Who knows...

One of the sobering truths about our wonderful sabbatical is that it will come to an end in about 35 days. One of the anticipated blessings that we've experienced is a re-connection as a couple - we renewed our vows after 20 years - and have simply celebrated the ordinary joys of having time to rest, love, speak, think and value one another without any of the pressures of our former histories. It has been an earthy, tender time for love that I will not release easily.That means there are three recurring thoughts about our return that keep running through my prayers:

+ First, I am going to have to restructure both my use of time and my expectations - to say nothing of what takes place at church - upon our return home. At this stage in my life, seeing way too many loved ones slip away well before their time, I am no longer willing or able to miss spending significant time with those I cherish the most. And I have no idea what that means in practical terms nor do I know what that means for ministry. I just know it is true. About a week ago I had a dream in which I was helping our band set up for an important gig. It was an outdoor concert in a beautiful environment. And, from a distance, the set-up looked stunning. But upon closer inspection the place was trashed:  garbage all over the stage, electrical cords in a tangle and more. So before we ever got to play a note I found myself wailing (in the dream) "I'm not going to clean up this mess all by myself anymore." Hmmmm... kind of interesting, yes? 

+ Second, as I have noted at other times, I have discerned a focusing of my interests over the years and during this sabbatical that focus has become even clearer: the creative arts celebrated in pursuit of compassion and justice, nourishing the inward journey so that grace is strengthened in individuals and our congregation, radical interfaith solidarity, and using our historic facilities for beauty, hope and love.There are young entrepreneurs in our town who are building businesses that not only serve our community, but do so in ways that are fun and just. They know all about fair/direct trade business, they know how to read the demographics and make them turn a profit, and they do so with such personal integrity that everyone feels healthier being a part of their effort. It really is time for our congregation to let go of our old habits and work in collaboration with local artists, artisans, entrepreneurs whatever their background. Because, these are the people who are bringing healing to our city.

Two readings from the Hebrew prophets come to mind: 

1) Jeremiah 29:7 - Seek the welfare of the city where I have placed you in exile and pray to the Lord on its behalf for in its welfare will be your welfare.  
And 2) Isaiah 65 - 
I will rejoice in Jerusalem,
    and delight in my people;
no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it,
    or the cry of distress.
No more shall there be in it
    an infant that lives but a few days,
    or an old person who does not live out a lifetime;
for one who dies at a hundred years will be considered a youth,
    and one who falls short of a hundred will be considered accursed.
They shall build houses and inhabit them;
    they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
They shall not build and another inhabit;
    they shall not plant and another eat;
for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be,
    and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands.
They shall not labor in vain,
    or bear children for calamity;
for they shall be offspring blessed by the Lord
    and their descendants as well.
Before they call I will answer,
    while they are yet speaking I will hear.
The wolf and the lamb shall feed together,
    the lion shall eat straw like the ox;
    but the serpent—its food shall be dust!
They shall not hurt or destroy
    on all my holy mountain,
says the Lord.

+ And third, all this work linking music to pray must remain part of my daily spiritual
discipline. I need to practice for the well-being of my soul to say nothing of practicing so that we can play some of the great jazz tunes for others. There have been times when I have let the culture's disdain of the arts - or even the demands of the congregation - pull me away from my own spiritual disciplines in music. But after four glorious months, I'm not going to give this up easily! So, every day there has got to be time for taking this deeper -  personally, professionally and within the life of our shared ministry - and I have no idea what that might look like. So part of me wants to be anxious about this unknown future. But there's nothing good to come of such foolishness. 

So, we're going to head out to a local jam session tonight - hopefully to be joined by our daughter after she gets the baby to bed - and simply enjoy another stunning, cool day in this grand place.  Next week a good friend will be in for a few days and then our other daughter and her husband, too. Tomorrow we'll play with our grandson - perhaps babysit for this momma and poppa in the evening - and continue to let all of this simmer and ripen.


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