It has been poignantly observed, “The bigger the Summer vacation, the harder the Fall.” Too true. Too true.
Nevertheless, that’s the risk we take whenever we endeavor to get away, unplug, and recharge. We all need some relaxation from time to time. God was so convinced of this fact that, in the Old Testament, He required the land to rest every 7 years and for men and animals to rest every 7 days. We need planned occasions for rest. Over the past two weeks, or so, my family and I have been doing just that.
So, what does a pastor and his family do while on vacation? Pretty much the same things you and your family do. For those more curious, here’s a quick glimpse into our little get-a-way.
While on vacation, I took naps (almost daily).
Unlike my wife, I am a napper. If my wife takes a nap at any point in her day, she turns into some kind of wide-eyed, nocturnal creature. She lies awake all night, like an owl, wondering, “Who made me nap? Who?! Who?!” I, on the other hand, can catch a few winks at 2:00pm as well as 6:00pm and still get to bed by 11:00pm without missing a beat.
On vacation, I took full advantage of my unique and enviable ability. As my new favorite DA Carson quote says; “Sometimes the most spiritual thing a person can do is take a nap.” I enjoyed some serious siesta spirituality!
While on vacation, I spent money.
No doubt saving money is an important part of good stewardship. Everyone is convinced of this. However, spending money and enjoying it is also a part of biblical stewardship. Ecclesiastes 5:9 says,
“As for every man to whom God has given riches and wealth, He has also empowered him to eat from them…and to rejoice in his labor; this is the gift of God.”
If all we do is save our money, we act more like Scrooge McDuck than Jesus. To echo the Ecclesiastical refrain, “There is a time to save. There is also a time to spend what has been saved.”
Certainly, we should be careful about overindulging our finances. God does not encourage us to go into debt for fun. However, in 1 Timothy 6, God encourages us to have fun with our money. Speaking directly to the wealthy, Paul says that:
“God richly supplies us with all things to enjoy.”
If we can afford it, God wants us to enjoy a round of golf, some new clothes, and a dinner at P.F. Changs. Certainly, our vacation was not opulent, but it was nice to spend what had been saved for such a time as this and give thanks to God in the process. Now it’s time to start saving for next year.
While on vacation, I read books.
For starters, I read the brand new biography John MacArthur, by Ian Murray, subtitled, “Servant of the Word and Flock.” While it wasn’t the best biography I have ever read, it gave a satisfying peek into the life and ministry of this beloved expositor. More than anything this books confirms that MacArthur is an authentic man of God. More than anything this books confirms that MacArthur is an authentic man of God deserving of the respect that he has received. I hope our library gets a copy.
In addition, I read JI Packer’s Concise Theology. How on earth Packer was able to deal with 94 different doctrines in just 267 pages, I will never know. His economy of words is remarkable. In the end, I agreed with about 93% (rough estimate) of this book. Though the subtitle claims to be “Historic Christian Beliefs” it is clearly biased towards Packer’s strongly Reformed perspective. Nevertheless, the book serves as a solid overview of much of what the church has and should believe.
Without a doubt, though, the best book that I read on vacation was Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl by N.D. Wilson. While it contains some unusual stream-of-consciousness writing and rather strong language (not sure why), the book is a dazzling, no-holds bar defense of the Christian worldview. It is philosophy, poetry, CS Lewis, parenting, science and wonderment all rolled into one magnificent cornucopia of insight. If the faith and imagination of a child could be captured in adult words, I have a feeling that Notes would come close. Of all the books that I’ve read so far in 2011, this has been my favorite bar none.
On vacation, I gained a few pounds (back).
The good news: From December of 2010 to March of 2011, I lost 30 pounds. The bad news: From May to the present, I have gained about 7 pounds back. Too bad losing weight is not as easy as gaining, huh? Oh well, back to the old elliptical machine!
On vacation, I watched some mindless TV.
My wife and I have never had satellite TV or cable. So, anytime I get a TV clicker in my hand with access to hundreds of channels, I find myself overwhelmed and thoroughly entertained. This may be common knowledge to some of you, but did you know that there are entire TV shows about people working messy, blue-collar jobs such as Ice Road Truckers and Swamp People? In addition, I learned that there was an entire show that followed a guy who eats disgusting amounts of food (Man vs. Food).
As banal as these shows were, I could not stop watching them! I even sat up one night until 2am with my brother-in-law watching Swamp Loggers and Sand Masters. What will they think of next? Whatever it is, I’m sure someone will tune in to watch it.
On vacation, I took a spiritual inventory.
Every time I unplug from church work, I stop and ask myself, “Which do I love more: my job or my Jesus?” Moments of reflection like this inevitably give way to soul-searching, sin-confessing, and attitude-adjusting. These two weeks were no exception.
I shared my sin, worries, fears with my God and my wife. It was both humbling and rewarding.
Vacation also gave me the opportunity to worship from the pew rather than the platform. Last Sunday, my family and I drove about two hours northward to Greenville Baptist Church. There we worshipped with Pastor Jamie (our former youth minister) and his new flock. Rest assured, he seems right at home. God’s blessings are already evident. As friendly as their chruch was, I felt, all day last Sunday, that something was missing. On the drive home it hit me, that something was YOU! I’m so glad to be back.