Archive for Travel

Summer of Sabbatical

I have been given the gift of a pastoral sabbatical this summer. For this I am extremely grateful. My sabbatical will last a little over nine weeks and begin on July 1.

What is a sabbatical? It’s a good question, not least because ‘sabbath’ is a lost practice in our day. We all get vacations and “time off,” but a sabbath is something altogether different. Sabbath is a time to stop, to rest, to delight, to play, and to be renewed by the Creator and Sustainer of all things.

A sabbatical is meant to be an extended sabbath. Some may wonder if there is any sin, frustration with the church, or desire to move on to another ministry assignment. The answer is no. Some have asked if I am taking this time to focus on my doctoral work, or to write a book. The answer is no. I had considered starting my doctorate soon, but opted to wait until another season, and I have had a couple of book ideas on my mind, but don’t feel like the time is right to develop those yet. Although I will be reading and journaling…a lot. The point is to have an extended sabbath—a holy space to rest and be renewed.

For pastors, the practice of a sabbatical becomes particularly important because of the role we carry in the church. The weight of spiritual leadership is hard to explain or quantify, and yet it can take a very tangible toll on a leader’s soul. Many leaders don’t stop because they don’t feel that they can for fear that the church may fall apart without them. But I believe that Jesus is the Head of the Church! I think you agree.

Jesus withdrew in silence and solitude, even when the crowds were pressing in. Therefore, it’s important that pastors do that too. A sabbatical obviously is no substitute for regular rhythms of rest and renewal. And yet, our church council was so gracious to give me something extra, something longer, something special as a gift. This gift is really the gift of time. Thank you.

So, what will Denise and I do on my sabbatical?
We have intentionally crafted the weeks to make space for rest, recreation and renewal. There will be times for just Denise and I to be together, as well as fun memory-making adventures with the kids, cherished moments with family and friends, as well as some solitary blocks of time with just me and Jesus.

During this summer, we will be commemorating a number of milestones:
• My 45th birthday
• My 25th year as a licensed Foursquare pastor
• My 7th year as the lead pastor of West Salem Foursquare Church
and finally (and most amazingly)…
• Our 25th year of marriage (the result of the grace of God and a good lady)!

So, we’re gonna do some wonderful things, but there are also things we will NOT do. For my sabbatical, the things I will deliberately cease from are:

• Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (checking and posting)
• Email (all my addresses are being forwarded to my assistant)
• My phone (I’m shutting it off often, using it sparingly and not for business)
• Content-creation (no sermon writing, blogging, planning, etc)
• Speaking at any churches, camps or conferences

The things I will intentionally delight in are: family (including our sweet grandbaby), friends, reading (lots of fiction, mostly soul care books and a few theological ones), walking, working out, riding bike (I just bought a bike and am excited to start riding it…gotta get ready for the new bridge to Minto Brown park!), and watching The Olympics (The Fehlens really love watching the Olympics together!).

What about West Salem Foursquare Church?
Well, as you know we have an amazing team of staff, elders and servant-leaders! Our Navigational Team will continue to oversee our staff and day-to-day operations. Each Sunday service will have great communicators sharing the Word of God. Along with our staff, we have a number of incredible friends and partners in ministry that will be joining us throughout the summer.

Sunday, June 26th, will be my last Sunday before the sabbatical. I will be back in the pulpit on September 11th.

Pray for us. Pray that the Lord would surprise us with joy in beautiful ways, and that our hearts would be drawn closer to Him and to one another as family during this time.

The Best is Yet to Come,

John

Good Flight, Huh?

On an Alaska Airlines hopper flight from Seattle to Kalispell, Montana I sat next to a kind, older gentleman. We introduced ourselves quickly and I found him to be a downright pleasant man. When the refreshment cart came to us he asked the attendant how long the flight would be roughly. She answered him, he pondered for a moment and then said, “Thanks. That’ll work…I guess I’ll have the complimentary beer then.” He didn’t want to be tipsy when he got home.

It made me chuckle.

He then asked me what my “e-lec-tronic thing” was. I explained that it was an iPad made by Apple. I think he was impressed…or, frankly, couldn’t have cared less. Not sure.

Then came the moment to settle in with a movie and my drink (no, not the beer…I’m a Ginger Ale man on flights). What followed was my universally understood (so I thought) indicator that I was not “open for business”; that I wanted to sit quietly and privately (as private as one can be in a cattle car)!

That indicator was the insertion of my earbuds.

I tried to drown out the engines roar and various conversations around me with my headphones. I wasn’t up for chit-chat, but my seat-mate didn’t get that memo. He would periodically ask me a question or make a general comment. I could have ignored him, but I chose not to. He was too nice of a guy. So I would pull out the earbuds, ask him to repeat himself, and then we would chat for a bit.

Rinse and Repeat. This went on for a few rounds until he wore himself out and fell asleep.

I was glad to see him dose off, until…

…he extended his right leg fully over the invisible barrier of my foot space.  I thought, “Hmmm, yep, that’s his blue jean covered leg touching mine; pressing me right out into the isle. I’m gonna loose a toe from a passing cart.”

I gave the leg a slight nudge with my knee but it didn’t budge. He was tired and so friendly, so I let it slide for the remainder of the flight. It wasn’t until we had landed that the leg wiggled it’s way back into its own territory with a stretch, a yawn, and a “Good flight, huh?”

Yep. Good indeed. 

As I reflect now, God was lovingly reminding me to be open to interruptions and encroachments upon my time and personal space. Ministry often happens in these simple moments. Joy is to be discovered in the mundane. Life is waiting to be exchanged in common and generic situations.

“Good flight, huh?” Yes, it was.

I learned to be more patient somewhere over Boise, Idaho, and by the time the wheels skidded into Kalispell, I wished I had been even more open and available to my flying partner.

Pretty sure I would have been the better man for it.

Christmas in the Middle of Nowhere

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Confess with Your T-Shirt

red_t_shirtThe shirt was bright red with big, unmistakable lettering across the entire front. When I wore it I looked like a human stop sign.

It was the 80’s and in the church circles I ran in it at that time, it was very common for Christians to live by the motto: “What you believe in your heart, you’ll confess with your t-shirt!” Ask my wife, I have a thing for t-shirts. Someday I’ll show you my collection. They are all archived and boxed up for future generation to discover…and…well…marvel.

There is one classic t-shirt that I can’t seem to find though. It was either misplaced, worn out, tossed out or given away. I’d love to get my hands on it again – not to wear it, of course. Frankly, I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t fit, ‘cause I’m no longer a 140 pound skinny teenager (here’s to wishing though)!

The reason I want to find it is because of the truth it presented. The message on this fire-engine red shirt was undeniable – both to myself and to those that would see it on my frame. The white lettering spelled out what I know to be true, but can often loose sight of quickly. The shirt simply said:

Jesus is
Coming Back
Very Soon!

There is a whole story that goes with this famed red shirt and someday I’ll tell you more about it.

But for now will you let those words sink in. Go ahead and read them again. Jesus is…coming back…very soon. I wore that shirt with conviction in the 80’s. The disciples around the time of the 1st Century (after the ascension) were also convinced Jesus was coming back soon. Between then and now a lot of time has transpired. Do we still believe Jesus is coming back? Soon? Or has this fundamental truth gotten lost in the move? Have we gotten so busy that we’ve forgotten to keep watch for his return? Maybe for you today, it’s a matter of life and death. Perhaps you have not given your full life to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and you’re not certain of your eternal destination. Or maybe you’ve got apathetic and wandered in your faith. Don’t leave your relationship with the Lord to chance.

Jesus is coming back. He is our Soon-Coming King!