U.S. News had a special issue recently entitled “Secrets to a Stress-Free Summer.” On the cover was a picture of a 230 foot suspension bridge in Vancouver and a caption that read “Picture yourself on this bridge. No email. No cellphone. No PDA. Now you are ready to hear the secrets to a stress-free summer. Take a deep breath everyone, it’s time to slow down.” This really caught my attention, and upon reading the companion story inside I found out that Americans have fewer paid vacation days than Europeans but still don’t use all of them. Thus the phrase “vacation deprivation” to describe the condition of the typical American worker.

It’s not all that surprising that we don’t take all our vacation time. Some folks don’t take any at all. I’ve had people tell me that it’s more stressful coming back from a vacation than going on one. They dread all the work that’s going to get piled up for them while they’re away “relaxing.” I can appreciate that sentiment. But, it’s very important that we take time away from the daily grind to retool and refuel. There ought to daily, weekly, and annual opportunities to pull back for rest.

Some church folks don’t think preachers deserve a vacation. They’ll say, “the devil doesn’t take vacations. ” My thought is “Well, I didn’t know the devil was supposed to be my example. And if I didn’t take one, I’d be as mean and miserable as he is!” I heard that comeback somewhere and have made it my own. Clearly, Jesus should be our example and if he thought it was important to “get away” from things, then that ought to be good enough for us.

I’m preaching from Mark 7:24-30 this Sunday about “The Persistant Woman.” Without getting into the story, I’ll mention that Jesus entered Gentile territory (Tyre) with the intention of hiding out. “And he entered a house and did not want anyone to know, yet he could not be hidden” (v24). This incident occurs after a previous effort to get some rest but the crowd found out where Jesus was and prevented it (Mk 6:30-33). Jesus always had compassion on the crowds, but felt it was important to be alone for rest and reflection. There are several passages that indicate this truth.

In looking forward to my own vacation, I am reminded of what a precious commodity time is and unlike money, once you spend it, it’s gone. Yes, there’ll be stuff piled up for me upon my return, and I’m hopeful that nothing critical develops at the church that might require an early return from my trip. You can’t allow this possibility to keep you from taking off. It’s also good to be reminded that things can get along without you for a few days. So, there’s at least one thing I’d like to accomplish this year: take ALL my vacation days. I don’t want to deprive myself or family of the time. Plus, the church folks might enjoy time away from me as well.