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One of the signs of burnout is when you stop caring about the things you really should care about. You know you should take better care of your body, but you eat another bowl of ice cream instead. You know you shouldn’t watch so much TV, but you veg-out on mind numbing idiocy for hours anyhow (there’s a reason some call it the idiot box). You know you should spend more quality time with your family, but you choose to hibernate in the garage alone. You know you should drag your butt out of bed and go to church, but you roll over and think, “I’ll go next week” (and you’re the pastor!).
Burnout isn’t pretty. It isn’t fun. And it’s never anyone’s plan. You didn’t wake up one day and say, “Hmmm, wonder what I can do this week to end up in a pile of drool and in a fetal position, numb to everything?”
Typically, the path to becoming emotional toast happens slowly and unintentionally. You said, “Yes!” when you should have said “No!” to another commitment outside of your gift mix. You said, “Just this one time…” when you should have said, “Thank you, I’ll pass.” You did something out of obligation or to keep somebody happy because you still wrestle with being a people-pleaser. Or maybe you suffer from a “Messiah” complex and actually believe that the world might stop spinning if you stop spinning all the plates you’ve got up in the air.
Whatever the reason, the honest truth is, we are responsible for our choices, and all too often we choose poorly.
Okay, so that’s the problem. What’s the solution?
1. Own it and confess it. Living in denial about burnout is foolish. The path to health starts with acknowledging you need to change, and you want help.
2. Develop a trusting relationship with someone who will encourage and support you. This guy or gal shouldn’t be the “margin police” in your life, but they should be able to ask you the hard questions in love.
3. Intentionally carve out time in your calendar for rest and recuperation. I make appointments in my day-timer for me to be with me. If someone asks, “Are you available tomorrow at 8am for coffee?” and I’ve made an appointment to be with a cup of coffee and a good book, I say, “Sorry, no, I already have an appointment at that time.” And for heaven’s sake (and yours), don’t feel guilty about it!
4. Learn to practice the power of no! Where did we get the crazy idea “no” is a bad word? If you are going to survive for the long haul, you better figure out that always saying “yes” will kill ya!
5. Make a firm commitment to run, walk, bike, or Zumba at least three times a week for at least thirty minutes. How many times do we have to be told about the benefit of physical exercise? Seriously, this is a no brainer. By the way, go back and read #3 and then schedule several weekly appointments with the treadmill.
6. Rather than zone out, zoom out. Practice the lost art of reflection. Stop at least once a week, if not once a day, and zoom out to see the big picture. One of the easiest ways to suffer burnout is to lose sight of what truly does and doesn’t matter. I hate procrastination. I generally operate with the idea of not putting off until tomorrow what can be done today. But I’m learning to ask this simple and powerful question, “If I don’t do this, will it really matter in a week, a month, or a year from now?” Guess what? I’m not as critical to the world’s survival as I thought I was.
Burnout is a serious issue. You can’t be the man or woman of God you are destined to become if you lack the passion and energy needed to accomplish what He has called you to do. We need to have the long view and learn to live wisely.
Guest Blogger: Ken Daughters, Former President of Emmaus Bible College
I preach two or three times a week and often travel to preach. I used to carry my big Ryrie Study Bible in my carry-on suitcase, but the x-ray image looked sinister to airport security. They asked me to take it out and put it on the belt separately, just as I do my laptop. I thought of carrying a smaller Bible instead, but I enjoyed the outlines and notes in my study Bible. It was at this point I considered just carrying my iPad. The college had purchased an iPad for me to demonstrate our courses on iTunes. I naturally tried every Bible program available for the iPad and picked Olive Tree’s Bible Study App as my favorite.
The big question was whether I could preach from an iPad. Would it be safe? Would the program crash? Would I become confused as I fumbled with the interface? I tested it first in our college’s chapel service. My students are tech-savvy, so I doubted they would be offended. In fact, a number of them followed along on their smart phones. No one blinked an eye. So I started carrying my iPad to our church services. I enjoyed following along with the sermon using the translation the preacher chose and consulting my imbedded commentary if I wanted additional information. I decided to take my iPad preaching on the road. At first I was nervous that the older folks in the meetings would take offense. “How can he preach without a real Bible?” I imagined them asking. In reality, no one took offense, and a number of shy iPad users came out of the woodwork and used them in church meetings as well. It was as if my use of my iPad in public made it culturally acceptable. We would compare which programs we were using and tips in their use.
Which features caused me to pick up The Bible Study App? First, the app was intuitive and easy to use. I have more resources available in some of my other programs, but their interfaces are more difficult to use. With Olive Tree I picked the typeface and font that fit my preaching needs and chose the softer book image background. I use a vertical scroll so I can move the verses from which I’m preaching to the top of the page. All of my resources are downloaded onto my iPad so I am not dependent on Wi-Fi access. I greatly appreciate the cross-references imbedded into the Scripture text as superscripts that lead to pop-up windows. I can still see my original text and the read the cross-reference from the pop-up at the same time.
Using the notes feature, I began to imbed my own cross-references into the text. All I needed was the reference. The Bible Study App recognizes any biblical reference as a hypertext link to jump to the verse immediately in a window. If I planned to spend a lengthy amount of time in another passage, I bookmarked it to I could turn to it quickly. Both techniques are faster and more efficient than using a printed Bible. The “Go To” feature of the verse chooser is also faster than a printed Bible. I can win most Sword Drills. There is a history feature if I want to return to a passage I recently read.
Perhaps the most important feature of using a computer-based Bible text is the ability to search on key words or phrases, turning the program into a computer concordance. The interface of the search feature for Bible+ is the fastest and most straight-forward I have seen!
If all I am packing for research in my suitcase is my iPad, I want to be able to access commentaries and dictionaries. The split screen feature of Bible+ serves me very well. I usually have the Bible Knowledge Commentary in my split window for quick reference I have even experimented with sermon notes as the second window! A number of sources from OliveTree are free, but my first purchase was the NASB that has Strong’s Numbers imbedded in the text. I have seen programs that place the actual numbers interspaced in the text, which is nearly unreadable. I like that I can touch a colored word and the Strong’s number, the original Greek or Hebrew word, and the dictionary definition appear. The greatest advantage of this resource is the ability to search on a Strong’s number, not the word in the English translation. For non-Greek readers, this allows one to get behind the translation and conduct more accurate searches. When I don’t need Strong’s numbers, I use the ordinary NASB text so I can touch the screen without concern. My next purchase will be the Analytical Greek New Testament (AGNT) with Morphology, Lexicon, and UBS4 Critical Apparatus.
I like to mark up my paper Bibles with color coding and write notes in the margins, but I hesitate to do so because of the permanence of the markings. I even printed out passages or photocopied pages so that I could mark them up to my heart’s content without regret. Now with the ease of the color coding available to me with The Bible Study App, I mark up the text constantly, and if I change my mind, I just redo it. I even created my own custom color. I have begun to copy and paste specific sermon or interpretive notes into the text, so I am ready to preach or teach on a moment’s notice. The notes are always there. I use Evernote to back them up or import long sets of notes. One of the best features of OliveTree is that my purchases and notes are available across all of my mobile platforms. I need to buy a resource only once. I keep each device updated by syncing. When I upgrade my iPhone, I download the resources I have in the cloud to be available wherever I am 24/7, even better than the old vest pocket New Testament! My Bible is always with me! (And so is a commentary!) OliveTree gives me the software upgrades for free, instead of trying to sell me an entire new program.
It may seem strange, but I have my devotions on my iPad using The Bible Study App. My daughter does as well. We like to share the verses that were especially meaningful to us. The copy and paste feature is particularly useful for this. I find myself sending verses not just to her, but to a number of family members and friends.
I recently stepped down from my role as president of the college. The iPad belonged to them. The device had become more than just a hyper-portable computer. It had become my Bible. I asked if I could keep it. I told them it was my Bible. Thankfully, they graciously said “Yes!”
Meeting my firstborn for the first time was not quite what I expected. After waiting patiently in a hospital corridor pacing and praying for an hour, I had a short moment with my daughter in the hallway outside the operating room. I was permitted but a few seconds to see Soraya as the neonatologist wheeled her by in an incubator. She was so tiny and thin, about the length of my hand. The image of her beet-red body and hairless, translucent skin are forever etched in my memory. She looked more like a baby rat than a baby girl, but she was my baby rat!
It was a surreal moment, a moment when the shock and awe of crisis temporarily put a damper on the joy of fatherhood. Here lay my newborn daughter sucking her tiny thumb with an oversized CPAP affixed to her face. I wasn’t even permitted to hold or kiss her before she was whisked away to the NICU.
Meanwhile, my wife still lay on the operating table in serious condition. When we arrived at the hospital that morning, little did we know that a regular checkup would end in an emergency c-section. During her doctor appointment, Meljoné began to vomit and her blood pressure skyrocketed. As they tried to stabilize her, our daughter’s heart rate dramatically dropped, and that’s when the decision to perform surgery was made. At two pounds and thirty weeks, Soraya was abruptly brought into the land of the breathing two and a half months premature.
Throughout the next seven weeks, we spent every waking moment at that hospital. God was more than faithful to answer our prayers and give us supernatural assurance with every new obstacle we faced. Meljoné recounts hearing the Holy Spirit whisper to her that He was with her as she was being carted into the operating room. From that moment on she was never without peace.
Not Why but How
The gravity of any tragedy always settles in eventually, and for me it was during our second night in the hospital. I sat in the Intensive Care Unit at Meljone’s bedside while Soraya was in the NICU. As I began to think back on the past forty-two hours, it all finally hit me. I started to breakdown and cry and found myself asking questions. “Why is this happening to me and my family? Where did we go wrong? Was there something I did to deserve this? Could I have done something to prevent this?”
As I poured out my fears and cares to God in prayer, He reminded me of Paul and Silas being thrown in a Philippian jail for preaching the gospel. They were apostles, doing the will of God, but they never bemoaned their lot. They weren’t demanding God to give them an answer as to why He allowed them to be mistreated. They didn’t look for an opportunity to quit once things got dicey. Instead, in the midnight hour, beaten, bruised and bloodied, they praised God, and the prisons doors opened!
Asking God why is neither an inappropriate nor illegal question to ask. He is certainly big enough to handle our issues and complaints. The why question, however, is just not the best question to pose when going through adversity. There is a better question – the question of how. How will God be glorified through my deliverance? How can I praise Him through this circumstance? This is a more constructive inquiry that helps cultivate a kingdom mentality.
As I sat in that hospital room, I started to praise the Lord, and my whole perspective changed. My thoughts went from: “My wife is in the ICU. My baby girl is in an incubator. Things aren’t going so well.” To: “My wife is in the ICU. My baby girl is in an incubator. Praise God they are both still alive!” The circumstances didn’t change. I changed, and in that midnight hour my prison doors opened. From that moment on I knew our deliverance would come and that our purpose for being in that hospital was to glorify our Father in Heaven.
For the next two months we became witnessing machines. We witnessed to just about everything that moved. Doctors, nurses, phlebotomists, janitors and even other patients heard about little Soraya and her big God. We testified to many of the hospital staff, and Soraya’s remarkable story made it all the way up to the president of the hospital. Today, Soraya is a healthy and happy six-year old girl.
Don’t Waste your Wilderness
Every trial is an opportunity to advance the kingdom of God. If we’re going to go through trial, we might as well grow through them. God allows dark times to draw us to Him, so that when He brings us through it, we can bring Him fame.
But this story is not just about my family. It’s about you. You are a survivor and a reviver of others. The question is not: “Will you be delivered?” The question is rather: “Will you glorify God through your deliverance?” The fact that you came into this world is miraculous in and of itself. Regardless of how you arrived, you will not leave this world without facing a mountain or a giant that can only be conquered through faith.
How will you respond when life throws you a curveball? Those of faith who have walked before us were far from cowardly. They were men and women of valor and guts, possessing bravery in the midst of brutality, audacity in the midst of uncertainty. Their sacrifices sound a clarion call to our generation.
You and I are now handed the baton to run this race with boldness and courage. May it be said of us that through faith we subdued kingdoms, worked for righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned the flight of armies, and returned to women their dead raised to life. (Hebrews 11:33-35)
Live fearlessly, mighty warrior! The defining characteristics of the end-times will be terror or courage. Which one will define you? In Christ, you have no reason to live afraid.