Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Thank You

This week I joyfully return to work as one of your pastors. Though there were moments in the last three months when I thought, "Hey, this sabbatical thing is nice. Maybe I should just retire early," over the past couple of weeks I've been itching to be back in the ministry saddle. As my sabbatical comes to close, let me tell you what we've been up to in September.

As I've expressed in previous posts, between classes in July and rebuilding my fence in August, the first two thirds of my sabbatical weren't very restful. I was committed to changing that during September. We spent the first week or so doing much of nothing (or, at least I don't remember accomplishing much). Then we loaded up our van and headed out to visit friends in Minneapolis and family in Wisconsin where we boated on the Mississippi (discovering that I can still slalom on one ski), our boys participated with my parents in a local parade, we spent time with my sister's family in Milwaukee and Terri and I got away for five wonderful days to Cedarly Pastors Retreat Center with four other pastoral couples (see picture) where we read, biked, swam, canoed, prayed and simply enjoyed being together. Last week, to cap off my time away, I escaped to Assumption Abbey in Richardton to begin planning our upcoming journey through Proverbs. It's quiet setting, as usual, was very conducive to much prayer, reading and reflection.

As my sabbatical comes to a close, I want to say 'thank you.' Thanks to Vince and the elders for a great sermon series on I Timothy and so capably shepherding everyone during my absence, reminding me that I'm not as indispensable around Trinity Church as my pride would like me to believe. Thanks to Tonya, Kathryn and Janet in the church office for continuing to do so much that so few see but which helps our ministry at TC thrive. Thanks, ladies, for sometimes responding to my questions when I'd stop by the office by saying, "I don't think you need to be thinking about that. Aren't you on sabbatical?" Thanks to all of you for being such a supportive congregation who's desire for more of God and more love of His Word makes you such a joy to lead and pastor (Hebrews 13:17). And thanks to the leaders of Trinity who wrote my predecessor's contract fourteen years ago and had the foresight to include a regular sabbatical for rest, study and family nurture. I am the beneficiary of such insight. Lord willing, you will be too as we resume ministry together and pursue an ever-increasing love of the gospel, transformation of our lives, mission passion and hope for heaven. Thanks.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


This Sunday we will be looking at 1 Timothy 6:1-2. This question came to my mind as I studied Paul's letter to Timothy - "Why didn't Paul speak openly against slavery?"

John Piper answers this question, in part, in a recent blog post - How Paul Worked to Overcome Slavery.

Friday, September 4, 2009

What Worry Reveals

"Fear and worry are not mere emotions; they are expressions of what we hold dear. They reveal the loyalties of our hearts. If we know Christ and have affirmed our allegiance to Him, worry is a sign that we are trying to have it both ways....Worry, therefore, is not simply an emotion that erodes our quality of life or a pain to be alleviated. It is a misdirected love that should be confessed. It is trying to manage our world apart from God. It is making life about our needs, desires and wants."

- Ed Welch, Running Scared, pp. 161 & 163

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Some Sabbatical Reflections

Two thirds of my sabbatical are over with one third to go. Thus far it's been taken up with types work which I could not have completed were I in the saddle of active ministry. Ironically, I say 'thank you' for giving me the opportunity for such work. God made us to give ourselves to good, worshipful, redemptive work - so its quite appropriate that I am not resting the entire three months off. What kind of work have I done?

1. Work on my Doctor of Ministry degree. Last Friday I finished my last paper due for my July classes. Yeah!

2. Work around the house. Things like gardening. Cleaning out closets, drawers and over-stuffed files which one always thinks of doing but never has time to do. Seeking to be a daily help around the house to my dear wife.

3. Currently we're camped out on a friend's farm helping out with harvest. What a blessing to have time for that!

4. Spending three weeks dismantling, sanding, sawing, scraping, rebuilding and painting our fence. One never knows how large their fence is until such a task is necessary. One also never knows how offensive one's fence was to one's neighbors until they begin to stop by (many of them!) to comment on how happy they are with the new fence.

Let me make a further comment about our fence project. I was dreading it. I've undertaken enough house projects over the years to know that most take twice as long as anticipated. The fence was no exception. By mid-August visions of paint scrapings, rusty screws and the smell of latex paint were troubling my dreams. I never wanted to see another fence board again! But I did not hire out the job for one key reason: my son.

Carson (my 8 year old) has always been my right-hand 'man' with house projects, and earlier this summer, after spying a pair of kid-sized cowboy boots which were out of his price range, I agreed to pay him to help me with the fence. In the first week alone he logged more than thirty hours of scraping, sawing and screwing and had more than enough money for his boots. Therefore, he was glad to be working on the fence.

My epiphany of happiness came one dewy morning while we were scraping old fence boards together on the same pair of saw-horses. With white paint chips flying, we found ourselves talking about life - our dreams, failures, relationships, work and the gospel of God's grace. Unlike the regular Bible lessons Carson's experienced all his life during our evening meals and bed-time rituals, this context was different. As two 'men' working together, the sometimes artificial nature of parental discipleship was supplanted by something wonderfully natural - working together - which had a way of opening our hearts to each other to create the context for father-son discipleship God intends.

In a few weeks I'm going to begin a sermon series on Proverbs. My fence project with Carson taught me poignantly that the father to son instruction of that great book of the Bible isn't optimally executed from the pulpit, classroom or even dining room table. Godly wisdom from man to man is best imparted while working together. Ladies, you may do your discipleship best over tea, but for us men we'll take a saw, boards and some paint with our Bibles. I just think of the rich conversations I would have missed with my son had I hired out the job.