For the last year or so, the church’s deacons and Personnel Committee have considered allowing me to take leave each year for the month of July. I’ve never been good about taking all my vacation, and they thought this would be a good way to make that happen. I’ve been very close to burnout several times across the years, and they believed this month away would help keep that from happening. The church agreed. So I’ve been off work for a month. I’m a little embarrassed to talk about this since so many people are out of work and so few that do work get much time off. But it is what it is, and I want to give God and the church thanks for making this happen. It’s been a good time, a blessed time. So on this first day back to work, I thought I’d put together the top ten blessings of my month off. I was tempted to list eleven things, but since I already wrote about one of my blessings in my last post, I’ll stick with ten. Here goes …
Number 10 – The church got to hear good preaching while I was gone. As has often been said about pastors and time off, “If the pastor is good, he deserves it; if he’s not, the congregation deserves it.” Our congregation deserves it, and they heard two of our staff members and two of our other favorite Arkansas preachers share God’s word with them in my absence. Good stuff.
Number 9 – I got to hear some good preaching too. I was blessed to hear three of our Hot Springs pastors I’ve not heard before: one young Baptist, one non-denominational, and one Methodist. I really enjoy worshiping with other folks and seeing what God is up to in His larger kingdom. And it was a blessing to see one of our young couples I assumed had dropped out of church involved in the non-denominational church I visited. God is big and God is good and God is working all over the place.
Number 8 – I didn’t worry about the church because we have a great staff team and willing volunteers that are capable of taking care of things. There ended up being a lot of things to take care of, and man, did our staff shine!
Number 7 – I didn’t have to set my alarm for 4:20 every morning. I still got up early; that’s just how I roll. But I didn’t have to get up that early, so I got more rest than usual. Nice.
Number 6 – Safe travels. I did some flying and some driving, and we got where we were going and back again in one piece. And there was a bonus: I found out my credit card company would give me 5% off of gasoline purchases in July. Having driven twice into Texas and once to Kansas City, 5% helps on the old pocketbook. Thank you, Lord.
Number 5 – I got to watch four Oriole baseball games in person—two in Baltimore, one in Texas, and one in Kansas City. The O’s won three of them! And getting to watch them with some of my family, well, that made it even sweeter. My son, grandson, and I went to Baltimore and stopped by D.C. on the way. I even got the serendipitous blessing of seeing two old friends I once pastored at the Orioles v. Royals game in Kansas City. That was kind of funny really. I was in my seat at the game, checking my phone, when I saw a Facebook post from a young man I watched grow up when I was pastor of his church in the KC area. Knowing I'm an Oriole fan, he posted, "I wish John McCallum was here to watch the Orioles play the Royals." I quickly commented on his post, "Your wish is granted. I'm in section 114." He then commented, "Stand up, turn around, and look into the Stadium Club above you." I did and there were Dennis and B.J. We were able to chat a little before the game began. That's pretty cool.
Number 4 – I was able to follow on Facebook our church’s mission trips to Japan and to Arlington. They did such a great job of keeping us updated that I almost felt like I was there. And God used those trips in great ways. And along a similar line, I got to briefly share my love for Jesus with a Pakistani Muslim taxi-driver in Baltimore.
Number 3 – I completed my sermon schedule for the rest of the year. It’s always easier to prepare sermons when you have some idea where you’re going. The Lord helped me get those ideas. And I was able to work on that without having to take phone calls and make visits and deal with emergencies that might have cropped out had I been “on the job.” Whether these sermons will be any good remains to be seen, but it’s good to have direction anyway.
Number 2 – I got to spend quality time with my whole family. I’m blessed to get to see my son and his family fairly often, but I only see my daughter and her family two or three times a year. It was good to spend a few days with her, her husband, and their three kids, deep in the heart of Texas.
And the number 1 blessing of my month off – I got to come back to work today. Yes, I’m grateful to have a job. But I’m just as grateful to be ready to come back to work. I had a month off a couple of years ago, and I wasn’t ready to come back to work when it was over. I was in a burnout phase that didn’t get better with time away. The fact that I’ve been ready to come back to work for the last week tells me I’m in pretty good shape emotionally and spiritually.
So, thank you, Lord. And thank you, First Baptist Church, for the gift of this time. I do not take it for granted. And this is my prayer for all of you who read these words: May any time off you get be as blessed as mine!