- "Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon." (Isaiah 55:6-7, NIV)
- "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." (Matthew 11:28-29, NIV)
By BISHOP ROBERT HAYES JR.
After nearly 60 years of active ministry in The United Methodist Church, my dad decided in June 1997 to hang up his robe and store away his preaching Bible. The records show Robert E. Hayes Sr. officially retired in 1991, but then his bishop asked him to serve as director of a campus ministry — at age 72! — and then as the pastor for two small churches.
And Dad responded like a young seminarian accepting his first appointment! For my dad, ministry was his life, and he was duty-bound to give himself to the cause for as long as he was needed.
In 1997 he truly did retire, and by 1998 he was lingering over the newspaper at breakfast, watching his favorite football and baseball teams and, for some unexplainable reason, especially enjoying TV courtroom dramas. He was hooked on "Judge Judy," and no one dared call him between 4 and 5 o’clock, the hour that well-known judge handed down her verdicts to humiliated defendants.
Dad had another habit in retirement that baffled me. When anyone asked to visit or call, he always replied, "Please, not on Wednesdays!"
I was curious. Why would Dad single out mid-week when all his days probably flowed much the same? What was special about Wednesdays?
Instead of asking him, I decided to observe him closely. What I discovered made me appreciate him even more.
My dad on Wednesdays intentionally withdrew from others and entered into uninterrupted personal time of quiet devotion and prayer. No newspapers. No TV shows — not even "Judge Judy"!
He disconnected from distractions so he could connect with God.
When I saw him those Wednesdays, he seemed in a zone of peace and contentment as he greeted me. Often he was humming or singing hymns or reading favorite Scriptures. I quickly chose to avoid intruding on his day-long ritual. By evening he seemed stronger, more confident, and focused on what was important.
It was amazing to watch dad in his later years as he routinely connected with the God he served for so many, many years.
My dad was on to something. In our fast-paced society, we need to learn how to reconnect to what is real and meaningful.
In my travels, I watch people rush to find electrical outlets and jockey for space at recharging stations. They need to revive cellphones and computer tablets.
Everywhere, people seem constantly connected to their mobile devices, engaged in incessant conversation or fixated on computer screens. (A proposal is under consideration to allow plane passengers free use of cellphones in flight. Imagine how painful to sit beside someone talking continually from the moment of takeoff to landing!)
Both the prophet Isaiah and my dad understood that there must be movement toward God by a believer if that person is to realize full communion with Him. At some point we need to step away, put aside all that distracts us, prevents us from hearing the small, sacred voice that comes only in the midst of silence.
This practice seems forgotten by disciples today. Some have never heard of it. Instead, we are attuned to cellphone ringtones, the pings of e-mails arriving, and the clicks of text messages.
I’m overwhelmed by the noises of constant contact. I’ve decided to put down my cellphone and turn off my computer one day a week.
My soul is in search of a place of solitude and peace, a place that assures me devices don’t run my life. God does!
Jesus declares there IS such a place. It is found in Him! "Come unto me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."
That invitation sounds so good. I’m going to take Jesus up on it!
At least one day a week, I’m going to withdraw from all that swirls around me and quietly surrender myself, where His light can search me and I can listen for His purpose in my life. I need to reconnect to the One who gives my life significance and meaning.