Is self-care selfish? Yamasaki shares how to “take care of yourself” and follow Jesus

Is self-care selfish?
April Yamasaki shares how to “take care of yourself” and follow Jesus

HARRISONBURG, Va. — We often hear the phrase “take care of yourself,” but how to find time to do that in today’s world? For many Christians, the idea of self-care sounds contrary to the command of Jesus to deny yourself and follow him. How exactly do believers balance these two seemingly opposite pursuits?

Author April Yamasaki explores this contradiction in Four Gifts: Seeking Self-Care for Heart, Soul, Mind, and Strength (Herald Press, September 2018). Yamasaki is a Mennonite pastor in British Columbia.

Drawing on the ancient scriptural command to love God with our heart, soul, mind, and strength, Yamasaki helps readers think about the spiritual dimensions of attending to your own needs and finding true rest in a fast-paced world. She weaves together personal stories, biblical and theological insights, questions for reflection, and practical ideas for self-care. Four Gifts helps readers sustain their spirits and balance competing demands without adding more items to their to-do lists.

“I know I need self-care, yet can’t always get there,” writes Yamasaki. “I need a bigger vision of caring for myself that also embraces caring for others and surrendering myself to God’s call and care.”

Yamasaki addresses specific challenges like setting priorities, living in a digital world, dealing with worry, and getting a good night’s sleep. “Our minds find renewal as we learn, serve, and rest,” Yamasaki says. “At its best, self-care is a way of life, a gift that sustains each of us as we serve God and serve other people.”

“In Four Gifts, April’s powerful insights are on brilliant display,” says Christena Cleveland, author of Disunity in Christ. “With an integrative mind-body-spirit approach, Yamasaki leads us on a journey that is worth following.”

Dorcas Cheng-Tozun, author of Start, Love, Repeat, writes that Four Gifts is “the most thorough and thoughtful exploration of self-care I have ever come across.”

Yamasaki focuses her writing on spiritual growth and Christian living. A member of Redbud Writers Guild, she is the author of, or contributor to, 15 books including Sacred Pauses, Upside-Down Living: Sharing Faith Stories, Spark: Igniting Your God-Given Creativity, and Ordinary Time with Jesus, among others. Her work has also appeared in the Christian Century and Canadian Mennonite. Yamasaki has more than 20 years of experience as a congregational pastor and leads workshops and Bible studies in denominational and other settings. She and her husband, Gary, live near Abbotsford, British Columbia.

Four Gifts is available from Herald Press for $16.99 (paperback) and $13.99 (ebook) at 800-245-7894 or at, Amazon, and other online sources. Canadian customers can order from CommonWord (877-846-1593), Parasource (800-263-2664), and elsewhere.

To schedule an interview with April Yamasaki, contact LeAnn Hamby at 540-908-3941 or






‘Tis the Season to Pause

Guest blog post by April Yamasaki, author of Sacred Pauses: Spiritual Practices for Personal Renewal (Herald Press, 2013).

This year from Advent to Epiphany, my church is following the journey of the magi, with a clue each Sunday for where our three wise men nativity figures will appear next. On the first Sunday of Advent, they were upstairs in a Sunday school classroom. This last Sunday, they were in my office–one on the low book case by the door, and the other two on top of my tall shelving unit by the window. Each Sunday they’ll be in a different place in the church, until they finally arrive at the nativity scene in the sanctuary on Epiphany Sunday.

Photo credit Free Digital Photos at

Photo credit Free Digital Photos at

I was delighted when the chair of our worship committee suggested this idea. What a fun and creative way to celebrate the Advent-Epiphany season! It’s great for the children and for all ages in our congregation, as we look for the clue and the wise men each week and anticipate their arrival at the front of the sanctuary.

Their five-week journey through the church reminds us that the wise men travelled a long way before they found Jesus. I imagine them stopping night after night under the stars or perhaps at an inn, resting before the next leg of their journey and wondering what the next day might bring.

In my imagination at least, the magi pause in their journey, and so remind me to pause in my own journey as well. Instead of staying up late and getting up early as I often do, I’m reminded to pause and get a good night’s sleep. Instead of rushing toward Christmas in a whirl of activity, I’m reminded to slow down and look for Jesus every day.

For me, taking this time to pause means that some things have been left undone. I don’t decorate a lot at Christmas, but I usually have our nativity scene and a few other special ornaments set up by now; instead, they’re still patiently waiting in the basement until I can get to them in the next day or two. I don’t do a lot of Christmas baking, but I usually do some; this year, I’ve made just one batch of cookies so far.

Yes, I’m busy with a lot of things as usual, but I’m also taking time to pause and savor this season. There is time to pause in expectation and wonder as God continues to work in our lives and in the world.

How are you taking time to pause this Advent season? Is there something that you need to leave undone in order to pause?


April’s book Sacred Pauses is available from the MennoMedia store here. April posts regularly at her own blog, here.Twitter: @SacredPauses