Thoughts on Sabbatical

Dear Friends,

I have just returned from my six-week summer sabbatical. It was a truly remarkable experience filled with travel, family and the beauty of nature. More than anything I had the time and space to really reflect on my life and relationships.

WEEK ONE: Yellowstone trip with my family
WEEK TWO: Directed Spiritual Retreat at St. John's Abbey Guesthouse in MN
WEEK THREE: Okoboji trip with my family
WEEK FOUR: Habits of Heart Retreat with Parker Palmer.
WEEK FIVE: Writing and reflecting in Des Moines
WEEK SIX: Camping with my family in Pennsylvania

Church planting and pastoring can become pretty all-encompassing endeavors and it is easy to forget who you are apart from these roles. During the sabbatical I was able to reconnect with my true identity as a beloved child of God. This wasn't always easy, looking deeply into one's own soul can be a challenging and even painful experience. But the Lord was faithful to walk with me, even through some of the darker chambers of my life, in order to make me well. I thought it would be good to share a few of the things I learned, in hopes that my story may provide some insight into your own unique spiritual journey.

"A coalescence of music, Scripture, and other people in a worshipping congregation had brought me to my senses. I had been dwelling in a drought-stricken land, like the famished prodigal, who, envying the pigs their husks and slop, suddenly remembers that he is a beloved child who has a home." - Kathleen Norris

"A coalescence of music, Scripture, and other people in a worshipping congregation had brought me to my senses. I had been dwelling in a drought-stricken land, like the famished prodigal, who, envying the pigs their husks and slop, suddenly remembers that he is a beloved child who has a home." - Kathleen Norris

We will never change until the pain of staying the same outweighs the pain of change. According to Richard Rohr human beings always hold on to three things:

  1. The need for success
  2. The need to be right
  3. The need to be in control

The only way to be spiritually healthy is to let go of these three things and entrust yourself wholly  to God. In the desert, Jesus was himself tempted with these three things:

  1. The temptation to be relevant
  2. The temptation to be spectacular
  3. The temptation to be powerful

Instead he affirmed God as his only source of identity. In our culture we unabashadly value success, power and control in our leaders. But Jesus calls us to the opposite. To live in truth, not pretending to be someone you are not; to live in humility; rather than a false sense of ego and pride; and to live in wonder; not at your own gifts and abilities, but constant worship of the beauty of our Lord.

You have to be you, as you are, rather than a desperately striving, lesser version of somebody else.

Thoughts from my Prayer Journal: Paul, come out of hiding. Come home to your Father. Tender your heart, open up your soul. Come out of hiding. I want to heal your heart, restore your soul and reshape your will. Follow me, I will show you a new pattern, new way. The old has gone. The new has come. Come home.

Jesus, I surrender, myself, to you. Take care of everything.

God wants to welcome me home. To embrace me despite of my sin, disease and mistakes. Maybe even to embrace me because of those things. Come home to the father. Follow his voice in nature. In laughter. In song. In dance.

- Pastor Paul