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The discipline of "NO"

Updated: Jul 18, 2022

No one is going to say "no" for you and in fact, people will usually always desire your "yes" and be offended if you say no. As I look back on this last week of life, ministry, hospice chaplaincy, and CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education) work, the word that comes to my mind is “abide”. Through many different happenings, I have been reminded of the importance of rest in my life and saying no to something in order to get that downtime.

The first reminder this week came out of my own schedule - a midst my normal work and life activities, I also had four funerals to officiate. My rest from that busyness began on this past Sunday as I went out kayaking, fishing, and spent time cooking barbecue in the afternoon. I had to say no to many other pressing things in order to do this. The second reminder came in talking to a friend in chaplaincy. He had visited a person who was mad at "the church" because of an instance in their past when their father was in the hospital and the priest in their church could not come because he was headed out for a retreat. Again, this made me think on the importance of saying no, even saying to good and worthy things so that I am not in turn saying no to my own rest and rejuvenation. Also in my CPE studies this week, we have been focused on paying attention to the staff we work with; looking for their burnout and weariness and developing ways as a chaplain to help our coworkers recover from stress, tension, and difficulty. Finally, I knew God was getting my attention about rest and abiding as I sat down to watch a movie that simply looked good from the title. The movie is called “From The Vine" and minus a few f-bombs, it’s a delightful movie that I would recommend. I found it a fun movie with good humor and a good message about an older gentleman who was worn out in life and career and found himself headed back to Italy to re-establish his grandfather’s vineyard. As he cared for the vine, and pruned and worked the branches, fruit started coming back to the branches as well as to his life. I’ll type that again…

As he cared for the vine, fruit began coming back to the branches AND to his life.

I did not know exactly what the movie was about when I started watching it but when it was over, I found myself thanking God for yet another reminder this week on the importance of saying no, of rest, and the reminder of John 15.

Rest and especially sleep are God's gifts to us for physical rejuvenation as well as spiritual refreshment. Carving out time for rest is something that I have worked through in my life for quite some time, and I used to call it the art of saying no, but in the last couple of years I have come to calling it the discipline of saying no. No is not an easy word to use when you are a people-helper, and it is especially difficult when you're saying no to someone who is important to you, or even to a worthy cause. It takes discipline to say no and protect your emotional and physical health, as well as to protect your time with family and friends. When I say yes to work and busyness that goes past my normal hours each week, I am also saying no to my wife, no to my children, no to my friends, and maybe most damaging to me, I am saying no to God as well as to my personal time with him.

I believe the utmost important thing I can do for myself, and for every aspect of my life, is to make abiding in the Lord the number one priority.

He is the only one, and time with him is the only activity, that can bring restoration and rejuvenation to my body and soul that is required for fruit to come forth. And this would be the kind of fruit that's huge, bountiful, and full of life giving refreshment for others they come to me for that in life. I liken this to the picture of a sponge… Every now and then a sponge must go back to the waterfall to get refilled and refreshed for the work it needs to do. The sponge gets squeezed by everyone that uses it and without spending time under a waterfall of refreshment, that sponge will eventually have nothing to give. In fact, that sponge can dry up and when it is then squeezed, it will crumble and fall apart.

The only way to be the best you that you can be is to learn the discipline of saying no to things that interfere with your time to abide and rest in the Lord. In John 15 we find these words: "If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers.". I have a friend who calls his recreation time, "re-creation"… how much "re-creation" time are you making for yourself in your weekly schedule?

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