From time to time I amuse myself by imagining what you imagine I am doing on Sabbatical–lounging by the lake, reading for hours on end, perhaps eating fried chicken and collard greens with men in overalls named Bubba. Whether you have wondered such things or not, let me give you a sketch of our time here and an update on how you can pray for us.
Our mornings are laid back. Since I give Samuel his “dream feed” late at night, Rachael lets me sleep in while she and the children play with Samuel and eat breakfast. By mid-morning I typically read with the children or take them on a hike along the mountain roads while Rachael reads and journals. Then either before or after lunch I take my turn to journal and meditate on God’s word. Rachael and I have enjoyed long conversations interspersed throughout the day, which typically requires putting on a movie. Around 4 or 5 I take the big kids down to swim in the lake for an hour before dinner. At bedtime the children have thoroughly enjoyed listening to The Chronicles of Narnia. After everyone is asleep I either watch a movie or read before giving Samuel his midnight bottle.
This has made for a very enjoyable four weeks (it took us almost a week to get to the East Coast then we spent a week with my family). If you know the energy level of our children, you know that “relaxing” and “leisurely” might be a stretch. We still expend plenty of energy mediating inter-sibling quarrels, and addressing our own deeper emotional issues can be draining. But overall our time has been life-giving and healing.
I have enjoyed listening to the Philippians sermon series and am thankful for the hard work the preaching brothers bring to their task. The church we attend here has been studying the book of Jonah, which serves as a cautionary account to any person who handles God’s word. In my personal time I have been studying much about the life of Ezra, captured best in Ezra 7:10– “For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.” I have also been digging down into Paul’s prayer at the end of Ephesians 3 and listening often to 1 John, which I plan to preach through when we return.
My reading list has been eclectic, to say the least–a memoir of a pastor (Eugene Peterson’s The Pastor), a memoir by a homosexual atheist (Jonathan Rauch’s Denial), a book on spiritual formation by a Catholic priest (Henri Nouwen’s The Way of the Heart), and a book on spiritual power by a reformed British preacher (Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ Joy Unspeakable). I am not endorsing all of these, but I am certainly learning from them.
Please continue to pray for us. Pray that God would speed along my recovery and healing. Pray that the times Rachael and I have to journal and discuss life and ministry would continue to be fruitful and nurturing. Pray that God would continue to draw us closer as a family as we read, explore, swim, laugh, and play. Pray that my time in God’s word would bear fruit in my preaching and writing when I return. And pray that God would bring us back to Phoenix safely.
We love you and think about you often. I do not know of another congregation that better lives out Hebrews 13:17–“Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” You bring your elders much joy through your love for God, his word, and one another, and I trust you will continue doing so in my absence and upon my return.