Sabbatical Reflections 2022

I’ve been pretty quiet the last two months, primarily because I’ve been on a 10-week sabbatical from my role as Creative Arts Pastor at my home church, Oak Hills in Folsom.

It’s been a great ten weeks.

The concept of the sabbatical comes originally from the book of Genesis. God’s creation was poetically spoken into existence in six days, and God rested on the seventh day. The Hebrew concept of the Sabbath, a weekly day of abstinence from work in order to rest and worship, is derived from this.  In today’s modern age, sabbaticals are often granted by corporations, educational institutions, and religious organizations, and extend from just a few weeks to a year.

Of course, the concept behind the concept is that we are hardwired by God to both work and rest in regular intervals. We are not unlike music in this way. There are many different ways to be weary—physically, emotionally, socially, spiritually. Life will slowly sap you of all of these things, if not attended. And the rigors of full-time ministry are no different. So, as God rested on the seventh day, so should we.

Everyone who sees me inevitably asks, “So Manuel, what have you been doing during your sabbatical?” So I thought I would respond with a blog post. In no particular order, [drum roll] direct from our home office in El Dorado Hills, the Top Ten Things I Did During My Sabbatical.

10. Slept In On Sunday Mornings. Wow. Is this how the rest of the world lives?

9. Legos. Lots of Legos. It seems like yesterday that I was playing Legos with my children. Now I get to play with my grandkids. I’ve had a lot of Lego sessions with Grant and Jackson (and Duplos with Bennett) over the last two months. And it’s been awesome.

8. Songwriting. I’ve been collaborating with a good buddy for an album project he’s developing. Unlike most projects, I’m actually not a performer on this one; my primary role is as a co-composer on some of the songs. It’s been a fun and creative and soul-filling process. More on this in a later blog post.

7. Jigsaw Puzzles. One of the best ways to get me to slow down is to sit me down in front of a jigsaw puzzle. My wife intuitively knows this about me, so on more than a few occasions, she’ll clear the dinner table and spill a puzzle box on it. We love just sitting together—sipping on a coffee or a red blend—quietly working a puzzle. She does the edge pieces, I do the patterns.

6. WalkaBout® Drum Production. We’ve had to go into DefCon 3 factory mode due to a series of large orders from Guitar Center, in anticipation of their Black Friday/Christmas season (we’re still a small company manufacturing them by hand in California). We’re also developing two new exciting SounDots and preparing to move our manufacturing to Nashville next year, so that’s keeping me busy. Check out the website!*

5. Screenplay. I’ve talked way too much about this pet project, but I’ve spent a good amount of time wrestling with the screenplay with my producer and a script doctor. More to come, I hope!

4. Travel. My sabbatical time has been punctuated by getaways to the coast and to central Oregon. Hearst Castle, the Steinbeck Museum, Obsidian Trailhead, Sunriver, Morro Rock. Nothing like the sound of the ocean or the view of a starry night sky (from a hot tub) to re-calibrate the soul.

3. Family and Food. Visiting my cousins in Salinas (pork adobo and lumpia—yum!), my brother and nephews in Sisters (including a visit to my Niece’s restaurant, The Open Door), and the immediate family locally (trips to In-N-Out or the best gelato shop in NorCal). Honestly, I’ve consumed way too many apple fritters in the last two months. Ahh, food equals love.

2. …And Friends. I always find it amazing how a person’s life will intertwine with the lives of so many others in the world. I’ve had the opportunity to connect with friends from Washington, Oregon, and even the Philippines during this time, as well as friends locally and even around the corner (literally!). I’m truly blessed.

1. Nothing. This last sabbatical has been more necessary than I thought it would be. I simply didn’t realize how tired I was until I stopped pedaling. I’ve had to severely disconnect from the details of my ministry during my sabbatical. I’m the kind of person who will attend a church service and evaluate every element—from the programming flow to the lighting to the song performances to the sermon. Did we serve God well? Did we communicate the truth clearly? Did we lead people to the throne? Old habits are hard to break—it’s been my job for the last 32 years. So I’ve had to make worship more personal instead of communal during this time. And I’ve had to be diligent to not fill my calendar, to take deep breaths, and to be purposeful in having nothing to do.

When this sabbatical began, I told Deb that this was a 10-week rehearsal for retirement. Would it drive me crazy? Or drive her crazy? And I’ve found that meandering on the beach—beyond the excitement of the deep water and the roar of the surf—may suit me well in my next season of life.

We’re extremely grateful to our home church and the many friends who have supported us during this time. You’ve been an encouragement and a blessing. God bless you all!

[Photo 1: Debbie and me at Moonstone Beach in Cambria. Photo 2: Co-writing a song via zoom. Photo 3: WalkaBout Drums prepped for electronics install. Photo 4: Lumpia! Photo 5: Making footprints at Morro Bay. Banner photo by Hans-Peter Gauster on Unsplash. ]

*If you are a worship leader in a church, please private message me about a WalkaBout discount.

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