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Sabbaticalogue Wk. 4 – Doing Nothing Can Be the Hardest Kind of Something

Some people have told me that a sabbatical sounds so “spiritual,” a.k.a. “boring.” “So, what do you do, sit around and pray all day?” Not that praying is necessarily boring, although I have experienced my fair share of boring prayers (offered by me). No, a sabbatical is not just a time to pray but also a time to play.

Hence, the pic of Laura and me on the beach in Marco Island . . . and, yes, it’s gloriously hot. One of the many lessons I’ve been learning about a sabbatical is that it shouldn’t be limited to “professional” clergy. Not all Christians may have an opportunity to take an extended time of rest, renewal, and recalibration, but the concept of sabbatical should exist in the weekly rhythm of our lives.

John Ortberg calls this, Soul Keeping, building into our daily and weekly routine ways for us to keep our souls healthy and refreshed. In his book by the same title, he reminds us that in the 23rdPsalm, God “makes me lie down in green pastures.” He doesn’t invite us to lie down. He doesn’t request us to lie down. He makes us lie down.

Many of us remember the nights when our children simply didn’t want to go to bed, and eventually, we had to make them lie down. Ortberg asks, “Is it bedtime for your soul?”

How good are you at doing nothing? I’ve found that doing nothing can be the hardest kind of “something.” How long can you sit still in a chair doing nothing? You’re simply “being”—still, at peace, in silence, in solitude. I struggle with doing nothing because I feel guilty. I feel like I’m unproductive, and if I’m not producing something (like a sermon, book, or staff meeting), then I’m not valued, a.k.a. “important.”

According to Ortberg, “The capacity to do nothing is actually evidence of a lot of spiritual growth.” Centuries ago, Blaise Pascal wrote, “I have discovered that all the unhappiness of men arises from one single fact, that they are unable to stay quietly in their own room.”

Yes, doing nothing should lead to something. We don’t slip into a black hole of “nothingness” as God makes us lie down in green pastures. But we come apart from the busyness which can often lead to hurriedness in order for our souls to find healing and rest. Vance Havner once wrote about the need for soul rest: “If you don’t come apart for a while, you will come apart in a while.”

Perhaps your life circumstances make a two- or three-month sabbatical an impossibility, but nothing in life should keep you from “sabbathing” on a weekly basis. Find a rhythm that works for you. Join in the work of God who makes you lie down in green pastures and leads you beside still waters to restore your soul.

And when you practice the discipline of doing nothing, you will discover that God is up to something.

Posted by Rick Grover, Lead Pastor with

Sabbaticalogue Wk. 3 - Someone May Need You There

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As the old saying goes, “Distance makes the heart grow fonder.” The pics you see are of Laura and me with our oldest son, Will, and his wife, Michaela. We don’t get to see them too often, so these pics taken in New Orleans show some pretty fond hearts filled with love for our kiddo and his bride.

Likewise, even though I’ve only been on sabbatical for three weeks, without attempting to sound sappy, my heart is growing pretty fond of our E91 family. I’m not implying I had no fondness for our friends prior to my sabbatical, but sometimes I take for granted those closest to me.

I took time this week to watch the sermon preached at E91 this past Sunday. Blake Park, our Students Pastor, preached on what it means to belong to a church. If you missed the sermon, let me give you the Reader’s Digest version: The Church is not a country club; it’s a family. And families are not places where you have to “fit in” but places where you get to belong.

Call me emotional, but that means a lot more to me now than it did three weeks ago. When Laura and I are not around our kids, we feel the tug of the heart that latches on to memories and delights in moments together. And so it is with the family of God.

Sometimes.

Like any family, we can grow weary of one another. Personalities, opinions, and preferences cause us to long for a family vacation, where we vacate from and not with. But when your kids are grown and gone, reunions turn into revivals where memories become selective and bygones are bygones.

I was struck with the beauty of belonging when I read an autobiographical description of Kathleen Norris about why she goes to church. She writes candidly about her frustrations with her church, where it’s hard to get along at times, to feel connected, and to agree with everyone.

But then she writes this, “[Sometimes] I forget that I don’t go to church for myself. . . . A Presbyterian pastor once reminded me . . . that we `go to church for other people. Because,’ he added, `someone may need you there’” (Amazing Grace, 203).

“Someone may need you there.” And I may need to admit that I need them. My sabbatical is a reminder of that reality. Whatever church you call home, you’re not only there because of what you need; you’re also there because someone may need you. And, let’s face it, we need them too.

We’re a family. God’s family. When we choose to be adopted into a family and adopt others to join us, we do so knowing full well that means we get to welcome the smile that sometimes turns into a scowl. And for that I give thanks, because I don’t always carry a smile, and I’m grateful for a place to belong even in those days when smiling is not on my agenda.

Posted by Rick Grover, Lead Pastor with

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