The first two weeks were filled from morning to night as I taught the Disciples in Training Course at Circle Square Ranch in Arden, Ontario. Then, without a day to recoup, I headed off to Sherbrooke, Quebec for a five day Vacation Bible School [VBS] Missions Trip. After arriving home on Thursday, I managed to squeeze in a counselling session for a couple I was to marry, a birthday supper for my sister, lunch with another youth pastor, Sunday Worship, and I convinced one of my teens to help me with the final details for Mission Rochester, which started on Tuesday. Tuesday came and I packed up four teens and myself and headed to Trulls Road FMC to meet up with the rest of the team who were joining us. Six days later, after an amazing experience of God’s faithfulness, I arrived home to prepare for the wedding I was performing on Saturday and to get ready for my vacation, which started on Sunday. Vacation this year included whipping around in a boat at a friend’s cottage, house swapping with my cousin, four days in New York City with my mom and watching Phantom of the Opera at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa.
Three days after I came home from vacation I headed off to Echo Lake Camp for a week of teen camp. To finish things off, I took a busload of teens to Canada’s Wonderland to help get them plugged back into the youth program, which was scheduled to start in two weeks.
I’m sure you might be thinking that I might have packed a little too much into my summer … but I have a secret, it’s called “Sabbath”. Sabbath is a concept that is repeated throughout the Scriptures: from the very beginning in Genesis 2:2 when God rested from all his labours to Revelation 14:13 when we are told that those who die in the Lord will rest from their labour. We also know, that in Mark 2:27, Jesus taught how the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So, it would seem to me, that since the Sabbath concept runs throughout Scripture, it must be important!
I believe that God has given us the concept of Sabbath in order that we would have the strength to do all that He has called us to do in this life. Isaiah 30:15-16 (RSV), says, “For thus says the LORD God, the Holy One of Israel, ‘In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.’” The secret to my sanity was keeping God first, and I did this by maintaining an attitude of Sabbath. So, even though I was crazy busy, I made sure to meet with the Lord every day and rest whenever possible. Each morning, time was spent in prayer, re-dedicating my thoughts, words, actions and heart to the Lord and His purposes – every morning. Each day, I read from the Word – each day as the bible says, “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matt 4:4 NIV)By making Scripture a priority, I managed to read through: Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations and Ezekiel. The Lord taught me so much this summer about praise, wisdom, the unbelievable life of His prophets as well as how He speaks to us through pain. Daily devotions were key to making sure that I remained focussed over the last two months. I knew that if I went without praying or reading Scripture – even for one day, I would feel as if I was missing out on something that God wanted to tell me – like I was starving myself spiritually. Not only were prayer and Scripture reading a priority, so was rest. When I talk of rest, I’m not just talking about having a nap – even though that was a very key part. I’m talking about taking a break from the normal schedule of life in order to connect with God and to renew my strength. Psalm 23:2 says, “He makes me lie down in green pastures, and leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.” I knew that if I wanted to restore my soul, I needed to be still. So, whenever there was a break from the craziness of ministry I would rest. I would often take time to be alone at Circle Square and Echo Lake Camps instead of hanging out with people all the time. In Sherbrooke, we made a mandatory rest hour each afternoon to refuel ourselves for the evening events. During Mission Rochester, we would stop for half hour each afternoon after VBS for an ice cream break in the Rose Garden so we could collect our thoughts and gain some energy before heading to Hope Initiatives for the afternoon. In New York City, there were also moments when I caught some rest. A bird on the bush beside me reminded me that if God sees this little sparrow, then He sees me too! Even at Canada’s Wonderland, amid all the noise of the rides, I managed to find a green spot, lie down and focus on the Lord – who at that point reminded me that He knows all about the Fall program and He would let me in on it when I was ready.
It wasn’t just Scripture, prayer and brief periods of rest that sustained me. I also made the most of my days off. These days were often spent quietly, focussing on prayer, fasting, meditation, naps, spiritual reading and simply being with the Lord. James 4:8 in the NKJV says, “Draw near to God, He will draw near to you.”
This summer, it was confirmed, time and time again, that when I spent time with the Lord, the Lord drew near to me. The Lord restored me, He refreshed me, He renewed me and He reminded me that He saw me, knew what I needed and promised to provide it. As a result, I was more patient and rarely overreacted when things didn’t go my way. I could see the Lord’s hand in several situations that came up and I had a sense of peace, which I knew could only come from the Lord.
By making Scripture, prayer and rest a priority in my life, I was able to carry out the ministry that I felt that God called me to do this summer.
Jennifer Wagar is the Youth Pastor at Verona Free Methodist Church [Ontario].