I began my sabbatical with this prayer:
"Father, my desire is to hear You. Not necessarily that You would speak to me, though that would be wonderful, and I trust You to do that if You see fit. Rather, I want to be listening for what You are saying and what You have been saying. I fear my hectic pace is often such that I’m too busy doing things I believe would please You… and I fail to listen for what You are saying to me. Tune my ears, Father… still my mind, and calm my spirit and my heart."
I approached the two weeks of sabbatical with intentionality and prayer. I did not view my sabbatical as a vacation, or even a study break. My sense was that the Spirit was leading me into a time of rest, reflection, prayer, reading, solitude and renewal. It took me about two days to “cycle down”… as my normal life pace (RPMs) tends to be fast-paced, but God was patient and waited on me to quiet down.
Initially, I was not looking forward to hours of solitude… but I came to delight in them. Reading, praying, thinking and walking became thrilling ways for me to spend time alongside God… and wonderful opportunities to hear Him.
New Orleans has some great parks… and I spent delightful days at both Audubon Park and City Park. Walking, delighting in God’s creation, taking in the beauty of springtime (the azaleas were in bloom!), being among people--but not necessarily interacting with them.
I spent two wonderful afternoons at the New Orleans’ Museum of Art (Wednesday afternoons are free admission!). Being able to take in the work of master painters, sculptors and other artisans at a pace I rarely allow myself (do you rush through museums?) was nourishing to my soul. I saw and experienced God’s majesty and creative power revealed in the talent He had given these artisans.
I did enjoy some great food while in New Orleans… my good friend and Carrollton elder, Robert Carpenter and his wife, Myrna, were my gracious hosts for several meals. And I discovered that while it was pleasant to read and people-watch as I took most of my meals alone, I really missed the companionship of others (especially Susan) around the meal table. I realized that for me, food is best enjoyed in the presence of family and friends.
I preached at Carrollton Avenue church on the three Sundays I was in New Orleans. This responsibility in no way detracted from my sabbatical. If anything, God used this time alongside fellow believers as a reminder of the great gift He’s given us in providing church family.
My last Sunday’s lesson at Carrollton was on Sabbath. This was a lesson I would not have thought to bring, or even been prepared to deliver, if it had not been for my time spent in sabbatical. I have returned to Abilene with a deeper understanding of, and appreciation for, God’s great gift of Sabbath. I have committed to God a weekly observance of a Sabbath.
My sabbatical ended with this prayer on my lips: "Father, I delight in You! Praise your Holy Name!"