Forty-two days, eight hours, 33 minutes and 27 seconds . . . until my wife and I begin our vacation. I have a counter on my computer that keeps track of the day, hours, minutes and seconds until vacation time. When I was growing up, our family celebrated at least three-no, make that four-major events every year. Christmas held the #1 spot on the list. It was the best day a kid could have, filled with family, food and presents. Easter was something else again: a new suit, the traditional sunrise service and hunting for Easter eggs.

And then . . . there were the birthdays. In my family, every birthday was a national holiday ranked right up there with the birthdays of those other famous guys, Abraham Lincoln and George Washington. According to our family tradition, the birthday person had the honor of selecting the dinner menu. I don’t know exactly why, but I always chose “canned tamales.”

Now, I grew up deep in the heart of Missouri, about as far as away as anyone could possibly get from Hispanic influence of any kind. Since there was not even a single Mexican restaurant in our town, finding a tamale in our community would have been about as likely as finding a ham sandwich at a Kosher restaurant. But somehow, somewhere, I had eaten one and was hooked . . . for life.

If you have never encountered canned tamales, they are individual tamales wrapped in wax paper and stuffed into a can like sardines. Now that I think about it, I may have eaten my very first one at a R.A. (Royal Ambassador) meeting. The R.A.s introduced me to a number of “first things.” Of course, in our multicultural world, with Mexican restaurants popping up on every corner, I can celebrate my birthday every day!

Vacation was also an important family event. When we finished one vacation, our family would immediately begin thinking and talking about where we would like to go next year. As I have shared with you before, we spent all our vacations camping. The more rugged it was, the better it was-at least as far as my family was concerned. On these family trips, my brother Gary and I were the “tent setter-upper team.” We got it down to such a fine art that when we pulled into a campsite, we could have the tent out of the car and up in three minutes. Now, it takes us three minutes just to get out of the car . . . but that is another article entirely.

Entering a new season of life as the elder statesman in my family (yes, that’s a polite way to remind myself that I’m getting older), I must confess that for most of my life, I have been a workaholic. Somehow, I always felt that if I wasn’t working, I didn’t have much value. Too many of us ministers seem to believe that our self-worth comes from the amount of work we do and not from who we are. By the grace of God, I am moving toward a deeper understanding of my true identity in Christ. On top of that, God is trying to teach me the importance of the ministry of rest. I am beginning to plan significant times of rest in the midst of my hectic workload. I find that I especially need vacation times of getting away with my wife. The counter on my computer is there to remind me of the importance of . . . rest.

I have a friend who goes around the world and gives missionaries rest. He tells me that most of them don’t understand its value, so he tries to change that by giving them opportunities to get away from it all. He recently rented a luxury hotel and invited 300 missionaries for three days of rest: no agenda, no programs, nothing but . . . rest.

Jesus certainly understood the importance of rest. One day, his disciples were so busy ministering that they didn’t even get a chance to eat. Jesus, knowing their true need, said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. (Mark 6:31-32)

Have you planned your rest? Have you taken your family away for a special time together? Maybe you need to listen more closely to Jesus. Maybe, just maybe, He is saying, “Come with Me and I will give you . . . rest.”

I now have 41 days, nine hours, 58 minutes and 11 seconds until I enter my rest. I know it will come . . . from Him.