"Fill 'Er Up"

Gas is now north of $3 per gallon. Just in time for vacation road trips.

But we pay it, because we have to get to where we are going.

Unless you are driving a Tesla—and then there are issues of battery life and finding a charging station when you need one. No one wants to run out of gas, or battery juice, on a secluded road on a moonless night, or at an inconvenient place between here and Disneyworld.

Audrey was out of town over the weekend, and I was fending for myself at supper time.  I'm not too much in the kitchen but I love to grill out. I fixed a salad and baked potato, but when I went out to check on the steak, I discovered that the grill was rapidly losing temperature and the flame was gone. Yes—I was out of gas. Don't you hate when that happens?  At least there wasn't a table of dinner guests looking at me--this time.

There's never really a good time for this, but it can happen at the worst possible moment. Just keep driving and ignoring that gauge on the dashboard and you'll eventually see.

We can run out of gas emotionally and spiritually, too. The needle for our soul sinks below "E" and we do not have what we need in order to do what we need to do. I think of Samson in Judges 16:19-20. Nor can we do for someone else what she needs us to do.  We would gladly give, but we don't have anything left in reserve.

It happens to me, and I would guess it happens to you sometimes, too.

 Here's how I keep my tank filled--

1. A regular rhythm of work and rest.
God created the world in six days and then rested on the seventh. Not because He was tired, but to set the right example for us.

I am a creature of habit. Know my schedule and you can set your watch by me. So, there's a day off in the week (usually, but not always, Thursday) and vacations during the year. I have guarded these carefully, though not as much now as when our son was growing up at home. Occasionally I have delayed a vacation or been called back early due to a death in the congregation, but my churches have always wanted me to take the time away to rest and replenish. In 2014 I had a six week "sabbatical.” It did wonders for my heart and prepared me for the challenges that were coming.

2. A bevy of great friends who encourage and inspire me.
Pastors have the opportunity to meet so many people over the years, and to get close to them if they will let us. There is a regular and rapid turnover at FBCA, but a benefit even of that is that by now we have friends living all around the world who invite us to come and visit them.

It is especially meaningful to re-connect with old friends from back in the day. To rehearse the stories and maybe see and appreciate them in a different light after time and distance.

3. Regularly listening to sermons from others.
The other day I was doing a tedious job around the house, and I listened to three or four in a row, from different men and women. I was blessed by each--and the time just flew by.

I do this not to later plagiarize--but to feed my own soul. Oh, I joke with my preacher friends when I tell them that I listen to them. “And if you would preach better, eventually I would, too.” But it's just a joke between us. I may borrow an idea here or there, a story or a phrase, but I try to attribute them when I do. Still, the sermon is mine. My take on the subject. My personality. My heart and not someone else's being delivered to you.

 If it is important for you to regularly hear the Word proclaimed, then it is even more necessary for me.
 
4. Having a variety of interests outside of the pulpit.
I could improve at this; I don't have nearly enough. But traveling is certainly something I enjoy, and l am so ready to get going again. Audrey and I decided when we were first married that we would spend our discretionary money (and there was precious little of it back at the beginning) on experiences instead of possessions. Neither of us had traveled much before and we wanted to see the world. We made it a priority. Well, by now we have seen a great deal of it-- but there's still places on our list that we've not visited yet.

Augustine said: "The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”

5.  Saving encouraging letters and thank you notes.
Oh, I've kept a few of the unsigned, "anonymous" types, too, just to stay humble and balanced. But not many. The good ones I have hidden in books to surprise myself with when I am discouraged, and they are most needed. Not the most efficient filing system, I know.

6. Speaking of traveling, I love this advice from the poet, Billy Collins--
"When in Rome, it pays to look up.” Meaning: the best artwork in that city is not on the walls but very likely on the ceiling.

Looking up in life is important. "I will lift my eyes to the hills...", said the writer of Psalm 121, and find strength from the One who made heaven and earth. By raising my sights, I am better able to see things from God's perspective. I often take one more look into the night sky before going off to bed. I did that last night.

7. And speaking of Billy Collins, I enjoy reading his poetry and the works of others, too.
It opens up new channels in the brain and fires the imagination. The arrangement of words on paper, sentences with their various cadences, and whole new worlds are mine.

The Psalms is a book of biblical poetry, and I am so enjoying preaching from it during these summer Sundays.

The three-day weekend we just experienced has helped to fuel and energize me. They seem to come along right on time, don't they? I drive a Toyota Prius and, as a hybrid, it runs on a little bit of this and a little bit of that. My life is like that, too, I guess.

Oh, and when I took that piece of meat off of the grill the other day to bring in and finish in the oven, I discovered that it was already cooked exactly right—just the way I like it. The very last bit of propane in the tank got the job done before it was spent.

Yesterday, I went to Home Depot and picked up a refill.

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