Study & Planning Break

February 4, 2009

One of the practices I learned about through my burnout experience several years ago is the importance of getting away regularly for the purpose of clearing my head and heart, being with God, and hearing His voice. It’s not as intense as it may sound by the title I give it, but I call it a Study & Planning Break.

I try to do at least two of them each year, though the one I write from now is long overdue. It’s been about a year and a half since my last one. Sometimes, the personal pace of life, family, both spouses working, kids school schedules, let alone church life and schedules, just get in the way.

Matter of fact, doing these is like leaving home for vacation ONLY in the sense that trying to get out of town and away from home can be a big hassle. All kids of things to arrange, tasks you want completed before you leave so your mind can be free, and the like. This one was certainly that way when I left on Monday (today is Wednesday).

You can do these almost anywhere that they work for you. This one happens to be at a friends place in at Lake Tahoe, about 400 miles north of my home. Since I love to drive,and that’s one way that really helps me clear my head, the drive is part of what I need and enjoy very much. It may not be that way for you, so maybe that wouldn’t work.

I try to schedule them so that I can have AT LEAST 3-4 days of time. So, for this one, I drove on Monday and will drive home on Saturday. That gives me four full days, Tuesday – Friday.

I always plan for the first day (yesterday, Tuesday) to be a day of decompression:

  • Lots of sleep
  • Lots of quiet (I read this week that it’s good for preachers to remember that God’s first language is silence! It takes time to get acquainted with it. You have to do it on purpose.)
  • Moving slowly
  • “Mind Dump” (writing down tasks coming to mind that haven’t made it to my to-do list yet)
  • Light reading (usually something NON-ministry related – you can see a review of the book I just finished here)
  • Taking a long walk
  • Seeing a movie

Then, on the 2nd – 4th days, I’ll focus on mapping out my message direction for the next few months. This week, I am preaching Sunday, so I’ll use some time to write this weekend’s message. I’ll calendar, read (usually something related to an upcoming series or two, as well as reading larger chunks of Scripture than I normally do when  at home), write, take walks.

On these breaks, I follow my body clock. I’m a night owl, so I enjoy working late and sleeping in, which doesn’t happen at home very naturally. That means I’ll take naps when I feel them coming on.

I use Time and Newsweek magazines for some research, so I’ll let them collect for weeks and then fly through them, tearing out what I want to use and file. I’ve got a box of them to go through while I am here.

I do a lot of relfection on these breaks, and enjoy long periods of time just talking to the Lord and listening for what He wants to say as well. Sometimes I go home with a strong word and other times not. Either way, He and I have had some good, long periods of time just being together.

That’s kind of what the Study & Planning Break looks like. I’ve done them alone, but they’re always safer and more fun to do with a friend. On this one, a friend who I haven’t connected with in a long time was able to come with me.

It’s important in selecting your “break-mate” that you both understand and are not awkward about the need to give each other a lot of silence and solitude. I always look for someone who I know I won’t be a distraction to and he won’t be to me either.

I also purposely look for someone who I know I’m going to have fun with. I am too reflective and not very funny naturally, so it helps me to have someone who I know is going to get me laughing!

Any habits you’ve developed along these lines that you can share? I’ve had a number of Pastor-friends who have made mention that they wouldn’t know what to do with themselves on a retreat like this. Maybe sometime, if enough interest is generated, we’ll do a small group “Pastor For Life” Study & Planning Break. Would you be interested?

Holding Fast

February 4, 2009

Holding FastOne of my practices while I am on a Study & Planning Break is to read at least one book that doesn’t have anything to do with ministry or leadership. I will read a few books while I am on this kind of retreat that are “work” oriented, but reading something “non-work” just stretches and renews me. I just finished this one today and wanted to post a review:

It’s not often a book grabs me by the collar and doesn’t let go until the very end. Nor does one often go past the collar to grab my heart, but Holding Fast by Karen James did just that!

In this true account of three very experienced mountain climbers who lost their lives on Mt. Hood in December of 2006, Karen starts by holding your hand through the beginning of her courtship with Kelly James, her husband, and one of those on that fateful trip.

From the time Karen and Kelly meet until the day she gets the call that Kelly is in trouble on the mountain, I felt like I had become friends with the James’. When that call came in, and when she recounts the last six minute call between she and Kelly (a miraculous connection in that Kelly is stuck injured in a snow cave over two miles in the sky on Mt. Hood), I felt like I was in the story!

What I loved about this book is that Karen is quite vulnerable about her grief over the loss of the love of her life. She takes you into her grief, but doesn’t just leave you there. She also recounts the many ways God met her and their family as they have processed this tragedy.

I highly recommend this book for anyone of any age!

Help When You Hurt

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A Place For You

Many Pastors are not aware that all over the country are a number of places you can retreat to for a number of given reasons or purposes. Find some of them here, get there, and find your pace!
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