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  • Writer's pictureRev. Joel L. Tolbert


As a pastor, the word "vacation" takes on a new meaning. I once had a career, and I took vacation. That week, I would NOT be making any progress on my projects. I would NOT be returning any customer calls, or making any new sales calls. I would NOT be attending any of the regular weekly meetings. In the corporate world, I understood vacation.

As a pastor, especially when I served as a solo pastor, I felt different about vacation. I would feel, "There's so much to do!" and ask myself, "Is now the right time to get away? I would think, "There are so many people in the world in need!" and ask myself, "Is it really okay for me to spend resources on the luxury of a vacation?"

This week, I vacated. I set the phone on silent, the email to auto-reply, and unplugged. My brain would occasionally see faces of you all. I'd play with an idea, a tweak to our worship, a possible future children's ministry. Then I would swat it away and make it wait. I'm working on an overture for General Assembly 2022, but wouldn't let myself open the file. I'm trying to find a way to kickstart a year-round emergency homeless shelter, but wouldn't let myself do any emailing or internet research.

I read books, played games, listened to podcasts and music. I rewatched an old favorite and went to a movie theater for the first time in a long time.

Today, as you sit with the prayer list, try something. If you find yourself tempted to wonder, "What could I do for him/her/them today?' swat that away. Today, just read the names. Read each pray list without any sense of responsibility. Then, go play. Go do something fun, silly, joyful. Go giggle. Go paint or create. Play.

Then, when your playtime is over, sit still and listen. What comes to your head or heart? What rises? There, that's your calling. Go do that, with all the passion and energy of play itself.

May God's playfulness infect you all, and may God's belly laugh resonate in your souls.

Blessing, Laughter, and Loving be yours,

Rev. Joel L. Tolbert

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