What Haven’t You Done in a Long Time?


What haven’t you done in a long time? I recently asked myself this question. I surprised myself with what popped into my mind. I haven’t been to the mission in a long time. The mission I’m referring to is the Mission San Juan Capistrano. Founded by Fr. Junipero Serra in 1776, the “Jewel of the Missions” has long held a special place in my life. It is a timeless place filled with beautiful gardens, amazing old architecture and ruins, quiet fountains and high-quality art. It has been a central place in my quest of cultivating a beautiful life. Raised Irish-Catholic, I used to feed the pigeons there as a kid. Returning as an adult, I came for altogether completely, more urgent reasons. Read on…

It had been a long time since I paid this old friend a visit. Well over a year. Busy and hurried in favor of lesser things, I was like the guy in high school who dumps the beautiful girlfriend while all the other guys are saying, “Whaa?!! What were you thinking!” Today, I want to encourage you to do something you haven’t done in a long time. Something…anything…that renews your heart, mind and spirit.

A bit of backstory is in order. If you’ve read my book, The Longing: Embracing the Deepest Truth of Who You Are, you know that I suffered with chronic pain in my wrists for ten years. Absolutely kicked my ass-umptions about who I thought I was. In the summer of 2000, all that pain culminated in a two and a half month fog of depression, anxiety, and pain as my writing career died a slow, unwanted death. (It was from the seeds of this very broken season that The Longing and the ministry of The Grove were eventually born.)

As part of my restoration process, I began to visit the mission to pray and soak in the beauty of the place. Just sitting alone in the gardens or in the chapel or next to a fountain for an hour or two helped lift the pain and fog that had long overtaken residence in my life like a couple loud and nasty visiting relatives who smoked too much and controlled the TV clicker.

It was two years later in the mission gardens when God spoke to my heart about developing a retreat center for the arts and creativity. It was a calling I couldn’t ignore. Something I’d definitely not planned on or dreamed of. But three weeks later, also very unexpectedly, 12 acres of organic lemons and avocados were donated for developing The Grove Retreat Center (you can read about it here…we have some amazing renderings). The mission gardens became a place where my small staff and I often met to pray, sharing our life and ministry together.

Fast forward to this week. It had been well over a year since I’d visited the mission. I even had let my family membership card expire (How dare…a mortal sin I know!). So it wasn’t until I received a brand spanking new copy of my friend’s new book, An Unhurried Life by Alan Fadling, that the idea of revisiting the mission had even entered my mind. As you know, I’ve been a busy bee at The Grove trimming lemon trees, chainsawing down 75 avocado trees, and cultivating what no man is meant to do alone (at least this one).

Alan’s book and Jesus are now really messing with me. I love Alan’s opening line “I’m a recovering speed addict–and I don’t mean the drug.” I so relate to that. In An Unhurried Life, Alan challenges our life-draining culture that is addicted and attached to busyness, speed, and a soul-killing pace of life by offering a needed alternative…

Following Jesus’ rhythms of work and rest.

I am devouring this book and it has provoked me to make a few life-giving changes.

Like asking myself, “What is something I haven’t done in a long time?”

And so I went to the mission. To pray. Unplug. Detach. Commune with God. Listen to a gurgling fountain. Write in my journal. Take photos. Absorb the beauty.

All the rest took care of itself.

How about you? What is something you haven’t done in a long time?

It’s a question worth answering.

Questions: You know what I’m going to say, right? What is something you haven’t done in a long time? And what are you going to do about it?

(The first five people to respond to this question will receive a free copy of An Unhurried Life. This is a great book…below is an Amazon Affiliate link if you’d like to purchase now.)

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  • Pat Butler

    Well, this is timely…I just returned from a standing breakfast date with a friend and colleague, who was bemoaning the busy period she’s in. Among other family crises, and the usual busy-ness, she also has to plan her own Mother’s Day celebration. I suggested she just take an hour or two later in the week to spoil herself, and she looked vacant…like “when can I do that?!” I was asking myself the same question – when can I take an hour or two and just go off and play hooky with God?! So this post comes as an extra push to make the decision to do that in the next week–it doesn’t matter what I do, it just matters that I take a date with God alone. I’ll forward this to my friend, and throw out the challenge that we each do it before next Friday’s breakfast, and hold ourselves accountable. Thanks, Joey. A much-needed word.

    BTW – about 6 years ago I took the challenge to keep Sabbath, and found it a very difficult, counter-cultural transition to make. But now I can’t give it up–it has been life-giving. Recommend highly “Living the Sabbath” by Wirzba. Blessings as you slow down!

    • http://www.joeyo.org/ Joey O’Connor

      I’m so glad this came at just the right time Pat! God does that too me all the time…the challenge is for me to be listening!

      (You’re also the first of five winners!) Please email me the address (home or office) where you’d like me to send An Unhurried Life and if you’d like the print, iPad or Kindle version…same for everyone else!)

  • http://www.facebook.com/roberta.nichols.585 Roberta Nichols

    thanks for the encouragement to do something I haven’t done in a long time. I’m going to make a trip to the nearby Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. Hopefully the flowers will be in bloom after a reaalllly long winter! Thanks Joey.

    • http://www.joeyo.org/ Joey O’Connor

      I hope you have a wonderful time Roberta…we need to get the Nichols family to the beach to thaw out! My love to all…(see the above post re: getting your free book!)

  • http://www.facebook.com/alanfadling Alan Fadling

    I love the question: “What haven’t you done in a long time?” Great opportunity to rediscover the gifts of God in our lives. Thanks, brother.

    • http://www.joeyo.org/ Joey O’Connor

      Thanks Alan…uh, since you’re the author, do you want a copy of your own book? Or will you defer your third place winnings to another eager reader?

      • http://www.facebook.com/alanfadling Alan Fadling

        Didn’t comment for a copy of my own book, for sure!

        • http://www.joeyo.org/ Joey O’Connor

          Ha! Just kidding now…

  • Luke Hertzler

    I haven’t written any music in a long time and today I’ma gunna!

    Thanks Joey

    • http://www.joeyo.org/ Joey O’Connor

      That’s great Luke…enjoy your music…share it with others! Thanks for your comment!

  • Jan V

    I am going to really look at a face and get lost in the process of putting lines on a blank piece of paper. I love to look at an etching I made of my husband lost in sleep. And when he still had thick hair on his dear head. I did the etching from a ‘don’t look at the page while you draw the subject’ drawings. Easy peasy. But I love to remember just looking.

    I have promised a friend that I will make a portrait of her husband who died just a year ago. I told my friend that I don’t know if I can do it. But I know if I begin to work from photos recent and old that God will remind me of who He is and how much He loves us. I am going to just look and allow God to help me see.

    • http://www.joeyo.org/ Joey O’Connor

      Thanks for your beautiful story Jan. It reminds me of a message I heard last week of not looking at our sin or imperfection, but gazing on the beauty, wonder, and love of Jesus. Yes, just keep looking.

      All these comments and thoughts are so wonderful. I think God is stirring and encouraging all of us to place our priorities first in abiding in Him and then, letting the rest flow. (Please send me your address where you’d like to receive Alan’s book, print or Kindle version?)

  • Olive Knight

    This message to regroup and de-stress has been coming to me from many angles recently. Your story is well said and sums it up beautifully. Thanks for the reminder — added to others — that I need to find that place of serenity. Long time coming.

    • http://www.joeyo.org/ Joey O’Connor

      I’m so glad you were encouraged Olive! Enjoy some good time of rest and reflection this week. (Please send me your address where you’d like to receive Alan’s book, print or Kindle version?)

    • http://www.joeyo.org/ Joey O’Connor

      Thanks Olive…I hope you receive good rest and restoration this weekend. Blessings to you my friend.

  • Daniel

    I had a similar experience with Dale Allison Jr.’s The Luminous Dusk. I had just left a difficult job that I had been in for nearly nine years and was waiting on the next chapter of life. I spent long morning hiking in the mountains near Colorado Springs and would return to grab coffee at a great shop called Agia Sophia. And I would just read. The stress began to peel off like sunburned skin. Sounds like Alan’s book and yours would be welcome reading to me. Thanks for posting and encouraging me to read this great reminder.

    • http://www.joeyo.org/ Joey O’Connor

      I love your example Daniel of the stress peeling off your skin. I’m almost done with Alan’s book…loving it…also love hiking and coffee. Glad you were encouraged!

  • joey O OConner

    Joey, I have to say that I have done most of the things I wanted to do and satisfy. I have done most of it.!! All thought there are still a little bit more I would love to still do things before my calling !!!! I have be unable to drive due to my Legs. now I have a Home Care Giver to hep me and because I can’t be left alone. And that has taking all my “Freedom” from me. I still keep my spirit up the best way I know and still enjoy my Life!!! Because there is so much love around me. I will find there is something I can still do. I will discover it!!! Your Writings are “magnificent” and I enjoy them ‘EMINENCELY’ Peace be with you.!! +

    • http://www.joeyo.org/ Joey O’Connor

      Is this Frannie? (I couldn’t tell because somehow you entered my name instead of yours up above…) Either way, thank you for your heartfelt note and your great attitude in challenging circumstances. I pray that you will find God’s grace, peace and love to meet your every need.