My time off has given me a deeper appreciation of the pastoral life. My time as a "freelance preacher" - I do not believe I invented that term, but I do think it is fairly original - has given me a deeper appreciation of the preaching moment, the writing process, and the intimacy shared between preacher and congregation and the intimacy shared between congregants. Interesting how the congregation feeds, lifts, and takes cues from one another. But the greatest insight thus far has come from my kids. I love listening to what they love and miss about church.
My time off has provided my family the unique blessing of talking openly about the future. What brings us joy and frustration, what feeds us and drives us crazy, what we like best and what frustrates us to no end. (I have not introduced them to the What I hate game, yet). I would say the greatest difference between this search and any other searches has been the inclusion of the kiddos. Before we always had to keep the search process hidden from them until the day we sprung on them. So one day I asked the kids, "Kids, what do you want next? Where do you want to move to?" They provided me with this set of criteria: One, it must snow there. Two, we must have a backyard to play in. And three, there must be a tree large enough for us to have a tree house." I was impressed with this criteria. I told them I would do what I could.
I mention all of this because one never knows how much kids actually pay attention and pick up on the conversations around the house. Last week #3, who is in kindergarten, showed me a paper he had completed in school. The assignment was to use one of the words he had learned in school that day in a sentence. Last Thursday the word of the day was "job." #3 wrote the following sentence:
Transliterated: "My dad is looking for a job."
I nearly fell out of the chair with laughter. The search process, it is good.