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One of our favorite chapters in the Bible, particularly the Old Testament, is Psalm 23. In it, the author, David, both famous for his courage and infamous for his sinful affair with Bathsheba, reflects on God's graciousness, saying, "He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name's sake" (v. 2-3).

I am writing this article while on sabbatical from my ministry responsibilities to Village Bible Church in Bella Vista. The congregation is blessing my wife and me with two months to rest, read, reconnect and ramble. I am nearing 40 years in ministry, 10 of then in Bella Vista. I believe God has more for me to do, but I also knew I needed a "strategic retreat." It is both biblical and practical.

Sue and I started out with rambling out to Utah to decompress and to engage God in some of His most beautiful creation ... The Arches National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park and Zion National Park. We hiked, we prayed, we sang, we met wonderful people and saw amazing scenery. And to think, God used His judgment of sin and the catastrophic worldwide flood and created out of it incredible, nearly indescribable canyons, rivers and mountains.

We drove down to the north rim of the Grand Canyon and then to Page, Ariz., where we toured the Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell. We hiked some fantastic trails there, too. I don't know how many miles we have hiked thus far, but I know we drove about 3,400 in the first 11 days (most of it off the interstates.)

I chose to read Billy Graham's book, "Nearing Home," as part of my sabbatical. He was 92 years old as he wrote and co-wrote about growing older and weaker, about the death of his dear wife, and finding meaningful living as he prepared for dying. It is a profound book, worthy of reading for anyone of any age. I put it on my list because I want to know how to finish strong and how to effectively pass on my ministry, one day, to others.

Just for fun, I also read "Andy and Don," which is about Andy Griffith and Don Knotts. I am a huge fan of the Andy Griffith Show, particularly the first five seasons with Barney Fife as Deputy. Though the book, in its honesty, revealed very flawed human beings, I was comforted that they remained very close friends until death and that both of them were quite likely trusting Jesus for His grace.

Sue and I are blessed to reconnect with family and friends. There's more reading to do. We enjoy quiet time every day. We'll be doing some more rambling in the weeks to come and resting lakeside in northern Wisconsin.

In His relatively short (about three years) public ministry, Jesus often went off to find solitude and sabbath rest. Both Old and New Testament writers, led by the Spirit of God, promote sabbath rests, time away with God, and strategic retreats that provide what we need to stay the course, finish the race and bear fruit that will last.

My wife and I are grateful to Village Bible Church for being those through whom God has led us to green pastures and still waters. He is doing His work of restoration, renewal and recreation. Though most can't do what we're blessed to do, set aside some time each day and be still before God. Set aside sabbath rest and worship each week. God will surely restore your soul, too.

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Mark Voll is pastor of the Village Bible Evangelical Free Church. Opinions expressed are those of the author.

Religion on 07/04/2018

Print Headline: Green pastures and still waters

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