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The Beauty of Sleep

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I'm on holidays and I'm loving every minute! My time off started just over 3 weeks ago. The difference in this break is that it began with me finishing employment at the same place for over 32 years. Needless to say, I have been gradually starting to relax and unwind, although it has taken discipline to not focus on what I have 'done' at the end of any particular day. My productivity bias is very strong!

One thing I have noticed is how long and how deeply I have been sleeping. I guess you don't really know how tired you are until you slow down or stop for a while. I said to Nicole one morning this week that it felt like I had slept at a much deeper level than I had ever experienced in my life before. Like peeling an onion, another layer of tiredness seems to be lifting off me.

When I was younger, I envied people who could survive on only a few hours of sleep a night (or who could work right through the night without a hitch!). I tried to do the same, with initial excitement about all those extra hours I'd be able to free up for work and accomplishing the many projects I was interested in. Well, it didn't last very long. I soon learned that sleep is like a bank account and you can't keep making withdrawals without it eventually bouncing through lack of deposits!

I discovered that like most people I need about 8 hours of sleep a night to function best during the day. Yes, I can survive an occasional late night or early morning here or there, but regularly deviating from this daily rhythm doesn't work for me in the long run. I need a good night's sleep - every day. And that's okay.

How have been sleeping lately?

A good night's sleep is a beautiful thing, renewing our entire being - physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. It's amazing how even challenges or problems look at little different in the morning after a quality sleep. It's a bit like a mental reset, a fuel tank refill, a windscreen wiper clean, or a computer reboot.

Here are a few tips I've found helpful for having a good sleep:

1. Make sure your bedroom is as dark as it can be, with no light creeping in.
2. A room that is quiet is also important.
3. Getting to bed a few hours before midnight seems to help a lot.
4. Don't eat late at night or too soon before going to sleep. Your stomach will be digesting all night ... and oh that breath in the morning!
5. Don't drink too much late at night. I try not to drink anything after 8.00 pm. It reduces trips to the toilet during the night.
6. Avoid engaging in highly mentally stimulating activities just before bed. Do something more relaxing.
7. If you are having trouble sleeping, chat to your doctor.

Good night :)


Another Work Week ...

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As we come to the end of the weekend (a long one for those living in Victoria and Tasmania, Australia), another work week awaits for most people. It is interesting that in the ancient Hebrew mindset, the day begins in the evening - with rest (see Genesis 1 where it repeatedly says "... and the evening and the morning were the first day"). We are to fill our tank (with physical, emotional, mental and spiritual energy) and then work from this position of fullness. This is in stark contrast to the common Western worldview that sees the evening or the night as recovery time after a day's work. It's only a slight paradigm shift but what a world of difference this kind of thinking can make.

Breathe in ... then breathe out.

Fill up then pour out.

Rest ... then work.

Even Jesus often ended the day or began the day in solitude, before the crowds of people, with all of their needs, concerns and questions, started to gather around him. 

After Jesus had dismissed the crowd, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone. Matthew 14:23. 

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Mark 1:35. 

This was a regular occurrence in Jesus' life and obviously was a key habit undergirding his life and ministry work. Of course, if he needed this kind of refueling and recalibration, how much more do we in today's demanding, pressured and fast-paced work environment. 

Here are some suggestions for making the most of each of your days this coming work week:

1. Stop whatever you are doing, find a comfortable place, be still and simply notice what is taking place around you. 

2. Set aside 10 minutes to focus on your breath. Breathe IN ... slowly ... then breathe ... OUT slowly. As you breathe out, let go of worry, anxiety, fear, anger and envy. As you breathe in, thank God for his joy, his peace, his love, and his comfort.

3. Take a few moments to slowly read the poem Morning Moments.

I hope you have an enjoyable and meaningful week.


Reflections on Midlife

In my recent farewell address, I noted how differently you see life at age 55 compared to your early 20s and 30s. When you are young, you think you will live forever! But life and time do move quickly. The stages of life seem to progress with increasing speed: childhood, adolescence, early adulthood, midlife, mature adulthood and late adulthood and before you know it, the end of life is in sight. Yes, it's a sobering thought.

As we move into another weekend, why not take some time aside, find a quiet place, and reflect on your own life. Where have you come from? Where are you now? Where are you going? What time is it for you? What is your current stage of life and how should that inform the way you live and what is important to you (see links to various BLOG posts above)? 

Recently, I was doing just that - reflecting on my own stage of life: midlife. It is an interesting time for me. I haven't been this way before. This is new territory. I am at a different stage of life. At 55 years of age, I'm not yet 'old' but I'm definitely not 'young' anymore. I feel different and I see things differently.

I am at a different stage of my spiritual journey. My faith in God is deeper. But I have given up the need for everything to be black and white. I've accepted that there is a lot of grey in this world. I'm comfortable with mystery and paradox - in who God is and in the universe he created.

I am a different leader than I used to be. I don't 'need' a bigger church to feel good about myself. I don't 'need' another significant conference speaking invitation to feel important. Anything 'additional' is a simply a gift from God, not a goal to be strived towards nor the result of me praying hard enough.

With that context, I share with you a poem I wrote on the 18th December 2016 called 'Midlife': I hope it is an encouragement to you, as well as a challenge to live your life to the full.

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Ageing body
Agile mind
Still feel young
But feeling the grind

Caught between two generations
Elderly parents
Growing kids
Not old but no longer young

Crazy busy first half
Don't want a repeat
What has meaning now?
How do I want to live?

Glitz and glitter
No longer attracts
Climbing the ladder?
Not on that wall

Very aware of my frailty
The shortness of life
The length of eternity
What really matters now?

Family and friends
Being over doing
Character over achievement
Who am I becoming?

Life is a gift
The clock is ticking
But no need to rush
Enjoy this moment fully

Time to reflect
Need to take stock
Halftime
Midlife

Crisis or opportunity?
You decide
Follow the crowd
Or the road less traveled?

Selah