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You have probably never heard the name Erich Brenn. But in February, 1969 he appeared on the Ed Sullivan variety show. He was so popular that he would appear seven more times on the show. His claim to fame was “plate spinning”. 

Brenn’s routine consisted of spinning five glass bowls on four foot long sticks. At the same time he would spin eight plates while he was spinning the bowls. The idea was to keep everything spinning without letting anything crash to the ground. Just as a bowl began to wobble and look as if it would drop, Brenn would frantically run over and get it spinning again.

That sounds like the average week in the life of a pastor, doesn’t it?

Plate spinning has become a metaphor for how many of us live our lives. We frantically move through our week trying to keep all of the plates in our ministry life and personal life from dropping. It can be daunting and exhausting.

So, in the past, when I would hear someone talk about living a life of “balance”, this is the picture that came to my mind. I pictured living life in such a way that all the plates were spinning smoothly and nothing was crashing to the floor. 

A life of balance has always seemed like a “pipe dream”, something that just wasn’t realistic or attainable. To be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever had a moment of balance in my entire life. I can’t think of a single moment when every area of my life and ministry were “spinning” smoothly.

Life is messy and ministry is chaotic. On top of that reality, we live in a world poisoned by sin and we have an adversary who roams around like a roaring lion. 

So, as you can probably tell, I hate the word “balance”. But I love the word “rhythm”.   Rhythm allows for busy seasons and unanticipated crisis. Rhythm has room to acknowledge that life isn’t orderly and doesn’t always go according to my plans. 

There is a God ordained rhythm that will allow us to live and lead from a healthy soul.

That rhythm is…

         Work>>>>Rest

         Produce>>>>Restore

         Go Hard>>>> Stop

         Exert energy>>>>Replenish energy

Noah benShea writes, “It’s the space between the notes that makes the music.” The same is true of life. We must have space (rhythm) between the notes to make life work as God designed it.

3 Truths to Embracing a Life of Rhythm

Understand that God hard-wired rhythm into the universe

We live in a universe defined by rhythm. As you read this sentence you are breathing in rhythm.    The average person inhales and exhales 15-16 times per minute. Your heart beats with a very predictable rhythm. When you get an EKG done, it is to measure the electrical rhythm of your heart.

The tide comes in and goes out with a sense of rhythm. Must of the beauty of music is tied to rhythm. Farmers have a rhythm of planting and growing and harvesting.

In Leviticus 25 God gave the command that even the land was to be given a Sabbath every 7 years. Even the physical dirt needed a break. Nothing was made to constantly produce. Everything God ever created needs rest and restoration. And you, my friend, are no exception.

If you violate this principle of rhythm long enough, you will pay a price. When you ignore a healthy rhythm of life, you end up doing violence to your body, your soul, your relationships, your emotions, and to your relationship with God. 

A life of rhythm is a deliberate choice

As you well know, there is always more that can be done and needs to be done. The needs of ministry will always outpace your capacity. But you can choose a rhythm that declares even though there is still more to do, you can stop to rest and restore. 

It makes me think of Mark 6:31 (NLT)  Then Jesus said, “Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.” He said this because there were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his apostles didn’t even have time to eat.

Jesus deliberately chose a rhythm that included rest… even in the midst of ministry needs.   And Jesus had the advantage that “slow” was built in the fabric of ancient life. 

Think about how much slower life was in those days. When the Bible says in Mark 10:46 that they came to Jericho, this was an all day trip spent walking along the dusty road. The lack of technology and transportation forced life to be slower. The lack of cars, planes, e-mail, and smart phones made it easier to take your time. You and I live in a very different world; we therefore must be even more intentional about a life of rhythm that allows for space and rest.

More and more we live in a ministry world that is open for business 24 hours a day. This is why deliberately choosing a healthy rhythm is crucial.

Acknowledge you have limits and they are a gift from God

Too often in my life and ministry, I have tried to live as though I had no limits. Can I remind you and me today that you are NOT SuperPastor. God made you a human before he made you a pastor and you have the same limitations as the people you shepherd.  You have limited time, energy, capacity, and emotional reserve. God gave those limits as a gift to remind us that we a rhythm that allows us to stop and rest and replenish and restore.

Because we have limits, that’s means it’s ok to not always be accessible. When you have a tendency toward people pleasing like I do, this can be a huge challenge. But don’t let the expectations of others rob you of a healthy rhythm. 

So, stop chasing the illusion of balance and TODAY deliberately choose the God-ordained life of rhythm.

Lance is the founder of Replenish ministries and is often referred to as a Pastor’s Pastor.  He is also the author of the book Replenish, which is dedicated to helping leaders live and lead from a healthy soul.  Before launching Replenish, Lance served 20 years as a senior pastor and 6 years as an Executive/Teaching pastor at Saddleback Church. 

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Mitchell Leonard

commented on Apr 11, 2016

Boy I needed to read this. Thank you.

Phil Merioles

commented on Apr 11, 2016

I've been a bi-vocational pastor on the coast of Alaska for 15 years. I needed to hear this. Blessings-Phil

Mark Noonan

commented on Apr 12, 2016

Encouraging words! I too like to please people and I find it difficult to make myself not available. But I do know that if I cannot find times of rest, I become rather useless. What makes it hard, is when you know you don't have much choice but to go through those seasons of Busyness and you need to find some snippets of rest.

David Nwogu

commented on Apr 15, 2016

A thoughtful insight indeed! Many thanks Lance. One of the earliest pieces of advice by my school of thought was: "learn to say no". I never understood this till late. Thanks again!!

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