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".

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