Monday, July 22 one day after posting this. My sister Cindy thought my title was “un-elegant” (she right, I was lazy), so I re-titled this piece. And the best part, I added a couple of photos that Richard took while I was writing.
Sunday, July 21 2013. After going to the First United Methodist Church in Colorado Springs, we just wandered and rested around the Broadmoor. First allow me to apologize up front for this blog, it is a stream of consciousness and is not always pretty. Second, you should know if I read some writer who started with an apology for sloppy writing, I’d stop reading, so I’ll understand if that’s exactly what you do.
Water of Life
Recently, I’ve been mulling over images and allegories of water. As I now sit next to a fountain, it seems a good time to write and use the written word to make real that which I have yet to solidify in my mind.
From July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2013 we had what we half-jokingly called our “Year of Exile.” The year we were not allowed to return to our church home and we were strongly discouraged from spending time with our church family. We dreaded the year and counted days until we would be able to return to the fold.
My intention for this year was to make it a great adventure – different churches, faiths, new perspectives, all resulting in a renewed spirit (key in the angel music). Shortly into this journey, we realized that we were struggling.
“So, where are we going to go to church tomorrow?” I’d ask on Saturdays.
“I don’t know.” Richard would reply.
Then came list of dos & don’ts, wants & don’t wants; our chaos of boxes, hurdles and stumbling blocks. (And believe me; we both have long and confining lists.) When it comes to a worship service, we know what we don’t respond to and we know what brings us closer to God.
The lists: it can’t be too far away, too early, too long-winded. It has to be traditional with prayers, Scriptures and music we know. The cross and Bible have to be present. We want to see a variety of ages, stages and sages. We need a sense of vitality, purpose, spirituality. The preaching HAS to be God-focused, relatable to our lives, thought-provoking, spiritually motivating. But how in the heck can we know all of this is we can’t make ourselves walk through their doors?
We would snip at each other through this repeated process of elimination. Often times Sunday morning our moods were no better. Great. This is how we’re going to worship together? Dear God…and God would hear our prayers.
Year of Exile
All this to say, often times during our “Year of Exile” we were the lost children wandering in the desert. Every seventh day we’d seek an oasis to replenish our thirsting souls. Not a pretty picture, not the one you’d think of for your minister and his wife. Without a doubt, we were more like the whiny children of Israel, than being focused and trusting like Moses.
I’ve been disappointed with myself over this passed year. Disappoint that I don’t feel like I recommitted my relationship with God. I’ve not delved deeper, I’ve not… (oh my gosh, I said it for years and now it is ingrained in my soul): I have failed to be an obedient church, I have not loved you with my whole heart…I have not heard the cry of the needy. Forgive me…”
Maybe, for me, there is something necessary about the faith cornerstone of fellowship. Maybe, in order for my faith to be true, evolving and meaningful, I need a family of faith, sisters and brothers to whom I am accountable (both to and for). I lay no blame, and can release self-imposed guilt, understanding that I need my church family.
OK, back to the fountain and water stories…
The week before returning to our church home I imagined we were standing at the water’s edge of a river near some rapids. (About Class 3 rapids, doable, not life-threatening, but still just enough excitement in the air to create that combined frightened-thrilled push-pull of a “rush”.)
God sat on a rock a few feet behind and above us and said: “Welcome back to the river. Go ahead, feel free to get your feet wet; but go slowly, remember the water you left is no longer there.”
The First Sunday Back
The first Sunday back at church was one big ol’ “hug fest” and boy-oh-boy did that ever feel absolutely wonderful! We can’t make up for a lost year of hugs in one Sunday, but we certainly got a quick fix.
As we sat together in the pew, about half way through the service we squeezed one another’s hand and I felt as if that “Year of Exile” had miraculously shrunk to the size of a pin head. It was good to be home.
Reverend Trudy is now the Senior Pastor and we have been hearing many loving comments about her, so we were ready (yet maybe still a little anxious) to hear her preach. Our first Sunday back, she was continuing with a series of first-person impersonation and reflection of women in the Bible. The Sunday we returned, she was Rahab. (Quick background: Rahab, Old Testament, lived in Jericho, specifically on the city walls of Jericho, where she plied her trade as a prostitute. She believed in the God, risked her life helping some angels, so when destruction befell, she was saved.)
Yeah, so Reverend Trudy comes out barefoot, dressed in brightly colored clothes, with bangles, beads and flowing scarf. Within the first minute of her sermon, she says “…and I am a prostitute…” Now, in all honesty, it takes courage to get in front of your congregation and be Rahab, not everyone could do that, and for that chutzpah, Reverend Trudy I give you points.
So, at the end of the service I lean over to Richard and say, “Welcome home to our church, honey, our new minister is a prostitute.” Gotta love the Methodists, we’ll love everybody.
Last week I shared this insight with Reverend Trudy and she corrected me saying “I portrayed a prostitute, not that I am one!” To which I told her, it’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Now allow me to answer some very common questions and misconceptions that people have about our passed year.
- It was not fun. Yes, we traveled – more than most, but not as much as most think and not as much as we’d like. And indeed travelling is fun for us, so that part was fun.
- Is Richard (are you) enjoying retirement? To put it bluntly honest: Hell no. He doesn’t know how to do retirement. He’s not one to play golf, play bridge, join a book club, go hiking or do most of the great suggestions people toss out. He needs to figure this out for himself and maybe, just maybe, a year is not enough time to readjust after 46 years of being who he was.
OK, sorry. Enough, enough, enough!! I need a new attitude, a new focus; I need to lighten up. I came up with this acronym while driving to the Springs to go to church today: CAN B:LESS. Complain About Nothing. Be: Love, Encourage, Spirit, Silent.
Richard is a bass
Yeah, I should stop whining, but another water allegory first. (In advance, my apologies to Richard.) Imagine Richard as a large mouth bass (when I read this to Richard he said, “A bass!? Why can’t I be a catfish?” “Really, honey, you want to be a muck eating bottom dweller? A bass is much more commanding, powerful and smart. Shush, no more interruptions.”)
Imagine Richard as a large mouth bass happily swimming along in a lovely refreshing large lake. Lots of fish swim in his school, they visit his rock bed and generally show as much respect as one fish does for another. This goes on for years; it’s a happy lake, a happy life.
Then one day, Richard the large mouth bass is yanked from the water; however we can see no fisherman, all we see is the bass on the side of the lake gasping for air.
The next thing the bass knows, he is in one of those round aluminum fish buckets. There are holes in the top for just enough air to exist, but the bucket is small and all the bass can do is tread in place and carefully swim in slow circles so he doesn’t bruise himself.
Every once in a while, the bass is released into different sizes and types of water; oceans, city fountains, muddy puddles, grand resort lakes, raindrops. But each time he is retrieved from the water and returned to the now familiar, yet still uncomfortable fish bucket.
I don’t have a finish for this story. Oh yeah, I know you think I’m going to restore him to “his” lake and he will swim “happily ever after.” Well, now wouldn’t that be sweet? But isn’t that a little too easy, too trite, doesn’t it just not feel right? Glub.
Nothing in what I writing now, would I use for the blog. Nobody wants to hear this. I want to cry again and people, myself included, just want to get on with it, with life.
Water is refreshing, renewing for me. Maybe I just need to spew this all out like a dark rain cloud that dumps drenching rain then blows on or exhausts itself into oblivion after its purpose is achieved.
I don’t want to rewrite, rework or rethink this piece to make it acceptable for public consumption, make it different – cleaner, clearer, nicer – so that people can understand. I’d like to write something for the blog, but just like my faith journey and my need for fellowship and accountability, maybe I think my blogging needs the same foundation. If all I do is write in the middle of the web-forest, then nobody hears me. And then all I’m doing is talking to myself and that seems too much like crazy voices in my hear. (Are they really there? And what about when the answer each other? Just who’s really crazy?)
Or how about this, going along with the water theme: If I am blogging just to hear my own inner-voice, isn’t that sort of like an underwater tea party? You remember, the ones when you were a kid, you’d grab a deep breath and then sit on the bottom of the pool and have pretend tea all the while making polite conversation with bubbles and burbles and “bwan bwan bwan bwan bwap.” A nonsense language that nobody understood that droned on until you run out of breath and burst to the surface for a gulp of air and reality. Then you move on to something else ‘cause it’s no fun when no one understands you.
The Law of the Last Piece
And now a Monty Python reference: “And now for something completely different…” Man, I can hardly believe you’re still reading this. Even I’m a little tired of me, but I look at my written pages and realize that I have just one last page left in this pad of paper. Oh no…
Do I keep going and fill the last page or do I stop? If I stop then the law of the “the last piece” takes over and we all know what that leads to: the tyranny of that which is useful is laid fallow and wastes into nothingness. And we all know that just can’t be good.
What’s this ‘tyranny of fallow and waste’ you ask? Oh come now, you know it, you – we – all know it, we all do it.
The milk carton returned to the refrigerator with only a drink left. The last piece of cake, the last piece of candy, the last pretzel. The last empty chair, the last shopping basket. The last two squares on the toilet paper roll. The last piece of paper…
We go through the thought process:
- “If I take it, I’m responsible to deal with it and replace it.” Ah one is lazy.
- “If I take it, someone else might need it more than me.” Ah, one is channeling centuries of a mother’s-taught guilt. (Oh, OK, it’s being thoughtful. Whatever.)
- “If I take it, does it really help starving children in Africa?” Waste not, want not…Ah, there’s that mommy voice again.
- “If I take it…Who me? Prove that I took it!” Defensive, defensive…down boy.
- “If there is just one left, maybe it should just be thrown away so nobody has to decide.” Ah, is that being just a little passive aggressive?
- “If I take it, then all I’m left with is something that is empty and that’s just sad.” Ah, melancholy, my old friend.
There you go: the law of the last piece. See you DO know it.
Fortunately, I will not have to suffer the tyranny of fallow and nothingness, as I have now filled the last piece of paper.
And with that, this is done. # 30 #