The Central Park Sabbatical

I have written songs professionally for the past 9 years. I try to work really hard and treat it as a job and show up every day. In March, I really started feeling like an empty well and as the month progressed it began to feel overwhelming. I just wasn't enjoying it.

There was a day in March when I began talking about taking some time off. I started asking the people who this would affect(my wife Sarah, my publisher Holly, and several co-writers) what they thought of the idea. To my surprise, everyone resoundingly told me to take time off.

I met with several people that last week in March to wrestle with how to rest well. One of the guys who was really gracious with his time was Jeromy Diebler. We had several days down to write and he so willingly switched gears and helped dream with me about my time off. I'm in a marriage mentoring community group led by Greg Ham. I told our group that I was taking the month off and that I wanted to take a two-day silent retreat to begin my month. Greg had done this in the past and recommended that I meet with a counselor named Al Andrews. I took Al to lunch at Puckett's Grocery in downtown Franklin. I had heard a lot about Al as he is a counselor to many artist's and musicians. Our time together was wonderful and one of the things that he said stood out to me. He said, "I want you to consider finding your Central Park." It's like my spirit smiled when he said that and I nodded for him to continue. "Your life is like the busy-ness of New York City and the planners of the city carved out a huge space in the middle of that city that seemed to communicate rest."

I left for my two day retreat and went to a place called Deer Run. I stayed in Lodge in the Treehouse Suite. The first morning and early afternoon was great. I read, prayed, journaled, hiked, and listened. In the late afternoon, it started being really hard and lonely and I had another day to go! Looking back, I'm so glad I took that retreat...for margin, for rest, for wrestling. I will continue to look back on the things I journaled about. This is one of the entries...

Central Park Metaphor

The City is extremely busy. Tourists, people dressed in suits. Sidewalks packed, walking, waiting at red lights.

The forethought of city planners to carve out a HUGE chunk of the city and make it a place of relaxation and renewal. They could bring machines in and dig up the trees, rocks for climbing, ponds, bridges, places for running and riding bikes. It would have been seemingly easy to build more city blocks of skyscrapers, money-making structures. Instead it seems, they valued margin, space, something green amidst something gray.

Yes, the beauty of NYC is the sum of it's parts but the sum of it's parts includes the vast oasis that is Central Park. The city wouldn't be nearly as magical without it.

You can see the city from a long way off. In the same way, I want to be a sort of City on a Hill. I want to love the Lord and love people well with His love. Living well seemingly means I need to value margin...not just value margin that exists in a Redbox, a racquetball game, or 18 holes but margin that listens, that prays, that memorizes scripture, that takes time to love people in need.

I have one more week of time off. It has been good for my soul. It has been really interesting to see how the Lord has already blessed this time off. I keep hearing good news this month about songs being cut or singled to radio. I'm excited to get back in the room with friends and start creating again. As I have started to schedule May, the temptation is to pack my schedule and start building "skyscrapers"...but I am mindful to leave space...a Central Park for my soul.