When we were in graduate school 20-some years ago, there was an article on the cover of Newsweek, that caught both of our eyes (mind you we had never met and were in different states), about corporate executives suffering burn-out. Article talked about how there was a high value being placed for being a work-a-holic; not taking your vacation or other days off; working no matter what. This was leading to Execs checking into the hospital from exhaustion. Not a huge surprise, they were working 100 + hours a week. Kurt was watching it up close and personal as law school classmates worked full time and went to school full time, burning the candle at all ends.
Back then, Cheri decided to calculate how many hours she could work. (Kurt was not that methodical in his approach but came to similar conclusions) There are 168 hours in a week (24 x 7). If you limit yourself to just 5 hours of sleep a night, you’re down 168 to 133. Throw in another hour a day for hygiene needs, you’re down to 126. Eating is going to take up another 2 hours a day or 14 for the week so now you’re at 112. Take away another hour or so for commuting a day, now you’re down to 105, which leaves you with 5 hours of free time. So, you could, theoretically work that much in a week, for the short run. Of course, this assumes no kids, no housework, no need to pay your bills, get your car serviced, buy groceries, date, pray, exercise, any of that – just work!
The Bishop of the West Ohio Conference, sometime back, before Cheri was a pastor, probably in the 80’s, was known to have said that he expected pastors to work a minimum of 60 hours a week. Thankfully, our current bishop, Bruce Ough, has a more balanced approach. He encourages Sabbath: Bishop Ough will host a day apart a day focused on prayer and balance; He wants pastors to spend an hour a day in prayer and reflection, in addition to a day per week and a week a year, for Sabbath rest. The times they are a changin’.
If the end of the 20th century was time of the work-a-holic, corporate executives collapsing from exhaustion, then it seems the 21st century might just be a time of slowing down to rediscover what is important to us. We might live out the title of that book that is now a popular movie:“Eat, Pray and Love.” Those are some good values.
Often, a key event can be the turning point to cause a person to take stock of life and make some changes: A world changing event like Sept 11, 2001; personal, life threatening illness (Kurt collapsed without explanation and had to be admitted to the hospital several years ago), or divorce (not Cheri or Kurt, thankfully, but we’ve both seen plenty of friends go through this with a few in the midst of it); Or, instead of all of those, how about just a date like 1/30/11.
Why not? This is as good a day as any, to decide to make a choice, and take a turn in our lives for the better. Because to be honest, WE are the only ones who will do this for US. We can’t do it for you, and you can’t do it for us. Have you ever tried to get someone you love to change their behavior? You can’t do it. Nope. Can’t be done. But I can make a change for me. And you can make a change for you.
And today we have this scripture as our invitation:
“Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” (I Corinthians 3:16, NRSV) or here is another version, from The Message Bible: “You realize, don't you, that you are the temple of God, and God is present in you?”
Now, this is the scripture that has been used to preach some very restrictive and moralistic sermons, especially to scare teen-agers out of having pre-marital sex. “Your body is the temple of God – so don’t be doing anything Jesus would not do.” Also sermons against the ravages of alcohol, drug abuse, smoking and other physical abuses of our body – and yes, we can make the argument, that we should take good care of our bodies, as they are God’s creation and a gift from God. But today, let’s broaden this a bit, and try to look at it more from the view point of blessing rather than threat.
This physical and spiritual being that is each one of us, is a unique and wonderful creation of God, and God dwells in us. We are God’s home. God’s Spirit lives in us. This body we have, is the only one we have for our entire life on Earth. So, how will we use it? How will we care for it? How will we honor God with our bodies and our hearts and our souls?
Well…that brings us to the heart of today’s message. Self care. Are you taking care of yourself? Do you wake up most mornings, rested and looking forward to your day? Do you go to bed at night, content? Of course, we all have bad days. We all have some stress. But on average, would you say you have more good days than bad?
Some time ago, Cheri was caught off guard when a close friend said to her, “You seem to be unhappy much of the time.” She was surprised that her friend perceived her in that way. Kurt had his moment at Food for Thought (an effort to hand out food and hygenie items to the homeless at the main branch library) when a homeless man asked him “what was wrong”, he asked “you seem so down”. A homeless guy, struggling to make it through life, perceived that Kurt was more than little down. So it made us pause and take a look at some issues of balance in our lifes, time management, and what we could do to regain joy. Cheri’s friend had noticed her complaining as friends do, and the red flag came up. Her struggles revolved around the balance of work and family and time for Cheri. That’s where her self-care issues come up.
Because she loves our family. She loves being a mom and wife. She loves The Village and her work here. So. . . making time just for Cheri always comes up last in the priority list. And she has never been into sports so taking care of her physical body and doing that thing you all call “EXERCISE” – well, that comes DEAD last. So four weeks ago, to take care of herself, She joined a yoga class. It’s one of the few physical exercise things she enjoys. It works for her. But she had not gone in over a year. She had to find a buddy to go with, in order to have accountability. So Todd and Cheri go on Wednesday nights. Cheri can tell you that almost every Wednesday night she would not have gone if she did not have Todd as her accountability partner. But She always feel better after she goes.
This is self care. We only have one of each of us. Cheri and Kurt spend LOTS of time taking care of other people. You know those 168 hours we start out with? Except for sleep, about all we do is other-people-care. We love it, but it gets me out of balance. Cheri can’t care for you as a pastor, or take care of her kids and husband if she don’t take care of herself.
So Cheri made this one simple change in her life this month; a shift toward self care. Because “I am God’s temple, and God dwells in me”. And God wants me to take care of God. In life Cheri has made other choices that are shifts toward self care. She has been seeing Sr. Breta Gorman for Spiritual Direction about once a month for about 15 years. They meet for an hour and talk about how Cheri is doing in keeping in balance and she guides Cheri (and occasionally Kurt) in her spiritual journey with God. So if you think you see a glimpse of some spiritual depth in Cheri every now and then, you can thank Breta and the fact that Cheri has been going to Spiritual Direction for so long. But it was not easy. For most of those 15 years
Cheri says “there is probably no single choice in my life that has drawn me closer to God, than Spiritual Direction, Well, that and being part of a church family”. She really hopes more of you will try Spiritual Direction in 2011. They will be here on Monday, in case any of you would still like to schedule an introductory appt.
You probably have a sense of a shift you wish you could make in your life. Cheri remembers times when she was so stressed that she thought, “I wonder how close I am to collapsing and being put in the hospital for exhaustion like those CEO’s I read about in Newsweek.” And then she would sort of play a little game and consider, what she would do differently, if she could just stop everything in my life, hit the reset button on my priorities, and reorder them. That kind of exercise is where we get our clues to self-care.
In our scripture for today, Paul is encouraging us, as followers of Jesus. He says, it’s like we are the house of God. Once we have decided to make Jesus our foundation, then the real work begins. As the walls go up in the house, we are making our choices. We can choose priorities that make our house one that makes room for God. Or we can be so busy, running ragged living by the world’s standards that there is no room for God, and no room for joy or anything we love. We get to choose.
When we get off track, we are the only ones who can make the choices to get ourselves back on track. So, what choice is God nudging you to make today for self-care? Is there something big, a re-evaluation of everything or do you just need to choose one thing to do for you (yoga class, exercise every day, prayer), did you just need to get out your calendar and mark some days off; do you need to plan a vacation, take a class, get some spiritual direction, downsize and simplify your life, or simply ride a bike and get some time to rest and reflect.
Do you have a place to get centered, to rest, reflect, and take care of yourself? If not come to a place like the Village. We have prayer and share groups and study groups, along with spiritual direction to take care of our souls. We have hiking/biking groups and healthy living groups to take care of our bodies. We’re here every Sunday @ 9:45 AM & 11:30 AM and at various places during the week. Join us.