Sabbatical Update: Bird By Bird

  My first four weeks on sabbatical/study leave continue to provide opportunities to read, rest, renew and write.   Colonial Williamsburg and this whole area provide a good context in which to remember our past as Americans. We have seen places where Civil War and Revolutionary War History took place. I have completed reading a large book on Civil War history and am in the middle of a book on the American Revolution.
        I continue to enjoy this change of pace with only occasional contact with business email and contact with the office. Ruth Haley Barton’s book, Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership continues to bless and provide guidance.  I have also begun reading books that will be used in a class I will take at Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond in January. 
 As in the first two weeks, in addition to reading and reflecting, I have also been productive.  A major focus of this sabbatical is writing and producing a resource that would be helpful to churches during the interim. These past two weeks have been characterized by stops and starts but, overall, much progress and forward motion.

 Anne Lamott’s book, Bird by Bird: Some Instruction on Writing and Life, has wise and helpful words for someone seeking to write a book.  I particularly identify with these words that explain how she came up with the title: “Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write.  It was due the next day.  We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, ‘Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.” 

 As I spend time writing this resource, ideas are taking shape into structure and words on the page.  One day last week I began to wonder how I could possibly write two of my proposed chapters.  I wondered about approach and content.  I had conversations with two of the people who have agreed to be readers and “critiquers.”  Those conversations, along with good rest and reflection and lots of “mulling-over,” seemed to help those chapters begin to take form in my head. Then, as if by a miracle, I sat down to write.  Words began to emerge into sentences and paragraphs.  Random thoughts and ideas long held and considered began to take form and, for the most part, the content of those two “troublesome chapters” is now complete.  I am grateful for this time to reflect and write and pray the finished product will provide help to congregations who are in an interim between pastors. 

 

Read John's other blog entries by clicking here.