Mike Cope's blog

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

When I have time to breathe, when I'm not pressing at full speed for an extended period of time . . . I am happier, I'm a better husband and father, I'm a more prepared and compassionate minister. But when I feel like I'm in a full-court press all day long for an extended period of time . . . depression creeps in, I become fragmented and abrupt, and I look for ways to retreat from people. Anyone else out there feel like life needs to slow down? Not always, of course. There are times we need to speed along. But we weren't made to stay at that pace. There is a rhythm in scripture that calls for rest, fun, joy, and relaxation that we too often miss out on. In the words of Gandhi, "there is more to life than increasing its speed." I've been reading a helpful book by Carl Honore called In Praise of Slowness: How a Worldwide Movement Is Challenging the Cult of Speed. Honore says the idea for the book came when he was rushing through one more airport and he saw a book entitled The One-Minute Bedtime Story. His first thought was that this was an answer to prayers. He had been in tug-of-war battles with his two-year-old son over reading every night. He'd been wanting to get through stories more quickly so he could get back to his agenda: supper, emails, reading, bills, more work, etc. But a moment of insight fell over him: "Have I gone completely insane? . . . I am Scrooge with a stopwatch, obsessed with saving every last scrap of time, a minute here, a few seconds there." I'm not suggesting this applies to any of you -- :) -- but just in case there are one or two others needing to ratchet it down a bit now and then, I'm going to include a few choice quotes. "This book is not a declaration of war against speed. Speed has helped to remake our world in ways that are wonderful and liberating. Who wants to live without the Internet or jet travel? The problem is that our love of speed, our obsession with doing more and more in less and less time, has gone too far; it has turned into an addiction, a kind of idolatry." "Then there is the human cost of turbo-capitalism. These days, we exist to serve the economy, rather than the other way round. Long hours on the job are making us unproductive, error-prone, unhappy and ill. Doctor's offices are swamped with people suffering from conditions brought on by stress: insomnia, migraines, hypertension, asthma and gastrointestinal trouble, to name but a few. The current work culture is also undermining our mental health." "All the things that bind us together and make life worth living -- community, family, friendship -- thrive on the one thing we never have enough of: time." "Despite Cassandra-like mutterings from the speed merchants, slower, it turns out, often means better -- better health, better work, better business, better family life, better exercise, better cuisine and better sex." "In this book, Fast and Slow do more than just describe a rate of change. They are shorthand for ways of being, or philosophies of life. Fast is busy, controlling, aggressive, hurried, analytical, stressed, superficial, impatient, active, quantity-over-quality. Slow is the opposite: calm, careful, receptive, still, intuitive, unhurried, patient, reflective, quality-over-quantity." "In our hyped-up, faster-is-better culture, a turbocharged life is still the ultimate trophy on the mantelpiece. When people moan, 'Oh, I'm so busy, I'm run off my feet, my life is a blur, I haven't got time for anything,' what they often mean is, 'Look at me: I am hugely important, exciting and energetic.'" Well, enough quotes. You see where this is going. The book isn't just full of chastising. It is chocked full of glimpses at life lived at a more sane pace. Some of the chapters are: "Food: Turning the Tables on Speed" "Medicine: Doctors and Patience" "Sex: A Lover with a Slow Hand" "Leisure: The Importance of Being at Rest" "Children: Raising an Unhurried Child" Let me encourage you to check this book out. If your library doesn't have it, you can rush to the local Barnes and Noble or put in a rush order at Amazon! Think back to some of those best moments in life. Honestly, didn't many of them involve a slower pace? "Quiet time" when you didn't feel like you had to wind up the reading and prayer in ten minutes. Preparing a meal where the cooking and the conversation were part of the ritual. Taking a walk, a hike, a bike ride. Reading a book to your child or grandchild as the child soaked in the words and the attention. Visiting at length with a friend. Looking across the table at your Beloved during a two-hour meal, remembering births, deaths, challenges, and joys. Many of us need more than an evening off. We need a radical change of lifestyle. Does that resonate with anyone?


  • I absolutely agree with the need for us to slow down and enjoy life.

    In relation to that, I'm tired of viewing rest as being "unproductive". Yesterday I was sick and stayed home from work. My instinct was to take advantage of this time at home to do something "productive", like clean my bathroom or balance my checkbook. Instead, I spent most of the day camped out on the living room sofa and went to bed early last night. Today I feel MUCH better. Coincidence? I don't think so--taking the time to allow my body and mind to rest is not unproductive, rather, it's essential to me being a MORE productive person. And productive does not have to equal busy; they are not the same thing.

    By Blogger Lisa, at 9/27/2005 05:16:00 AM  

  • Lisa -

    Honore says another alarm bell went off for him when he came across a Sleep Learning website that said: "Your non-waking hours--one third of your life--are now non-productive. Tap this huge potential for advancing your career, health, and happiness."

    By Blogger Mike, at 9/27/2005 05:58:00 AM  

  • Most of us live so fast that we have no idea who we are or who we are becoming until it is too late.

    Couple that with the reality that we live such individualistic lives and we have no hope of ever really "knowing ourselves."

    Running for me has become prayer, therapy, anger managment...the way I slow down. When it is just my two feet and 10 miles I am forced to deal with the person I am in the process of becoming.

    Thanks for the book suggestion.


    By Blogger Josh.Graves, at 9/27/2005 06:10:00 AM  

  • I agree with you completely, but talk about "counter-cultural". I am always looking for ways to eliminate "clutter" from my home and more importantly from my life. I have had to learn to say no to my friends, to my church, and mostly to myself. I found I had to get rid of some of the "urgent" in order to have time for the "important". Of course discerning which is which can sometimes be difficult.
    Rob Bell from Mars Hill Bible Church preached a sermon titled "The Theology of Breathing". We are in such a hurry that we don't even breathe the way God created us to.
    I think the challenge for me is that there are so many choices competing for my time, and I don't want to miss anything. But I am learning that it is often better to experience one thing fully, than many things superficially. Especially when that one thing is truly "important". How can we "be still, and know that He is God", without first learning to be still?

    By Blogger Lisa McD in FL, at 9/27/2005 06:27:00 AM  

  • A couple of points Mike - and both point back to Hurricane Rita. As we sat in virtual solitude for 48 hours because we had no power, it was so amazing how much calmer our house was. Information overload/external stimuli were minimized 95%, everyone was more at peace, I slept better (after the hurricane passed), things were simpler and more peaceful.

    However, as the temp. climbed back over 100 and we still had no power, and, as gas becomes more difficult to locate, stress levels have returned to and exceeded pre-hurricane levels. Rather than spending my standard quiet time this morning meditating - I spent it in a gas line. Things are very stressful in East Texas right now.

    Lastly, I think folks should be aware that southeast Texas is not doing well - you may not hear that in the media because Houston was spared any significant damage. Gas is in short supply everywhere. Great little cities like Jasper, Woodville, Silsbee, and others have NO power, no water and no fuel. The elderly will not make it through another week of this, and most of these elderly are not asking for help, they're waiting for help to arrive. Woodville and Jasper both have over 5,000 evacuees from Beaumont stuck in their towns and neither is an evacuation shelter area. I heard yesterday the Woodville hospital will be bankrupt by this process without quick federal help.

    Please pray for this situation and understand help is needed. The calvary has not arrived and I sincerely hope this area is not forgotten.

    By Blogger KentF, at 9/27/2005 07:00:00 AM  

  • Mike,

    I've never posted before, although I read your blog everyday...this really resonated with me. This slow-paced life is what I loved about my two years in Togo. No one was in a hurry to get anywhere -- everyone took time for *people*. In Togo, people had time for relationships -- some of my favorite memories are of sitting next to my African friends in their cooking huts, talking while they cooked (and I tried to help!) for 2+ hours...or cutting up veggies in my missionary teammates' kitchens, again talking and learning, while they prepared meals from scratch. Our evenings weren't filled with activities that had us running from one place to another...instead, they were filled with family time or conversations/games with friends.

    While my husband and I try to live somewhat of a slower-paced lifestyle here, our days feel like they are still filled with running from here to there, trying to be productive and active in everything people ask us to do. I am very interested in this book and will try to get my hands on a copy!

    Sandi (Wright) Haustein

    By Blogger Sandi, at 9/27/2005 07:27:00 AM  

  • My buddy Paul sent me this morning this essay by Barbara Brown Taylor:


    In his book Jewish Reneioal, Rabbi Michael Lemer says that anyone engaging the practice of Shabbat can expect a rough ride for a couple of years at least. This is because Sabbath involves pleasure, rest, freedom and slowness, none of which comes naturally to North Americans. Most of us are so sold on speed, so invested in productivity, so convinced that multitasking is the way of life that stopping for one whole day can feel at first like a land of death.

    As the adrenaline drains away, you can fear that your heart has stopped beating since you cannot hear your pulse pounding in your temples anymore. As you do no work, you can wonder if you are running a temperature since being sick is the only way that you ever get out of work. As time billows out in front of you, you can have a little panic attack at how much of it you are wasting since time is not only money but also die clock ticking on your life.

    For reasons like these, plenty of us take an hour here or there and call it Sabbath, which is like driving five miles to town and calling it Europe. Two hours on a Friday afternoon is not enough, Lerner says. We need ten times longer than that to calm down enough to draw a deep breath. We need ten times ten to trust the saving rhythm of Sabbath without worrying that our own ambition will yank the rug of rest out from under us. "You haven't had the experience," he says, "until you've tried doing it for the full 25 hours, and doing it for a year or two minimum."

    I have been doing it for seven years now, which is how I know the rabbi is right. For the first couple of years, I paced as much as I rested. Every few hours I caught my mind posing inventive questions. If I enjoyed yard work, was it really work? Was browsing a mail order catalog really shopping? By year three I had come to count on Sabbath the same way I count on food or breath. I could work like a demon the other six days of the week as long as I knew the seventh was coming. For the first time in my life, I could rest without leaving home.

    With sundown on the Sabbath, I stopped seeing the dust balls, the bills and the laundry. They were still there, but they had lost their power over me. One day each week I lived as if all my work were done. I lived as if the kingdom had come and when I did the kingdom came, for 25 hours at least. Now, when I know Sabbath is near, I can feel the anticipation bubbling up inside of me. Sabbath is no longer a good idea or even a spiritual discipline for me. It is an experience of divine love that swamps both body and soul. It is the weekly practice of eternal life, marred only by the fact that I do it alone.

    In its community form, Sabbath is not only about rest but also about resistance. Each time it appears in Torah, the commandment limits the exploitation of others as well as the exhaustion of the self. When you stop working, so do your children, your animals and your employees, even
    if they do not believe in your God. You believe in your God, so they get the day off. By interrupting our economically sanctioned social order every week. Sabbath suspends our subtle and not so subtle ways of dominating one another on a regular basis. The lion is restrained from
    making a profit on the lamb, who may still choose to lie down for a Sabbath nap alone but is free from the fear of waking up as lamb chops on this one day at least.

    If we paid as much attention to Leviticus 25 as we do to Leviticus 18, then we might discover that God is at least as interested in economics as in sex. Real rest involves all creation: freeing slaves, forgiving debts, restoring property and giving the land every seventh year off. Leviticus 25 shows divine concern for grapes, for God's sake; it promises both the tame and wild animals in the land enough to eat, along with the hired hands who have time to play horseshoes during the year that the tractors stay parked in the barn. While there are a lot of yard signs supporting the Ten Commandments in the rural county where I live, I do not know a single farmer who keeps the Sabbath holy by giving the fields their hard-earned sabbaticals.

    Where there is money to be made, there is no rest for the land, nor for those who live in it. Developers bulldoze the laurels by the river where the raccoons taught their babies how to fish. An entire pine forest comes down to produce the paper for this week's Eddie Bauer catalog. People who have already run out of closet space work overtime to pay the interest on their average $9,000 credit card debts, while economic predators send teenagers applications for their own preapproved cards in the mail. No resistance to such ravenousness will come from those who are heavily invested in its revenue. The resistance will have to come from elsewhere, from those who live by a different rhythm because they worship a different God.

    This is my growing edge, where Sabbath is concerned, and I cannot do it alone. God did not give this commandment to a person but to a people, knowing that only those who rested together would be equipped to resist together. To remember the Sabbath is to remember what it means to be made in God's image and, when the Sabbath ends, to join God in die holy work of mending the world.

    By Blogger Mike, at 9/27/2005 07:40:00 AM  

  • I started trying to slow down several years ago when I came across a book titled "Little House on the Freeway." I bought the book, haven't read it yet, but it's helped me just the same.

    By Blogger KathyGS, at 9/27/2005 07:57:00 AM  

  • Why do you think Yoga is so popular? Isn't it ironic that an exercise that promotes slowing the body, mind and soul down can produce the same results as the conventional chosen exercise of pounding the pavement of running? My husband always says "Work smarter, not harder!" Great post! Very insightful.

    By Blogger Meredith, at 9/27/2005 08:04:00 AM  

  • After being CONSUMED for the last two years with a house renovation, and losing all those weekends that only come once, this Sabbath piece is going up on my bathroom mirror. I hate to think of the time my kids have sacrificed for what we thought was in their best interest.

    Anyone reading this who is considering a large project like that, don't forget to add this into the cost. Slow down. Thanks, Mike.

    By Blogger don, at 9/27/2005 08:08:00 AM  

  • Great post Mike. I "retired" from Youth Ministry this past year to finish out my Masters in Clinical Psychology. I thought that the pace of life would change. It did...all of my appointments are now crammed into a nine hour day instead of an "on call" basis. Stress abounds during that time, but then I CAN go home to read bedtime stories, cook with my wife, fly kites, and devote some time to getting closer to God.

    GREAT post. I'm not sure if there is ONE answer for everyone (other than make the intentional decision to slow down), but I know that God tells me to "...Be Still and Know..."

    By Blogger Evan Burdan, at 9/27/2005 08:51:00 AM  

  • OK I admit the "One Minute Bed Time Stories" book did tempt me. I think I needed this today! Thanks!

    By Blogger SG, at 9/27/2005 09:23:00 AM  

  • I concur, but no time to explain. Gotta go.

    By Blogger Jim Shelton, at 9/27/2005 09:57:00 AM  

  • I'm always on the lookout for something good to read, so I appreciate the book recommendation. My local library does have it and I've just put it on hold! (Isn't the internet grand?)

    I also appreciate the comments on keeping the Sabbath. This is something I've been thinking about for a while now, and in a small way trying to practice. (Read: Sabbath Napping.) There is not much enthusiasm for the idea of "keeping the Sabbath" in my Christian family here, so I miss out on the benefits of hearing others ideas on the subject.

    I'd also ditto what lisa mcd in fl said: How can we "be still, and know that He is God", without first learning to be still? So true!

    By Blogger reJoyce, at 9/27/2005 11:11:00 AM  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Blogger Tammy M., at 9/27/2005 11:18:00 AM  

  • At many points in my life it has seemed that I am not able to see the forest through the trees. The busyness of motherhood, a side job, serving in church, just general things that are "good" but for whatever reason seem to fill up a space of time with no time for rest or Sabbath. When my son Jack was diagnosed with a brain tumor earlier this year, my busy life came to a screaching halt. I suddenly saw how little time I had spent playing with my kids, spending time hugging on them, spending time thinking about romancing my husband, luckily I had time invested in scripture and prayer, so when this all hit I had the Rock of my life to cling to. It was the little things that I realized I was taking for granted that they would be there tomorrow. I could play later when the dishes were done, I could take a walk tomorrow when laundry was finished.....as Jack was being wheeled into surgery to remove the tumor from his brain I realized I might not ever get the chance to hang out with him again. Thanks be to God that I have been blessed with alot of times since then to spend time just "being" with my kids, and alot more time to not only read but meditate on scripture. I don't know when Jack's tumor struggles will be over, but when they are and it is time for me to start adding extra stuff into my life I will be adding it with guidance through prayer and God's leading. One of the many blessings that has come through Jack's diagnosis is I make a conscience effort to not take relationships for granted, family, friends, and the awesome blessing of a God who never leaves me the same for even one day.

    By Blogger Tammy M., at 9/27/2005 11:19:00 AM  

  • Hi Mike, I've met you several times at Zoe. You are always a blessing. I relate so much to this blog. I say often that when I get into my van in the mornings, there is a voice in the background that says "AND SHE'S OFF!".
    I too get frustrated and abrupt when I am over loaded. I just seem to want to accomplish so much with so little time. I am going to get a copy of this book.....when I have time.

    By Blogger Snapshot, at 9/27/2005 11:59:00 AM  

  • Mike,

    Thanks for this reminder. This resonates big time with me, and living in Dallas don't always helps. Thanks again for your post.

    By Blogger Terry, at 9/27/2005 05:30:00 PM  

  • If there is one thing (and there isn't just one thing)that I need to allow, it is rest.

    I would place this post in your top ten.

    I vote you do a series on this subject.

    By Blogger Serena Voss, at 9/27/2005 06:15:00 PM  

  • This is definitely a message that our culture needs to hear. Probably my alltime favorite activity is horseback riding, partially because I have no concept of time when I'm on a horse. I just ride until I'm done, and all of those worries and time constraints back in the real world just don't matter.

    Something I've noticed about my dad's driving is that he is never in a hurry. Sometimes he might speed a little, but he never runs up on a stop sign or a red light, he never punches the accelerated from a stop. And it doesn't take him any longer to get wherever he's going. I've started driving like that too, and it's amazing how much it lowers the stress level.

    By Blogger Shanna, at 9/27/2005 06:54:00 PM  

  • Greetings to you Sandi (Commenter #6)...living in Benin, it is very much like Togo...it is still hard as American missionaries to take full advantage of a slower paced life...especially with 4 kids (3 under the age of 3!) But my wife and I usually take a full day of rest each week (OK, confession, hadn't done it in several weeks because...uh...we were...uh...too busy)

    The Sabbath rest is so important. How do churches in America encourage Sabbath rest for their staff? Is it just your "day off" which is often spent running errands, paying bills, or taking the spouse and kids to the park for a couple of hours before you go to the mall and then to Wal-Mart...uh, is that really rest?

    I know it is a struggle for the laity as well...when they work 7-7 jobs (no longer 9-5 anymore with commutes as they are), how does the church advocate Sabbath rest for the parishoners (I don't usually use "laity" and "parishoners" in the same sentence much, feels "churchy")

    Are there churches who aggressively advocate Sabbath rest for their ministerial staff as well as for the congregation? It would be fun to hear more of those stories (some good personal examples already given).

    Mike, how do your elders hold you accountable to resting?


    By Blogger Randy & Kelly Vaughn, at 9/27/2005 10:48:00 PM  

  • Randy - Hey, no fair asking ME the hard questions! I'm afraid you're right: we too often confuse a day off with Sabbath rest. I'm thinking . . . . Blessings on you in Benin, brother. We've been praying for Africa the last couple Wednesday nights.

    Sandi - So good to hear from you! Diane and I are so thankful for the amazing work you did in Togo.

    By Blogger Mike, at 9/28/2005 04:22:00 AM  

  • I just read all the comments from yesterday and couldn't help but add my own. I've found one hour out of the week that feels like Sabbath when I take advantage of it. My friends, Amy and David Black, open up their home every Monday evening at 7 for Soaking. The whole concept is to "be still and know", to rest in the Father's presence. Amy spends all of Monday afternoon soaking in her living room inviting the presence of the Father. By the time we arrive at 7 their home is a haven of rest. We take off our shoes at the door, grab a pillow and lay all over the place. The music goes on and I am suddenly in the lap of my Father. About an hour later we all sit up and spend some time talking about our experience. It's really quite amazing. Ok, I admit it sounds wierd, but it isn't. It's wonderful. And it's so simple. Everyone is welcome. It's just a matter of taking the time to go. I admit I don't always take that time and then I wish I had.

    By Blogger Candy, at 9/28/2005 05:23:00 AM  

  • I think that in ministry, we sometimes get a "savior complex," thinking that we are busy because so many hurting people need us. And, so our crazy life is rooted in pride. Maybe that's not true for anyone else, but it's what I struggle with. I need to trust in God's plan that the Body of Christ can meet the needs of hurting people, and that others can even meet my needs without getting paid back in return. But, sometimes I find that I don't have much trust in the the Body of Christ around me. I talk about community all the time, but I struggle with pride and individualism to the extent that I let my busy life become an excuse for true community.

    Mike, thanks for bringing up the topic. I will order this book, and I'll keep praying that God will work miracles in me.


    By Blogger Sara Barton, at 10/01/2005 05:57:00 AM  

  • It’s funny the way sometimes, when everything is going so well according to the world.. money, car, home, success and recognition.. that even at those times, when one should be reveling in their success, well… it just feels so much like something vague and desperately important is missing. Something that stops one (oh fine… me), from being able to enjoy any of this after that first little bit.

    For those first few weeks or months it feels like one long orgasm with no sight of an end to it, the honeymoon period I suppose. Before one returns home to the dishes, dogs, traffic and provisional tax paperwork that suddenly reveals “marriage” to be, probably, the biggest pain in the arse you’ve inflicted on yourself since you first ate Indian.

    I’m pretty sure that none of this bureaucracy was ever intended for a twenty year old.. I know this every time:
    a. a banker tells me I’m too young to bank with them, despite the fact that I could probably squash the knob with the change in my back pocket,
    b. I sit in a conference mesmerized, not by the speakers’ words, but by what possible notion the man was possessed to have dressed the way he has before speaking in public.

    Statistically, I should either be entangled in regular mind-blowingly brilliant varsity parties, while working my way slowly over the years to a suitably boring career… or running around naked in foreign cities or something.

    But, as the vindictive twin of fate or miserable circumstance would have it, my pitiful fear of failure has me locked into this parallel universe. One in which people speak in monotone and fill out bits of paper just to gain more of it at the end of the month, so as to be able to give away what remains after a bit more paperwork that will decide just how much you should give to some guy that you’ve only ever seen in photograph… and probably on a big bit of paper justifying a tick next to his name on……………………

    Yes, I’m feeling miserable.. Like a fish out of water, as it’s obvious that I was always intended to be born into a massive amount of money that would support me forever. But here I am, in a city where your todger is exactly as big as your bank balance, and working away at the penis pump every day alone in my apartment finds me tired, sometimes jaded, but mostly just pissed off with the state of things.

    I actually found you on a google search "sick of capitalism change lifestyle".. not sure what i was looking for.. maybe a fool proof formula for sailing around the world for the rest of my life ;-)

    By Blogger The Bleeding Udder, at 10/10/2005 04:02:00 AM  

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