Can I get a busy badge?

You’ve had the same conversation a thousand times. You meet up with someone who asks how you’ve been and you answer by telling them … ‘busy’. Their question isn’t about your level of activity, it’s about your personal wellness, yet you still feel the need to assure them that you’ve been a productive member of society. I know this because I get caught up in it too.

Many people have written about this before but it still seems to be such a problem for so many.

Busy speaks about a level of activity, often a flurry of exhausting exertion, without considering whether all that hustle and bustle is effective in any way. There may well be a more productive way of achieving what we need but when the goal is being busy, and telling everyone how busy we are, that doesn’t really matter.

Can I get a busy badge?

Why do we feel so compelled to assure everyone that we’ve been busy? Is that really the measure of our worth to others … or even our own attempt to justify our worth to ourselves?

I guess the starting point is convincing ourselves that ‘busy’ isn’t life’s ultimate aim. There’s nothing wrong with being busy when we need to be but it’s not the goal we should be seeking above all else,

Wasn’t technology going to save us all?

On top of the constantly growing expectations of others soaking up our time, we now add more busyness into the mix with our use of technology.

Advancements in technology promised us an easier, more productive life, yet all that seems to have happened is that we’ve lost the ability to switch off.

Our technology usage has blurred the lines between work and play like never before. We’re checking personal emails and social media updates while we’re at work and checking work emails and catching up on work projects while we’re at home or out with family and friends. That means that our employer never has our full attention and sadly, neither do those closest to us.

We’ve sacrificed that which should be most precious to us on the altar of frantic activity.

Hanging Out for Holidays

We’re a couple of days into December and well into what many call the ‘silly season’. The lead up to Christmas and New Year festivities pound us with activities and deadlines. Everything needs to be ‘finished before Christmas’.

Many of us take annual leave at this time and so we feel the need to complete every project on our desk before taking that leave. That usually means that we crawl across the finish line of the year, battered and bruised from the frantic pace we’ve held for the year, having just enough time to bandage our wounds and ‘almost’ recover before the whole thing begins again for the next year.

We’ve got to stop going at full speed towards the end of the year, imagining that we just need to get to the start of our leave so we can collapse in a heap.

We don’t just need that extended time to stop and refresh at the end of a busy year, we need time weekly and daily.

Jesus is coming. Look busy.

Sadly, those of us in the church have bought the lie that we have to be forever run off our feet too. In fact, a lot of the time we buy into the whole busyness thing even more because we have this strange image in our heads of God watching us and shaking his finger at us whenever we sit down to breathe.

This constant striving to work harder and harder within our daily lives and the church says more about our idea of who God is than anything else. If we imagine that we’d better look busy because we don’t want Jesus to catch us taking time out, we’ve missed the point entirely.

The truth is, God is the one who came up with the idea of rest. If we think God wants us to be constantly striving without rest, we’ve given in to a ‘religion’ that requires our efforts to appease God. That was never his plan.

It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.
Psalm 127:2 (ESV)

Been Busy?

The next time someone asks you how you’ve been, how will you answer? Will you keep on assuring them that you’ve been busy or will you give them a deeper answer that speaks about something other than frantic activity?

You know that the world will keep crowding out times of rest and recreation so how about being more intentional in planning time daily, weekly, monthly and annually for time aside from the craziness? Then once it’s scheduled, guard it jealously. Don’t let it be the first thing that gets bumped from the schedule when something ‘more important’ comes up.

If you’re too busy to schedule in those times it’s a very clear indicator that you need to say no to those things that scream for your time but aren’t necessarily beneficial. Learn to say no so that you can say yes to the right things in your life.

And don’t forget that we are spiritual beings. Spend time connecting with God. You might just discover he doesn’t want you to burn out trying to achieve your busy badge.

Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or illfitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.
Matthew 11:28-30 (The Message)

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Feeling Dispensable

I’m completely dispensable.

If I left my job tomorrow there’d be a time of adjustment but everything would carry on. I’m not an essential cog in the wheel.

This is the final week of four weeks annual leave for me and I’m feeling less and less like a required piece of the picture. The truth is that Compassion survived and grew for over 60 years without me before I began working there and they’ll keep operating long after I’m gone.

I’m starting to feel like I’m not needed at work.

… and that’s a good thing.

I have every intention of continuing to work for Compassion for many years to come. I believe passionately in what we do and want to be part of that for as long as possible but there’s something about a few weeks away from work that brings a certain kind of clarity.

When we’re busy keeping up with the demands of a job, and I think this is especially true of jobs in Christian ministry, we can start to take on a weight we were never meant to bear. We start to believe that we’re irreplaceable and if we’re not working all the time everything will collapse. We grab a week’s leave here or two weeks there, never daring to take more than that because there’d be nothing left by the time we returned.

It’s not necessarily an ego thing or an inflated sense of self-importance, it’s more about becoming so busy juggling all the balls our job requires that we become convinced that the moment we step away, even for a time, all those balls will come crashing down. That sense of needing to be available all the time builds slowly and most often sub-consciously. It’s rarely an expectation from our employers, rather it’s a false expectation that comes from within.

I’ve spoken to a number of people, especially pastors and ministry leaders, who have weeks and weeks, sometimes months, of unused leave that they don’t believe they can take.

I sometimes wonder which is the greatest fear for some of these people; that things would crumble without them around or that things would continue largely unchanged.

Taking several weeks of leave at a time allows us to step outside our own expectations and demands. I’ve found at this and other jobs that after a good chunk of leave I return to work feeling less like I’m essential and more like I have an important role to fulfil. I find that the weight of my own unrealistic expectations is less, which helps me focus more on what I’m really meant to be doing. It helps me become more productive and more effective at the tasks at hand.

I’m excited about my work in 2017. I know that it’s going to be busy and productive, with all the ups and downs, thrills and disappointments that come with such a job. I’m looking forward to getting a new year underway. I’ll return to work in a few days knowing that while I’m not essential for the long-term effectiveness of the ministry, I have the privilege of playing a part, an important part, in what we need to achieve over the next twelve months.

When was the last time you stepped away from work for an extended period?

Do you find that you only take a couple of weeks at a time and return to work just as frazzled as when you left? Are your own expectations becoming a burden that you’re not sure you can continue to carry?

If you’re one of those people who ‘do holidays well’ maybe you can leave a few comments about how you make your annual leave work for you.

I’m really glad that I’m not needed at work, but I’m absolutely thrilled that I get to work doing something I love.

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Are you a ‘normal’ sleeper?


I’ve often wished that I could put my head on my pillow at the end of a long day and then wake up many hours later feeling rested and ready to take on the world again. Unfortunately that never seems to be the case.

I’m aware that I wake up a few times during the night and I have to admit to being a little concerned that I’m missing much needed sleep.

The Good News

Today I discovered just how normal that sleep pattern is for most people. Thanks to an article titled ‘Normal sleep’ a mystery to some, I’ve found that waking through the night is pretty much what’s meant to happen. I’m normal. Well at least my sleep is somewhat normal.

Lead researcher Professor Dorothy Bruck says the study shows the disconnect between the science of sleep and community expectations.

This lack of understanding about normal sleep patterns can also create a Catch 22 situation, she says, where people become anxious because they wake up and then can’t get back to sleep.

“In fact, normal sleep is a roller coaster cycle of deep sleep, light sleep and brief awakenings repeated several times in the night,” says Bruck.

She says better education and understanding of this cycle could literally help Australians rest easier.

How well do you sleep? Are you aware of waking and falling back to sleep throughout the night?

Is there anything you do to get a better night’s sleep?

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