Working Smarter, Not Harder

Time-Running-OutSteve Kamb over at Nerd Fitness may be the most inspiring guy alive. He’s already got me rethinking my weightlifting strategy, but now he’s arrived in my sweet spot, with a post titled, “Why you should do less, or maybe even nothing at all.”

Hopefully you understand that I do not believe in exercising for the sake of spending time around sweaty people. I also do not believe reading for the sake of eye strain or using electronics for the joy of being able to keep all those batteries charged.

Like Steve, I believe that all of these things are a means to an end. For Steve, from the best I can gather, that end is having time to play video games and watch movies, while for me it is to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.

Despite what might seem like a rather trivial orientation, Steve seems to get the Bible’s ideas about Sabbath rest.

  • We burn ourselves out when we don’t take the time to actually recharge our batteries, so take time off.

  • Be unavailable when you’re not working.

  • When you’re on vacation or spending time not working, embrace itStay away from your computer, don’t check email, and spend time with friends and family.

If that seems like good sense, check out the rest of the article for his ideas about workouts, life, work, and so forth. I’d read it more carefully, but I need to write another post and I have to check out a problem with my online Composition class and I need to email my students and . . . oh my.

Catch Up on Catching Zs

sleep-deprived1My father used to criticize me for sleeping late on Saturdays. “You can’t ‘catch up’ on sleep,” he would state emphatically. In truth, at least to some degree, you can catch up on sleep. I’m not sure that I was actually sufficiently behind on sleep as a teen to need to stay in bed until noon on Saturdays, but you can catch up on sleep.

That great thinker of our time, Kobe Bryant, is quoted as saying “Sleep is one of the best performance enhancers there is.” Roberto Clemente, someone I admire a great deal more than Kobe, claimed, “If I could sleep, I could hit .400.” These athletes recognize that getting proper sleep affects their sporting performance.

According to the Better Sleep Council–yes, it actually exists–people who get plenty of sleep are more likely to engage in high energy workouts. Actually, I’m not sure if they haven’t reversed the cause/effect relationship there. People who exercise vigorously usually don’t have a tough time getting their sleep in.

On the other hand, studies of sleep deprivation have shown that runners who do a time trial after 30 hours awake covered 20% less distance than those who had a good night’s sleep. So exercise can lead to better sleep, and sleep can lead to better exercise. That’s a great deal.

Sleep is a good thing. Where was Jesus when his disciples were freaking out about the storm on the Sea of Galilee? He was asleep. When He said, “Peace, be still,” was He speaking to the storm or to the disciples who woke Him up? That’s not entirely clear.

Back to the Better Sleep Council, we learn

While weary, overextended Americans are turning to “quick fixes” like caffeine and performance-enhancing supplements, which claim to improve everything from their daily workout to their sex lives, they are losing sight of what experts say is essential to improved performance: a good night’s sleep.

Back when I was in college, my roommate, a new believer, determined that God was calling him to sleep only 5 hours a night. After a few such short nights, his body started to rebel, mostly by forcing him to sleep when he was trying to read. Happily, he realized that God had not actually called him to that foolish standard.

Our bodies were designed to need sleep. In fact, sleep can be seen as an extension of the Sabbath rest. When we close our eyes and allow ourselves to sleep, we put our trust in God. Amazingly, things will get done better and our bodies will function more efficiently when we permit them the rest that our society seems to suggest is a waste of time.

Dear Fitbit: Am I Sleeping?

Fitness GadgetsThe Fitbit is the Thermos of wearable fitness devices. Other companies have their versions with different feature sets and styling. As the market saturates, what will the manufacturers do to retain their market share and profits? They’ll undoubtedly add features until the devices will be doing instantaneous blood glucose screening and innoculation against tropical diseases.

Sanjay Gupta has an opinion on all that, feeling that all data is not created equal. In this article naming three data points to use and two to ignore, I found it interesting that he seemed to agree with the Bible on the most important piece of information your Fitbit can provide: rest, or rather sleep.

If you’re going to monitor only one thing, this is it: Without adequate rest, your whole body suffers. The best way to measure the quality and quantity of your sleep is with brain wave technology, but that’s not yet practical outside a laboratory. Some of today’s trackers offer only approximate results based on how restless you are during the night, so you’re not going to get perfect data.

Gupta is correct, of course, but his wisdom is nothing new. In Exodus 20:8-10 we are instructed to rest.

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates…”

Granted, the Fitbit cannot tell you if you are keeping your Sabbath rest. Sleep and rest are not synonymous, but without rest, the human body will not function properly. It’s just another one of those ways that humans have been hardwired to demonstrate that there is a God and we’re not it.

The Dwindling Woodpile (Hebrews 4:9-10)

There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. (Hebrews 4:9-10)

This morning, I journeyed with my son to my brother’s house. Wayne had dropped a couple of large trees that posed a threat to his house. His loss of foliage was my gain of firewood. Tom and I spend about four hours cutting, loading, driving, and unloading the wood–three loads of wood.

I’m thrilled to see a large pile of soon-to-be split-and-stacked wood appear outside my woodshed. Each winter begins with a sprawling pile of firewood, a supply sure to last throughout the cold months.  That pile dwindles far more quickly than I would wish to see. As the available splits disappear into ash and smoke, my chainsaw springs into action. I fight a rear-guard action, hoping that the wood will last until spring.

I’m typically a calm person, but I have to admit that I experience some stress as the woodpile disappears. Will the fire give out before winter does? Will I need to call the propane company, surrendering lots of money and my sense of self-sufficiency? Will I have to wade through knee-deep drifts of snow to bring new fuel to the house? Only when late March rolls around am I able to draw a deep breath and relax. Of course the stress kicks in again shortly thereafter as the days roll past toward the next winter. It never ends.

I suppose that’s why I can rejoice at the promise of God’s rest. Just as surely as I labor endlessly to keep my house heated, I could labor endlessly to keep my slate of good-versus-bad in the positive column, blotting out every sin with a counterweighing good deed. I could try that and fail. The work would never end. I’d watch whatever store of positive fuel I had accumulated slowly diminished. But I don’t have to do that. Thank you, Lord.


Better Homes and Hovels (Hebrews 4:8)

For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day. (Hebrews 4:8)

Three years ago, I moved in at the top of Shamayim Hill, living for the first time in my life, in the sort of place that I’d always dreamed of. After the documents were all signed, somebody–I can’t remember who–handed me the keys and congratulated me on my new home. It was a couple of days later that we actually managed to move in.

Contrary to the “lifestyle” and home improvement ads that we see on TV, life upon coming in to our new home did not consist of shady dinners on the back patio and barefoot romps across painfully green grass.

Instead, we had to eradicate half of the wasps in the western hemisphere and remove somebody else’s junk. One evening, as I walked in to the house from a long day’s efforts, I stopped and thought, “I have enough work to last me until…” I paused and then realized that the work would last forever.

When Joshua stopped the flow of the Jordan River and cleared the way for the people of Israel to enter the Promised Land, he did not take them to a land of ease. Yes, they took possession of orchards they did not plant, but the cultivation of those orchards fell to the new owners. The people of Israel did not enter into God’s rest any more than I entered into a life of rest upon moving here.

My rest will not come from any of the booths at the home show or the promises of glossy TV ads. My rest will not come from some mythical end to all my labors. My rest comes in midst of my labors as I adhere to the God who created me and emulate the Messiah who provided my justification.

Rest Station Ahead (Hebrews 3:10-11)

That is why I was angry with that generation;
I said, ‘Their hearts are always going astray,
and they have not known my ways.’
So I declared on oath in my anger,
‘They shall never enter my rest.’ ” (Hebrews 3:10-11)

Have you ever been driving along a highway, having tanked up your bladder on some huge, convenience-store carbonated beverage, only to reach that moment when, if presented with the choice between a restroom and a sack full of money, you’d opt for the restroom? I have. In fact, this happened to me recently during a road trip to Tulsa. Until that gender-marked door closes behind you, there is no ease, no relaxation, no rest.

That’s where my peculiar mind goes when I think of the disobedient people of Israel wandering in the wilderness, unable to cross into the land of promise. Instead, they’re forced to hang out in tents, eating manna, and forever searching for a Johnny on the Spot.

I realize that this notion seems rather irreverent, but I think there’s something to be learned from this notion. When I pull in to QuikTrip at the outset of a long drive, there’s a little voice–I wouldn’t ascribe it to the Holy Spirit, but I could be wrong–that says “You’ll be sorry if you guzzle that stuff down.” After leaving Kansas City, I might make it as far as Columbia before finding myself in the just-pull-off-the-road zone. I’ll scurry in to yet another place–probably another QuikTrip–and, having dealt with my pressing need, will almost certainly refill my cup. What sort of idiocy is this?

I’m not sure that God cares greatly about the comfort of my bladder, but I am certain that he cares about my overall obedience. I know that my obedience leads to a sense of ease, a sense that, even when things are difficult, God is in control and attending to matters. It takes me into the Promised Land of God’s rest.

I know this truth. I’ve experienced it, yet just as I refill that cup, I also stray from the obedience that will keep me in God’s rest. You’d think I’d learn.