Rest


This past weekend was the fourth Sunday of my sabbatical. I have enjoyed the privilege of disengaging from my primary ministry assignment as pastor. I am so grateful God has given me this rest. Each time I am reminded, without question, the work goes on.

Sunday morning, August 23rd, spontaneously I rose early and drove to Kansas City (about a 2 and a half hour drive from Omaha) just to encourage two of my colleagues and their congregations. My goal was not to do any preaching; I only wanted to experience the joy of worshipping with my friends, and hopefully encourage them by my presence. I purposely arrived late at both worships, to minimize any notion of my desire to preach. My tactics failed! I preached in the 9:30 a.m. worship in Kansas City, Missouri, and at 10:45 a.m. on the Kansas side. We (the pastor and I) enjoyed a small meal at the church in Kansas City, Kansas, and by the time I was to drive back to Omaha, I was one tired brother! Surely you know since I had just eaten, I was more tranquil than usual.

As I drove home, I became even more lethargic and began to have difficulty remaining fully alert behind the wheel. A few times, I found myself so indolent I shivered with fright along the way. In the heat of the summer, I drove as far as I could and finally took an exit a few miles from the Iowa state line. A McDonald’s was nearby, and I slowly pulled into its full parking lot. I quickly turned off my engine, and closed my eyes for a brief “power-nap.” Trust me when I tell you, “I was beat!” After fifteen minutes, I awakened refreshed, went into McDonald’s for an ice cream cone, returned to my vehicle and drove the last hour home.

Many times in this life we will lack luster and energy. More often than we may care to admit, this journey will take its toll, and we can become tired and need to disengage. My Sunday morning jaunt over to Kansas City teaches us some valuable lessons about how to finish if we should ever become weary along the way. Here they are:

1. Find a convenient place to pull over! There are many exits already placed along the trails we must travel in life. TAKE ONE! That’s why they’re there!

2. Turn your motor off and rest! It is a terrible thing to continue being ineffective and unproductive when you know your body is telling you to take a break. Than to run the risk of an incident or an accident, just pull over and take-a-pause-for-the-cause. Listen to your body! Your heart, your mind, and a whole lot of other people will appreciate it. In case you hadn’t thought about it, the work can go on without you!

3. When you have been sufficiently refreshed, get back on your journey and pursue your goal! Even if it is only a brief rest, a short break can re-energize your mental and physical systems, stimulate you to a heightened level of excellence, and enable your effectiveness so you can finish what you started. I cannot explain fatigue or sleep; but I have found a little time off can do wonders for your journey.

Here’s my point today: In case you are a worn pastor, or a weary parishioner, consider disengaging from the rigors of traveling and do what I did. Pull over and rest for a little while. You’ll feel so much better, and your work and your co-workers will benefit considerably! Do it soon!

Yesterday was an interesting day to say the least. A host of emotions overwhelmed me as I considered not attending public worship with other believers. Taking a scheduled break is not only healthy, but it is utterly necessary for those of us who lead others as a calling or vocation into a loving relationship with our God. As quiet as it is kept, for one to choose never to disengage can be the result of a terrible addiction to an altogether-designed-to-be-healthy experience (corporate worship) that has become tragically unhealthy. It happens!

This was the first Sunday of my month-long hiatus from the ministry of our church. Quite honestly, I found myself sensing withdrawals (of sorts). I was tempted to just go and be a pew-participant throughout the experience, but I resisted. I started to attend another church in our community just to fill the void. I couldn’t settle where! Even though I got out of the bed, bathed, and had put on casual attire, it seems as though something was holding me fast. While I was absent from a public setting with other saints, I yet wanted His love and power; and I sat at a keyboard in my living room. I began to finger-out a little hymn. I sang (aloud), “As the deer panteth for the water so my soul longeth after thee; You alone are my heart’s desire and I long to worship thee. Many may also recognize these lyrics as the scriptural reflections emanating from the heart of David, the Psalmist (see Number 42). As I sang, He mysteriously made Himself known there “in the Garden.” I was no doubt in His presence! I truly bless His Holy name!

As I ponder further on yesterday, it occurs to me that real worship must begin with the individual, and God. The public forums we routinely attend should be extensions of those personal, private opportunities we engage often. These, while largely lacking the accompaniment of those common corporate expressions—choral music, the familiar instruments, congregational praise and audible expressions of joy, a warm embrace, etc.—yet can be equally as moving, tremendously rejuvenating, and quite meaningful for encouraging one’s journey. This one certainly did mine.

I’m on my sabbatical break. I know I am tired—tired of persuading, tired of begging, tired of counseling, tired of motivating, tired of hearing my own sermonic voice, just plain tired! My time alone with God in my home was only the beginning of a four week period of defragmentation—a serious time of analysis and adjustment. I don’t know about you, but I really need to do this (at least annually).

My question to you: Have you ever had a planned leave-of-absence? When was the last time you stepped away from everything and took a healthy break? Did the Lord meet you there? Were you able to discover moments when God strangely breathed on your brow? What did you learn? In case you haven’t in a while, I dare you (even urge you) to go there. I promise you, He’ll meet you there. And He will do for you there what ONLY God can do. So go quietly. Go regularly. Go curiously. Go hungry. Go thirsty. Go empty. Go alone. Just go!

Be encouraged, and keep praying for a brother! Thank you!

Life invariably taxes our strength. And the life of service is a constant draw on our emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual energies. None of us can be sharp and on point all the time. The best servants get tired and frequently miss the mark. Periodic withdrawals are vital necessities for spiritual clarity and reasonable effectiveness. Our Lord Jesus would routinely retreat from the crowds and from his close comrades to get alone with God to reflect and refresh. With purpose He entered into His secret closet to experience quiet and to contemplate (meditate) on His journey. I am convinced we should, too. The Apostle James reminds us, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you…” (Ch. 4:8; NASB)

The month of August is just around the corner when I normally take my sabbatical break. This is a time of literal disengagement and personal recovery from the intense work of ministry. It is something I have been privileged to do for the last eight years. I actually look forward to unplugging and clearing my head from this consuming work. It provides me a mental and spiritual health break like nothing else. I want to encourage every pastor (and other believers) reading this to work with your churches and design a scheduled time away when nothing else matters but you! You’ll feel so much better; and they will, too!

I have owned quite a few vehicles in my lifetime. The first one was shared with my older brother, Llewellyn. We got it in 1973. It was an aqua blue 1959 Chevrolet Belair hard top with a V-8 engine. It had four doors and those classic winged fenders on the rear. We were happy to have that car and excited every morning to go to school as we no longer had to ride the bus. Soon we graduated to a gold colored 1961 Chevrolet Biscayne that had six cylinders, but it afforded us the luxury of air conditioning. Now that was really nice, because the heat in the south was unbearable. When Llew finished high school he got a 1974 light blue Ford Pinto as his gift for graduation. Dad gave me the family van to drive; a 1972 short panel Chevy van that I fixed up for my own joy and personal pleasure. I put up some draw curtains and added an eight track tape player. Man; I had fun with that van!

With just about every vehicle I have owned, occasionally there have been times when they just would not start. To this day, I routinely carry a set of jumper cables in at least one of my vehicles for reassurance. I have learned the problem was many times much simpler than a faulty battery or a malfunctioning alternator. Often the battery would be fine and had adequate voltage to crank the engine. Upon closer examination, the issue was found to be a loose connection on the battery posts. The battery would have plenty of power. The connection just needed to be tightened or adjusted.

Ever thought you were experiencing a spiritual short? Perhaps your gifts and endowments are not firing properly or as keenly as they have at other times. Your problem may not necessarily be a “bad battery.” It just might be you only need to tighten up or adjust your connection. Take a look at your devotional life. Check your spiritual connection. You may need to withdraw and get closer to God. Set aside some planned quality time to spend with Him. God awaits your arrival in the Garden. We should go there often, and allow Him to renew our strength.

At those times when you have felt closer to God than at this present moment, guess who moved! God is never the problem; He changes not! He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. (Hebrews 13:8) Consider the critical ministry of disengagement. It could do wonders for your power!