*This post is a part five in 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 7 glorious weeks in Europe, the fifth and final chapter of my sabbatical was spent back home in San Diego. As difficult as it was to come back to “real life,” I really enjoyed being home and seeing family and friends. Plus, I discovered there are some amazing gelato spots here in San Diego! It was refreshing, restful, and relaxing. Being back home gave me the opportunity to re-establish a healthy rhythm of life that included slowing down to be with Jesus in silence, immersing myself in Scripture, worship, and prayer. As an avid reader, I thoroughly enjoyed the chance to read many challenging and inspiring books, and as a movie-lover, I was thrilled to catch up on all the summer blockbusters I’d missed – Won’t You Be My Neighbor, Incredibles 2, 3 Identical Strangers, Ant Man and the Wasp, Crazy Rich Asians, and BlacKkKlansman!
Coming home also provided certain challenges. Adjusting back to the normal realities and responsibilities of everyday life was difficult at times, especially being back home and returning to normalcy, but without having ministry as part of my daily rhythm.
After 26 years as a pastor, ministering and home are almost synonymous for me.
To be back in San Diego but not engaging in ministry was challenging! But it also created needed space for me to receive rest and refreshment, and to integrate some of the spiritual practices I adopted while traveling into my day to day.
I was glad to continue growing in the discipline of experiencing God through regular times of silence and solitude. It’s so easy for my mind to wander – I sit down intending to be still, but before I know it, my mind is jumping to and fro through a world of thoughts, ideas, worries, daydreams, whatever! Can you relate? Through it all, I’m grateful that this is an ongoing process, and that God has been abundantly faithful to me in it.
I continue to learn how to “be still and know that He is God” (Psalm 46:10).
I am more and more convinced that learning this practice is essential to cultivating our relationships with Jesus. The more I practice spending time alone in God’s presence, the more I desire to be with Him!
Throughout my sabbatical, I was reminded again and again of the importance of investing in the relationships that matter most – my relationship with God, my wife, my kids, and close friends. I want Flood to be a place where people can find a true, transformational relationship with God. I want us to continue building on the richness of spiritual practices in the contemplative Christian tradition – practices like silence, solitude, being shaped by Scripture, resting in a weekly sabbath rhythm, and cultivating relationships with soul friends.
Thank you for letting me share some reflections from my sabbatical over the past five weeks. This summer was the greatest gift of rest, renewal, and refreshment, and I’m grateful to you for it!
Matt’s Sabbatical Book List
If you’re interested in the books that accompanied Matt during his sabbatical, check out the list below:
Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson
A Life Observed: A Spiritual Biography of C.S. Lewis by Devin Brown
Presence and Encounter: The Sacramental Possibilities of Everyday Life by David Benner
Trouble I’ve Seen: Changing The Way The Church Views Racism by Drew Hart
Conversation–The Sacred Art: Practicing Presence in an Age of Distraction (The Art of Spiritual Living) by Diane Millis
The Way to Love: Meditations for Life by Anthony De Mello
Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life by Richard Rohr
An Invisible Thread: The True Story of an 11-Year-Old Panhandler, A Busy Sales Executive, and an Unlikely Meeting with Destiny by Laura Schroff and Alex Tresnioski
Barking to the Choir: The Power of Radical Kinship by Gregory Boyle
Invitation to Silence and Solitude by Ruth Haley Barton
Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis
Perelandra by C.S. Lewis
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Book 1 by J.K. Rowling
Two Kinds of Truth by Michael Connelly