It was a year ago this week that I brought my pastoral ministry to a close. We took two weeks to be away in the desert last year - and it was holy ground. We also sensed the need for more intentionality and did another retreat in May. Eight months into this "year of beholding" what God is bringing into our midst a few truths are rising to the surface: the absolute importance of nurturing and being nurtured by our loved ones, the importance of solitude and contemplation in these brutal times, sharing small acts of beauty and compassion consistently in a broken culture, and returning thanks to God often. The late Henri Nouwen once wrote:
For most of my life I have struggled to find God, to know God, to love God. I have tried hard to follow the guidelines of the spiritual life—pray always, work for others, read the Scriptures—and to avoid the many temptations to dissipate myself. I have failed many times but always tried again, even when I was close to despair. Now I wonder whether I have sufficiently realized that during all this time God has been trying to find me, to know me, and to love me. The question is not “How am I to find God?” but “How am I to let myself be found by him?” The question is not “How am I to know God?” but “How am I to let myself be known by God?” And, finally, the question is not “How am I to love God?” but “How am I to let myself be loved by God?” God is looking into the distance for me, trying to find me, and longing to bring me home.
Now, more than ever before, the truth of being God's beloved is swelling up within and asking that we honor it as foundational. So, we are going to take a little time away again for rest and renewal. I probably will not be posting anything for the next two weeks. Who knows? It will just be a quiet time for walking and talking, soaking up a bit of sun, and resting with a few dear friends in one of the sweetest places in all creation. This morning on The Writer's Almanac, Garrison Keillor posted this poem by Barbara Crooker. I think she gets it right...
This was a day when nothing happened,
the children went off to school
remembering their books, lunches, gloves.
All morning, the baby and I built block stacks
in the squares of light on the floor.
And lunch blended into naptime,
I cleaned out kitchen cupboards,
one of those jobs that never gets done,
then sat in a circle of sunlight
and drank ginger tea,
watched the birds at the feeder
jostle over lunch’s little scraps.
A pheasant strutted from the hedgerow,
preened and flashed his jeweled head.
Now a chicken roasts in the pan,
and the children return,
the murmur of their stories dappling the air.
I peel carrots and potatoes without paring my thumb.
We listen together for your wheels on the drive.
Grace before bread.
And at the table, actual conversation,
no bickering or pokes.
And then, the drift into homework.
The baby goes to his cars, drives them
along the sofa’s ridges and hills.
Leaning by the counter, we steal a long slow kiss,
tasting of coffee and cream.
The chicken’s diminished to skin and skeleton,
the moon to a comma, a sliver of white,
but this has been a day of grace
in the dead of winter,
the hard cold knuckle of the year,
a day that unwrapped itself
like an unexpected gift,
and the stars turn on,
into the winter night.
Thanks be to God, indeed.