Wednesday, August 7, 2013


Mark 6:31 (NIV)
Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, "Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest."

                Summer is a great time to unplug for awhile and get some rest. I just returned from a two-week vacation that gave me the opportunity to do just that. I spent the first week with my entire family in Michigan. During the second week I had the opportunity to share one of my favorite places in the world with an international friend, the North Shore of Lake Superior. Both experiences were great.

                One thing that I observed while I was on vacation is how hard it is to truly unplug. While we were together as a family, several people yielded to the temptation to be on their iPad or their smart phone checking up on friends and the latest news. I too gave in a few times, as I checked the baseball scores on my Kindle. I’m not saying that this was bad; it was just interesting how a group of people could sit in the same room and be engrossed in their personal technology.

                But I experienced this in an even keener way on my short trip up to the North Shore of Lake Superior. We pulled into the public parking lot at Canal Park, Duluth heading for lunch at Grandma’s restaurant. As I walked to the pay station, I saw a group of four people that I recognized. They don’t live in my town or in Duluth, yet here we were meeting on the shores of the big lake. The next day, as we were walking around Grand Marais (over 100 miles away from Duluth), we ran into one of the people we had seen in Duluth the day before. That night, as my friend and I were eating our dinner in Silver Bay, a woman approached me who I had traveled with to Ukraine several years ago. My international friend looked at me with surprise and said, “You can’t go anywhere without seeing someone you know.”

                Jesus faced the very same thing, only to a much greater extent. Everywhere he went people recognized him and wanted his attention. The Gospel of Mark records a time when the demands of the people were so great that Jesus told his disciples it was time to unplug. To paraphrase, Jesus said, guys we are all exhausted. We need to unplug for a while and regain our energy.

                Mark 6:32-34 records what happened next. So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.

                Jesus took his beleaguered group to a solitary place to recharge their batteries. Some people figured out where they were headed and beat them to the spot. If this would have happened to you or me, we might have been tempted to try to escape or at least to tell the people to let us alone. But Jesus responded in a different way. He saw the people’s deep need and he had compassion on them.

                Most of us live busy lives, filled with more activities than we can manage well. It is important for us to regularly take time to unplug and recharge our batteries. This is the idea behind the discipline of solitude. Sometimes the voices of the world are so loud that we cannot hear the voice of God calling to us. It is in those times of solitude that we can reconnect with our Savior. Jesus practiced solitude on a regular basis, so that he could connect with his Father. Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Mark 1:35 (NIV)We would do well to follow his example.

                On the other hand, Jesus never gave into the temptation to isolate himself and hide from the crowd. Being an introvert, I enjoy times of solitude. The danger for me is that I often enjoy them too much. If given the choice of spending time with others or spending time alone, I would choose being alone. But we have not been called to live isolated lives. We have been called to live in vital community with others. Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2 (NIV) That is exactly what Jesus did.

                When Jesus saw the crowd, he didn’t try to escape. He saw an opportunity to minister to some pretty needy people. Even though his energy was low, he tapped into the energy of the Father and made a positive contribution to many people’s lives.

                 When I was on my trip, I could have chosen to ignore those people that I saw. That has always been a genuine temptation for me. But I knew that the right thing to do was to encounter them, and by doing so share a positive moment of joy. It didn’t take long and it cost me little, but it was a valuable thing to do.

                As we move through life, we need to regularly unplug from the routine of life to realign our heart and soul with Christ. But, we should never totally disconnect from others.

Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Hebrews 10:25 (NIV)

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