So, I am planning on going on vacation. I will be gone from the church for two weeks, spending time with family in Washington, D.C., in a city that I love and the one in which I grew up. It will be restful, it will be renewing, I will get to cheer on the Washington Nationals in their home park. And, I will get to worship in my home church.
It is hard sometimes to be away from my current church, the one in which I now serve. To leave knowing that I am missing what is going on, that maybe someone needs to meet with me, or hear from me. I will be missing the excitement of the children who are attending our summer day camps for music, art, photography and vacation bible school. I will come back and have to play catch-up as people talk about events I know nothing about.
What I know is that a pastor, even an associate pastor like myself, needs time to rest, rejuvenate and take a break from routine. Nothing wrong with that. As a matter of fact one of the teachings from my seminary days that has stayed with me, perhaps the most, is the need for clergy to practice self-care. Take time away to play, to have a Sabbath.
I think about Jesus and the example he gives us. As we read scripture it seems that between every major thing that Jesus did in his ministry he went away, alone, to pray and meditate. Being effective in ministry can take a lot out of a person. How many times have I returned home on a Sunday evening, after three services that day, and collapsed in a heap? Drained and exhausted, but also exhilarated by the moving presence of God. It is as if conflicting thoughts and emotions are dancing around in my head. Usually it is a good tired. A tired that comes from doing what I love and knowing I have touched someone’s life for the better. It is also a tired that comes from seeing some people hurting, struggling with life, and really wanting to let them know God loves them and has not forsaken them. It is also a tired that knows that Monday it all starts once again. Preparation, reflection, study and writing. A Wednesday service to prepare. Maybe an unexpected funeral that demands time and interrupts the usual schedule, or meeting with someone who stops into the church and just needs to see a pastor. Another sermon for Sunday, if I am up in the rotation. (We are blessed with a senior pastor and two associates, so like major league baseball we can rotate a bit, even though we all have individual responsibilities).
So, off to vacation I go. I will try not to spend it writing sermon ideas for the coming weeks. I will try not to write my devotional column for our weekly newsletter. (I actually wrote those in advance this time, thanks to being inspired by the Spirit one afternoon in the quietness of my study at home). I will try not to answer every email, even though some are very urgent and do need a response.
Off I go on vacation knowing that God is, as always, in charge and things get handled. Off I go on vacation knowing I go with God, and God is also still at the church answering prayers and meeting urgent needs.
Off I go on vacation knowing that when I return I will return refreshed, excited and ready for what is next. I will also return with a wealth of new experiences to share and ones that will impact my ministry for the better.
Off I go on vacation feeling blessed to be doing what I am doing and blessed to know the love and grace of a God who provides for me abundantly.
God is in charge and always will be. Prayers will still be answered. Miracles will still abound and lives will continue to be changed. What I will continue to experience on vacation is the presence of God everywhere I look. I will continue to see Spirit changing lives, mending the broken and holding the weary until they can regain their strength. That is exciting, especially because I know that through all that I will experience I would have missed so much if I had not taken the time to stop, rest, and see God in a different way.
Rev. Jefferson Beeker
We live our lives one thought at a time. Let each of those thoughts really count for something wonderful.