The Story Grows  (I can still see)                             Aug. 15, 2016

On April 24, 2016, MCC gathered together for the final worshipScreen Shot 2016-08-15 at 2.44.40 PM service prior to Kim and me leaving for our sabbatical journey.  I stood before the congregation with a Shepherd’s Staff that had a great story.

It was given to me by John Hughes, following the passing of his father, Perry Hughes.   I can still see John coming into my office holding the staff and saying that his family felt it appropriate to give Perry’s shepherds staff to their pastor.  I was humbled and honored to receive such a gift.  It came with a great story, one that has grown.

In February 2015, while struggling one afternoon over whether or not to re-submit my request for the Lilly Pastoral Renewal Grant, (following two unsuccessful attempts) my attention was drawn to this staff.  It had sat next to my desk ever since John first brought it in.  It was then that nothing less then the inspiration of the Holy Spirit led me to re-submit the Grant request using Perry’s shepherd’s staff as the focal point.

      “Moses had been told that the end of his leadership was close at hand and Joshua would carry on with this task.  Now that his job was completed, Moses was given a glimpse of The Promise Land and was laid to rest with his staff, the implement that marked a life with God.  With its worm grip, scratches, dents, and water stains, his staff must have been a constant Spiritual Marker of God’s presence.” (from the opening paragraph of my Grant request).

The basic structure of our Grant proposal had not changed the three times that it had been submitted, other than the focal point of Perry’s Shepherd’s Staff.  The story of this staff grew immensely the first week of August 2015 when we received news that we had been awarded the Grant.  I can still see Bill Fletchner coming into our Tuesday morning staff meeting and reading the approval letter from the Lilly Foundation saying we had been awarded the grant.

This week I have been spending time engraving various words and scripture references that Kim and I have made special note of throughout the last 3 1/2 months.  Each item references a spiritual marker in our lives.  Times when God’s unmistaken presence has been revealed.  As I have burned these marks in the the staff, I can still see each event as they each made a powerful impact upon our lives.

This weekend we plan on joining many from MCC on our annual church camp-out.  This will be the first reveal of the staff and share a few words of our sabbatical experience.   Then on Sunday, August 28th we will join together for worship at church for our first “post-sabbatical” service together.

Last week Kim and I were able to take Josh camping at the Oregon coast for a couple of days.  He is recuperating at our house following his crash on a scooter. (Please keep him in prayer, we meet with the Doctor tomorrow (Aug. 16th) to see if any follow-up surgery is needed.  Pray that no surgery is required.)  On our last evening, we enjoyed a great beach fire, ate s’mores, saw a Screen Shot 2016-08-15 at 12.27.35 PMbeautiful sunset and watched the meteor shower.  That evening reminded me a little of our sabbatical.  It was an absolutely awesome and beautiful time.  One that we will always cherish and remember.  But just as the sun set, so does this sabbatical.  Yet one thing is certain, I/we can still see all that God has done and blessed us with.  He has certainly given us a story to talk about.

Thank You Miwaukie Covenant Church and The Lilly Foundation for making this possible.  Thank you for all those who have stepped up to keep things running smoothly.  Thank you Leadership Team, Elder, Bill Fletchner, Kristi, Val, and Greg for doing many extra duties during this time. Thank you Lou, Ken, Paul, David, Al, Kristi, and the Confirmands for faithfully preaching God’s Word.  Thank you congregation for allowing Kim and I to have this experience.