I’m two weeks back from my study leave at a clergy retreat sponsored by the Board of Pensions (called CREDO) and am still abuzz with all I learned and received there. CREDO is a program designed to help pastors renew their body & spirit and encourage self-care. At a beautiful lakeside center in the mountains of North Carolina we heard presentations on vocation, spirituality, health and finances. We talked and prayed in small groups. We worshiped every day – without having to plan! We took walks and enjoyed wonderful food – I especially liked the spicy breakfast sausages and my first experience of banana pudding, a heart-stopping southern specialty. We could detect some tension between the various CREDO goals – lectures on healthy eating followed by comfort lasagna and chocolate cake – but the leaders managed to both pamper us “where we were” and encourage us to do better. It was hard to leave such a beautiful place, although returning to Mt. Airy as spring was springing made for a soft landing.
During the week we each created a CREDO plan, a set of goals touching on the different areas we explored. This is one of my goals, and I ask your prayers to keep it: to dwell more deeply in the Word. To pray and reflect on scripture outside of sermon and class preparation. To read books of the Bible from start to finish (rather than in lectionary snippets). To do this I’m exploring different routines in my morning devotions and setting aside 15 minutes during the day for prayer and reflection, away from the phone and computer. I’m also planning two library days a month, to read those books on theology, ecclesiology and church history that have been beckoning from my bookshelves. Not days “off” – I’d still answer email and be around for evening meetings – but days to study. I trust such time will help my preaching (the well is in danger of running dry) but only indirectly. I’m trying to avoid the “moral hazard” of preaching where all scripture, reading and life is seen only for its utilitarian value for next Sunday’s sermon!
I was also given much to think about in terms of leadership and discernment, and I’ll be sharing more in the coming weeks. In the meantime, I also have a few self-improvement goals, beginning with diet – what else? My resolution is simple: to eat only homemade desserts, for the purpose of turning sweets back into a treat rather than a staple. I had the opportunity to put this resolution into practice on my first day back, when I could *only* have a generous slice of German Chocolate Cake (made by Sandy Dorsey) and two different chocolate/nut cookies (made by Dave Rupp) at Elder Diner. Those treats, along with returning to a job I love, made for a soft landing indeed.
Grace and Peace,