Sunday, June 27, 2010

End of Week 2

As I write this I am getting ready to go to The St. Francis Spirituality Center in Tiffin for a 5 day silent retreat. This is a requirement for my course in spiritual direction, but I would be doing this anyway. I have not done a 5 days of silence before, but I have done three and found it to be wonderul. I look forward to it - especially because I will get to see my old spiritual director, Sister Breta.

The last few days have been a time of rest and quiet for me at home. Chuck left yesterday on the Megabus to see the Hughes family and his son Brian in Chicago. I have been spending a lot of time of my back porch, reading, writing and just being.
It is hard to get used to not working and just being. At the same time I am very aware of the luxury of all of this. My neighbors are in the process of moving right now - they have to vacate their home at the end of the month and still do not know where they will be living. Another neighbor has a son who will soon be going to prison for drug dealing. And always I am aware of those - like Lisa Baluk - who are suffering through cancer. Different people in different seasons of life - and I sit on my back porch in this "Sabbatical Season" grateful and yet conscious of the suffering around me.

During the past two weeks I have read two wonderful books of fiction - Olive Kitteredge by Elizabeth Stout. and In Country by Bobbie Jo Mason. One of the blessings of the sabbatical has been the chance to read and savor these books. Maybe because of that, I ended up in tears at the end of each. I heartily recommend.

I finished "The Naked Now" by Richard Rohr which I have been slowly reading devotionally for about 6 weeks. I am going to take it on retreat today because it has in the appendices spiritual practices. Often, I do not take the time (or have the time) to sit with them, so I welcome this.

This morning I went to church. It was a blessing, as church always is but, of course, very different to go as a stranger. When I worship ourside of Karl Road Christian Church I want to worship and not be in an "evaluative" stance. And I did this morning. Having said that I did notice three things - that no one offered me a bulletin, no one spoke personally to me (except "peace be with you") and I really missed communion.

There were several parts of the service that were really appealing to me. There was a solo by an older man (in his 80's?) who sang "Because he Lives." He sand with great faith and I realize how much I enjoy worshipping with the saints. The great blessing of church for me has always been the intergenerational aspect and I loved this solo. Their mission group from Nicaragua gave a brief talk about their trip - they got back last night. It was in many ways the typical report as middle class youth have their eyes opened to third world poverty and all of the team was touched by the deep faith of the people. What struck me about it was that whole idea of how we each do our part - which may not be much - but is important. As slowly we (the church) makes a difference in the lives of people around the world and our own faith is strengthened.

The preacher was very good and spoke about picking up the mantle of being who we are. And I always need to hear that.

Finally, at the end of the service - after the closing hymn - they were welcoming new members. As the congregation sat to do so - I left! I was not responsible and could leave early!

That was a good feeling.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Shakertown - Day 9 and 10

People kept asking me - why are you going to Shakertown and my answer was "Chuck wants to " and so we went.

And it was perfect for us - what we needed and really made me consider a lot of things.
It was a nice bookend to the beginning of this trip - our visit to Gettysburg.

The Shakers were (and are - there are 3 living Shakers in Maine!) a group of Christians who felt called by God to live in community. They started in England in the last 18th century but came over to the US to start a group in the Albany NY area. Three of their members were in Kentucky - Cane Ridge in 1804 during the great revivals that happened there. These revivals were the beginning of Barton W. Stone's conversion which helped begin my denomination the Disciples of Christ. For the Shakers it was further proof that they were living in the Millenium - that Christ would come again soon and that their job was to prepare for his coming. And the community of the Shakers was that preparation. It was a group of people who were egalitarian, pacifist, celibate (that's the one thing everyone knows about the Shakers!) and living in a worshipful working community that was always striving for perfection. And so Shaker furniture is still widely regarded as were their seeds and songs. Their worship did not have a minister (egalitarian) and it was characterized by music and dancing. They are known as mystics.

Wednesday Chuck and I went to many lectures plus a demonstration of Shaker music (we danced too!) We stayed at the Inn and ate two meals there.

There was much to admire about the Shakers - their community was caring and kind and there was a place for everyone. During hard times, people had a better life there than on their own. I had always heard or maybe assumed that they died out because of the celibacy - no one is a born Shaker - everyone is a convert. It was no cult - because they made it hard to join (have to be 21) and easy to leave.

It turns out that there were other reasons why it died out. (the last Shaker from KY died in 1923) There were some issues about who is going to be in charge. Even though they were egalitarian - they were not a democracy. The elders in charge - 2 men and 2 women - were selected by the leaders in NY. The leaders chose the leaders and they lost a lot of people over the years over this.

The times changed as well. After the Industrial Revolution, men could make more money and have more autonomy doing other work than farming. Over time, there were more women (widows from the civil war) and not enough men to do the work.

And the leaders and the kinds of people that were drawn to the Shakers changed over the years. In the beginning, it was some very faithful and devoted and intelligent people. At the end, sometimes people would want to come for the winter and then leave when the spring planting had to be done.

The Shakers in Kentucky had a good run - from 1811 - 1911. And that may be enough. The Shakers foundation was formed in 1960 that bought back the land and put together the Inn that we stayed at and all the lectures and displays. It is fascinating to consider these people and their dreams and their commitment to what they believed God was calling them to do.

And so, I am left to ponder all of this. I see the Shakers as having the same issues as the church of today. There seems to be a theme here - about the "seasons" of our lives. It was a time for this kind of communal living, perhaps. And everything does not have to last forever to be successful. We all live in the tension between the needs of the individual and the community. And then there is our idealism - as our notions of perfection bruch up against our humanness.

The Inn where we stayed was quiet and peaceful. We watched no television and just allowed the beauty of the place to nourish us. (plus some delicious buttermilk fried chicken!)

One last thought - the civil war. They were pacifist and lived on Rte 68 where soldiers passed by. They were known for their kindness and generosity - so they were left alone to feed and to help heal the soldiers who came along - both sides.
Like I said - much to admire about these people.

Asheville - Day 7 and 8

We spent two days in Asheville which were wonderful.

I have heard a lot of about Ashville because Audrey's partner Caroline loves it so much and her desire has been that they would live there. After visiting it, I really can understand why.

Chuck and I met Audrey, Caroline and Caroline's dad at the Early Girl Eatery downtown and had an outstanding breakfast there. The part of town that it is in is really cool -arty and creative. We walked around afterward and Chuck and I even bought a picture at the "Woolworth Walk" (a renovated Woolworth store - now full of consignment art) for our kitchen. The atmosphere was just so alive.

Sunday afternoon Chuck and I went to the botanical gardens and spent an hour by the river reading the paper and just relaxing. Sunday evening we went to Beth and Dave's where we spent two nights. On Monday Beth gave us a real tour of the city.

Beth and Dave moved to Ashville from Columbus. They are in their fifties and after some significant deaths in their lives realized that they wanted to live where they wanted to live - and it was Asheville. After a year renting, they found their perfect house and that is where they will live for the rest of their lives. At least that's the plan. Since they moved there Dave has found a position working as a engineering Prof at UNC and Beth is just enjoying her life.

What is notable about them is how very happy they are and how stress free their lives seem to be. Their driving has been reduced tremendously. Dave walks to work and Beth walks to exercise, to shop and just to walk. They have no working TV (we could not watch the last day of the US OPEN!) and little time is spent on the computer. Instead they read, visit with friends and neighbors, garden, enjoy the city. And this city has much to enjoy. I was very intrigued by the drum circle every Friday night down town as well as the many music opportunities. They are interested in "simple living" and are a real advertisement for it. What I told them when I left Tuesday morning was that I noticed that they have a lot more "margins" in their lives than I do. This is something that I need to ruminate about.

Anyway, remember Asheville NC - clearly a great place to live and to visit.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Day 6

We are in Hendersonville visiting my Uncle jim and his friend Marion. We are having a wonderful time together.

My Sabbatical sermon was about the seasons of our lives - a time to be born and die, to pluck up and plant, etc. etc

And our last two visits have been about the challenge of the change of seasons. Both Chuck's sister Janet and my Uncle Jim are at that time of discernemtn about the change. The great change as we get older is the momentous decision of whether to and when to move from our homes into a retirement community. I am listening to these people that we love and hearing how hard it is. Especially when you have lived in a home for over 20 years. What will you do with your stuff? What will happen to this home and harden which you have had such a hand in creating? And what is the most financially practical solution? A lot of hard, hard decisions.

These visits have been about remembering as we have shared stories and pictures from the past. But at the same time, for both it has been the great challenge of facing an uncertain future and wanting to make the reight decision at the right time.

At the same time, we really enjoy Marion who has now lived at "The Meadows", a retirement community in Chapel Hill for 11 years. She is very happy there and has truly made a new life.

It is instructive to watch the process of discernment as both the Tindalls and Jim Jackson make these important decisions. The next year may bring some big changes for all of them.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Sabbatical - Day 4

I knew I was going to blog a bit during the sabbatical, but I didn't know how or when or what. But today is a good day to write something.

My sabbatical officially started Monday and I was able to do some of what I want to do during this precious time. I had lunch with Lisa and Marnie, I saw Loretta, my spiritual director and Monday night I sat on my front porch with Debbie, from Wellstreams, and drank wine and talked about it all. A very good beginning.

What I need and want it to rest and to spend time with God. Of course, God is always with us, but "spending time with God" is living in awareness of God's presence. And I need that - more of that. Loretta asked me how I was going to "check in" with God and that has been my image already. As I periodically write in my journal and read from The Book of Hours by Thomas Merton I begin by writing that I am "checking in." A good reminder.

The word that came to me today was "unencumbered." I feel unencumbered. I am not responsible for the church right now. I am unencumbered. When Chuck and I have been places - like to the Gettysburg Civil War Museum or a beautiful Garden in Richmond Va - we have no one else with us. No friends, children, grandchildren, we are unencumbered. I do not have to write a sermon this week or a paper for my Wellstreams class. I am unencumbered. And I feel so free and so much peace already.

We loved our trip to Gettysburg. We heard the story of our nation and its stain of slavery and the pain of the civil war. We saw the places where things happened - where a minister was shot on the steps of his church, where yankees and rebels fought in the streets of the city, where the cavalry gathered in the wheatfields or the ridges. And it is our country - a place of bravery and courage and sometimes foolishness and mistakes. But it is our country and I loved learning about it. We also made a point of going to a restaurant where we were served "civil war food" - Game Pie which was delicious. It was a nice visit for us.

Today we are in Richmond visiting Chuck's sister Jan and brother Don. Don just got out of the hospital after 9 days, so we are happy to see him and to just be together. Right now as I type this Chuck and his sister are looking at old family photos together, deciding what to send home to Lisa.

Tomorrow we travel to NC to see my uncle Jim for a couple of days.

So, this sabbatical is exactly what I need. Time for remembering, time with fmaily, time with Chuck, and through it all time with God - checking in and remembering the blessing of this life.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Sabbatical Sermon

3For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: 2a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
3a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
4a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
5a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
6a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
7a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
8a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.
9What gain have the workers from their toil? 10I have seen the business that God has given to everyone to be busy with.
11He has made everything suitable for its time; moreover he has put a sense of past and future into their minds, yet they cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.
12I know that there is nothing better for them than to be happy and enjoy themselves as long as they live; 13moreover, it is God’s gift that all should eat and drink and take pleasure in all their toil.
The very first Sunday I preached here - Donna McGeahan was the worship leader and I asked to borrow her watch - did not realize that there is a clock up here.
Time is really important to me - when the service goes long - I get the heebie jeebies - I am aware of time. All the time! I am aware that if you go too long, people tune out and stop listening - preachers have to have a sense of when to stop
I recall hearing years ago about a preacher who was admiringly regarded for always finishing his services right at noon. Then one Sunday, the impossible happened. He preached until 12:30. On the way out, one of his elders angrily inquired, "What happened to you?"
The preacher answered, "For years I have always put a candy mint in my mouth as the service started, and I would tuck it away. It was always gone at exactly noon. That way, I never had to look at the clock or worry about what time it was. But this Sunday it didn't go away, and I finally realized I had put a button in my mouth."
Time is important
Joan Chittister refers to the 2 truths of time: that time teaches and that time disappears.
She says the purpose of time rings unfailingly clear -
It is not accumulation - the purpose of time is to alert ourselves so that we can become, ….as Ecclesiastes implies - the only thing that is worth our time to become:
A truly human, deeply spiritual human being.
Ecclesiastes is wisdom literature and guides us into a deeper understanding of life, ourselves and God. Wisdom stands apart and observes And wisdom shows us that we live our life in time, in minutes, hours, season - times
Today's text catalogs various seasons of life, 28 of them arranged in sharp contrast to one another and yet each an undeniable part of human existence.
This list rings so true. It begins with what is most fundamentally true--that one day, we are born into this world, then, just as inevitably, our life in this world comes to an end.
The recognition of the times of life - the seasons of life gives us balance. . Only God knows why existence is set up the way it is. In the face of an inscrutable world created by an inscrutable God, one should not waste energy railing against life;
There are times to plant and later there are times to pluck up
There are times to weep and later there are times to laugh.
And the wisdom is to recognize that.
Culturally, we often want to short change some of the seasons and extend others.
Knowing what time it is differentiates the foolish from the wise. Some hold on for dear life to that which is actually finished and done.
Or refuse to let go of a relationship that has ceased to be nourishing.
The wise parent learns that there is a time to protect our children and then there is a time to let them go and allow them to experience pain.
There are times to build the nest and accumulate possessions and then there are times to let go of them as we no longer need them
There is balance to understanding the times, the seasons of our lives
And more than understanding them - it is important to experience them. At the time - whether it is the very real grief at the loss of a loved one or the tremendous joy at the wedding of a child.
Or all those mixed emotions at the birth of a baby - the love, the awe, the terror!
but more than that - to experience God in all of it.
God in our planting and in our harvesting,, God in our mourning, God in our dancing, God in our war and God in our peace
Wisdom understands that every season is important and every season has God in it.
Which means that we can live in it, experience it and trust that there is more than this. Life is not all sunshine and life is not all darkness. Life is not all laughter and it is not all tear.. Wisdom - holds both - both and. None of it lasts forever - not the good times or the bad times
But we trust God in it all. That is wisdom
Do you remember the book - Why Do Bad things Happen to Good people? Even that title is foolish. Wisdom tells you that every life gets both - bad things and good things.
In our Immaturity -we complain “ why does everything bad happen to me.” In our maturity we know about the seasons and we also know that there are blessings all around us - We hold it all lightly - because we know that it is part a parcel of this mystery called life - that is a gift from God
But let me move to the second part of this sermon which is about the gift that God has for us - the gift of Sabbath and a great gift for me - - and the gift of sabbatical. Which is an extension of that idea. Root of the word - Sabbath - to cease, to abstain for the work, the toil, the busyness
Sabbath is the day of rest and reflection and renewal and worship for every six. Sabbatical traditionally is a year of rest, renewal and worship for every seven. I am not going to have a year - but 3 months
Somebody described this - a Sabbatical (but it also may be what Sabbath should be ) “ a time to receive rather than give, to get input rather than give output, to carefully nurture and cultivate our lives so that the soul of our spirits might be rid of weeds and have an opportunity to receive nourishment “
Sabbath is a gift from God and a commandment from God in the midst of the season. And we all have a choice in Sabbath - And the gift of Sabbath - and Sabbatical - does three things for us
It gives us the gift of balance - restores our souls - rests, renewal,
It allows us to experience God in it and experience our lives. A lot goes on during a week - joy, struggle, pain, confusion, and we need a day to stop, to reflect, to experience
And we are able to trust that God is at work even when we are not!.
A Sabbatical comes to remind me that I don’t have to be in control of everything - I can take time off and life will go on here without me.
Sabbatical reminds all of us that Karl Road Christian Church is God’s church and that God will continue God’s work and that this church will flourish in my absence.
But sabbatical has one more gift for me - as Sabbath does for you
It is the gift of contemplation A time of pondering the presence of God in all times and all places. A time of not doing, but being. Richard Rohr calls contemplation the tree of life
A time of observing and allowing God’s spirit to restore my soul. It was exactly 25 years ago that hands were laid on me in ordination at Northwest Christian Church
And have been through a lot of change, joy and sorrow, sin and grace, planting and harvesting over these years. In these years I have experienced divorce and remarriage, the death of both parents and a sister, the marriage of two daughters, the ordination of a third, the birth of 4 grandchildren - that is just in my personal life.
I have also done scores of weddings, funerals, baptisms, and probably close to 1000 sermons. (300 of them here at Karl Road!)
There is no doubt that in my 25th year of ministry and by 61st year of life, I am tired. And “Weedy.” And at the same time very aware that I am I blessed beyond all deserving.
I thank you for this gift of Sabbatical and my hope is that I will return with vision and vitality. And ready to lead us into the next years together as we are Ignited By God and called to change this world. As people with passionate spirituality
I have lots of plans -for renewal, to explore and remember my past, to spend time with Chuck, to prepare myself for our future. lots of plans and some of them will happen - mostly I trust God’s leading in all of this.
A Sabbatical is a gift - and I know it. But I want you to understand that Sabbath is a gift - just as much with all of the same blessings for you. The truth is that we - especially as Americans - are uncomfortable with Sabbath. We know about vacation , a day off, and weekend, but Sabbath - a time of not doing work, a time of reflection and soul restoration - not quite as comfortable
So I want to leave you with this thought - for my Sabbatical and for your Sabbath - it is a gift and we need to receive it.
May we all be present -people of contemplation to all that God offers us.
I close with an ancient story told by Joan Chittister:
"Where shall I look for enlightenment?" the disciple asked.
"Here," the wise one said.
"When will it happen?" the disciple asked.
"It is happening right now," the wise one answered.
"Then why don't I experience it?"
"Because you don't look."
"What should I look for?"
"Nothing. Just look."
"Look at what?"
"At anything your eyes light on."
"But must I look in a special way?"
"No, the ordinary way will do."
"But don't I always look the ordinary way?"
"No, you don't."
"But why ever not?"
"Because to look, you must be here. And you are mostly somewhere else."(5)
May we be present in the gift of Sabbath and Sabbatical
May we spend time with God and reflect on the blessings, the times of our lives, the seasons in which we live
And may we ask of our God - with all that you have done for me
What is it that you want from me - today,
"For everything there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven
Today well-lived makes every yesterday a memory of happiness, and every tomorrow, a vision of hope."

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


I am getting ready for my sabbatical which starts next week! next week! and it feels like a really busy times.

Last weekend with Mary Jo Bray I co directed Grandparents Camp at Camp Christian. Mary Jo and I both had a number of folks from our lives that wanted this camp, so we thought - why not? And we planned it and did it. And, of course, at the end of the weekend it was worth it. But it involved a lot of planning and mental effort for me.

But what a blessing. Both Alyse and Reagan went and Audrey came as surrogate grandma to Alyse and Linda, Todd's wonderful mom, came with Reagan. We ended up with 18 kids and 36 total campers. They all got story bags and throughout the weekend we taught them stories about Jesus and gave them little things (stickers, crafts, etc) to put in their bags to remind them of the stories. Their assignment was to go home and tell the stories to their parents. I heard from one grandma - that her grandson did exactly that.

In addition to stories and crafts, we danced together, had a bonfire, went fishing, ate together and sang camp songs. It was so wonderful to watch the interaction of grandparent and grandchild. I just was so happy to be there and be able to make it happen. BUT tired! Sunday I sat in church and was just so tired!

The other part to the tired is the getting ready for the sabbatical. It is more than preparing to leave, and planning what I am going to be doing. It is also emotional as I think about leaving and not doing the things that define me for three months. I really enjoy pastoring, preaching, and teaching and three months of not doing this causes some anxiety and deep wondering!

I will write more about the sabbatical itself later, but the getting all the details together seems daunting, but I know I can.

One more thing - we have a lot of projects simmering at the church right now. We want to put in a new security system, redo the bathrooms, and get a new website. We are really excited about the website and have had many conversations. We came to the conclution that we would use a company - faithhighways. We were good to go last night to have our first consultaiton with them, we had paid the requisite $250 for this and found that they were questioning us. Are we open and affirming? Not officially, but we are certainly open and accepting of everybody and we are marching in the gay pride parade. (which they saw advertised on our present website) and so.....because they have a policy in which they do not work with open and affirming churches - we parted ways last night. As usual, I keep learning - theology matters.
And it does define us and causes us to make decisions like this. So, we will continue and find another company.

Interesting. Very interesting.