Yes, those are our grandchildren, John Lewis and Laura Elizabeth Carpenter. Yes, they are extraordinary in every sense of the word. And, yes, we did just spend a week with them on the coast of South Carolina. Their parent's Scott Carpenter and Liz Holmes Carpenter were with us too. But, you know, there's the grand parent thing. Anyway, the four of them are the backdrop for a few thoughts this week, mostly a response to a younger ministry colleague who wanted to know the urgency of vacation for retired people. Like geezers don't enjoy a little frolic and play on occasion too. He thought we were on vacation all the time.
So, let me set the record straight. Ministers don't actually retire. There's this calling thing that extends to the final breath of life and prevents us from laying aside God's claim on us. The Apostle Paul wrote about it in profound words from his Epistle to the Romans---"The gifts and calling of God are irrevocable" (Romans 11:29, ESV). Yes, we can become ineligible through sinful lifestyles that violate the sanctity of our call or experience malfunction in these jars of clay that hinders the motions of ministry. But, when he calls us, he calls us for life. So, retirement isn't usually the deal for most of the ministry cohort.
After thirty-five plus years of pastoral ministry I realized that my calling would have additional chapters beyond serving a local congregation as senior pastor. These new chapters would be an admixture of passion for the Gospel, complete confidence and belief in the local church, and the desire to contribute experience, however measly, to those stepping into roles as next generation spiritual leaders. What a thrilling next chapter it is! The funny thing is that in most of these interactions, I learn more than they do. These younger guys are equipped, innovative, thoroughly biblical, and fresh gusts of energy.
Vacation for me has really never been about rest. My engines hum at a pretty consistent pace most of the time so vacation has never really been about hours or days of sleep, extensive down time, or being logged off of a demanding schedule. No, vacation for me has usually been about refreshment, that is, a renewed heart and spirit for the assignment God has entrusted to my stewardship. And, if the New Testament is to be my guide, refreshment is about our personal devotional lives and being with people who enrich and refresh us. Note this verse as a starter---
Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of
refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord...
Acts 3: 19-20, ESV
Clearly, refreshment is the outcome of personal time with the Lord. As a result, my vacation hours, even in this next chapter of my calling, is more about devotional and worship time than time off the clock. Truly the Book and the ocean are the personal devotion and worship starters for me.
Even more, especially in the writing of the Apostle Paul, refreshment is a result of being with people who can give us a fresh view of life, schedules, calendars, agendas, to-do lists, and the busyness that calibrates most of life. Check out these references---
So that by God's will I may come to you with joy and be refreshed in your company.
Romans 15:32, ESV
For they refreshed my spirit as well as yours. Give recognition to such people.
1 Corinthians 16:18, ESV
Therefore we are comforted. And besides our own comfort, we rejoiced still more at the
joy of Titus, because his spirit has been refreshed by you all.
2 Corinthians 7: 13, ESV
May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me
and was not ashamed of my chains,
2 Timothy 1:16, ESV
For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts
of the saints have been refreshed through you.
Philemon 1:7, ESV
Yes, brother, I want some benefit from you in the Lord. Refresh my heart in Christ.
Philemon 1:20, ESV
That is all to say that in this chapter of life, rest isn't the primary outcome of vacation time. Refreshment is. And, that's the joy of stepping out of the Baptist bubble for a few days to experience the refreshment of our children and grandchildren. My learning curve has been on an incline for the past week. Now, we're home and ready for the additional joys of this chapter---serving as interim Pastor of Edisto Beach Baptist Church, teaching Old Testament Survey to fifty college students at Charleston Southern University, and spending time with some local pastors ---refreshed in spirit.
No, there's no such thing as retirement for any of us called by God. But, there are next chapters. And, being refreshed keeps them from becoming the same old, same old life routines. Please know my prayers that you'll have an opportunity for regular times of refreshment as well.
Remember: your personal devotional life and time with people who can encourage and lift you is refreshing. And, we all need to be refreshed often.