My name is Jeff and I'm a pastor of a small, local, Christian fellowship

It's a wonderful thing to love your work; to know that when you do it you are doing something that you were born to do. I am so fortunate to be both. I don't say I am the best at what I do. God knows that are so many others who do it better. But I do feel fairly lucky to be called by such a good God to do work I can only do with his help, to be loved by a beautiful woman, and to have a workshop where I can work my craft. These musings of mine are part of that work.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Letting sleeping cattle sleep: in praise of a good vacation

I go among trees and sit still.
All my stirring becomes quiet
around me like circles on water
My tasks lie in their places
where I left them, asleep like cattle.”
from Sabbaths by Wendell Berry

"You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but on the seventh day you must stop working, even during the seasons of plowing and harvest.” Exodus 34:21 NLT

Ten days ago my wife and I began our summer vacation. Due to a number of reasons – some financial, some personal – we opted for a “stay-cation” but even so returned to our routine today rested and refreshed feeling as if we had sat still awhile in the shade of a big tree on a breezy summer day.

These are really the "after" pictures
What did we do that made it so relaxing? We determined to hold plans lightly – if at all – and literally made it up one day at a time.

For starters, we never set our alarm clocks. Early risers that we are – her by necessity and me by old habit – that still meant we began our day around seven-ish but we were in no hurry to get up and get going. We would lounge the morning away in our pjs, drinking our coffee, reading or dozing off to sleep again if either of us felt like it. One of the projects we both wanted to get done while away from our work was paint the front room but somehow when you have nothing else to do that kind of work doesn't feel like labor – especially when you're not on a dead-line. So I steadily worked my way around the room a half wall at a time, day after day after day, taping, patching, cutting and then rolling. It was, in a word, relaxing, especially as more and more of the room got painted. While I puttered away at this project, she was busy upstairs reorganizing Charlie's room (and it did need reorganizing).

It was a beautiful night at the Northern Wisconsin State Fair

We ate out a lot – lunch or dinner and sometimes both in the same day. Nothing too fancy – Subway, NDI, even chicken from Gordy's deli one day. We did make a few outings – the Northern Wisconsin State Fair, a place called Oulu and its famed glass gallery, the Barron County Fair and the Chippewa Valley Railroad at Carson Park in Eau Claire. We went to see some movies – Finding Dory, The Secret Life of Pets and Ice Age Collision Course – and did some movie nights at home (thanks, Emma, for introducing me to The Pirates of Penzance). We were fortunate to see The Red Barn Theater's production of big: the musical one night and one sultry evening all we did was sit out on The Pokegama's deck drinking something cool and watching the boats go by for the rousing price of $5 (tip included).

"big: the musical" was a great show

Oulu Glass Gallery

Mouth of the Brule
Davidson windmill on Hwy 13

And we napped – a lot. Or sat out on our front porch enjoying the evening breeze. We enjoyed pizza in Superior with our son, Ed, one night and then sat on the sidelines as he and the guys from his church played ball against another Duluth fellowship. And on the last day, we were fortunate to have a few hours with Emma dining out at The Olive Garden in Eau Claire. With all the gift cards Linda had in her wallet, what would have cost us $73-something and change only cost us $7. That's right: seven bucks.

Norske Nook in Rice Lake

V.I.P. pizza in Superior

Olive Garden in Eau Claire

Over the years, we've had, overall, good vacations. In 2010 we had an epic one in Washington, D.C. - the last truly family trip we've experienced together. And while the kids were young I don't know how many years in a row we camped at Pattison State Park or Amnicon or Madeleine Island. But what I think I enjoyed most about our time off this year was the pacing of it all – no place really to get to, no set time to get there at (except, of course, the time a movie began). It really was Hakuna matata.

Granted, we didn't have little kids to herd or mind. We had Charlie but Charlie pretty much minds himself and usually joins us on our outings. But this year I was reminded that the secret to a well-spent vacation is to experience rest and renewal so that you can return to whatever is your routine refreshed and invigorated and ready to work again. You don't really need a lot of money for that kind of goal. You just need to be creative and live within your means. And as a friend of mine reminded me, when you frame a vacation like that rest can be a form of worship, simply by stepping out of one's rut for awhile and choose, if you have one, to gently swing in your hammock or sit on your porch enjoying the cool of the day.