State of Mind

 Usually, the Rector’s Annual Report, gives you a laundry list of the various things that have happened in the past year. A litany of ministries that were accomplished, how many folks came to worship, how many baptisms, funerals and weddings, as well as our successes and challenges. This year, however, I am taking a bit of a different tact considering that 2015 was a difficult and stressful year for Jane and me. As many of you are aware, this past June while out cycling, I was struck by an opened car door. This resulted in my being hospitalized for a fractured right hip that needed to be surgically repaired. Now I live with titanium rods, what my surgeon quaintly calls, “titanium nails”, with one screwed into the hip and another that runs down my femur and is pinned just above the knee. These rods have stabilized my hip and enabled the broken bone to begin healing, yet the process is slow. From the time of the accident in June until September, I worked with doctors and Physical Therapists, to regain my strength so that I could resume life as normal as possible. Four weeks after the accident I returned to Trinity in a much reduced capacity, being unable to drive but able enough to be present on Sunday mornings. With the help of Sheila, our secretary, I was able to get into the office on weekdays as I tried to get back as much into a regular routine as possible. 

 This time of recovery and recuperation gave me the gift of needing to slow down and reflect on my life and ministry among you. Laying in bed with only my memories to look back upon, hopes and dreams as yet unfulfilled, floating across the landscape of my mind. There were the times of melancholy, those remembrances of broken relationships and broken dreams that rest heavy on my heart. Yet, in spite of those darker moments, I experienced the light that broke through this darkening in the great love of those around me. Jane has been and will always be my rock, she helped me through those difficult first days at home while still having to go in to work herself. It wasn’t easy, there were no quick fixes, we had to bear through this with patience, laughter and above all love. The many cards and expressions of care I received were greatly appreciated as were the host of calls and gifts of food. I also appreciated greatly the care shown by our Bishop’s, Alan and Gayle, who both responded in praying for and helping our community during that time. My words of thanks are not eloquent enough to truly express my deepest feelings but I am truly grateful for our Church and this community.

 As we enter into 2016, I look forward to deepening our relationships and working toward building up our community. We have seen our parish slowly shrink in the past few years, people are ever busy, weekends are for various other activities or just lounging lazily after a hectic week of work and taking kids from one event to the other. We are being called into a new way of thinking and doing “Church.” No longer do the old models fit, the Church no longer occupies a lofty position in our society and culture and so we, disciples in this new age, are being tasked with finding out who we are and where we are being called to minister.

 While some may despair, wring their hands and bemoan the loss of the “good old days”, I believe we have a unique opportunity to deepen our faith and to truly be a light that shines brightly. The first verse of Mary Oliver’s poem, Wild Geese, a poem filled with optimism and hope for ourselves and our future, reminds us of that mystery we call grace. 

“You do not have to be good.

You do not have to walk on your knees

for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.

You only have to let the soft animal of your body

love what it loves.”

 We come to God in faith, just as we are, filled with questions, doubts and fears, and are loved unconditionally. Within the quiet spaces of our souls we hear the still, small voice that beckons us into those deeper places of the heart. In those quiet moments during my convalescence, as I watched the first light of dawn begin to creep through my bedroom window, I knew that the love surrounding me would begin to heal both the physical and emotional wounds. I believe that our community, even in the midst of these trying and confusing times, will be lifted up by God’s most gracious love. 

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Dream Night

 Woke up this morning with a series of dreams still floating around in my head. Now, normally I wouldn’t even think about writing down my dreams, some are quite weird even for me, but this group is banging on the gates seeking an audience.  Let’s start with a few facts, first I’ve been a bit frustrated by the lack of improvement with my hip. It seems that I have reached a plateau and my initial progress has been blunted. Yesterday I went to see my surgeon and he has prescribed another round of physical therapy, now I’m waiting to see where that will take me. Secondly, I’ve been battling a brutal cold, in fact this is the worst cold I’ve had in years so that means taking cold medicine to at least calm down the coughing fits so I can sleep. All this, plus the start of a new year, with the upcoming parish annual meeting and a early start to the Lenten season, well, let’s just say I have a lot on my mind. So here is what flowed through my sleeping brain last evening. A disclaimer, dreams are images that float along the periphery of the mind, they are not full pictures but more like a cubist painting, you see clearly one moment followed by confusion the next. So with that being said, here goes, dream one, the trunk. 

 I’m sitting in the back seat of a car, Jane is in the front while I work on removing letters from the back window from inside the car. The letters have no message but then I hear some banging coming from the rear of the car. The banging grows in intensity, so I tell Jane that “there’s someone in the trunk”, no answer, so I say again, “that there’s someone in the trunk”, still no answer, frustratingly I yell to her that “there’s someone in the trunk”. Then with a flash, Jane and I are above a parking lot, below there is a car with two people making out. His hands are all over a girl, and she responds erotically, but my mind is focused on the faucets of the sink, we seem to be in a bathroom. The hot and cold water faucets turn in the same direction, to the left, and both have to be on to get water. Try as I might, I can’t seem to get water warm enough for a shower or cold enough for a drink. Flash now the the third and final part of this trilogy, I’m watching some kind of stage event, on this stage we have, wait for it, Peyton Manning, his brother Eli and several others in suits. Peyton, recently linked to performance enhancing drug use, is standing there admitting to using HGH. Eli is yelling at him, the suits are grinning like Cheshire Cats, and I’m wondering what the heck I’m doing here.

 Then, I wake up to the sound of the alarm clock with these images now bouncing around in my head like bb’s on a gym floor so my only option is to write. Who is in the trunk? Why are the faucets so messed up and what was that about Peyton Manning? The trunk imagery could be my own thoughts trying to break out and get exposed, those memories of people and friends I’ve lost touch with these past years. The faucets maybe represent my own frustrations, as I try to seek the path I am being challenged to take, neither hot or cold. Is Yoda speaking to me?More likely, these dreams are my own self consciousness rearing up its ugly little head and trying to get my attention. The thing is I have no clue as to what that all means, but I figure, if anything it gives me some fodder for writing and maybe that’s all I need right now.

Personal Odyssey

 I remember growing up that we always had books in our home. My mother would get into one of those specials at the local grocery store where once a week you would purchase a book, whether it was an encyclopedia series or some other series. Each week I would anxiously wait to see what she would bring home from shopping, what new worlds would I see, the possibilities were endless. I spent hours just looking at these volumes, carefully cracking open a new one as gently as one would open a treasure box then gaze in wonder at the photos, maps and the bright bold colors inside. Living in a world where television was still black and white, these books showed a world of vivid color where the people seemed to jump right off the pages. One special series she got was called, The Golden Book of Classics, a several volume set that covered everything from classical Homeric stories to the tales born out of the dark ages of Europe. Fairy tales, good and bad witches to the moral of that Aesop’s fable, these were my vehicles to escape and to travel well beyond that third floor apartment on Congreve Street. It was in those Golden Classics that I got my first taste of the Odyssey, Homers tale of Greek hero Odysseus whose travels back to his kingdom of Ithaca. It is filled with giant Cyclops, strange places and people, even a few bewitching women. Not only did I read the story these books contained bright illustrations, Cyclops bearing down on our heroes, club held high as he chases the hapless Greek sailors, some to their doom. Besides the Odyssey, I read Beowulf and many other tales of grand heroics in a strange land so many years ago. Growing up, these books, as abridged as they were considering the youthful audience they were intended for, were my Long, long time ago, in a country, a place, yes and even a galaxy far, far away. Here there was adventure, a place a grand heroes, where in the end even the suitors for Penelope’s hand were dispatched with a bow they could not even draw. 

 Lately, I’ve been reading about journeys, whether they are fictional or real tales. I just finished a book written by British poet, Simon Armitage entitled, Walking Home: A Poet’s Journey. This book is about this poets attempt to walk Britain’s Pennine Way, a 256 mile journey through moors, woods, hills and vales. Along the way he meets with people, reads some poetry but mostly he gains a new perspective of himself. I have to thank my friend Elizabeth for loaning me her copy of this book, coming at a time in my life where I am beginning to see on the horizon a new direction for my own journey. One thing that struck me is that Simon doesn’t complete his walk, just as he nears the end of his travels he stops short of completing the trail. He had intentionally chosen to do this walk starting in the north of England and head south to his home, and in the end it became not so much of a challenge to finish but a realization that some journey’s have no true endpoint. 

 A few years ago a friend of mine and I undertook our own epic journey crossing the United States by bicycle. It came at a time when I was facing challenges, my own version of the Odyssey where along the road I faced the giant Cyclops of mountain passes, the sweet song of the Sirens urging me to stop and stay, the drive within to return home where love dwelt secure. Even though we completed our trip, from the Pacific to the Atlantic, has not meant that the journey is complete. Getting a special badge, or being able to check off some box on an old and faded bucket list was never my intention. 

 Where will my journey take me next? I cannot tell you that for sure, if anything, this past year has taught me, and taught me well, that life is indeed a fragile gift. It doesn’t take much to throw one’s fantasy into a bit of a skid. So, I will continue on toward my own Ithaca, to that place where love awaits and where I might find rest. Along the way I will continue to be challenged, blocked, even be a bit scared of what I might find, but like Doctor Who, I travel with a companion, my dear wife Jane, whose love gives me the strength to get up each day to face down those fears. 

Dark gifts

 Walking around my neighborhood the Christmas decorations are looking limp. An inflatable Santa that once stood proud and tall, now looks like a man drowning at sea, arms waving while slowly sinking. Trees are on the sidewalk, tinsel attached that flutters in the breeze as a sort of defiance against the ending of the season. The remains of Christmas in the trash that holds the brightly colored paper and the cut up boxes of those special presents. The season ends on a cold note, snow drifting down, the sky covered with grey clouds a biting cold wind that cuts through to the bone. Even the dog, a normally spright little fellow, is subdued by the cold, his only thought, to get as close as possible to me as I sit here writing. I’m wondering if dogs think about weather as a one or two human night, this being said while he shivers next to me. Christmas is making its exit, it came on with such a force that one had to wonder if anything could stop the juggernaut of cheer that invaded our lives. Now that great juggernaut has been slowed if not altogether halted, the world, that permanent place, continues to turn on its yearly cycle. People scurrying around looking like lost sheep seeking that manger that was there just a moment ago. What happened to that star, what happened in the cold, lonely place? With heads down to thwart the rising wind and blowing snow, the refugees of life’s disappointments and failures push forward like pioneers on the prairie. There is no star to guide, there are no maps for this journey, we can only continue to push forward because what is in the past cannot be recovered. 

 Mary Oliver writes: “Someone I loved gave me 

                                            a box full of darkness.
                                            It took me years to understand

                                            that this, too, was a gift.”

The unending mystery that continues to unfold on this journey. Taking the box full of darkness and seeing the gift that lies within, to follow the passion even when the star is gone. The debris of Christmas past becomes the light of Christmas yet to come, the light that shines in the hearts of those intrepid, modern pioneers, with heads bowed, not in fear but reverence.