Time Management, Life Balance and Avoiding Burnout

SooInn Tan 2015By Soo-Inn Tan, Malaysia/Singapore

In his book Working the Angles, Eugene Peterson points out the following:

The Deuteronomy reason for Sabbath-keeping is that our ancestors in Egypt went four hundred years without a vacation (Deuteronomy 5:15). Never a day off. The consequence: they were no longer considered persons but slaves. Hands. Work units. Not persons created in the image of God but equipment for making bricks and building pyramids.

Keeping the Sabbath was therefore both blessing and sign. (See Deuteronomy 5: 12-15.) The people of God kept one day in seven free of their usual productive activity because they needed it. The fact that they could keep it was also a sign that they were no longer slaves. They were no longer under the cruel rule of Pharaoh and Egypt. They were now free, free under God.

As a people under the care of a loving God, they could afford to work when it was time to work, rest when it was time to rest. Sabbath-keeping was an eloquent statement of their status as God’s people and the reality of the sovereign, benevolent nature of God.

When I look at the frenzied hectic lifestyles of most Christians today, we seem to resemble slaves more than free people. We may no longer be in bondage to Pharaoh, but we are still slaves, slaves to fear, pride, greed, materialism, consumerism, etc. Like those who do not know God, we too push ourselves to work long hours, doing with as little rest as possible.

Christians in vocational ministry are no different. In fact because they are conscious that they are doing “God’s work” they are even less inclined to keep the divine work-Sabbath rhythm. As a result many of our best people burn out or become susceptible to all sorts of spiritual and emotional collapse.

I invite you to attend my webinar on Wednesday, April 22, at 8 a.m. CST, when we will address this problem head on–first by acknowledging the frantic pace of modern life, and then by looking at some key biblical and practical ways we can structure our lives so that we can continue to work hard healthily.

Register online now for MAI’s free webinar with Pastor Soo-Inn Tan, “Time Management, Life Balance, and Avoiding Burnout”

Soo-Inn Tan of Malaysia/Singapore is a founding director of Graceworks, a training and publishing consultancy committed to promoting spiritual friendship in church and society. Soo-Inn is committed to connecting the Word of God to the struggles of daily life through teaching, mentoring and writing.

Growing Intimacy with God

ramon rochaBy Ramon Rocha

A growing intimacy with God is essential for an excellent Christian leader. Our relationship with God, our spiritual maturity, or lack thereof, is reflected in our leadership—our actions and our decision-making. Our spirituality is evident in how we relate with staff and customers, and even in the kind and quality of books we publish.

How are you growing in your spiritual life? One critical component of a growing relationship with our Heavenly Father is a vibrant and regular personal devotion time, like Moses had with God. They met for intimate exchanges in the “tent of meeting” (Exodus 33). There “the LORD used to speak to Moses face-to-face, as a man speaks to his friend” (v. 11).

Do you have an equivalent “tent of meeting”?

When I worked as CEO of OMF Literature in Manila, one of my duties as a father was to drive each of my four children to school each morning. I had to be early enough to beat the notorious Manila morning rush hour traffic, arriving at my office around 7:30 to 7:45 a.m. I closed my door and enjoyed an uninterrupted 30 to 45 minutes of reading the Bible, meditating on his word and praying before most staff arrived.

If a regular quiet time is essential to a “rank and file” follower of Christ, how much more for someone who leads other Jesus followers in a Christian organization?

Get to know God and spend time with him. The more you worship him, love him, obey him, experience him, his attributes and character, the more you become like him. And your face will have a radiant glow like that of Moses’ coming out of the tent of meeting (Exodus 34:34-5).

Ramon Rocha is the director of publisher development at MAI. This post is an excerpt from his talk, “Seven Marks of an Excellent Leader in Christian Publishing,” given at MAI’s European Forum, England, April 8, 2015.

A First Sci-Fi Novel for Young Adults

Balazs ZagoniLast year Balázs Zágoni of Koinonia publishing house in Romania was awarded MAI’s David Alexander Author Fund to complete his first science fiction novel for young adults. Until now Balázs has published nine children’s books, but he has always wanted to be a novelist. Sphere, his working title, describes a futuristic era of food and fuel shortages and severe climate change.

Vic, a 13-year old boy, lives with his father in a mushroom colony. He encounters a strange transparent being, a sphere, who saves his life and with whom he can communicate telepathically. Vic struggles to choose between the warnings of his family and the tempting benefits associated with his unique friendship. We interviewed Balázs about his journey writing sci-fi:

What have you found most challenging in writing science fiction?
I discovered after my second draft that a science-fiction novel needs similar research to a historic novel. Well, you cannot read the history behind a sci-fi novel—you have to write it! So I started to write the last 30 years in the history of this city and its colonies. Plus the back stories of Vic’s parents. I needed to write dozens of pages, even if they don’t go directly into the novel. That hopefully will create a much sharper picture of this imaginary world.

What lessons do you want young adults to take away?
I do not want to teach any kind of lessons! Sometimes even for me it is a question where the story goes. What interests me is situations in which we are tempted to convince ourselves that we are on the right track, while in fact we are not.

Vic has several intense inner dialogues during moments in which he has to make tough decisions. He must choose between his family’s seasoned advice and his own limited, personal experience. Which is reliable? Is the sphere a sort of friend and helper, a kind of savior, or a cunning enemy trying to seduce and enslave him?

What is your favorite science fiction book?
Recently I enjoyed very much Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, but I enjoyed and learned a lot from Stephen Lawhead’s Bright Empire series too. Though they are not sci-fi, the Harry Potter books had a great impact on me also.

How have your cultural roots influenced your writing?
I grew up in Communist Romania until I was 13. Then the Iron Curtain fell. And I became a Christian when I was 19. These two things influenced me a lot. I am also an ethnic Hungarian living in Romania. So I am sensitive to issues where there is a majority and a minority, or where there are different cultures.

I was raised by my writer and journalist parents telling me, “As many languages you know, as many times you are a human being.” I speak three languages fluently. There is always another point of view, which seems very true for the other person’s life and cultural background.

When do you hope to have the book complete?
My son enjoyed it and gave the draft to two other friends. He keeps encouraging me and asking when it will be ready. I hope to have the final draft finished this year.

<Learn how Balázs started writing in our interview, “An Accidental Children’s Writer

My Family

Ruth O'NeilIn the 25-plus years I’ve been writing, social media went from non-existent to a way of life for many. Yes, I have jumped on this bandwagon, too. At first it was all about promoting myself and selling my books, but then it became something else. Those fellow authors who are more than willing to Tweet and Retweet for me are also more than willing to pray for me, and I am more than willing to pray for them. We may never have met in person, only through the pages of books and online screens, but we are a family. We pray for each other when there is a new book launch. We pray for each other when there are difficult times in our personal lives.

I love that I have been able to connect on some level with writing friends from all over the world. It’s a wonderful feeling to know that people of all nationalities are lifting you up to the Savior. We may write different genres; we may not worship exactly the same; we may look a little different; we may sleep at different times, but there is something we all have in common that brings us together. We are all children of the King. We are brothers and sisters in Christ. We are family.

I love 2 Thessalonians 1:11. “With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith.”

First of all, we do need to pray for each other constantly. Writing is a calling for many of us. For those who have been writing for any length of time, I’m sure you have stories of one hurdle after another to jump over when trying to put out something that you knew would make a difference in many lives. Satan does not want those articles/stories to make it to publication.

Remember to pray for your writing friends today. We all go through difficult times. Even if you don’t know what’s going on in our lives specifically, God does, and He will hear your prayers.

Lord, Help me to constantly lift up before You my fellow writers who are trying to spread Your Gospel. They need You; I need You. Amen.

Ruth O’Neil has been a US freelance writer for 20-plus years. She sees everything as a writing opportunity in disguise, whether it is an interesting character, setting or situation. When she’s not writing or homeschooling her kids, Ruth spends her time quilting, reading, scrapbooking, camping and hiking with her family.

This article was an entry in our LittWorld 2015 Devotional Writing Contest.

Reaching Youth: Interview with bestselling author Ronald Molmisa

When Pastor Ronald Molmisa began ministering to university students a decadeRonald Molmisa ago, he was struck by the dearth of locally-written materials dealing with relationship issues of Filipino youth. A political scientist, he applied research and surveyed students to discern their needs. Today he is the author of the bestselling Lovestruck series (OMF Literature) on love, courtship and marriage. More than 100,000 youth have participated in his Lovestruck seminars.

What are key principles in effectively writing for and communicating with youth?
Adolescence is a period of transition—physically, intellectually, emotionally, spiritually and socially. Writing for this readership should be guided by clear understanding of these transitions.

To be relevant, you must first comprehend their identity, predilections, needs, language and culture—what they watch and listen to. You need to spend more time with them to witness first-hand what they experience. Casual talks with students are a rich source of information. Recent academic studies are also key for understanding teen realities.

Youth ask serious questions and they need wise counselors to guide them. With the breakdown of Filipino families due to the phenomenon of parents working abroad, young people are searching for answers and care. They are not satisfied with ambivalent answers that can engender more moral confusion. They need straightforward responses that are practical and attainable.

How have you incorporated biblical principles in your books without alienating a youth culture that’s inundated by extra-marital sex in the media?
LovestruckIn a marketplace of ideas, I present biblical principles in my books as “tried and tested” responses worthy of utmost consideration. The majority of Filipino youth still cling to traditional values and are receptive to Christian teachings. They can find solace in the idea that despite their weaknesses and misgivings, there is a God who can understand them and heal their emotional wounds.

As a matter of writing principle, I cannot dilute the Gospel message in my work. As Paul said, we should never be ashamed of the gospel of Christ because it is the power of God unto salvation to those who believe (Rom. 1:16). Young people deserve to know the best answer to their predicament, in addition to other social and economic interventions.

How do you keep in touch with youth culture and trends?
Cognizant of the need to be always in the loop vis-à-vis latest youth trends, I maintain a strong online presence by having a Facebook page, a Twitter account and a FB group where I interact with thousands of young “netizens.” On average, I receive at least 20 online counseling requests daily—from mundane to sombre concerns.

I also regularly interact with young people in my offline ministries—discipling local church leaders, organizing events and seminars, producing an online radio program, among others. With God’s grace, I aim to publish one to two books per year.

You need to be immersed in the culture of the younger generation. As I teach them, I also learn from them. Simply put, you cannot give what you do not have.

Register online now for our webinar with Ronald Molmisa, “Writing for the Younger Generation,” on Tuesday, March 17.