REFLECTIONS ~ My Sabbatical ~ September 2013

September 4, 2013

Four years ago, the elders of Living Streams suggested to me that I take a sabbatical. The idea sounded interesting to me at the time, but I wasn’t sure how practical it would be for me to be away from our church for three months. I didn’t want Living Streams to lose people or momentum. I was basically too insecure to take our elders up on their gracious offer.

A year later an infection got into my heart, destroyed my mitral valve, and almost killed me. I had to take a couple of months off to recuperate. Our church did fine in my absence. We have a great group of pastors and leaders who all stepped up and covered my ministry responsibilities. Living Streams has been a great church when I have been in crisis over the years.

Our elders were persistent with their counsel. Once or twice a year one of them would ask me when I was going to take my sabbatical. In April I got a serious eye infection that grew worse, in spite of prayer and the best medical attention I could find. After my eye was lanced, and then medicated for a couple of weeks, it started to heal. Once it healed, I was ready to take the sabbatical.

At the end of May, I said good-bye to Living Streams for the summer. We stayed in Phoenix for a couple of weeks, and then Kristina and I headed for California. We took care of our son Phil’s three children for ten days while he and his wife Moriah went to Machu Picchu, Peru. We then stayed in Terra Linda with my mother who is eighty-eight and still going strong. In July we headed to McCloud, at the foot of Mt. Shasta, for two weeks of trout fishing, biking, kayaking and swimming.

We spent a few days in Bodega Bay with our family. Phil Zito took Kristina and me fishing one day. Phil and I were in kindergarten when we were sent to the principal’s office for getting into a fight with each other. While we waited in fear for the principal to show up, we prayed for an earthquake to come and save us from his wrath. Phil asked us to pray after dropping anchor on this trip, and two minutes later Kristina hooked an 18 pound salmon. It was five hours later before we prayed again. Then I caught a 20 pounder.

I visited lots of churches in Arizona and California this summer. Several of the churches had thousands of people; a couple of them had less than a hundred people. The most powerful time of corporate worship I experienced was in the smallest church of all. There were about forty people in a simple building in McCloud present. I got caught up in their worship. It felt like God was present in clouds of glory.

I also had some great times of personal worship and prayer sitting on grassy hillsides in Marin County. Under an oak tree, the Lord gave me clarity for my ministry for this next season of life. A condensed report is that I’m going to stay focused on the people and ministries we serve. We also had a lot of hikes, meals, and fellowship with long-time friends in California. Our lives are rich because of our friends.

Of everything I experienced during this sabbatical, one thing has been the most meaningful to me. I finally started writing a book that I have procrastinated over for a long time. I’ve had many people tell me that I should write a book over the years. I’ve started to write several times and never gotten past the first page. The book is a simple memoir about the blessings and battles I have experienced the last forty-four years. My working title is “Into the Desert.” I don’t know how the Lord will use this book of stories, but it’s been a relief for me to finally get them down on paper. I no longer feel burdened because of running away from the Lord’s assignment.

We had some trials on this sabbatical. Family life is messy, and we have a big family. Yet, I’m thankful to have the men in my life with the wisdom to insist I take this break. I’m also thankful for those of you who are part of this story of my life and ministry. Your love and friendship brings Kristina and me joy, and makes our lives a blessing.

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