Last week, I was at Regent College in Vancouver for their annual Pastors’ Conference. Speakers included John Stackhouse, Leonard Sweet, Ross Hastings, and Joyce Heron. I have been a part of this seminar before and always come away refreshed and full of thoughts, ideas, etc. This year, a highlight for me was hearing Alister McGrath speak in a public lecture regarding Richard Dawkin’s book The God Delusion. Dawkins is an atheist who also teaches at Oxford and who has been very visible in the popular media talking about this book. McGrath is a former atheist who came to faith while a student at Oxford doing advanced work in molecular biology.
I am thankful to have been out of my element for a week. Every year I will usually find some seminar or special event somewhere that is unfamiliar, "different," or which in some way is out of my orbit. I have found that making these deliberate attempts to get away from the familiar to be very stimulating and refreshing. I come back to my own work more refreshed.
In July, I will take a few weeks vacation and then a few weeks to prepare for the fall/spring. For the last thirteen years, this has been a part of my yearly schedule. Usually, during those two weeks of study — away from the office, daily responsibilities, etc., I am working on some project. I might work on a series of messages. Some years, I will work on several different series (shorter series). This schedule has been incredibly helpful to me each year. During July, I mentally and spiritually regroup and return to my work again. Right now, some six weeks before July, I am thinking about how I will spend that time.