Sabbatical, Day Fifty-Seven

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Looking up on the Kaskaskia Trail.

I have passed the halfway point of this sabbatical.  I have now officially spent as much time away from the church as I typically do in a year given my vacation time and continuing education time/study leave.  All the time after this is extra time, time I would not normally have away from my daily tasks.  I remain thankful for the gift of this time.

This past week I found myself walking along a trail that was beautiful.  The temperature was the coolest it had been in over a week, the trees were a brilliant green, and the trail just wild enough to quiet my footsteps.  I was planning to spend the whole afternoon walking a loop of eight miles so I applied lots of bug spray, put on my hat, and grabbed my full water bottle.  About half a mile into the hike I was doing an invigorating rendition of the slap the bugs away dance.  The bugs were so thick and persistent I was walking faster than normal to get to the first break in the trail so I could get out of the woods.  Even protected as I was against the bugs my skin was swelling with so many bites I was rethinking ever going outdoors again.

True to form I have been thinking of all the sermon illustrations I can get from that abbreviated hiking experience.  One revelation was how the walk reminded me of my emotional state eight weeks ago.  At the beginning of this sabbatical I was deep in the woods, walking through a swarm, looking for a way out.  As protected as I thought I was against burnout I was breaking from the emotional and physical toll of the life I have been called to live.  Eight weeks ago I would not have looked up at the sky because I was barely putting one foot in front of the other to stay on the path.

Today I am finally breathing deeply and looking up.  Today I am not looking for the first break so I can get off the trail.  This feels like freedom to me.  Freedom to dream again.  Freedom to explore again.  Freedom to fail again.  Freedom to delight in the chance to serve God and God’s people.  I have missed that feeling of freedom.

I am thankful today I am getting a glimpse of that freedom again.

 

 

 

Sabbatical, Day Forty-Two

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The River Walk in downtown Spokane, Washington.

As I have traveled I have enjoyed scenery unlike the kind I see every day.  I have spent time in places were there are no people for hundreds of miles; and places where there are so many people I could not move without bumping into someone.  I have not seen a corn field or a soybean field in weeks, and very few people have waved back when I instinctively wave while driving or walking.  I have been outside of my usual habitat long enough that when I spoke to a family from the Mid West I felt my ears relax.  I had not even realized how different everyone sounded until I heard someone close to home speak.  I am still chuckling about this revelation days later. 

I love to travel.  I love what I learn about myself and others while traveling.  I love hearing other languages, watching people interact, making connections because of a t-shirt or food order or children.  I love being surrounded by strangers and finding ways to build connection.  Even if those connections are only for as long as it takes for us to take photos of each other’s traveling party.

Like water shapes rocks, those moments of connection shape me.  I want to find a way to make those connections happen for others so we can all see how connected we are to each other regardless of where we come from.  I want us to realize unless we are willing to listen when it makes our ears, mind, or heart work harder we will not experience the vast goodness of this world God has created for us.

We are responsible for what we learn and how we apply that knowledge.  My hope is that I never get to a point when I decide I am too old, too sick, too cranky, or too comfortable to learn from others.  I may get to a point when I cannot pack a suitcase and travel, but until my last moments I plan to live as a traveler looking for glimpses of home in all my wandering.