"Honey, I'm home!"
As I got up this morning and read the Life Journal readings for today, none of them really spoke to me. One was apocalyptic in nature, one has been made apocalyptic in the 2000 years since it was written. So, I'm stepping away from the Life Journal today.
I got home last night, late, after four days in the Blue Ridge Mountains, on the North Carolina/Georgia line. It's an absolutely gorgeous part of the country. You're in the mountains, well, foothills I guess, without all the touristy stuff that you find in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. I love the mountains. I love the quiet. I love the views. I love the hiking trails. I love the mountain streams. I love it, and every now and then, I just have to take a mountain sabbath.
I didn't tell anyone where I was going, except for just a very few folks. I didn't answer my phone. I didn't check emails, with one exception, and found out that an old friend of my family passed away. My cabin had a front porch with a rocking chair, and you couldn't swing a cat from the porch rail without hitting a tree (no cats were swung on this mountain sabbath). There were a couple other cabins close by but you couldn't see them because the woods was so thick. At night, I left the windows open so that I could hear the mountains. It was great. In fact, this is going to be a yearly thing for me, only next year, I'm staying a week.
It wasn't a vacation, and actually, since I was working I'm not even sure I can call it a Sabbath, but if we define Sabbath as a day of rest, then I guess it was...even if I was working. I spent my time reading and writing, and started a sermon series, so it was work, but my spirit got to rest. And...that's a good thing.
Jesus told us to do that, you know. I just haven't been listening, and I'm not alone. He told us to "come away with me by yourselves to a quiet place, and get some rest." But the demands of daily life: jobs, family, sports, bills, who's turn is it to cook supper...those things keep us from it. And it's not that those aren't important, they are, and I'm already back in work mode this morning, but...just as important, or maybe even more so, is our going away to a quiet place.
I have preached this, and preached this, over the last several years. I have blogged about it. I have told others to do it. I have done devotionals about this, but I haven't done it myself. I'm guilty. I'm a hypocrite. But...coming off of my first mini-sabbatical, I can see now, first hand, how important it really is. I have watched other folks crash and burn because they wouldn't take a Sabbath, so I knew the signs, and when I started seeing them in myself I knew it was time. I had to be intentional about it. I had to be devoted to it. I had to do it.
When I started being short with my family, I knew it was time. When I started getting short with my folks at church, it was time. When the wall came up while I was trying to write, it was time. When I would cringe because the phone rang, it was time (wait, nevermind that one, I never have liked the phone). I could have kept on pushing, and lots of folks do. I could have ignored the signs. But I think, no, I know, that part of my responsibility to my flock is to take care of myself.
Was it selfish? Maybe, but that's ok. My girls and my church folks will be glad I was selfish. in fact, I'm going to be selfish again next year. I may even be selfish twice a year. Will I keep talking about how important this is? Absolutely. And not just to other folks, but to myself, until I see that I have made a regular Sabbath part of my yearly routine.
And maybe it's not the mountains for you, but the important thing is finding some way to get away to that quiet place and rest. For my wife it's scrapbooking, for you it may be a good book and a fireplace, the "what" is not so important.
So, First Church, I'm going to ask you to hold me accountable. I'm going to ask you to make sure I take a day off every week, and that I take some time in that quiet place with HIM. If I'm not, I want you to call me on it. If I start getting short, I want you to ask me when was the last time that I took a day apart. If you notice that I look tired, I want you to pull me aside and tell me about it. I want to be able to be the best shepherd I can be, and I need your help.
Ah, mountain time. No wonder John Denver sang about it so much.