Monday, May 07, 2012


I waited tables for about a decade of my life and I loved it. Not just because I got free food and loved getting tips, but when I left the restaurant, I was done and work was over. There were clear boundaries. I didn't worry about sending emails to customers about soda refills, or have answer  calls on my cell about menu complaints, or have to text my wife that I'd be late because a customer stopped me on the way out to talk about the soup recipe. When the apron was off, my time was mine. I have found that one of my biggest challenges as a pastor is to figure out my time, and how to draw good boundaries outside of "work." (And really what is "work" and what is not. Not an easy answer for me). It's been a life long issue. It's a hard one because even though all followers of Jesus are called to do what pastors do (pray, serve, give, counsel, help the poor, share Jesus), I'm privileged to serve through the local church and have my family supported by ministry. So because of this, I often find myself in challenging situations where I don't make much time to rest. This is particularly just a weakness of mine because I love what I do. I love ministry, being creative, and packing my days with the nonstop action  and messiness of meeting with people. I love getting coffee, praying, and engaging in crazy discussions about life, like the Big Bang, sex, the Bible, marriage, and if aliens exist (not all in the same order).

Some days this ends up backfiring because "one hour" meetings never just go "one hour." When I'm backed up, then I'm running late to the next meeting which I usually always schedule just minutes after my previous appointment. Another thing I need to learn is giving myself space, room to breathe, and even saying no to good things. I'm prone to do, do, do, and go, go, go. It energizes me to take on multiple projects at a time, but is it the right thing for me to do? I really love meeting with people even when if it seems they just want to complain (not my favorite thing, but it's a part of the job and it can lead to great prayer and conversation). I enjoy solving problems, fixing things, and seeing people change, and seeing miracles happen. But this can be a dangerous passion.

There are times when I don't give myself enough space to relax. Sometimes I feel like a slave to my  text messages and voice-mails. It's like a sick competition with myself to see an empty inbox, and this can be draining. I feel accomplished and burdened at the same time trying to cross off what seems like a never ending scroll of a to-do list.

When I'm home I'd really like to kick my feet up and just chill, be with my wife, and engage with my family. And there are times when it is hard to be present in those moments knowing that  emails and Facebook messages are piled up. It can easily justify jumping on the computer because it's getting ahead on the next day's work. So I'll cheat myself from resting. And I'll cheat my family. Not good. Don't get me wrong I'm not some psycho blue tooth wearing vigilante who is considering a chain for my laptop to attach to my belt, but I DO need to tackle these issues WWE style. When I take my kids out, I deliberately leave my phone at home so I'm not distracted or tempted to answer a text. When I come home from work, I'll sometimes leave my tech stuff in my car so I won't be distracted. And I LOVE not even looking at my email when I have "days off." The more I do it, the more it becomes habit. Although, it still seems that when my email goes untouched for days, eventually I lose a few (or twenty) of those emails because I rarely seem able to answer them all.

They just end up getting lost in cyberspace. Which can damage communication and work flow, but it just might be the necessary collateral damage for being a healthy person. 

So with all this said, I am immensely thankful that PCC has seen fit to give me a three month sabbatical. About eight months ago I started the process, applied and was granted three months of sabbath! That word simply means REST! I've been with Peninsula Covenant Church since I graduated college fourteen years ago. And I am so blessed to call this my home church family. The important part is that I've been telling myself that I have to sabbath NOW! I can't just go, go, go until June 1st and then all of a sudden expect to start resting and have it feel normal. So, I"m starting to scale back because come June 1st, I won't be at any of my meetings, normal ministry activities, or on email or Facebook. It's going to be a very different summer for me. Abstaining from social media is going to free me up, mucho! My goal for the summer is to take time to be a husband and father, to listen, pray, read, and create. I have some writing projects I'm excited to work on. Our family of five will be taking multiple vacations to get away, play, and be with extended family. When we are in town we'll be joining other local churches for worship gatherings. I'd love any suggestions for good books to read and podcasts to listen to. And, I'd appreciate prayer as God speaks to me. I expect, because he's already started, that I'm going to learn a lot through conviction and encouragement in his Word and by his Spirit, and realize the good changes he wants to make in me. June 1-September 1 is going to be a great time! Hebrews 4.