SABBATICAL 5, Grace, Grace & more Grace

From the magnificent heights of the Colorado Rocky Mountains to the endless Great Plains of Kansas, our sabbatical travels have brought us back to the land where we grew up.
On the way back from Colorado, we stopped at a huge new IKEA store near Denver. Phil and Mary wanted us to pick up a bed for them since we had room in our van to carry large items. If you have never been to an IKEA store yet, it is well worth the experience. The sheer volume of creative, European style household furniture and goods at a relatively inexpensive price make it quite an adventure. I like the displays that show a complete apartment in 300 square feet or less. Before leaving I had a plate of the delicious, inexpensive Swedish meatballs available in their cafeteria.

Grace, Grace & more Grace was the name of the Aprentis Institute Conference that we attended for the next three days at Friends University in Wichita. It was a wonderfully inspiring conference focusing on spiritual formation: growing in the likeness of Jesus Christ. Speakers shared on how we live in God’s grace to grow in the image of God. It was stated that the two primary hindrances to growing in the image of God are busyness and distraction. Our American predisposition to constantly being busy (even with important things) does not allow time for God to speak to us and shape us into the people we are created to be. A major distraction in our current tech culture is the little electronic screens that we all carry offering us the constant temptation to be in touch with others and vast informational resources we really do not need. I look forward to further reflection and growth in this area. You folks at Grace Mennonite will certainly be hearing more about this topic.

On Sunday, September 30, we had the great privilege of attending Phil’s installation as lead pastor at Tabor Mennonite Church. The church is only four miles from the Alexanderwhol Mennonite Church where I was pastor from 1987-1997. I still don’t think I can put it together emotionally that my son is now a colleague of mine in the pastoral ministry and that he is serving about half way between where I grew up in Newton, KS and pastured for ten years near Goessel, KS. I am very proud of him and am confident that he will do well. We have been spending time this week helping Phil and Mary get set up in housekeeping in the Tabor parsonage where they are living. Mary is working in sigh language interpretation in a telephone relay office. She speaks to the deaf person in sign language with a video connection and the hearing party through a headset.

Tomorrow evening, October 4, my daughter, Julia, leaves Dulles International Airport near Washington DC on Turkish Airlines for Istanbul, Turkey on a 2 week Christian Peacemaker Team Delegation. From Istanbul the delegation will be travelling into northern Iraq into some of the Kurdish refugee camps in the area. They will become informed of and be able to hear the stories of human rights abuses in the area. It will be a very challenging and I am sure an emotionally and physically draining experience. Again it is difficult for me to put in words what it means for my youngest child to take on an adventure of this magnitude. Again I am very proud of her for responding to the call of God in her life. Pray for her during the next two weeks. Julia will be sharing with the Grace congregation on Sunday, November 25 during the Sunday School hour.

For the rest of sabbatical, our plans are the following

1) October 6—Attend the wedding of a nephew in Niles, Michigan
2) October 7—Pack a U-Haul truck with Phil and Mary’s stuff that they have been storing in our basement for their years of seminary in California. It will be good to have the space once again!
3) October 9-12—Have a spiritual retreat at The Hermitage near Three Rivers, Michigan.
4) October 12-14—Spend time with my brother and sister-in-law in Goshen, IN as well as check in on my mother in South Bend, IN. She seems to be failing somewhat in the last week or so.
5) October 15-17—Relaxing at the beach at Ocean City, New Jersey.
6) October 17-19—Pick up Julia at Dulles International Airport and take her back to Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Virginia. We will stay a couple of days at the EMU guesthouse. Julia will be sharing her experiences at the University chapel service on October 19.
7) October 20-21—With our son, Ryan, in Orrville, OH.
8) October 22—Back in the church office. Sabbatical is over.

Blessings and Peace

SABBATICAL 4, Leaving Colorado

As the mountains surround Jerusalem,
so the LORD surrounds his people
both now and forevermore.Psalm 125:2

In two days we will be leaving the mountains and heading for the plains of Kansas. It has been a wonderfully re-creative time. This is the first time that I have ever had over four weeks straight to be embraced by these majestic peaks and valleys. Thanks to the wonderful people at Grace Mennonite Church who made this possible. But the sabbatical is not yet over! On Thursday through Saturday, September 27-29, we will be attending a conference on Christian Formation in Wichita. It looks like a great conference with inspiring speakers and worship. It also looks like a conference with lots of ideas to bring back to Grace. I’ll report on that next week.

Picnic at Maroon Bells

Maroon Bells
 Our son and daughter-in-law, Phil and Mary, stopped by the cabin last week. They were on their way from their seminary experience in Fresno to Tabor Mennonite Church between Newton and Goessel, Kansas where Phil will be lead pastor. On Sunday, September 30, we will have the privilege of attending his installation at Tabor’s morning worship service. While Phil and Mary were here, we drove to one of the most photographed mountain scenes in America: the Maroon Bells near Aspen. It was one of the most beautiful sunny days we have had in the last month. We have been to this stunning sight a number of times before, with a natural lake in the foreground, but never with the Aspen trees in full fall color. Words can’t describe the views and I am not sure a couple of photographs will do justice to the beauty we have experienced.

During these last couple of weeks we have continued our readings and walks together which I shared about in my last blog. We have also been doing some physical work. Since this is a family cabin there is always something that needs doing. We had a basement room taped, mudded and sanded that had been dry walled for many years but never finished. Then we painted the room put down carpet and linoleum and finished it by putting a baseboard around the room. Now it is a nicely finished bedroom and laundry room. We also stripped the stain off the deck and applied a new coat of stain. Yesterday, we had a large pine tree cut that was too close to the house in case of a wild fire. After the professionals finished their cutting we dragged all the branches to the road for a chipper that will come in the next week or so.

The Cabin in Alpine, Colorado

Snow on Pikes Peak
I love to drive in the mountains. I especially like to drive over the high mountain passes and to the peaks of mountains if possible. A couple of weeks ago we drove to the summit of Pikes Peak which is over 14,000 feet. We have driven this road a number of times and always find it a breathtaking experience. This is the first time we have made this drive with the road completely paved to the top. We have also driven to the top of a number of passes over 12,000 feet. A first for us was taking a 4-wheel drive All Terrain Vehicle (a motorcycle with 4 wheels) over the 12,154 foot Tin Cup Pass. This was a narrow, rocky and steep road drivable only with a four wheel drive with fairly high clearance. Along the way we saw four moose; the first time we had ever seen moose in Colorado. We hardly go anywhere without seeing deer but moose are a rare sight.

Tin Cup Pass

So far this has been a wonderful sabbatical. We look forward to further inspiration this coming week-end in Wichita and then putting it all together for further ministry when we return.

Blessings to everyone.