Sabbatical Matters – In Review

September 28, 2017 by  
Filed under Pastor's Corner

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Download: Final Sabbatical Matters

I love being a pastor. I love being your pastor, serving St. John’s in Evansville. But before I am a pastor, I am a husband and a father; I am a son and a brother. Above all, I am a child of God whose worth is not determined by my productivity… but by my baptismal identity. I am valuable because of whose I am. And so are you. You belong to God, and therein lies your value.

Our faith declares these things to us, but we forget them. We work hard to prove ourselves, to gain the promotion, or to earn more money. Why? So we can buy more things? So others will hold us in high regard? There’s more to life than what people think of us and owning bigger and better stuff. And we certainly don’t need to earn God’s favor. Still, we forget our identity and our priorities. We get so busy with life that we forget to enjoy life. We lose sight of the big picture of what matters most. Things like quality time. Little adventures. Laughter. Long meals. Leisurely walks.

God wants more for us (and for me) than to toil and fuss and fret away our days. The Old Testament wisdom book of Ecclesiastes asks what good is life if we don’t enjoy it. “I’ve decided that there’s nothing better to do than go ahead and have a good time and get the most we can out of life. That’s it—eat, drink, and make the most of your job. It’s God’s gift.” (Ecclesiastes 3:12-13, MSG) I want to receive each day as a gift from God. I don’t want to squander my days away and miss what matters most.

I want to savor life.

That’s one of my daily philosophies since my sabbatical. For 12-weeks I experimented with savoring life. I’m talking about cherishing my wife, taking delight in my children, and enjoying simple pleasures from God. There will always be more to do – more work, more emails, more chores. But I want to pay more attention to people than to tasks on my to-do list. Even in the midst of my work now, I am embracing joy, thanks to the practice I got this summer. In the eyes of the economy, I was incredibly unproductive this summer. And it was good for me and my family.

What did we do? Well, we didn’t sit still, at least not for too long. We stayed active but kept a relaxed pace. We embraced cabin-life in the Northwoods of Minnesota. We visited Lambeau Field and Bay Beach Amusement Park (what a gem!). We played games, and praised God at Riverside Lutheran Bible Camp. We fished and canoed and rode horses at Outlaw Ranch Lutheran Bible Camp in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Both weeks of camp we made new friends in the span of a few days. I rode my bike across the state of Iowa in a seven-day pilgrimage, full of friendly strangers, country scenery, and fresh fruit pie. We spent multiple weeks with grandparents and cousins. We swam a lot. We avoided the garden and the yardwork. And we did almost everything together; our family grew closer. [Stop by my office for a picture book!]

In a list like that, it all sounds so perfect. Trust me, we still had our share of spills and sassiness, of fatigue and frustration. But as a result of this sabbatical, I love my wife more and know my children better. I have new perspective on what truly is most important. I am better able to rest than ever before. Even though life will fall out of balance at times, I am strengthened to stay centered in the Lord through daily journaling, writing prayers, naming my gratitudes, and seeing God in my life. Our family devotion time of the “Faith 5” – sharing highs and lows, Bible reading, conversation, prayer, and blessings – continues to serve as a daily “sabbatical” for us. I feel encouraged in my call to ministry and empowered to be a better pastor.

My being a better pastor does not mean me working too much. That’s not good for anyone in the long run. On the contrary, it means me trusting you more to do God’s work through our church. I’m working to move meetings off the evenings and weekends. I’m scheduling counseling times in the late afternoon and asking others to take off work a little early so I can have supper and devotions with my family. I’m worrying less, praying more, and trusting God with matters out of my control. As I seek to live life with joy and passion and rest, I hope you’ll join me. Let’s remind each other that our value is not in our paycheck or our accomplishments. Our value and our joy come from God.

Savoring life,

Pastor Matthew Poock

Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”   -John 10:10

  • Brooke Fraser

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