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Sabbaticalogue Wk. 3 - Someone May Need You There

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As the old saying goes, “Distance makes the heart grow fonder.” The pics you see are of Laura and me with our oldest son, Will, and his wife, Michaela. We don’t get to see them too often, so these pics taken in New Orleans show some pretty fond hearts filled with love for our kiddo and his bride.

Likewise, even though I’ve only been on sabbatical for three weeks, without attempting to sound sappy, my heart is growing pretty fond of our E91 family. I’m not implying I had no fondness for our friends prior to my sabbatical, but sometimes I take for granted those closest to me.

I took time this week to watch the sermon preached at E91 this past Sunday. Blake Park, our Students Pastor, preached on what it means to belong to a church. If you missed the sermon, let me give you the Reader’s Digest version: The Church is not a country club; it’s a family. And families are not places where you have to “fit in” but places where you get to belong.

Call me emotional, but that means a lot more to me now than it did three weeks ago. When Laura and I are not around our kids, we feel the tug of the heart that latches on to memories and delights in moments together. And so it is with the family of God.


Like any family, we can grow weary of one another. Personalities, opinions, and preferences cause us to long for a family vacation, where we vacate from and not with. But when your kids are grown and gone, reunions turn into revivals where memories become selective and bygones are bygones.

I was struck with the beauty of belonging when I read an autobiographical description of Kathleen Norris about why she goes to church. She writes candidly about her frustrations with her church, where it’s hard to get along at times, to feel connected, and to agree with everyone.

But then she writes this, “[Sometimes] I forget that I don’t go to church for myself. . . . A Presbyterian pastor once reminded me . . . that we `go to church for other people. Because,’ he added, `someone may need you there’” (Amazing Grace, 203).

“Someone may need you there.” And I may need to admit that I need them. My sabbatical is a reminder of that reality. Whatever church you call home, you’re not only there because of what you need; you’re also there because someone may need you. And, let’s face it, we need them too.

We’re a family. God’s family. When we choose to be adopted into a family and adopt others to join us, we do so knowing full well that means we get to welcome the smile that sometimes turns into a scowl. And for that I give thanks, because I don’t always carry a smile, and I’m grateful for a place to belong even in those days when smiling is not on my agenda.

Posted by Rick Grover, Lead Pastor with

Sabbaticalogue Wk. 2 - Conversion Isn’t One-Size-Fits-All

I’m only in the second week of my sabbatical, but I have to say that spending more time with these two beauties has been fantastic. Having this opportunity to be away from work responsibilities has already reignited my heart for my wife and family. And this has led to another revelation which is opening me up to greater grace possibilities. Let me explain.

In her book, Amazing Grace, Kathleen Norris points out that although there is an initial moment of turning one’s life over to Jesus, conversion is an ongoing work of grace in aligning our life to the life of Jesus.

Do you believe you have been converted to Christ, are being converted, or hope to be converted? This is actually a far more important question than it may appear at first glance.

The word “conversion” comes from the Latin word “to turn around.” We turn from darkness to God’s marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9). We turn from sin to righteousness (Acts 3:19). We turn from our way to God’s way (Acts 14:15).

This “turning around” is more like that of an aircraft carrier than a speed boat. For some of us (myself included), we take a mighty long time to make the turn. As Norris writes, “Conversion is a process; it is not a goal, not a product we consume” (42).

If the Incarnation teaches us anything, it teaches us that conversion is not one-size-fits-all. We all enter through the same gate (John 10:9), but each of us will be working out what God works in differently. My issues are not the same as yours. Your baggage comes in different shapes and sizes than mine.

What’s important is that we “keep on keeping on” in community, not isolation. We continue the work of grace shaping us and molding us into the men and women God calls us to be. We may be taking a long turn in the process of converting to Christlikeness, but we do not grow weary, and we do not give up (Galatians 6:9).

Beware of thinking, “I have arrived,” and thus find yourself complacent in your Christianity. Conversion connotes change, and many of us have a change aversion. We want stability, not fluidity, and yet stability without conversion leads to stagnation, where we are curled up comfortably with that familiar idol called, “This is the way we’ve always done it” (idem.).

The other end of the spectrum is also dangerous, where we crave conversion without stability, which may describe the current state of affairs with regard to spirituality in America today—a mile wide and an inch deep.

So how does this connect with my sabbatical? Sometimes you have to “get out of the flow” in order to see what’s really flowing in your life. And what I’m discovering is that I need more of the flow of the Spirit in His ongoing work of converting—turning me around—toward a simple (but not easy) walk with Jesus in community with others.

I invite you to join me on the journey.

Posted by Rick Grover, Lead Pastor with

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