Pastor Arrested While on Vacation

“O Lord, God of my salvation; I cry out day and night before you…” (Psalm 88:1 ESV)

I was arrested while on vacation in Colorado.

No, not like that. Sorry to cause you undo panic. The Colorado police didn’t track me down. Rather, I was arrested by a higher authority, the highest, you could say.

I had gone on vacation looking for some time of quiet reflection, encouragement, and renewal. I knew I’d be spending time the mountains, and I was so looking forward to have some quiet time alone in prayer and meditation on God’s word. Sure enough, I found the time, but it wasn’t what I expected.

Saturday morning, in the Sangre De Cristo Mountains, I had hoped to open the Scriptures and read something like, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns” (Isa 52:7) – particularly fitting for a mountainside devotion, right?

Instead, my daily reading sent me to Psalm 88, “O Lord, God of my salvation; I cry out day and night before you…”

I couldn’t get past this one verse. My conscience wouldn’t allow it. If the Psalms are the prayer-book of the Bible, and I want to read through these prayers honestly and sincerely, what right did I have to claim this verse that morning. “Day and night I come before you…,” hardly! Here’s my typical day:

Wake up to the kids running to our bedroom, wanting breakfast…
Quickly preparing to go to work, while keeping peace between the Hottentots, who, after being well fed, are now wrestling in the living room…
Arriving in the office with messages, mail, a sermon and newsletter article to write, plans to make, people to visit, general busyness piled so high I have job security until I die…
Coming home late because I can’t keep track of time…
Feeding, bathing, reading to, and bedding the children…
Crashing on the bed, asleep before I hit the pillow, lucky if I managed to talk with the wife for 5 minutes…

And that doesn’t include the upcoming chaos of school, sports, church meetings, and the other assortments of mayhem and confusion. Beginning and ending the day crying out to the Lord, I wish.

As I dwelt on this passage, though, I realized that was the problem. I had let the busyness of the day, the “tyranny of the urgent” as one author put it, distract me and consume me. Rather than doing the one thing that could support and encourage me in all the rest, I was running on my own power and operating by my own wisdom (and we all know how far that will go).

I went into my vacation hoping for a time to get re-focused, and that’s surely what God was doing. God arrested me, took a moment to help me see the truth about myself, and broke me of my frantic compulsion to do rather than to just be.

Day and night I cry out to you… What joy, what strength, what peace we can know when we begin and end each day with the Lord. There is something to be said for Brother Lawrence’s Practicing the Presence of God, in which every activity throughout the day is an act of prayer; but there is also something to be said for taking time at the beginning and end of each day specifically for communion with the Lord. In Bonheoffer’s seminary community, students were allowed to talk to one another until after their morning worship, and after evening prayer, not a word was said. The first and last words of the day were between you and the Lord.

I’ve been paroled, if you will, released under the careful watch of my Savior, who continues by the power of His Spirit to transform and shape me. Hopefully, by speaking with the Lord morning and night, I will not venture too far from Him during the day. Hope to see you on the journey!


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