Sunday, March 18, 2012

I'm Kind of Homesick

Today is the third Sunday in a row that I have not worshiped with my home church. I’m not sick, and I’m not mad at anyone (and as far as I know, no one is mad at me)—I’m on Sabbatical. In fact, I’m at about the half-way point of my 5 weeks away from Life Spring.

As I write this, I am in the part of the Sabbatical focused on personal spiritual renewal. I have spent most of the past two days sitting in a screened-in porch at a condo in Branson. I’m not taking in any shows, and other than walking around this beautiful property a couple of times, I haven’t ventured far from the condo.

I’ve read a couple of books, and I’ve spent several hours listening to sermons. I’m going to do some sermon planning for the rest of year, but mostly I’m trying to focus on hearing from God through His Word and through prayer, eliminating as many distractions as possible.

As much as I feel I am benefitting from this time away, I have to say that it is really hard to be away from my church family for this long. Each of the past three Sundays, I’ve looked at my watch all morning long. Around 8:30, I think “This is about the time I’d be arriving at church.” Then around 9:00 I’ll say, “It’s time for Sunday School.” I’ll start praying for the services—for Pastor Dennis as he leads the worship and those men who are filling in for me—as it gets closer to 10:00. I just can’t get Life Spring off my mind.

I’ve enjoyed some incredible times of worship in other venues, getting to visit three churches that I have long wanted to visit, including Grace Community Church, where John MacArthur pastors; Shadow Mountain Community Church, the home of David Jermiah; and Saddleback’s Lake Forest campus. I’ve heard some great preaching, both live & online. But nothing compares with worshiping & fellowshipping with the people I have come to know and love so dearly.

Frankly, I don’t know why anyone would ever voluntarily absent themselves from church on a continual basis. Some people go weeks—even months—without gracing the doors of a church. I feel sorry for them. Not only because that is a sign of some deeper spiritual issues, but because it must contribute to a sense of loneliness and isolation. No matter how many friends you have or how active your social life is, being a part of a vibrant and thriving Church of the living God is as good as it gets.

I am getting some much needed rest. I am connecting with God on a real and intimate level. I am doing some long range planning that I simply wouldn’t have the time or energy to do if I were home with the everyday pressures of ministry facing me. I am trying to take advantage of this time away to prepare my heart to be a better pastor and teacher when I return.

But while I am away, I am missing my church family and praying for them. And I am looking forward to being back with them very soon.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Happy Leap Day

Well, it’s over. You plan for it for months. You do the decorating and the shopping and the baking, and almost before it starts, it’s over. Now, we’ll suffer the blues as we wait for next time.

Yes, I’m talking about Leap Day.

It only happens once every four years. And unlike Presidential election day, this day doesn’t bombard you with negative commercials or unrealistic promises.

In fact, if you’re not careful, you’ll miss it altogether. One day it’s February 28, and the next it’s March 1. But once every four years, in a magical—perhaps mystical—manner, we are blessed with one more day in our year. 24 more hours.1440 more minutes. I hope you used them wisely.

Also known as an intercalary year, a leap year contains one additional day so that our calendar year remains properly synchronized with the astronomical or seasonal year. But I bet you already knew that.

Now maybe Leap Day doesn’t seem like that big a deal to you, but to some people, it ranks right up there with the best of the special days—like “Take Your Daughter to Work Day”. If you were born on February 29, then it is a very big day, because your birthday only rolls around once every four years. That’s a bummer when you’re younger, but by the time you hit 40 (or “10” as Leaplings like to say), it’s not a bad deal.

Although it is commonly said that leap years occur every four years (I’ve said it at least twice already!), that’s technically not true. A Leap Year occurs in a year whose date is exactly divisible by 4 except those that are divisible by 100 but not 400. Got that? It’s not as easy as you thought, now is it? That’s why we have Wikipedia.

Throughout history, people have come up with some crazy ideas associated with Leap Years. For example, folk lore was that children born on Leap Day had a rebellious streak or could be hard to raise. Well, if you only got a birthday card, cake and gifts every 4 years, you might develop a stubborn streak too.

Farmers believed that beans and peas planted in a Leap Year would grow the wrong way—whatever that means. And in Scotland they used to say, “A Leap Year is never a good Sheep Year”. I hate it when we have bad sheep years.

Perhaps the best known “tradition” associated with Leap Year is that February 29th is the day that women can ask men to marry them. Of course, modern women-folk have no respect for the traditions of the elders (like cleaning house and cooking supper), so today you’ll find loose-women asking men to marry them just about any day of the year. But for those who know their place, they’ll confine their marriage proposals to the proper time.

I started this blog entry on February 29th, but I took too long to finish it, and now it’s March 1st. Well, there’s a lesson there somewhere, but I’ve started my Sabbatical, so I’ll have to wait a while to see what it was. Maybe I’ll come up with something before the Ides of March.