For the Weary

There are few things I do exceptionally well, and sleep is one of them. I usually have very little trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. If I’m stressed out, my first two reactions are to eat and sleep. If it’s past 10:00 at night and I’m bored, I go to sleep (although sometimes I go to bed that early simply because I’m tired). I try to get between six and eight hours of sleep every night. I was that way in college, and was mostly successful at it; I never pulled an all-nighter.

A lot of people say I sleep too much, but really, I don’t. It just seems like I do because most people don’t get enough sleep. The recommended amount of sleep is seven to eight hours. That’s how much sleep our bodies need on a regular basis to be fully rested.

My brother texted me the word of the day last Wednesday. It was “slugabed,” which means “a lazy person who stays in bed long after the usual time for arising.” He sent me this because he thinks it describes me. The funny thing is, my sister also saw the word of the day that day and thought of me.

This is inaccurate in the sense of what the word literally means because I wake up between 7:00 and 7:30 every week day and no later than 8:00 and 9:00 on weekends, all hours that are considered normal hours to wake up and greet the day. To further prove my point, I ordinarily wake up before my brother on weekdays. It’s also inaccurate because I get up and go somewhere after waking on six out of seven days every average week, which seems the opposite of lazy.

My dear siblings thought of me when they read this word and definition because it reminded them of someone who sleeps a lot, and that is me.

But a long time ago, before electricity lit up our nights and before people lit candles to guide their way to bed, people went to sleep when it got dark and rose with the sun. That would’ve been around 12 hours of sleep in the winter. Our extremely distant ancestors slept for half the day, yet I get grief for sleeping four hours less than they did.

Lights are actually a big part of why we don’t sleep as much as our ancestors did. Light stimulates our brains and sort of makes them feel like it’s still daytime. This is why sleep experts and psychologists recommend lowering lights as a process of going to sleep instead of just turning them off suddenly. It helps the brain calm down, and it makes you sleepy (like what a sunset probably did for our ancestors). The bright lights also enable us to see and continue to do things. They help guide us along. They allow us to stay busy.

That’s really the issue, isn’t it? We don’t have enough time to do the things we want or need, so we neglect the rest our bodies actually do need. Sleep resets and refreshes the body. It gives the rest of our organs a break while the brain remains hard at work. They still function and work and keep us alive, but the brain shifts to a lower gear and works even more than it does while one is awake. But that’s not as important as watching another episode on Netflix or finishing an essay for class or worrying about what’s going to happen at work the next day.

How often do we think or hear or say something along the lines of, “There aren’t enough hours in the day”? There are 24 hours in a day, so if we spent eight hours sleeping and eight hours at work, that would still leave us with eight hours to do whatever we need or want to do. Surely there’s time for God in those eight free hours.

The problem with that is that our lives aren’t arranged as neatly as that. We get a few minutes here and a half hour there, and we’re waiting in line at the store, and we’re stuck in traffic for a few minutes on our way somewhere. Then there’s overtime and emergencies and tons of other things that keep us busy and take away from our peaceful, resting time with God.

Stephen King said in his book On Writing that he reads 70 to 80 books a year. To me, that’s an unreal amount. And he gets all of this done in addition to writing books, columns, and reviews, spending time with his family, exercising, running errands, hobbies, and just sort of dominating.

His secret? He’s always got a book with him in some form or fashion. He reads in the line at the grocery store. He listens to audio books in the car. He turns off his TV a lot and reads instead. He utilizes the spurts of time he’s given, and he makes time by prioritizing. Reading is important to him professionally and personally, so he makes sure he gets it done.

I do think we should make time for God, but it also helps to fill in our gaps with Him. Pray during a lull at work. Pull up your Bible App on your phone (or if you’re like me, pull out an actual pocket-sized Bible) when you’re out to eat and waiting for the food to come if you’re without company or good conversation. Hum worship songs or meditate on scripture on your way to class or work. If you want more time with God, give Him the time you’ve got and then spend valuable time with Him.

The same goes with physical necessities. If you didn’t eat breakfast and you’re hungry, eat on your way or on your break. If you didn’t get much sleep the night before and you’ve got some time and a place to sit or lay at lunch, try a nap or just closing your eyes and resting. God designed our bodies to need food and water and sleep, and without those things, we hurt our bodies and tell God, “No, it’s okay. I don’t really need this after all. I can handle this myself, my own way.”

And it’s worth mentioning that there is a point where too much food or sleep is just as harmful as not getting enough. You’ll be left exhausted with many other problems if you’re not careful, so I advise you not to push the boundaries.

So what’s the connection here between making time for God and getting enough sleep?

Rest.

Ernest Hemingway said, “I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I’m awake, you know?” Sleep can be an escape from our issues, but it is certainly a time when we are largely without control. Our body is on autopilot, and our minds kind of do whatever they want, like exploring our thoughts by dreaming. Everything slows down and we just are. We aren’t doing anything. We’re just resting.

We do the same when we lean on God. Have you ever felt so spiritually strained or drained that you feel yourself falling and found God was there to catch you? When that happens, God doesn’t make you go on, He helps you go on. He’s right there with you, doing what you can’t do and doing what you trust Him to do. You relinquish control, and you just are. You’re just resting in God.

And you know what? It feels great.

I know I’ve used this scripture in the past two weeks, but I think it goes well with the entire Crazy Busy series, particularly this week’s subject matter. “Then Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear and the burden I give you is light’” (Matthew 11:28-30, NLT).

This is like Jesus is offering a spiritual pillow and blanket. It’s so inviting and peaceful and comforting. Our souls need this like our bodies need eight hours of sleep. Without it, it’s not enough to really, properly keep us going.

There’s an Irish proverb that says, “When God made time, He made enough of it.” That doesn’t always seem true, but it is. God knew what He was doing when He created our concept of time, and if we believe in Him, we have to believe that. How we use our time is up to us. Are we using it to rest up or to burn ourselves out?

By Carrie Prevette

GodAndSleep

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Gifts that Differ

I woke up on November 13 excited for the day ahead. Yes, it was Friday. The weekend, full of free time and possibilities, was approaching. Mostly, I was excited because my favorite band, One Direction, was releasing their new album, Made in the A.M., and I was finally going to listen to it in its entirety. It was new music, another gift from four of my favorite people before their hiatus next year, that caused me to actually enjoy waking up that day.

When I went to bed that night, my excitement for something small and harmless had been replaced by concern and hurt from world events. France, Beirut, Japan, Lebanon, Baghdad, Mexico. Terrorist attacks and natural disasters. Death and destruction. Physical and emotional wounds around the world.

If you look at my Facebook page, you’ll see a French flag laying over my profile picture. It’s not because I’m aware of the Paris attacks and none other, although I do truly hate that the attacks in France are getting far more attention than elsewhere, but that’s not France’s fault or the victims’ faults. It’s not because I care more about France than any of the other countries hurt last Friday. For me, it’s a symbol. A tiny, week-long symbol of love and support for my fellow human beings who are in great need of love and support.

A friend of mine answered the backlash about the overwhelming response to the Paris attacks instead of all the recent tragedies. She said very honestly and eloquently that she did feel bad for everyone and that she was praying for everyone, but the incidents in France affected her more than the others. She had just gotten home in the past few weeks from Paris. It’s nothing against Japan or Lebanon or anywhere else. It’s not about race or culture or anything like that. Her heart just has more of a connection with Paris.

And that’s okay.

I don’t know if God’s trying to tell me something or use me to tell someone else, but there have been three distinct times in less than a week that God has shown me this: We are called to care. We are always, without a doubt, called to love and care for others. But we won’t always play large, active roles in every cause and every case.

I’m one of the youth ministers at Abstract, and I love it. I love teenagers, and I enjoy teaching them and listening to them and hanging out with them. I like investing in them and encouraging them. I’ve known since I was a teenager myself that I want to work with youth. I feel called to do it.

My family used to be heavily involved in a nursing home ministry. We would attend church services there and help at other events. It was nice and sweet and most of the people were kind, and it’s a great, necessary ministry, but it’s certainly not my calling. I don’t have a huge drive or passion for it. I don’t mind helping out with it at all, but I can’t imagine myself constantly doing so or leading in that sort of ministry. That’s not for me.

But aren’t both ministries important? Aren’t they both helpful to individuals and the entire community? Aren’t both groups of people loved immeasurably by the Father?

Our first instinct is to help as many different causes as we can. The homeless need help, domestic violence victims need help, starving children need help, veterans need help, cancer patients need help, and so do many other sorts of people. So we want to help them, all of them, but when we try to do it all, we spread ourselves too thin. What starts as a labor of love turns into simply more labor.

We want to be God’s hands and feet in this world. We want to be the salt of the Earth. What we don’t often realize is that we can be those very same things if we focus our gifts, time, and energy on a few things instead of everything.

Romans 12:4-8 (NRSV) says, “For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.”

My callings – writer, youth minister – are mine because they fit with who I am. I’m good with words, and I’m not too bad with grammar and punctuation, so I write. I feel the need to tell people who are going through difficult times what God can do for them, and I like encouraging new believers and helping those who are just starting to grow in their faith, and I understand young people, so I teach teenagers.

Maybe you’re good at cooking, so you volunteer at soup kitchens. Or you like organizing, so you plan outreaches or clothing drives. Or you have a loved one who served in a war, so you visit veterans. Whatever you’re good at, I can assure you that there’s someone out there who needs it. And while we should pray and help those who need it, regardless of what our callings are, we shouldn’t get so caught up in doing everything that we forget what God told us specifically to be doing. It’s not to say that we can’t help or pray or donate to worthy causes. It’s just to say that we shouldn’t take on so much that we lose sight of God or neglect Him.

So I want to encourage you all to do two things. First, find what God wants you to do, and pursue it with all your heart. You can do others things too, but don’t abandon what role the Creator wants you to play. Second, pray for everyone. As I see it, the world’s in a pretty fragile state, and even if we can’t go to the edge of it all and make it right, we can talk to the One who can.

By Carrie Prevette

Distracted and Overwhelmed

The old saying goes, “Idle hands are the devil’s playground,” but the same could be said for busy hands as well. The adage refers to the trouble one can get into with no plans, hobbies, commitments, etc. What of an excessively occupied mind, full hands, or a clock without enough time? Aren’t those spiritually risky as well?

Busy lives are spiritually risky, not because being busy is a sin or even frowned upon, but because being busy often distracts us or overwhelms us to the point that God becomes an afterthought.

Just about anything can become a distraction – work, money, hobbies, family, church. If it’s capable of consuming the largest part of your heart or time, it can be a distraction from God and your relationship with Him.

“I’d like to go to Bible study tonight, but I need to get in overtime at work before the holidays get here.”

“I know God wants me to start this devotional, but I’m wiped out and my favorite show’s coming on in ten minutes.”

“I skipped my quiet time with God this morning to sleep in, but now something’s come up. I’ll just do it tomorrow.”

It’s not that we ignore God for people or reasons that are intrinsically bad. Most of the time, it’s for things that should be high priorities. It’s our habit of putting things as a higher priority than God that ruins us.

There’s nothing wrong with volunteering at church or spending time with family and friends or furthering your career. There is something wrong with burning ourselves out on something to the point where there’s not much, if anything, left to give to God.

The receiver of our first fruits is the receiver of our worship.

All of our running runs us ragged.

Personally, if I’m given the choice to sit and relax while snacking and watching a show or movie or to read and think and really study, I’m far more inclined to choose the former over the latter.

Our everyday lives can overwhelm us so much that we don’t want to do much in our downtime.

Let me rephrase to better iterate my point: We’re so busy that, most of the time, we want to spend our free time doing things that require minimal mental and physical activity. We sometimes choose not to do what we really want or need to do because we’re too exhausted.

Where’s the joy in that?

Jesus tells us that we’ll have joy in Him. It’s a fruit of the Spirit. No, we may not always be happy, but we’ll have a deep, profound sense of joy. And if we’re not turning to Jesus to fuel and refill us, if He’s not our source of joy, it’ll be a more generic, fleeting form of joy that we do receive.

I’m reading a book called Playing with Purpose by Mike Yorkey. The book tells the stories of some professional athletes who use their talents and positions in life to glorify God. One such athlete is Jeremy Lin, the center of “Linsanity” in early 2012 and current point guard for the Charlotte Hornets.

Lin signed with the Golden State Warriors his rookie year after going undrafted and after the Warriors were bought by two men, one of whom had coached against Lin when Lin was a kid and knew his talent and work ethic. Later that season, the Warriors sent Lin to their Development League team in Reno. Lin’s first season in the NBA involved being moved around, few playing minutes, and a losing record.

Lin says of this time in his life, “People don’t believe me when I say my rookie season was the toughest year of my life, but it was. I had a lot of long nights and struggles. I had to really learn how to submit my will to God and learn to trust Him while going through difficult situations that I thought were maybe unfair at times or things that I had wished would have gone in a different way. What I learned was to lean on God in those situations, and to make my relationship more intimate by spending more time with Him every day. I did a lot of reading and I did a lot of praying. More praying than I had ever done. I just learned a ton.”

Lin could’ve been bitter and upset at how everything was turning out, and he was so busy that it would’ve been very easy to neglect his relationship with God. He chose to trust in God and carve out time for Him instead. He made sure that God was first in his life and prioritized spending quality time with Him.

I’m not telling you to neglect parts of your life altogether or to sacrifice healthy aspects of your life. I’m advising you to look at the parts of your life, what’s necessary and what’s not, and determine what’s most important.

Because in addition to joy, Jesus gives us just what our busy lives need: rest. Jesus says in Matthew 11:28-30 (NLT), “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

Doesn’t that sound nice? Doesn’t that sound exactly like what we need is this crazy, busy world? Jesus offers it freely and gladly. Rest for our souls. Relief from our burdens. Relaxation for our minds. All we have to do is turn to Him. He’ll replace our busy with joy. He’ll refresh us in a way that only He can. We just have to take the time to give it all to Him.

By Carrie Prevette

P.S. – My mom says that the saying is, “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop,” but I’ve only ever heard “devil’s playground.” Despite the fact that the two offer different images and connotations, the meaning remains the same. Although I am kind of interested in hearing any other different versions of this phrase now, so if you’ve got a different one, feel free to share it with me!

Promises

Promises are porcelain treasures. We love them and want to keep them. We’re careful when we handle them, and we’re careful about who we let handle them. We don’t pass one out to everyone. If we look at them and see a crack, our hearts sink. They might as well be ruined because they’ll eventually break. And when they do break, so do our hopes. We’re left with pieces and powder, dust and chips, and not a lot of faith left in the one who did the breaking.

I don’t have the best track record of keeping promises, and I’m sort of ashamed of that. I now only make promises I know I can keep or will truly try to keep, but I’ve let a lot of people down by breaking promises to them.

I can also say that it’s no fun being on the receiving end of a broken promise. High hopes turn to letdowns, and in that void, there’s a lot of room for bitterness, anger, and depression. We start to feel like we don’t mean that much to whoever hurt us, or at least that our feelings don’t.

Like Alan said Sunday, there are several aspects of having a relationship with God that seem too good to be true. We feel that we have to earn salvation because we’re not used to free, inclusive gifts. We feel that we have works and obligations to fulfill in order to find favor with God because that’s how we’re used to winning favor with our fellow man. Sometimes we’re skeptical or forgetful of God’s promises because our earthly experiences have taught us to do so in regards to any promise.

Life has taught us to take some things with a grain of salt for fear of them seeming or being too sweet, and someone else’s promise is one of those things.

Numbers 23:19 (NLT) says, “God is not a man, so he does not lie. He is not human, so he does not change.”

1 Thessalonians 5:24 (NLT) says, “God will make this happen, for he who calls you is faithful.”

Hebrews 10:23 (NLT) says, “Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise.”

God will never break His promise. It’s simply not who He is; it’s against His nature to do so. He’ll never tell us what we want to hear if it’s untrue. He won’t turn on us one day or change His mind. He means what He says, and what He says is true and will come to pass.

Our old nemesis, doubt, cannot live in the same place as faith.

When we doubt God’s desire or even His ability to keep His word, we doubt Him as a being. We doubt that He is who He says He is. We doubt His nature.

Sometimes we don’t trust God enough with something to even pray about it.

We say things like, “It’s not that big of a deal. I can handle it,” or “God’s got other things to deal with. I won’t bother Him with something so small.” Maybe we mean those things, but often it’s a matter of us wanting to control the situation or not believing that God will come through for us.

Our doubt always says more about us than it says about God.

The beautiful thing is that God is faithful even when we’re not. Our doubt doesn’t affect God’s ability to keep His promises. Our capacity to believe and hope doesn’t change who God is. His faithfulness should breathe faith into us, but even if it doesn’t, it won’t change anything. He’ll love us and look out for us all the same.

By Carrie Prevette

P.S. — I found this picture a while back, and this seems like the right time to share it with you all. I believe this image to be accurate. And my prayer is that we’ll all trust God enough to give us what we truly want that we won’t let what we think we want stand in our way.

trustme1

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