On Friday, December 7, I reached the one-month-to-go on my countdown to sabbatical. I have been praying, preparing, and planning for this time of ministerial leave since 2016. This season of personal renewal will officially begin on Monday, January 7, when Carrie and I board a plane bound for Florence, Italy, where we’ll be living with about 60 Pepperdine students for three and a half months. We plan to return on Sunday, April 28, just ahead of the Pepperdine Bible Lectures. This sabbatical will provide a season in which I will be away from my weekly ministerial duties with time to become a student again, to refresh my spiritual calling, to reflect more deeply, to pray more unhurriedly, to travel and read more widely, to listen instead of speak, and to think afresh.
Some of my general plans for the ministerial leave include the following.
- January. Orientation classes in Florence, intensive Italian, day trips to Luca and Assissi, weekend trip to Heidelberg, Germany (a first for Carrie and me together).
- February. Educational field trip to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, including visits to the Burj Khalifa skyscraper, the Sheikh Zayed Mosque, the Gold and Spice markets, the Dubai Museum, a desert safari, and an exchange with the University students of Sharjah. Spring break trip to Athens, Greece with daughters Jessica and Michaela (another first for Carrie and me together).
- March. Travel break trip to Croatia with daughter Jenna, weekend visits to Lausanne, Switzerland and Barcelona, Spain.
- April. Weekend visit to Venice, and weeklong trip to Athens and the Greek islands.
In addition to the above “big-ticket” travel plans, I also plan to pursue the following enriching activities: visiting a wide variety of worship services and cathedrals throughout our travels; reading widely, including books by or about citizens of Florence including scientist Galileo Galilei, poet Dante Alighieri, sculptor Michelangelo Buonarroti, architect Filippo Brunelleschi, philosopher Niccolò Machiavelli, and the dynastic Medici family; engaging with the extensive cultural offerings of Florence, including the Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral, the da Vinci museum, the Bandini gardens, and the San Marco church and monastery; serving the students as a house parent, spiritual life mentor, and role model for cultural engagement as well as sharing in weekly house worship times; enjoying various running opportunities as they arise.
One of the greatest challenges of preaching as I experience it is having to open my mouth each week and declare that which is faithful to scripture, practically relevant, and potentially life-changing. Ecclesiastes 3:7 says that there is a “a time to keep silence and a time to speak.” After nearly twenty-eight years of preaching, a ministerial leave will provide a season to keep silence, listen, and be still before the Lord. I invite you to pray for me throughout this upcoming season that my silence will be fruitful.
I am grateful for the kind support which our elders and staff have given as we’ve been preparing. I am grateful for the encouraging comments many of you have shared with me as well. I invite you to be praying for what God will do in me this winter as I pray for what God will do in all of you. May we all continue to encourage one another to love and good deeds for the sake of God’s Kingdom.