A change is as good as a rest

Standard

I think that expression is British or at least I’ve heard it on British TV. It basically means that doing something else for a while is just as good as taking an actual rest. This sums me up and my interaction with rest in a nutshell.

Ben TrubeHere’s my typical week. Monday or Tuesday (or both) I burn the candle at both ends by waking up early to work on writing and I stay up late to do the same thing. Wednesday and Thursday I may sleep a little later, but I’m still up later hanging out with the wife or puttzing around on the computer (or reading till all hours of the night). Friday has me up til 12am or 1am in the morning a lot of the time, then I make up the sleep on the weekend. Any given night I get between 6-7 hours of sleep a night, but I know I’m not really sharp unless I get eight.

Part of the reason for this schedule is my priorities in life, and my desire to be productive in all of them. There’s work of course, which thankfully is a little more constrained then some of my fellow engineers, but still keeps me away from home about 50 hours (including lunch hours and commutes). There’s writing: four blog posts a week, one short story for Bradbury’s 52, and current novel work, about 10-15 hours all told. Then of course there’s time spent with the wife,and if there’s some leftover energy it’s spend on God, games, and exercise.

I say that reading is restful, and it is one of the ways I wind down after a long day. But I also have reading “homework”, stuff I’m reading related to my various projects. Even a lot of my pleasurable reading, like comic books for NetGalley, has some connection to work since I write a review for a lot of them. Watching TV can take me out of my own head, but it doesn’t particularly put me in a place to receive God, and good TV can keep me up later than I’ve been intending (as can the Internet or a good game). And I usually don’t watch TV, I’m doing something else on my computer writing related, or browsing for things to read or buy. In other words, except maybe for the writing, I’m a pretty typical American.

Rich was hesitant to offer a lot of specific ways to rest other than sleep, and I have to admit, counter-intuitive as it seems, I do find myself getting more done in a week when I keep a more regular schedule. Sometimes I romanticize getting up early or staying up late. It’s kind of cool to be up when a lot of people aren’t. But there are also some good reasons why people aren’t up at those times, or at least not both of them. Sleep is good for me and truthfully I like sleep. I sleep about as late as I possibly can some days, hitting the floor, falling into clothes, and driving to work.

I’m sure I could be in a little danger of going too far the other way into sloth, though truthfully I have too much I want to do to waste too much of my time. I do like using rest, or playful activities as an incentive after getting certain things done. That way I get my sense of accomplishment but I also get a recharge.

Here’s a weird idea for the computer oriented among you. Use your computer on battery until it runs out or shuts down. Then don’t boot it up again until you see the charging light go back to green (or whatever indicates a mostly full charge). In the meantime take a nap, read a book for pleasure, or spend some time in silent reflection. It’s better for your laptop battery, and it’s better for you.

Vacations With, or From, God

Standard

This is probably a hazard of being employed in a Christian organization. Since so much of what we are doing is connected with our faith and helping people know Christ, it is sometimes a temptation on vacations to take a vacation from God. Maybe this is a problem others don’t have, but the fact that Rich (Hagopian, our pastor) addressed this on Sunday suggests that it may be.

Bob Trube2

Rich helpfully observed that developing regular spiritual disciplines can be helpful in this regard. I sometimes refer to these as habits of faithfulness, habits similar to brushing our teeth, that put us in the place where we are paying attention to God. And it is the case that things like my personal Bible reading and prayer do serve as times to think over the vacation day ahead and offer that, and myself to God.

Sometimes though, I think I look at vacation as a time to let down on the discipline and I wonder how many others deal with this? Many of us live highly scheduled lives between our work, family, church, and other obligations. Vacation is a welcome break from all that. And I think sometimes I, at least, am tempted to take vacations from God because I start to associate Him with all that discipline of a highly scheduled life that I long to get away from for a week or so.

It seems to me that vacation can be a time of hearing afresh the invitation of Jesus found in Matthew 11:28-30“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Jesus invitation is “come to me and find rest”. I think that is what we often are longing for, even in the midst of all our travel plans or whatever else we have in mind for our vacations. So I wonder, as we plan our vacations do we ask Jesus to help us rest, to help us find the rest we need in him?

Here are some of the disciplines of rest that have helped me:

  • Sleep! Many of us are racking up sleep deficits and don’t discover how tired we are until we slow down. I’m struck that when Elijah ran for his life from Jezebel’s threats (1 Kings 19), God let him sleep and eat before he spoke anything to him. Plan a day or two to simply sleep until you wake up without alarms. Then thank God for his gift of sleep!
  • Unplug. I have a hard time with this, but I find when I turn off the computer and get off the ‘net, I also mute the chatter of hundreds of voices so that I can hear the one that matters.
  • Long wandering prayer. David Hansen wrote a book by this title in which he described his long, leisurely walks in the woods, or by a fishing stream (it could be by the shore, or even a quiet city street in early morning) where he just noticed, thought, and prayed as things came to mind, and listened for God.
  • Slow, reflective reading of scripture, maybe a short portion that I think about over several days. A form of this is lectio divina which Rich mentioned and has provided resources for in the past.

One of the curious things about Jesus’ invitation to rest is that it is actually an invitation to rest, not from our work, but in the midst of our work. It’s not a rest from all yokes but the rest that comes from being in the yoke with Jesus, following his lead, going at his pace. I wonder if vacations can be a time where we can “re-yoke” if we have slipped the yoke.

And this might be helpful for those who would say, “I’ve not been very good at spiritual disciplines in everyday life.” You might ask yourself during vacation, what one or two ways of “resting with Jesus” do you want to carry back into every day life and how will you do it? Ben was wise in his post to suggest starting small. Five minutes of being quiet with Jesus each day, or five minutes reading and thinking about a verse of scripture, or one “long wandering prayer walk” a week might be all you do. But it will help you carry the “rest” of your vacation time with God into the rest of your life.

Here’s hoping you have a “restful” vacation with God!