Burn

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Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 93; 150, Exodus 3:1-12, Hebrews 12:18-29, Luke 10:17-24


Burnout is a reality of modern life. We can experience burnout at work, at church, and even with our family. When we become burned out, our motivation, dedication, and productivity all suffer. More than fatigue which saps our physical and emotional strength, burnout saps our spiritual strength. Exhaustion is the inability to go on; burnout is the unwillingness to.

In Exodus, Moses first encounters God when he notices a bush that is burning but is not consumed. From the flames, God speaks to Moses about how He plans to use this exiled Egyptian Jew to free the nation of Israel. In the decades that followed, Moses might have felt a lot like that bush. Igniting him to a higher purpose, the power and will of God infused him with a spiritual fire that led the people out of Egypt and through forty years in the desert, yet he was able to endure it all without being consumed. Sometimes an exhausted Moses might have wished for it all to be at an end, but God sustained him.

When we suspect we are beginning to burn out, it is time to reevaluate what we are doing. Is it really our job or family that is burning us out, or is it our attitude? If it’s the former, we can seek an external change. If it’s the latter, we must work on internal change. Either way, let’s consider one of the first things God said to Moses: “Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” It’s not enough to simply stop what we’re doing. We need to find a way to make contact with the holy ground God would have us walk. We need to strip bare not just our feet, but our souls, emotions, fears, and desires until we hear God’s call again. Maybe he will start us on a new journey, or maybe he will fortify us for the next forty years.

Every place we stand is holy ground, if we are listening for the voice of God. Let us hear. Let us burn.

Comfort: When you are tired or unsure, bare yourself to God for renewal.

Challenge: Where in your life are you most subject to burnout? Work? School? Home? Pray about what you can do to transform your situation from an out of control wildfire to a burning bush.

Prayer: Ever loving God, grant me the wisdom to find the path you have laid out before me, and the strength to follow it faithfully. Amen.

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Take Time for Renewal

Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 97; 147:12-20, Joshua 3:14-4:7, Romans 12:1-8, Matthew 26:1-16


Like all relationships, our relationship with Christ needs tending. We can become so focused on doing the work we feel Christ calls us to do, that we neglect the source of that call. Our periods of relationship-building may not always look productive to others, but in the long run they renew us for continued service. In today’s reading from Matthew, Judas chastises a woman for pouring an extravagant amount of expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet, and complains it could have been sold to feed the poor. Jesus tells Judas the poor will always be around, but he would only be with them a little longer. The woman’s action was a needed moment of preparation for both her and Jesus. Relentlessly monitoring each “unproductive” moment and “wasted” penny does not bring us closer to Christ, but it does bring us closer to burnout.

Isn’t a conscious effort at restoration and renewal – be it physical or spiritual – a form of gratitude to God? If we used a car only in the service of feeding the hungry and clothing the naked, it would still need regular maintenance. Otherwise it would break down too soon and be good for nothing. Yet we are often willing to risk letting our own engines seize rather than take the time for self-care. Do we believe God wants us to drive ourselves non-stop only to be junked before our time? Of course not. Our physical, mental and spiritual health are gifts from God. Gratitude includes caring for them as they deserve.

The sad truth is, the poor (and the sick, and the imprisoned) always will be around, at least until the kingdom of God is fulfilled. The work is never ending, but our endurance isn’t. Even Jesus needed and sought periods of solitude and rest – why would we expect more of ourselves? The Pharisees accused Jesus of being a drunkard and a glutton. Yet we are often afraid of the criticism we might receive for saying “no” to a request for our time or talents. We answer only to God, and God knows we could use a break.

Comfort: You can rest without guilt.

Challenge: Look at your weekly and monthly schedules. Is there anything you could let go in order to find more time to rest in the presence of God?

Prayer: God of Renewal, thank you for the talents you have given me to serve your people, and the time you have given me to spend with you. Amen.

Discussion: Do you have trouble saying “No?” Why?

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