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Rev. Jason M. Karampatsos, PhD http://june3rd.com The Elephant in the Marriage Fri, 09 Apr 2021 12:22:39 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.7.1 Preventing Pastoral Burnout http://june3rd.com/preventing-pastoral-burnout/ http://june3rd.com/preventing-pastoral-burnout/#respond Thu, 08 Apr 2021 00:22:00 +0000 http://june3rd.com/?p=771 Continue reading "Preventing Pastoral Burnout"

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I was recently honored and invited to speak to a group of leaders who serve providing care for the credentialed ministers in their Ministry Network. Specifically, they are called upon to build relationships and help those serving as lead or staff pastor in their Network churches be spiritually, relationally, and emotionally healthy. No small task in any given year; in our new COVID-19 world that has taken on an all new level of complexity.

I was asked to provide some guidance on how to offer care. I jokingly said that if I was blessed with gifts of Rick Warren I’d try to work my notes into an acronym. I was told that District Superintendent particularly enjoys alliteration. So, with some help from my wife, we came up with some simple “P’s” of Preventing Pastoral Burnout.

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4 More Years http://june3rd.com/4-more-years/ http://june3rd.com/4-more-years/#respond Sun, 01 Dec 2019 13:10:03 +0000 http://june3rd.com/?p=755 Continue reading "4 More Years"

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Today is December 1st, and in our home that is a pretty significant day.

12 years ago today we welcome our 2nd child, Hailey into the world and the world has never been the same. Birthdays are a big deal in our home, which means we have lots of great December 1st memories. Times Square in NYC, Magnificent Mile in Chicago, the Great Wolf Lodge in Williamsburg, VA, and so many more.

December 1st was also the day I defended my dissertation just down the street from where Hailey was born. Eight years ago today I became “Dr J” and God has used my PhD from Loyola University in some truly humbling ways.

December 1st was also my first day as lead pastor of New Life Assembly of God. Four years ago today our family began a new chapter as I walked into my office for the first time. It has been four years of relying upon God each and every day, and each day He has been faithful.

Yet, despite how significant December 1st has been, I am kind of excited about December 2nd. You see, in all of my years of ministry, or working anywhere for that matter, I have never  been at one place for more than four years. In high school I worked at Market Basket until my 4th anniversary, I then worked for Saturn until Jennifer and I went off to Bible College two years later. Four years at Valley Forge meant four years working for the college and at Sears. After one year at a church in Philadelphia, we had four amazing years in East Brunswick, NJ before heading off to graduate school. We served four years on staff in Annapolis, MD before being voted in as the new lead pastors in Brandywine, MD.

We loved everyday of our time serving in Brandywine, but yet God unexpectedly called us to Bowie where we spent two short but eternally impactful years at Cornerstone Church. And then, in December 1, 2015 I walked into my office for the first time at New Life.

Tomorrow, when I walk into my office, it will be the first time I have every walked into my office after serving there (or anywhere) for four years.

So, I am excited for December 2nd, but I am already looking forward to December 1, 2020. Lord willing, we’ll be serving this great church and community December 1, 2040 and beyond. Each year at this time as we sing happy birthday and watch our amazing daughter grow up, inside I am also saying happy anniversary…and here’s to many more.

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The Elephant in the Marriage http://june3rd.com/the-elephant-in-the-marriage/ http://june3rd.com/the-elephant-in-the-marriage/#respond Tue, 12 Feb 2019 12:22:18 +0000 http://june3rd.com/?p=725 Continue reading "The Elephant in the Marriage"

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All too many married couples strive to find their “happily ever after” and instead are left struggling just to survive marriage because they are unaware of how their incomplete and inaccurate perspectives form faulty perceptions that they hold to more tightly than truth and reality. The Elephant in the Marriage opens couples’ eyes to this destructive cycle, equip them with strategies to establish healthier relationship patterns, and teach them how to leverage accurate perceptions to enjoy a thriving marriage relationship.

The Elephant in the Marriage is now available online, or ask for it wherever books are sold.

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Upcoming Events http://june3rd.com/upcoming-events/ http://june3rd.com/upcoming-events/#respond Sun, 10 Feb 2019 12:54:05 +0000 http://june3rd.com/?p=741 The Elephant in the Marriage
The Elephant in the Marriage Speaking Engagements
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What Will It Cost You http://june3rd.com/elisabeth-elliot/ http://june3rd.com/elisabeth-elliot/#respond Mon, 08 Jan 2018 20:17:54 +0000 http://june3rd.com/?p=704 Continue reading "What Will It Cost You"

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We all face challenges in life. We all have barriers or walls that stand in the way of us getting from where we are to where we want to be. Jim and Elisabeth Elliot were one of five couples who responded to God’s call to evangelize the Huaorani people of Ecuador, and one of the walls they faced was a language barrier and the fact that no one had successfully made contact with the Huaorani people and lived to tell about it. They went in to the jungle knowing that they may not come out alive, but, as Jim Elliot so famously penned, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” Jim, along with the four other missionary men, gave their lives January 8, 1956 at the hands of the very tribe that had come to share the Gospel with.

One might think that might make a widow bitter towards God, but through the pain of her loss, Elisabeth Elliot grew closer to the Lord and became a powerful voice in the church for decades challenging people with her teachings and her life. Where did she draw her strength? How did she keep her heart soft to God and available to be used by Him? She continued to stay in God’s Word, in His presence through prayer, and humbled herself through fasting.

Elisabeth Elliot once wrote, “One way to begin to see how vastly indulgent we usually are is to fast. It is a long day that is not broken by the usual three meals. One finds out what an astonishing amount of time is spent in the planning, purchasing, preparing, eating, and cleaning up of meals.” Such a practical take on the way fasting can change your outlook on life, and the perceived barriers or walls that we face. When our perspectives are more aligned with that of God we will begin to see the impossible become probable, and walls come down.

Whatever happened to the tribe who killed her husband? Well, Elisabeth would give two years of her life ministering to the very same tribe that took her husband’s life. The language barrier and Jim’s death weren’t enough to keep the Gospel from reaching their hearts. Just like the walls of Jericho came down, the wall that kept the Gospel from the Huaorani people of Ecuador came down. This month we invite you and your family to reevaluate the insurmountable “walls” that may be in your life and consider fasting for a breakthrough. It may cost you, but you just might gain what you cannot lose.

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Lost My Sucker http://june3rd.com/lost-my-sucker/ http://june3rd.com/lost-my-sucker/#comments Mon, 02 Oct 2017 01:13:36 +0000 http://june3rd.com/?p=691 Continue reading "Lost My Sucker"

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I’ve been traveling a bit more than usual as of late. Over the years I have done my fair share of traveling for vacations, mission’s trips and various speaking engagements, but in the past two weeks I have flown in or out of Chicago, Miami, Panama, Bolivia, Milwaukee, and Los Angeles. It was my most recent flight for a conference in southern California that provided an unexpected interaction that will not soon be forgotten.We are all aware of the rigors and challenges of air travels in our post 9-11 world. Where you could once stroll through an x-ray machine with your shoes laced up and some spare change in your pocket, now you essentially need to choose your travel outfit anticipating those potentially stressful moments when you empty your pockets into a bin, remove your laptops from your carryon luggage and place your shoes on the conveyer unbelt (not in a bin). If all goes well, a few minutes later you’ll be able to gather your belongings and scramble to collect yourself before heading to your boarding gate. General Mitchell International Airport boasts the world’s only “Recombobulation Area” to add a little levity to often frustrating process of juggling small items and electronics, all while you attempt to lace up your shoes.

Before you get to breathe that sigh of relief in the in the “Recombobulation Area” you must pass through a somewhat imposing hexagonal chamber where you strike a very specific pose that would not make for a flattering selfie. These chambers are more scientifically known as a millimeter wave scanner, and according to Wikipedia they are a “whole-body imaging device used for detecting objects concealed underneath a person’s clothing using a form of electromagnetic radiation”. Some deride them as invasive, others insist that they make our air travel safer. Millimeter wave scanners have the ability to peer through our outer layers of clothing and see what we might be hiding underneath.

Ok, “hiding” may not be the best word, as it implies that there may have been some intentional deception like smuggling candy in to the movie theater. Millimeter wave scanners don’t judge intentions, they merely peer beyond what is visible on the surface to reveal what is underneath. Loose coins, boarding pass, lipstick, granola bar, or passport are just some of the commonly hidden items lurking in pants pockets overlooked by the anxious or weary traveler more focused on finding the right gate and less concerned with the very specific instructions by the TSA agents reminding you to remove everything from your pockets and go on to list a handful of frequent offenders—apparently boarding passes are particularly dangerous. After you pass through the millimeter wave scanner you need to pause for a moment until another TSA agent give you the ok to go and recombobulate yourself…that is unless you have something in your pocket.

As you may have guessed by now, I was greeted on the far side of the hexagonal chamber with the question, “Anything else in your pocket.” “Me? No. I don’t think so.” I thought to myself as I snapped out of my traveler’s trance to process the question. Just as soon as it registered what was being asked, my mind just as quickly jumped to the extremely unpleasant reality of why this TSA is wearing latex gloves. I began patting down the superfluous pockets cargo shorts are notorious for, determined to find what was hidden before being asked to enter the cavity search area, and that is when I found a red Tootsie Pop® that I had forgotten I had brought for an in-flight snack.

A single red Tootsie Pop, that is what stood between me and my goal of boarding the airplane. I wasn’t carry a large knife like a good friend, and police officer, once tried bringing on an airplane, nor did I intentionally try sneaking contraband by the security checkpoint. No. It was a red Tootsie Pop. I may still not know how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop, but now I know how many Tootsie Pops it would take to keep me from being permitted to fly that morning.

“You are going to have to put that sucker through the x-ray machine”, I heard as I pulled the small piece of candy out of my lower right leg pocket. This small encounter had proven to be a little disorienting, as I was both tired and certain that my pockets were empty, so it took me an extra moment to register who he was calling a sucker and what I was supposed to be doing at this point. It may have taken him three requests before I finally placed the lollipop in the small tray that is usually reserved for sending loose change and car keys down the conveyer belt for the x-ray machine. Today, that small tray was going to be the temporary home for my sucker as it was about to be showered in electromagnetic radiation and inspected for anything suspicious.

It is interesting how the mind of a preacher, or any public speaker who needs to speak before the same group of people once or twice every single week, works. We are always in sermon prep mode looking for new sermon illustrations. I kid you not, as I stood there in my socks and recently separated from my cherry lollipop, I began to wonder if there was any spiritual application to this whole ordeal. Immediately after lacing up my sneakers as I was walking towards our terminal, I pulled out my iPhone and began to take some notes on how I might use this simple everyday encounter to illustrate a bigger biblical or theological point. So, whether you are looking for some launching point for a speech, sermon, or public presentation, or simply open to applying God’s Word to your life today, here are a few thoughts that I feel the Lord quickly brought to mind.

What in your life is unknown?

This might sound obvious, but what are you carrying around with you that you didn’t know you even had? You have no doubt heard the quote credited to Plato, “An unexamined life is not worth living”, but have you stopped to think how practical that advice is for us today? Whether resentment, an unfulfilled dream, misperception of something a loved one once said, unforgiveness, or a gift or talent waiting to be developed, are there are unknowns in our pockets that God desires for us to dig down and explore?

As I am finishing the post, I am away for a three-day silent prayer retreat. This beautiful camp ground is swarming with men and a few women not making eye contact or speaking the simplest of pleasantries. I wrote about this retreat last year at this same time. The focus of this time is to get away and quietly spend time hearing from God, and for me, I often hear best when I am typing the words He is speaking to me. I write more for myself in these three days than I typically will do in three months. Why? When you reduce the distractions, and take a long hard look at yourself, you begin to see or hear things that you have been missing. Colleagues keep returning to this retreat year after year because they have learned the value of self-examination. It is a core component to week one of the Ignatius of Loyola’s four-week silent prayer retreat.

What are you carrying around that has been overlooked?

It is one thing to simply not check your pockets before approaching the TSA agents, but I promise you I did check. I looked, patted my pockets, and emptied their contents on the conveyer belt. Or, at least, so I thought. I had missed something. We often have blind spots in our lives, things that we can’t or choose not to see. Ignorance is not a strong legal defense, and I would argue it isn’t the strongest relational or spiritual defense against our blind spots. If we are truly going to live an examined life, then we need to be willing to look at those areas that we would rather not look at.

God can see them anyways. Man may look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). You may not like this truth about God’s nature, but look on the bright side, if you need help identifying what you have overlooked, God has already found it! If my arms had been longer I may have found the sucker when I was checking my pockets. God does not suffer from any shortness or arms issues, He can see and He can reach. Don’t let those overlooked areas go overlooked any longer, allow God to help you see what you’ve been carrying around that has been overlooked.

What have you forgotten that you need to remember?

The truth is, I knew that I had a cherry lollipop, a Tootsie Pop, in my pocket. After all, I had put it there just that morning. Nobody else placed it there when I was unaware, it wasn’t left over from when I was younger, and it didn’t put itself in my pocket. I put it there, and then I simply forgot about it. It was something of value that I had grabbed and placed there on purpose, and then I forgot about it. Have you ever reached inside the pocket of a spring jacket and found five or twenty dollars from the previous year? Well, I never have…not even once. I don’t think I have ever reached inside any pocket and found any cash that I didn’t already know was going to be there. This is in part because I lost my wallet with five dollars in it when I was young and, ever since, I have kept a tight record of where every dollar bill goes. But this is beside the point, the point is most people know what it is like to reach in and find a surprise. Why? Because they have forgotten a gift, a talent, a prayer prayed for them, or prophesy spoken over them. There is something of value that needs to be remembered.

All that I needed to do was to remember, and I would be enjoying the sweet artificial flavoring that people have been enjoying for decades. My inability or inattention to recalling what was already mine caused me to hold up the line and delay myself from passing through to the other side of the security check point. Periodically I will swipe through the apps on my phone to rediscover what was already there. This is fun for me because I don’t even need to pay for any of these apps, these are apps that I have already downloaded. They are already mine, and I just need to remember that I have them to use.

Use it, or lose it.

One final thought and the conclusion to this unnecessarily long story. According to the parable of the talents or bags of Gold (Matthew 25:14-30), when we are entrusted with something we can either use it or lose it. I stood there in my socks for what seemed to be an eternity. My wife finally joined me when I was no longer under the scrutiny of security, and we were chit-chatting about what had just happened keeping an eye on the conveyer belt, when I happened to notice something behind me out of the corner of my eye. Not even ten feet behind me was a young child, up in her father’s arms sucking on a, yes you guessed it, cherry Tootsie Pop. I could not believe what I was seeing. I have heard about stealing candy from a baby, but this baby had stolen my candy!

I tried quickly to piece together what had just happened, but there was one thing that I was sure of. I had lost my sucker. Taken, stolen, given, lost or found, whatever the story would end up being I had failed to use it, and so I lost it. I knew there was absolutely no point in trying to figure out what had happened. I know I certainly did not want that sucker back, and, besides, the child looked happy. The story I have settled on was that the TSA agent placed the Tootsie Pop not on the conveyer belt I was standing next to that had just scanned all of my belongings, but instead walked over to another one ten feet behind me. After the sucker passed through the x-ray machine, some well-intentioned individual took it upon themselves to play Robin Hood and give away what was not theirs. I’m ok with it, truly I am.

The ironic twist to the story is that I had grabbed that very same sucker from my office to give to my son before heading to the airport. He had already had a bunch of candy from a birthday party and I held onto it simply to avoid him getting an upset stomach. I failed to use the sucker as a gift to my son, and I failed to use it as a snack for myself, so I lost it.

Perhaps you have never lost a sucker at the airport, but maybe God is using my small misfortune to speak to you as you have been patiently listening to me share my story. It wouldn’t be the first time that God chose to speak in an unconventional manner. Who knew that air travel could be added to a talking donkey, writing on the wall, dreams, whispers, and blazing shrubbery as ways to hear from God. So, the next time that you are unlacing your shoes at the airport, double check your pockets; once you finally get situated in your seat, examine your life for things unknown, overlooked, forgotten, or unused. Who knows, you just might find something sweet that will make your trip all that much better.

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The Insanity of God http://june3rd.com/the-insanity-of-god/ http://june3rd.com/the-insanity-of-god/#respond Sat, 28 Jan 2017 14:30:47 +0000 http://june3rd.com/?p=659 Continue reading "The Insanity of God"

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I will be forever grateful for a few things from this year’s 21-day fast. First of all, I will never forget the way my church embraced God’s calling to come together and fast. Men and women, boys and girls, of all ages, all walks of life, took a step of faith from their comfort zones and decided to fast from something in order to fast for something. I have heard stories of marriages reconciled, bodies healed, financial miracles, and deep and profound steps deeper in one’s faith and trust in God. There is truly something powerful that happens when we decrease the distractions and increase our time with God. Having a unified church family that was walking through this corporate journey in their own individual and personal way was beautiful and humbling to watch. Our church family will truly never be the same again.

As will our home never be the same. Words can’t express what it is like to see a 7 year old excited for a fast and counting down the days for it to begin, as well as daily sharing words of encouragement like, “Dad, only two and a quarter more days left!”. I am a proud pastor as I have witnessed some beautiful things in our church this month, but words can’t express what it is like to have such a supportive family each running after God in their own uniquely called way.

end of fast

As we were beginning this year’s church-wide fast, I felt the Lord lay a book upon my heart that was to be my guide throughout these past three weeks. It was a book that had been recommended by a dear friend a few years back that has sat in my “to read” pile for over a year. I had recently completed another book that a friend had given me over Christmas break, so I was in need of a new book to read this month.

Before I mention the book by name, let me warn you with one of the reviews listed at the front of the book. “[This] is one of those rare books you’ll want to give to everyone you know. But you may feel the need to apologize to those you give it to…”. I can honestly say that I feel the need to apologize to anyone who picks up this book on the account of how profoundly it has shaken me.

I honestly do not even know who wrote the book. It has a pseudonym of Nik Ripken on the cover, but he admits that is not his real name. Throughout the entirety of the book he goes to great lengths to mask his true identity, and the identity of those discussed in the book for reasons that become painfully clear as you turn the pages. I have a suspicion that the friend who suggested the book to me may know him personally, but now after reading the book I am hesitant to uncover his true identity.

Insanity of God Book

I believe one of the things that I will remember most from this year’s January fast, and perhaps the one thing that I will forever be most grateful for as well, was my time spent crying over the pages of The Insanity of God. It is a book that I hesitate to even describe, but also feel the obligation to warn anyone who may begin to turn its pages on their own.

This is not a book for the feeble hearted. It is not a feel good, encouraging and uplifting Amazon best seller that you’ll be posting quotes from on Instagram with your cup of coffee strategically placed next to your highlighters. No, this is a book that will take you to depths of your spiritual walk that you did not know exist and be ashamed to talk about with even to your closest of friends. Each day as I read a few more chapters I found myself unable to even to speak to God at times and just sat there with this uncomfortable feeling in my stomach as my eyes were open to the insanity of God and what believers are paying for their faith across the globe.

I had always heard missionary stories in church growing up. My mom went on a short-term mission’s trip to China, so I thought I was aware of the cost to follow Christ for some, as I was grateful for the freedoms that I had here in America. As “Dr. Nik Ripken” chronicled his decades of serving, traveling, and ministering to the persecuted church I realized just how little I knew. There were times when I would try and share stories with my wife, but felt inadequate to be the messenger of such truths. At times, when I would share, I often found myself unable to complete the excerpt without being overcome by tears. Yes, it is a book that warrants the warning I found before I turned to the first page.

But it also a message that I believe every believer needs to hear. God has done so many miraculous things in our church, my family, and in my life over these past 21 days. But I will forever be grateful for the companionship of The Insanity of God and how its stories and challenging truths ripped me from the comfort of Middle-America and opened my heart to the truth of what God is doing around the world. The book challenges you that the true enemy is lostness and,

“…the primary cause of ‘religious persecution’ in the world is people surrendering their hearts and lives to Jesus”;

that means the only way to stop persecution would be for people to stop coming to know Jesus, and if they did come to know Jesus to not share their faith with others. Dr. Ripken’s words still send a chill to my heart when he states, “Perhaps the better question should not be: ‘Why are others persecuted?’ Perhaps the better question is: ‘ Why are we not?”

If these statements are confusing or upsetting, then you may, like me, want to let the book sit on your book shelf for just a little longer. But, if you believe that God is stirring you to a radically different life, and you believe that Jesus is worth it, may God be with you as you delve deep into “The Insanity of God”.[:]

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The Difficulties of Unplugging on Vacation http://june3rd.com/the-difficulties-of-unplugging-on-vacation/ http://june3rd.com/the-difficulties-of-unplugging-on-vacation/#comments Fri, 02 Dec 2016 17:03:58 +0000 http://june3rd.com/?p=648 Continue reading "The Difficulties of Unplugging on Vacation"

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It was well over a year ago that I first read the personnel manual of the church that had elected me to be their new lead pastor. It was not the first church that I had been called by God to lead, but it was the first that had gone out of their way to articulate such a generous vacation offer for their pastoral staff. All pastors, not just the lead pastor, would be given a tiered number of weeks off based upon their number of years in full time ministry to the Kingdom of God. My wife and I have been called to serve churches in Philadelphia, Central New Jersey, and for the past decade, three churches in the Baltimore-DC corridor, and with each new church that God had led us to the clock would reset as we would start over at day one. This was the first church that we walked into where we had already accumulated some vacation time to spare.

It is not unusual for a church to offer additional vacation time to a new lead pastor over a new staff pastor being hired, as I have been the benefactor of before, but even then, I was receiving the minimum amount of time for paid vacation based upon being newly installed. I have a confession to make that may render what I have just described seem odd that I would even take notice, but in all my years in ministry I only recall one single, solitary year that I ended up using all my allotted vacation time. That was for the birth of our second daughter, and with no paternity leave, I saved all my vacation time for that year and used it to coincide with the winter break from graduate school and Christmas break. Even then I wasn’t able to take a true vacation, as I still needed to be in church on Sundays and I had counseling clients that I continued to see, but I did get to spend a few nights at the hospital with my wife and newborn child and I didn’t have to report to the office for several days in a row.

vacation-roadFast forward several years and I find myself blessed with a very generous earned time off bank and what do I do with it? Well, it has been almost a year and entering last week I still had each and every one of those days still available for me. I did manage to let the staff know that I was taking a Monday off a few weeks ago, but I then put in 8 hours of meetings and sermon prep on my regular day off. This is not something that I am proud of, and certainly not something that I offer up as a recommendation for anyone in ministry or any profession for that matter, it is just a reality of choices that I have made and that I am convicted that I too need to change.

So, a month ago I started working on a plan that would have me out of the office for an entire week. There is a two-fold reason why I finally made doing so a priority. One, I was getting tired. We were about to head into a busy holiday season with a fall community outreach, Thanksgiving, and Christmas activities and I knew I needed to rest up and be at my best for the work that God had called me to do. There is a second reason that admittedly was the real catalyst that forced my hand. In that same personnel manual that I have already mentioned there was a requirement that each of the pastoral staff was mandated to take a full week off, including a Sunday, each and every year. I expected my staff to follow the personnel manual on other matters, so I knew that I also needed to set an example and uphold the very guidelines that I had recently asked the board to sign off on again. It is very hard (but not impossible) for a lead pastor to gone for a week during the Christmas season, so it truly came down to a matter of now or never. And never was not provided as an option.

vacation-ponder

So, back to the plan. I already had a trusted missionary couple coming in on a Wednesday night that would work perfectly with the schedule for our mid-week adult elective classes, and my prayer was that combining the classes that night would allow one for our staff pastors to swap out his class prep for sermon prep. We discussed the schedule and came up with the optimal dates that would have the least impact on the church calendar and my wife was set free to redeem a generous gift we had received months ago, for a stay at an area hotel.

Now this is where the real work came in. How in the world does one get away in a world where everyone has access to you through this digitally connected world? I had entertained leaving my phone behind and going the week without it. A few years ago, I started this for my day off—my Sabbath. On Fridays I often will leave the phone at home on the charger, or better yet, I have often given it to the kids to play with on Fridays. They know, that as long as I am with them and their mother, there isn’t anyone besides God that I need to talk to on the day He has commanded me to find rest.

The trick becomes I am so used to picking up the phone for directions, show times, restaurant reviews, or the answer to that nagging question of what other movie do we know them from or some variation of the sort. I like having access to my phone to take down a note of something I heard of that God spoke to me, and I like being able to know the weather or what time sunset is. How in the world does one get away from the world in a world where everyone has access to you as long as you have your phone with you?

vacation-phoneFor email, it can be as simple as setting up an “out of the office” responder. I took it one step further and my administrative assistant—someone I have known for over a decade and implicitly trust—has access to all of my incoming church email. He can read and respond or simply let people know when they can expect to hear back from me. It was a simple step that took a little technological intentionality, but I believe it best respects and serves those God has called me to serve. The catch here is that email is the 2nd least used form of communication for people with me, only 2nd to the fax machine. People call, people text, and people really like to use Facebook.

I have a little control over who gets my cell phone number, a little. A dear friend, pastor and mentor years ago, encouraged me to guard my cell phone number. I didn’t get it at the time and it was a hard lesson to learn, but when people call they expect and answer or a call back. At the church my administrative assistant also monitors my incoming calls, but on my cell phone it is just me and whichever one of my kids is holding the phone when it rings. Text messaging becomes even trickier as there is, currently, no “put of the office” options for incoming texts. They come in and sit there as the sender awaits an answer. Studies have shown that they expect, not hope for but expect, and answer within minutes.

Other people’s expectations are one thing, but it is the self-imposed expectations that literally keep me awake at night. If I get a message and I make a decision to wait to respond, I know that I have waited to respond and I find it hard to shake it. Many productivity gurus will tell you to never handle the same piece of mail twice and to instantly respond to any message and then just go on with the day. How can I both do that and expect anyone to respect the boundaries of the Sabbath, and now for a vacation? Great question, I am glad you asked. But before I answer it, let me share a brief story that God used to really bring this home for me.

vacation-ligthouse

Recently Jennifer and I had the awesome privilege of having lunch with two former youth of ours. It had been over a decade since we last saw these two young men and we only had the chance to connect with them again because when we moved halfway across the country we moved to the home of their favorite football team. They had made an annual pilgrimage to see their favorite team play at home, and that happens to be within driving distance of our home. It was my day off and I couldn’t think of a better way to spend the day: spending time with the family, connecting with two youth that were a part of a ministry that really solidified our calling, and getting to see the sunset behind a lighthouse on the edge of a beautiful lake we had yet to explore. Resting and rejuvenating at its best, but there was one problem. Mark Zuckerberg had created this way for people to contact anyone on the planet, and they can do it whenever they want.

I had seen a message pop up on my phone just before we left the house. I may not be a perfect driver, but I try not to read and respond while in the car. We had a nearly two-hour ride ahead of us and the few words that showed up on my phone’s lock screen let me know this was not a message I wanted to read, nor respond to. And I knew that any response from me was only going to generate a response back which has me in the same boat I was in to start the day. I wish I could say that I was able to shake it off, but I couldn’t. It was an unwelcomed, uninvited intrusion into my family time over something that should never had been an issue (Someone misunderstood someone, who misinterpreted someone and someone was upset over something that never happened. These messages should never has existed to begin with).

But I take full responsibility, and out of the pain I have negligently endured for too long I share with you some simple steps of advice that, if followed, will improve the quality of your time off and the quality of your time with your family.

vacation-bridge

First, let those who “need to know” know that you are going away. They may still try and reach you to ask if you saw that catch or to share a phot of their dinner, but at least they have been given a heads up. It is recommended not to post on social media that your home is going to be vacant for a week, so err on the side of having an unresponded to message over an empty house when you return.

Second, set up the “out of the office” message where ever you can. I often will have the kids record a voicemail message that goes something along the lines of “my dad is spending time with us and can’t come to the phone”. It both helps to get the message out there, as well as it communicates to your kids that you value your time with them.

Third, disable notifications for any apps that will hound you. I disabled text, phone, email, Instagram, Facebook, and Facebook messaging, to name I few. I even took the shortcuts for those apps and dropped them in a folder labeled “vacation” and took it off the home screen. I genuinely needed to not know who was even attempting to message me about whatever happened to their pet, or their favorite reality TV star.

Fourth, don’t check your messages. The texts will still come in, you just won’t be aware unless you go and look at them. Don’t do it. Not only will the message now be marked “read” on their phone, you will be aware that there is a message you haven’t responded to. Do not open the Vacation folder for any reason until you are off of vacation. Full disclosure: I did leave one app notification left on so that my administrative assistant could reach me if he truly needed to. It was an app that in the five years or so that I have had installed no one has tried to reach me through it, so I felt fairly safe that this week wouldn’t be the week someone might try. But it also happened to be a platform that my admin and myself shared in common. He did send me one message, and I didn’t receive it immediately, and it also could have waited until I got back. Just goes to show you, as one of my staff pastors reflected, with the proper planning, anyone can get away for a week.

vacation-photograph

I did this for the first-time last week and I cannot tell you how restorative it was to my soul. The Amish believe that when someone take their photograph it takes a part of their soul away. I hope that is not true, because I take a lot of pictures of my kids. But I can tell you that each and every request for your time and attention does rob you of a little bit of your soul. It distracts you from being present with your family, and it guarantees that you will not be able to find solitude and peace with God.

Mother Theresa once said, “We need to find God, and He is not found in noise.” William Penn echoed a companion sentiment when he penned, “Salience is to the mind what sleep is to the body.” USA Today once published an article on the difficulties of unplugging on vacation, and the problem is not getting any better. Psalm 34:14b says to “seek peace and purse it.” We have to seek, pursues, fight for peace and solitude if we have any hope of finding it and in turn find God’s voice for our lives.

Sure, people like their pastor to be available, but they need their pastor hearing from God far more. Sure, people may like to be able to get a prompt response (and they should), but how long can we put God on hold or have our family waiting for our attention and expect to be of any value to the people God has called us to serve and lead. So, these simple words of encouragement, unplug to reconnect. You’ll never know what you will find if you miss a few messages.vacation-mirror

[:]

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What is your favorite season? http://june3rd.com/what-is-your-favorite-season/ http://june3rd.com/what-is-your-favorite-season/#respond Sun, 13 Nov 2016 12:09:18 +0000 http://june3rd.com/?p=643 Continue reading "What is your favorite season?"

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What is your favorite season? What do you like best about it? Now let me ask you what season you look forward to the least? Why?

We all have our reasons for preferring one season over another, just as we may have our reasons for disliking aspects of one or more season. I have a favorite season much like most others, and there are some things that come along with some seasons that I don’t particularly enjoy. The one thing, though, that all four seasons share in common is that they were created by God. God doesn’t make mistakes, so each season has a purpose.farewell-winter

We may not know the purpose; we may not understand the purpose, we may not even care for the purpose, but if it was created by God you can be assured that it has a purpose.

Now, I happen to enjoy the winter season. I love snow, Christmas time, and warm fires, but when it comes to “winter seasons” in life, I fall right in line with the rest of the world and I don’t enjoy them very much.

Those dark, cold seasons when more things seem to be dying that coming to life. Winter seasons may be seasons of unemployment, illness, uncertainty, or simply waiting. Regardless of their shape or form, they can be painful and stressful. But there is good news and hope, God created them too and He has a purpose for them just as He has a purpose for you.[:]

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Two Questions http://june3rd.com/two-questions/ http://june3rd.com/two-questions/#respond Sat, 30 Apr 2016 11:54:56 +0000 http://june3rd.com/?p=629 Continue reading "Two Questions"

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There are only two questions you need to ask yourself; are you happy or are you unhappy?

If you are happy, then you have nothing to worry about.

If you are unhappy, there are two simple questions you need to ask yourself; will you be happy or will you stay unhappy?

If you’ll be happy, then you have nothing to worry about.

If you’ll still be unhappy, there are two simple questions you need to ask yourself; are you healthy or sick?

If you are healthy, then you have nothing to worry about.

If you are sick, there are two simple questions you need to ask yourself; will you get better or not?

If you’ll get better, then you have nothing to worry about

If not, then you have two simple questions you need to ask yourself; will you live or die?

If you’ll live, then you have nothing to worry about.

If you’ll die, you have two simple questions you need to ask yourself; will you go to heaven or will you go to hell?

If you’ll go to heaven, then you have nothing to worry about…

 

It sorts of puts it all into perspective, doesn’t it? There are a lot of things to worry about in life, but only a few things that truly matter.

new perspective ladder

I was recently speaking at the 2016 Philadelphia Area Iron Sharpens Iron Men’s Conference, and one of the other presenters shared a similar witty introduction to his workshop. Although we had very different topics that we were sharing with the hundreds of men that had gathered to learn more about how they could be equipped to be the men of God their families needed, there was a similar truth that was present in each of the workshops and from each of the keynote speakers. Our perceptions are influenced by our perspective.

If you believe that it is important in life to be happy, then you will make decisions in order to pursue happiness. If your perception is that having your health is the most valuable asset in life, then you will make decisions in order to pursue health. If, from your perspective, there is nothing that matters more with your short time on earth than where one will spend all of eternity you will make decisions to ensure that you, and potentially as many others possible, enjoy eternity in God’s presence. If your perception of reality is that life ends when you breathe your last breath, you will certainly live a very different life. You may try to seek pleasure and enjoyment while you can. As the Epicureans say, “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” (see Ecclesiastes 8:15, Isaiah 22:13, 1 Corinthians 15:32)

What we aim for, what we value, what we set as a priority for our heart and our time are influenced by what we perceive to matter. Matthew 6:19-21 is a great Biblical challenge to set our priorities accordingly. When we take the perspective that eternal matters trump earthly matters we make more God honoring decisions. When you view that family member who has done you wrong as someone that Christ went to the cross to save and that He desires to restore His relationship with them you can then ask yourself two questions; will your response lead them towards or away from the cross? If your response will lead them to the cross, then you have nothing to worry about…

perspective money

When you are setting priorities with your time, finances, or life goals, having an eternal perspective shapes your perceptions about what is important. If you believe it, it is real to you—even if it is not reality. All too many live for what they can taste and see in the here and now neglecting eternal realities and not setting priorities using an incomplete perspective on what truly matters. They are like those Jesus spoke of in Mark 8:18 who have eyes but fail to see. Pray that God will open your eyes to see your life as He sees it and allow what He reveals to you to correct and complete your inaccurate and incomplete perspective. Seek you have your perception of reality match real reality.

This then leads us to another question; are there any things that matter with our time here on earth? Mark Batterson, in his recent book if summarizes some research that suggests that earlier in life we tend to regret more “things that we did but ought not to have” than “things that we ought to have done but did not”. As we get older that shifts and by our later years in life we tend to regret most “things that we ought to have done but did not.”

When we reach the end of our lives we will have a very unique, once-in-a-lifetime, perspective about what matters most. By the time we reach the end of our lives it is often too late to invest the time and energy necessary to change those things for which we have regret.

perspective if

What if? What if we began to live today with the perspective that we may one day encounter and began to do today what later we may regret that we had not done? What if, instead of merely surviving marriage we set out on an adventure to thrive in our marital relationship? What if, instead of enduring parenthood we moved heaven and earth to equip ourselves with whatever was necessary to be the best parents possible? What if we applied ourselves to becoming better communicators in all of our relationships? What if we strove to further our education, become healthier, become more forgiving, to become a better and healthier version of ourselves? What if we took our eyes off of mundane of the day to day and began living for those things that matter most to God?

It is possible, but it will be challenging. As Esther Kerr Rusthoi wrote in her hymn “When We See Christ”: It will be worth it all, when we see Jesus; …One glimpse of His dear face, all sorrow will erase; So bravely run the race, till we see Christ!” When you know that there is a better reason to run the race (and a great prize at the end) it has the potential to change how you approach each step of the way.

perspective run

Take a new step today, with your eyes fixed on heaven and the humility to acknowledge that there is more than you may have known before. Expand and correct your incomplete and inaccurate perspective; challenge those faulty perceptions that have been weighing you down. Because there are only two questions you need to ask yourself, and you have the choice to answer so that you have nothing to worry about.

[:es]There are only two questions you need to ask yourself; are you happy or are you unhappy?

If you are happy, then you have nothing to worry about.

If you are unhappy, there are two simple questions you need to ask yourself; will you be happy or will you stay unhappy?

If you’ll be happy, then you have nothing to worry about.

If you’ll still be unhappy, there are two simple questions you need to ask yourself; are you healthy or sick?

If you are healthy, then you have nothing to worry about.

If you are sick, there are two simple questions you need to ask yourself; will you get better or not?

If you’ll get better, then you have nothing to worry about

If not, then you have two simple questions you need to ask yourself; will you live or die?

If you’ll live, then you have nothing to worry about.

If you’ll die, you have two simple questions you need to ask yourself; will you go to heaven or will you go to hell?

If you’ll go to heaven, then you have nothing to worry about…

 

It sorts of puts it all into perspective, doesn’t it? There are a lot of things to worry about in life, but only a few things that truly matter.

new perspective ladder

I was recently speaking at the 2016 Philadelphia Area Iron Sharpens Iron Men’s Conference, and one of the other presenters shared a similar witty introduction to his workshop. Although we had very different topics that we were sharing with the hundreds of men that had gathered to learn more about how they could be equipped to be the men of God their families needed, there is a similar truth that was present in each of the workshops and for each of the keynote speakers. Our perceptions are influenced by our perspective.

If you believe that it is important in life to be happy, then you will make decisions in order to pursue happiness. If your perception is that having your health is the most valuable asset in life, then you will make decisions in order to pursue health. If, from your perspective, there is nothing that matters more with your short time on earth than where one will spend all of eternity you will make decisions to ensure that you, and potentially as many others possible, enjoy eternity in God’s presence. If your perception of reality is that life ends when you breathe your last breath, you will certainly live a very different life. You may try to seek pleasure and enjoyment while you can. As the Epicureans say, “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” (see Ecclesiastes 8:15, Isaiah 22:13, 1 Corinthians 15:32)

What we aim for, what we value, what we set as a priority for our heart and our time are influenced by what we perceive to matter. Matthew 6:19-21 is a great Biblical challenge to set our priorities accordingly. I believe when we take the perspective that eternal matters trump earthly matters we make more God honoring decisions. When you view that family member who has done you wrong as someone that Christ went to the cross to save and that He desires to restore His relationship with them you can then ask yourself two questions; will your response lead them towards or away from the cross? If your response will lead them to the cross, then you have nothing to worry about…

perspective money

When you are setting priorities with your time, finances, or life goals, having an eternal perspective shapes our perceptions of what is important. If you believe it, it is real to you—even if it is not reality. All too many live for what they can taste and see in the here and now neglecting eternal realities and not set priorities using an incomplete perspective on what truly matters. They are like those Jesus spoke of in Mark 8:18 who have eyes but fail to see. Pray that God will open your eyes to see your life as He sees it and allow what He reveals to you to correct and complete your inaccurate and incomplete perspective. Seek you have your perception of reality match real reality.

This then leads us to another question; are there any things that matter with our time here on earth? Mark Batterson, in his recent book if summarizes some research that suggests that earlier in life we tend to regret more “things that we did but ought not to have” than “things that we ought to have done but did not”. As we get older that shifts and by our later years in life we tend to regret most “things that we ought to have done but did not.”

When we reach the end of our lives we will have a very unique, once-in-a-lifetime, perspective of what matters most. By the time we reach the end of our lives it is often too late to invest the time and energy necessary to change those things for which we have regret.

perspective if

What if? What if we began to live today with the perspective that we may one day encounter and began to do today what later we may regret that we had not done? What if, instead of merely surviving marriage we set out on an adventure to thrive in our marital relationship? What if, instead of enduring parenthood we moved heaven and earth to equip ourselves with whatever was necessary to be the best parents possible? What if we applied ourselves to becoming better communicators in all of our relationships? What if we strove to further our education, become healthier, become more forgiving, to become a better and healthier version of ourselves? What if we took our eyes of the mundane of the day to day and began living for those things that matter most to God?

It is possible, but I will admit that it will be challenging. As Esther Kerr Rusthoi wrote in her hymn “When We See Christ”: It will be worth it all, when we see Jesus; …One glimpse of His dear face, all sorrow will erase; So bravely run the race, till we see Christ! When you know that there is a better reason to run the race (and a great prize at the end) it has the potential to change how you approach each step of the way.

perspective run

Take a new step today, with your eyes fixed on heaven and the humility to acknowledge that there is more than you may have known before. Expand and correct your incomplete and inaccurate perspective; challenge those faulty perceptions that have been weighing you down. Because there are only two questions you need to ask yourself, and you have the choice to answer so that you have nothing to worry about.

[:]

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