The angel tells Elijah to go take a nap

Sometimes, the best thing you can do is to tell yourself, “Go take a nap!”

This is a continuing series. Today’s post is “Go take a nap.” In this series, we are examining leadership burnout and the steps you need to implement as a leader to avoid (and recover from) burnout.

Contain within the Hebrew Scriptures is one of my favorite stories of all time. Written like a great movie blockbuster, this story has it all.

Murder.

Betrayal.

The beginning of a revolution.

Drama.

Rebellion.

Intrigue.

The Backstory

Elijah, a prophet to the nation of Israel is confronting the King. The wicked ruler Ahab has ravaged the lady with wife, the cruel and anti-God Jezebel. Elijah, the one urging the people to remain faithful to God, can only do so by confronting the King. The angel tells Elijah to go take a nap

In 1 Kings 18, he does just that. After years of prophecy, it is time for action. Elijah emerges from a foreign town called Zarephath (which means ‘melting pot’, probably a sign that it had economic ties to military arms production).1 Elijah, a prophet of Israel, emerges from his hiding place, located inside of Israel’s enemy, from a town producing tools to destroy Israel, to tell the king it’s time to face the music. The nerve of Elijah. 

Yet as we shall see, this will also set the stage for his coming burnout.

Elijah confronts the king, his evil wife Jezebel, and her wayward prophets of Baal in a showdown to determine the true ruler of Israel. A comedic set of circumstances follow.

Elijah seemingly gives the prophets of Baal every advantage. They get to build their altar first, perhaps ending the confrontation early if Baal shows up. They get to pick the best bull for the sacrifice, and they can have as long as they want to win the showdown.

After hours of worship and devotion to Baal, the prophets begin to tire. Elijah starts taunting them. Here, many translations limit the effectiveness of this passage by saying that perhaps Baal is busy traveling, deep in thought.

A better and more literal translation has Elijah taunting the prophets of Baal that perhaps they caught him while he was going to the bathroom. Baal would surely come to their rescue just as soon as he could finish relieving himself. How embarrassing!

Elijah’s Response

After taunting the prophets, Elijah changes his tone. Now, he gathers the watching Israelites and begins to instruct them in the proper way to live. The drought the nation is experiencing is because of their inability and lack of desire to follow God. The drought will end when they realize this.

He rebuilds their broken altar, has the bull sacrificed, orders water poured on it, and prays to God to accept the sacrifice. Immediately, fire from heaven consumes the offering, the altar, and the water. The people are astonished.

Elijah orders the false prophets killed and murders over 400 people. Because of their faithfulness, the people will be rewarded with rain.

Elijah warns the king to prepare. After three years of no rain, it is about to become a torrential downpour!

The Burnout

At the conclusion of this story, Elijah is exhausted.

The teaching.

The sacrifice.

The murder.

Additionally, the text tells us that Elijah then flees the scene and runs to another town that was twenty miles away.

It is here that Elijah falls victim to burnout. He has started to believe his own hype and self-importance. One author comments

“Elijah, in fact, is a vivid biblical example of Freudenberger’s observation that burnout “is the letdown that comes between crises or directly after ‘mission accomplished.’”… He expended a great deal of physical, emotional, and spiritual energy in his conflict with the prophets of Baal…His success caused the Israelites and their king to come back to the worship of the only true God. Shortly after that incident, he expended more energy by climbing to the top of Mount Carmel, spending an intense period of time in prayer… and, when that prayer was answered…outran King Ahab’s chariot.”2

The story then tells us that Elijah is overwhelmed and wishes he were dead. He complains to God. To him, death is better than continuing down this path.

(On a side note, we see this in burnout all the time. It’s one leading reason why the highest spike in suicide happens on Sunday night as people start preparing to go back to a job they hate).

God’s Response

In words that I have come to use often on myself and others when they are feeling overwhelmed, I love God’s response.

After listening to Elijah he gives his two commands: eat something and take a nap.

Elijah, you just did something important. You accomplished a big goal. Then you ran twenty miles. You’re tired. Exhausted. Spent. Have some meat. Eat some bread. Drink some water. Then go take a nap. We’ll talk after that.

Elijah follows these commands, and wouldn’t you know it, he wakes up refreshed and ready for the next challenge.

We too need to hear these words. After significant challenges, we can fall victim to overwhelm.

Don’t listen to those voices!

In future posts, we’re going to look at specific ways to prevent and fight against burnout. For now, it is enough to know this: if you’re exhausted, eat something and then go take a nap. We can talk after that.


The Wrap Up

If you or someone you know is facing burnout, please get help. Email me to set up your first appointment.

Looking for more ways to fight against burnout? Here are 50 self-care tips.

 Want the entire series as a Kindle book? Go here.


Sources:

1.) Brueggemann, Walter. 1 Kings. Knox Preaching Guides. John H. Hayes. Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1982.

2.) Minirth, Frank B. “Unfulfilled Expectations: The Burnout Burden.” In Beating Burnout: Balanced Living for Busy People, 41-42. New York: Inspirational Press, 1997.

Blog Post Title: Leadership Health and Integrity Part 2

I learned the necessity of emotional intelligence like a child learning to walk. There was lots of hand-holding, many more tremendous crashes (often public),  and more than a few bumps and bruises. 

The Leader’s Guide to Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence is like playing the piano. The greater the range, the greater the player.

As a pianist, my musical accomplishment is limited to chopsticks. On a good day, I might be able to find middle C.

For my wife, after some tinkering, she can learn to play fairly complex songs. She can tune her guitar, sing along as she plays, and is good enough to teach our children.

A world-class pianist can play amazing complex songs. The piano seems to come alive in their hands. Every technique is mastered. Each hammering of the kBlog Post Title: Leadership Health and Integrity Part 2eys is intentional. Everything ringing with a divine sound. 

Emotional Intelligence works the same way. Emotionally immature people have a very limited range of keys to play from. Usually, they are the basic emotions of happiness, sadness, anger, and fear. A situation arises, and their keystrokes are limited. Everything triggers them to respond in simplistic ways. 

I knew a man like this once. Though physically mature, the emotional range was limited. Within a split-second, he could go from happiness to anger. Worse than that (as someone who claimed to be a leader), there was little desire to change.

“I’m just this way. I’ve always been this way, I’ll always be this way. “

This limiting belief and limited emotional capacity will limit his leadership capacity.

Expanding The Emotional Range

Expanding emotional range happens with practice. Like each new key on the keyboard that a pianist can play, emotional range equips the leader for more situations.

Think of a strong emotion like anger. Those with limited emotional capacity experience lots of anger. The lack of self-awareness leads to them repeatedly pounding the same key over and over again.

They get cut off in traffic and are angry.

The restaurant takes too long to cook their food and they are angry.

Their child leaves their shoes in the middle of the floor and they are angry.

They are passed over for a promotion and are angry.

Their favorite team loses in the championship game and they are angry.

Bothered by the amount of trash in the local park, they are angry.

Like a new piano player, they keep hitting the same note. Always angry, always looking for a reason to explode, always at the ready to let everyone know how they feel.

In contrast to this, there are ranges of anger: annoyance, frustration, furious, exasperated, and bitter are a few examples. Each is a different key to more adequately express the current emotion.

Do your child’s shoes in the middle of the floor really make you angry or are you annoyed because you tripped over them?

Does the missed promotion make you exasperated because you worked hard and thought you earned it?

The more keys that are available to us as leaders, the better we can navigate the situations around us.

Continual Growth

The thing about leadership is that it is never a finished journey. New experiences and new insights lead to new emotional experiences.

This means new words.

New emotional keys we get to play.

And our viewpoint determines our destination.

Are these obstacles, or opportunities?

Join us next week as we continue our look at the seven areas of leadership health.

 

Looking to grow your Emotional Intelligence? Take the Test.

Eye-Opening

The jarring blare of the alarm pries your eye-lids open and rips you into the land of the living.

What’s your first instinct?

The snooze button or the bounding first leap of a new baby gazelle?

Is your first thought, “Why me?” or “Why wait any longer?”

The way we set our mind first thing determines the much of the rest of the day.

Richard Whatley once said, “Lose an hour in the morning, and you will spend all day looking for it.”

Our mindset at the outset of the day determines our outcome. Whether we choose to attack the day or begrudgingly back into it determines how much we will get done.

And this has nothing to do with being a morning person or a night owl (but shout out to all my fellow morning people!).

Instead, it has everything to do with what we purpose in our hearts as valuable and worth investing in.

Our morning rituals have the chance to shape our souls, our character, our potential, and our enjoyment in life.

Habits on Purpose

Anyone who has worked with me knows we spend a lot of time talking about “habits on purpose.” Our morning rituals are no exception. Many of us waste large sections of our mornings instead of intentionally crafting them to serve us and help us reach our goals.

Two scenarios, which sounds more like you (be honest!):

“Lose an hour in the morning, and you will spend all day looking for it.” – Richard Whatley

Option 1:

The alarm goes off. After snoozing the alarm a time or two, you begrudgingly get out of bed. Saunter down to the kitchen and make a cup of coffee. After waiting for it to brew, you put on the television, drink the cup of coffee, and pray for “a few moments of quiet.” The (real) problem is not that these moments aren’t quiet. Instead, it’s that they aren’t productive or stimulating. After an hour of television and another cup of coffee (or two), you manage to scrounge up a quick (and mostly unhealthy) breakfast, rush out the door, only to wait in traffic on the way to work. You spend the rest of the morning wondering how you’re going to fit in everything you have to do.

After work, you might rush off to the gym, if you’re feeling up to it, stagger in the door, and eat a quick bite of dinner with your family. Some more television, and on the good days a few pages of light reading before a late-night Netflix series as you pass out into bed.

The weekends, only somewhat different. Instead of filling your days with work, it’s full of a week’s worth of overlooked errands and obligations. By the time Sunday ends, you dread the thought of going back to work, still tired, still behind, and still wondering where all your time went.

Option 2:

The alarm goes off, but you were already stirring. Gently awakening from a good nights sleep, you quietly make your way to the kitchen. After drinking twenty ounces of water to rehydrate your body, you then make a small cup of coffee and tip-toe into the den. Here, you engage in thirty minutes of intentionally designed habits that give you life and direction. Scripture reading and prayer, meditation, yoga, and a good personal development book are frequent habits. After that, you sneak off to the gym for a good thirty-minute sweat session. You return home just as the rest of the family is waking up. You’re fully awake, charged up, and ready to attack the day. You enjoy a good, nutritious breakfast with your family before heading off to work with purpose and conviction.

After work, you are still awake enough to get a few critical errands done, work on your side hustle, and enjoy another meal with your family. After dinner, you enjoy a myriad of activities together: movies, books, chess, or sports. Whatever it is, you’re excited by the purpose and direction you’ve given your life.

The weekends are similar. They are intentionally designed, purpose-driven, and leave you excited for another week to grow, learn, and serve new people.

Morning Rituals

I’m guessing you identify with one of these stories.

I identify with both.

For years, I would have firmly placed myself in option one. My life was chaotic, disorganized, and I was “average” (at best).

After intentionally taking steps to counter this drift, seeking out some great coaches, and getting a grip on my life and my purpose, I now find myself firmly in option two.

The difference along the way for me has been a lot of intentional habits and disciplines, specifically and most importantly, my morning rituals.

Now, they’re far from perfect. Right now, my morning habits are really broken up into to separate blocks. That’s the status of my work life right now. Eventually, it will happen in one chunk as I sense that will work the best for me.

So while I may not have my “ideal” calendar of morning rituals in place, I do have a target. I know what I’m aiming for. Otherwise, I’m like the boy learning archery who shot an arrow and then ran over to pain the bullseye around it. Instead, I want to know what the target is and then put all of my effort and talent into hitting it every time.

Below are the habits of my morning ritual and roughly how much time I spend on each one.

  • 20oz of water within ten minutes of waking up
  • 1 cup of coffee
  • Bible Reading and Prayer (10-15 Minutes)
  • Personal Development Book (15-20 Minutes)
  • Exercise (45 minutes)

Within the first 90 minutes of my day, I have exercised my body, brain, and spiritual muscles. I have found that this gives me focus, intensity, and purpose to my days. I’m still tweaking exactly how to flow from one activity to the next more smoothly but would love to hear from you.

What are your morning rituals?
What are your daily habits and routines?
How are you using your time to intentionally invest in bettering yourself at the start of the day?

Comment below!

The Call

History is full of call stories. Ever since Abraham was called by God to form a nation that sought after God, histories, peoples, and cultures have created a series of call stories to help us understand how we seek after our creator.

Moses had his burning bush.

David had his giant.

Jonah had his whale.

Jesus had the wilderness.

Those are a few ancient examples.

But the tradition continues.

Gandhi fought peacefully for a free India.

Martin Luther King waged war on the unjust Jim Crow laws.

Nelson Mandela overthrew the apartheid government of South Africa.

In each case, deep within these leaders, was a blossoming call story, a realization that they were called to accomplish something in their life.

C.A.L.L.

Often, we can overcomplicate the idea of a call story. We think they need to be grandiose and spectacular.

Maybe they are.

Or they might just feel that way to the person being called.

If you feel like you’re having trouble figuring out why you’re here, think through the C.A.L.L. acronym. Once you’re clear on these four points, you’re well on your way to living your call.

C – Cause

The first part of your C.A.L.L. is always about a cause.

It’s the why of your mission. The aspect of you as a unique creation that is urging you to make a difference in the world.

Michael Hyatt has said, “People lose their way when they lose their why.”

Your unique call story is no different. Find the cause of justice in the world that is burning so deep inside of you that it cannot be stopped.

One ancient prophet once said that his message was, “a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.”

“People lose their way when they lose their why.”

To find your C.A.L.L. you must first find that message of fire shut up in your bones.

A – Attitude

The second part of your C.A.L.L. is your attitude.

Far too many of us derail here. We may know our why but we then allow our circumstances to dictate how we feel about it.

Our goal was to make a difference in three years but it’s taken five (or more).

We thought we would have experienced freedom or transformation long before this moment in our life.

You will never get where you want to go if you always allow outside circumstances to dictate internal characteristics.

When your attitude is fixed on your destination, not on the circumstance, you’ll transform your life and increase your sphere of influence.

Instead of success, you’ll end up like the negative farmer. When it rains, the negative farmer complains that too much rain will wash away the soil and deplete the crops of necessary nutrients. When it stops raining, the negative farmer complains that too much sun will dry out the crop and kill off the harvest.

Don’t look at what is going wrong, but find ways to look at what is going right and create momentum in that direction.

When your attitude is fixed on your destination, not on the circumstance, you’ll transform your life and increase your sphere of influence.

L- Location

The third part of your C.A.L.L. is about a location. It is always at a particular time and place, for particular people.

Think the “longitude and latitude” metric. For Moses, it was Egypt. For Mandela, South Africa.

What is it for you?

Once you know the cause and have committed your attitude, identify the place where your message will reside.

For the homeless in your city?

Abandoned orphans from a country you visited on vacation?

Neglected retirees who have been forgotten by their family?

Whatever it is, the more specific you can be, the more action you can take.

Get clear on your cause.

Fix your attitude.

Reside in a location.

L – Legacy

Ultimately, a life well-lived and a call fully embraced outlives the person.

There’s a reason we resonate with the aforementioned heroes. We are inspired not only by their commitment to change the world, but their belief that we could do it too. Martin Luther King once said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” His firm conviction was that each of us has a part to play in bettering the world.

He’s right.

Throughout history, men and women have listened to that voice inside of them urging them to be and do more for humanity. 

You also have that call.

And the capability.

Discover your cause.

Fix your attitude.

Reside in a location.

Leave a legacy.

Answer your C.A.L.L.

 

This part three on a series on calling.

Read Part 1

Read Part 2

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Answering the Call

In 2004, I was a college freshman.

Miserable.

Alone.

Depressed.

I had gone into college thinking I was going to be a science major. However, I remember one night staring into the microscope around 2 am trying to determine leaf structure, that I realized I didn’t want to do it anymore.

For someone already struggling with their place in the world, this was the last straw. I remember sinking into a deep depression. I felt like my whole world had been taken away.

A new city with no friends.

A lifeless major.

No sports to ground my days as they did in high school.

Lost.

Alone.

Discover Your Call

Defeated.

Gambling with God

During this time, I began a deep dive into my place into the world. I started to study the Bible and see if it had something for me.

I head this small voice telling me to think about a career in ministry.

I had tons of excuses about why that was a terrible idea.

I can’t speak in public.
I’m afraid of crowds.

I’m shy
I don’t want to.

Yet in my desire to find my place, I kept reading. I kept studying. And I kept hearing that voice. Finally, I had had enough. In a fit of rage and the cockiness of a 19-year-old know-it-all, I threw my Bible against the wall, promising to read whatever passage it fell open to.

If you can convince me to go into ministry through this, I’ll do it.

I was willing to gamble with God.

I picked up my Bible where it lay, plopped down on my bed, and read. My Bible (*coincidentially?*) had fallen open to Exodus chapter four.

In this story, a man named Moses is being called by God to free the Israelites from slavery at the hand of the Egyptians. Moses didn’t want to. He fought God’s call. He questioned God’s sanity.

Moses said:

I can’t speak in public.
I’m afraid of crowds.

I’m shy
I don’t want to.

Moses expressed everything to God that I had.

That small voice returned and said, “If I can do something with him, surely I can do something with you.”

Discovering Your Call

Now, I’m not saying I’m the next Moses. I’m far from it.

I’m also not saying that your call has to be as dramatic or painful as mine. I sure hope it’s not.

But here is what I have learned in the almost fifteen years since that day: Everyone has a call.

Your unique experiences, gifts, passions, interests, skills, and background have made you truly unique in this world. There is no one like you and you are like no one else. The world needs you. It needs your voice. Your perspective. Your championing of issues close to your heart. The world needs you, in all of your glory, to embrace who God has made you be at your core and live fully alive.

Without you, this world is incomplete.

Discovering your call is about finding whatever it is that makes you come alive. It is about blending your God-given potential with your world-changing desire.

So listen to that voice. Pursue it. Be open to it. As crazy as your world-changing idea may sound, it echoes in your soul for a reason.

It’s time to answer your call.


We are in a series on calling here on the blog. If you have a story idea, question or topic you want to be covered, or if you’re ready to work with Justin please fill out the contact form below.