Thursday, March 17, 2011


Being a student, pro tem, it was both natural and self-indulgent to take a spring break trip ... to some place warm. Meanwhile, many of my (younger, poorer, more dedicated) classmates - stuck in northern Illinois in March - made significant progress on their term papers.

Also, the time away (as much a gift to my long-suffering Karen as a self-indulgence) meant I would not attend most of the national convention of choral directors, held the same week here in Chicago.

Which upon reflection heightened for me the strange tension of this sabbatical: how will I spend my time? Music, or Theology? What is my greatest need in this study break, and what will serve the church best?

So, this was rolling around the back of my mind yesterday when I had to go through the church office. I meet weekly (away from church) with a young intern who is now part of the interim music leadership team. After our meeting, I was to speak briefly with my pastor. On the way through the office I stepped into "my" office to say hello to the other half of that interim team - a peer, colleague, contemporary - Dan, who is also a runner and cyclist.

(More on these excellent men, another time!)

I had run to my meeting with Jordan, who then gave me a ride to church. I would run home from my meeting with pastor Josh. In other words, I was not in office attire. Dan could not miss the attire, and we chatted about the beautiful day for running, and he asked about my marathon training. "I'd rather be on a bicycle today," I replied, truthfully. To which Dan said, "Oh no, you've got to keep your focus for that marathon."

And it turns out, that was the real reason I had to go through the office yesterday. Of course, Dan's comment is simply true at the level he meant it: if I am going to be ready for the May 1 marathon, I have to prioritize running over my preferred sport, cycling. I have to stay on the training program. I have to go the distance in every respect. I have to focus.

And that is a word, too, for my theological studies during the sabbatical. They may not be my preferred mode of learning and stretching and growing. But they are what I am doing now, and I have to prioritize them for the time being. I have to stay on program. I have to go the distance. I have to focus.

Which reminds me ... those three term papers don't seem to be writing themselves.

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