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Welcome to readingremy.com

Welcome to readingremy.com. If you scroll through my posts you’ll find words of faith to help you overcome whatever you might be facing.F. Remy Diederich

This blog has evolved over the past two years based on what I was working on at the time. As I launched my first book, Healing the Hurts of Your Past …a guide to overcoming the pain of shameI offered many posts taken from the book. If you are looking to learn about how faith in God can help you overcome insecurity, shame, depression, and addiction, you can search these key words.

The next set of posts are based on my second book called: STUCKhow to overcome your anger and reclaim your life. The posts during this season of my blog dealt with understanding anger, how it gets you stuck in the past, and how forgiveness releases you to reclaim your future.

Following that, I geared the blog to pastors who have gone through, or are going through, a hard time – what I called an “exile.” I wrote “Out of Exile”a forty day journey to make a comeback from a setback. This is about to be turned into my third book and will be followed by a similar book geared for the general population. Click the link to start the forty day journey. You might want to forward the link to pastor friends going through a hard time right now.

I’m increasingly focusing my posts on helping pastors in various ways. Pastors often feel alone, having no one to talk to about their issues. I hope to bring them some encouragement. I invite you to follow along with me. – F. Remy Diederich

The Impact of a Sabbatical

This is my final post on the need for a sabbatical and how to plan one.

I said in the last post that I didn’t want my sabbatical to just be a long vacation. I wanted it to enrich me so I had a deeper well to draw from in my ministry. It would be an added bonus if my presence, wherever we traveled, could enrich others as well.

So this is what we did: I called MERGE ministries,  the short-term missions agency associated with my church denomination. I asked them for their recommendations on a country to travel to. They mentioned all of our South American ministry sites but then wondered if I’d be willing to go to Chile. Why Chile? No one seems to want to go there. It’s far away. It costs more, and once you get there, it takes hours by bus to get to wherever you want to go. That worked for me. I said “sure” and so the planning started.chile

My wife and I crafted a six-week plan that involved four parts to it:

Part One: Two weeks at a language school in Vina del Mar. Vina is a modern resort town an hour west of Santiago (capital and airport site). We stayed in the home of a local family and walked 1.5 miles to the school every day. Afternoons we shopped, ate lunch, and took walking tours. Evenings we spent studying Spanish. This was a great way to get to know the country, the customs, and the language. The “otherworldliness” of it all made it very easy to break from the reality of my life back home…especially since we left summer and entered into winter. It was a great time to reconnect with my wife and share something in common with her.

Part Two: After language school we met up with a team of five from our home church in Santiago and flew two hours north to Calama, Chile to help a church for ten days. I initially didn’t want to do anything with church people, fearing that I’d get pulled into leadership roles that would feel very “non-sabbaticalish.”  But it was one of the highlights of the trip. The intensity of relationships we shared with both our team and the local church people was fulfilling.

Part Three: This was the busiest part of the trip. I imagined casual mornings, light travel in the afternoon to a new village, and then sharing a meal with the local pastor. Not exactly. The reality was that we were on the go most of the time. Travel between cities was much farther than I realized…five to seven hours at a crack. When we arrived, the churches were so happy to see us they had special meetings for us where, guess what…they wanted me to speak!  I half expected this…so I was happy to oblige.  Being able to speak into the life of these churches was actually satisfying to me, but be careful if you don’t want to be involved in any ministry on your sabbatical. It can wear you out. Thankfully we visited some pretty amazing locations so I was always excited to see the next place. We visited Rancagua, Concepcion, Chiloe, and Coyhaique.

Part Four: A five day vacation.  I figured that, if all else failed, I wanted to make sure I had five good days before we returned. It was the rainy season so it rained three of our five days, but we didn’t care. We enjoyed staying in one place. I’m a bit of a foodie and this town (Puerto Varas) had great restaurants. I was able to get one of the nicer hotels for a good price on hotwire.com.

Did it work? Did I get the rest needed? Absolutely. I could tell about half way through the trip that it was working because when I thought about the sabbatical, tears still came to my eyes, but now they were out of gratitude. I felt like God had met me in a special way, renewed me, and prepared me to re-engage in ministry.

In reflecting on my stress and what renewed me, I think it was being immersed in something totally different. It probably didn’t matter what it was, just not feeling the need to solve a problem back home was freeing. Along those lines, it made me think back to when my kids lived at home. In some ways, I think I was less stressed with them home, which seems counterintuitive. Most of my nights are free now…but, I often end up working. When my kids were home, they helped preoccupy my time and attention, giving me a mental break I needed.

I mention this because, if you can’t get away on sabbatical, look for a way to immerse yourself in something other than your work…hopefully your family, but also a hobby of some kind or limited travel/get-aways. Get off-line and think about something totally different.

I hope this series has helped you think through the idea of stress and finding renewal. I’d love to hear back how you have found ways to find refreshing from your careers.

Planning Your Sabbatical

In my first two posts I talked about hidden stress and the need for a sabbatical. Assuming you are convinced of the need we can now continue to ask two questions: how long should you be gone, and where should you go? These are the two big questions I wrestled with for quite a while before I finally came up with an answer. I’ll start with the time question first.

How Long Should You Be Gone?

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My wife and I on sabbatical in Chile.

My church granted me a three-month sabbatical. That was great, but I was afraid to take three months all in a row. What if I picked the wrong thing to do? I didn’t want to return home feeling that I wasted my time. Coupled with that, my church leaders were a little concerned about me being gone for three months. I’m the primary speaker at church. To just vanish and replace me with others seemed like it might be too big a shock to the system.

To solve both concerns, I only took six weeks to start. That way, if I made poor choices, I still had another seven weeks to do it right. Plus, in six weeks, most people at church would barely miss me (since during the summer many people are gone on vacation). This decision took the pressure off me to come up with the perfect plan. Even if the six weeks were a failure, I’d get another chance.

Whatever you do, take at least three weeks. It takes a week to unwind, and as your sabbatical draws to a close, you naturally start to take on stress as you prepare to return. Three weeks will give you at least one pure week to decompress.

Where Should You Go?

The hard part about this question is it’s really different for everyone. What is good for me may not be good for you. I read how many pastors spent their time on sabbatical but I was never convinced that I should do the same thing. I heard about one pastor that went to Disney World for two months. Whatever floats your boat! That would stress me out. 

This wasn’t meant to be a vacation. I wanted my congregation to know that I was not only working to destress but to broaden myself for their benefit.

The questions you have to ask yourself are:

  • What recharges my battery?
  • What will help me stop thinking about my normal work?
  • What will not just give me a break but actually enrich me so I have a deeper well to draw from when I return?  My sabbatical wasn’t meant to be a vacation. I wanted my congregation to know that I was not only working to de-stress but to broaden myself for their benefit. 

I started coming up with possibilities:

  • Take a seminary class. I’m a student at heart and love to learn.
  • Go to Israel. Again, this would be like a traveling classroom.
  • Find a cabin on a lake and spend time reading and studying like I don’t normally have time to do.
  • Visit another country/culture to get a fresh perspective.
  • Visit other churches around the country to see how they “do church.”
  • Stay home and do everything I’ve put off for twelve years while I built our church.
  • Go live in a community of believers (Holden Village in WA or Jesus People, USA in Chicago).

I gave my list to our Operations team at church. I told them that since they were paying my salary while I was away they should have some say in what I do. One person said, “You should go as far away from Wisconsin as you can possibly go.” That sounded good to me.

The next person said, “Go to a language school.” I had always wanted to learn Spanish. So that sounded good too. They discouraged me from just going to a classroom setting since that probably wouldn’t give me the life altering experience I wanted or needed. After studying the Israel option, I nixed that because it would have cost me $10,000 for a quality trip for both my wife and myself. Plus, the trips were so intense I was afraid of coming back exhausted.

So what did we do for six weeks?  I’ll talk more about that in my next post. Thankfully, we made some great decisions that gave us the refreshing we were looking for. Be sure to shoot me your questions and I’ll work an answer into upcoming posts.

Pastor, Is Your Stress Hiding?

My last post opened the topic of needing to take a sabbatical. I talked about what a sabbatical is, why it’s important, and who should take one. But it dawned on me that most people who read that post will think it’s for someone else. Stressed?  Not me. Or if you are experiencing stress, you just think you need a few days off, a little more exercise, or sleep or whatever, and you’ll be good. Not to worry.DebtStressGetty460

How’s that working for you? Haven’t you been saying that for a while?

A couple of decades ago, when I thought I was superman, I was a director of marketing for a small psychiatric hospital that was sinking fast (back in the day when insurance coverage changed where insurance companies no longer automatically paid for 30 days of inpatient care). Not only was I superman, I thought I should also be their savior. The success of the company was on my shoulders and I was out to make good.

I walked into the lunchroom one day, sat down with my peers, and the Director of Nursing took one look at me and said, “I teach on stress and you are exhibiting every symptom of it.” So what did I say? Did I humbly ask what she meant and ask for some help?  Superman and Saviors don’t say that!  I said, “It comes with the job. I just have to deal with it. It won’t always be like this.” She just shook her head and left me to eat my lunch alone.

I was such a fool. 

It doesn’t matter if “life is good.” It can still be stressful. You still need a break.

My point is, no matter how stressed you might be, you don’t always see it, and you will always have an excuse for why it’s not that bad. How do YOU spell D-E-N-I-A-L?

Fast forward twenty years.  I’m a pastor of a thriving church. I have great leaders and staff who consistently do great work and take the weight of the world from me. My kids are adults and so my wife and I live a quiet peaceful life. We have many supportive friends. So…I can’t be stressed right?  I realize that twenty years ago I was in denial and didn’t see my stress. But today? It’s different. Right? I mean, if life is good, it can’t be stressful.

Well, that’s what I thought. But then why the unexplainable fatigue and depression? My wife kept asking me when I was going to take the sabbatical that was approved two years ago (and I delayed). Maybe I really was stressed and I did need some time away. I finally pulled the trigger and we left in June for six weeks.

Again, my point: you don’t see stress very easily. If you don’t see it when it’s obvious to the world, you can bet you don’t see it when it’s subtle. What I learned this past year is that life keeps adding thin layers of stress one day at a time. At first it seems like no big deal…something you can throw off at any time. But one day you wake up and realize you are under so many layers you can’t move…it’s crushing you and you don’t know how to escape.

You see: It doesn’t matter if “life is good.” It can still be stressful. You still need a break.

Like I said in my last post business owners, or CEO’s, or pastors, or any position that brings the weight of the organization home with them at night carry a weight that the average worker doesn’t carry. You may THINK that you left work at 5pm, but work never left you. It’s always working in the background of your mind like a program on your computer.

So…go back and read my last post…you know, the one you thought was meant for someone else.  Better yet, have a friend or loved one read it and ask them if they think you need a break…then listen to what they say!

Send this post to a friend that isn’t seeing the warning signs of stress in their life.

Pastor, Should You Take A Sabbatical?

I am fortunate to have a church and denomination that understands the importance of taking a sabbatical. They granted me a three-month sabbatical. I took half of it this summer. I’d like to take a few posts to help pastors think about their possible need for a sabbatical and then how to go about it.closed

First question: why do you deserve a sabbatical? Few other professions offer them. What makes a pastor so special (or is it lazy) that they should get one when 95% of other professions don’t?

My first answer is that more people should take sabbaticals…in all professions. So maybe the question is framed wrong. Maybe we should be asking why more professions don’t allow for a sabbatical every seven years.

I’m not going to go into a deep Bible study on this. You can do that on your own. But I will say that God established the importance of sabbath in creation itself.  Sabbath doesn’t mean “rest.” It means to cease, to stop. God worked the idea of sabbath into his creation for two reasons: one, we need to stop for our emotional and physical health. We weren’t designed to go 24/7. Two, we need to stop for our spiritual health. When we stop, we are saying that we not only trust God to work through our effort, we trust him to work in our ceasing.

Okay, so a sabbath is biblical but why for weeks or months?  Isn’t a weekly sabbath good enough? It has to do with the nature of the job. Sabbaths are especially important for people who are ultra responsible, like a business owner. Any profession that requires you to carry an emotional load 24/7, even while you are away from the office, should get a sabbatical.  You need weeks or months to help you to fully cease, disconnect,  and get the rest you need. Taking a week or two off may get you away from your job physically but not emotionally. You need a sustained break to recharge your batteries.

Sadly, many pastors take a sabbatical AFTER they melt down. That’s not a sabbatical. That’s called recovery. I have a friend who collapsed in the middle of a sermon. His “sabbatical” came after his collapse and was more for healing than refreshing. He’s trying to play catch up now and he can’t seem to quite get there. I have another friend who owns his own business. He almost died of a heart attack this year due to stress.

Personally, I could feel the need for a sabbatical for at least a year. I planted a church eleven years ago, went through two capital campaigns, had a building built, and managed a few key staff transitions. It all took its toll. Pre-sabbatical I had unexplained fatigue and depression. Every time I even thought about getting away I’d tear up. I knew something was wrong. But now, post-sabbatical, I can tell the difference. Something inside of me changed. I got the break and refreshing I needed. I’m ready to go again.

In my next post, I’ll talk about what to do on a sabbatical. But today I just want you to consider taking one. Talk to your church board about the possibility.  Some churches offer their pastor a sabbatical every seven years. That’s nice but I think that should be a guideline. Rather than put a timeline on it, I’d go more by stress level. If you have gone through a two-year push to plant a church, do a capital campaign, or manage a church crisis, a sabbatical might be in order, whether you’ve been there seven years or not.

If you are not a pastor, maybe you could suggest a sabbatical for your pastor. It’s very hard to promote it for yourself. It feels selfish. So you will do him/her a favor by bringing it up. My administrator pushed the idea at my church and I was very grateful to her for it.

What are your thoughts? Have you been on a sabbatical? Do you wonder if you might need one? Have you suggested it but got shot down? What questions do you have about sabbaticals? I’d love to hear from you.

Are You STUCK in Anger? Audio Book

I’m happy to announce that my book, STUCKhow to overcome anger and reclaim your life, is now out in audio format.

STUCK Cover

Now available in audiobook format

SPECIAL OFFER: This audiobook is available as a free download with a special offer from Audible.com. You can check it out here, as well as listen to a free sample of the reading.

Why get a book on anger? Because everyone has anger. But few know how to deal with it.

Anger is something people like to ignore. When it happens, they think it will never return. But sure enough, it does.

Anger often has more control over us than we have over it.

It doesn’t have to be that way. You can overcome your anger. Better yet, if you understand your anger, you can use it to find your emotional weak spots and get the help you need.

Don’t give away any more of your life to anger. STUCK will help you overcome it. Learn more here. 

 

Let God Define Your Identity

Too often we let our failures define us. We let our bad experiences tell us who we are. But Isaiah reminds us that God is the one who should define our true identity: 

Too often we let our failures define us. We let our bad experiences tell us who we are. 

The nations will see your righteousness. Kings will be blinded by your glory. And the LORD will give you a new name. The LORD will hold you in his hands for all to see — a splendid crown in the hands of God. Never again will you be called the Forsaken or Desolate. Your new name will be My Delight and My Bride, for the LORD delights in you and will claim you as his own. Isaiah 62:2-4

Isaiah said that when they looked in the mirror, the name stamped on their forehead was: “Forsaken” or “Desolate.” Maybe you’ve seen those same names written on your forehead. But God says:

No, that’s not how I want you to see yourself. I’m giving you a new nickname: My Delight, My Bride. I’m going to restore your glory and so you need to look in the mirror and see what I see.

Start living out of this reality and see if things don’t change for you.

Reframing Your Losses

Regrets can devastate you. Paralyze you. To get your life back, you have to come up with a new way to think.

Regrets have to do with the poor choices you’ve made. But the same is true of offenses done against you. In both cases, the temptation is to believe that the losses you incurred are insurmountable: you are forever damaged and disqualified from the life you assumed you’d have.

The key to moving on is to see what you’ve gained instead of what you’ve lost. WHAT? Gained something? IMPOSSIBLE! 

Your loss is a “gift.” It gave you a greater understanding of life. Something you didn’t have before.

Think of it this way: if you were going to see a counselor, would you want to see someone who has experienced your loss or not? Mostly likely, someone who has experienced it. That means the counselor has something the other doesn’t: more wisdom, more insight, more depth and breadth of understanding of life.

If that’s true of them, it’s true of you too. Your loss, whether done to you or by you, caused you to gain something. It’s a “gift.” It gave you a greater understanding of life. Something you didn’t have before. If you tap into that gain, you can use it to your advantage and resume moving forward in life.

Reframing your losses will help you get your life back.