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August 23, 2020

Message for August 23, 2020- “Give Yourself a Break!”

(From Romans 12: 1-8)

Over the past several months, I have heard from so many folks about how overwhelmed they are feeling in living out the “new normal” of our time.  Many of us have been thrust into new roles that we feel either ill-prepared or time-constrained to adequately perform.  We have become teachers, self-service day care providers, family health caregivers, chefs, mechanics, carpenters, and the list goes on and on.   Google, YouTube and like sites have been a blessing for many, guiding us step-by-step into some previously uncharted territories.  But these sites have their limitations, leaving us to wing our way through many new circumstances resulting from our complying with “safe-at-home” requirements.

     Even in the best of times, the pace of our modern-day living can become exhausting.   Now, the added burden of COVID-19 concerns and responsibilities can leave us feeling as if the rug has been abruptly pulled out from under our feet.  And, we are struggling to keep our balance.  Well, dear friends, today I am here to offer you some words of hope for your weary souls.  Are you ready for it?   Take a break!  Yes, I said it—give yourself a break!

     Before you get the notion that your pastor has completely lost her mind; for, how could you possibly make time to give yourself a break, I will explain.  You see, taking a break is not a kind and thoughtful recommendation, it is my admonition to you.  An admonition is cautionary advice regarding an imminent danger.  Yes, there is a very real potential for danger to occur if we fail to take a much-needed break.  Please take note of the fact that I did not say to take a break that is earned, but rather one that is needed.  You need to take some self-care time whether you feel you deserve it or not.  My argument is both scripture-based and supported by the leaders of our East Ohio Conference.  So, let’s take a few minutes to explore why taking some personal time is so essential to our long-term health and well-being.

     Many of us are experiencing the need to assume new obligations and responsibilities.  Others are continuing to follow long-practiced regimens that often consume both our time and energy.  That is just the point, we are expending a lot of time and energy in the busy-ness of daily living.  Over time, this perpetual ongoing activity can place a drain on our physical, mental, emotional, relational and spiritual well-being.  When we are drained by our routine, we become less effective at successfully achieving our goals and plans.  This can include being less effective at our caregiving, less creative in our teaching and parenting, and less patient and loving in our relationships.  We simply cannot give what is needed by others when our own vessel has been emptied.  Refilling our vessel is accomplished through practicing regular self-care.

     Especially during these days of COVID-19 in which we are currently living, many folks have shared that they feel they simply cannot be “selfish” and take time away from “duty” to do something for themselves.  I would like to share with you now a life example that our District Superintendent, Rev. Ed Peterson, shared in our recent District Newsletter.  Ed reminded us that when we receive in-flight instruction, we are told to place our own air masks on first, and only then to assist others in positioning theirs.  We will be of no use in helping others if we succumb to oxygen deprivation ourselves.  In the same way, we cannot be our best self for others, helping them to mee their needs, if we are physically, mentally or spiritually depleted from the ongoing neglect of our own self-care.

      Our own Bishop, Rev. Tracy Malone, echoed a similar sentiment to East Ohio Conference Pastors just a few weeks ago.  Understanding how exhausting and energy depleting ministry during COID-19 can be, our Bishop reminded her pastors of two important needs: 1) making self-care a priority—assuring that we receive a proper diet with exercise and rest, and 2) taking time to be good to ourselves—perhaps taking a vacation or stay-cation, or connecting with friends, family or colleagues to share our journey and its struggles, so we can support and strengthen one another. Self-care is not selfish, it is self-loving.  Scripture tells us that are to love our neighbors as ourselves, which implies that we need to love and care for ourselves if we are to successfully love and care for others.

     I shared with you earlier that self-care is scriptural. So, let me now share the scriptural foundation for practicing self-care-giving ourselves a break.  In Matthew 11: 28-29, Jesus said to his followers, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, 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.” Jesus knows that we need rest from the cares and pace of the world.  He calls us to come to him, burdens in hand, to the quiet place of rest and learning.  What will we learn from Jesus about rest?  Let us turn to Matthew Chapter 14, verses 22-23.  “Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds.  And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up to the mountains by himself and prayed.”  After preaching to the large crowd, healing them and feeding there physical and spiritual needs, Jesus took time alone for prayer and rest.  Even Jesus took time away from the world and its pace to maintain his connection to God and to be at rest.  We should do no less.

     Brothers and sisters in Christ, I do not know what will be spiritually uplifting and life-giving to each of you.  I do know that whatever gives nourishment to your soul, you need to take some time to do it—get some needed sleep, take a leisurely walk in nature, call a family member or friend you have not spoken with in a while, read a good book, watch a good movie, spend some time in prayer and scripture, or maybe just take a few minutes to sit back and watch the world go by.  It will move along just fine without you for a while.  You will return refreshed and invigorated, more able to pour out your love and care to meet the needs of others, if you first take time to give yourself a break!  Amen.

“Come and find the quiet center in the crowded life we lead, find the room for hope to enter, find the frame where we are freed:  Clear the chaos and the clutter, clear our eyes that we may see all the things that really matter, be at peace, and simply be.”  (“Come and Find the Quiet Center” words, Shirley Erena Murray; music, attributed to B.F. White).