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By Pastor Lee Eclov

I loved the mountains! As we’ve written earlier, Susan and I spent just over a month of our sabbatical in the mountains (and prairies) of Mon-tana, Wyoming, and the Dakotas. John Muir, the great naturalist wrote, “Going to the mountains is going home”. That’s how it felt to me. We were quite the pair. I love the vistas of scenery while Susan had her bin-oculars always at hand to look for wildlife. Having been home now for a month, I look back on that time as a dream trip, and we are so grateful to VCL for making it possible.

People have asked us if we are rested. Yes, in a way, but I think often of people who say they are bus-ier in retirement than when they were working full-time. The sabbatical has not only been a time to rest, but also to invest in some other things.

We have visited a number of churches. It is nice to slide into the back unnoticed, although it is not very satisfying in the long run to be a church tourist. I’ve also made a priority of visiting with pastors, as well as other thoughtful and creative people whenever I can—probably more than 25 by the time we come back.

Susan has given a great deal of thought to our worship ministry and how we can pursue our worship philosophy even more effectively. She has also been catching up on work with her other job, adminis-tering the ministerial credentialing process for our district.

I also have been gearing up for our return to VCL on Tuesday, Aug. 14. We’re excited to see you and to dive into the fall. Since we’ve had virtually no contact with the church, I suspect it will take a little time for us to get back into the swing of things.

I have begun work on the preaching plan for my return. We’ll be turning our attention to Isaiah in a series that focuses on restoring the souls of God’s beleaguered people. I won’t cover that entire book, of course, but we will be in it through the end of the year.

Several writing projects have been on my do-list. Preaching Today, which has published many of my sermons and articles, asked to publish a small e-book drawn from six sermons I preached nearly ten years ago from the passion narrative of Matthew. In June I edited the draft and wrote an introduction and conclusion.

I’ve spent quite a lot of time doing my part in the promotion of my book, Pastoral Graces. This has involved identifying and contacting leaders who could in turn create interest in the book. I’m especially excited about contacts with two ministries that focus on church planting and development in small town and rural churches.

One important conclusion I’ve come to over these months is that I should focus whatever time I have to minister beyond VCL on pastors and seminary students. This means, for example, that I don’t think I’ll work at writing or speaking for a more general audience.

We are both so grateful to the people who have made this sabbatical possible for us. First, thanks to Pastor Michael, Jim Stamoolis, and our office manager Susan Beck who have shouldered many extra day-to-day duties. My wife, Susan, is indebted to Don Hedges and Chris McNiven for overseeing worship services (always a special challenge in the summer when so many people are gone) and to Arthur Kok who has taken up a lot of her responsibilities in children’s ministry. I am grateful, as well, for those who have preached so well in my absence—Pastor Michael , John Feinberg, Anne Tohme, Lawson Younger, Todd Patterson, Dennis Magary, and Jim Stamoolis. I am grateful to the elders who told us to go and not worry about a thing, and who have made that possible. And we are deeply grateful to our church for the great, un-grudging kindness this sabbatical has been to us.