Dear Ones,

I am joyfully anticipating being with you all anew this coming Sunday, September 11! Four months is a long time. You have been in my prayers and in my heart, and I have heard through Bishop Alan that it has been a wonderful, renewing sabbatical summer for the congregation, as well as for him. I am so incredibly grateful to him for taking on the shepherding of the Grace flock this summer, and to Donna both for joining him with the extra joy she brings and for letting him be away for so long! I know they will both remain a part of our larger Grace family, and they have been adopted into the Zuniga family as well!

We returned from Europe just about a month ago in time for Jacob to begin high school, Lucas to start middle school, and Izzy second grade. I have had some wonderful continuing education this month as well as a week by myself in the mountains at Fallen Leaf Lake, where I led Sunday services at the summer chapel there. Included below are photos (in the form of a video slideshow) from the second part of our Europe trip: France, including Taizé, Paris, and Chartes, and the Scottish highlands and islands, culminating in Iona.

Our theme for this year, and my prayer for you this summer, has been to “reconnect and renew…” reconnecting to one another and our church community, to God, to our own deepest selves and being renewed in mind, body, and spirit, in our relationships and in our commitments. When I think about this sabbath theme of deep reconnection, rest, and renewal, the verse from Isaiah that we had a few weeks ago when I preached at Fallen Leaf comes to mind: “The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong, and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail.” (Isaiah 58:11)

The people of the ancient near east certainly understood, as we do today in California, the vital importance of water. It became for them a metaphor of the refreshing, life-giving, sustaining presence of God in their lives. With it, they could survive in parched places, as Psalm 23 says, “I have everything I need.” Without it, they would surely dry up and wither. Our lives are like that too. The presence of God’s Spirit can sustain us (and in fact it has) through the unthinkable. But when we lose contact with that source, even an outwardly “good life” can feel dry and brittle.

The purpose of my sabbatical time was to reconnect and renew in that deep Source. And I can joyfully and faith-fully tell you that I have. I find myself physically, spiritually, relationally, and in terms of my vocation 180 degrees from where I was this time last year. I have God’s grace to thank for that, and the grace of this beautiful congregation—of our leaders, volunteers and staff who stepped up during my medical leave, and of all of you who so graciously held me and held space for me as I healed, rested, and went away to find my renewal.

We will have much to share with one another in the coming weeks and months about what we have learned, how we have grown, and where we hear the Spirit calling. I look forward to those conversations, as well as to just being together again. For now, it is good to be home with you, Grace Church!

In Christ’s deep peace and in gratitude,