Today is my first day of renewal leave. I’ve been focusing on joy, prayer, and gratitude. Yesterday, in my sermon, I mentioned my goal for this sabbatical:
I only really have one goal with this work in front of me: to return as a healthier pastor and leader.
Somebody who is more patient.
Somebody who listens better.
Somebody who is more grateful.
Somebody who is more courageous.
Somebody who is more humble.
Somebody who is closer to God, more filled with the Holy Spirit, and more committed to Christ.
I want to return a better preacher.
God is requesting these things of me. You deserve these things from me.
I was reading some of Paul’s final greetings and came across this:
Joy, prayer, and gratitude are upgrades from discouragement, anxiety, and envy.
Joy. I walked Esther this morning. It was so fun watching her explore the creek and the woods and having people drive by and smile at her when she was on the trail. A 155 pound dog will do that. Such a beautiful morning. Everything is so green. Joy is a gift God gives. I was trying to be receptive to it. Paul and Silas experienced joy behind prison walls. Today I’m looking for opportunities to accept joy wherever and whenever.
Prayer. I remembered the time of prayer the church gave to my family and me at the end of the worship experiences yesterday. Kierkegaard wrote, “The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.” Prayer does something in us. It makes us more loving to the ones we are praying for. It lets us see ourselves for who we are and who God is. It calms anxiety. If we are able to listen carefully enough, it helps us align with God’s will. I spent some time asking for joy. I spent some time being thankful.
Gratitude. I took an hour or so and wrote thank-you letters to donors and servants at The Water’s Edge. I couldn’t hit all of them, but sent twelve. It was a nice biblical number. And the number it took me to reach writer’s cramp. It was a real blessing to write them. I once read something like: It’s not happy people who are thankful. It’s thankful people who are happy. I’m going to do my best to keep practicing gratitude.