Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.—Psalm 23:5–6
My heart is overflowing with gratitude to God for the grace that is mine through Bethlehem. For 19 years now, my family and I have been worshiping with joy among you. And, since its inception in October 2002, I have had the privilege of serving on staff at Bethlehem’s North Campus. Bethlehem is a great place to worship and to work.
One of the graces that flows to your pastoral staff team is occasional sabbatical rest. Our policy states, “We desire for our staff to thrive in ministry, find periodic refreshment, and avoid burn-out. Therefore, from time to time it may seem good to send pastors on paid professional life-giving, energizing leave.” (Taken from “Pastoral Sabbatical Leave Policy,” approved by Elders September 2, 2008.)
This past summer I was granted a two-month sabbatical leave. Thank you, oh Bethlehem; how sweet it was! My intentions were to …
- Reconnect—with immediate and extended family.
- Refresh—my body through sleep and exercise; my soul through unhurried times in the Word and prayer; and my mind through reading.
- Reflect—Spend significant time in review of the last decade, personally and as a minister at the North Campus, and think strategically for the future.
I am pleased to report that the summer’s sabbatical objectives were achieved in full … and then some! A wedding and a funeral ensured formal family reconnections. Informal evenings set aside for dinner or dessert, table games and ball games, walks, hikes, bike rides, and park play allowed for much-welcomed extended family gatherings.
The summer was full of outdoor activities allowing for exercise and ensuring that sleep was deep and sweet, and often long. We worshiped as a family at a variety of churches in our neighborhood, and time was spent “soaking” in the Bible and in prayer. Books were “devoured” with unscheduled and undistracted hours allotted to reading. What a gift for this former English major!
One highlight—among many—was a five-day stay in Kalispell, Montana, with our newest “extended family” members, Jim & Tami Jahner. Hiking in Glacier Park with seasoned “locals” and skimming across vast expanses of mountain-ringed Flathead Lake made getting to know my new daughter-in-law’s parents memorably relaxing and mightily refreshing.
As I reflected on God’s goodness to us as a family, his call on our lives, and his continual equipping to serve, I am deeply thankful. “My cup overflows” with the goodness and mercy of God following me into my summer-long sabbatical, and now out of it with a reinvigorated, reenergized desire to serve in my newly approved role as Lead Pastor, North Campus.
Thank you, Bethlehem, for loving your pastoral staff well and sending us out on occasional “life-giving, energizing leaves.” And public thanks must be expressed to those staff and elders who carried extra measures of responsibility in my absence, including Vince Johnson, Jon Grano, Marshall Segal, Jason French, Rob Hulson, and the remarkable preaching team the Lord assembled North for those mid-summer months.
May the One who provides strength to work and to rest “… be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 4:11).
Lead Pastor, North Campus