Posted tagged ‘rest’

Unplanned Open Day

January 23, 2019

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                     January 23, 2019

                             

Yesterday schools, the public libraries, military bases, and other spots that are usually open…weren’t! The Colorado Springs area got blasted with a blizzard during the night and into Tuesday. The wind gusts scooted the swing across the deck behind our house. The cover on our hot tub was blown open (and I can’t wait to see what our next utility bill will be)! Roads were closed as snow drifts were shaped and created.

It was a planned day that suddenly became unplanned. Snow days have that effect. What hadn’t become a possibility pushes all the plans out of the way as it goes from the back row to the front and only seat!

There is something refreshing about a planned day that suddenly becomes open and free, unless you’re one of those drivers who gets stuck on the side of the road when the temperature is 4 degrees. There is something freeing about realizing that there is nothing you can do the whole day. You are homebound, away from the classroom or office, whether you want to be or not…and you breathe in a deep sense of peace!

Our lives are consumed by schedules and tasks. When I pastored I would make a list at the beginning of each week that would be filled with all the jobs to complete, the people to visit, and the meetings to attend. It covered a page, two columns wide, top to bottom. I’d cross off completed tasks, but each week the page would get filled back up. 

To be told that it’s okay to chill for a day, to be unproductive, to sit back in the recliner and read a James Patterson novel…it brings a smile to our face. We come face-to-face with the fragile nature of our plans and the harsh truth that we aren’t always the ones who can be in control.

Yesterday I worked on a jigsaw puzzle, read for a couple of hours, took a long nap, and wrote the first few hundred words in a new story I’m writing. In sharing what I did I must say that I didn’t seek to do them so I could have a sense of accomplishment. Each of them happened in the midst of my relaxed outlook.

It was as if I received sabbath rest on a Tuesday. There is a hint of God’s intentions in it, a calmness in the midst of the blizzard. It reinforces my belief that some of life’s biggest surprises come in the unplanned moments.

Down In the Back

January 13, 2019

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                   January 13, 2019

                                   

I’m preaching this morning. Could be a short sermon!

As my Papaw Helton would say, “I’m down in the back!” The muscle spasms in my lower back came on Thursday night. I could blame it on the 20 missed free throws my boy’s basketball team…17 for 37! That makes me flinch just thinking about it, and when I flinch…Ouch!

Back problems are no fun! I’ve had them on and off for twenty years now. A herniated disc afflicted me back in 2001, and since then I’ve noticed the warning signs of the possibility of spasms before they arrive.

This time I had played early morning basketball at the YMCA on Wednesday. That must have lit the fuse! On Thursday night as I coached I could tell the back wasn’t doing well. When I coach during a game, I’m usually in a squat position, like a baseball catcher. By the second half on Thursday night I couldn’t do that!

And so I’ve become cozy with a heating pad, and closely attached to the recliner. Last night I watched “Enemy of the State” with Will Smith and Gene Hackman for about the seventh time. In other words, it was an unproductive evening.

I believe that God sometimes puts us on our back to teach us something. Most of us learn best in the midst of uncomfortable situations and personal pain. The story of Jonah’s time spent inside a big fish comes to  mind! 

It’s when we’re “down in the back” that our listening needs to be even more acute. Years ago a man from our church had a serious heart situation that put him flat on his back for several weeks. Afterwards he told me that it was a life-defining moment for him. He had been slowed down enough to have long chats with God. If he hadn’t ended up on a hospital gurney he would have kept going full steam ahead and been oblivious to the presence of the Almighty.

After I preach this morning to the saints in Simla, Colorado, I’ll drive back home and spend the rest of the day  with “R’s”…recliner, reflection, rest, heated up RICE BAG, and reading. I’ll pick up my “One Year Bible” and perhaps get ahead in my reading of the scriptures. 

Maybe I’ll skip ahead to the Books of Job and Lamentations! 

Give Them More Recess!

May 14, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                         May 13, 2016

                                 

In recent weeks I’ve been substitute teaching in several elementary classrooms. I’ve observed tendencies and oddities that make me ponder the methods of educating kids. Last week I had a kindergarten class where multiple boys fell out of their seats numerous times during the day, but not a single girl took a spill. Why would that be?

One of my former college classmates, Cyndi Faur, had given me an idea that I had put into practice that hit upon the epidemic of chair-clumsy boys. It concerned recess. She suggested that I write the word “R-E-C-E-S-S” on the board and tell them that if their actions and focus were excellent that each of the letters would mean an extra two minutes of recess. Inappropriate behavior took letters off the board.

I tried that a couple of times, and then I switched to writing a letter on the board every fifteen minutes when there was good behavior and focused work.

If you want to help elementary kids stay focused give them the possibility of more recess. This past week I was back in the same building where I had subbed for first grade a couple of weeks ago. A few of the students saw me and ran up to give me hugs. “Mr. Wolfe!” they shouted as they saw me on the playground. They remembered me, not for my math prowess, but rather for the fact that I gave them a few extra minutes of recess.

“Recess” means “retreat” or “withdraw”. Growing up, youth retreats were the ultimate. Going away for a weekend with our youth group, retreating from the busyness of Ironton, Ohio for two days…those experiences were the mountaintops of my high school years! Retreats readied us for the weeks of school, the struggles of being teenagers in the midst of a world that was sending us all kinds of mixed messages.

Kids need retreats! They need breaks from the classroom. They need five extra minutes of getting that energy out. Five extra minutes of being let loose from the bridle of the daily phonogram lesson.

And here’s the thing! It doesn’t stop with elementary school students. All of us need more recesses…a few more minutes to retreat…even to let loose.

God created us that way. All work and no play makes Billy a very somber boy! All work and no retreat gives us a grayness that hangs over us like a Charlie Brown rain cloud.

I saw a picture of a church that has a kid’s play area in the sanctuary. I’ve got to think a little more about that one…like will we have to keep the adult kids out of there?… but perhaps churches should think about adult play areas, places of recess. Those youth retreats I referenced…some of the best times during those weekends revolved around just being together for a few moments of laughter and conversation. We draw close to God as faith journeyers as we walk through crises together, but also as we laugh, talk, learn, and play together. Shallow relationships focus on one aspect, instead of all the parts of the journey.

The small church in the small rural community that I travel to two Sundays a month to speak concludes each service with about 30 minutes of cake and coffee. Since there’s only about 20 people it is informal, punctuated with laughter, and blessed with awesome cakes from a lady named Betty (Crocker). In many ways it is the recess from the week for the farmers and hard-working people of that congregation. No one leaves right the benediction. Everyone stays. Everyone recesses.

There’s something sacred about that.

Back to school! I was the sub for a third grade class this week. They earned extra time at both recesses, but what may have stuck in the minds of several of the boys was the fact that I joined in with them each recess with the games of “Four Square.” Some of them looked at me differently after recess…like “Wow! Even teachers like recess!”

Yes, most of us do! And not just because I knew we had to do science when we got back to class!

The Rest in the Story

March 7, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                           March 7, 2016

                                       

     Yesterday I was blessed to be a part of a congregation that was welcoming back one of its pastors from a three-month sabbatical. Since I retired two months ago I’ve been on a sabbatical…sort of! I recommend it…before retirement!

The pastor focused his message on “rest.” Scripture talks about “sabbath rest”, a concept that we read about with a suspicious eye. One of the points he made that I typed into my iPhone was the fact that after Adam and Eve were created they started their lives with a day of unearned rest.

His point hit me! we view rest as something that is earned after a hard day of work, or a day at the end of a long work week. Rest, however, is like a breath of the grace of God. It comes to us because he loves us, not because we’ve worked hard for it.

Of course, our culture doesn’t think along those lines. We’re not sure if Sunday is the first day of the week to begin a new journey with rest; or the seventh day of the week to rest up after six days of battles and struggles.Most of us talk about Monday as being the start of a new week; Sunday is the end of the weekend!

One of the factors in my deciding to retire was rest, or lack of! Monday, traditionally, was my day off…my day of rest, noticeably at the end of my “pastor week.” On Tuesday when a new week was staring me in the face I wasn’t ready to go at it again. If I was an iPhone being charged I was only back up to fifty percent battery life. I did not rest well, or enough.

That thinking is hard for blue-collar Americans who go at it each Monday morning hard and long for forty plus hours divided over five or six days. To rest is too often seen as a luxury, as opposed to a necessity…or even a gift from God.

I’m now in the midst of that weird period- that time when I’m not required to do anything, but feel guilty if I don’t do something. “Doing something” is an affliction of our culture’s mentality. We connect value and meaning to it. When we rest the question that gets asked often is “how long are you going to rest before you get on with things?” Rest is seen as something we’ll get to do a lot after we die…R-I-P!

Personally, I recognize that I’m in a time of being redefined. People view me differently. I’m no longer “Pastor Bill”, even though it is a huge part of who I am. I’m enjoying this new journey, and yet I’m still a little uncomfortable with it. The book I’m reading that is laying beside me on the coffee counter here at Starbucks is entitled The 12 Week Year: Get More Done In 12 Weeks than Others Do In 12 Months. The pastor’s group I belong to is reading it. It w3ill be interesting to see if it has the effect of pulling me in to the fray once again!

Sunday Afternoon Naps

June 15, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                          June 14, 2015

                                              

I’m convinced every Sunday afternoon that God knew what he was doing when he called for a day of rest. Of course, as a pastor “Sunday rest” is somewhat of a “qualified term.” Some Sundays I see a few people in their sanctuary seats who have gotten a head start on me…nap, that is!

When I get home Sunday afternoon I become a cranky old codger if I’m not allowed to lay my head on the pillow. Usually I take a book, open it to whatever page I’m on, and get anywhere from ten pages to two paragraphs read before I’m snoring like a kid with tonsil problems!

Some Sundays all I need is about 20 minutes. Other Sundays I’m dead to the world for a couple of hours.

Naps are gifts from God! Rest is undervalued by our culture. Some people rest at the wrong times…like at their place of employment, so they can be rested to be active after work. Some people treat rest like it’s poison ivy. Keep it away!

I don’t know if it’s my profession or my age…or both…but I am extremely thankful God created a Sunday afternoon 2 P.M. I was I still subject to parental discipline I might act out around that time so I could be disciplined with a time-out in my room.

We live in a tired world. A healthy life is like a swinging pendulum that goes back and forth between work and rest, or work and play. That’s right, play can be restful. One thing that my grandkids do is say to me “Granddad, tell us a story…using our feet!” They plop their two pairs of feet across my lap and giggle with glee as I make up a story that uses their toes as props. Those moments of storied play bring a chuckle to my spirit when I’m dealing with stress.

Restful play and playful rest. Very few people get to the end of a week and wish they could have worked more, but a lot of tired folk get to the end of a week and wish they could have relaxed more.

I’ve decided that Sunday afternoon naps are so good I usually do a sequel on Monday. Not as long, but re-energizing. I used to feel guilty about that. Not any more! Pardon the pun, but I’ve given the guilt a rest!

Renewing the Dead

March 23, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                      March 23, 2015

                                      

There is a TV series that a lot of people are wild about entitled The Walking Dead. (Full Disclosure: I’ve never watched it) My understanding of the show is that people get turned into zombies or several dead-like humans. I’m sure there is a lot of tension, at least one bad dude who hasn’t turned into a zombie yet, love twists, and complicated situations.

Some weeks in ministry I feel like the walking dead. Spirit is on life support, prayers are a whisper, situations at church take my breath away, and when I wake up in the morning I can’t wait to go back to bed that night.

Our church is having a “Renewal Weekend” in a few days. It’s an event that came out of a Sunday school class! Some are amazed by that because the pastor didn’t initiate it or get the idea for it from attending a seminar. But…yes, several people in that class felt the leading of the Holy Spirit to bring it to me to see what I thought and I said “Go for it!”

It’s interesting that the closer the renewal weekend is the more predicaments I seem to be dealing with in church.

So here’s the bottom line! I’m so…so…so ready to be renewed! The team that has planned it has emphasized that this is an event that I will be able to “take in”, not lead or be involved in the preparation for. I’ve had about three meetings over lunch with some of the planners, but next weekend I will be soaking up, not dishing out.

Here’s a hard thing for people to hear! Sometimes pastors have nothing in the tank. They are in danger of being one of the walking dead, trying to find life and “a new word from the Lord.” People don’t like to hear that, but it’s the reality. Jesus went off by himself quite often. Sometimes we don’t know exactly why. We know that he would go off to pray, but not necessarily the reasons for the timing of it. Perhaps he was getting ticked off by his disciples and needed a break from them, or wanted to get away from the noise, or the endless cry for miracles to be performed and healing in people’s lives accomplished. All we know what he would suddenly cast out the daily itinerary as quickly as a demon and head to the high country.

This will be the first Sunday since mid-October that I will not have the responsibility of delivering a word from the Lord…almost six months.

That tells of another pastoral dilemma! Pastors have a high degree of thinking “It has to be me” in the pulpit on Sundays. Although they mean well, I have people tell me that when I’m not speaking on Sunday morning attendance falls. Pastors take on that burden of being present…all the time…24/7…morning, noon, and night.

We think it’s what we should do, but even tires need to be rotated once in a while!

Trust me! This is not meant to be a whine-and-cheese blog entry. I take responsibility for not taking care of my spiritual health. I love my congregation, and I know without a shadow of a doubt that they love me. It would in some ways be easier if I was despised. The love keeps you going, but sometimes love needs to say “Take a break!”

That break will be this weekend! Amen!

Learning to Vacate

March 27, 2014

WORDS FROM W.W. March 27, 2014

 

This is vacation week. I love vacation…and yet vacation is hard for me at the same time. That’s because it is hard for me to mentally vacate. After all, that is the meaning of vacation…”to vacate.”

Even when I vacate I have a tendency to only physically vacate. It is very, very difficult for me to totally check out. This week I’ve been thinking a lot about this coming Sunday’s message. We return Friday and I preach on Sunday. I’m not the type of person who can throw it together on Saturday with no forethought. The scripture and ponderings concerning it have whispered their way through this week. I don’t really mind that. It is part of the calling.

At least that is how I can justify it. My personality and work style would probably come to the same conclusion if I was a teacher, a lawyer, or a barista. If I was working at Starbucks I would probably be thinking about something related to caffeine. This summer I’ll be taking a month-long study leave. My congregation’s Leadership Team and Diaconate members have told me “to vacate the premises.” They know that I will be too easily pulled into things if I’m around. A study leave is suppose to enable you to leave in order to study. I’ll write a blog post each day, read books that I’ve been staring at on my shelves for so long they have gathered dust, pray, ponder, rest, and, of course…drink coffee.

But for it to have meaning I must vacate. It is not optional. It is just part of it. Part of the experience for me will be “learning to vacate.” How can I “not be present?” Many people are good at that. They can turn it on and off like a light switch. I’m more like a fire pit. The fire may be out, but there is some smoldering that is going on for a long long time.

One of my other “issues” is the guilt of vacating. Will people think less of me as a pastor if I scurry off? Do others think I am taking a long vacation that will be filled with sandy beaches, sun screen, and baseball games? Pastors have this need to be needed. Will my self-worth take a dive if I vacate for a while? Whose bedside can I pray at if I’m not around? Will people be able to function without the pastor on site? I’m convincing myself, although I’m not entirely on board yet, that they will do just fine without me around…that others in our church can say a kind word and utter a soft prayer for strength just like the one who has been ordained.

As you can tell, this whole area of “vacating” is a little uncomfortable for me although I’m looking forward to it. To draw a rough comparison, I had been looking forward to swimming in the ocean on vacation. After arriving at our beachside residence I turned on the TV. The sound of the ocean waves was softly waltzing into our room from outside, but on the TV was a nature film about seals and whales. It was very interesting until the scene appeared of a seal splashing around in the water juist a few feet from shore and an orca suddenly rising from the waves and snatching him in his mouth. Suddenly the excitement of swimming in the ocean was tempered a little bit!

Some things in life are like that. We approach them with excitement, and yet we fear that some teeth may be closing in on us. Once again, it is evident that I’ve got a lot to learn about vacating.