Tag Archives: sabbatical

The beginning of renewal: A clean mirror and good light

I watched my Twitter feed as the news was disseminated – Gary Kubiak was fired as the head coach of the Houston Texans National Football League team. The team had fallen off the cliff. They were on an 11-game losing streak in a 16 game season – that’s not good. The players seemed overmatched and unable to do what was needed to be done to make the team successful. Was it all the fault of the head coach? No, but it was his responsibility.

The head coach isn’t the one throwing the ball, catching the ball, kicking the ball or tackling the runners. The players have some culpability in this losing streak. But the head coach is the one called upon to make the team successful. In this case, one or two wins might have made the difference – they didn’t have to be cleaning mirror croppedperfect, just better. And as the head coach I have no doubt Gary Kubiak knew that. He saw this moment coming. At least he did if he had a clean mirror and some good light.

What I mean is that an understanding of who we are, what flaws we have and what strengths we have, should be seeable. They may not be obvious but they should be able to be seen. What it takes is a clean mirror and some good light.

Think about how you can look at your own appearance and gauge your health and strength by looking in the mirror. If the mirror is dirty the picture you get won’t be true. You may see flaws where none exist. You may not see beauty that does exist. And vice-versa. The same is true about the lighting. Good light offers a truer picture. Bad lighting may cause me to assume all is good when there are problems to be addressed.

Serving as a pastor for the last 17 years has been a rare privilege and honor. And I expect to continue on for another 17 or so (at least in full-time officially appointed ministry). I have also found that serving as pastor is weighty and is a test of faith in many ways. As a pastor I tend to carry the hope of other people’s spiritual growth. I long to see the church – the bride of Jesus Christ – grow in life and love. I struggle with the reality of other people’s expectations – some reasonable, others not so much. I also struggle with my own sense of failure and, at times, misguided pursuit of tangible success. I realize that self-examination is essential for determining a way forward. And it seems to me it is a different kind of process than when I worked as an accountant.

I say all that to say this – the sabbatical I will take beginning January 1, 2014 is all about making sure I have a clean mirror and good light. This is a time when God has called me to step back from the daily work of pastoring – to move things out of the way – and look in the mirror. This will be a time of deep spiritual introspection and time dedicated to knowing and listening to God – shining good light on my heart and soul and mind. I want to have an honest assessment of who I am. I want to know my flaws in honest ways so that I can faithfully allow the strength of God to be made known in my weakness. I also want to know what God sees as my strength and what that means for living into this next 17 years of ministry.

In short, I want to be certain I am benefitting the Kingdom of God in positive ways and leading the people of God in helpful ways. For me this means taking intentional time. I covet your prayers. A clean mirror and good light can show many things. How I address those things – both positive and negative – will impact the work I do. I expect (and have been told by God through another person) that this time will be a struggle. At the moment I do not know what that means, but I believe it will be for my good and the good of God’s Kingdom. At least I pray that will be the case.

Next week I will most likely post my final blog for this year. Whether or not I pick this up again on the other side of my sabbatical remains to be seen.

Holy high-five to you,
Mike

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The Footsteps I Follow

enter at own riskI feel the need to apologize for my recent posts. They seem to all be very internal “me” focused musings. But the reality is, that’s the season I’m in. I have tried to use this blog as a place for honest musings and challenges regarding faith and discipleship. At times I have addressed issues within the church – both local and denominational; and at other times I have written about more individual, but hopefully universal subjects. Right now I’m in a season of self-reflection and its unlikely it will change any time soon.

So, I could apologize, but it might seem disingenuous as I once again delve into self-reflection or very personal moments. Therefore, I will simply let this first bit of today’s post stand as a checkpoint of sorts. Continue reading if you will, but you’ve been warned.

I recently let all of our church know that I would be taking a 3-month sabbatical beginning January 1, 2014. I have come to realize that I need to regain some spiritual footing in order to serve God’s purpose well in the years ahead. That’s a difficult feat to accomplish while managing and leading the day-to-day life of the church. My time away is not a means of getting away from the church in order to be away from the church, it is simply time to be more deeply connected to God for the work ahead. It may be too bold of me to equate this time to that of Jesus in the wilderness for 40 days, but still I do relate it to that. In some ways, those are the footsteps I follow.

camino pic 1One of my hopes as I plan this time away is to make an ancient pilgrimage known as the Camino de Santiago de Compostela. It is otherwise known as The Way of Saint James. I first learned of this pilgrimage through the movie “The Way,” which piqued my interest in this 500 mile journey. Yes, I said 500 miles. The journey begins near the border of France and Spain and winds across northern/central Spain to the Cathedral of St. James. It takes about a month or so to make the journey. It is a pilgrimage that has been made by many peoples in the last 800 years. And I hope to add my name to the list.

The pilgrimage was historically made by Christian pilgrims who wanted to make their way to the place where ancient tradition says the bones of St. James are interred. To be in close proximity to these ancient relics was thought to bring a special blessing of God to the pilgrim who was willing to make such a journey. These days many people see the journey as more significant than the destination. They see the journey as the means to the greater blessing of God – and I am one of those.

My hope for the journey is to give myself undeniable time with God. By that I mean that I will have nothing else to occupy my thoughts or my spirit. Sure, for a couple of three days I might be consumed by other thoughts and challenges left behind, but eventually I will just have to get into a deep lasting conversation with God. There is no activity to capture my interest, no group to interact with (save the other pilgrims I see along the way), and no TV or Facebook to occupy my attention. There should be some significant time of reflection and spiritual conversation.

And that’s why I’m planning this as part of my sabbatical. I want to be intentional about digging down deeper with God. And I know that it won’t happen so easily among the everyday things that already distract me so (and I am NOT referring to church stuff – just common, ordinary, everyday stuff). You see, this time is not being planned as an escape from church or life or anything else. I was given good advice one time – it is always better to run TOWARD something than to run FROM something. So, I’m choosing to run toward God, to run deeper into a life as a servant of the King of Kings.

As I make my way I follow the footsteps of many pilgrims who have gone before me. I follow the footsteps of many faithful people who sought a deeper connection with God. I follow the spiritual footsteps of Jesus as I leave what is known for a time away to connect with God. And then, when I have completed the pilgrimage, I hope to walk more faithfully either on the road I am currently traveling or on a new path to which God calls me.

Of course, it all begins with that first step. As for what happens then? Well, that remains to be known and experienced. I simply thank God for the chance to know Him more in this ancient way.

Holy high-five to you,
Mike

In the Cool of the Morning

It’s a different kind of day today. The temperature outside is unfamiliar. There is a coolness that has been absent for so long. It’s refreshing reminder that life has its seasons (of course, in Houston the seasons are “hot” and “not so hot”). The point is, life is a flow, a journey, and what was the reality one day can change the next. Some changes are welcome – like temps in the 60’s – and others, well, not so much.

Today is a different kind of day for me, a welcomed but unfamiliar change. I am officially starting my one-month sabbatical. As the day begins there is a different feeling in the air. I don’t have to focus my mind on the usual weekly agenda, instead my agenda is to focus on time with God. It’s going to take some getting used to. I love being the Pastor at Asbury and I love what God is doing there. But ’tis the season for a different focus.

I plan to put out my blog still. It may be a little more introspective than usual as I hope to share some of what God is doing in me during this time. I pray blessings upon you all.

Holy high-five to you,
Mike