By October of 2009 the craziness of the previous 2 years was settling down. The Vineyard was about to move into its new location, and I was eager to get back to work. There were a lot of us who were still trying to sort out all that had happened…but the worst seemed to have passed.
But the ripples.
Things would seem to be getting back to normal, and I’d go back into over-drive mode and work like crazy. (which was made easier because we still trying to finish off the building at that point).
Every few weeks there seemed to be a new fire that needed to be dealt with.
And with the impact of all that had been going on in our lives…the ripples started to build up. Things that wouldn’t have bothered me previously were now. There was really nothing about what I was doing that I was enjoying at all at that point. I was hurt. I felt betrayed, and for the first time in 20 years of full-time ministry, I was more than ready to walk away.
However, I knew I couldn’t then. I knew enough to know that you don’t make major life decisions when you are in a place like that. So I waited for things to get back to normal. But that was getting harder as time went by.
One day I was talking to a good friend on the phone and he suggested I consider a sabbatical in 2010. I’d never had one, but as soon as he said it, I knew it was the thing to do. I talked about it with our church council, and they were fully behind us.
Now to figure out what to do.
We’d been saving for a trip to Ireland for a while. Liz hadn’t been since she was 16, and it was really important for her to be able to go. The added benefit was that we could stay at her family farm in County Monaghan which would save a lot on room and board.
And I don’t remember how this happened, but for some reason we decided to split the sabbatical into two parts. 4 weeks in the spring, 7 in the summer.
One morning I was trying to settle on the dates for our spring trip, and within moments of picking a date, I received an email about an Upcoming Vineyard Pastors Sabbath Retreat (PSR) in Idaho that was starting that same day. There were only a couple of spots left, so I checked with Liz (we’d both wanted to attend for a while but it hadn’t worked out) and then wrote back and reserved our spots.
I won’t go into details of what happened on that trip here, but it will weave its way in through the rest of this story. It was the most important ministry type event Liz and I have ever participated in. A week later, we travelled to Queens, for and Emotionally Healthy Spirituality Leadership Conference (EHS), led by Pete & Geri Scazzero. Those two events worked together incredibly, with EHS building on the PSR, and giving us some very practical tools to implement what the Father seemed to be teaching us.
After those two events in April, I came back to work at the Vineyard for 8 more weeks…excited to be back, and feeling in the best place I’d been in a very long time…yet to be honest, very much looking forward to the rest of my time away.
While the next part of our sabbatical would not have the intensive learning aspects that our four-week spring sabbatical had, we knew there were things God wanted to do. We weren’t yet sure what that was. So we prayed.
As we drew closer to our departure date, the focus of our sabbatical became clear.
There was one simple question we were supposed to focus on while in Ireland. “Father, what do you want us to do with the next 20 years of our lives?”
It didn’t really seem like such a dangerous question at the time.