We are a family of four who have been blessed (if even challenged) to go on this ‘trip of a lifetime’ we’re calling A Family Pilgrimage. Pilgrimage because while it looks and feels like a grand family vacation of sorts, it is a sabbatical following 7 years of ministry in southeast Alaska. In truth, this is the first sabbatical my family has had in 22 years of marriage, and 29 years of serving as an ordained pastor in the church (ELCA). My wife and are in our mid-50’s, our oldest daughter will attend her first year of college this fall, and our youngest will be sophomore in high school. What an opportune time to experience this together.

It’s sometimes hard to understand sabbaticals as most people think these are reserved for professors who go off somewhere to explore a new topic or to write a book. The idea of sabbatical is becoming more familiar in the ministry as church leaders understand the nature of time and emotional commitments, and that successful ministries tend to happen with intentional breaks for the “3 R’s” of Rest, Reconnecting with God and family and the Renewal of heart and focus.

The notion of ‘pilgrimage’ emerged in the early stages of planning this time away given the fact that I’d lived 8 years of my life overseas prior to meeting and marrying my wife. While my wife knew a little about my experience as a missionary in Argentina (where we were engaged), my two girls had only heard occasional stories or references to their dad living somewhere “over there” long ago.

Pilgrimage, in part, then means a return to Israel where I lived on a kibbutz as a 20 year old, and then again as a student in Jerusalem two years later. What a gift to revisit places of my youth with my family! Traveling overseas is also part of the pilgrimage, as we spend time together determining sleeping arrangements and things to see and do…together, as a family. Some of the places we’ll visit have religious connections, others less so, until we embark on a portion of the Way of St James (El Camino de Santiago) in northern Spain.

A Family Pilgrimage, I continue to learn, has to have its own category a part from the books I’ve read, all of them focusing on individual, personal pilgrimages. (Or perhaps my family is just unique.) Being on the road for two to three months in all meant paying close attention to what to pack, from clothes to equipment, paying special attention to weight restrictions of luggage. Food would have to be purchased locally wherever we went. Places to stay were fixed as plans fell into place before leaving home. What to do or see, however, would have to be discussed on a daily or weekly basis, depending on where we found ourselves and whether / not we had access to a car. Intangibles like sickness or other mishaps would have to be dealt with as they occurred.

The members of my family include:  Carmel, my wife, an accomplished artist;  Eliah (18) who loves guitar, sports and pondering deep questions; Ezrie (15) loves soccer, drums and has a gift for working with her hands; and myself, an ordained Lutheran minister, former missionary to Argentina, degrees in Hebrew / Divinity / Counseling, with interests in music, gardening and baking.

As you read through this blog, I welcome your feedback, comments and questions. Please understand that while on the road, I will be writing mostly from my heart (ie, off the cuff) as I am away from books (I did pack 4 0r 5), as well as being challenged to balance time away (think-sabbatical) and tending to this blog and other noteworthy details such as tracking expenses, et al. My hope is that together we can explore the concept of sabbatical, even better – pilgrimage – in a world of hustle-n-bustle, bigger-better-faster, and all the rest (much of it good) that competes for our time and abilities to live meaningful lives.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10, niv)

It is my hope and prayer to live the good life that God reveals in Jesus Christ, and to share that with others. To God alone be the glory!


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