Thin Soul?

Have you ever felt like if one more  thing lands on your plate you’re going to lose your mind?

That feeling like you are at capacity, all of the margin is gone?

Tolkien’s character Bilbo said it well when he said, “My soul feels thin.  Like butter spread over too much bread.”

I know I’ve felt that way.  And this is what today’s episode is about.

I’m titling this episode “Rhythms of Rest” and I use that phrase for a reason.

Our lives move at a certain pace, a certain rhythm and cadence.  Our culture pushes us to move at a faster and faster pace.  It never slows down.  At least not without CONSIDERABLE effort.

Pump the Brakes

The world only has a gas pedal, no brakes.

So the pace of our lives just increases until we find ourselves sort of hurtling forward at break neck speed, out of control, and not sure how to slow it all down again.

Of course, the problem with this is that we can’t keep that up.  We all have a limited capacity for living like this.  Eventually the things that are really important to us begin to suffer.  The immediate and urgent things compete with the important things, because quite often the urgent things are NOT the truly important things.

The things you actually want to do with your life take a back seat to the things that everyone else wants to do with your life.

I know this is my story.  Being a pastor makes it easy to collect burdens without ever dropping a burden.  If I’m not careful I get so loaded down with burdens that I can barely breathe.  It can be suffocating if I don’t manage it.

I think there are several reasons for this, many of which we have no control over.  Technology and culture have changed so much that the pressure to move faster is enormous.  There’s nothing I can do about that.  I can’t change the culture.  At least not fast enough to do me any good.

But one thing I have found that is effective is paying attention to my rhythms of rest.  Just like in music, you need rests.  Without rests, without pauses between notes, it isn’t music.  It’s just noise.

Rest will convert your life from noise to music.

Daily, weekly, Yearly Rhythms

I suggest breaking your life into sections.  Daily, Weekly, and Yearly.  Maybe decades as well.

Every day you need some moments of rest where your mind is allowed to wander, your body gets a change of scenery, and your soul gets a breather.  So a couple times a day, you put your phone down and take a walk around your building outside.  Or maybe instead of going out to lunch with work friends, you go to the park by yourself.

I also suggest getting an hour of rest before going to bed.  Give your mind some time to wind down and process the day.  Add into this some time in the Bible and prayer, and you can maximise the impact of your rest.

On a weekly rhythm, you need a day off.  Maybe Saturdays.  Your day off doesn’t need to be spent doing nothing.  You can use that time getting caught up on house chores.  That’s good for your soul too.  But the key to a day off us disengaging from the outside things that compete with the truly important things in your life – like family, friends, and worship.

Do something on your day off that brings you joy and peace.  Do something that feeds your soul and guard yourself from things that take from you.

And then for a yearly rhythm, I think everyone needs to get out town once a year.  Even if just for a weekend.  It’s best to go alone with family or very close friends, but that isn’t always financially possible.  Just get out of town where the responsibilities can’t find you for a few days.

This is Hard

This isn’t easy to do.  The minute you try to unplug from the machine, the machine fights back.  Try to take 5 minutes away from your desk, and your phone will immediately ring.  The world doesn’t make room for you to pump the brakes.  So the second you try to rest, you put yourself out of rhythm with your surroundings.  You become a dissonant sound.

You are like the person driving slowly down the highway when everyone else is speeding.

Living life in the fast lane really stinks.  Life in the slow lane is so much better!

So you have to develop some disciplines about not answering your phone, or answering emails and texts during those moments.  You have to fight for rest or it won’t happen.

But let’s be honest.  We don’t want to rest because rest requires us to depend on God.  We have to let go in order to rest.  Even for just a moment.  You have step away from your desk, step away from your phone, step away from something in order to do this.

The Greatest Showman is an enjoyable film.  Wolverine has retired and can now pursue is dream of being a song and dance man.

After a brief rant about Zac Efron’s untenable hotness, I explore the worldview behind The Greatest Showman and how it interfaces with Christianity (as well as how it doesn’t).

This isn’t a movie review, I enjoyed the movie.  (there, I reviewed it).  Rather, I want to think about the perspective underneath the movie (and those like it).  I think you’ll find it interesting.


I recorded this episode on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, which got me thinking a lot about injustice.  It can be overwhelming these days trying to discern what the actual facts are regarding things like racism, poverty, and other forms of injustice.  It’s even harder to know what to do about it.  Sometimes, it just feels like too much.

But Jesus gave us a simple plan of action, that is simultaneously difficult and simple.

Thanks for joining me today.

On February 5, 2013 I had a heart attack at age 39.  This type of illness was my worst fear.  It was the thing I expected, and feared, since I was a young man.

God met me in that place of facing the spectre of my boogeyman in some interesting ways.

This is part of my story.  I plan to tell more stories, and not just my own.

I hope you are encouraged.


Hello, and welcome to the Ben Cotten podcast, Weekly Edition. Brief encouragement and insight for your Wednesday morning.

This is Episode 2. Today the topic is Hope. I just preached on this at Living Hope Church and want to explore it further. I have a great quote from Joni Eareckson Tata, and some thoughts on why hope is often painful and a possible way forward for you.

Here’s to hope for the New Year.

First, a quote about hope:

“The best we can hope for in this life is a knothole peek at the shining realities ahead. Yet a glimpse is enough. It’s enough to convince our hearts that whatever sufferings and sorrows currently assail us aren’t worthy of comparison to that which waits over the horizon.” -Joni Eareckson Tada

What is Hope?

Hope is typically referred to when we desire to see something happen that we are uncertain will happen. For example, “I hope Ben finishes this sermon on time.” You don’t know if Ben will finish on time, but you want him to. It may even be very unlikely that he will finish before next Christmas, yet you hope anyway.

This is not Biblical hope. Biblical hope is confident expectation, and desire, for something good in the future.

The Bible does not talk about hoping for things that are uncertain. It doesn’t say, for example, “God may or may not be faithful, but let’s hope He is.” or “God may not be powerful enough, but I hope He is.”

Hope is waiting confidently for something that you are assured is coming because God is in your future just like He is in your present.

Hope is Difficult

Proverbs 13:12 says “hope deferred makes the heart sick”. A sick heart is a bitter heart. I think that some of you have sick hearts. Bitterness is setting in. Maybe regarding your economic future. Maybe regarding your marriage. Or your kids becoming obedient to Christ. Maybe your career seems to be dead with no chance of being revived.

Or maybe, you are the one that needs to change. Maybe you are losing hope that you will not always be dominated by your weaknesses.

Whatever it is, hope keeps getting deferred and your heart is getting sick.

When your heart is sick, when you allow bitterness in, the LAST thing you want to do is listen to someone talk about hope. Because hope burns a bitter heart like water on an open wound. It’s the antidote to bitterness. If you have been disappointed by your spouse enough times, then when someone tells you God can heal your marriage can hurt or even make you angry.


1 O LORD, my heart is not lifted up;
my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
too great and too marvelous for me.
2 But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child is my soul within me.

3 O Israel, hope in the LORD
from this time forth and forevermore.

Two Things to Note:

I. Calm and quiet your soul: which means, stop allowing a desire to understand everything disrupt your peace and rob you of hope. (psa 131)

He says “I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me.” – in other words, he doesn’t try to understand things that he cannot understand. This is how the Psalmist quiets his soul.

Knowledge and understanding is like a drug. We get addicted to the sense of control that we think it gives us.

Now, this isn’t a plea for ignorance. The psalmists says that he doesn’t seek to understand things that are beyond his reach – too wonderful for him. It’s the things beyond knowing, beyond our control, beyond what God has revealed, that he doesn’t concern himself with. The same should be true for us.

This is a plea for submission to the Lordship of Jesus. This is a simple recognition that our present and future belongs to God. There is a peace and calm that comes when we do that. And from that, HOPE.

The Lawyer

We all have a little lawyer in our hearts that keeps a record of everything that happens in our lives. Day and night, that lawyer presents a case regarding the goodness and faithfulness of God. The lawyer presents evidence, and we stand as judge over God to determine if He has been, and will be, good and faithful to us.

I’m sure you can sense the problem with this. It puts us in a position over God and puts Him on trial. But God won’t be put on trial.

We think we are insulating ourselves against disappointment, but all we end up doing is allowing our hope to be destroyed and our peace disturbed. Peace and hope can only come when we are living in submission to the Lordship of Jesus and THAT means not seeking to understand what only God can understand.

II. Hope in God, not in tomorrow. Don’t take this the wrong way. Hear me out. But tomorrow may not be better than today. If your hope is in tomorrow being better, then you will be disappointed at some point. This is implied in the idea of hope. If we had in our possession the fulfillment of all of God’s promises, then we would not need hope. Hope is what we do between the promise and the fulfillment.

The psalmist knows that the only thing worthy of hoping in is God, not in anything this life can offer. God is the sure thing. In good times and bad times, Jesus is the source and object of our hope.

Often, our hope NEEDS to be deferred because our hope is in the wrong things. We place our hope in things that cannot do what we expect of them. Nothing can fulfill the promises of God but God.

So, Joni Ericksen Tada says that all we need is a glimpse through the keyhole into heaven to give us the hope we need. I think this is what she means. We see heaven through Jesus, maybe just a glimpse, but it’s enough.

So we use that glimpse to preach to ourselves like the psalmist. We tell ourselves, “Self, hope in the LORD.”

Consider today where your hope is. Consider if your hope is in God, or in something else. Is your soul quiet, or are you grappling to try to gain control through your own understanding of things beyond you?

Hope in God, not in your own understanding.