Back from sabbatical: some first thoughts…

Wow… returning back to full time work at the church after a 4 month sabbatical (refresh, renewal, rejuvenation) is an odd thing.  Not just the “getting used to” being on the job again… but the inability to actually formulate my thoughts and gleanings.  There is so much that happened, so much that is still bouncing around inside my brain and chest that it’s hard to put it together.  However… there are a few things that come to the surface immediately when I consider the major lessons of the time away…

  1. “Emotional health and spiritual maturity are inseparable.  It is not possible to be spiritually mature while remaining emotionally immature.”  That is a quote from one of the most shaping, important books I read while gone (and it wasn’t even on my reading list to start with – thanks Matt!).  “The Emotionally Healthy Church” by Peter Scazzero was a God-send for this experienced, but worn-out Pastor.  It spoke things that I’ve known intuitively for a long time, but could never articulate clearly… and things that my dear gift-of-a-wife has taught me for years.  I’m still processing… but I’m sure that the ideas of this book will be surfacing in my discipleship, counseling, and preaching from here on out.
  2. God Himself is sufficient for every need – be it emotional, spiritual, mental, or physical.  My wife and I have always believed that, but our sabbatical taught it to us in new ways.  After quite a handful of very emotional, painful years for personal reasons, we both found great healing and comfort in the LORD alone.  Mindi especially had one particular weekend alone that was transformational.  There was a great deal of emotional, spiritual, and mental healing that happened.  It was suggested that we seek some kind of counseling while we were away, which we did consider… but our hearts were inclined more to seek counsel from our divine Counselor, and He was faithful in so many ways.  Physically, we both dropped 30 pounds or more (3 clothing sizes).  I include that ONLY because we couldn’t have done it without the LORD’s prompting and empowerment.  I can’t really explain it adequately.  It wasn’t a “grit your teeth and do it” kind of thing… though there was plenty of self-control needed.  It was a gift from the Lord, plain and simple.  His provision of the mindset, strength, and motivation to keep at it (in exercise and nutrition) are nothing short of a miracle to me.  Thank You Father.  (While I’m at it, I want to thank the LORD for the provision of the information that is being taught by Dr. Joel Fuhrman.  Though I don’t believe he professes Christ, the LORD is using his knowledge greatly in our lives.)
  3. Rest is a good thing.  This should be pretty obvious to all of us… but in this go-get-em-till-you-drop culture, it needs to be said.  Like I said, there are things that happened in my soul that I can’t quite define yet… but I know that some of the rejuvenation I feel came solely from the lavish gift of so much time away from my responsibilities at the church.  I am a firm believer in sabbaticals now… for every Pastor.  I’m not sure yet how often and/or how long is best… but I believe in them.
  4. My family is the BOMB! – The time I was allowed to spend with my wife and kids, uninterrupted and unhurried
    was an unbelievably gracious gift.  Our relationships grew as I would never have imagined just because of our availability and proximity to each other.  During the sabbatical my oldest son married too.  My wife and I had the privilege and honor of having a short series of premarital conversations with him and his (then) fiance, Hanna.  What a blessing and gift!  And I was allowed to officiate their marriage ceremony and pray God’s blessing over them.  My heart is overflowing!  It was wonderful!  Soon they will be back from their honeymoon and living in the same town we do (until we move 35 miles away to be nearer our church family, which I hope is soon)!  What a blessing… my family is the BOMB!
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