a single person. If you allow it, TV can become in essence a companion, another voice in the room. So shutting that down let’s you start shutting down your mind, your emotions in order to give space for renewal to start.

Mark: In a similar way, I’m thinking about how noise can be a challenge in a family as well. We can all be together and yet there’s noise in the background, whether it’s music or TV.  I think it’s a struggle for families also, to feel like we have to have this constant companion of noise.  I’m driving in the car and I have the radio going. Why is that? Is it a habit? Is it healthy? Or do I need to unplug and rest from input and work on being comfortable in silence?

John: Which is anti-cultural. Everywhere you go you are inundated, maybe feel like you’re in Time Square all the time. Your house is where you can control that. That’s up to you, how inundated you and your family are going to be.

Tonya: From a counseling perspective, when it’s silent you have to deal with yourself, your thoughts. If that’s painful, you keep noise. So it’s something to pay attention to. “Why is this hard?” There are times, by the way, when it all has to be off in my car.  I love listening to worship music, but sometimes it needs to be silent.

John: I have to tell you about the best day of my month off in October. Mark, it was the day I left your house and drove to New York. It was a nine-hour drive. I had no structure to the day, other than I knew where my hotel was in New York. I hadn’t traveled that highway before, so I determined in my mind that I was going to enjoy this road that I haven’t been on before; I got off on exits that I was curious about. When I got to New York I realized I had never turned on the radio, never had music on, didn’t listen to any podcasts. It wasn’t intentional. It was just the rhythm that worked for the day. When I realized it, it shocked me. It was just me and God and what I was looking at. It was revelational. “I need to pay attention to that.  I feel quite refreshed, and the only input was what I was seeing through my windshield.”

Mark: That’s a great reminder of being present and being in the moment.

John: We’re talking a lot about day to day. For the person who is committed to a weekly Sabbath idea, what’s your thoughts on establishing that for you or your family?

Tonya: I’m a big believer in a day off from work, and that includes house/yard work. We are not just the lay-around-sleep family. It usually means some type of sport, watching or playing. At least one day that is disconnected from work. For me, it is about making it a family day.

John: How does spiritual connection happen in that time frame?

Tonya: Typically when they were growing up that was Sunday. We’d do church together; I liked to have a tradition for going and getting donuts or coffee on the way to church. After church, we might discuss the message, but that was it for us.

Mark: Our family rhythm has been a lot like Tonya has described. Monday through Friday was school and career work.  Saturday has tended to be house work, chores, whatever. Sunday we try to put that down and not to work. Sometimes we are more successful than others; it’s more a guideline than a rigid rule. Sometimes we shift days because of weather, but that’s been the rhythm we have pursued.

In my career, I don’t think I appreciated the importance of unplugging from work for a day until I’d go through really long days weeks at a time. Growing up I had this perspective of Sabbath being a very spiritual day. Practically when Monday through Saturday is jammed packed, Sunday or a day can be very beneficial to give your body a chance to heal and recover so you can hit Monday on a full battery and not running on empty.

In terms of spiritual, for a significant period of our lives it was traditional church attendance with processing and discussion afterwards. For the last ten years, it’s been more of the home context where we set aside time as a family that we label as “God time.” It involves many of the components in a church context just in a smaller setting. We’ve always prioritized the spiritual together as a family for at least a specific time in the week to indicate it is a priority.

John: I just got this imagery of you passing the offering plate around, just the five of you. You should try that just to see what happens.

Mark: We have joked about that at times.

Tonya: That’s not a bad idea because kids are expensive.

John: To answer this for myself, sure Sunday is the day. As a staff member, it can very much feel like a work day; it’s labeled one. I have to play around with other times.  That’s going to look different. Sometimes it’s Friday; sometimes it’s Saturday; sometimes it’s a mix of those two days. I have to be intentional. When I’m good about it, there’s nothing else on the day. It’s probably little engagement with other people; it keeps me from expending energy and resting. I’m trying not to take in too much because it moves my mind toward work. I have to find things that make me disconnect. Running is usually in there somewhere, but the rest of the day goes better if I leave it more unstructured since I am a very structured person.

Tonya: We’re talking about something that is very much a western culture problem. We have so much information bombarding us, and people are moving fast. These are things we know, but it’s still hard. We have to really work at rest. I think it’s much more about where we live.

Mark: I think you’re right. The two words coming to mind are doing, which is how our western culture is biased, versus being, which may be found more readily in an eastern culture. We are raised to do, but we are talking about being.

John: Shelly Miller in her book hones in on that quite a bit. There are some things that we do that are okay to do on Sabbath or while resting, but if we forget the need to just be, or have any intentionality to be, we are not getting the full effect of what the commandment is really all about.

Anything else come to mind for you that you have to focus on to maintain balance?

Tonya: My big motto lately is living out of your values. “Does your time, your money, your life reflect that? What’s the evidence in your life that matches what you’re stating?”

Mark: We have to give ourselves permission to do the things that are beneficial and healthy for us. That’s not selfishness. It’s more about recognizing God’s context for wholeness and healthiness requires these things. Because of this, then you are best able to bless others through your service, your creativity, your relationships, your time. The ripple effect cascades through your impact of creating legacy.

John: I’ll add to that the importance of giving yourself permission to say no. When you are asked to do things that interfere with your normal rhythm of rest, you need to be okay to say no or make rearrangements so your rest is not put aside. It can be tweaked but shouldn’t be put aside. If you have to say yes to something, where else are you going to say no to create balance.

Mark: The image that comes to mind is putting boundaries around rest, just like we’ve talked about putting boundaries around work.

John: And not to be legalistic. You determine what it is.  You and God work it out.  You know what feeds, restores, and refuels you. So don’t let anything else take that away from you.

Mark: Honor the Sabbath and keep that holy and set apart.


Suggested Resources: