Thursday, July 20, 2017

Church Life

It is good to be back working  in a church.  It is really good.  Yesterday I spent time at First Christian Church in Zanesville where I am filling in for Pastor Dawn and realized the unique blessings to being part of a church.

 - First it is a real gift to get to preach and to prepare to preach.  This summer I have been preaching on the stories of Genesis and I spend my week with the events of these  characters - Adam, Eve, Cain, Abel, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac spinning around in my head.  This week the sermon will be on the "Binding" of Isaac which is a tough story to think about in this day and age. A Father thinks God is telling him to sacrifice his son - his only son.  And only at the last minute there is a "ram in the thicket."  What does this story have for us today?  THAT is what I think about this week.  And I like it and hopefully, by Sunday, I will have something to share.

 - It is a gift to be with old people - even older than me.  Yesterday I visited with a couple who have not been able to come to church because he is being treated for bladder cancer.  In September, they will celebrate 70 years of marriage - 70!  And they are sweet and loving with each other as they shared stories of their life together.  He calls her "honey" and gives her a kiss every morning.

 - It is a gift to be with children.  Vacation Bible School is this week and I got to take pictures and "ring the bell" between the events of the evening.  There were 70 plus children and lots of caring and fun adults helping.  The laughter and the smiles were really infectious and I just loved their energy and joy.

 - It is a gift to be with people who are on the spiritual journey.  I love it when someone shares a story about how God has revealed Godself to them.  I am teaching a Sunday School on the spiritual pilgrimage and at the end one woman took me aside and told me how she heard God's voice when she was 11 years old.  God said: "Go to church."  She told her mother and they did and now 60 years later she is still going.

 - It is a gift to see how people care for each other in a church.  I served at this church 30 years ago and many of the people are still there.  And during these years, they have worshipped together, cared for each other's family, and had many. many memories.  There are friendships that develop because of this commitment to being part of this "organization"  which we call the "body of Christ."

So, I am grateful for the gift of this summer of being a part time pastor in a very alive and loving community.  It is bringing me immense joy and will move me into finding another community to be part of when this is over.

Yesterday at our little Wednesday worship we sang this song.  One of my favorites.  The line I like - is "she is his new creation."  There really is nothing like a church that is alive - it is a new creation and I have been blessed by  one this summer.

The Church’s one foundation
Is Jesus Christ her Lord,
She is His new creation
By water and the Word.
From heaven He came and sought her
To be His holy bride;
With His own blood He bought her
And for her life He died.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Cracks in the foundation

This is not good!  In moving into our house Audrey alerted Chuck and I to the horizontal crack she noticed in the basement.  As he moved shelves away from the site, it was clear that we had a problem.

Yesterday Patrick from Basement "Authority" came and gave us the bad news.  After almost 50 years of existence, the earth has been pushing against the walls of the basement.  There are cracks, bowing, and shearing.  This is not good.

As I sat on my porch this morning I can see that it is much the same with my body.  It is showing the effects of the wear of life.  As I look ahead I have concerns about heart, mind, bones and strokes.  And so exercise is about more than weight - but also heart and brain care.  And I take my blood pressure medication, calcium and Vitamin D pills.

With both the basement and the body I wonder how much denial and unconsciousness there has been over the year.  How long have these cracks been developing?  How long have I denied the need to look long and hard at my overall health?  But really, those questions seem to me to be dead ends.

This is life.  Things fall apart over time and then we take steps to shore up the wall and attend to the body.  And accept as inevitable  - but not defining - the decline and decay of everything.  And trusting - at the same time - the possibility of repair that may not bring us back to where we were originally - but a place and person that will persist, persevere and be adequate to the purpose for which it was created.

As I write this, I realize how helpful Pema Chodren's writings have been to me.

 “We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don't really get solved. They come together and they fall apart.”
Pema Chödrön

And so we are going to spend some money soon fixing the wall.  We still need another quote - this time from the Basement "Doctor."   I like my house, Chuck loves the basement and we will do what we need to do.  And the same with this challenge of aging - we like our lives and our bodies have been really a blessing up to now so we will do what we need to do.  And most of all enjoy it - ALL.

I will end this with a story from Pema Chodren.

“There is a story of a woman running away from tigers. She runs and runs and the tigers are getting closer and closer. When she comes to the edge of a cliff, she sees some vines there, so she climbs down and holds on to the vines.
 Looking down, she sees that there are tigers below her as well.
 She then notices that a mouse is gnawing away at the vine to which she is clinging.
She also sees a beautiful little bunch of strawberries close to her, growing out of a clump of grass. She looks up and she looks down.
 She looks at the mouse.
Then she just takes a strawberry, puts it in her mouth, and enjoys it thoroughly. Tigers above, tigers below.
This is actually the predicament that we are always in, in terms of our birth and death.
Each moment is just what it is.
 It might be the only moment of our life; it might be the only strawberry we’ll ever eat.
We could get depressed about it, or we could finally appreciate it and delight in the preciousness of every single moment of our life.”

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Gathered Together

That is the way I feel right now - I am being gathered together from being extremely scattered.
For the past three months much has happened and the first thing to go was this blog.  This morning I sat on the flowered couch on my back porch and finally, finally, finally felt centered enough to come back to this writing.

There are two major shifts in my life - my daughter Audrey has come home to live with us for a while.  Much of my attention and energy has been on her - the practical details of making space for a third person in our home.  And the time of just being present with her as she begins her life over again in Columbus.

I am now halfway through working at First Christian Church in Zanesville filling in for Dawn Remster, the minister, who is on sabbatical.  I am not really filling in - basically preaching Sunday and Wednesday and doing a little bit of pastoral work.  It has been extremely satisfying to be back in Zanesville and to be back into sermon preparation and pastoral life.

What I realize is that I have sort of lost my rhythem and feel kind of scattered which is why I titled this blog "gathered together."  It really is only when I intentionally find some quiet time for writing and reflection that I start to feel centered.

Today as I wrote in my journal for the first time in a while, I found myself full of gratitude for all of this change and work and literally new life.

Audrey has  - in the space of a few weeks -  found a new job as well as some part time work.  I watch her as she reconnects with family and old friends and seeks to find new ways to connect with people.  She truly is an inspiration to me.

Also, she comes into our home and brings new life.  She is working with Chuck in yardwork as well as selling some of the "treasures" that he purchases at estate sales.  She is kind and patient and hard working.  She is my companion in netflix viewing and political and spiritual discussions.  It is beyond good.

I find myself really enjoying the process of sermon preparation - the times of thinking, pondering, reading, praying over the text and eventually emerging with a product that is of interest to me, at least.  It is good.  I also am glad this is limited because it can truly be a grind as well.

I started a Sunday School class last week on the Pilgrimage of the Soul which I had both attended and led last year.  One of the first assignments was to discern or receive a seven word mantra for the month.  I have struggled with this until this morning.  I read a wonderful poem which I will share which really speaks to me.  It speaks of my desires for allowing God's spirit to work through me and I realized that this may be the mantra:

(10 words - sorry!)

In this time of fullness and abundance  I only want to be faithful to the one who brings new life.

I believe in all that has never yet been spoken.
I want to free what waits within me
so that what no one has dared to wish for may for once spring clear
without my contriving.

If this is arrogant, God, forgive me,
but this is what I need to say
May what I do flow from me like a river,
no forcing and no holding back,
the way it is with children.

Then in these swelling and ebbing currents,
these deepening tides moving out, returning,
I will sing you as no one ever has,
streaming through the widening channels
into the open sea.

Rainer Maria Rilke