Praise for Recess: Rediscovering Play and Purpose

This book inspires me. The Rev. Laurie Haller leads by example through the many dangers, toils and snares of today’s pastoral life and work. She is a marathon runner, physically and spiritually, and will help clergy reclaim their first love of Christ that fuels their own faithful passion for ministry. In Recess Haller captures what sustains us through our quivering mass of availability to what Eugene Peterson calls, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction.
Dr. Kim Cape, General Secretary of the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry of The United Methodist Church

Laurie Haller is one of the most disciplined and gifted leaders in our church. In Recess, she shares her own pilgrimage of how a very intentional and focused pastor navigates through seasons of challenge, chaos and complexity. I was profoundly moved by her self-awareness, and how this knowledge has shaped her life and ministry.
Ken Carter, Resident Bishop, Florida Area, The United Methodist Church

The idea of constant availability isn’t unique to clergy—but extends to all humans who are hard-wired to create, serve, perform and offer care without end. Those of us who struggle with hard stops know the spiritual void that can follow when we simply give too much of ourselves away … From fly fishing to Taize in France—we walk (and run) with Laurie Haller as she navigates her spiritual journey.

Her ability to absolutely reveal herself, impediments and all, makes her your immediate friend. Her courage to stop, in the height of her career, without regard to social pressure, is nothing less than courageous. One finishes the book feeling hopeful and inspired—with only Recess on the mind.
DeAnn Forbes, Vice President, Driven Communications

This unique look back at the work and ministry of Laurie Haller is also a great snapshot back for many of us as we lived through some of the same experiences. Laurie’s glimpse back at her life through family and ministry is so well written she takes the rest of us with her, through her thoughts, concerns, trials and faith. Recess is a great read and study guide for any Adult Education class or small group. Take a moment, a recess if you will, to join Laurie Haller and rediscover play and purpose.
Bill Bode, Christian Education Director, Grand Rapids, Michigan

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Laurie Haller’s Recess manuscript. I was at once drawn into Laurie’s stories by her easy writing style and interesting subject matter. I believe this book has broad appeal, especially to anyone who has ever taken time away to reflect on their life. Laurie’s experiences, many of which she shared with her family, make a thought-provoking read, perfectly suited for a small group book study.
Liz Bode, Administrative Assistant, Grand Rapids District, West Michigan Conference, The United Methodist Church

In the words of a Native American teacher, Harvey Swift Deer, every human being has both a survival dance, and a sacred dance. With these words, United Methodist clergywoman Laurie Haller begins her introspective journey from burnout and depression, through a place of holy waiting, into the recovery of her passion for ministry. This book will be encouragement for any person who is struggling to find God in the midst of the unrelenting demands of a servant life. From fly fishing in Montana, to finding God on the golf course, to praying with the Taize Community in France, Laurie journals her experiences in her sacred dance of becoming whole again. An easy read, this book will challenge all of us to look at our own struggles with new understanding.
Rev. Susan Hagans, Retired clergy, West Michigan Conference

In her book Recess, Laurie Haller offers a candid and compelling window into the complex and overwhelming world of parish leadership. If you are a pastor, a lay leader or one who cares about imaginative and faithful parish ministry, this is an essential resource for you. Laurie tells her story of duties and commitments that can wear one down, burn one out and cause one to give too much. This, danger faced by all of us who experience a call to be in service with others, is all too common. It leaves too many in brokenness, despair and a decision to abandon our first love. In these pages is the honest account of spiritual and vocational renewal. Here is a thoughtful pastor telling of the move from weariness and despair to the joy of rest, play and establishing realistic commitments rooted in spiritual practices. In these pages one sees pastoral integrity in the making.
Dr. Philip Amerson, President Emeritus, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary

Finding our own true path in this world is solitary work. Laurie has written so lucidly of her journey that it can help any of us along. I found inspiration, encouragement and motivation in her words. As she digs into her life, it is much more than a Sabbatical story; it is a beautiful, sometimes humorous, oftentimes painful insight into her life story.

This soul-searching journal of her sabbatical and how she strives to reconnect with her true self, God’s child, is an inspiring and insightful story that might help any one of us on our individual journeys of self-discovery and awareness. She says, Many of us expend so much time and energy in the survival dance that we never get to the sacred dance.

In expressing her gratitude, she writes It was a gift I will only be able to repay by living the lessons that I learned about myself and about the church. This book is her gift to all of us. Nothing that I do in this renewal leave can be called spiritual if it does not help other people become more faithful servants in the world. Mission accomplished, Laurie!
Margaret Valade, Member, Birmingham FUMC

I belong to a generation that didn’t know there was such a thing as sabbaticals for the clergy. At that time, in fact, sabbaticals were still relatively rare in the academic world. Now, many years removed from my nearly forty years as a pastor, I applaud the idea.

But the sabbatical concept is only as good as the vision and character of the person exercising it. Laurie Haller takes us on the full journey, from the need that drove her to seek a grant, through the disciplines of the grant itself (a sabbatical is not an extended vacation), the living out-and-up of those months, and her summary evaluation more than a decade later. Her report is very readable and wonderfully candid. She dares to let us into her soul; indeed, she dares to let herself into her soul.

Any dedicated pastor might find her book valuable. Some, to determine if they need a sabbatical and don’t know it, others who think they do but aren’t really ready for it, and still others who are planning on one and who need to hear from a pilgrim who has already made the journey profitably. For the rest of us, her book is a valuable exercise in examining our own souls, and asking ourselves if there might be a way—long or short—for us to go deeper, wider, and higher in our journey of faith.
Dr. J. Ellsworth Kalas, Former President, Asbury Theological Seminary, Senior Professor of Homiletics

Call it a book if you must, but for me Recess reads like a deeply revealing diary. Laurie Haller has a remarkable gift of linking everyday occurrences to her deep, yet always seeming elusive desire to always, everywhere, and with everyone, live with and like Jesus. As she says, I have to keep reminding myself that the one thing necessary is to love God …

Laurie Haller’s journal-based reflection on her three-month leave (recess as she calls it) from being full-time pastor/mother/spouse/daughter challenged me to examine my life and loves. Her revealing honesty and evident integrity are engagingly revealed in quotations from her valued mentors, her daily prayers and self-examination. I try to fix with words things that cannot be fixed. (I am experiencing) … intensive loneliness, absolute emptiness, complete disconnection from anything familiar.

The Bighorn River in Montana, Hilton Head Island, Paris, the Taize community and a mid-recess return to her home community, sans responsibilities, provide the unfamiliar settings for self-examination. Laurie Haller’s life is that of any person seeking to be all that God intends for us. Her recess is also the time she seeks to make a deliberately unsettling engagement with the legion of personal demons which pull us all away from God’s intensions. In reading her of the moment reflections we meet some of our own demons, especially in the pastoral office. Among those she names are the dilemmas of parenting, the want for attention, the need to be needed, the seeking after importance, the fear of the unknown and obsession with work, with an inability to play … even, I would add, at her recess.

I urge you to read Recess by first jumping ahead to the late pages; those of Chapter 13 – Reentry. They are a recital of the vows she pens at the end of this journey. In this way you will more readily note the multitude of gifts of recess grace that birthed her new vows … among them … the visit of Sarah and Talitha, the travel disruptions of 9/11, the chance meeting of Marcie and the threshold moment, especially the threshold moment, of the touch of forehead to cross.
Bishop Donald A. Ott

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