Tuesday, July 28, 2015

With Addie

With Addie

I am  at the French Quarter Holiday Inn in Perrysburg, Ohio.  Addie is sleeping in the room and I am having coffee outside the room in the "courtyard.". From where I sit I can see the ping pong tables where we played last night, the swimming pool with it's fountain and basketball hoops, pool tables, and the sliding doors of the rooms surrounding this space.

It is good to be here.  It is good to be with Addie.  It is good to be away from home.

Brian moved in on Saturday evening.  He is slowly getting settled in and we are slowly "figuring it out" and adapting to a new normal. And one part of that is just having  a third person in our home.  I have certainly become comfortable with my routines and they are having to change.

Brian is fragile and anxious about his future, and I find myself anxious as well. We will have to find support people to help us and it is easy to feel overwhelmed.  For all of that, this trip with Addie is a breathing space for me that is a blessing.

We are living all the things I preach about and believe in. I think we are answering a call to provide radical hospitality and I know it is already stretching me.  It is certainly easier to preach this than live it!

So in this moment, this morning I remember God's providence and promise which is that in the wilderness, there will be manna for this day and my faith assures me that I will receive it again tomorrow. Daily bread that is not stored but assured.

Today is going to be Addie Day and we will swim, play skip Bo and ping pong this morning, go the the zoo this afternoon and home this evening.
I hope she will receive   from me what every child needs at times: attention from someone who loves her unconditionally.

And hopefully I will continue to remember that God is always present with me.  Giving me - not only attention and unconditional love - but also bread for my journey as I prepare to dive back into my call to love Brian and be part of his healing in my home.

May it be so

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Reflections on the General Assembly

It took years to plan and prepare for this assembly of Disciples in Columbus and now it is over and I find myself this morning reflecting on it all.

Overall I did not feel as engaged as I have in the past General Assemblies. There are two reasons.  The first is that this time I did not stay at a hotel and so I drove back and forth.  I attended far fewer events because of that.  And the second reason is that I am now retired and not immediately planning to implement what I am learning.  And that made a big difference.

1. Business  - fascinating, frustrating, slow and necessary.  The business meetings made me think about issues that I might not consider and learn about different sides to discussions.  They seemed ponderous as sometimes amendments were made to proposals and we had to vote on them before we voted on the proposal.  And sometimes people would feel it necessary to make their point - which someone else had already made.  It reminded me of board meetings at a church.  As we continue to have conversations about "transforming" the church, there are always people who want to have fewer meetings.  And I get it - but I also know that unless we all have opportunities for discussion openly there will be suspicion and division.

2. Worship was both inspiring and frustrating.  The music was sometimes great and sometimes loud and sometimes perfect and sometimes too much.  Always I am aware of the variety of people who are attending and the reality that no music will fit for everyone.  Last night we were rocking out the jazzy communion song at the end about the table. I like it - but I also know that so many don't.  And always that leads me into marveling that we are able to do worship at all.

Tuesday night during communion we were to share our dream for the church.  My dream continues to be the same one as I had in serving Karl Road Christian Church - a church that is young and old, black and white, gay and straight.  A church that looks like heaven.  A church that is alive and full of joy.  But always we rub up against the differences that we have in our personal preferences about space and music and preaching styles.

3. Good preaching raises me up to look beyond self to see the blessedness of faith.  And I heard some good preaching this week.  And last night I found myself in tears as I remembered the gift of Jesus and the body of Christ that is the church.

So, for me it was a week of some grief and some  relief in my current status as minister without a church to serve. I saw the hard work of the members of Karl Road Christian Church and other local churches providing servant leadership so other people could grow and be inspired at this assembly.  And always I am awed by the goodness of these folks.

But most of all, when it is all said and done I am grateful for the call of Jesus that brought me into this denomination 35 years ago.  We are small but we are faithful and God's spirit will guide us into new beginnings.  I trust that. 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015


This is a busy week because we have our General Assembly for the WHOLE CHURCH in Columbus Ohio.  It is fun, inspiring, challenging, God filled and kind of tiring!

Some of my convention activities have included helping Marsha pick up some of the VIP's at the airport, helping organize our race Sunday at Sharon Woods, helping with the service at Camp Christian on Sunday and being available for communion in the evening.  All of these things have involved working with people I love and just being part of it all.  This is what I love.

I also love seeing people from my past and I sure do here.   Friends from various churches, colleagues in ministry, folks from  Chautauqua, from camp, and even Audrey's friends who have become friends to me. Lots of faces of people  who were important to me in my faith journey and who I touched along the way.  It is heart warming and awesome to consider all the companions along the way.

I also have received in so many ways - going to worship, attending the business sessions, and the GLAD banquet and hearing some really inspiring sermons.  The Disciples of Christ is - like most mainline churches - in decline and so that is almost a subtext of the convention.

The scripture that we are using for the theme is from Isaiah 40 and I love these verses:

 Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
    his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint,
    and strengthens the powerless.Even youths will faint and be weary,
    and the young will fall exhausted; but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,
    they shall mount up with wings  (SOAR) like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
    they shall walk and not faint

I know this is a CHURCH convention and the temptation is to concentrate on the church - our business, our programs, our workshops, etc.  What I see, however, after 35 years as a Disciple of Christ (at one point I was a newcomer to this denomination!) is God working through us.  That is the benefit of my years in ministry.  I have seen God's power that strengthened, inspired and transformed
people and churches.  And I trust that power to be at work - not only in and through this time in Columbus - but in the next few years as the church learns to be the leaven in the loaf and the light in the darkness.

In the 90's I would go to workshops and hear people talk about the end of Christendom when our culture encouraged Christianity.  The years when more people went to church  and the schools would not dare to schedule programs on Sunday.   And we even had prayer in schools.  But those years are over and we are called to be what the church was during the time of Jesus and the early church- a subversive group of believers who were operating on a different value system and sense of community. They were people who trusted God and really loved each other. (not without tensions and squabbles of course).

And so, now we gather - not the large numbers as in the "good old days" -  but new and old Disciples who know that following Jesus through the church leads us to the abundant life.  And I experience it this week in many, many ways and trust that "waiting for the Lord" and trusting in the Lord will lead us into someplace new and - in its own way - in a new way - wonder  full.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Prayer - Our Deepest Longing

This is the name of the book that I have been spending time with in the morning.  Prayer: Our Deepest Longing by Ronald Rolheiser.

This is what the author writes in his preface
"We live in a world that is for the most part spiritually tone deaf, where all the goods are in the store window, digitized, or reduced to a flat screen.  And so, prayer is a struggle.  So are a lot of other things.  When the surface is all there is, it is hard to be enchanted by anything, to see depth, to be deeply touched by poetry, faith, and love.  But these are what we long for: depth, poetry, faith, love."

I have been home this week in the midst of the  rhythms of "family life."  This week Reagan and Addie are with Marnie and Erik which means I have spent a lot of time with them while they were working.  And it has been fun and tiring for me.  There have been quiet days when they had friends come over and noisy and frenetic times like when we went to COSI and "Build a Bear." I have seen the sullen and sulky Reagan as well as the Sweet and Smart Reagan.  I have been around the anxious and hysterical Addie as well as the affectionate and happy Addie.  And they have seen me patient and impatient; present to them and distant from them. When we really live closely together we show all parts of ourselves.

Right now Chuck and I are preparing for a big change in our lives as his son Brian will be moving in with us in two weeks.  He needs family right now and there is no doubt in my mind that God wants us to be family to each other.   Not surprisingly we have mixed emotions about this on so many levels.
Like living with Reagan and Addie, I am sure we will experience the best and worst of each other!

All of which make me realize that the most important thing I can do is continue to take seriously my prayer life.  Which is as challenging as "family life."  Rohlheiser writes:
"Prayer has a huge ebb and flow.  When we try to pray, sometimes we walk on water and sometimes we sink like a stone.  
Sometimes we have a deep sense of God's reality and sometimes we can't even imagine that God exists.  
Sometimes we have deep feelings about God's goodness and love, and sometimes we feel only boredom and distraction....
We nurse a naive fantasy both about what constitutes prayer and how we might sustain ourselves in it.  What often lies at the center of this misguided notion is the belief that prayer is always meant to be interesting, warm, bringing spiritual insight, and giving the sense that we are actually praying."

Rohlheiser reminds me there is only one non-negotiable rule for prayer - you have to show up and you have to show up regularly.  And while that dedicated time with God may not always be obviously "fruitful" there is hidden growth going on all the time.  The growth that gives me patience, perseverance, courage and most of all love.  For everyone I encounter and especially the most challenging at times -myself and  my family!

My  prayer is that I might continue to seek greater discipline in prayer.  And  in the midst of the busyness of a family that stretches me to deeper and greater love that I might find solitude and time with God.  Last quote:

"Solitude is not something we turn on like a water faucet.  It needs a body and mind slowed enough to be attentive to the present moment.  We are in solitude when, as Thomas Merton describes it, we fully taste the water we are drinking, feel the warmth of our blankets, and are restful enough to be content inside our own skin. 

We don't often accomplish this, despite sincere effort.  But we need to keep making new beginnings."

As always, this is the day that the Lord has made - a day of new beginnings!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Living in the Tension

Living in the tension

Drum sounds rise on the air,
And with them my heart,
A voice inside the beat says,
I know you are tired
But come
This is the way.

I write this from Louisville Kentucky on a Sunday morning.  It is early and soon Audrey will get up and then we will go to Douglas avenue Christian church where she will lead a Sunday school class and then preach.

Yesterday we both led a workshop on living in the tension. It was essentially about the work of justice in the church and how it leads us into tension always.
It was  a small group that gathered yesterday of Christians who were gay, transgender and allies of the of LBGTIQ community.  And I heard lots of stories of how difficult it continues to be to live as a gay and transgender person today.  And how difficult it is to help a church become open and affirming of all people.  Of course there have been great strides in passing a resolution in the church and marriage equality laws in the country.  However, hearts and minds of many have not been changed.

So we who care deeply about this live in tension.  Because that truly is the call of Jesus.  When we understand that this is a journey of love for all people and bringing the kingdom of God for all people, we must recognize that it is not enough that our needs are met, we have to see and work for the justice of others. I keep learning that through this work, through the BREAD organization, through readings and relationships with people different  from me.  The justice journey wakes us up and in its own way breaks us open.

I finally finished reading Broken Open and look forward to beginning discussions of this powerful book.  In it's own way this weekend is breaking me open as I seek tom respond to Gods voice in this area.

She concludes the book like this:

may you listen to the within the beat even when you are tired.  When you feel yourself breaking down, may you break open instead.
May every experience in life be a door that opens your heart, expands your understanding, and leads you to freedom.
If you are weary, may you be aroused by passion and purpose.
If you are blameful and bitter, may you be sweetened by hope and humor.
If you are frightened may you be emboldened by a big consciousness, far wiser than you fear.
If you are lonely, may you find love, may you find friendship.
If you are lost, may you understand we all are lost, and still we are guided - by Strange Angels and Sleeping Giants, by our better and kinder natures, by the vibrant voice within the beat.
May you follow that voice, for This is the way, the hero's journey, the life worth living, the reason we are here.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Ch - ch- Changes

That is the title of the chapter I read this morning from Broken Open and it begins with a quote from the song by David Bowie:  Ch-ch-ch- Changes, turn and face the strain

And that is the story of every life - changes that we don't want to face and that can strain us until we do.  Change is constant and both easy and hard.  But harder still when we resist.

One of the changes that is coming in my life is exciting for me.  In September I will be starting a 30 week "Retreat in Daily Life" , committing myself to the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius of Loyala. Normally one would do a thirty day retreat with these exercises, but this way it is spread over 30 weeks. And it will bring ch-ch- changes to my daily life.  In doing this, I am committing myself to at least one hour of daily prayer in the morning and also evening prayer.  And meeting with a spiritual director weekly.  In preparation for this, last night I started the evening prayer time.  This is a 5 step prayer time with these suggestions:
1. Pray for light
2. Review the Day with Thanksgiving
3. Review the feelings that survace in the replay of the day
4. Choose one of these feelings (positive or negative) and pray from it
5. Look toward tomorrow.  What feelings surface as you look at your calendar?
And then say the Lord's Prayer.

As I looked to today, I wrote this in my journal: "I pray that I might savor the gift of Audrey who I love so much."

That is another one of the Ch-ch-changes in my life.  Audrey and Miranda have now moved to Tuscan and are going through lots of changes.  But right now Audrey is here in my home.  She is leading a workshop in Louisville Saturday and preaching on Sunday.  I am going with her to Louisville and helping with the workshop.  Sunday afternoon I will drop her at the airport in Louisville and then come home.

Tuscan is a LOT farther away than Lynchberg and as happy as I am for her, it is hard to have her so far away.  The blessing of my life is when my family is close and this is a big change.   Elizabeth Lesser writes about learning to: "trust the eternal life force that is flowing within us - letting that force lead the way through all of the inevitable changes we will face across the span of our time here on Earth."

And I do trust God in the midst of all changes and know that it is good to be with Audrey right here and right now.  I savor her presence - as  she is one of the lively  "Connor Girls" I raised, the fun aunt with her nieces and nephews, the patient "daughter" with Chuck, and the fun, smart, spiritual, very special  daughter to me.

A verse for today in the lectionary speaks to me:
"Let me hear what God the Lord will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his faithful, to those who turn to him in their hearts."

It is in prayer that I watch and wait and listen for God's peace in the midst of all the changes of life.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Back from the beach

I have not posted for over a week because I was on family vacation at the Outer Banks.  For many years this was a yearly event (beginning in 1962.)  And the different "family" members have certainly changed over the years.

At the beginning there were  three teenagers - Wayne, Margot and Geoff and our little sister Ellen, mom and dad and ....sometimes grandma, sometimes Aunt Shirl and Uncle Sam and our 5 cousins, and often friends.  I remember one year when we had 50 people  who came down together and rented houses.  Our parents would have happy hour and we kids would play four square and other games.
And of course all be together on the beach.

This year there were 26 of us who rented three houses.  I was joined by my two brothers and their families and my daughters and grandchildren and then friends who are like family.  A lot of people and alot of conversations and laughter and fun.

There was one real disappointment this year - the appearance of SHARKS which were very real.  The first day we were there we saw ambulance down the beach four houses from Marnie and Kacey's and YES it was a shark attack.  So, no boogie board for me and much less time at the beach.  But the blessing - and what a blessing - was that we were the house that had the pool and so everyone came at different times of the day and it was a place of so much life.  We had children splashing, wild and competitive water volleyball games and then a place for us "seniors" to float and even swim.  I even got Chuck in the pool this year.

So, I am tired after a long drive home yesterday but extremely grateful
Anyway, here are some pictures and descriptions  of  some of my favorite parts of this week.

1. Porches - a great place to see the ocean or the sound.  A great place to be alone or with others.

2. Meals - I wish I had a picture of some of the great meals we had around the table.  We all took turns cooking and I enjoyed some different dishes. I am blessed with two sisters in law that I love and who really are good cooks! And the conversations were always stimulating.

3. Lunches out - I got to spend time with my niece Gillian and her friends, with Dawn and Jason and then with Kacey and Audrey.  Here is a picture of 2 goofy girls after our meal.

 4. Games - again no picture, but lots of memories of dominos, rummikub, hands and feet and solitaire.  I really enjoyed having my great nephew Evan and I felt like I was channeling my mother in teaching and playing cards with the kids.

5. Family life - I got to babysit for Maggie and just be around everyone as they were getting ready to go to the beach.  There is something about the ordinary moments that is so special.  Here are Dawn and Kacey getting their husbands ready to go out in the sun.

6. Grandchildren - I spent time at the pier with Addie and Jackson.  Remembering being at the pier with my Dad when I was their age. And walking on the beach with Reagan and Alyse.  With both pairs, they talk constantly to each other and I wonder what they are saying - but love watching their relationships! 

7. Music - my brother Geoff brought a keyboard and Wayne a guitar which meant there was singing in our house.  Plus we had 2 year old Dino (my great nephew) and got to sing "The Itsy Bitsy Spider" "People on the Bus" "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" etc. The best part was Friday night when we wrote song parodies about our week - mine was an homage to the swimming pool to the tune of "Amazing Grace." Others were about shark bites, shopping, sunburn and Audrey missing the ferry at Okracoke!  Rumor has it there is a video, but probably - you had to be there.

I think I will stop here but just end with a word of gratitude.  For the blessing of a family that will actually come together in a somewhat regular basis - beyond weddings and funerals.  It is in times like this that we really get to know each other as we are now - and to savor the blessings of our past as we continue to make new memories together.