My Cup Overflows . . . that’s a problem!

Posted: April 5, 2018 in Uncategorized
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Overflow

RICK MORANIS, THE CANADIAN COMEDIAN SAID THAT HE TOOK A SABBATICAL FROM ACTING because shooting movies was stealing him away from his young children. “Keeping in touch with them from hotel rooms and airports wasn’t working for me. So I stopped.” Some take sabbaticals because they need to spend more time with their kids. Others, like myself, take sabbaticals because we need to spend more time with ourselves.

Too often pastors are very good at taking care of everyone but themselves. If you’ve been following my blog, you already know that this summer, I’m taking a long-overdue 12-week sabbatical from my ministry in downtown Cleveland – almost 16 weeks when I throw in a few weeks of vacation, to do something wonderfully countercultural: take care of myself. But “Where, O where is my pastor going?” you ask.

Every pastor and scholar I’ve talked to, who has some experience with sabbaticals, has recommended that I try not to bite off more than I can chew. My cup is already overflowing, and that’s the problem. The goal here will be to empty the cup and prepare to be filled with the new thing God is doing in my life and ministry.

Unfortunately, too many of us are tempted to legitimize time away from the congregation by squeezing into the sabbatical as much activity possible, or produce some major work(s) by the end, in which case the restorative necessity of the sabbatical is defeated.

At the same time, Pastors, who dream a little dream of what they might do if only they had a few months off, often imagine that they can accomplish far more than is realistic. Rev. Dr. John Buchanan, honorably retired United Methodist pastor and District Supervisor, cautioned me recently to make sure that I take my sabbaticals (where was he 25 years ago!) and to make sure that I don’t plan on doing too much when I do. For one of his sabbaticals, he sailed his 32-foot Catalina from Lake Erie up to Georgian Bay. He promised that three months on a sailboat with nothing to do but wonder about nature’s beauty, read and pray will dramatically and positively alter your outlook on life!

Since I don’t have a sailboat, I’ll focus my sabbatical in three areas: the first, the topic of this particular post, is on some time of intensive writing.

I’m not sure how well church members and friends know me as an author, other than as a writer of sermons or blogs or, perhaps, episodes for my series, Power2ools: 2 Minute Tools for Life. Writing, whether an Op Ed in the Plain Dealer or a chapter for a book, has always provided me a wonderful opportunity to use a different part of my brain, and to be in conversation with a much wider audience than the one I worship with each Sunday. I’m always eager to share my current list of publications and talk about the things I’m writing about, whether readers are in agreement or not.

Sidney Sheldon, the hugely successful fiction writer once joked that “a blank piece of paper is God’s way of telling us how hard it is to be God.” I write not because I know something, but more often than not, because I want to know something. In writing, whether it be a sermon or song, I almost always come away with new knowledge about a subject, and more importantly, about myself,

Sitting down with a note pad to scribble out lyrics for a new song that I’m composing or, more often these days, a keyboard and screen to rough-out an article or blog post, grants me an all access pass to the inward process of reflection and self-discovery, and always, always, always, a meaningful conversation with you, dear readers.

The last few months, I’ve been amusing myself by synthesizing my last ten years living in Cleveland by writing some creative non-fiction essays about life in the city that rock and roll built, and the good people who call it home. My soul is restless for dedicated time to reflect, in a very focused way, on my personal and professional experiences from the last decade.

Where, O Where, is my Pastor Going?
I’ll be off from May 14th – September 4th and won’t be staying in town to write. It may seem ironic, in some ways, that I won’t be remaining in Cleveland to write about Cleveland. However, for the first seven or eight weeks I’ll be well off campus and far away from the city.

My plan is to be in Savannah, Georgia, then perhaps Canada for part one of my sabbatical. These places offer me enough distance from the distractions of work but close enough to friends and family in other places that I won’t get lost in isolation while writing. I’m an extrovert purest after all. A summer of writing in some cabin in the woods, alone, day after day, would likely end with me in a straight jacket. When I write, I prefer to be alone but surrounded by a crowd in a good coffee shop and then, when the day of writing comes to an end, some friends or family to hang out with.

I’ll update you about the second part of my sabbatical soon. In the meantime, as always, I invite and welcome your good comments, thoughts and prayers. Thank you!

Love,
Mark

Other posts in the Sabbaticalypse Now series:

Sabbatical: Waving the White Flag of Surrender! Posted: March 16, 2018

Radical Sabbatical: 12 Weeks or 12 Steps Posted: March 23, 2018

 

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