Finding Your Place In The World

A couple, one tall the other short, holding hands walking down a New York City street on their way to (most likely) work. A father and son, both in shorts, walking leisurely and talking about a paintball happening. A young woman plugged in running at a good clip on the same sidewalk in Brooklyn. In fact, it seems that all the single people (not walking with someone) has their earbuds in, listening to music or sound from somewhere else. The streets are all lined with cars parked one after the other, each in their ‘place.’ Y=There are few, if any, open parking spaces. While this is all new to me, a visitor, this typical morning scene is mundane, normal, the usual.

I walk into a small shop with 5 or 6 tables crammed next to the window. The counters are coolers filled with deli type goods, pickles, onions, olives and all the rest. It’s clear this is a small place where locals can grab a quick bite, mostly in sandwich form according to the menus on the wall. The usual sale, based on my brief observation, is an egg sandwich and a  cup of coffee. People waiting patiently, only to leave with a purpose, on their way to tackle the day.

It occurs to me that people, all of them, are coming from somewhere called Home, on their way to somewhere called the Day. The radio blares overhead, “Like a small boat on the ocean, Sending big waves into motion,” the opening words to Rachel Platten’s hit song. All of us, myself included, are trying to find our place in the world. To feel loved, to be somebody, important and indispensable. To matter  to oneself an to any others who would willingly do so. Is this not the fundamental, univesal goal for all of humanity – who am I, why am I here, what differece does one more life – my life – make?

Reflection: What is your life purpose? Consider your hopes and dreams, the stuff that makes you happy  or the times you’re able to lose yourself in activity. Those are good clues to follow.


It’s been said that it takes most people about 2 weeks to decompress or let go from all that happens during a normal work week. And for most people, 2 weeks is the average length of a single vacation. That means that most if us in this country rarely fully decompress, or learn to let go from al“`commitments in the work environment.

Being that this is Day Two, I can’t presume to be through this process for myself, though there’s no doubt that once I boarded the jet & headed down the runway, I was entering a new reality of time and purpose.

A primary rationale for taking a sabbatical every 5 – 7 years is just for this reason. Often summarized by the 3 R’s: rest, reconnecting with family and renewal of purpose / spirit. The concept is rooted in the Third Commandment, remember the Sabboth Day to keep in holy. This commandment, as noted in Deuteronomy 5:12-15, shares in an activity God saw necessary when, after 6 days of making the world and everything in it, God rested and took time to disengage from the activities of the week.

While a great concept, the notion of resting 1 day a week seems to continue to evaporate with each passing year as families attempt to cram more and more into both their week and their weekend. It seems a legitimate rationale for not attending a church service these days goes something like, “Well, my real job is Monday thru Friday, and Saturday I do the incidentals like wash, clean and shop, so Sunday is my only free day to rest and do what I want to do.”

REFLECTION: What does Sabboth mean to you? How long does it take you to decompress from work, and how often do you do this in a year? Do your get-aways include your family?

The First Leg: “We Made It!”

I was blessed, or cursed, by what I’ll call a “Wes-ism.” It goes like this: “If you wait till the last minute, it will certainly only take a minute,” in reference to leaving the packing till the end. So while I was rushed to get everything put in its final bag, all of which was light and mostly newly purchased, I want to say without reservation that “last minute” doesn’t quite fit today’s final push out the door. Let me explain. First of all, this trip is unlike any other I’ve ever taken, at least accompanied by a family. To leave one’s house for 3 full months is no easy matter. Second, the length of trip warranted early preparations out of necessity. Third, no matter how prepared I might have been, there were agendas circling around my head like sugar plums for days. At church, there were final expense reports & other clerical details needing attention. There was a final cleanup of the office, as well as a brief mtg with staff – whereupon I heard for the first time that an office worker announced that he’d be leaving town before I’d return. Lastly, this was no simple or short trip away from home for my family and I would be traveling to four European countries over a period of 2 1/2 – 3 months. Ergo the title: –A TRIP OF A LIFETIME.

REFLECTION: What would a trip of a lifetime look like for you & your family? Where would you go? What would it cost? What would it take to make it a reality?


Thank You

Let me begin by saying thank you to all who made this ‘trip of a lifetime’ possible. First & foremost to the Lilly Foundation for providing a grant to underwrite the cost of this trip. My family and I will forever be impacted by our time spent traveling outside the country on this sabbatical.

I’m also grateful to the love & support of the people of First Lutheran Church for their encouragement and willingness to do their part, again, to make this trip available to my family. My prayer and hope is, as the grant instructions suggest, that this pilgrimage is not just for the pastor and family, but that we all grow in faith and clarity of purpose and mission in the church.

Furthermore, there are many family and friends who have expressed joy & support at the onset of this trip which helps only to ease our anxieties as we venture overseas into mostly unchartered waters as a family. We are excited, nervous, overwhelmed and humbled…all wrapped into one. Sometimes I find it amazing that we’re able to sleep through the night!

To God alone be the glory for this wonderful opportunity.