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Friday, March 2, 2012

Finding What Makes You Rest

Treasured Friend,

As I was running willy-nilly this week--making it through a jumble of doctor’s appointments and family obligations, driving into the city to attend my great-aunt’s wake, and bulling through the writing of one of the last chapters of my upcoming book--one of my writing students stopped me cold. She quoted at me one of the time management principles I examine in my book, Conquering the Time Factor. As I re-read what I wrote from the updated eBook edition of CTF, I realized the significance of many of its principles to the caregiving dilemma.

So, today, I’ve pulled some excerpts out of the chapter titled, “Sleep? Who Needs It?” and its related Bible Study Guide. I believe these will have some meaning—and I hope some impact—on the way you approach your own body’s need for rest and refreshment. Please know that I’m preaching it to me, just as my Christian Writers Guild student did for me.

By the way, if you’re intrigued enough to want to read more, here’s a link to our catalog. This book is available in eBook (EPUB/PDF) and Kindle editions, audio pages (MP3) with me reading it to you, or paperback. This book and study guide also are included in my WORDsearch Bible Reference Library on CD-ROM. Whichever format you prefer, I'd love for you to get a copy for yourself and begin to apply its practical, doable counsel to your chaotic schedule.

Finding What Makes You Rest

We often read in the Gospels about Jesus making a way to "get away" from the crowds and demands and pressures of His painfully public ministry. We've already covered the fact that Jesus often went alone to quiet places to commune with His Father. But Jesus also made restful time a priority for His disciples.

In fact, the Gospel of Mark is packed with scenes when Jesus made important revelations to His disciples in times when He had taken them away from the hustle and press of the crowd. In 3:13-15 we read that after teaching the crowds, "Jesus went up on a mountain and called the ones he wanted to go with him. And they came to him. Then he selected twelve of them to be his regular companions, calling them apostles. He sent them out to preach, and he gave them authority to cast out demons" (NLT). Jesus took them aside together to call and equip them, away from the distractions of their everyday lives.

But the most telling retreat, to me, is the one for Jesus and His closest followers in the middle of the final week of the Savior's earthly ministry. John 12 notes that Jesus left Jerusalem and got away to spend the night in the home of his friends Martha, Mary and Lazarus in the nearby sleepy burg of Bethany. There He was respected and treated with the dignity befitting His position; He was loved and comforted in the presence of His trusted friends; He was honored with a dinner and graciously received the soothing ministry of Mary who anointed Him with costly perfume. There, among His trusted companions and friends, He Who was about to perform the ultimate ministry for humankind received ministry to His own body lavished by His devoted follower. And there He found a peaceful respite, even while the ultimate storm was battering down the door.

When I'm desperate for a brief time-out, what works for me is the mood created by flavored coffee, dim light, a home decorating magazine, a Mozart CD and a long soak in my Jacuzzi tub. These small things work wonders for my concentration, productivity and overall attitude.

When I need a more prolonged time-out, I enjoy a trip to Green Lake, a Christian retreat center midway up the state of Wisconsin, about four hours' drive from my home. There I can wander through acres of wooded property, listening to the crunch of snow or the rustle of leaves or the lulling swish of the waves on the lake. Something about being away from technology and returning to the romance of nature (without giving up necessities like indoor plumbing and electricity to run my blow dryer) recharges my emotional and spiritual batteries.

Scheduling peaceful times regularly—and I do mean actually adding them (in ink) to our planners and guarding them as we would any other appointment—is a cherished necessity that will build up our overall emotional well-being. I've seen that when I make an intentional effort to schedule time-outs in my busy schedule to do whatever provides me with refreshment and enjoyment, I find my productivity multiplied in the ensuing work time.

Let me offer a final observation on the subject before we close our discussion. I've told this story in speaking engagements and even briefly mentioned it in my book Praying Like Jesus, but it bears repeating in this context. Retreating at its most fulfilling means setting aside time not only for my own refreshment, but more importantly, for the refilling of my spirit from the deep and refreshing waters of the Spirit of God.

As a speaker or an attender I've been on dozens of seasonal retreats. Most of them have smushed into one lumpy and generic memory: we arrive late at night after the upstream battle of Friday night traffic. In the morning we'd like to take a nature walk but are instead conscribed into listening to someone (sometimes it is I) speak for way too long as we gaze yearningly at the placid lake just outside a window (oh to dip one little toe into the crystal waters), but by the time the speaker is finished it's nearly time to trudge back home again.

However, one singles' retreat I attended more than ten years ago deviated from the norm. It started much the same as others have, but when the clock struck 11 on Saturday morning, the speaker, writer and musician John Fischer, stopped speaking. He asked us to open our Bibles to a certain passage (I wish I could remember what passage it was, but that fact is lost in the recesses of my memory) and instructed us to read until we heard God's voice quickening a passage in our hearts. He said it could be just a few verses or many chapters, but to be sure to stop and meditate on whatever God showed us.

The rules were that we were to find a private reading spot in the scenic outdoors of the retreat complex, and that we were not to say a word to another person until the lunch bell rang an hour later. That hour impacted my life as few single hours ever have. It taught me the important lesson that retreating at its most fulfilling means setting aside time not only for my own refreshment, but more importantly, for the refilling of my spirit from the deep and refreshing waters of the Spirit of God.

From Conquering the Time Factor Study Guide

Questions for Contemplation and Discussion

Sabbath rest is a theme that appears frequently throughout Scripture. It was a big deal to God, beginning with the first week of creation. So, sometimes His followers made it a legalistic and unattainable goal. Jesus never did that, though. Because His concern for our Sabbath rest was that we be refreshed in relationship with Him. To discover how this is possible, let's begin by watching Jesus at rest. You'll find the story in Mark 4:35-41.

  • How did Jesus model the concept of rest in the scene described in Mark 4? How could He possibly find such peaceful rest while the storm was raging and the disciples were panicking? What resources do you suppose He drew on to be able to sleep soundly in those moments?

  • What can His example say to you in your need of rest? What can it say about your excuses for not resting?

  • How would you define rest? Think in terms of both physical relaxation and refreshment, as well as spiritual rest. What are the similarities and differences between these kinds of rest? Can you be experiencing physical rest while you are experiencing spiritual unrest?

  • Describe a time when you were experiencing an inner disquiet—the opposite of a spirit at rest. Consider why you were experiencing that emotion. What impact did that disquiet have on productivity at work, relationships, time with God, physical and emotional health? Was it time well spent?

My Action Plan

After studying these examples of rest, what can you do the next time you're feeling that inner disquiet? How will you make God-ordained rest a priority? Journal your thoughts, and give a friend or family member permission to call you out (graciously and privately) when you're allowing yourself to be over-programmed and are in desperate need of rest.

Blessings and prayers,


Opening © 2012. Body excerpted by permission from Conquering the Time Factor, Expanded Second Edition … Now Includes Study Guide!, ©Julie-Allyson Ieron, Published by Joy Media, 2010. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, email: