Each year, the church I serve provides me with a week off of my regular duties, so that I can spend some time learning and growing in other areas. For short, it is called a "Study Leave." I have just returned from my study leave for 2018 and so I thought it'd be helpful for those within my church to know how I spent my time.
It began last Sunday evening when I traveled to the St. Benedict Retreat Center near Schuyler, NE. A few months ago, I was looking for a place where I could stay for a couple of days at an affordable rate, which would provide me with a peaceful place to study. This retreat center was recommended to me and so I reserved a room there. I am now quite thankful for that recommendation. The St. Benedict Center is just what I was looking for in a retreat center. It was quiet. It was in a beautiful setting. They had plenty of places within the vast retreat center building to study without distraction. I especially enjoyed their solarium (pictured above) with a two-story wall of windows on the south and east sides facing their pond. I enjoyed using one of their walking trails to walk, pray, and listen to a good sermon on Monday afternoon. There is no cell phone service within the retreat center, so that also helped to limit distractions. It was kind of an introverts' paradise. There were other people there, but it was easy to find a place where you could study alone.
I stayed at the St. Benedict Center from Sunday night through Tuesday afternoon. While there, I spent longer stretches of time reading the Scriptures. I especially spent time in the the Gospel of Luke, since I just began a sermon series on this incredible Gospel book. I also spent time journaling, which I usually don't do much of during my normal week. I then read from Daniel Block's excellent commentary on Ezekiel. I am in a study group with some other pastor friends and we are studying Ezekiel together using Block's wonderful commentary. I also began reading a book focused on evangelism in our current, secular society. The book is titled, Telling the Truth, and it is a compilation of essays from many teachers, scholars and ministry leaders edited by D. A. Carson. I also read a few sermons of one of my preaching heroes, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, from his book of sermons on Galatians 6:14 called, The Cross.
On Wednesday, I spent time at home with my daughter Betty, reading some of her books while she sat and listened, somewhat patiently, on my lap. I also was able to do a little more reading of my books. Then we left Wednesday evening to head to Iowa for the Thanksgiving holiday. We enjoyed Thanksgiving with Greta's folks and other family members on Thursday. On Friday, we spent the day with my folks and members of my dad's extended family. This thanksgiving gathering took place in Kinnick Stadium on the campus of the University of Iowa. There we witnessed an exciting football game together, and we all went home happy with Iowa just getting by the University from Lincoln, 31-28.
Here is the post-game picture of all of the 31 Hogrefe Hawks that took in the game. Go Hawks!