*This post is a part two of a series of five posts, in which we have the privilege of hearing from Pastor Matt about his recent sabbatical experience. We are excited for him to share his reflections, learnings, and ways God moved in his life while he was away.*
After a wonderful time in Spain, I waved good-bye to Jessica and Ashley as they boarded a plane home and entered into the second chapter of my sabbatical – 10 days alone in England and Scotland! This was an incredible time for me to rest, pray and reflect. Although it was challenging for an extreme extrovert like me to spend such extended time alone, it was also a great and needed gift from God.
I spent the first week at Launde Abbey, a Christian retreat center in the middle of Leicestershire County, the most agrarian county in England. The grounds of the Abbey were breathtaking: rolling green hills, majestic trees and pasture land with sheep and cattle grazing.
It felt like a thin place – a place where I could sense the presence of heaven nearly touching earth.
All of this natural beauty allowed me to slow down and experience Jesus in precious times of silence and solitude.
While there, I met Richard, an 82-year old fellow guest whom I nicknamed “Sir Richard the Lion-Heart” because he is a man of deep faith in Christ and has lived courageously. Richard has become a dear soul friend. He and I would attend chapel services together, pray for one another and we even took an adventurous hike exploring a nearby abandoned estate that had a beautiful old church on the property.
One of God’s greatest gifts to us is the gift of friendship, and I’m grateful to have received Richard’s friendship at Launde Abbey.
During this chapter, I was also able to cross off a bucket-list item by taking a spiritual pilgrimage to Oxford. C.S. Lewis has been a writer that I’ve admired for many years (The Chronicles of Narnia, Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters – all classics!) but visiting Oxford gave me an opportunity to gain new insights into his life and character as a man. As a way of experiencing his life, I retraced his steps – I toured his home, The Kilns, visited his church and gravesite, and enjoyed dinner at the famed “The Eagle and Child” pub where Lewis and his friends and fellow authors The Inklings would faithfully meet every Tuesday at 11am.
In preparation for my trip to Oxford, I read “A Life Observed: A Spiritual Biography of C.S. Lewis” by Devin Brown (a great book for any Lewis fans!). One of the most profound realizations for me from this book was that this brilliant and quirky Oxford professor was just who I hoped he would be: a true friend and a good man who loved the natural world and cared deeply for others. Take, for example, the relationship Lewis had with Mrs. Janie Moore. Mrs. Janie Moore was the mother of Paddy Moore, Lewis’ roommate during officers training in World War I. Knowing that death in battle was a real possibility, Lewis and Paddy made a pact that if only one of them made it back from the Front, the survivor would care for the other’s parent. When Paddy was killed, Lewis returned to Oxford and honored his end of the bargain, caring for Mrs. Moore as an adopted son caring for his aging adopted mother. C.S. Lewis faithfully and lovingly looked after her for the rest of her life – 32 years.
Towards the end of this chapter, I also had the opportunity to attend a pastor’s conference in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Spending time and interacting with church leaders from all across Europe, Kenya, India, Australia, and Canada reminded me in tangible ways how active the Lord is all over the world!
I heard inspiring messages, had soul-lifting conversations and heard encouraging reports of ways in which God was moving across the globe. Just like at C29 Church in Granada, I was reminded that we are all a part of a global family. This experience has motivated me to continue finding ways to intentionally learn from and collaborate with kingdom leaders from around the world.
God loves to surprise us with his grace, but we need to be on the lookout for it! I was met with so much of God’s grace during this chapter of my sabbatical. I learned the immense significance and value of slowing way down in order to cultivate a genuine walk with Jesus. Our busyness is one of the greatest barriers to us developing an authentic relationship with the Lord. While we may not be able to spend a week at an abbey or retreat center (although I highly recommend it!) we must learn practical ways to slow down to be with Jesus.