An old friend from many years ago would sometimes bemoan busy times in life by saying something like, “I don’t know whether I’m comin’ or goin’ and sometimes I meet myself in the middle.”

His logic may have been lacking, but his point was clear enough: we’ve all had hectic periods, whether long or short, that left us longing for quiet and a bit of free time.

Self-care, some people call it.

The month of October has been one of those crazy times for me.

On top of my regular classes to teach, papers to grade, committee meetings to attend, Bible studies to compose, columns to write, and videos to record, three weekends in a row called for travel.

We drove to Pennsylvania for four days of preparation and helping nine of our Good Faith Media friends get personally acquainted with several Old Order Amish families in Lancaster County.

The next weekend, ostensibly our “Fall Break,” called for a cross-country flight to Seattle to participate in an updating and training conference for the Independent Review Board I’ve served on since 1996.

An overnight flight from Seattle got me home in time for classes on Monday and Tuesday before Susan and I loaded the Prius for a long drive to Amicalola Falls State Park lodge in North Georgia, where I participated in a Good Faith Media writing retreat followed by a two-day staff meeting.

While Susan drove, I graded assignments, attended a meeting on Zoom, prepared for my next IRB meeting, and worked on an upcoming sermon. After detouring enough to visit my father (and reminding him again who I am) as well as my oldest son, we got home Sunday night just in time to hit the hay with another full week on the horizon.

So, what do you do when you’re burning the candle at both ends?

You try to find some place in the middle that’s not on fire. You carve out moments of solitude or renewal – and you hope you don’t run into someone trying to convert you.

Water reflecting restaurant lights at night.

(Photo: Tony W. Cartledge)

In Seattle, I stayed on East Coast time, which meant I woke up no later than 4:00 a.m. every morning, which gave me time not only to get some work done, but also to hike downhill from the hotel and spend an hour or more walking along the Alaskan Way waterfront.

The quiet was only occasionally broken by an early bus or a worker washing down the sidewalk. Other than the occasional jogger, I could enjoy the slow rustle of the waves and the beckoning lights without worry of being run over by a scooter or bicycle.

Free time before my late evening flight offered time for a much longer walk on Saturday afternoon, but a much different one. On an uncharacteristically warm and beautiful day, Pike Place Market was wall to wall with people buying everything from fish to flowers to roasted corn and ice cream.

The waterfront was a maelstrom of pedestrians, packed with prospects for purveyors of religion.

The first group I passed was a line of Rastafarians who had decorated the sidewalk with flags and posters illustrating their beliefs. At one end of the group was a preacher, and at the other end was a big guy wearing a frown to go with his dreadlocks and the wicked assault rifle he was holding in a tight grip, as if providing security for the group.

Near the aquarium a smaller group of Jehovah’s Witnesses blocked half of the sidewalk, offering free Bible study materials for any who sought direction.

A bit further down was a small clique of fervent fundamentalists. One held a large sign calling for passersby to “Repent and Believe the Gospel” or “Repent and Be Born Again,” depending on which side of the sign you could see.

Another young man had collared an unsuspecting soul and was talking earnestly to her while a partner in the enterprise stood beside them with his phone in the air, taking video of the conversation.

A meal sitting on a blue trey on a table outside overlooking a harbor with boats.

(Photo: Tony W. Cartledge)

For what purpose, I wondered. To pridefully post their efforts on Instagram, or to provide evidence to a superior that they really did witness on the street?

I gave them a wide berth and made my way to Ivar’s Seafood Bar, where a cup of clam chowder and an order of fish and chips calmed my spirit. Even the pushy scrap-seeking gulls were less of an irritant than the crusaders seeking more stars for their crowns.

There are effective ways of sharing the love of Jesus, and most of them occur face to face, but not in-your-face.

Busy times come. Find respite where you can – and try not to bother anybody.

Sometimes the best witness is a quiet smile.

A billboard featuring Fred Rogers in an airport.

(Photo: Tony W. Cartledge)

Share This