Vacations With, or From, God

Standard

This is probably a hazard of being employed in a Christian organization. Since so much of what we are doing is connected with our faith and helping people know Christ, it is sometimes a temptation on vacations to take a vacation from God. Maybe this is a problem others don’t have, but the fact that Rich (Hagopian, our pastor) addressed this on Sunday suggests that it may be.

Bob Trube2

Rich helpfully observed that developing regular spiritual disciplines can be helpful in this regard. I sometimes refer to these as habits of faithfulness, habits similar to brushing our teeth, that put us in the place where we are paying attention to God. And it is the case that things like my personal Bible reading and prayer do serve as times to think over the vacation day ahead and offer that, and myself to God.

Sometimes though, I think I look at vacation as a time to let down on the discipline and I wonder how many others deal with this? Many of us live highly scheduled lives between our work, family, church, and other obligations. Vacation is a welcome break from all that. And I think sometimes I, at least, am tempted to take vacations from God because I start to associate Him with all that discipline of a highly scheduled life that I long to get away from for a week or so.

It seems to me that vacation can be a time of hearing afresh the invitation of Jesus found in Matthew 11:28-30“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Jesus invitation is “come to me and find rest”. I think that is what we often are longing for, even in the midst of all our travel plans or whatever else we have in mind for our vacations. So I wonder, as we plan our vacations do we ask Jesus to help us rest, to help us find the rest we need in him?

Here are some of the disciplines of rest that have helped me:

  • Sleep! Many of us are racking up sleep deficits and don’t discover how tired we are until we slow down. I’m struck that when Elijah ran for his life from Jezebel’s threats (1 Kings 19), God let him sleep and eat before he spoke anything to him. Plan a day or two to simply sleep until you wake up without alarms. Then thank God for his gift of sleep!
  • Unplug. I have a hard time with this, but I find when I turn off the computer and get off the ‘net, I also mute the chatter of hundreds of voices so that I can hear the one that matters.
  • Long wandering prayer. David Hansen wrote a book by this title in which he described his long, leisurely walks in the woods, or by a fishing stream (it could be by the shore, or even a quiet city street in early morning) where he just noticed, thought, and prayed as things came to mind, and listened for God.
  • Slow, reflective reading of scripture, maybe a short portion that I think about over several days. A form of this is lectio divina which Rich mentioned and has provided resources for in the past.

One of the curious things about Jesus’ invitation to rest is that it is actually an invitation to rest, not from our work, but in the midst of our work. It’s not a rest from all yokes but the rest that comes from being in the yoke with Jesus, following his lead, going at his pace. I wonder if vacations can be a time where we can “re-yoke” if we have slipped the yoke.

And this might be helpful for those who would say, “I’ve not been very good at spiritual disciplines in everyday life.” You might ask yourself during vacation, what one or two ways of “resting with Jesus” do you want to carry back into every day life and how will you do it? Ben was wise in his post to suggest starting small. Five minutes of being quiet with Jesus each day, or five minutes reading and thinking about a verse of scripture, or one “long wandering prayer walk” a week might be all you do. But it will help you carry the “rest” of your vacation time with God into the rest of your life.

Here’s hoping you have a “restful” vacation with God!

Away Games of Faith

Standard

In the third part of Rich’s “away” series he talked about maintaining spiritual disciplines while on vacation. Spiritual disciplines can be things like reading the bible, praying, maybe even fasting, but more generally it’s about maintaining our “christian-ness” while away from our usual routine.

Ben TrubeBut in order to maintain a discipline you first have to have it, which for me is where I need to start. I’m good at practicing existing disciplines on vacation. I took two vacations this spring, each about a week long and on both I managed to write, research fractals, program, and maintain my skills in all the areas I give priority at home. If anything I had more time and discipline for writing on the road than my typical week affords me.

My second trip in particular would have been a classic opportunity to appreciate God. Cedar Campus, is a camp in the middle of the North woods of the upper peninsula where I used to go every year growing up. Not only is it a Christian camp, it’s simply beautiful and a great place to experience silence and the grandeur of God’s creation. I’m not saying I didn’t appreciate these things when I was there, but the experience was casual at best and definitely not deliberate.

My trouble is I tend to jump in whole hog when I try to start a new spiritual discipline, like Bible study. I don’t get a whole lot out of simple devotionals and one verse thoughts, I like to dig deep. I like to read a passage, then answer a set of fifteen questions about it. And I do all this by hand because it’s somehow more pure than typing. The result of this is that I only have kept a regular bible study going for about two weeks before pooping out. With my writing goals I have learned to be more sensible, to be practical about the number of blog posts I write each week, the number of words each session. But with Bible study I have not practiced enough to know which things to keep and which to discard.

And praying for long periods is also difficult. I’m not a quiet contemplative guy. I’m always thinking about something, my mind is searching for the next plot detail, the next solution to my programming objectives, or the best bit of Simpsons trivia. Sitting quietly and just trying to listen or talk to God is pretty much the opposite of my personality.

I know the best thing is to start small, and I’m doing what I can to put God in my way, or myself in the way of God. I install Bible study programs in my startup menu, keep devotional books in easy access at all times, and try to find moments of peace where I can really talk to God (like my commute, surprisingly). Maintaining these disciplines once I have them doesn’t feel like it will be that difficult for me, since I’m a strangely ordered individual. I just need to establish these habits in the first place.

It doesn’t help that my Dad is all too awesome at this (just kidding 😉 ). Tomorrow you’ll hear from someone who does the regular discipline thing well.