Thursday, February 21, 2008

Road Trip Down Interstate 95

My friend and fellow blogger, PokerBluegill, has inspired me to attempt to keep a journal on this winter trip to Florida. It was a cold and clear day in which to begin our trip down interstate 95. As we left home at five AM the temperature was 12 degrees; 11 hours and 585 miles later we arrived at our motel in Roanoke Rapids, NC where it was 39 degrees. We are certainly hoping for a warmer experience tommorrow as we complete our drive to central Florida. Dinner tonight was at a nearby Logan's Roadhouse. It was a fun atmosphere and we had a great meal.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Valentine's Day Bandit

We are experiencing a gentle snowfall this morning. Flakes like feathers creating a blanket of white on the ground. This weekend we visited Barre, VT. to visit Josh, Elizabeth, and grandson, Noah. They have over two feet of snow on the ground with snowbanks five foothigh making every intersection crossing a high risk challenge. Sunday morning the temp was 1. In Montpelier, the Valentine Bandit had struck again bringing warmth and smile to the hearts of the residents.
Every year this mysterious incident takes place as residents of the capitol city wake up on Valentine's Day to a blizzard of hearts posted throughout the town. Many of the hearts were still visible on Saturday. To learn more about this unusual tradition click here. We drove home in a light rain and 50 degrees. We leave later this week for Florida and 80 degrees. How wonderful to be able to experience such extremes within a week.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

525,600 minutes, 525,000 moments so dear. 525,600 minutes - how do you measure, measure a year? In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights, in cups of coffee. In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife. In 525,600 minutes - how do you measure a year in the life?
(from "Seasons of Love")

It has been exactly a year since I began this chapter of life called retirement. How should I measure these past 12 months, 525,600 minutes, of living. What tools and perspectives should I use to analyze this experience? I don't think that simply listing what I have done will capture the adventure it has been. I have been thinking alot about how this year has changed me, asking how has it been different then any year that came before? It has been helpful to examine this question from the following perspectives.

Physical Health: Simply put, I am living a much healthier lifestyle. I have been able to reduce cardiac and blood pressure medications. My weight has decreased by 15 pounds. I walk three miles at least four times a week. Weekly Tai Chi classes have introduced stretching, meditation, and balance to my life. It is my responsibility to do the grocery shopping, to plan and prepare our meals. We eat a healthy home made supper as a family almost every night. We now include fresh vegetables and fruit in our daily diet. Very little red meat is included in our diet and I've become proficient at subtituting ground turkey in many recipies. Fish is an important part of our meals also and I drink at least two cups of green tea daily as well as much water as I can consume. When I worked, my physical health was of the lowest priority. I skipped meals, ate fast food on a daily basis, was always tired if not exhausted. I wonder how much more effective I would have been if I had adopted these healthier habits earlier.

Relationships: While serving as a parish pastor the relationships with those I served was of the primary priority. That is where I placed my energies, patience, and compassion. This, unfortunately, meant my family received what was left over which I admit was not my best. They experienced me at my most tired, impatient, and stressed. They continued to love and accept me. I have focused this past year on sharing energy, time, and love with my spouse, children, and grandchildren. One of the big changes, of course, is my availability to them. If they need me, I drop whatever else I am doing. My life has been immensely enriched by my interactions with all the various members of my family. I get great satisfaction and joy from preparing the meals, cleaning the house, making John's lunch, and hosting the extended family for Sunday suppers and special events. A special time of day is following the evening meal when Mary and I work together to clean the table and wash the dishes. In my work life I most often missed supper or was hurrying out the door for a meeting. Now having dinner ready when Mary comes home from work is a daily gift that I look forward to preparing. I do greatly miss the daily interactions with the staff and members of our former parish. Filling that void is an ongoing challenge as I had few relationships outside of the parish when I was working. Finding opportunities to establish new friendships will be a priority for this year.

Spiritual Well-Being: The focus of my time and energies preretirement was in doing ministry. The emphasis was on the doing, the action, the work, the activity, and the results. I was blessed to be serving in a growing, thriving, and exciting parish. There was a real sense that the Holy Spirit was leading and guiding us. I woke each morning anticipating the challenges and opportunities that God would throw our way. It was a stressful, energizing, and rewarding life style. Now, in retirement, the focus of my time and energies is on experiencing God's grace in my life and in the lives of those around me. The emphasis is on the experience; the feelings and emotions, the presence of the Divine in my life and relationships. It is an approach to life marked by an openness and patience that I had not practiced before. I begin each morning with prayers that emphasize a yielding of my will and an acknowlegement that God is in control. The result of this change of focus from doing to experiencing is a sense of peace and well-being that is new to me. It is life lived with an expectation that each day I will be surprised with a Divine moment of Grace; a smile from my spouse, John's "I love you, Dad", a grandchild's laughter, an adult child's phone call, softly falling snow, birds at the birdfeeder, an e-mail from a friend, etc., etc.

Work and Ministry: This practice of yielding and openness has meant that I haven't pursued ministry opportunities but have waited patiently for them to present themselves. During the past year I have had a significant number of invitations to lead retreats, preach at special occassions, serve on leadership teams for the synod and region, and mentor individual pastors. I have been most grateful for these opportunities to share skills, experience, and my passion for ministry. The time between these responsibilities is used to reflect, debrief, and prayerfully plan for the next scheduled event. In preretirement there was always a immediate rush onto the next challenge without the benefit of "recovery time". I look forward to whatever opportunities Christ leads me to next.
The Future: I don't know and that is OK with me. I am sure it will be exciting and rewarding. The gratefullness I feel for this chapter in my life is more than I can adequately describe. It is truly a "season of love".

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Listening to the Sacred Silence

I believe it was Mike Wallace of 60 Minutes who once asked Mother Theresa of Calcutta about prayer; "What do you say when you are praying to God?" She replied, "Nothing, I just listen." "Then what do you hear God say" asked Wallace and Mother Theresa replied "nothing, he just listens."
Today marks the beginning of the Lenten Journey for me and all those who are struggling to walk with Jesus in this life. Prayer is an important element in this journey and the above story is a reminder that the practice of prayer is more important then the words of prayer. To listen is to focus on the other without distraction and to be prepared to respond to what is being heard. Mother Theresa's words are a reminder that the Divine is as interested in focusing on us as we are in focusing on the Divine. Prayer is the act of being present, available, open, and sensitive to God's Spirit. Isn't this attitude essential to the growth of any relationship? Going for a walk with my spouse of 40 years is a joy not because of what we might say during the activity but because we are walking together, breathing the same air, seeing the same sights, and enjoying the presence of the other. This is similar to what happens in the act of prayer.
Now I am not saying that words are not important but that they follow the act of listening not proceed it. Achieving an attitude of receptiveness is foundational to the prayerfull conversation. Without that foundation prayer becomes a list of wishes and wants. Glenn Liebman writes in today's Albany times Union; "There will be a lot of theories why the Giants won the Super Bowl, but I will let you in on the real secret. Two hours before the game, I took my son and his friend to the Giants' practice field at UAlbany and both said a prayer for the Giants." While I am thankful for the Giants' victory I don't believe it was because of divine intervention. These kind of prayers treat God as Santa Clause and we are terribly disappointed when our wishes are not granted.
Even answered prayer can fall far short of delivering the results that we want. I am reminded of the story of the four Rabbi who had a weekly theological discussion in which three of the Rabbi would gang up on the one and try to convince hin that they were right. One day the odd man out got so frustrated that he prayed out loud, "God, if I am right, send a sign to convince my collegues." Immediately, on this clear day, a cloud formed blocking the sun and there was a single boom of thunder. Then the cloud disappaited as quickly as it had formed. The three Rabbi remarked that it was simply a weather phenomena and didn't prove anything. So the other Rabbi prayed again, "Lord, if I am right please send another sign." No sooner were the words out of his mouth then the sky became completely covered with storm clouds, there is a boom of thunder and one lightening strike. The three Rabbi responded in disbelief. "Why even this could be explained by natural laws. It doesn't prove anything." The other Rabbi was about to send out another prayer pleading for a bigger sign when a voice boomed out of the heavens. "Hey, he's right!" After a moment of stunned silence the three Rabbi turned to the other and said; "So, now the vote is three to one."
Author Anne Lamont suggests three kinds of prayer. "Help me! Help me!, Thank You! Thank You!, and Wow!" I like prayers that our honest like this one by Richard J. Foster;
I am, O God, a jumbled mass of motives.
One moment I am adoring you, and the next I am shaking my fist at you.
I vacillate between mounting hope, and deepening despair.
I am full of faith, and full of doubt.
I want the best for others, and am jealous when they get it.
Even so, God, I will not run from your presence.
Nor will I pretend to be what I am not.
Thank you for accepting me with all my contradictions.

Monday, February 04, 2008


Granddaughter Jena and I celebrate the Giants Super Bowl Victory.

Super: over and above, extra, exceeding in intensity, surpassing all or most others of its' kind

However you define it, this Super Bowl win by the Giants was Super! I have been a loyal and devoted Giants fan since age 10, that's over half a century. I can remember cheering quarterback Y.A. Tittle for his courage under pressure.

Over the years the Giants have given me great joy as they have won their fair share of big games. But none have been bigger then last nights upset of the undefeated New England Patriots. It was an exciting game and I was blessed to watch it with my wife, two sons, and a son-in-law. We cheered, hugged, and gave high fives as Quarterback Eli Manning and the team that everyone had discounted played with courage and grit. I was hopeful and even confident that the Giants would be victorious but knew the odds were agianst them. However, on this Sunday, all the superlatives applied not to the Patriots but to the Giants. What an example of passion defeating perfection. Life is good!

Friday, February 01, 2008

A dream worth having!

These words stirred my heart. They are part of an essay by Real Live Preacher.

Imagine if the spiritual people, the dream keepers of the sacred, archetypal stories that arise from our collective unconscious, were to embrace one another and celebrate the ancient beauty of our various traditions. Imagine if we spiritual people held hands across the world and called for peace instead of causing religious wars, which is what we are doing right now.
If that were to happen, the people of our world might see us differently. They might see the beauty and necessity of caring for our myths and traditions. Even brother and sister scientist would celebrate our ancient stories which are, after all, our earliest attempts to understand the world around us.
Peace would be our hallmark, and we would preach that it is the birthright of everyone born on this planet. And we would be set free to pursue truth in all of its wondrous forms.
Wouldn’t that be amazing?

You can read this essay in its entirety by clicking here.

The above peaceful image is from late October on a secluded Adirondack Lake.