In my June blog post, I shared some of our plans for our sabbatical during the month of July. It’s now August, and I’m happy to report that we greatly enjoyed our time away, and accomplished all the things we set out to do (and perhaps most importantly, NOT do). Here’s a brief recap of our month, along with some of the biggest lessons I hope to take with me as I return to full-time ministry at PVCC.
First, we enjoyed time with family. That included a day dedicated to each Halliburton boy: Javan and I went fishing, Nolan and I got dinner and a movie, and Calvin and I visited the Indianapolis Zoo. We also saw Olivia’s family (briefly) in Cincinnati, and my family (briefly) in Memphis.
Second, our travel went (relatively) smoothly. We spent time in San Diego with Olivia’s brother, sister-in-law, and nephew. We went to the beach, ate lots of good food, did some exploring, and attended a San Diego Padres baseball game. Next, we immediately traveled to Memphis so I could officiate a family funeral. As you can imagine, that was a bittersweet trip; one that ended on a sour note with Olivia’s purse being stolen from our car (thankfully, it appears those issues have been resolved). From there, I went on a weekend retreat to Saint Meinrad Archabbey in southern Indiana. While I’m a proud Protestant, I’m convinced that those Roman Catholic Benedictine monks have a thing or two to teach us. Finally, Olivia and I spent a weekend away from the kids in the mountains of North Carolina. Our cabin was secluded, the scenery beautiful, and the accents southern.
Third, we rested. I enjoyed sleeping in a bit later, not rushing around as much, and taking a longer time to drink my coffee in the mornings. The rest wasn’t just physical, though; it was mental, emotional, and spiritual. Sure, we still had “chores” to do; I did yard work and school work, replaced light fixtures, and installed a new toilet. Olivia did laundry, dishes, and continued her thankless work of potty training a stubborn three-year-old. But even with the (often less than romantic) work we still had to do, we enjoyed the rest we got.
When it comes to lessons learned over this month, here’s the biggest one: I’m more confident than I’ve been in quite some time that I’m called by God to be the Senior Minister at Prairie View Christian Church. The past few years of ministry have been tough (many of the hardest parts coincide with the pandemic), and to be totally honest, I’ve wrestled with discouragement, frustration, and uncertainty. But after a month away from the place and people who mean so much to me, I feel grateful and rejuvenated in my work. This is who I’m called to be, what I’m called to do, and where I’m called to do it. That doesn’t mean that times won’t be hard, and discouragement, frustration, and uncertainty will never raise their ugly heads. But I hope this chance to stop and take a breath leaves me better prepared to press on in ministry when they arrive. I hope that’s a blessing not just for me, but for you.
Another lesson: the fall – as in, the problem of humanity’s sin – doesn’t take sabbaticals. A person I dearly love died. Someone stole from us. I had moments of sin myself, whether it be impatience, a short temper, or a lack of trust in God’s provision. The solution to the problem of sin isn’t going on a vacation, hunkering down in a bunker out in the woods, or any other form of escapism; it’s Jesus Christ’s death, resurrection, and return.
Finally, a third lesson: Christians need the local church. I’ve preached it a hundred times, but in July, I experienced it in a new and different way. We visited our old church in Batesville on July 2, and a friend’s church in Columbus on July 23; but the other three Sundays (mostly due to travel), we were missing in action. I saw the effects of that absence on my own spiritual health. I’ve said it before, but now I can say it with more credibility: if you believe being absent more often than present on Sunday mornings has no negative impact on your spiritual wellbeing, you’re kidding yourself. And by the way, we commit to a local church not just for our own health, but in obedience to God’s commands. In the end, the two go together: God commands it for our good.
I’m incredibly grateful that our church so generously gave us this sabbatical, and glad that my fellow leaders successfully held down the fort while I was gone. I’m also very excited to see many of you this Sunday morning, and to be completely transparent, a bit nervous to preach again next Sunday morning. I’ve spent a lot of time praying for our church this first week back, and ask that you do the same.