Sabbatical-ing

The last five years have been rough for me. It started out with the death of my mom. Then came the death of my dad a little less than two years later. I was finishing up seminary, was involved in a difficult situation in my church, and was trying to transfer my credentials into a different denomination. I was diagnosed with a weak heart and I could feel my anxiety and stress ever building within me. Thankfully, the church that I serve saw fit to extend me a sabbatical, three months away from work with the goal and intention that I rest, recharge, and study.

If you had asked me ten years ago about a sabbatical, I may have been able to tell you what it was, but it never occurred to me that I actually might have one someday. My father was a pastor for more than forty years and never took a sabbatical. While he worked towards and received his doctorate degree during that time, he never had that much consecutive time off. As he reached the end of his career as a pastor and as he reached the end of his life, I think the lack of some kind of sabbatical may have been detrimental to his health.

I was and am so incredibly grateful to my church for this opportunity. To whom much is given, much is required, and so I wanted to make sure that I was making the most of this time. I put together a plan, found an area of study that I could dive into during the time, planned some travel, and planned time with my family. Although it felt like a tall order to accomplish a lot in this period of time, I felt like I could do it.

Since I am used to sitting in front of a computer and typing a mile a minute, I knew that one of the things that I needed to do during my sabbatical was slow down. I wanted to be intentional about slowing down and that kind of intentionality can be somewhat painful. So, I went to the store and found a journal, you know, one of the ones that has paper and that you actually have to use a pencil, pen, or other writing utensil. I thought to myself, “Here goes nothing!”

The first few weeks were a little awkward. My hand hurt…..a lot. I couldn’t remember the last time that I had sat down and written so much. It was awkward because the words just didn’t flow the way that they did when I sat in front of a computer. They felt forced, contrived, empty, but I wasn’t going to give up, I was going to press on. So press on I did.

The more that I forced myself to pick up a pen and write, the easier it became. I realized that the intentional slowing down was forcing me to think things through in a different way than I did when I sat at a computer. I realized that although I couldn’t get the words out as fast as I had hoped, the slowing down was helping me to process things, helping me wrap my head around things that I had been speeding past as I typed my words so quickly on a screen and keyboard.

By the time I got to the end of the 13th week of my sabbatical, the entire journal, the one that I had wondered whether or not I would even keep up with, that same journal was nearly full. I couldn’t believe it. My diligence had paid off and I had learned an incredibly important and valuable lesson in the process: journaling could significantly improve my own processing of information and spare some of those closest to me the pain of having to listen to me verbally process my thoughts.

I’m different than I was at the beginning of the three months. I’m not quite sure how, but I can feel it, I can see it. I’m pretty sure that if you were to ask my wife and kids, they might say the same thing. I’m hoping that the difference becomes evident to those around me, I’m hoping that they see how much this time has benefited me. I’m hoping that my goal of delivering a better me at the end of thirteen weeks will be realized.

My heart is full of gratitude for my church and this gift that I received. Even in the midst of a difficult season, they were willing to cut me loose to be recharged. For this, I will be forever grateful and I’m pretty sure that my family shares that same amount of gratitude as well.

Winding Down

As my three month sabbatical winds down, it’s hard to put in words the impact that it has had on me. There have been some people who have, whether jokingly or not, assumed that it has just been a three month vacation for me. That’s hardly been the case as I have engaged in training and learning experiences along the way. Not to oversell the moment, but I feel as if the lessons learned during this time will have a ripple effect for months and years to come, both in my immediate family as well as my church family.

I’ve learned an awful lot about myself during this time, some that has made me happy and some that has made me reconsider my approaches towards things. I consider myself to be a person who is constantly assessing myself and the things that I do. I don’t like status quo for the sake of the status quo but would rather see if I can be stretched and challenged to find new and different ways to be who God made me as well as do the things that I need to do.

As I knew setting out, there were some things that just wouldn’t get done while on sabbatical. I feel like I set my sights high without going into “overachiever” mode. I have found in the past that I have often set my sights so high that my own inability to accomplish things ended up being a frustration or bone of contention to me. Instead of feeling like I was improving, I focused more on all the things that I didn’t accomplish, which wasn’t helpful for me or the process of growth.

I have found that we as a society too often move quickly from one thing to the next without fully embracing what’s before us or allowing the experience to wash over us, change us, and reform us. It’s happened far too often in my own life and I’ve seen the results afterwards. In some ways, it’s like taking the caterpillar out of the cocoon before it’s fully been formed into a butterfly. The results are not nearly as satisfying as they could be had the process taken full affect. In fact, the results can be disastrous if the process of growth is stunted or stopped.

One of the biggest takeaways for me, which I am sure will be unpacked more and more in the months to come, is about slowing down. I can’t begin to count the number of times that I have heard from parents of older children how quickly time goes. There is no stopping or slowing down the passing of time, it marches on regardless of whether or not we want it to or go along with it. Some will put the brakes on and will find themselves left behind in the wake of a changing world. Some may embrace the change so greatly that they forget that the change is not for change’s sake but for the sake of a changed self.

While I can’t slow time, I can slow myself. I don’t have to conform to the ways of harried schedules and overcommitments. I don’t have to allow myself to get washed into the stream of busyness that seems to haunt us all if we aren’t careful. I can’t slow time, but I can choose what to do with the time that I have.

I have no doubt that memories have been made in me and my family during my three months. I have no doubt that I am different than I was at the outset of this sabbatical. Like Frodo and the hobbits sitting in their local pub having come back from the journey of a lifetime, the world is different and there is no choice but to see it through new eyes, eyes that somehow look clearer and more vivid than they did before.

I don’t fully know all that has happened within me over this time, but I am going to do my best to probe and mine it, to find out what’s beneath the surface, to see the changes that have begun to take shape and form in me. My prayer is that those changes will ripple far beyond me into all those that I come into contact with on a regular basis.

How Many Times?

This time of sabbatical for me has been restful, but it has also been challenging. Not only was it a challenge for me to step away and disengage from work and my world in ministry, but I have been challenged as I’ve spent time alone with God. It’s not that I don’t spend time alone with God during other seasons of life, it’s just that the time during sabbatical is different. When everything else in your life is stripped away, there’s really nowhere to hide when you begin to look in the mirror and see some of the flaws that need to be addressed in your own life.

As I’ve had time to think and reflect, I keep thinking about grace. I’m really not the best at meting it out. Although I’m always grateful when it’s extended to me, I don’t seem to so easily dispense it to others, especially when I feel like I should be seeing something significant in them. If there isn’t forward progress, if I don’t see the kind of progression that I think should be there, I seem to be very judgmental and often put myself in the place of God.

As I thought about it, I couldn’t help but wonder how I could really put myself in the place of God. No matter what, my perspective is always going to be jaded and skewed to be very subjective. I’m never going to be able to see things clearly, at least not on this side of eternity. Something will always shift my vision and if I’m completely honest, make me be a judge and jury.

I remember when my dad was alive and would counsel people who were stuck in the throes of addiction. It seemed that they would take three steps forward and four steps backward. They would seem to be doing well for a while and then they would eventually fall off the wagon and find themselves back in the addiction that they had been trying so hard to avoid.

Through it all, my dad always seemed to be gracious to them. Despite the chiding of my mom, he would always continue to love on these people and extend them grace. It didn’t matter how many times that he had seen the scenario play out, he would keep extending that grace.

Looking back now, he set an incredible example for me. He wasn’t supposed to determine whether or not he should keep extending someone grace, he was just supposed to extend it. Yet somehow I’ve managed to convince myself that it’s my place, that I’ve earned the right to do the judging. How did I earn it? How did I find this pedestal that I’ve managed to put myself on?

How many times? How many times should I extend grace? How many times is enough? What’s the limit to the number of times that I extend grace?

If I’m really honest about it, the answer to that question should be the answer to the question that I need to ask myself, “What’s the limit of the grace that should be extended to me for my repetitive sin?” If I can’t put a limit on that for myself, why should I come up with a limit for someone else? And if I can come up with a limit for someone else, why shouldn’t that limit be applied to me?

So I sit here realizing that there really should be no limit to the grace that I extend to others. That’s not to say that I make myself a doormat for the world, but it also means that I can’t limit grace to others while fully basking in it myself.

May I learn more and more each day just the extent of the grace that I require, the extent of the grace that is given to me every day. When I come to that realization, may I freely dispense that grace to others as I hope and pray it will be extended to me.

A Month In

It’s been about a month since I started my sabbatical. Over the course of that month, I’ve spent some good time learning, resting, reading, and spending time with my family. I’ve also spent time getting even more familiar with myself, seeing my own idiosyncrasies, and seeking out ways to continue to grow and learn.

The first couple of weeks were kind of rough. To be honest, I felt like I was a bit of an exile. I was gone for a week spending time with some colleagues in Charlotte, when I got back I had a rough reentry and I began to think about just how weird it was to still be at home but be disconnected from all of the people who I had come to know and love, people who had become good friends, people whom I had invested my life. It felt odd.

Much has happened in our country in this month. Specifically, much has happened in Orlando. Tragedy after tragedy after tragedy. The shooting of a rising pop star, the insanity of someone acting out their hatred and disagreement with violence, the death of a little child by alligator, and these are just the ones that are making the headlines. If I didn’t know any better, I would have thought that the headlines I was reading were out of a movie script rather than the reputable news outlets, this kind of news used to be the stuff of make believe and fiction, yet here it is, a reality for us all.

I have found that when I stop and slow down, I begin to see God everywhere……EVERYWHERE. When I am rushing through the tasks of my day, it’s easy to lose sight of the little miracles that take place right under my nose, I brush past them as if they were no big deal and then when something doesn’t go the way I want it to, I unload my frustrations. As I have slowed down, I’ve been able to better assess the things before me with a more rational and controlled response. When something breaks, instead of getting so worked up, I lift up a prayer of thanksgiving that I have the means for repair or replacement, something that the majority of the world can’t always say.

I continue to express my gratitude for this time, a time that I am privileged to have. One of the outcomes of this time, a deliverable, was “a better me.” God has done a lot in this short time. He has blessed me with great friends, colleagues, and family. I have filled nearly a third of a journal with thoughts and notes on my experience, which is fine since I still have some more time to fill it up. I have rested, embracing the nothingness of my schedule to seize the opportunity not to be lazy, but to rest and recharge.

This extended time has done nothing but reinforce my own need for a weekly Sabbath. Finding time for rest and recharge is not only beneficial, it’s essential. A few years ago, I could feel the toll that a lack of Sabbath was having on my body, if I’m not careful, I will feel that toll again, and the older I get, the harder it is to bounce back from those tolls.

There is still adventure ahead, there is learning ahead, there is rest and recharge ahead. I am reminded of the words of Solomon, who wrote, “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” Plans are for paper, but reality can often take a different shape and form. I guess you can kind of think of it as origami, once you’re done folding the paper, it might little resemble the original flat piece of paper, but what you hold in your hands has a beauty that is far surpassing what you might have imagined in the very beginning. If nothing else, this time will contain the stuff of which memories are made. Here’s to the great adventure!

At Just the Right Time

IMG_4276I love to read. It’s not uncommon for me to be in the middle of 3 or 4 books at a time. I have stacks of books that I am waiting to get into. I have a reading plan that I do my best to follow throughout the year (check it out here). I review books here on my blog. People give me books that they recommend.

With all of the books that I have waiting in the wings to be read, I don’t always follow an order or a linear path. I’ll often put aside some books and pick up others that weren’t even on my radar before I pick them up.

I say all this because I am constantly amazed at the countless times in life when I have pulled a book off of my shelf that has sat their idle for months or even years only to have it drip with relevance as soon as I start reading it. It seems that the moment I crack the book open and begin reading was ordained so much that it hits me square between the eyes, speaking to me in the intimacy of my own thoughts and exposing me at the very moment in which I find myself. It’s almost as if I had purposely waited for just that moment to begin reading.

A few weeks ago, I finally got around to a book that had been on my radar for at least a year, Brennan Manning’s “The Relentless Tenderness of Jesus.” My lead pastor and friend had recommended it sometime last year. I ordered it, put it on my shelf, and then promptly forgot about it.

As I journey through the sabbatical that I am on, it seemed incredibly relevant for me to read these words, “Am I getting too serious about life? Have I let my sense of childlike wonder fade? Am I so caught up in preaching, teaching, writing and traveling that I no longer hear the sound of rain on the roof?” As those words jumped off the page at me, I silently snickered as I thought of how apropos these words were for such a time as I am in.

In the middle of a section of the book where he talks about Christmas, I read the above phrase. It struck me as even more relevant because for the past few years, I have worked hard to slow myself down in the midst of one of the busiest times of the year: Christmas. I’ve realized that the four weeks of Advent can too easily be lost to me if I don’t intentionally journey through them.

But these words could hardly be relegated to just the Advent season. Looking at my children, I can see that childlike wonder of which Manning speaks if I simply stop and pay attention. If I look hard enough and silence myself and all that is within me long enough, I can see a living example of wonder right there before my very eyes.

To read this during a sabbatical seemed like so much more than just coincidence. It was as if I was supposed to be reading it at this time and place in my life.

No sooner had I read these words about slowing down and taking things in then I read this, “The early Christians considered themselves supermen not because of superhuman willpower but because of reliance on the supernatural power of the Spirit.” I was pretty sure that I had said something similar in a sermon as one of my “go to” Greek words is the word dunamis which means, “power.”

These two points were incredibly relevant and poignant to read in this season of life. Reminders to not take myself too seriously and to try to keep a childlike wonder about myself, but also a reminder that I’m not nearly as important as I might convince myself and that the power that I have to do things doesn’t originate from me.

As John the Baptist said, “I must decrease and he must increase.” The Apostle Paul spoke of his boasting in his weakness and his boast being in Christ alone. My confidence and strength resides within me, but it does not originate within me, it comes from outside of me, and I can never forget that.

Brennan Manning continues to stretch me and challenge me every time that I engage one of his works. I am not nearly as gracious to myself as I need to be. I far too often find my flaws and flagellate myself with them rather than releasing them or, as Paul did, rejoicing in them. My flaws don’t show my weakness so much as they show Christ’s strength, and that’s an important distinction that I can’t forget.

I know that there will be other books that have been collecting dust on my shelves, waiting for me to pick them up, that will speak to me at the particular and specific moment in which I pick them up. It’s happened far too many times to be considered coincidence. For now, I’ll rest in the lessons that I’ve learned in this reading and do my best to savor them and soak them in.

Stripped

reflection escherI am currently a few weeks into a thirteen week sabbatical. The purpose of this sabbatical is to rest, recharge, and also learn. I need rest and recharge and I am finding that the time of learning during this sabbatical is different than the normal mode of learning that I experience in other times in my life. While I am constantly seeking to learn and better myself throughout the other seasons of my life, this sabbatical forces me to look at myself without the other distractions (good or bad) in my life.

True reflection should feel intimate and personal. It shouldn’t necessarily be comfortable as you’re getting a glimpse into things that you may not have seen before. In the past, I’ve compared it to those magnifying mirrors that women sometimes use while putting on makeup; they magnify your face to the point that you can see every blemish and imperfection, like it or not. True reflection should give us a glimpse of who we really are, without dressings and distractions.

I am finding that stripping away the things that normally crowd out self-reflection causes me to simply stand in front of the mirror with nothing left to hide behind. I am stripped of all pretenses and coverings and I stand there exposed. There is nowhere to hide, nowhere to run, I see what truly exists.

The challenge may be whether to continue to look in that mirror. If I don’t like what I see, it could be very easy for me to run away, to hide, to cover myself up. In some ways, it seems like a throwback to the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve ran and hid themselves once they were aware of their nakedness. They knew that they were exposed and they were afraid. So they ran.

When faced with our true reflection, our tendency may be to run and hide, but if we really want to grow and learn, we must face the sometimes gruesome reality of who we really are, warts and all. We need to take a long, hard look at the reflection that we see in that mirror and decide what we are going to do when faced with that reality. Will we soak it all in and then simply walk away, forgetting what we saw? Or will we drink it in and seek to make changes in the reflection that we see before us?

This isn’t a new dilemma, there are others who have seen the same thing. James, the half-brother of Jesus Christ, made similar observation in his letter when he wrote in James 1:23-24, “Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.” So, it’s a challenge that humanity has faced for centuries, millennia even.

When all is stripped away and we are faced with who we really are, do we like what we see? If we don’t like what we see, where do we run to in order to cover up our discomfort and dissatisfaction with the reflection that we see?

Looking in the mirror of self-reflection shouldn’t be a discouraging process, yet it always seems to feel that way for me. I rarely ever glimpse the parts of me that are being reformed and reshaped. My focus always seems to be what needs improvement and I’m trying to figure out whether that’s a nature or nurture thing.

Regardless of where it came from, I know that things can change. Standing in front of that mirror and faced with the reflection, how will I respond? Will I be honest about the reflection, or will I run? Will I simply see what needs changing or will I see the places that have been transformed since the last time?

To be encouraged by my reflection, I can’t simply look once a year or once every five years, I need to constantly look back at my reflection, not in an obsessive way but in a way that truly seeks to be transformed and changed into the image in which I was originally created, the imago dei. If I am looking at that reflection often, I will see those parts that are different than the last time I looked, I will see those changes that might be subtle but are changes nonetheless.

So, how about you? What do you do when you see your reflection? Do you like what you see? What are you doing to change what’s there staring back at you?

How Do I Keep From Crashing?

crashImagine yourself, relaxing, sitting back and just taking in every moment. There is nothing pressing for your time as you move slowly through the day. Your phone isn’t ringing, there is no one vying for your time and attention. You’re a little bit off the beaten path but feeling as if you’re completely disconnected (in the best way possible) from the real world.

Times like this may be few and far between for you and for me, but what happens when we find them and experience them? How do we react in the moment? How do we react when we leave that moment?

During my time away last week, I had a good deal of down time to myself. I was able to read, write, and relax without much distraction. If I was tired, I could rest. If I wanted to watch a movie, I could watch a movie. There was no one hanging on my heels, asking me boatloads of questions, and needing my undivided attention for every minute of every hour.

It was peaceful!

But I knew that there would come a time when I would have to go back to reality, when I would have to face the responsibilities that surround me on a normal and average day. I also knew that facing that reality would most likely hit me like a brick to the side of the head, hard, painful, and leaving me worse for wear.

No matter how hard I could have tried, I don’t think anything would have prepared me well for my reentry into the real world after my time away.

After sitting in my car for six hours (even my lunch was purchased at the drive-thru, a mistake I don’t know that I will duplicate), I arrived home to smiles on everyone’s face. One child was playing in the cul-de-sac, one child was watching TV, and one child was hanging on Mommy’s heels. Everyone exchanged hugs and I sat down to do my best to catch up with my wife.

Now, let me add a parenthetical detour here and say that my wife and I do our best to communicate as often as we can. I have found that face to face communication isn’t very easy with three children. There seems to be a radar on these little ones that goes off as soon as some amount of meaningful conversation begins to take place between the two adults in the house. It doesn’t matter whether kids are happily engaged in activities at the commencement of said conversation, somehow or another, as soon as the first meaningful words begin to emerge from either of our mouths, the interruptions commence!

We pushed through our conversation and into dinner, doing our best to be gracious through all of the interruptions and distractions. I kept my voice calm and even, all the while I was mentally reminding myself of the fact that in five or ten years, these kids will have turned into two-headed monsters who may or may not care what their mom and dad thinks.

Now, I had changed my plans to be back for my daughter’s pre-school program. My wife took her and my oldest to the school to get ready for that, while I took my younger son to baseball practice. He was none too happy about going to practice for some reason or another, and it eventually reared its ugly head.

After being asked to sit in the dugout because of his reaction out of frustration to a drill his team was doing, I grabbed him and we went to the car to try to ensure a decent seat at his sister’s program. My own frustration was more than brimming to the surface. I was ready to spill out any moment and the thing that caused the spill to take place was my son’s coughing to the point of spitting up, right in the back of my car, right when we got into the parking lot of the school for the program.

I called my wife to tell her of the latest development and of our impending lateness. As I drove home, my phone vibrated with a message from her asking how my son was doing. Still not having sufficiently cooled off, my text response was inappropriate. Unfortunately, in the close quarters at the school program, my oldest glanced down at my wife’s phone and saw my inappropriate response……[sigh]

Ugh! How many parenting fails could I possibly achieve in one evening? I thought that I might be setting a record for fails per hour considering that I had only been home for about two and a half hours at this point.

By the time we got back to the school, the program was over and we had missed it. Of course, this just set me off even further. I can’t even imagine what my blood pressure was at this point. I thought to myself, “Weren’t you just really calm for the past few days? How did the wheels come off so quickly?”

I’ve obviously not found the remedy for reentry. In my experience, it seems that the more relaxed and unwound that I get, the greater the challenge for me as I reenter the world of my own daily grind. They almost seem exponentially connected. The further retreated from reality I get, the harder it seems to get back into that reality again.

I’ve still got some time to work through this, to see if I can find a way to ease through the constant reentries that I will face in life. I am hoping that over the course of my sabbatical, I can work on reentry more. We’ll see how it goes.

Grace

I’m two weeks into my sabbatical and I feel like so much has happened in that short amount of time. Some of my days have felt like two or three days combined into one. I’ve had some great conversations, some great experiences, some great rest.

My wife and I spent nearly four years in a place not too long after we got married. My wife had married an engineer and then I was called to be a pastor. It was a big shift for both of us. That call involved a move far away from our family and all that was familiar to us. I was green and inexperienced in the new world in which I found myself. I made mistakes, I spoke too quickly, I offended, I probably thought that I knew way more than I really did.

When things ended in that place, there was hurt, there was anger, there was confusion, there was uncertainty. We didn’t know for sure where we would end up, but God did. He opened the door for us to a new place. We left behind many great friends and I felt like I was leaving a bit of my heart there as well. We had made an investment and to leave it all behind was hard for me to do.

This past week, I spent some time with some of the people who were part of our experience there in that place. I’m not even sure what words to use to best describe the meaningfulness of that time. Healing. Growing. Learning. Moving on. Grace.

Grace.

It’s a word that came up in our conversations and a word that I continue to go back to. If we are truly growing in our faith journey and in our spiritual depth, grace should be something that naturally pours from us. We shouldn’t tout that we have grown up in the church and been Christians for 40 years and then fail to exhibit grace. We shouldn’t expect grace to be given to us and then refuse to extend it to others. Grace has been given to us and to whom much has been given, much is expected.

Grace.

I feel like I experienced an immersion of grace over the last week. As conversations took place and we shared, I felt that grace and I was so grateful for it.

I still have many weeks to go as I move through this sabbatical. It’s always hard to come hard out of the gates, it can easily set your expectations high for what else is to come. But I don’t think I should worry. Much of what I have experienced over the last week was not planned, at least by me, but I know that God orchestrated it, he made it happen, he gave me the privilege of experiencing it.

This is going to be a fun ride!

Slowing Down Again

slothI don’t write very fast. I’m not talking about typing, I’m talking about manual handwriting. I’m not a fast writer and the further I get away from my school years when I had to write by hand every day, the harder it is to write for prolonged periods of time. I’m a much faster typist and it’s much less work for my poor hands. Not to mention, as fast as my mind moves, trying to capture my thoughts by writing things down by hand can be downright frustrating.

But slowing down is important. In fact, this isn’t the first time that I’ve thought about it or written about it (check this out). Writing things by hand is far from convenient for me, but the whole point of the sabbatical that I am on is to slow down, to rest, to recharge, and to refocus. If I try to maintain the pace that I keep all year long, how am I supposed to do those things?

A few weeks before my sabbatical started, I went and bought a journal. Part of the reason why I blog rather than journal is for the reasons listed above. I’m not a fast writer and it gets me very frustrated to feel like my hand moves at a sloth’s pace compared with the thoughts that are whizzing through my brain. But I figured I would give it the ol’ college try. After all, it was only 13 weeks, how hard could it be?

A week and a half into this sabbatical, I’m not sure that there’s anything profound or earth shattering that I’ve written in my journal, but is that really the point? Like I said, it’s about slowing down, resting and recharging. I think it’s achieving that purpose for me.

The other night, I connected with my accountability partner from when I was in Asheville. We spent a good chunk of time together and he was telling me all about his business and how God was using it to bless others. He hired a chaplain for his employees and was doing his best to make sure that his life at home, at church, at work, or wherever was the same, that there was no inconsistency across the different aspects of his life.

I was proud. I was proud that he is my friend. I felt privileged that for one short period of my life, we walked together, encouraged one another, challenged one another, and cried with one another. While we don’t talk often or frequently, when we get the chance, we connect and do our best to pick up where we left off.

There’s no way that I have found to REALLY slow down time. We can only control what we can control (which doesn’t seem like a whole lot), everything else is out of our hands. But why not do our best to control those things that we can control with reckless abandon? Why not completely capture those things and use them to our advantage?

Sabbath. Slowing down. Resting. I’m certainly not an expert in those areas, but I’ve been growing more and more and forcing myself to slow down while I am writing will hopefully cause something else to change in me.

Sabbatical – Week 1

Here I am, finally at the sabbatical for which I have been waiting. The hours leading up to it seemed harried, stressful, and somewhat surreal. It’s very hard to step away from something in which you’ve immersed your life, all the while knowing that rest and reinvigoration need to be a part of our lives if we think we’re going to stick around for any length of time.

I continue to be grateful for an opportunity that my father never had before me. Although he was a pastor for over 40 years, he never had a sabbatical. While there are some who think he would have gone stir crazy during a sabbatical, I think that’s one of the main reasons why he should have had one, to learn to be still.

Despite popular belief, a sabbatical is not a long vacation. In order to get to this point, I had to put together a plan with goals. Just like stay at home moms don’t sit around and eat bon bons all day, I won’t be sitting at home during these 13 weeks or sipping umbrella drinks by the pool all day long. Rest is an important part of this time, but so is reflection and learning.

I’m excited to spend some time at other local churches that I’ve wanted to visit for years. Having been in this area for nearly nine years, my visits to other houses of worship have been limited…very limited. We’ve had some invites to some other churches where our friends attend and are looking forward to taking advantage of this time to do this. There are also other places where we have been wanting to visit where we don’t really know anyone, so it will be an exciting time to take that all in.

I’ll be heading to a sister church for a few days to spend time with their staff and pastors. We have gotten to know them a little over these past few years through our denominational meetings. They’ve been incredibly gracious in setting up a fairly full schedule for me while I am there. I am looking forward to hearing them share their insights and wisdom that they have gained since they were planted fifteen or so years ago.

I’ll be spending some time with a dear friend and mentor who has extended invitations to me to come visit him in Lynchburg, Virginia. I look  forward to spending time with him as I always do. We usually meet up for lunch in Charlottesville, so this will be a nice change and opportunity.

I’m heading to Minneapolis, Minnesota for four days total to be trained in StrengthsFinders. As that time grows closer, I will be updating this blog about my takeaways and insights. StrengthsFinders has been a valuable resource for me and my wife in our nearly fifteen years of marriage. I’m looking forward to digging deeper and helping others to see the potentials when they can better understand their strengths.

Our sabbatical will end with a cross country trip. Two adults, three kids, one mini-van……it’s will be an adventure, if nothing else. We’ll get the chance to see some good friends along the way. Friends from many different chapters of life spread out across the United States. Texas. California. South Dakota. Ohio. We’ll throw some family in here and there in New Orleans, North Carolina, and it will make for a full trip.

In the time leading up to my sabbatical, God was already beginning to show me some neat things. I’m still processing those out, but I plan to share them as they take shape in my head.

Looking forward to this journey!