Five Benefits of Vacation

There are at least five benefits of taking time off and being away. I'm talking about the wonderful deposits we place into our souls when we take a vacation.I’m returning from four weeks off of work. Four weeks might seem like an extravagance—that you cannot afford. I understand that. But for me—for us—we simply had to take this time off and had to be away. Here’s why

  1. I needed time off and away because I needed to detox my soul.

Stress can make you sick. Like a sponge, we absorb so many things around us and into us that we are not fully aware as to how much we have taken on and taken in UNTIL we are off and away. My time off allowed me the much needed time and space to realize a few things:There had been too much work.There had been too much time devoted to problem solving. My mind was too busy--too filled with people, stuff and things that drain and not give me life. I needed my vacation. I needed every bit of it and there is nothing wrong or nothing really selfish about taking time off. In doing so, we will be the better for it and the better for all, if we take the time we need to trickle charge our inner batteries.There had been to much care-giving that I almost reached my tipping point of what felt like going over the edge—the edge into a very dark space that I could feel, smell and a space that touched me in the dark hours of the night. We greatly underestimate the toil of our work on our souls. Take some time to think  about what you've lost by all your gaining at work.For me, everything and everyone began to feel “too much”. This was a sign of how desperately I needed the time off and the time away. When our thinking becomes jaded; when we live in a state of cynicism and sarcasm and the inner voice begins to chant to us that “No one cares and no one ever will care…” then this is a time to stop. This is a time to dis-engage. This is a time to pull away and be as off as you possibly can.I realized that in the past year I had tried to save many drowning victims. Some of them made it and survived. I’m glad for that. But in all my efforts and my accumulated sense of fatigue of over 40 years of ministry of saving others, I was thinking that I may not survive--that I could not save myself from the rip tide of a raging current I felt sucked into. I needed time to rest, time to breath and time to come back to my senses.Few of us have the ability to be aware and awakened to the slow, steady drain on us of our work—especially if we are in caring professions such as teaching, ministry, mission or helping people. My slow leak in my soul had to be looked at and stopped if I was to make it to the finish line. My time off allowed me this time to de-tox from the toxins that had accumulated in me, on me and around me.Time off and away helped me to regain a sense of who I am and what I want to be about.  Time off does that--it helps us come to our senses. Like the prodigal in the parable of Jesus, a pig stye of a mess can help us come to our senses.  Sometimes pig-styes helps us decide who we are and what we want in life.

  1. My time off meant I needed to be away and not just off.

Because I office in my home, home can sometimes be a symbol of work, not just a home. My cluttered desk symbolized my cluttered mind and muddied mind. I needed to be away.  To vacation is meant to "vacate" or leave the ordinariness of our lives and to walk into some kind of adventure that will help us--if not heal us.Jesus knew this well. He explicitly told his followers that “It is to your advantage that I go away”. His being away would call his followers up to lead, not to just follow. He was, of course speaking of the advantages of his Spirit coming soon, but nonetheless, he left them many times in doing his own inner work of  solitude and vacating his own work for the work of his soul.My time away meant unplugging and detaching from mind-draining meetings filled with conversations about plans and strategy. My time away meant I would bask in sunshine and the shelter of Douglass Furs. I would stare at humpback whales not my computer screen. My time away would be time to let myself “come down where I ought to be” as the Quakers say so beautifully in their anthem, “Tis’ a gift to be simple. Tis' a gift to be free. Tis' a gift to come down where we ought to be.”  Vacations help us to come down. We come down from the junkie highs of busyness and adrenaline rushes and addictions of doing way, way too much in our lives and with our lives. Vacations can be a taste of the simple life--a glimpse of what heaven may be like.My time off meant a time away to the pacific shores of California and into the wilderness of Colorado. Wilderness is the soul’s invitation to rest—to become small in the grandeur of mountains too great to comprehend and sunsets too glorious to do anything other than shut my mouth and open my heart. I needed the greetings of trees, the swells of the ocean tides and the song of the western Tangier—I saw my first one and the lushness of green meadows.3. My time off and away was a time to go into beauty and to breath it in. There is nothing that replentishes the soul like beauty. Beauty awakens us to another world we miss when we move and live in perpetual busyness and in our multi-tasking, overly complicated lives. We think too much of ourselves, our work and our accomplishments. Beauty makes us feel small and when we become small, we are allowed to fathom true greatness and Greatness. Beauty pierces us and I needed to be pierced to let the pus out of my infected life. I had become infected and the antidote to the soul’s infection is quiet beauty. I listened to music. I walked in solitude across the summer wildflowers of Crested Butte landscapes. I sat by roaring rivers that flowed….that’s all the river did. It flowed and flowed…and I thought to myself, I want my soul to flow again. Day by day I began to feel the flow again with me. It was life and it was good. It was very good. In time and through time I felt myself becoming unstuck--and isn't that anyone's real goal in life... not to be stuck but in the flow of real life?

  1. My time off and away fostered an intimacy within with God and with my wife.

When we are “on” we feel torn between priorities and choices. Time off and away relaxed that tension. We did what we WANTED to do and we did not do what we did not want to do. We made healthy choices about meals. We hiked a lot and that led to conversations we enjoyed that we simply did not have back in our routine of life.On one day, Gwen and I were praying together and reading a Psalm—the poetry for the soul. We were struck with one verse in which the Psalmist says so simply God wants to bless us with peace.(Psalm 22:11). I thought, “God really wants me to experience peace—to live a peaceful life. This is what he longs for when he thinks of me. He’s not so much concerned with the questions I am about my work and life. He simply wants me to live a life of peace.” I loved that verse and I love it to this day. I want that peace more than I want anything else in my life, don’t you?Gwen and I chose not to talk about some things; some people and some future things. We needed our minds and our adrenalin glands to relax. So shelving some conversations simply helped us. We live in the complex world of relationships and people’s problems including our own. So choosing to NOT go “there” actually helped us.  Hard talks and difficult conversations are always going to need to be processed. But perhaps we can even choose to "vacate" difficult subjects and to allow the soul and our tired, worn bodies to recuperate. There will always be re-engagement but for this time--for this time off and away we need to work on what we engage in and what we vacate from.In the few days back now, we’ve chosen to transition (and we are taking three days to be back home and transition to a very full schedule) we are now beginning to talk about this next week, next month and next season that is here. But the choice to Sabbath from so much work-talk, God-talk and people talked helped us to simply BE together and not feel torn apart by our opinions and ideas.  One big mistake I see people doing is not allowing transition time to come back early, unpack, get ready to re-engage. There's a rhythm to everything---even to a healthy vacation. I've learned the hard way by years and years of stop and jerking back in--feeling the jerk of a quick re-entry without time, grace and being good to myself and perhaps my team mates.

  1. Our time off and away helped us experience rich times of contemplation and life-giving reflection.

Time off and away allowed us time to chew on what we were reading rather than speed reading to get through the book or text. We read, re-read and continue to read again some chapters from amazing books such as Eugene Peterson’s brand new and yet his last book to publish, “As Kingfishers Catch Fire.” One chapter in particular about “training up children” or parenting has us talking everyday about what it means to raise up a child, a staff member and people in general. We read poems and poems read us. We took the time to slowly digest words so that they did, in fact become our necessary bread each day. I read a wonderful book by an African about silence. Robert Cardinal Sarah’s book, “The Power of Silence Against the Dictatorship of Noise” offered me words from a perspective other than an American to understand the sheer power of silence and what silence can do in us. I have loved this book and his thoughts—so different from my own.We chose to not watch the news. We chose to not know what was going on out there so we might better know what was going on in our own hearts and within us. It was a healthy choice for us. I chose to have no communication with our team at work. I needed a hard line to be drawn so that I would not try to spin the plates of work, team and planning with my own soul's work and need to find life with me.  Again, it was a healthy choice. I had a few emails that I chose to respond to but hearing nothing helped me hear more deeply from Someone who really wanted all of me for this time.The lost art of contemplation and reflection is a great concern of mine. We are so bent on getting information. Our churches have perhaps fallen into this also. So much teaching. So much preaching. So much information giving. We forget that the spiritual life is first, of all, a life to be lived…not the amassing of more and more stuff. We have no time to process what is happening in us and around us. We are reactionary to everyone and everything popping off at the mouth on social media leaving carnage in our social media paths. I'm tired of this. I'm very tired of this.We cannot live the spiritual life or a life marked by abundance by feasting on the stale bread of social media. We can not make sense of life, God, relationships or anything else in 140 characters. That's the simple truth. There I said it.  So, I chose to fast from Facebook. I chose to fast so that I could feast on something far, far, far more nourishing to my soul than seeing pictures of you and those imagines stirring up feelings in me that I often would not like. Your times in Mexico and the beach only made me jealous actually. While I was sometimes glad for you, I was more wondering why I couldn’t be sipping that drink I saw you drinking? There was room under that umbrella on the beach. So why didn’t you invite me to join you?” Things like that and more and worse made me glad to choose to leave the false and pretend world we project so often on social media platforms. That world does not foster the real world of intimacy, connection and peace. At least it does not for me.If Jesus, himself took regular time off and to be away then why shouldn’t we do the same? This is a question that seems to run counter-cultural to our ethos of work and life and our not taking the time off and by being away may be doing far, far, far more damage than we can realize by being on; being present and being consumed with our everyday life. There are many more benefits from time spent being off and away. Think of your own and make the choice to come back to life as I am doing.(If you buy the books I mentioned here on the links provided,  your purchases will benefit the ministry of Potter's Inn.)

Facing the Scarcity Dilemma

Deep inside many of us, there is a scarcity—a lack—an insufficiency that gnaws away within us. It begins within us due to something we missed and would be better off if we had gotten. Like our thirst for water when we're really needing a drink, we know that it is the water that will satisfy us. Nothing else will do but water. There is another scarcity however that concerns me for all of us.When we go through our lives sensing an inner absence; a starkness to how we were raised and how we were loved, we set out on a pilgrimage to fill his hole and fill this shortage.This is how the country song writer said it best, we “look for love in all the wrong places. We look for love in too many faces.”  This song has become the National Anthem of so many of us who live with an inner scarcity--an inner need for love.In hearing the stories of men and women and in research now available to us, we can clearly see what this scarcity is all about and what we need to begin to do to move towards not only our healing but also to experience the life Jesus described as a more “abundant life.”Our inner abundance is formed early in our lives by three shaping influences. I call these the Trinity of Selfhood and this Trinity of Selfhood forms the base for a rich and satisfying life—one that is lived without nagging inner turmoil and perpetual desolation. We know about the Trinity about God. But do we know about the Trinity of ourselves? Let me explain.First, every living soul needs self-esteem. Self-esteem is the sense that I matter. It is the confidence in one’s own worth and dignity. Early in life, we are signaled about our own worth through the eyes of our parents. If a baby sees their mother’s eyes, the father’s interest in giving them attention, their self esteem is birthed right there. In the profound book, The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van de Kolk, MD , we read the evidence of how the scarcity of self-esteem in a baby’s life is so formative right from the beginning. If a mom is busy on her social media while she also is breast feeding her baby, the baby is simply not getting the mother’s eyes—the mother’s delight—the mother’s focus of attention.  The constant and repetitive distraction; the emotional absence; the starkness of some of our formations have left us with an inner scarcity--an inner thirst for what only love will satisfy. The baby senses this and somehow knows that “I am not the delight of their attention.” This is where the scarcity dilemma begins and then continues a long, long journey of trying to be delighted in by someone, something or anything that will tell me that “I matter.”In ancient Egyptian art, the eyes were always portrayed as large—the largest facial feature on the face. This is because they believed that the eyes are the windows into the soul.  Come to find out, they were right. Through the eyes, we learn if we matter or not. We see through the pupil of someone to discern if we are a bother; if we are being tolerated or if we really are being delighted in.Second, our self-concept forms which tells us who we are to others. Our self-concept is how we construct how others view us and regard us. Self-esteem is how I view myself. Self-concept is how I believe others view me. Some of us grew up and now live as adults believing lies about ourselves. These lies were information we gathered from our earliest days about ourselves, other people and whether people and God were both good and safe or dangerous and not to be trusted. The spiritual writer and priest, Henri Nouwen has said, “ First of all, you have to keep unmasking the world about you for what it is: manipulative, controlling, power-hungry, and, in the long run, destructive. The world tells you many lies about who you are, and you simply have to be realistic enough to remind yourself of this. Every time you feel hurt, offended, or rejected, you have to dare to say to yourself: ‘These feelings, strong as they may be, are not telling me the truth about myself. The truth, even though I cannot feel it right now, is that I am a chosen child of God, precious in God’s eyes, called the Beloved from all eternity, and held safe in an everlasting embrace.”Here I confess that I, too, hear those lies every day about myself. Don’t you? Don’t we all hear the voices around us and within us re-enforcing what is not really true about us? These are the lies that need to be de-bunked and exposed. These are the lies I can hear when I am working; with my friends, at church and alone. These are the lies that tell us stuff that is not true about ourselves and how life and God really do work.  These are the lies that must be dismantled until we find our core truth—that we are the Beloved of God and his eyes are upon us and that God is truly delighted in each one of us as his child. He told Jesus his core truth. God told Jesus that Jesus was the Beloved of God and since we are his own sons and daughters, we need to hear this message for ourselves. Until we do, we will live in this scarcity dilemma.Self-Efficacy forms the third shaping member of our own trinity of understanding ourselves. Self-efficacy is about our competence, our ability and our confidence in ourselves. This is the fruit of healthy self-esteem and a self-concept that is rooted in reality and love. Our self-efficacy is the galvanizing within us that we have what it takes to not only live but to make a difference.I see Jesus offering these three important ingredients--this important "Trinity of Self-hood" to everyone he touched. He offered dignity to the woman at the well. He offered a redefining of the self-concept of Zaccheus as a “wee little man” and showed him that he mattered. He called up Peter as a generic fisherman to a new self-understanding of being the anchor to his teachings and the pioneer of the Christian church. When you see the life of Jesus in action and read his own words, you can see, how his modus operandi was to give love and dignity to people who were enslaved to the yoke of religion without any regard to their inner life—their own scarcity of abundance. This is why, I believe, the message of Jesus really is good news…a new so deep and so revolutionary that we need to revisit his teachings regularly because if we don’t we really have no other choice than to believe the lies the world is telling us.How do we go about dealing with this inner scarcity if we are wakening up an inner sense of lack? Here are five considerations:

  1. We must anchor ourselves in the core truth of our true identity as God’s beloved. This is a daily work and not a one-time fixes all sort of thing. Reading, Henri Nouwen’s “Life of the Beloved” David Benner’s “The Gift of Being Yourself” are the two “go-to” books I read and re-read often.
  2. Do the inner work you need to dismantle the lies about yourself. This may involve talking with a trusted friend, working with a counselor and having a spiritual director you can process with. Processing your own lies with and listening to some feedback from a wise source is essential. Having someone who can mirror back to you your own lies and help you embrace the truth about yourself no matter who wonderful it really is--is just crucial. Read my last sentence again... "no matter how wonderful" you really are....Be courageous and begin or continue this good work.
  3. Attend a church that not only helps you know God but will help you know yourself. John Calvin, the reformer of the church in the 16th century said in is famous “Institutes,” that “the greatest way to know God is to know yourself and the greatest way to know yourself is to know God.” A church that is committed to both self-knowledge and God knowledge is a church that is committed to real health and true health and growth.
  4. Consider using the new online and DVD resource we produced, "Soul Care 101". Here's the link to the 8 DVD versionHere's the link to the Streaming Version available world wide and right now!  In this 8 session study, Gwen and I expound on the core need of every soul to be loved, to feel safe and to belong. It's important teaching and material that you can explore in a group or with a friend.
  5. The journey of becoming our true self is a journey of being and becoming. We realize that we are loved--but because of the fact of so many and redundant lies, we are always on the journey of becoming the beloved. Both aspects of this journey are important.


Leah's Unplug Story

Have you joined our Unplug Challenge yet?  We challenge you to commit one day a week to set aside the distraction of technology.  You won’t be disappointed in your commitment.  We have a inspiring testimony to share with you from a friend Leah who lives overseas…Unplug image "I live overseas and have a million reasons to live on my phone. I am in a long distance relationship, my friends live in ten different countries and my family sends updates via text, not carrier pigeon. My phone is often my shield from my loneliness. If I feel isolated or forgotten I can pick it up, send a text and reenergize my extrovert streak that often feels neglected in a foreign land. "I am also a member of the media and spend at least 40 hours a week monitoring and writing stories on screens. I get paid to follow tweets, watch competitors’ broadcasts and check Facebook. When I get home I feel drowned in pixelated light and just want to chat and tell someone about my day. Remember when I told you I was in a long distance relationship? I.e. I get back on a screen.  For years I have picked a day to isolate myself from social media, but since moving abroad I have struggled to keep a routine. When I do un-plug, I often feel like I’m falling behind on work emails or worse, missing vital details in the lives of those I love ‘back home’. Other times I am so overwhelmed by screens, I randomly and totally disengage. As healthy as it feels and is, it also hurts those I didn’t warn. The most vital element of unplugging for me is telling my friends and family in advance that I will temporarily be out of touch. The tricky part is actually sticking to my word and keeping the phone out of reach. Without my device, I am able to better recognize my reality and address areas of my soul that usually go unchecked. Why do I feel lonely? Why do I feel more engaged with technology than I do with people? Why am I having a hard time focusing on finishing simple tasks without distractions? I start to realize my dependencies and my phone starts to sound a lot like a drug. I start sounding like an addict. In the absence of social media and my electronic buddy, I become better friends with those who live around me that I often overlook. My time is filled with soulful engagement and my eyes readjust to seeing pupils, not pixels. Though it’s crucial to stay connected to ‘home’ I need to remain diligent in digging deeper into building one here, too."- Leah Ready to Unplug?  Read more about the challenge HERE.  Print the commitment card and choose one day a week to unplug from technology.  We'd love to hear your story.  Share it below!