#711 - 4 COMPELLING REASONS LEAD PASTORS ABSOLUTELY NEED TO TAKE EXTENDED SABBATICALS

Joy

I definitely will have more reasons to write about when I talk to the leaders and members of our church community about the impact my sabbatical had on our organization, but in the meantime, here are the most compelling reasons, I have come to understand through going on my sabbatical, why I believe every lead pastor should take an extended sabbatical (at least 3 months) away from ministry every 5-7 years.

1. A SABBATICAL WILL FORCE YOU TO BECOME AN EMPOWERING LEADER.

One of the reasons you may be hesitant (or refuse) to take an extended sabbatical is that because you know the organization couldn’t function without your efforts present. If this is the case, as a leader, this is not something to be proud of. The goal of leadership in general and church leadership in particular is to get things done through other people.

With that in mind, one of the beauties of committing to a future extended sabbatical is that it will force you to start getting more things done through other people. An extended sabbatical will force you to prepare the organization to exist without you. An extended sabbatical will make you a better trainer, teacher, mentor, and developer of people. A sabbatical will loosen your grip on something that was never meant to be held so tightly—who does things and the way they are done.

The funny thing is, you should be doing this anyway because there will be a day when the organization will exist without you! (Unless you want it to die when you do.) So why not start preparing now?

2. A SABBATICAL WILL SUFFOCATE YOUR PRIDE.

The truth is, for many pastors, we think we are more important to the Kingdom of God than we actually are. We think our preaching matters that much. We think our leadership matters that much. We think our ideas and our strategies matter that much. We think our way of doing things is the best. We think if we’re gone, the church will lack something. I know this about you because this is what I thought about me!

Here’s what my sabbatical showed me in the clearest of ways: I truly, truly, truly am not necessary for the church of Jesus Christ to advance. Jesus promised he would build his church long before I was alive, and Jesus will continue to fulfill that promise long after I’m gone. Though I am thankful and overwhelmed that God would actually partner with me to build his Church, I am convinced like never before that HE is the one doing ALL of the heavy lifting.

In my absence, giving increased. In my absence, leaders thrived. In my absence, the gospel was proclaimed. In my absence volunteers were recruited. In my absence, disciples were made. One of the greatest cures for an unhealthy view of how integral you think you are to the advancement of the Kingdom of God, is an extended time away. A sabbatical is the sweetest tasting humble pie you will ever indulge in!

3. A SABBATICAL WILL BLESS YOUR SPOUSE AND CHILDREN LIKE NOTHING ELSE CAN.

If you have been in full-time ministry., as a lead pastor, for over five years, you may be able to keep working at the pace you currently are, but your spouse and children, very likely, want you to take a break. (If you don’t believe me, I dare you to ask them!)

During a sabbatical you can give your spouse and children a gift (that they absolutely crave) that is very difficult to give during the day in day out grind of pastoral leadership—your emotional energy. Emotional energy to be present. Emotional energy to listen. Emotional energy to thoughtfully respond. Emotional energy to serve. Emotional energy to hear from the Lord how you can love your family better. Emotional energy be bothered!

Though you don’t need a sabbatical to give this type of emotional energy to your family in smaller doses, if you desire to love your family with your presence in a way that is extraordinary, an extended sabbatical is necessary. My wife articulated it this way:

One of the best parts of your sabbatical was being able to have “the whole you.”

In the end, when you decide to take an extended sabbatical, you declare and more importantly show to your spouse and children, with crystal-clear clarity—you matter more. And unfortunately, the opposite is also true. If you don’t commit to extended seasons of rest you communicate maybe more subtly—you matter less.

4. A SABBATICAL WILL SHOW YOU THAT JESUS IS MORE GLORIOUS THAN A SABBATICAL.

Only when you get to thoroughly experience what you believe is best, will you discover that Jesus is better!

Getting 3 months away from work, paid. Going on a 25-day vacation to Italy. Eating the finest foods in the world. Playing video games for as long as I want. Purchasing our first home. These are the blessings I experienced during my sabbatical. Many would consider these things, if they were to experience them, “the best.” And don't get me wrong, they were wonderful.

BUT, and I’m not just saying this because I’m a pastor, during my sabbatical, my moments praising God and contemplating and resting in his love for me were infinitely more satisfying than the “stuff.” His love. His grace. His patience. His character. His worthiness. His power. His presence. These were all things I came to realize were way more precious to me than “the best” that a sabbatical could offer.

“Better is one day in your courts, than a thousand elsewhere.” My sabbatical showed me in this clearest of ways how deeply true King David’s words actually are. Jesus. Is. BETTER.

NOW IT’S YOUR TURN.

If you are a lead pastor, or anyone else who has ever taken an extended sabbatical away from work, why would you say a sabbatical is absolutely necessary? Please share in the comments below!

#710 - THE 5 THINGS I MISSED MOST ABOUT WORK WHILE NOT WORKING

Monday Night Prayer Crew!

Monday Night Prayer Crew!

1. PRAYING AND WORSHIPPING GOD WITH MY CHURCH FAMILY.

I missed hearing the grateful prayers of thanksgiving and praise. I missed hearing the humble prayers of confession and repentance. I missed hearing the faith-filled prayers of petition and supplication. I missed hearing all of our voices joined together singing to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. There is absolutely no substitution for gathering with the body of Christ to pray and worship him together. I can’t wait till this Sunday to do it again!

2. PREACHING THE BIBLE.

Though I am thankful for the break, I missed preaching God’s Word. I missed the preparation. I missed the insights that the Holy Spirit reveals. I missed putting together my Keynote presentations! I missed being led to say things while preaching that only the Holy Spirit of God could’ve led me to say because I had no intention of saying them. I missed calling people to respond to the preached word of God. I am absolutely humbled by God’s call on my life to proclaim his Word, and I can’t wait till this weekend when I get to do it again!

3. LEADING OUR LEADERSHIP TEAMS.

I missed leading us to praise God for his blessings. I missed leading us to trust God. I missed leading us to confront and confess sin. I missed leading us to have tough conversations. I missed leading us to come up with creative solutions to problems. I missed leading us to grow in our love for each other. I missed leading us to take bold steps of faith. I missed leading us to create awesome Sunday worship services. I missed casting vision. I missed leading the humble servants of Christ who I am privileged to serve alongside. I can’t wait till two Sundays from now when our pastoral team/wives will get together, and I get to lead them again!

4. DISCIPLING MEN.

I missed the one-on-one discipleship relationships that I’m privileged to be a part of. I missed the meals together. I missed reading the word together. I missed praying together. I missed asking the tough questions. I missed encouraging and celebrating steps of obedience. I missed applying grace and truth to sin. I missed the joy that comes from investing life into life, and I can’t wait till I return to engage in these discipleship relationships again!

5. DESIGNING GRAPHICS/MARKETING/BRANDING MATERIAL!

Though someone else should probably be doing it, I missed it! I missed finding new fonts. I missed finding just the right image and mixing it with just the right typeface to communicate just the right feeling and emotion. I missed using my creativity to serve the body of Christ! (I just finished designing the branding for our six-year anniversary, and though it’s not anything spectacular, putting it together was something I thoroughly enjoyed!)

six-year anniversary branding

The truth is, though I enjoyed every bit of my sabbatical, I am anxious and excited to get back to doing the things I was uniquely wired to do day in and day out! I am so blessed to have a job that requires the use of my passions and my skills. God is worthy of my praise for his kindness in calling me to and positioning me in this type of work at THEMOVEMENT.CHURCH.

NOW IT’S YOUR TURN.

Whether you have your “dream job” or not, take a moment to thank and praise God for the parts of your job that you are thankful for. Thank him for the opportunities you do have to use your unique gifts. Feel free to share them in the comments below. I’d love to know!

#709 - 71 REASONS I'M DEEPLY GRATEFUL FOR MY SABBATICAL

We LOVE the Huang’s!

We LOVE the Huang’s!

Hate the Dodgers. Absolute LOVE our brother-in-law Donovan!

Hate the Dodgers. Absolute LOVE our brother-in-law Donovan!

BANG. BANG.

BANG. BANG.

  1. Being given the opportunity by my church to take a 3-month sabbatical.

  2. Being gifted additional financial resources from my church to enjoy during the sabbatical.

  3. Resisting the temptation to be pulled back into certain ministry situations which I became aware of.

  4. Watching the Pastoral Team lead the church well (especially in the adversity) in my absence.

  5. Receiving encouraging emails/texts from the pastors and leaders of the church.

  6. Being free (for the most part) of the emotional weight and responsibility of shepherding people’s souls.

  7. Being free of the responsibility of/for the “results” and “success” of the church.

  8. Having six different preachers fill our pulpit in my absence—four from our church and two church planters in Oakland.

  9. Seeing giving increase in my absence!

  10. Seeing Jesus build His church without me!

  11. Seeing our next church plant Core Team gain momentum.

  12. Receiving several future preaching invitations.

  13. Enjoying many moments of feeling the tangible presence of God during private praise and worship unto him.

  14. Realizing early on into the sabbatical that even a sabbatical is not “the answer.”

  15. Letting go of the guilt that comes along with being blessed with a sabbatical of this nature.

  16. Vegging out on multiple movies/series/documentaries on Netflix and Amazon Prime.

  17. Being available to assist as an assessor for the Acts 29 US West Network.

  18. Finishing the final draft of Only God.

  19. Receiving endorsements for Only God from leaders I respect and admire.

  20. Making tremendous progress towards the publishing of Only God.

  21. Hearing that Only God will be available for pre-order in January 2020 and will be officially released in February!

  22. Thinking of, creating, and designing several ebooks to be given as free pre-order bonuses for Only God.

  23. Having the time to invest in working on my creative ideas, especially for the book launch.

  24. Being able to sleep in…often.

  25. Enjoying nice, quiet, long walks with my wife and Merritt.

  26. Receiving a Playstation 4 from JR so I could play video games.

  27. Playing video games for hours and hours and hours without any condemnation from my wife!

  28. Enjoying many uninterrupted hours of reading multiple fiction and non-fiction books.

  29. Building our friendship with the Huang’s through our trip to Disneyland.

  30. Watching and investing time with the Huang kids so Chris and Cori could go on a getaway.

  31. Eating Brazilian BBQ with my entire immediate family.

  32. Enjoying Xiao Long Bao with the Yim’s.

  33. Enjoying Korean BBQ with the Kim’s.

  34. Enjoying Peruvian with the Stites.

  35. Catching up with the Hung’s over Chicken and Waffles in their new home.

  36. Making shoe deals at Sole Supremacy with JR and enjoying a Japanese lunch together.

  37. Purchasing and selling several Air Jordans.

  38. Getting approval to sell shoes on the GOAT app.

  39. Enjoying yet another Warriors run in the NBA Finals.

  40. Going to a Giants game with Spencer and Peyton.

  41. Going to my first Giants/Dodgers game at Dodger Stadium with my siblings.

  42. Re-connecting with Chris Jensen—a great leadership coach with the Table Group.

  43. Rest, Relaxation, and Refreshment at the Acts 29 Global Gathering.

  44. Worshipping God with 1000+ church planters from around the world.

  45. Watching my wife thrive in her work for Acts 29 US West and Acts 29 Global.

  46. Hearing from God, very clearly, about emphasizing His worthiness as an enduring motivation for living righteously during my next season of ministry.

  47. Having Christopher and Brittany advocate for Rebekah and I to extend our trip in Italy through our wedding anniversary.

  48. Attending/supporting a church service at Inspire Church.

  49. Attending/supporting a church service at Bay City Church.

  50. Buying our first house!

  51. Receiving miraculous financial provision from God to go towards the down payment.

  52. Being financially supported by friends and family members to help make the purchase of our home possible.

  53. Working together with my wife to move out of our home in Oakland.

  54. Receiving our full deposit back from our landlords and maintaining a relationship with them beyond the move.

  55. Getting our July rent back, not having to pay rent or our mortgage in August or September!

  56. Working together with my wife to move into our home in San Leandro.

  57. Working together with my wife to paint the rooms in our new home.

  58. Enjoying the Patty Melt at Whataburger in Texas.

  59. Having a great experience at the shooting range with Rebekah’s family in Texas!

  60. Traveling to several cities and making great memories in Italy with Rebekah over the course of 25 days!

  61. Going on runs in 3 different cities in Italy.

  62. PIZZA IN NAPLES.

  63. And the many other great eating experiences we had while in Italy.

  64. Enjoying many reflective conversations with my wife about our life and marriage.

  65. Enjoying times of reading the Scripture and praying together with my wife.

  66. Celebrating our birthdays and 15-year wedding anniversary in Italy.

  67. Having the financial resources to purchase Louis Vuitton Italian leather dress shoes for myself and a purse for my wife.

  68. Finding the perfect gifts in Italy to bring back to some of the important people in our lives.

  69. Being in town to see my nephew get baptized.

  70. Being in town to see my brother-in-law get married.

  71. Seeing my wife deeply grateful for these 3 months that we’ve been able to spend together in this way.

Praise be to God for His grace and kindness in my life. “I’m so unworthy, but still you love me. Forever my heart will sing of how great you are!” To Him be all the glory, honor, and praise!

NOW IT’S YOUR TURN.

You don’t need to have been on a sabbatical to create a list like this. What are the experiences, moments, blessings, difficulties, and relationships from God that you are thankful for from the Summer of 2019? I encourage you to invest at least 30 minutes thinking though and writing them down. Come up with at least 25. Or, feel free to share a few of God’s blessings towards you in the comments below. I’d love to celebrate with you.

God is worthy of the gratitude and praise that will be stirred up within you as a result of your remembering!

Please, don’t neglect doing this. God is worthy!

#708 - THE NEXT 3 DAYS

My Air BnB in Houston with Amazing Architectural Design!

My Air BnB in Houston with Amazing Architectural Design!

Today is Saturday, September 7.

On Wednesday, September 11, my wife, pup, and I will board a plane in Houston, Texas for Oakland, California. When we arrive, it will mark the end of my 3-month sabbatical, and the beginning of a fresh season of ministry.

With that in mind, over the next three days, I have the privilege of being in an Air BnB all by myself, with no distractions, to start strategizing and preparing for my return.

Here are the things I absolutely need to get done in the next 3 days:

By the end of Sunday:

  • Write a list of things I am grateful for from my first extended sabbatical experience.

  • Complete my outline for the 4 sermons I will give at the Living Stones Men’s Retreat next weekend.

  • Complete my outline for the 5 sermons I will give at the North Hills Middle/High School Retreat next week. Send discussion questions to Pastor James.

By the end of Monday:

  • Think/pray through sermons series ideas through the end of 2019.

  • Write outline for my first message back.

By the end of Tuesday:

  • Set work/personal goals for Fall 2019.

  • Set work/personal daily rhythms for Fall 2019.


#707 - LAST DAY IN ITALY

GOODBYE!

GOODBYE!

Time to Return Home!

Time to Return Home!

  • Woke up at 6am.

  • Got all of our stuff together and called an UBER.

  • At the airport, we first made sure to get our 12.5% cash back from the shopping we did in Italy. Great perk.

  • Checked in our bags.

  • Purchased one last gift in the terminal for Rebekah’s mom.

  • Boarded our plane.

  • Long flight from Rome to New Jersey. Watched an Aretha Franklin documentary. Slept. Finished reading The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis. Only one more book to go in his Chronicles of Narnia series.

  • I also started working on an ebook entitled Religion vs. The Gospel that I’m excited about making available soon!

  • Arrived in New Jersey. Had to go through customs. Get baggage. Then, re-check baggage back in, and go back through security. Hectic.

  • Made our flight. Continued working on the ebook. Got a bit nauseous on the flight.

  • Finally landed in Houston at 7pm. What a trip it has been. Glad to be home.

#706 - ROME DAY 6

Another Shot of the Sistine

Another Shot of the Sistine

This is Art on a Huge Rug! Jesus Revealing Who He is After Walking the Road to Emmaus.

This is Art on a Huge Rug! Jesus Revealing Who He is After Walking the Road to Emmaus.

The Roman Forum

The Roman Forum

  • These are all pictures from yesterday.

  • Today was our last full day in Rome, and after a hectic day yesterday I took it easy. Rebekah did a little bit more shopping. (She couldn’t resist!)

  • I did step out for lunch with Rebekah and we both had delicious bacon cheeseburgers at a restaurant down the street from our place.

  • Before dinner, we got some souvenirs and gifts for family and friends.

  • Ate one final Italian dinner. It was actually one of our best! Caprese salad. Lasagna. Pasta Carbonara. Margherita Pizza with sausage. All very delicious!

  • Came back home and packed. Praise God we got everything to fit!

  • Tomorrow we say goodbye!

#709 - ROME DAY 5

Snuck a Selfie in the Sistine!

Snuck a Selfie in the Sistine!

No Caption Needed!

No Caption Needed!

Altar of the Fatherland

Altar of the Fatherland

  • Today was our 15-Year Wedding Anniversary! And, it was one of the more exciting, full days of our trip!

  • Woke up early. Caught an UBER to the Vatican Museum for our 9:30a entry time.

  • Incredible experience. So much history. So much craftsmanship. So much stuff!

  • The crown jewel of the museum—the Sistine Chapel—was amazing. Absolutely breathtaking room to be in. There were no pictures allowed, but Rebekah is a rebel and took a few!

  • Found some gifts, at the Vatican Museum, for some very special people back home, that I can’t wait to give them.

  • We spent about 2 hours in the museum. After learning more about Michelangelo, I found out that he sculpted a statue of Jesus Christ that is also located in Rome. So, we decided to walk over to that church.

  • On the way, we stumbled across a burger/steak joint that looked pretty good. Stopped there for lunch. I had a ribeye. Rebekah had some sliders. Tasty.

  • Arrived at the church. It was closed. Bummer.

  • Decided to walk over to the Roman Forum and Colosseum.

  • On the way, we stumbled across a Thai Massage spot. We couldn’t resist. Doing our best to end our time in Italy right! We both got a 90-minute full body massage. 30 minutes specifically on the feet. GLORIOUS.

  • Feeling refreshed, we then walked over to The Forum and The Colosseum. INCREDIBLE. So much historical significance. Crazy to see these things in person. Larger than life.

  • Passed several other historical landmarks as well. Glad we came back to Rome. So much to see.

  • Headed home to rest up before our anniversary dinner.

  • Went to a place Anthony Bourdain recommended. Pepper pasta was out of this world! Rebekah and I both had this signature dish and it was definitely one of the top 3 dishes of the entire trip. Had a great dinner celebrating and reflecting upon our marriage. God is so faithful. We are so blessed.

  • Walked back home. Walked a total of 23,000 steps! Climbed 29 flights of stairs. For a total of 10.2 miles!

  • Such a memorable anniversary. Tomorrow is our final day in Rome, and the day before we fly back home to the States.

  • A bit saddened that my sabbatical is coming to an end, but more so anxious and excited to get back to work and get back to my church family! The best is ahead!

#708 - ROME DAY 4

Goodbye Naples!

Goodbye Naples!

Hello McDonald’s!

Hello McDonald’s!

Beautiful Streets of Rome at Sunset

Beautiful Streets of Rome at Sunset

  • Checkout out of our place in Naples at 11a.

  • Boarded the metro for the Naples Central Station where we boarded a train for Rome.

  • Arrived in Rome at about 2:30p.

  • Checked into our place. First non Air BnB. Used a service called Sonder. Pretty clutch.

  • Headed out for some…you guessed it…shopping!

  • But first…Went to McDonald’s for a snack. The FiRST McDonald’s in Rome. HISTORIC. Rebekah and I both had the extra large McChicken. So rare. So good! Bahaha!

  • While we were shopping, I may have picked up a black pair of dress shoes made in Italy— brand name rhymes with…Dewey Crouton! They. Are. FLY. (Unnecessary disclaimer that is going to make it seem like I feel more guilty for buying these shoes than I actually do: the current pair of black dress shoes that I own (Gordon Rush), I’ve had since 2003!)

  • Definitely felt nervous walking all the way back to our place with the very obvious “Imperial Saffron” colored shopping bag. Didn’t get jumped. To God be the glory.

  • Went to a restaurant a few doors down from our place for dinner. I had Spaghetti. Rebekah had a seafood pasta.

  • Watched the Tony Robbins documentary on Netflix before going to sleep. That guy is something else!

#707 - NAPLES DAY 3

The Other Classic Pizza of Naples — Marinara

The Other Classic Pizza of Naples — Marinara

Napolitan Street Art

Napolitan Street Art

A Real Deal Castle! — Castel Nuovo

A Real Deal Castle! — Castel Nuovo

  • Started our day by eating at another very popular pizza spot in Naples—L’Antica Pizzeria.

  • Opened at 11:30a. We got there at 11:40. Place was packed. We missed the first seating, but were number one in line. Before we sat down there were 30+ others that were given numbers.

  • Once again, the pizza was otherworldly! Rebekah got the Margherita. I got the Marinara. They only serve those two pizzas! The dough is unlike anything else! So good. We left so stuffed.

  • Walked lunch off by doing some window shopping around Naples. Also walked down to the water. Put in some major steps!

  • Came home. Rested.

  • Hit up the taco spot again for a late dinner. Nachos were off the hook. Bek had a sausage taco. I had a philly cheesesteak!

#706 - NAPLES DAY 2

Galleria Umberto

Galleria Umberto

Caprese Salad at its Best!

Caprese Salad at its Best!

Naples—The Birthplace of the Margherita Pizza!

Naples—The Birthplace of the Margherita Pizza!

  • Took another day to relax at our Air BnB.

  • Slept in. Snacked. Continued working on pre-order bonuses for Only God. I was super excited to receive a few choices for my book cover design from my publisher! Pretty sold on one of them. I love it. So excited!

  • Left for a late dinner. The streets of Naples were busy!

  • Pizzeria Brandi—been serving Margherita pizzas for 200 years! 200 years! The pizza was out. of. this. world. Unlike anything in the States. WOW.

  • Gelato for dessert of course!

#704 - CAPRI

Capri from the Harbor

Capri from the Harbor

The Capri Faraglioni!

The Capri Faraglioni!

View from Piazza Umberto

View from Piazza Umberto

  • Today was one of our busiest yet!

  • Woke up at 6:30a. Made sure all of our bags were packed.

  • Picked up by our shuttle at 7:30a to be taken to dock.

  • Boat for Capri left at 8:30a. Arrived in Capri at about 9:15a.

  • Took a fairly long walk up to the main Piazza in Capri. Enjoyed epic views.

  • Took a train back down.

  • Rented two chairs and an umbrella at the beach. Rebekah dipped her feet in. I swam. It was WONDERFUL!

  • I finished reading C.S. Lewis Voyage of the Dawn Treader while, on the beach, overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea! Are you kidding me!

  • Ate lunch. I had a salami pizza. Rebekah had a prosciutto sandwich. Good food.

  • Boarded our boat at 2. Boat took us on a tour around Capri. Amazing how blue the water was out there!

  • Headed back to Sorrento. Arrived back at Sorrento at 3:30.

  • Got our stuff. Took a taxi to the train station.

  • Boarded the train for Napes at 4:30. Arrived in Naples after 6.

  • Settled into our Air BnB.

  • Went out to dinner. I had Rigatoni and sausage. Rebekah had risotto. Once again, great food. Rebekah and I couldn’t help but talk about how blessed we are to be able to take a vacation like this. God is so gracious and generous to us!

  • Went back to our place. Watched the new Dave Chappelle special on Netflix. IRREVERENTLY HILARIOUS!

  • Slept real good.

#703 - SORRENTO DAY 3

A View from the Piazza Tasso

A View from the Piazza Tasso

Happy Birthday Rebekah!

Happy Birthday Rebekah!

  • Today was Rebekah’s birthday. She turned 29 of course!

  • Went on a walk down to the harbor. Looked into taking a day trip to either Capri or the Amalfi Coast, but decided to do it tomorrow.

  • Ate gelato. Went on a “train” ride that gave us a brief tour of Sorrento.

  • We had lunch on the main plaza in Sorrento. Enjoyed people watching. I had a bacon and ham omelette. She had fried calamari and fries.

  • Rebekah stayed downtown and shopped a bit.

  • I went home and took a nap.

  • Bought our tickets for tomorrow’s day trip to Capri.

  • Went to a Japanese spot for dinner. She had Yaki Soba. I had Yaki Udon. We also had a pretty good sushi roll and gyoza.

  • Great day. So thankful for my beautiful wife!

#702 - SORRENTO DAY 2

The Tyrrhenian Sea

The Tyrrhenian Sea

The Streets of Sorrento

The Streets of Sorrento

Harbor Views

Harbor Views

  • Slept in.

  • Wandered around the streets of Sorrento.

  • Ate a delicious lunch on the harbor. I had Sorrentine Gnocchi. Rebekah had a seafood pasta she enjoyed.

  • Went back to our place. Rested and chilled.

  • Wandered around the streets of Sorrento looking for dinner. Got a bit frustrated with each other. (Don’t think for a moment Rebekah and I have not our fair share of frustrations with each other on this trip!)

  • We, once again, had pizza and pasta fatigue so we settled on a Hof Brau. i had a steak. Rebekah had chicken wings and fries. Decent.

#701 - SORRENTO DAY 1

Goodbye Rome!

Goodbye Rome!

Hello Amalfi Coast!

Hello Amalfi Coast!

  • Checked out of our place in Rome at 11a.

  • Took a train to a more central train station in Rome where we waited until 3p to board a bus to Sorrento.

  • Enjoyed lunch at the train station. A salami sandwich and rigatoni with bacon!

  • During our wait at the train station I worked on the cover page and free bonuses page of my website for Only God. I’m loving how it’s coming together. I heard from the publisher today that pre-orders will be available in January and the book will officially be published in February of 2020! I can’t wait.

  • Boarded a very nice bus for Sorrento. It was a great ride. Slept. Read. Enjoyed the scenery.

  • Arrived in Sorrento shortly after 7pm.

  • Walked to our place. Settled in.

  • Had a couple of phone calls about preaching engagements I have immediately after we return from our trip. Though I only have a couple of weeks left on my sabbatical, I am very excited about going back to work. I feel refreshed, and can’t wait to get back and preach God’s Word again!

  • Had pizza for dinner. Good, but not as good as it was in Rome.

#700 - ROME DAY 3

The Pantheon

The Pantheon

Trevi Fountain

Trevi Fountain

The Spanish Steps

The Spanish Steps

  • These are pictures from yesterday’s walk around Rome.

  • No new pictures from today. Instead, I want to tell you about an adventure I took back to Florence!

  • Yesterday, when we were shopping, Rebekah was saddened to discover that a designer bag that she had seen in Florence was not available in Rome nor was it available in Naples (a city we’re going to visit later on our trip.)

  • So, she called Florence to see if they had any remaining. They said they did. She put it on hold.

  • With that in mind, in an effort to be the best husband I could be, today, I boarded a train, all by myself, from Rome to Florence to pick up this bag for my wife.

  • I left at 7am in the morning and didn’t return till after 3p. (Florence is 170 miles from Rome)

  • Keep in mind, Rebekah’s birthday is coming up in a couple of days and we are also going to be celebrating our 15-Year Wedding Anniversary on September 4. This is her gift.

  • While in Florence, I picked up another surprise gift for her as well.

  • Then, I went back to the steak place I went for my birthday and treated myself to a filet. (This trip wasn't completely altruistic. Ha!)

  • I then boarded the train back for Rome.

  • I came back home pretty exhausted, but Rebekah loved and was surprised by the additional gift I bought for her.. It was all worth it.

  • We went out to dinner at the same place we had lunch the day prior. More pizza. More pasta.

  • Slept like a baby.

#699 - ROME DAY 2

The Dome Atop St. Peter’s Basilica

The Dome Atop St. Peter’s Basilica

View of Inside of St. Peter’s Basilica from Atop of The Dome

View of Inside of St. Peter’s Basilica from Atop of The Dome

View of Outside of St. Peter’s Basilica from Atop of The Dome

View of Outside of St. Peter’s Basilica from Atop of The Dome

Pope St. Francis Live!

Pope St. Francis Live!

  • Today was a whirlwind!

  • We walked from our place to the inside of Vatican City.

  • Went into St. Peter’s Basilica and on a whim decided to pay 20 Euros extra to go to the top of the Dome.

  • Then we climbed 24 flights of stairs to get there! It was intense. Great pics though!

  • When we exited it was 10 minutes till noon and people were gathered all around St. Peter’s Square, looking in the same direction. When I asked a security guard what was going on he said that the Pope was about to address the crowd! We had no idea.

  • Then, at 12 on the dot the Pope Francis appeared in the window (pictured above), the crowd cheered, and he proceeded to give a 10-minute talk (in Italian) as thousands of people in St. Peter’s Square looked on. It was surreal! What a moment for Rebekah and I to enjoy together!

  • We then ate lunch at a great restaurant just outside Vatican City. I had another Diavola pizza and lasagna. Rebekah had fried shrimp and calamari. Once again, we experienced the unique, fresh, tasty crust of Roman pizza!

  • After lunch is started pouring rain. We waited it out and then proceeded to walk all around Rome to hit up many of the historic sites — Piazza Venezia, the Pantheon, the Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain, and we even accidentally came across the Quirinal Palace ( the President of Italy’s residence). Seeing all these historic sites was also pretty surreal.

  • Then, we went shopping. Again. Rebekah and I love shopping!

  • We concluded our day with some decent sushi at a Japanese restaurant.

  • We took Uber home again. Clutch. Again.

  • Great day in Rome. I love the unplanned nature of how we explore each city.

#698 - ROME DAY 1

Goodbye Florence!

Goodbye Florence!

St Peter’s Basilica from Outside the Walls of the Vatican

St Peter’s Basilica from Outside the Walls of the Vatican

  • Got in one more run in Florence before departing. 5 miles at a 9:49/mi pace. Felt real good.

  • Brought back croissants for breakfast.

  • Showered. Packed. Made the 1-mile walk with all of our luggage to the train station. No joke. Luggage is getting heavier!

  • Ate McDonald’s for lunch! C’mon somebody!

  • Took a 2-hour train ride to Rome.

  • Place we’re staying was only a 5-minute walk from train station and on the second floor. Clutch.

  • Watched YouTube videos to decide where to eat.

  • Went for a walk around the exterior of the Vatican City to eat at a popular Roman Pizza Joint. Pizza was tasty. Best part was the crust. It was so good!

  • Took our first UBER ride back home. Super clutch.

  • Made a ton more progress on my e-books. (If you’re wondering if this feels like work for me, the answer is absolutely not. Using my creativity in this way is life-giving!)

  • Rested well.

#697 - FLORENCE DAY 4

View of Florence from the Piazzale Michaelangelo

View of Florence from the Piazzale Michaelangelo

A Replica of “The David”

A Replica of “The David”

The Florence Cathedral

The Florence Cathedral

  • Got another morning run in. Ran to the famous Piazzale Michaelangelo to get enjoy the view of Florence pictured above. It was breathtaking.

  • Brought home donuts for breakfast.

  • Worked on some ebooks I’m going to offer as pre-order bonuses for Only God. Super excited about these!

  • Had a delicious pasta lunch, and gelato for dessert.

  • Came home and continued working on ebooks.

  • We wanted Japanese for dinner, but both restaurants we tried were closed! After walking nearly two miles we ended up eating poke a quarter of a mile from our place!

  • Gelato round two.

  • Came home, knocked out.

  • Traveling to Rome tomorrow!

#696 - FLORENCE DAY 3

Uffizi Gallery

Uffizi Gallery

“Cheeks”

“Cheeks”

The Rune at Dusk

The Rune at Dusk

  • After a full day indoors, I woke up and knew I had to get a run in. Definitely was feeling sluggish as I ran 3 miles. Steak was weighing me down!

  • Brought back ham and cheese croissants for breakfast.

  • For lunch Rebekah and I had the most hyped up sandwiches in all of Florence at ALL’ANTICO VINAIO. They were absolutely DELICIOUS. Unlike any sandwich I’ve ever had! I had their ham version; Rebekah had their salami.

  • Then, we boarded a bus for THE MALL—a designer outlet mall 45 minutes outside of Florence.

  • Let’s just say Rebekah left the experience a happy camper!

  • Ate dinner back in Florence at the Central Market Food Court. I had fresh Chinese pork dumplings and noodle soup. Rebekah had a bacon cheeseburger.

  • After nearly 20,000 steps walked for the day, we came back home exhausted.

  • Went to bed early. Great day.