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Thoughts From The Road

My wife and I have been traveling for the last 24 hours and have finally arrived in Westport, Ireland. A friend of ours flew us out so that I could perform his wedding ceremony tomorrow afternoon. The time of non-connected reflection that the flight afforded me and the wonderful generosity of a friend has caused some thoughtful contemplation (as I’m a “contemplative pastor”). Two things are consuming my thoughts.

1. The importance of uninterrupted solitude
2. The difficulty — perhaps because of pride — of receiving gracious blessings/gifts.

Uninterrupted solitude is hard for us, in fact we’ve not made it very easy. Newsweek’s cover-story this week — “Is the Web Driving Us Mad?” — is worth the read. It highlights what is no longer just a trend, but a fully matured reality, that it is increasingly difficult for us to “unplug” and that our plugged-in existence is not necessarily healthy or helpful. I’ll be the first to admit (as I type this on my iPhone) that I have a hard time unplugging.

With all the discussion here over the last couple of weeks about the importance of planning and optimally using the 168 hours we have each week, I’m wondering how myself and many other Christians (especially pastors) might be well served by scheduling uninterrupted silence for the bulk of a 168 hour period. I wonder what “times of refreshing from the presence of The Lord” the church would receive from such a move. I think that one of the reasons I thoroughly enjoy overseas trips, most specifically our short-term trips to Africa, is that I’m unable to be connected.

Pastors are notorious for being hesitant in receiving from others. Or at least many of the pastors that I know personally, myself included. We, by our nature and training are givers. Servant leadership is central to the stream of Christianity that I grew up in, and we exalt highly the principle revealed in Mark 10.

For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. Mark 10:45

But those are the words of Jesus. Last time I checked “Son of Man” was a messianic title. And giving ones life as a ransom for many was His task, which He finished. I don’t mean to say that we are not to be servants, Jesus clearly taught the importance of becoming and being servants of all. But over the last couple of years, and particularly through this trip, God has been challenging my thought process in this area.

Why is it that some of us don’t like to receive from others? At least for me, there are two key reasons. First, it’s humbling to receive superfluous blessings from someone. Second, I find that I feel guilty for accepting them, as if doing so is taking advantage of the giver. Yet I think that is important that while we are learning to be gracious givers/servants we learn to be a gracious recipients too.

7 replies
  1. Ed Compean
    Ed Compean says:

    Miles, great stuff. I just returned from a 12-day backpacking trip without phones or any other connection. The only media was a personal size Bible and we actually shared it (well, my son had some vampire novel). At one point we actually forgot what day it was. Probably will never have another opportunity to do something like that again, but I have been trying to figure a way to communicate the value of taking some solitude as an encouragement to other pastors. Surely walking through the Sierras is not for everyone, but the concept of getting away with God maybe should be.

    I heard one pastor say he schedules an overnight personal retreat every quarter as a sort of spiritual discipline. He camps or gets a cheap hotel. It is totally counter intuitive, but the physical observance of something like Sabbath seems to make us more productive.

    Can’t agree more about receiving. It is hard.

  2. Don Steigerwald
    Don Steigerwald says:

    And from the pews……
    Same problem here with regards to staying home from church for a day withou fearing that I am “forsaking the gathering together of ourselves as is the manner of some.”

    And, as in all things pertaining to our walk with Jesus as a Pastor, modeling how to be a gracious recipient is what the Lord has now brought you to. Have fun. He came to give us life, not a ticket to heaven where we get in line and wait for the ship to take off.

    Rather He gave us Eternal Life, which is here and now and forever. if knowing God isn’t good enough for us, we don’t know God.

    Have a great trip!

  3. Jeanne DeBenedictis
    Jeanne DeBenedictis says:

    I for one am thrilled you have a little time with your bride (seeing your anniversary is in a few days).
    The article you mentioned was interesting to. Even at my age I’m feeling over concerned and invaded or scrutinized by all this connectivity. Been thinking about getting rid of twitter, Facebook and my email account that is way to full of random commercial marketing.
    Another thought on giving and receiving; Jesus said; “Tis more blessed to give than to receive.” that implies that receiving is indeed a blessing. I remember when I became a new follower of Christ, someone taught me a little prayer: “Dear Lord, please help me to receive, as another is learning to give.” that truly helped me. Hope it helps you to. Enjoy your brief time in Ireland, as a sweet gift from God, unplug all and spend time visiting with Andrea in ways you don’t often do. I love you both.

  4. Ralph Gaily
    Ralph Gaily says:

    It has been my observation over the years that the difficulty with recieving a gift from someone is similar to having an unteachable spirit. The false idea of being in need of something that you don’t have, but someone else does, places one in a humbled position of admitting our lack, and that lack being met by someone you feel you should be “ministering” to. It’s a pride thing, that requires coming down off the “high horse”, and being one of the sheep…. that we actually all are.

  5. Greg Gordon
    Greg Gordon says:

    Great post brother. It is very healthy I believe to be un-connected for periods of time at least. I have actually moved away from using Facebook personally and have turned my profiles into “pages” this has allowed me to focus on other things, namely as you pointed out reading scripture and praying, spending time with family, etc.

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