NMC Blog

Discerning God's Vision Together: Sabbacal Recap


The sabbatical started on September 1st and ran through the end of November. As it began, I had multiple ideas about what I would do. The plan was to take trips to Washington DC, New York City and Philadelphia to visit museums. I wanted to take several trips to Potter County and maybe Ithaca, NY. But God had other plans, and God’s plans are always better than mine. God’s plans involved restoring our “Wash House” and my heart.

The wash house needed to be painted while the weather was warm. That project was a little bigger than I expected. My mornings began with 30 – 60 minutes of prayer and journaling. The One Minute Pause App was a devotional used to get the journaling started. Prayer was followed by a 2 mile walk with the dogs and my wife, Grace. After the walk, the wash house was waiting. As I scraped and sanded, I listened to podcasts or books and processed the morning’s prayer focus. It did not take long for me to notice God scraping away the layers of disappointments, hurts, false beliefs, and idols in my life. Paint chips flew as I put scraper to siding. Dust filled the air as my sander tore at left over paint and exposed wood. As I focused on siding and windows, Jesus worked on me.

Jesus confronted my idols – money, people pleasing, church growth, and affirmations. Together, we wrestled with my attachments to those idols. Jesus asked, “Why do you trust these things more than me?” OUCH! Part of the project involved restoring the wash house door. As I scraped and sanded the door, Jesus asked me about my grief. My grief - Grandpa Arthur, Uncle Jerry, and Father Fred were three of the most important men in my life. One or all three likely painted that door over their lifetime. As I contemplated grief, the loss of those tremendous men poured out of me, and my tears mixed with paint and wood. The restoration of my heart continued. As for the wash house? What about those 100-year-old windows?


Oh, the windows! The windows were held in place by layers of paint and some ancient demon-possessed clips which befuddled me greatly. What do we do when we are befuddled? Get out the hammer of course! With a bit of sweat, maybe a muttered word or two, and of course a few broken panes, the windows popped free. The whole process was a bit disappointing. The broken panes could have been avoided with a softer touch and the clips needed a screwdriver, not a hammer. As I replaced the panes – more carefully – I was invited by Jesus to wrestle with my disappointments. How many could have been avoided with a little patience and the right tools? I handed my disappointments to Jesus and was reminded of his presence through it all! Jesus was with me in the times when I had put all my hope in my idols, when I have lost those near and dear to me, and when I have been disappointed. That is the hope in it all. Through my dark valleys God has been with me. Indeed, Jesus has prepared a table for me in the midst of many enemies. Jesus is with us – EMMANUEL and that is the most glorious news in all the world.

The sabbatical was not all about restoration. It was also a great celebration of family – Aiden and I went to visit potential colleges and I watched about 45 field hockey games. It was FANTASTIC! Just the break that I needed. I did spend two days at Longwood Gardens admiring the beauty of God’s creation and spent a day in New York City with Taylor enjoying the Metropolitan Museum of Art. God knew what I needed. God was with me. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you all for affording me this tremendous opportunity. What a blessing!

Pastor Hunter Hess


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