Salvation ... comes from the Lord ... because they take refuge in him. (Psalm 37:39-40)

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Reflections on Vacation and Retreat

Have you ever planned a trip for business or ministry and then said, “While I’m there, I may as well take a few extra days and visit some sites in the area?”   Combining vacation time with business travel is common.  But what about combining vacation time with reflection time?
 What is meant by “vacation” may be different for all of us.  It may mean beach, mountains, or forests.  It may mean inclusion (with friends) or seclusion.  It may mean outdoor or indoor activities.  It may mean ocean cruise or land automobile, or so many other things.  Vacation is supposed to be “down time,”  bringing rest, relaxation, and rejuvination.  But how many times have we returned from a “vacation” only to feel like we need a vacation from our vacation.  
One solution might be a vacation for self care.  Engaging in down-time activity to give your body rest is one thing, but evaluating and discovering new ways of improving your mental, emotional, and spiritual status can take vacation to a higher level.  Especially if your job or ministry is in people helping business, the everyday wear and tear and built up stressors can be weighing much more heavily than you, or even people in closest relationship to you, can recognize.  
About 7 years ago I discovered a model of personal debriefing for Christian missionaries that has helped thousands find new vitallity and meaning for their work.  The Le Rucher model of debriefing is a guided 5 day rest, for personal reflection, sharing your story, and finding new perspectives from God. Not only for missionaries, this is a proven method of assessing events of life and ministry in a safe and supportive environment.  It is a structured progression through stressors, associated losses, adjustments, and recovery of hopes and dreams. The result is fresh vision and energy for reengagement.    
My wife and I benefited as participants in this model ourselves.  I also trained and became a certified debriefer in the model.  I now offer the debriefing as a package with a stay at our Blue Rock Bed and Breakfast.  More is described at .  I encourage all Christian pastors, missionaries, ministry or business leaders to consider this for making the most of your next vacation or rest  time.  These five days of debriefing is a perfect way to begin a several month sabbatical or scheduled down time.   
Sometimes people’s schedules and activities make them so wound up inside, that it takes most of their scheduled vacation time just to begin to relax.  ‘We have guided tools that will help you begin relaxing right away.
The cost of neglecting self care is much to great.  Last year was a year of many “big name” leaders falling to corruption, immorality, allegations of abuse, and even walking away from their faith.  While the circumstances may be different for each individual, the qualifications for leadership are the same.  1 Timothy 3 is often sited as a source in the Bible for qualification of Christian leadership.  Although biblical qualifications are important, we must never forget that leaders are first followers.  We are all followers of Christ.  A great book I read sometime ago is  Joseph Stowell’s Following Christ.   Becoming a transformed disciple of Christ involves  putting aside our personal agendas, and surrendering completely to God’s plan and purposes.  
So we all think we’re pretty good at that stuff, right?  After all, that’s what makes us a good leader.  That is until an unforseen temptation, trial, or drained human energy catches us off guard.  Healthy leadership requires being proactive about psychological rest, building emotional stamina, and intentional transformational renewing of the mind.  See a previous article for more on this .
Jesus says over and over throughout the Bible that following him means applying his teachings to our lives.  Our faith in Jesus must be demonstrated with actions in keeping with his actions.  Jesus also teaches that our actions spring from our heart.  We are not called to merely act like Jesus, but to surrender our hearts to the heavenly Father as Jesus surrendered his heart to the Father.  In my view, surrendering to God’s transformation process is the most important qualification for leadership.   An important question to be asking ourselves is, “Does the quality of my vacation time (down time, sabbatical, rest, relax time) truly replenish the reservoir of my heart, so that a potential storm ahead would not destroy me?”  
Again, an automatic “yes” answer would be tempting for most of us.  But maybe we should give this question a bit more consideration.  The beginning of a New Year is a good time to plan, not just a vacation, but a time of rest and rejuvenation.   A healthy inner being is essential for healthy leadership, relationships, and all aspects of life.
May we give similar attention to our heart condition as King David did as expressed in Psalm 139, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24).  If the thought of letting God search your heart scares you, think again.  Who knows you the best?  Who loves you the most?  Who cares the most that you fulfill your God-given purpose in life?   The answers to these questions are found by reading the remainder of Psalm 139 and resting in the truth of our value in God’s sight.   
Jesus speaks, “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28-29; Message)
If you wish to visit us for the debriefing rest time or if I can help with other aspects of self care (heart care), please contact me.  I adhere to strict confidentiality standards, and cannot share details for people we have helped, but good reports abound,  The numbers of people are growing, and the significance of impact is growing.  God is at work, and we believe God wants leaders thriving in tip-top shape (spirit, soul, & body; 1 Thesselonians 5:23) to advance God’s  Kingdom.   Blessings for rest in Refuge.

by Ed Hersh, Blue Rock BnB Healing Ministry