Monday, August 25, 2008

Sabbatical Reflection, August 24

I love it when things just work out and flow with the mysterious meanderings of the universe.

Sunday we attended worship at University Christian Church, the church that shaped me as a child and young adult. Their new pastor, Rev. Janetta Cravens Boyd, began her work there in August. We enjoyed meeting her and greeting old friends, some of whom I've known now for over forty years.

In the tradition of many a church-goer and in addition to the order of worship, we also held in our hands the Sunday afternoon shopping list: Dunn Lumber, Seattle Paint, and Home Depot. We had carefully created this list Saturday evening while sitting in the sun on our newly pressure-washed deck. Each item on our list would move some project forward, the most important one being sealing and staining the deck.

But before we could go shopping we also engaged in the fine “after church ritual” of lunch. In this case we stumbled upon Ivar's Lake Union take-out just west of the freeway bridge. We sat outside, warm and cloudy, with our salmon chowder and fish and chips. Just as we finished the rain began. We dashed to the car and drove one block to Dunn Lumber to get the sealer/stain: no luck, one gallon in stock. We looked at each other and kind of lost heart about the rest of the list. Let's go to Trader Joe's and pick up a few things.

Cheese, vinegar, tea, chocolate soy milk, crackers . . . we turned the corner and there we saw our friend Martha Dimmers, with all three children and two shopping carts. We briefly blocked the aisle and learned that Stephen was ill. Martha had assured him that she would be fine on her own with the toddler twins, Gabriel and Genesis, and five year old daughter Carys. And indeed she was fine. With the twins in one shopping cart, she had her helper Carys - the envy of every five year old dressed in a lovely pink tutu - pushing the other cart.

We offered to help and Martha told us no worries, Carys is a good helper, all will be well. In a moment of sheer insanity we all believed this and went our separate ways. Half-way down this aisle, Barb turned to me and said we have to help Martha, you finish our shopping, and off she went.

Our check-out went quickly and so we hung out with the children while Martha negotiated the check-out line.

Earlier this weekend Barb had read the book Sleeping with Bread, that details a simple exercise to end each day: What brought you life today? and What was deadening to your spirit? I'd like to do this, she said.

We began on Sunday night: What was life-giving? We both answered that the most life-giving part of our day revolved around unexpectedly meeting Martha and the children at Trader Joe's.

The Spirit of God blows where it will, we are told in scripture. And sometimes, despite all our careful planning, life finds a deeper, truer, more blessed flow and we find ourselves blown to just the right place at just the right time.


Monday, August 18, 2008

Sabbatical Reflection, August 18

Over the past week I’ve continued to grow in my learning of religious history from Karen Armstrong’s book The Great Transformation: the Beginnings of our Religious Traditions. Armstrong's work feels like an intensive self study course on the development of religious thought in China, India, Israel, and Greece. It feels like material I ought to have learned years ago in school. Did I fall asleep or perhaps boredom set in?

No matter, I get it now and sometimes become so excited that I over dinner I regale Barb with the significance of Greek tragedy and the words of Confucius. I’m amazed at the intensity with which these sages thought about life. They left the world significantly different by their diligent searching and teaching, and in the process left their cultures a pathway to an expanded consciousness.

On the physical labor side of life my body tells me that for today, Monday, take a break! By the end of last week I finished flossing the deck. Over the weekend Barb and I began cleaning and pressure washing which meant that this Sunday we did not attend worship. We got about two-thirds of the deck cleaned. I’ll keep at it this week after a day of rest.

I’ve spent a lot of time on my hands and knees thus far during sabbatical – most of it has not been in prayer, but I do find myself marveling - really, praying with, in a way – those who must labor day in and day out.

As I struggled to carry three gallons of “tsp water” from the kitchen to the deck without tweaking my back, my thoughts have turned to those all over the world whose lives depend on the physical capacity to carry water long distances each day. The handle of the bucket, the sheer heaviness of water digs into my hand and leaves an imprint on my heart.

This past week I finally gave my self permission to take naps in the afternoon. I’ve found that it has taken a few weeks of sabbatical to truly realize how tired I have been. I continue, to the best of my ability, to treasure each day.


Monday, August 11, 2008

Sabbatical Reflection, August 11

My days begin to take on a certain kind of rhythm: a walk first thing in the morning, breakfast, reading and reflection, lunch, physical work in the afternoon.

Of course not every day goes like that. Appointments come up, a friend needs help unpacking and the morning works best, sometimes my reflection time goes on into the afternoon, but I’m finding that just lightly holding my intentions gives me a simple structure that sustains my soul.

In the past week I “flossed” about two-thirds of our nearly 1,000 square foot deck that wraps around almost a quarter of the house. By flossed I mean working on my hands and knees with a putty knife, slicing between every single board to bring up all the fir needles and smutch.

In the building of this particular deck the builder placed the boards way too close together. To put it another way: nothing falls between these cracks. And to answer your question, pressure washing (at this point) does not help the situation one bit, in fact it makes it worse. I do have a putty knife duct-taped to a pole but I find that motion hard on my back. I hope by the end of the week to finish “flossing” and get on to the cleaning/pressure washing and staining while the weather permits.

This weekend we painted our bedroom and dressing room. When we remodeled the upper level of our tri-level home two and a half years ago we painted one wall with an accent color, York Harbor Yellow. We like the color so much we painted a second wall the same color but in the end chickened out and left all the other walls a neutral color that we didn’t like all that much.

Gradually as we’ve lived with these colors it became clear: paint all the walls the same yellow/gold color! And so we did. We like painting together and so had a companionable weekend.

On Sunday morning we attended the second service (out of three) at Center for Spiritual Living to listen to the teachings of Rev. Kathiann Lewis. Affiliated with Science of Mind and based on the teaching of Ernest Holmes, Center for Spiritual Living’s purpose could be summed up in this Holmes quote, “we don’t tell you what to think, but how to think.”

Sunday evening found us at Queen Anne Christian Church for an Esoterics rehearsal . . . which, honestly, felt a bit odd! However between Esoterics rehearsals and an InterPlay training session at the end of September, I will be in and out of building a fair bit.

I continue to be so thankful for this time apart. I can feel my body begin to come to rest. My mind relaxes from the need to communicate clearly, to make meaning, to hold so much. Just for today, I relish the freedom to be.

blessings + peace,


Monday, August 04, 2008

Sabbatical Reflection, August 4, 2008

Saturday we took our grandchildren, Maggie (6) and Ambrose (3), to Barb’s company picnic at her work place (Phillips) in Canyon Park. Filled with large inflatable structures and fueled by BBQ chicken, hot dogs, baked beans, potato salad, and ice cream bars, children bounced their way toward an inevitable nap time. Hoola hoops made an appearance along with a gunny sack race and egg toss.

Sunday I attended worship at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church (Melissa Skelton, Pastor) at the bottom of Queen Anne Hill. Barb intended to attend as well but excessive incense drove her back to the car to listen to a book on tape.

After worship we drove to Burien to pickup my Great Aunt Gladys (102) and drive to the Museum of Glass in Tacoma What a great place! The variety of glass objects astounds the mind as you keep asking yourself, how do they do that?

As if to answer that very question the core of the museum contains a “hot shop” amphitheater where glass artisans offer daily demonstrations of their art. “I’ll remember this day as long as I live!” Aunt Gladys said.

We made her day complete with a quick stop at Fred Meyers to top off the gas in her Lincoln Continental, pick up a brass hose nozzle and new garden gloves (three to a pack!); she was ecstatic!

In the past week I read two memoirs that may be of interest to some of you.

Apples & Oranges: My Brother and Me, Lost and Found by Marie Brenner tells the story of an estranged brother and sister that moves between Texas, New York, and Wenatchee. A beautiful story, this book not only takes a close look at family history and sibling relationships but also brings you close up to the apple industry in our own backyard.

The Film Club by David Gilmour explores the relationship that developed between himself and his teenage son. The son struggles with school and David, in a fit of compassion and frustration, offers a way out that involves dropping out of school provided that together they watch three movies a week which David (a film critic, himself “between jobs”) will select. This memoir heartbreakingly charts the uneven path of teenage life and takes a brutally honest look at the father’s own life.

I continue to plug away with The Great Transformation: the Beginning of our Religious Traditions by Karen Armstrong reading a section each day. Today I begin the chapter on “Suffering” that takes a look at religious thought between 600 and 530 BCE.

blessings + peace,