Part 4 Take Some Time for Yourself

As we resume from part three my next observation is that I don’t relax enough. I was riding in the car with my sister recently and she casually stated how she’s observed that when I have a goal, I focus my energies no matter what on completing it. I thought it was a good observation. The personal flaw that I have when trying to reach these goals is I lose all sense of balance. I can be locked in my study for hours working on projects without interacting with anyone. I can miss reunions and other family gatherings working and it doesn’t bother me because my mind is focused on reaching my goals. My wife just said to me recently, “Smile. Why are you looking so mean?” She didn’t know that I was immersed in my own world of thoughts trying to work through problems when I was supposed to be relaxed. It has come to my attention that when we are locked into a mindset of work, we don’t really know how to play. I remember taking a trip years ago to a tiny little island off the coast of Savannah, Georgia called Tybee. We would vacation there yearly with friends, rent a big house, and enjoy ourselves. I remember one year we went to the mall in Savannah and we got massages. The massages were given by some nice Asians I believe to be Korean. I sat in the chair and the person began to skillfully message my shoulders and neck, within a few minutes the masseuse said to me in broken English, “You too tense. Relax, relax.” What struck me was that before our trip to the mall, we had been there two to three days and I still hadn’t unwound.

Have you ever taken a day off and still worked? Have you ever taken a vacation and still managed to do some work? Have you sat down at a nice dinner to eat and ended up texting, emailing, or talking business on the phone? Have you sat down at the end of the day to watch a movie and found yourself thinking about what else you needed to do? If you can answer yes to at least one of these questions, your life is unbalanced and you take your work much too serious. I know that I am guilty of the above transgressions. We can be wound so tight with work, problems, etc until we don’t know how to relax and enjoy life. I’ve seen people who were on medical leave from work because of surgery, illness, or other serious ailments still trying to work and participate in other activities restricted by their doctor. You ask yourself the question: Why? Why would a person jeopardize their health? Aside from some people having ADD or ADHD, others have OWS (obsessive work syndrome) or CSTBD (can’t sit their behind down). Yes, I made up the last two psycho-pathologies.

If we never take time off from work or problems, when do we have time to recuperate or to be refreshed? Rest is a powerful recuperative antidote to mental anguish, physical fatigue, and spiritual unrest. Ecclesiastes 2:22-24, “For what hath man of all his labour, and of the vexation of his heart, wherein he hath laboured under the sun? 23 For all his days are sorrows, and his travail grief; yea, his heart taketh not rest in the night. This is also vanity. 24 There is nothing better for a man, than that he should eat and drink, and that he should make his soul enjoy good in his labour. This also I saw, that it was from the hand of God.”

What else can I say but ouch? Solomon, by inspiration of God, just told us we are vexed because of our labor to the point that we are sorrowful and deprived of rest. His remedy was to eat, drink, and enjoy our labor. He says his words are from the hand of the Lord (spirit of God). Hey, I’m convicted by this. I need somebody to join me and make a lifestyle change and rest. When is the last time you took a day off and did nothing? When is the last time you took some days off or a vacation and did nothing? When is the last time you just laid around until noon or watched a good movie? When is the last time you took a long stroll in the park or along the beach? When is the last time you took some personal time and refused to answer any calls related to work? We should consider taking this precious time of rest that our spirit, soul, and body are in much need of.

Last but not least, for someone who is still struggling with taking some time away from your hectic life because what you do means life or death to someone, I have a question for you: Is it their life that hangs in the balance or yours? If you lose your health who takes care of them? If you lose your life then what about those you wanted to help? Is it possible that if you died or quit that someone else would take your place? Oh yes, you are replaceable and life will move forward without you. Your replacement may not do the job as well as you, did but I guarantee it will get done and the world won’t come to an end.

Consider what I just said, find a date in your calendar, and take some time for yourself. I’ve got more to say next time. In the meantime, go and enjoy life!

http://www.greaterrhema.org

Part 3 - Be Grateful

OK, it’s been a busy week and I’m ready to resume my conversation from Part 1 and 2. If you are reading this for the first time, catch up quickly by reading the first two parts of the blog entitled “Attitude Adjustment.”

The next thing that will help us nurture a grateful heart is affirming our purpose with the word of God and patterning our lives after those who have lived through the vicissitudes of life, but still stand atop the winner’s circle. I’m now taking a brief look at Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ. Paul, a great leader of the church in the first century, traveled on three missionary journeys spreading the message of Jesus Christ. On one such trip to Philippi he and a companion named Silas were locked up for preaching the message of Jesus the Messiah. (Acts 16:16-36) How did Paul and Silas -- two preachers -- respond when locked up in jail for preaching the message of Christ? The book (Bible) says at midnight Paul and Silas prayed and sang praises unto God. These men of God didn’t focus on the unsavory or distasteful. They didn’t concentrate on the lack of bail money, physical abuse, or injustice. Our focus shouldn’t be on what we lack, but what we already have and if we can be grateful and thankful at all times, our attitude can invoke something in God to rescue us. If we can continue to praise our source, which is God, and thank Him for resources, which are people, we can enjoy the benefits of seeing our chains and shackles fall to the ground and we can be a greater witness to others, like Paul and Silas. These men could rejoice because despite being persecuted, they understood their purpose and recognized that it’s worth suffering for what you’ve been born to do.

Though our assignments may be tough, difficult, and stressful, we must find a way to enjoy what we are doing by conditioning our thinking to embrace the good even when bad exists. Paul and his evangelistic partner were locked up for doing something good. They were in both a humiliating and debilitating situation but yet these men found a way to rejoice when others would have complained. If we search deep enough we’ll discover that God is yet good even at midnight in our lives. If you’ve got food to eat, thank God. If you’ve got clothes to wear, thank God. If you have reasonable health, thank God. If you’ve got even a small income, thank God. If you’ve got some kind of place to live, praise God. If you’ve ever endured any suffering and lived to talk about it, thank God. If you are dealing with the most difficult pain and hurt in your life but you are still standing, thank God. I guarantee if you keep thinking you will find reasons to be thankful, joy will begin to fill your heart. Don’t allow the bitterness of opposition poison the fruit of a purpose-driven life. I’ve got more in Part 4.

http://www.greaterrhema.org

Part 2 "Principles Don't Change"

I hope that you read last week’s blog; if not, just scroll down to it and catch up with what I discussed. This blog is just a continuation from last week; but last week’s entry will help you fully appreciate what I am talking about today.

I think it is human nature to not want to live under pressure and subsequently seek ways to alleviate our struggles. My personal issues magnify when I don’t immerse myself consistently in principles that give life. When I neglect to rehearse and apply certain principles that impact me positively, spiritually, psychologically, and physically I tend to become susceptible to the challenges. Is it possible that you are vulnerable at this time in your pressure-filled life because you have neglected certain powerful principles that have always empowered you to survive and thrive?

Former President Jimmy Carter said, “We must adjust to changing times and still hold to unchanging principles.” The problems we face may change, but principles stay the same because when a principle is rooted in truth, it can never change. The truth that brought you through past challenges is the same truth that will bring you through today’s troubles. I had to remind myself that despite hardships, one of the foundational truths in which I live by encourages me to be thankful. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, “In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” Yes ma’am and yes sir! The next time my cousin acknowledges that I am blessed because of the assignment God has given me, my response will be thanks and praise God!

For those who have been in the battle of your life don’t focus on your wounds, pain, or scars from the fight. Take some time now and give thanks. If you are alive, give thanks. If you have a place to live, give thanks. If you have food to eat, give thanks. If you have some clothes to wear, give thanks. If you still have hopes and dreams, give thanks. If you can still recognize God’s influence in your life, give thanks. If you experienced serious hardships but you still have your mind intact, give thanks. If you still have hope, give thanks. If you’re surviving and thriving against all odds, give thanks. Praise and thank God for what He has already done and what you believe He’s going to do. Take a praise break and it will adjust your attitude. ONCE YOUR ATTITUDE IS ADJUSTED YOU KNOW WHAT HAPPENS NEXT -- YOUR ALTITUDE WILL ELEVATE. FLY HIGH! Let’s keep talking in Part 3.

ATTITUDE ADJUSTMENT!

I recently attended the home-going/funeral of my dear Aunt Lillian Reed.  She was truly a precious woman of God who suffered greatly physically and endured many other challenges in life, but lived triumphantly with a spiritual and psychological strength that very few possess. 
 
I was so glad to see many family and friends at this occasion that I hadn’t seen in quite a while.  Among my wonderful loved ones I hadn’t seen in years was a cousin whom God blessed to achieve the optimal academic benchmark and then be favored to teach at one of the nation’s prestigious historically Black colleges.  By the way, Dr. Shaun Fletcher, we are godly proud of you. 

So, this incredibly astute cousin and I are talking while waiting to go in the church and he said, “You pastor two churches -- wow what a blessing!”  My reaction humorously spewed forth unimpeded like the same knee-jerk reaction you have when the doctor hits your knee and it straightens out.  I responded with a flurry of humor-ridden negatives, requested prayer, and ended with “Man, but I’m optimistic.”  He answered with a smile on his face, “Yeah, I can see.” From that moment on I have pondered our brief conversation.  Incidentally I want to say thanks, cousin, because your statement, my answer, and your response provoked a series of thought-provoking, self-introspective reflections.

First of all, I’m grateful to be called by God to pastor multiple churches.  When you have the assignment, which I believe can only come from God to pastor people, it indicates that God trusts you. The problem with most of us is that we become so consumed with surviving and the daily grind that comes with working, until we lose sight of how blessed we are.  The rigors of traveling between two churches had worn me down.  I drive 11-12 hours roundtrip weekly to one church.  Both ministries are starter churches which are operating with minimal finances and limited resources. Imagine dealing with this while trying to sustain my own family of four. My assignment didn’t feel like a blessing.  Honestly at times, it has been very difficult.  

I marveled at his statement because in my opinion he has a great job, which I thought was incredible and he says I’m blessed.  I would have accepted that I was blessed because of my relationship with God, but in that moment it was hard to comprehend that being a pastor of two churches was a blessing because of the load I was carrying. 
The spirit of God spurred me into deep self-examination.  While I feel like I must work harder and necessity is laid upon me at this time to do what I am doing, the real question is am I going about this the right way?  Whenever we are doing something we know in our hearts we were meant to do but we aren’t enjoying it, that is usually an indication that maybe our approach is wrong.  

In reminiscing on recent difficult moments in my life it poses the question -- can a person feel good living in a pressure cooker daily?  Is a person wrong for focusing on their problems daily with the sincere intent of finding solutions?  What’s the key to doing what you love to do and yet overcome the challenges that go along with it? It’s lunch time, but I’ve got more in Part 2.  Chicken wings, here I come!!!

AIN'T IT FUNNY?

An old figure of speech popped into my mind in the early morning hours, “Ain’t it funny?” As I began to research the statement in my mind and account for how it is used in everyday life, I quickly wondered how it applied to me. It is generally understood that most people use this phrase when sarcastically applying humor to an otherwise difficult situation or in an attempt to try and understand a serious situation in life. I found in my brief journey into the experiential application of this phrase that my usage of it isn’t actually humorous. Actually I knew just from typing this discourse that the statement wasn’t kosher when a red squiggly line appeared underneath the word “ain’t”, which was even the computer’s way of saying the word itself is incorrect, but yet I pressed forward.

In my personal application I could easily say that ain’t it funny how people can be close to you, but yet not know you? Ain’t it funny how people can have an opinion about you that they believe is right, but is unbelievably wrong? Ain’t if funny how you can help so many people, but struggle when you need help? Ain’t it funny how you have no limits in assisting others, but they have limits in assisting you? Ain’t it funny how people can think so much of you until you do something that they don’t understand and now they think little of you?

Ain’t it funny how you can courageously follow God’s heart, but when you do, it’s falsely attributed to your poor judgment? Ain’t it funny how people will encourage you to do good, but won’t help you do it? Ain’t it funny how people can want you to be free, but when you are, they want you bound? Ain’t it funny how you can’t get encouragement from the people who should be giving it? Ain’t it funny how you can know what people need, but they really don’t have a clue about what you need? Ain’t it funny how people can be so giving, until it comes to you? Ain’t it funny how you can be standing in front of people, but they still can’t see you?

OK. I think you get the message; I most certainly did. Typically when people use, “Ain’t it funny?” it’s usually to mask a serious matter and psychologically attempt to cope with it. At the very root of this expression is the desire to understand and adjust to the negative things that happen to us in life. The flip side to this expression is that if you can laugh at some of your trials, it speaks volumes about your level of maturity. I don’t mean laugh because you are insane, immature, or legitimately grieving; but your laughter is because your perspective of the situation is transcendent of what it appears to be. Being able to laugh because you realize that negativity will not define you is a reason to laugh. Being able to laugh because you understand that bad situations don’t define you is a reason to laugh. Being able to laugh because no matter how many people try to put you in a box and you realize they can’t is a good reason to laugh. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said “Nothing shows a man's character more than what he laughs at.”

So while I think that most of the time when we say, “Ain’t it funny?” it really isn’t. Maybe from now on we need to change our perspective and use Mark Twain’s strategy. He said, “Laughter is the greatest weapon we have and we, as humans, use it the least.” I believe our response and posture to an “ain’t that funny?” situation should be laughter. Why not employ the method of laughter to resist the disdain of depression and the blistering impact of a stinging arrow? If laughter is a weapon and I believe it is, then let’s use it. So the next time you hear something negative or encounter a situation that’s trying to attack your vision for life, pull out your automatic weapon of laughter and let it rip! And if you should pass me on the street or view a future writing of mine and you see a lot of humor or indications of laughter on a page, just know I’m enjoying life in a deeper dimension because I refuse to cry when I can be fighting with laughter! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! “Ain’t that funny?”


Dr. A. G. Green


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