One of the blessings of serving the Lord is the grace that He gives in intense seasons of ministry. And the older I get, the more conscious I am of my need for and the sufficiency of God’s sustaining grace during these busy seasons.
Because of the nature of being a pastor and of specifics related to our ministry here in Lancaster, December through June seems to move at breakneck speed from one outreach or ministry event to the next. It’s a joy to be part of what God is doing here, but by the end of June, I’m running on fumes!
Over the last few years, in particular, the Lord has been teaching me the necessity of periodically stepping out of the current, disengaging from the busyness of ministry to refuel for the road ahead.
Over the past few weeks, it was a blessing to take some time for vacation with Terrie and our family, followed by a season of focused study and preparation for the fall. Yesterday, was my first Sunday back in my own pulpit, and what a joy it was to be back with our church family!
Looking back over the past few weeks, there are at least seven specific blessings the Lord gave me through these days out of the current:
- Extra time with the Lord—One of the great blessings of having no time-sensitive agenda for the day is to get to spend extended time seeking God’s face. Because of my temperament, it usually takes me a few days out of the current to get all of the adrenaline out of my system, and there is no better way to decompress from a busy season than with an open Bible and an open journal. I spend time with the Lord every day of the year, but I treasured being able to spend extra time with Him every day.
- Rest—There is no substitute for rest. Period. Time out of the current allows for rest on several levels—the physical rest of sleep, the emotional rest of having a cleared to-do list, and the spiritual rest of having no sermon preparation for the weekend while getting to renew my own soul in the Lord.
- Family memories—I’ve preached for years that spiritual leaders must make their marriage and family a top priority. And there is no better way to do that than a family vacation! I’ve learned over the years (and Terrie, in particular, has helped me) to disengage from the office while spending time with our family. I’m so thankful I have because some of our most treasured memories as a family have been made during these times.
- Influencing grandchildren—God has blessed Terrie and me with six grandchildren (our newest born just two days ago!). I, of course, pray for them daily, and I pray to influence them for the Lord and eternity. One of the things that really stood out to me during our vacation this year as we spent time with our grandchildren was how appreciative children are of love and time. There is no better way to gain entrance into their hearts than simply spending quality time with them. It is during these times that heart strings are tied and opportunities are present to speak with them about the Lord and His love for them.
- Reading—One of the things I greatly anticipate each summer is having time to read. I filled up my kindle before I left town and brought several physical books as well. I was able to cap out this summer with twenty books on a wide variety of topics. (I’ve added several of the newest books to my recommended reading list.) A few were re-reads. Most were new. All were helpful in refueling my mind and helping me prepare for fall sermons.
- Perspective—Stepping out of the current with a mind renewed by extended time in God’s Word and a heart refueled by time with family does much to renew your perspective. During the busyness of daily ministry, it’s easy to move from one event, counseling appointment, or sermon preparation to the next and lose the big picture. Spending time with the Lord daily helps to guard against this loss of perspective. But even so, completely disengaging from the daily operations of ministry for several days does much to renew my perspective.
- Disconnection from social media—I have a love/hate relationship with social media. Just last evening, our grandson, Chandler, was taken by ambulance to the hospital with difficulty breathing. Within minutes of my posting this as a prayer request, dozens of people let us know they were praying. That is a blessing! (Chandler is breathing well without any treatments now and should be back home today, praise the Lord!) But, sometimes social media becomes more of a distraction for me. Just having a few weeks to mostly unplug (I had scheduled updates before leaving) was refreshing and helpful in clearing my mind and my perspective.
There are no two places that I love more than my home and Lancaster Baptist Church. It’s such a blessing to be back—and to be able to step back in the current with the renewing impact of each of the seven blessings listed above.
If you are in a busy season of serving the Lord, I’d encourage you to rely on the grace of God. As James 4:6 promises, “He giveth more grace”!
But I’d also encourage you to plan for some time out of the current. As a minimum, this should be daily time with the Lord. The next option is to clear a day or two out of the office to seek God’s face and spend time with your family.
But when you can, be sure to plan several days together to step out of the current and enjoy the blessings that are best found beside still waters.