Three Roads to Joy in Bi-Vocational Ministry

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Three Roads to Joy in Bi-vocational Ministry

By Matt Heerema

I know many other bi-vocational ministers, those who aren’t able to be paid enough by their congregation to meet the needs of their family, and so need to take a second job to make ends meet. Many of them wish things were otherwise. I’d like to offer three avenues to joy in bi-vocational ministry.

1. EMBRACE ALL YOUR VOCATIONS AS FROM AND FOR GOD.
Vocation simply means “calling” and refers to all the things God calls us to do. Notice the plural “things.” This is crucial. In fact, most of us are at least bi-vocational. You probably have 4-5 callings. Husband, father, pastor, businessman, these are my main four.

Be comforted by one implication of God’s sovereignty: the roles you find yourself right now are your calling. Embrace that “second job” with the same reverent awe that you would the ministry work, because God has called you to it. Think Colossians 3:23.

2. REJECT THE OPPRESSION OF DUALISM

The reason we find it difficult to think of our “secular” tasks (writing code, checking groceries, digging ditches, changing diapers, cleaning the house) as important as ministry work is not because of the teaching of the scriptures, but rather because of Aristotelean dualism. Aristotle taught that some activities in life (namely: mental / intellectual pursuits) were “more human” than others (physical labor). Aristocracy and slavery were the result.

This idea was pulled into the church by Eusebius, and the clergy/laity split was born. Today this dualism oppresses the consciences of many who desire to live a sold-out life for Jesus.

This split should be rejected. Every task can be a holy, kingdom building, God pleasing task. Ministry work does not occupy a categorically more important role in the Kingdom of God.

Yes, Gospel ministry is critical, and every Christian has Gospel ministry as part of their vocation. But only a vast minority are called to make their living from full-time engagement in it.

3. LEARN MAKE THE BEST USE OF YOUR TIME

A bi-vocational work life can be exceedingly stressful. The oppression of dualism, combined with physical strain on our time and energy, are huge sources of strain for a bi-vocational minister as we try to get all the good things done.  Thus, the Scriptures exhort us to make the best use of our time.

Most good business and productivity thinkers out there will clue you in to the 80-20 rule: 80% of our effect is produced by 20% of our effort.  Everyone must be aware of this, but for the bi-vocational minister, it is absolutely crucial.

You have heard that the enemy of the best is not the bad, but the good. We must carefully examine our life and our work and determine where our greatest effect comes from, and, in faith, learn to say “no” to the good things that get in the way of the best. You have been given a limited amount of time, and two domains to steward.  Because of this, you must learn to have a plan and a process for all of your tasks. Tim has some excellent posts along this line on this site.

Work relentlessly, restfully.

As I have pursued the above three disciplines, I have found an immense amount of vision and joy in running a business, designing, and writing code for many different kinds of businesses and organizations. It is possible to have peace and joy in the midst of the hustle of life as we understand and work in all of God’s callings on our life.

4 Simple Exercises To Become More Grateful

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4 Simple Exercises To Become More Grateful

By Brent Flory

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Would you be interested in improving your health, becoming more optimistic, and having greater influence with people in your life? What if I told you could make strides in each of these areas by investing just 30 minutes a day?

Sounds too good to be true, right? Thankfully, it isn’t. You can enjoy growth in each of these areas, just by growing in gratitude.

(This post is the third in a series on gratitude. Last week I discussed how being grateful makes you more marketable.)

We have looked previously at the health benefits, and the psychological and social benefits of practicing gratitude shown by the research of University of California, Davis psychology professorRobert A. Emmons. However, knowing the benefits of being more grateful only gets you so far. We are going to cover practical steps to help you grow in gratitude.

Build gratitude in your life 30 minutes a day by:

1) Scheduling gratitude. (2 minutes)

If I don’t put something on my calendar, it probably isn’t going to happen. Break up your morning and afternoon routines by putting reminders on your calendar to stop for 1 minute and think of 3 things you are grateful for.

2) Speaking gratitude. (3 minutes)

Two words: thank you. Throw in a sincere smile in that person’s direction and they will be happy to help you in the future. The couple of seconds it takes per interaction will add up as you become more conscious of the people around you who make your career and life possible.

Make it a point to tell two people each day something specific you are grateful for that they do.

3) Sensing gratitude. (4 minutes)

Use your senses to sow a mindset of gratitude. Pause for a moment and take in what you see, hear, smell, touch, and taste. Do you love the smell of coffee in the morning like I do? Express appreciation to the barista (or significant other) who prepared it for you.

Love hearing the sound of your child’s laughter? Let them know. When you see a good friend, let them know freely how much you care about them. The more we allow our senses to make us aware of life going on around us, the more opportunities we have to cultivate gratitude.

4) Journaling about gratitude. (20 minutes)

By far the biggest commitment, but with the biggest payoff as well. Taking the time in the evening to journal in the evening has multiple benefits. Purposefully journaling about people and events that you are grateful for in your daily life will help reinforce your newfound habit. And if you forgot to do any or all of the previous suggestions, it can serve as a reminder to start anew tomorrow.

How to Take a Day Off

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How to Take a Day Off

By David Raptitude

I don’t think my father took days off. He must have, but I don’t think I ever witnessed it. I cannot picture him getting up and doing anything besides some kind of work.

When I would drag myself to the couch at 8am on a Saturday to watch cartoons, he was apparently in the middle of his day, already having built or fixed something.

He would permit himself to read books or watch TV later in the day. But I think the idea of taking a proper day off — where he didn’t build, organize, or otherwise try to advance his lot in life at all — was kind of foreign to him.

I don’t have half the work ethic he did, but recently I noticed I do the same thing: I see my weekends, my days “off,” as additional space for getting a bit more done, even if it’s only the kinds of work I enjoy.

A few weeks ago I found myself taking a true Day Off, in which I deliberately spent the day doing things that have absolutely nothing to do with improving, or even maintaining, my position in life. I had decided spontaneously the evening before: no work, no goals, no attempt to gain anything.

I ended up spending a lot of time outside, and visiting with four separate groups of loved ones, never rushing between them and never thinking much, at any point, about the rest of the day. I spent the morning with my girlfriend, lunch with a friend, the afternoon out walking with my mother, dinner with my sister’s family, and the evening with a book.

I went to bed feeling intensely grateful that my lot in life was such that I could have a day like that, and I slept very well.

If that wasn’t a perfect day then there are none. The biggest difference between that day and a normal weekend day, I realize now, was that I paid little attention to the advance of time. I suspended all aspirations to shaping the future. The only goal was to enjoy the setting and characters of every moment I found myself in, which is refreshingly easy when you’re not trying to get anywhere else.

The next day I went back to work, but I didn’t feel my usual resistance to it, and I got a lot done. The unhurried quality of my Proper Day Off seemed to carry into the following workday. It gave me a distinct feeling of being fine where I was, of not needing to be past what I was currently working on.

The Lost Art of the Day Off

It now seems absurd to let a week go by without a Proper Day Off, and I have quickly become an ambassador for the mostly-lost idea of protecting an entire day from one’s own toil. A lot of us never actually do, whether or not we realize it. We habitually give ourselves jobs on the weekend, and if we accidentally get nothing done, we feel guilty.

Stepping deliberately out of “getting ahead” mode reminds you that you already are “ahead” in all sorts of ways. What’s the point of getting ahead if we never have the experience of being ahead?

Before going on we should clarify what a Proper Day Off actually is. A day off whatexactly?

It’s a day off of all the things we do for money, acclaim, position, or out of social obligation; off of treating time like a commodity to be invested or traded for future benefits.

A Proper Day Off isn’t an invitation for laziness, or the shirking of responsibilities. In fact, a Proper Day Off is a day for exploring a certain other class of responsibilities: being a relaxed and present friend, parent, son or daughter, or stranger.

It’s also a time for being a grateful member of civilization. A Proper Day Off is particularly suited to experiencing the highlights of human development: enjoying art, music and public spaces, particularly if we spend the other six days mostly butting heads with the worst parts: inhuman corporations, corrupt governments, vapid celebrity culture, and a news media that delivers only bad news.

6 Principles of a Proper Day Off

A few general rules, to keep your Day Off uncompromised:

1) No work, no “getting ahead”

If getting ahead has any use, it’s so that you can be ahead. A Proper Day Off is reserved for this experience of being ahead — appreciating the fruits of your labor (and that of others) — rather than for laboring even more.

Essentially this means, “Today, do things for now, not for later.” That means no errands, no utilitarian purchases, and definitely no major purchases. In fact, what are you doing in Home Depot at all? Go to the park. And although recreational shopping is a favorite pastime for many people, it is completely inappropriate on a Proper Day Off. Consumer shopping has too many emotional ties to the working world. Refraining from “getting ahead” doesn’t mean a Day Off is best spent getting needlessly behind, by liquidating your hours of labor (and therefore your precious time on this earth) for a low-brow shopper’s high.

Visiting an antique shop, or a farmers market, or a garage sale, is quite suitable for a Day Off — visiting a department store, or (God forbid) a Wal-Mart, is not. 

2) Don’t spend the day at home

Although a case can be made for spending the odd day in your pyjamas watching old movies, it makes for a poor Proper Day Off — it’s too predictable and familiar, and most of us are going to feel regret creep into a day like that by late afternoon.

Generally most of a Proper Day Off will happen outside your home. It would be a shame not to spend a least a bit of it in a park, any time of year, even if you’re just passing through it to meet someone.

Try not to spend much of it in your car either. Make use of your feet, or your bike if possible. Cars fill us with the sensation of needing to be somewhere else.

3) Involve loved ones

Either take a companion with you on your Proper Day Off, or plan a visit or two. Maybe you had no takers for your museum visit in the morning, but you could certainly find someone to meet you for lunch or coffee at some point.

A well-tempered companion is best, though, even just for part of the day — a partner, a friend, or an offspring. Other people keep us from creeping away to “later” in our minds, and help us appreciate what we might not have noticed alone.

After all, quality time with loved ones is just about the best way a person can spend their time in this life. It’s what we miss when we’re away, what we would dream about in prison, and what we will still find important once we near our deathbeds.

4) Plan loosely, but don’t make an itinerary

It’s only practical to have a mental list of places you might go. Freedom requires decisiveness. Know beforehand what area of town to head to, where to stop first, whether to go to the flea market or the waterfront.

It is also helpful to figure out which friends and loved ones you’ll be meeting. Planning lunch ahead is perfectly reasonable, or you could just meet up and wander until you find a good spot. Maybe you want to pack a picnic.

One other general rule: Do more than one thing. An entire day spent at the convention center will hardly give you the freewheeling spirit of a Proper Day Off. Get an earlyish start, so that the day has room for variety, but don’t look at the clock much.

Gravitate towards free or inexpensive activities. Money, for most of us, is closely related to time and work, two spheres of concern we want to leave alone for the day.

5) Minimize electronic device usage

…or at least only use them only for getting around (i.e. maps) or co-ordinating meetings with your friends. We get more than enough screen time the rest of the week.

Being constantly connected to news and email gives us an unhealthy hyper-awareness of time, which is exactly what we’re taking a break from on a Proper Day Off. We often use the clock evaluate “how we’re doing” on a given day. On a Proper Day Off, only check the clock when necessary for utilitarian purposes. And remember: whatever time it is, it’s okay.

Don’t be too much of a luddite though. You don’t need to make it into anti-technology day. But if passive electronic entertainment (i.e. Movies or TV) is going to be a part of it, make it the last thing you do, and if you can, do it with someone else.

6) Enjoy the fruits of civilization

We become so cynical about the ills of civilization that we take its virtues for granted. For all our complaints, the truth is we live surrounded by wonderful amenities and cultural institutions, many of which exist solely for human enjoyment and well-being. A Proper Day Off is a perfect time to make use of your community’s parks, museums, galleries, markets, public spaces, performance venues and heritage buildings.

Consult a local events calendar to see what’s happening. If you live in a city of any size, you might be surprised at how much is going on every day — free music, art exhibitions, book and poetry readings, gatherings, meetups, contests and tastings.

We work so that we can improve the settings in which we live our lives, both the public and private kind. So let’s not forget to enjoy these settings while we have them, and put the working part aside entirely while we do.

Pregnancy is Not a Joke…Even on April Fool’s Day

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1 in 4 women will experience pregnancy or infant loss in her lifetime. Each life, whether carried for days in the womb or years in our arms, is precious, loved, and missed. So on April 1st, please remember that pregnancy is not a joke. Not even on April Fool’s Day.

By Hope Mommies

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