Thursday, October 2, 2014

Sabbatical Reflections

90 days off.  How often in life can someone say that they've been afforded 90 days for “renewal,” and that they would have the privilege of determining what that renewal would look like? 
Firstly, I’m eternally grateful to the congregation at Oak Grove Mennonite Church for allowing (encouraging) me to take on such an adventure.  It came at the exact right time in my life and gave me an opportunity for much needed rest and reflection as well as allowed me to develop a vision for the direction that I would like to go from here. 

Erin and I at the Stoltzfus-Prall wedding.  I officiated,
and pretty much rocked it, if I say so my self.
During the last three months I was able to take part in several incredible opportunities that I otherwise would have not been able to.

To begin my sabbatical, I spent a week at the Gethsemani Benedictine Monastery in Louisville, KY.  It was a week of complete silence and structured prayer.  For some this might sound like torture, but for me it was illuminating.  I was able to read from one of my favorite spiritual authors (Thomas Merton) at the place that he had lived and written from.  Also, I got to sample their famous bourbon fudge, which was phenomenal!

Two weeks later, I served as the nightly speaker in Indianapolis for a youth mission week with Mission Indy.  Erin and I had worked there for the summer before moving back to Ohio and owe much of our development and growth to the organization, so it was a blessing to be able to return and share some of what I’ve learned since then.  Also, I got a chance to read “The Lorax” out loud to a group of teenagers as an illustration for “God is Restoring Creation.”  The Lorax! Enough said.

Several weeks later I embarked with my parents for Chattanooga, Tennessee to begin the world longest yard sale.  This is not a joke, it is a real thing.  Every year in August, flea markets and yard sales appear along the route 127 corridor stretching from Alabama to Michigan.  The official length of the event is only supposed to be around 4 days, though I heard that some vendors had been set up for at least a week before it had even started.  Thousands of people from all over the country make their pilgrimages to this mecca of junk shopping to look for that perfect coca-cola sign or antique wrench or set of thimbles.  Many even drug U-Haul trailers with them up and down the highway to make sure that they had enough room for their “treasures.”  It was quite the experience, to say the least.  I wasn't looking for much in particular (except for vinyl, of which I had several good scores), but instead was looking forward to the extended face time with my parents. We had a blast sorting through people’s things and most importantly, people watching.  It was like a veritable people of Wal-Mart hall of fame.  (Side note, at the Amish roadside stand, they had a horse walking on a homemade treadmill to turn the crank to make homemade ice cream.  It was fantastic; unfortunately my phone does not take good pictures, but trust me that this was a sight)

Cuz baby you're a firework...
I wanted to book end my trip with silent retreats, so towards the end of September I spent several days at the Hermitage Retreat house in Three Rivers Michigan.  Let me tell you, if you ever get the opportunity to go, take it!  The land is so beautiful and serene; the lodgings are in an old barn that had been completely renovated into rooms and apartments.  During the week I was reading “The Fellowship of the Rings” at night and felt like I was living in a hobbit hole in middle earth-very cozy.  The Retreat master was very kind and made delicious (healthy) meals for us each day.  Additionally, I got to enjoy a campfire with Alf, the SOOP volunteer who played a mean harmonica and was a master marshmallow roaster (seriously, golden brown and perfect). 

Erin and I were also able to take several trips during this time.  We attended the Fashion Meets Music Festival in Columbus, which promised to have some pretty good bands and a festival atmosphere (i.e. fried food vendors).  Unfortunately, the “urban camping” was vastly undersold and we found ourselves in an abandoned field behind Clippers stadium camping on rocks and dirt with no access to water; also, the largest homeless population lived across the road and stole essential parts to the shower trailer, so no showers.  And after a downpour filled our tent with water and soaked everything we owned, we quickly packed up and moved our camping to Alum Creek State park.  It was ridiculous, but fairly routine for a Dye vacation.
I'm pretty sure I birdied every hole on this game.
But I don't have the score card, so I guess we'll never know...

We were also able to visit her dad and our college friend Will in Nashville.  We had a great time catching up, listening to music, eating sushi, and attending a very friendly charismatic church.  It was the perfect way to end the sabbatical.

During the weeks in between trips I was able to spend time with family (including my amazing nephew Charlie), do some housework, generally pester the staff at Coffee Matters in West Liberty (thanks for giving me such a peaceful place to read and write), and play a little golf.  Additionally, I began my final year at Ashland Theological Seminary, taking classes in leadership, Ethics, and Spiritual Disciplines.

One of the best things about my Sabbatical was that I was finally able to say “yes” to things.  When engaging in full-time ministry and full-time school, my schedule often gets very busy and so I spend a great deal of time saying “no” and apologizing.  But I could say yes this summer.  Yes to my friends and family, yes to my wife, and yes to God.  (Side note:  More than abs, more than flowers, more than almost anything else in the world, your significant other loves it when you do the dishes without asking.) 

I come back to church refreshed and renewed, ready to seek God’s vision and to lead God’s people.  Thank you all for your thoughts and prayers; I’m looking forward to catching up with everyone!  

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