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 From Pastor Dave

What makes your heart sing?

                 It was a magical moment. As we were concluding our final planning meeting for Pastor Tim’s upcoming sabbatical, Pastor Tim asked the group, “So, what makes your heart sing?” Without hesitating one of our team members said “Horses!” Another almost immediately answered “Golf!” (Note: I won’t    divulge the identity of these speakers, but this support team is made up of Barb Olson, Gina Cole, Joe Johnson, and Rachael Perlinger. Can you figure out who was speaking?)

The magic occurred in the movement from “sabbatical” to “Sabbath,” and the extension from a pastoral guideline to a central joy of all of God’s people. Often we assume an academic model for a sabbatical, where an educator is expected to produce a book or project during a leave from academic responsibilities. But at Good Shepherd we know that the purpose of a sabbatical for our pastors is spiritual renewal, not  production. Both Pastor Tim (in 2006) and I (in 2009) have been shaped by the question used by the Lilly Foundation in awarding sabbatical grants: “What makes your heart sing?” This important question is based upon the theological foundation of a biblical understanding of Sabbath.  Sabbath is not merely the absence of work, but experiencing the renewing presence of God in every area of our lives. This involves loving God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength in ways that are unique to each of us. In his classic book (The Sabbath, 1951) Abraham Heschel states “The Sabbath is not for the sake of the weekdays; the weekdays are for the sake of the Sabbath. It is not an interlude but the climax of living.” The taste of eternity that happens in Sabbath is built into the very fabric of creation, and is an invitation to all.


In 2006 Pastor Tim experienced Sabbath renewal through studying principles of Family Systems   Theory learned at the Georgetown Family Center in D.C., and then lived out those principles with Laura,  Sanna and Karin in travel to the coast of Maine. He was blessed to also live out this renewal through his  family of origin, his extended family, the family of LCGS, our Synod and beyond. Through times of solitude and opportunities to express his passions for photography and the natural world Pastor Tim’s heart was singing. From April to July this year he will have the opportunity to deepen his learning of congregational and family systems; travel to England with Laura to delight in literature, drama and the natural world; and rejoice in the natural world by “playing in the dirt” through landscape design of his home.


My life was deepened forever through my Sabbath experience of “Romans, Running and Opera” in 2009. Next year I plan to extend that renewal by creating space for my soul to sing through praying the    Bible, immersing myself physically in nature and the holy places of my life, and feeling the power of beautiful music. Pastor Tim and I are grateful to be called to a community of faith that values the spiritual renewal of their pastors.

Sabbath is a gift from God to all of creation. I can affirm with passion the spiritual power of a daily experience of Sabbath expressed through praying the Bible. When that renewing center touches every area of my life, my heart sings. So, what shape does the renewal of your soul take? What relationships and activities bring you delight? When and how does that transformative contact with God happen for you?


What makes your heart sing?   Pastor Dave


From Pastor Tim:
Dear Congregation,

                 You are such a generous people.  Though clergy sabbaticals come highly recommended for the sake of the long-term vitality of a congregation, many congregations, for a variety of reasons, don’t     follow this practice.  Years ago, our church adopted a policy supporting clergy sabbaticals, and now you have granted a sabbatical to me.  I am humbled and deeply thankful.  What a blessing!

Over this past year I have been invited to think about what I would do for a sabbatical experience.  I went back to what I learned when applying for the 2006 National Lilly Endowment Clergy   Renewal Grant: their research indicated that sabbaticals focused on “renewal” bring the best long-term vitality to congregations.  The central question on the application was “What would make your heart sing?” and they recommended that clergy think in terms of family relationships, study, travel, and hobbies.

Over these next three months (April 9 to July 8), I will be focusing on things that make my heart sing.  I will continue the studies I became so wonderfully immersed in through the Lilly grant: Family    Systems Theory as it applies to congregational leadership.  Central to this is learning the   systems of your family of origin, then working on being the best self you can be in the midst of that system, as well as in all other systems.  Since 2006, I have been interviewing family elders to learn our family history; I am    excited about having time now to process these notes, and to scan in all the old photographs with correct names in place. 

In thinking of travel that would make my heart sing, I was immediately drawn to taking a trip that would include spending time with Laura in a place that was important to her – she had spent a year of her education in Oxford and London.  It will be a delight for me to see those places and hear her stories.  We will also take time for quiet cottage life and long walks while touring north into    England’s countryside and lake district.

As I learn forward into this, I feel overwhelmed by your amazing graciousness.  Throughout this renewal time, I’ll be experiencing your caring presence – please know how deeply appreciative    I am.  What a blessing!
Pastor Tim


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For more information about Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd please contact us at 218-525-1922.
We are located at 1325 N. 45th Ave. E. Duluth, MN  55804
 (corner of 45th Ave. E. and Colorado St.)  Map it!