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Exhale the Stress and Inhale the Rest

I need a little niksenin my life, and I bet you do, too.  And, no, that’s not a misspelling of “Nixon,” thank you very much.

Niksen is a Dutch word for doing nothing.  It’s when you take a conscious stand against busyness and let your brain rest and recover. According to Olga Mecking in “The Case for Doing Nothing,” niksen “literally makes us more creative, better at problem-solving, and better at coming up with creative ideas” (The New York Times, April 29, 2019).

It’s hard to do nothing, because our brains and bodies are always doing something, even when we sleep. Psychologist Doreen Dodgen-Magee likens niksen to a car whose engine is running, but it isn’t going anywhere (idem).  You set aside time where you have no plan other than to be.  With burnout, anxiety disorders and stress-related diseases on the rise, intentional idleness might not be such a bad idea.

Sometimes we need to sit idly so we can think actively . . . and pray.  But the idol of busyness keeps our thinking and praying at a minimum. We believe our busyness is a symbol of our status: the busier I am, the more important I must be.  We want to prove our self-worth by the measurement of activity. 

Nonsense.  The busier I am may only prove I lack discipline and time management. 

When I gave our church elders my sabbatical proposal, they responded with one critique: “Your proposal is too busy.  We don’t want you coming back from your sabbatical more tired than before you left.  You need to cut it back and build in times to rest.”  Basically, they told me I needed to include niksen.  I did, and they approved my sabbatical.  And I am forever grateful for that gift of grace and that nudge for niksen.

Now, I’m trying to live that on a weekly basis.  I’m trying to set aside one day every week for a sabbath.  Shabbat, the Hebrew word for sabbath, means to cease, rest, desist.  Or, as the Dutch would say, shabbat means niksen.  I’m also trying to do a better job of implementing niksen on a daily basis, where I build into my schedule regular breaks.  Studies have actually shown that regular breaks increase work performance and productivity (https://www.nature.com/articles/nn864).

I hope you will give yourself permission to take time each day to let your brain rest and recover, and a day each week to exhale the stress and inhale the rest.  Put down your smart phone, close your laptop, turn off the TV, and idly sit so that you can actively pray. 

“Come to me, all of you who are tired and have heavy loads and I will give you rest” (Jesus, Matthew 11:28, EXB).

Posted by Rick Grover, Lead Pastor with

Are You Looking in the Windshield or the Rearview Mirror?

Do you ever just want to quit?  Walk away? Be done with it all?  Chuck it?  Leave it all behind? 

If you could see through a window into my soul, you might be surprised to discover how many times in the past I’ve counted out the years left before I can “hang up my spurs and saddle,” so to speak. 

No, I’m not leaving my day job.  Yes, I’m thrilled to serve in the capacity God has given me. 

However, let’s be honest. Who hasn’t dreamed about winning the lottery, stepping down and moving on to greener pastures?  This happens in marriage.  This happens with work.  This even happens with the Christian faith.

The older I get, the more I realize the truth of Proverbs 29:18, “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (NIV).  When I was younger, I always had a vision of where I wanted to go and what I wanted to accomplish.  Now that I’m tipping the scale past the midway point, I find myself looking in the rear-view mirror more than through the front windshield. 

What do I need to do in those moments where life simply seems too hard to manage?  Keep my eyes on the prize.  Stay focused on the vision of where I’m headed.

D. A. Carson tells the story of Florence Chadwick who, in 1952, stepped off the beach at Catalina Island and into the water, determined to swim to the shore of mainland California. She was already an experienced long-distance swimmer: she was the first woman to swim the English Channel both ways. The weather was foggy and chilly on the day she set out; she could scarcely see the boats that would accompany her.  For fifteen hours she swam.  She begged to be taken out, but her trainer urged persistence, telling her again and again that she could make it, that the shore was not far away.  Physically and emotionally exhausted, she finally just stopped swimming, and she was pulled out.  The boats made for the shore, and she discovered it was a mere half-mile away. 

The next day she gave a news conference.  What she said, in effect, was this: “I do not want to make excuses for myself.  I am the one who asked to be pulled out.  But I think that if I could have seen the shore, I would have made it” (A Call to Spiritual Reformation, 61-62).

Can you see the shore? The shore of a stronger faith? The shore of a healthy marriage? The shore of a life well lived? Sometimes the fog of life’s circumstances prevents us from seeing our destination.  But this is where we pray to see with eyes of faith, believing that “the sun still shines, even when it’s hiding” (Winnie the Pooh).

I encourage you even now as you read these words: Don’t give up.  Don’t give in.  Keep swimming.  The shore may be hidden from view but not from eyes of faith.

“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12, NIV).

Posted by Rick Grover, Lead Pastor with

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