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Introspection

 

IMG_0660.JPGI am on vacation on “The Rock” – aka, Mount Desert Island, Maine. We will be going into town later today, so I will break radio silence and post this. The picture above is along my favorite bike ride (so far) – along a lake, then to a crossover to Bubble Pond where we stopped to rest. We bike early in the morning to avoid the crowds that throng these paths beginning at about 9:00. Until then, we may see one or two intrepid souls, but otherwise, our tires along the gravel paths make the only human sounds. For time out of time, we feel alone in the world.

I need this kind of vacation. A time to spend with those I love, and a time to spend in the middle of the natural world. In the middle of silence. It is during these weeks away that I look back over the past year – its joys and its sorrows. I look to the year ahead and make new plans, and consider just how God might be calling me to lead our community into deeper communion, and strengthened ministries. I know that my Senior Warden half-dreads my return each year; she knows that I’ll be filled with new purpose and energy! But that’s okay. Somehow, she manages to keep my feet on the ground even as my imagination soars. It works.

I know that I am incredibly blessed to have this time. Then, even more blessed as I leave. For while I know I will drive off of The Rock with a lump in my throat, I will also leave with excitement to return to the work I love, and to my beloved community of fellow disciples. But until then, there are more roads to ride, more photos to take, and more silence in which to hear the voice of God. See you all on the flip side.

Dog Days of Summer

IMG_0596I have been binge-watching two things these days; episodes of Frasier, and Disney movies. Abbey joins me for much of this – she is fascinated by television. And, it must be admitted, she has a huge crush on “Eddie” – the Parson Russell Terrier on Frasier. As soon as the theme music comes on, she hops up onto the footrest and settles in. If Eddie does anything particularly fascinating, she’ll jump to the floor and gaze up adoringly. It’s terribly cute. When I turn off the television, she’ll look for him for a bit, and then settle back to a nap, or chew a moose antler, or get a drink, or bark at Jack the Ripper (who whoever is outside), or get her back scratched, or watch some birds or chipmunks.

The thing is, whatever Abbey is doing, she does with her whole self. Completely focused in the moment, she doesn’t concern herself with what might be coming next in her life. She’s eating. Or drinking. Or chewing. Or sleeping. Or barking at birds. Or gazing at Eddie. Or getting petted.

We can learn a lot from dogs. I know that most of my challenges in life are because I’m thinking about what is going to happen (or might happen), or what has already happened. It takes real concentration for me to stay in this moment – right here and now. To be terribly grateful for the taste of good coffee, the hum of the air conditioner, the sight of the birds at the feeder, and the words that flow onto this “page.”

So my prayer for today is that each of us can be a little more like Abbey. Savoring each moment to the fullest before moving on to the next. Really experiencing life’s joys – and sorrows. Grateful for whatever this moment brings in the midst of this crazy whirlwind that is life on earth.

 

nails

I am not sure why, but in the midst of life, it is so easy for me to forget to schedule a hair cut until I catch sight of myself in a mirror and recognize a strong resemblance to Bozo the Clown. Hair … it’s just one of those things that keeps growing, and because mine is so thick and wavy, if I don’t keep it short, it takes far too much time to make it presentable. So that means calling my stylist every six weeks or so. Except … I don’t. Hence the unfortunate Bozo the Clown thing.

Nails, though. Somehow I can always find the time to keep them taken care of. Either on my own, or by heading out for an expert. I think it’s because after that first time in the morning, I don’t tend to see my own reflection. Whereas I’m constantly noticing my hands – as I type, as I read, as I lift them in prayer, as I lift the bread and wine at Eucharist. Since I notice them, I take care of them. Since I don’t notice my hair, it gets neglected.

There is a metaphor in all of this rambling. I don’t “suffer” when my hair looks bad – but others do. Not that it’s a major hardship in the grand scheme of things, but they do have to look at it far more than I do. In the opposite way, others don’t tend to notice my nails, yet because they are right in front of my eyes, they are well cared for. So I have to wonder. What things am I neglecting in life because they are not right in front of me? In what ways does that neglect hurt someone else? How can I begin to make myself look into the proverbial mirror more often to see what others see easily that I cannot see without extra effort? Something to ponder in these beautiful summer days.

IMG_0526“So. What does a Rector do all week anyway?”

This is the nicest form of the question that I get on a fairly regular basis. Most of the time it’s asked with genuine curiosity. Other times, there’s a little bit of snark. Particularly around vacation time. “Why do you need a vacation? You only work on the weekends!” … followed by a little laugh to show me that it is just a joke.

But I get it – I really do. Because so much of this work is invisible, and prosaic, and even tedious. There’s lots of paperwork, and lots of meetings. There are funerals and other services to conduct, services to plan, phone calls, and appointments to make and to keep. Times of teaching and times of learning. Tears to dry and laughter to share. Newsletters to write, sermons to prepare, studying to do. And the knowledge that at any moment of any day or any night, the phone will ring and I will need to drop everything and care for someone in a crisis.

Maybe that’s why I keep jelly beans in my office – the kind where each color is a different flavor. I can’t just throw a few in my mouth unless I’ve sorted them first; otherwise, the combo could be quite unpleasant. Or if I don’t sort them, I can eat them one at a time and enjoy each unique sensation. There’s a lot of variety, and I’m never bored with them. Pink can be bubble gum, or cotton candy. Brown and black look a lot alike, so it might be licorice, or chocolate pudding, or Dr. Pepper. Red? Maybe cherry. Maybe red hot cinnamon.

So what does a Rector do all week? Well, for me it can be summed up by post-it notes and jelly beans. One to keep me focused on tasks that need to be done, and one that can remind me of life’s sweet surprised – and occasional shocks. And all wrapped up in a mantle of prayer that makes all of it possible. So if you have a lot of to-do lists, make sure to add a jelly bean or two just to make it that much sweeter. Can’t hurt, might help.

VPOW

Today I would like to give a shout-out to the folks on Emmanuel’s Vestry. This hard working group of people gather each month to go over the finances and other programmatic issues involved in running a parish. They are insightful, experienced, wise, funny, generous, and faithful people. On top of everything else that they do, they take turns serving as the Vestry Person of the Week – or VPOW. In that role, they attend services and at the end, stand back in the back as folks leave the service. When someone has a request, they are on hand to write it down, and then make sure that request gets to the appropriate person.

So often, the appropriate person is … me. At the end of a service, my brain is circling like a gerbil in an exercise wheel. Especially on Sunday morning, there are so many moving parts that have to be coordinated. And in the midst of it all, I am particularly forgetful about things – even things that are really important to me. To be honest, forgetfulness is one of my pervading flaws, which is why I thank God every day for Google calendars and post-it notes to help me keep it all straight. And why, on this day, I give thanks for my VPOWs who are my incarnate post-it notes; helping me to remember important things, taking care of last-minute issues, and in general, helping me to be the best priest that I can be in the midst of the work I love so much.IMG_0433

Garden Glory

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One of the best things about living in Rhode Island is that we have some glorious summer days. This is one of them. Blue sky, lower temps and humidity, slight breeze. On these kinds of days, I’m grateful that I can open my office window and door, and listen to bird song as I work. And I’m even more grateful that part of my work involves praying and study, and that work can be done in the midst of our meditation garden.

The picture above is taken in the Welcome Garden portion, and it’s what one sees when driving up the property to the parking lot. The vibrant colors draw you in, and once you step into the space, the sights and scents can transport you to a peaceful place. I love pausing in my reading to look around, to notice the different textures, to enjoy the antics of one of the 973,000 chipmunks that live on (or under) the grounds. It is a way for me to feed both my mind and my soul.

I hope that you have a beautiful space that you can use in this same way. If not, feel free to come up and enjoy ours. There are plenty of quiet spaces to share!

Perceptions

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Abbey – and Skipper – taking a stroller break on a hot and humid day.

Yesterday was my Sabbath, and though it was quite humid, we took Skipper and Abbey for a walk. Skipper and Abbey are both 4 year-old Norfolk Terriers. Abbey has some kind of physical challenge, she hops rather than runs, and cannot walk for long periods without needing to be carried. So we have invested in a “doggie stroller” for her.

It is interesting to watch the reactions to folks as we stroll by. While many just nodded, smiled, or stopped to pet the dogs, there were others who saw the stroller and rolled their eyes at each other. ¬†And it got me wondering why we human beings feel so comfortable judging one another? We judge people on their clothing choices, their political views, their gender, their sexuality, their color, their size, their culture, their breakfast choices … I could go on. So even if Abbey was in a stroller purely because we thought she was cute (she is) or if we thought she was a human baby (we do not), why would that be a reason to treat us dismissively?

I wonder what this world would be like if we allowed ourselves to be intrigued by people rather than dismissing them. I wonder what we would be like if we enjoyed and celebrated our differences rather than being threatened by them.

Anyway, if you see us out walking, feel free to stop and talk to Abbey. She’ll be the one in the stroller.