The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched (Elijah) and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God.—1 Kings 19:7,8
The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!”
Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”—1 Samuel 3:10
The article I publish on this blog each week starts as a weekly email that is sent out to our church family. It’s called Thursday Thoughts, based on the assumption that every week, I’ll have some thoughts worth sharing. Some weeks the thoughts come easily, other weeks I have to search my soul a little bit. But any time I stare at a blank screen for half an hour because I simply have no thoughts, it’s a good sign that it’s time for a vacation. Luckily, mine starts next Wednesday.
When people ask me how summer is going, I’ve been giving them this answer: “good, but busy.” As I write this, I’m coming off of a great men’s event last night, with lots of food, laughter, corn-hole, and shooting guns. (Yes, this is Lassen County, so when men bond, guns are sometimes involved.) This coming weekend, I’m excited to spend time with a visiting missionary, and to share the stage with him on Sunday morning. It’s also fair week, so our family will be spending time (and money) at the fairgrounds, probably more than once. After that there’s only a few more days of swim practice at 7:00am…it’s shaping up to be another “good but busy” week.
But then it’s vacation time. Funnily enough, there was a long season in our lives where our annual vacation was to Susanville, where we now live. I would take two weeks off in the middle of the summer, and we would come down here to swim in Grandma and Grandpa’s pool and go to the lake on Uncle Randy’s boat. Sometimes we all went camping together for a few days. And somewhere in the middle of those trips, I would hit a point where I actually relaxed and stopped feeling like I should be doing something productive every second. I would go for several days without thinking once about work. It was glorious. And it was the reset I needed before fall came, and with it another busy season of ministry.
But somehow I got out of that habit. For the past couple of years, I’ve been taking shorter vacations, fitting my breaks in between Sundays. 6 days crammed with activity, with our whole family in the minivan. These trips are usually a lot of fun, but “vacation” might not be the best word to describe them. When a break starts and I can already see its end on the horizon, and every day in between is full, I’m playing, but not relaxing. This year I realized I need to relax. So I’m going to take my family to the lake for a day. Then I’m going to take three days and go backpacking by myself in a location known only to my wife, so I can get away from the noise of my routine long enough to hear God. Then we’re going up to Washington to go camping with Carey’s family in the mountains, because Susanville is now the place we need a vacation from. The cousins will connect over sun and water and s’mores, and the adults will play cards and laugh around the campfire. I’ll be taking my hammock, and not my laptop.
Sometimes I forget that before I can speak for God, I need to hear from God. Sometimes I think I’m a machine that can just do the same thing, week in and week out, for months on end. But even machines need to be refueled. When Elijah, the prophet of God, was coming down from an intense time of ministry, God sent him an angel whose job it was to make sure he got enough food, water, and sleep. Did you know we have a God who cares if we get enough food, water, and sleep? Sometimes I forget. Sometimes I give myself too much credit for being a soldier for Jesus, pressing onward and upward for the sake of the Church and the Gospel. Then the day comes when I stare at a blank screen for half an hour or so, and I realize that I need a vacation.
My family and I would treasure your prayers for a restful break for the next couple of weeks. Pray for safety, and for refreshment. Pray that God would speak and I would listen. And pray that He would lay the foundation for another fruitful season of ministry this fall.
Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”—Mark 6:31