The Art of Doing Nothing…

For the last 3 days I have been on vacation. This is the first vacation I have taken in an extremely long time. I am at Ocean Isle Beach in North Carolina and I’m loving every minute of it, except for the extreme sunburn I have on every part of my upper-body, but I guess it’s my own fault for only putting sun screen on my tattoos! I’ve mastered the art of lying on the beach; the art of lying on the couch and reading; the art of eating good food; the art of trying to take on the waves with lowered shoulders; but I have not been successful thus far in the art of doing nothing…

beach 2

The art of doing nothing that I am referring to is simply that, the art of actually not doing anything important! I am on vacation and I promised myself and friends that I would not do any work while at the beach. I have had a busy and stressful summer, and I was in very high need of a break from it all. I thought it would be easy to not do ministry or think about work related things for a week but so far it’s proved to be extremely difficult.

Almost every day I make a to-do-list and a “things to get done in the next week” list and most of the time, I get these lists done.  However, some of those times (which has happened a lot as the summer nears to an end), I get extremely unmotivated and only get about half of each list done in a given day or week. The reason I mention these lists is to lead into my topic for this post…

I have an extremely hard time mastering the art of doing nothing…

I am here to relax, be refreshed, and get away from the stresses of youth ministry and all I can think about is work. I feel like I should be doing something productive. I feel guilty for relaxing and not having anything to do.

I think my time in New York trained me for this. While up there, I was constantly going. While I was in school, I took 18-24 credits a semester and went from class to class. After classes I would go to work. After work I would go to the next activity. After I graduated from college, I stayed in New York and spent 8 months working 3 jobs and having a girlfriend who lived 40 miles away from me. I ran two youth ministries (one at a Christian and Missionary Alliance Church and one at a Lutheran Church), and I worked part time at an auto repair shop. When I wasn’t working (and I don’t know how I found any time where  I wasn’t working), I drove 80 miles round trip to spend time with my girlfriend (now my ex). I was constantly going and I rarely had time to relax and just do nothing.

Ever since I moved back to PA in February and started at my new church, I have struggled with taking time off. I am required to take one day off a week, for which I am very thankful, but during those off-days I find it hard to get away from ministry and not do any work. I guess I’ve just been too busy for too long and there are a few things that I need to do. I need to train myself to find peace in my off time! I need to remember that my ministry won’t fall apart if I turn my thoughts and efforts away from it for a day or a week. I need to remember that “nothing essential stops when I rest!” I need to discipline myself to master the art of doing nothing!

***I found the quote in the last paragraph in Mark Oestreicher’s book “Youth Ministry 3.0” (page 114…side of page…written by a youth worker named Ben Kraker…original author of quote is unknown)***

–          paulg

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3 Responses to The Art of Doing Nothing…

  1. Julie Baum says:

    PPG, The art of doing nothing.. Sounds great to me, but I also have an extremely hard time doing so. I always think I have to be busy; whether it be taking care of Nick, household chores, piano ministry or whatever it is. Why is it that we find it hard to relax? I’m headed on vacation too in a week. I know there is so much to prepare. I have a day off a week too and find it difficult to take the day “off” I’d love to just sit in my pjs all day and drink my cappicino, watch tv, check the weather and just plain lounge. However, I feel that if I do that my day off isn’t productive. Then I feel guilty that I did nothing. Just like today. I actually had a tuesday off for once (never happens) and I took the day to shop! but now it’s 6pm and no supper cooked, laundry not finished,toys scattered throughout the house and not even close to be packed for the beach! Sooo… my point is… I can’t do it either!!!!! But, I too need to train my brain that the house isn’t going to burn down if it’s not clean. The laundry machine isn’t going to break from underuse, and the oven/grill isn’t going to fall apart because I didn’t put something in it or on it! Anyway, take time to relax, enjoy and find peace in the serene waves of the ocean!

  2. Art says:

    God our gracious creator has made us in such a way that we need rest. That rest is a time when we need to care for our bodies and our souls. It’s time to put aside our busy-ness and reflect upon our weakness AND His provision. It’s really a time to reflect on our total reliance on Him.

    Ministry is a noble profession. How couldn’t it be, being chosen by God to be an ambassador of the Gospel. Yet in our ministry, we need to beware of busy-ness in our ministry activities. Busy-ness is anything that we do as part of ministry that diverts our hearts from our primary purpose; the Gospel. If not carful, busy-ness, especially ministry busy-ness, can become a subtle form of self-rightousness. Yet, there is also busy-ness in our hearts when we rest as the world defines rest.

    It is good that you have not mastered the art of doing “nothing”. The world tells us to do nothing which is really a call to place ourselves and family ahead of God. 1 Tim 4:6-10

    As Christians, days off and vacations should be times of bodily rest and spiritual retreat. They are in fact “personal sabbath’s” where we can worship God and reorient our hearts that may tend to be focused more on “doing ministry” than on God himself.

    As a fellow minister, two things have helped bring perspective in my life. The first is the realization that only God get’s all the things done on his to do list. My failure to accomplish my list makes me more aware of my fallenness and ever more reliant on His grace. And secondly, I must filter everything I do through a Gospel lens. My good intentions may be productive in human terms, but they may not necessarily good for the Kingdom. I must be living the Gospel in my work and in my rest. I must strive for the mind of Christ, where I am met with God’s grace.

    Charles Spurgeon once said “I always feel it well to put a few words of prayer between everything I do.”

    Enjoy your vacation and time off basking in the love and grace of God and consider the words of Spurgeon.

    • 123paulg says:

      Hey man,

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting on my blog. I’ve been slacking lately with returning comments to people. So even though you wrote this reply months ago, I wanted to respond to you today. I wanted to thank you for sharing the things that helped bring perspective into your life. I can relate to those things 100%! Thanks again for reading man. It means a lot!

      – paulg

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