Sabbatical 15: Milestones and Reunions (June 22-July 17)

(Note - I got detoured by Advent and Christmas but I am now resuming reflections from our pastoral sabbatical last year, April-August, 2015).  

It was late June and Kathleen and I were well into our third month of sabbatical with only a few weeks remaining before we would begin “re-entry” back into our church community. I was beginning to feel some anxiety. I wrote our leadership team a note, giving them an update on the sabbatical journey to date and expressed my need for a “soft re-entry.” I had been taught in my days at Regent College that pastors need to learn to “join their churches,” if they want to lead them well. What this means is that pastors need seasons where they can simply be part of the community, connecting relationally, without leading anything. The VEV leadership team graciously agreed that this was fitting and right for the remaining summer months, and so, with peace of mind, Kathleen and I headed out on our last road trip of the sabbatical.

In the heart of Roger's Pass, June 23
I was greatly anticipating the drive through the Rocky Mountains, something I have always loved to do, but hadn’t done so for a long time. We departed from Vancouver on June 22. As we drove through majestic mountain ranges, we began to catch up on all the podcasts of the services we had missed since the beginning of the sabbatical in early April. I was so impressed by how integrated and seamless the teaching series progressed as teachers and congregation worked their way through the “Good and Beautiful…” material by James Smith. I was now in a place I could enjoy listening. Together, Kathleen and I enjoyed Joanna’s introduction to the series followed by Dean, Carl, Jessica, Sandra, Alec, Andy, Jamie, Dawn, and Darla’s teaching. We both thought that the intergenerational sermons by Joanna and Dawn were particularly outstanding. In addition, we could just imagine the amazing faithful teams of volunteers offering themselves in support week after week to keep our church healthy and thriving – all such an important part of making our sabbatical possible.

The weather was perfect as we enjoyed our drive through the spectacular Roger’s Pass. My parents were celebrating their 60th anniversary that week, so when we arrived in Calgary, we drove straight to their place in the deep southeast and stayed with them for the first few days. We took advantage of this time to savour and enjoy the treasure they are to us.

Our granddaughter, Annalies, playing the violin for  her great
grandparents at their 60th anniversary party, June 28.
Kathleen and I enjoyed many wonderful walks and talks, while we looked over the Bow River and Valley from Cranston Ridge, with the backdrop of the Rockies lining the horizon where prairie meets the sky. Together, my sister, brother and I had planned a family celebration with four generations of our immediate families in attendance. The celebration was held on a very warm Sunday evening, June 28, hosted in the back yard of my sister’s place in Lake Bonavista. One after another, children, grandchildren and great grandchildren gave tribute through toasts, songs, poems, stories – some of them hilarious of course. Everyone, including myself, gave tribute to the heritage that my mom and dad had given them. It is a heritage that included unconditional love that was sacrificial, self-giving service, hospitable, generous, all backed by a witness of prayer and godly examples. All of us could testify to the power of my parents prayers. There was so much joy that we all shared that day. We took lots of photos to preserve memories we will cherish forever.

After my parents’ anniversary celebration, we packed up and moved to the northwest of the city to stay with our daughter Danielle and family for a few days, days that were packed with delight and wonder. Highlights were taking Samuel (11) and Annalies (9) to Jurassic World – what an adrenaline rush! Then, we shared an early birthday celebration for Samuel. Dee and I took a posse of Samuel with his friends and siblings to a trampoline park. For much of the time, I entertained Hannah (4 at the time) while the older kids were engaged in their activities. Hannah is extremely athletic so I jumped with her for two hours on all kinds of trampolines, and got stuck in the foam ball pit! I think I was the oldest guy in the place. I paid for it all later with aching muscles and joints for five days. Hey, it was worth it!

Before we headed back to BC, we had one more wonderful family reunion, this time with Kathleen’s side of the family on Canada Day. Then we headed to Osoyoos for another two weeks – the first one of prayer and quiet, the second one with our kids and grandkids who joined us before we returned to Vancouver.

On our way to Osoyoos, we listened to more VEV podcasts. One podcast highlight (and there were many) occurred while we were driving through Peachland. As we drove alongside spectacular Okanagan Lake, memories flooded my mind of the significant healing that had occurred for me in this very place 27 years ago. At that time, I was in rehabilitation from a severe nervous breakdown which I had suffered in Calgary in 1988. Subsequently, I had spent nearly a year in the area we were now driving through. (This was when we met David Ruis and had our first introduction to the Vineyard.) Right at that moment, we were listening to Jessica’s Mother’s Day message and she was reading the Scripture, “This is love, not that we loved him but that he loved us…” (1 John 4:10). I wept as I drove, mindful that these were the exact words that God had spoken to me in my devastation and brokenness 27 years ago, giving me hope that he was restoring me to life again. We were then literally driving right by our formerly rented lakeside summer house near Peachland when this occurred. It was so tender. It was like I heard God say, “See, I was with you there. I’m with you now, too.”  
After several attempts at a group selfie, we
finally asked for help!

We then enjoyed our wonderful two weeks at Spirit Ridge in Osoyoos, a place on First Nations land that has become so special to us and our family. During one of our days there, I recorded these words in my journal. Ah such beautiful days… the weather has been superb. I look out from my deck and see the lake like glass reflecting the trees on the shoreline, with the town and semi-arid mountains rising beyond against the blue sky mixed with the haze of mid-summer and perhaps a slight residue of smoke from the burning forests in the province. It’s been a long hot dry summer. The smoke seems better today. Jesus, what can I say? Thank you. Father, what can I say? Thank you. Holy Spirit, what can I say? Thank you. I am looking forward to returning to work, which is a very good sign.
The night of our return to Vancouver,
July 17

Finally, we completed the trek home through Princeton and Hope, arriving back in Vancouver on Friday, July 17. All was peaceful. It was time to begin re-entry. We arrived to the most spectacular sunset we had seen all summer. As Kathleen and I gazed in wonder together from our bedroom deck, I heard Jesus say, “Welcome home.”