Thursday, January 9, 2014

Thank You Presbytey of Carlisle!

My sabbatical leave 2013:

In this new year of the Lord 2014, I write with an overwhelming sense of gratitude to the Presbytery of Carlisle for the gift of a sabbatical leave which I have enjoyed. From September 15 to December 31, 2013 I was on sabbatical. I am especially grateful to Larry for his service as our Executive Presbyter during my leave.

What did I do on my sabbatical? There were three different dimensions to my sabbatical. Most important, I made a daily and rigorous commitment to physical fitness. Before my sabbatical started I joined CrossfitHershey. (Check out their website). Participating in Crossfit was my daily discipline. I went to Crossfit every week day for their 9:00 a.m. workout. This became an important spiritual discipline for me. Although fitness has always been an important part of my life; working with Crossfit with a daily commitment for 16 weeks has blessed me. I encourage everyone to build some commitment to physical fitness into your daily life.

The second aspect of my sabbatical leave was writing. I wrote and wrote and wrote. By the end of November I had sitting on the corner of my desk at home a new book, printed out and neatly stacked sheets of paper. This work had started many months earlier; and I had a large body of research and a clear direction and outline complete before my sabbatical. I had never had the kind of extended, uninterrupted time to devote to such a research and writing task. For weeks, I spent hours each day writing. It is hard to explain how meaningful, satisfying and spiritual this time was for me. I am interested in the history of foreign mission work and global Christianity. Using the online archives of Princeton Theological Seminary’s library I journeyed back to the starting days of the Presbyterian Church in the United States. I explored and wrote about our earliest commitment to mission. I spend many hours along side devout Presbyterians from previous eras like Francis Makemie, Ashbel Green, the John Lowrie family, Betsey Stockton and Robert Speer. I know that few people are interested in this history today. Although I am pleased that my “book” is neatly printed and sitting on the corner of my desk; it may never move beyond there. Our Westminster John Knox Press already rejected my project; I am not surprised. Nonetheless I am convinced that our history will guide our future. Because we are increasingly ignorant about our history, we are increasingly unprepared for the future. But at the end of the day my project is very important to me; I am grateful for the extended time I had to simply read and write.  

The third aspect of my sabbatical leave was some time to develop a hobby some more. I, like many, many people, am very interested in woodworking. I do not have the time, the tools or the space in our home to fully develop this hobby. It remains a future, maybe a retirement, hobby. But I did spend some time making wooden pictures frames during my sabbatical. Working for many hours in my tiny, basement shop, and with my newly acquired photo mat cutter, I made wood (oak and maple) picture frames for some of the amazing photographs I have taken over the years. These framed pictures now hang in my little study here at home where I read, write, pray and work every day. Everyone needs a hobby!

My sabbatical leave was more than enough. During the week of Christmas, the last week of my sabbatical, I was eager to get back to work. Now I am settled in again, my careful list of things to do is again before me; there is a lot of work to do, as usual, within our Presbytery. And deep in my memory now there abides a sincere gratitude and appreciation for the weeks of sabbatical leave I enjoyed in 2013. Thank You Presbytery of Carlisle! Happy New Year 2014!