Pastor’s Pen- Summer 2018
I want you to travel back in time with me for just a moment, back to the time of tie-dyed shirts, bell-bottomed jeans and disco clubs. Think back to the decade of muscle cars and Star Wars; Evil Knievel stunts and Elvis’s final tour. I am talking about the 1970s.
It was this decade that brought us the leisure suit-that outfit forever immortalized by John Travolta as he discoed his way across the dance floor to the pulsating rhythm of the Bee Gees. Chances are you know someone who owned a leisure suit. Maybe even you? Okay, I’ll admit it, yes; I had my very own leisure suit. It was canary yellow with a flowered elephant-earsized collar. Truth be told, when I wore it I felt like John Travolta! Yet leisure suits were not as great as we thought they were in the seventies. I can’t think of one person who looks back at that period and honestly says, "I wish I could look like that again." Except myself because I rocked that look!!
Fashion alert: Leisure suits are still in style. Truth be told, they were in style long before Saturday Night Fever or the funky beats of the Bee Gees hit the scene. In fact, leisure suits have been around for the last five, six, even seven thousand years.
Please don’t rush to the nearest thrift store because I am not talking about the kind of leisure suit that went out of style with the Farah Fawcett hairdo. I am talking about a leisure suit designed specifically for you by God to help you get the most out of this one and only life.
God tells us over and over, from the first book of the Bible all the way through the end-we need to wear leisure. Truth be told, this idea of leisure is a foreign concept to us. So many of us have fallen in the trap of overworking and overscheduling our lives to the point of exhaustion. Twenty years ago, you could ask people how they are doing and they would say “I’m doing great”, or at least fine. Today ask that same question and hear the unanimous answer, “I am busy”. Let’s be honest, as essential as leisure is to our physical, emotional and mental health, we are strangers to it. We would rather hear our family and friends tell us we shouldn’t work so hard than face the possibility of someone thinking we lack diligence. This idea that fatigue and burnout are proof of the deepest level of commitment and performance is HOGWASH, excuse my French.
I challenge anyone to support that from Scripture. Start with the life and lifestyle of Jesus Christ. No where will you find in the gospels or, for that matter, the entire New Testament, that Jesus intensely worked and labored in an occupation to the point of physical or emotional exhaustion. But what you will find is that there are several times we are told He deliberately took a break. He got away from the demands of the public and enjoyed periods of relaxation with his disciples. I am not saying He rambles through His ministry in an aimless, half- hearted fashion, not at all. But what I am saying is neither does He come anywhere near an ulcer, never do we find him in a frenzy, burned out or stressed out! His was a life of beautiful balance. He accomplished everything the Father sent Him to do. He did it without ignoring those essential times of restful leisure.
We are entering the season of summer; a season Rock and Roll celebrates and so should we. Yet, if nothing changes in our mindset and schedule, the joy of this season will escape us again. You know what the definition of insanity is: doing the same thing and expecting a different result. So, let’s do something different this summer, let’s strengthen our grip and practice of leisure.
Let me suggest four guidelines found in the first two chapters of Genesis. In the act of creation God engaged in creativity. Yes, He created with His own hands but he also engaged his mind in thoughts of a universe, indescribably beautiful. He mentally pictured vast expanses of land mass, deep oceans, colorful vegetation and almost an endless variety of living creatures. Not to mention the stars, planets in perfect motion and rhythm of all the celestial’s bodies. This summer will you take time to create? Claim some time to make things or grow things with your hands. You can write things with your laptop, paint things with a brush, compose things using a piano or guitar. You can dream things with your mind and then try to bring them to reality through some creative process. All children have built-in creativity. Just look at the things they make, say and do on their own. You have been born with it; let it out of the cage. This summer find some creative outlets in times of leisure.
Second, use your leisure to communicate. If you read the account of creation you will find that God communicated with Himself, the other two members of the Trinity and with Adam and Eve. Let me suggest to take some time this summer to communicate with yourself, affirm yourself. Most of us are good at criticizing ourselves and finding fault with what we have done or failed to do. Let me suggest another approach, spend some time this summer finding pleasure and satisfaction in what you have done as well as who you are and what you are!
Leisure also includes times of communicating with others who are important to us. Unless you and I are careful, the speed of our lives will reduce our communication to guttural grunts, frowns, stares and unspoken assumptions. In the long days and warm nights of summer take time to listen, feel and respond to those who are special to you.
Third rest, with what summer gives us, vacation, three long holiday weekends, take the opportunity to rest. Following six days of creation, God deliberately stopped working and rested. Did He need to? NO! It wasn’t that there was nothing else to do: He hadn’t run out of ideas, He could have easily made more worlds, created an infinite number of other forms of life and provided multiple millions of galaxies beyond what her did. But He didn’t, he stopped. He spent an entire resting. Why? To make rest a priority to His creation-you and me. We need physical, emotional, mental and spiritual rest. Burned out is not how God created us to live and move and have our being. Leisure is for that blessed time to rest.
Finally claim leisure for the expressed purpose to relate. God did that with Adam and Eve in the cool of the night. Whatever leisure time we are able to invest in relationships is time well spent. I saw this cartoon in a magazine: it was a picture of a masked robber pointing his gun toward his frightened victim as he yelled; ‘Okay give me all your valuables!’ The victim began stuffing into the sack all his friends. How valuable to you are your relationships? A great investment of our leisure time is using it to relate to those who are special to us.
God both teaches and models that leisure is essential to getting the most out of life. It is a necessary and needed to discover true joy and fulfillment. It is not optional. It is fundamental. It is foundational. If you ever hope to have a fulfilled and happy life, you must incorperate leisure into your life.
The word leisure comes from the Latin phrase that means “to be permitted” That is exactly what you and I need to do. We need to permit ourselves to take some leisure. It is time to give ourselves permission to relax, create, communicate and relate. You will find leisure will suit you. It will provide fulfillment and joy that you are seeking and so desperately need. Leisure will suit you better than any tailor made, three-piece, silk suit money can buy, even my canary yellow leisure suit.
Pastor Eugene Voss