Monthly Archives: April 2013

Moving (the) Past

I’ve been spending hours throwing my life away.
With each of the moves Beckie and I have made we have purged ourselves of more and more extraneous stuff. After living in PA for a long time, bringing up our kids, we had two friends come through our place and help us “unload” a ton of stuff. When someone who has no emotional ties to stuff asks, “What are you keeping this for?” and you start to explain “Well, we were walking on this beach, like 8 years ago, and the kids were playing ahead of us, just kind of running around and that piece of wood just bumped my foot in the water and it felt kind of cool in my hand when I picked it up and so I brought it back home here and put it on that shelf and…” it can make you realize that you don’t need to stick to keep the memory. So, you can let the stick go. We spent a lot of time getting rid of stuff then.

In Florida, where there are no basements (at least where we were), we didn’t collect as much and we also got rid of even more as we settled into new/different space. As we moved back to PA, we spent hours, again, clearing… and now we’re here.

One of the traits of my family of origin is collecting. My casting off is going against the grain. So, it’s been tough to get to this point where the stuff I’m getting rid of now is closer than memories; it’s part of my skin, much of it being what I’ve produced in my life.

My Mom, one of the original collectors, has acted as a witness to the life of her children. As adults my sisters and I each received a box of our “stuff” which included every report card, every card we made or sent to her for Mother’s Day, every article in a paper that listed our names, every particular aspect of clothing that was different from regular clothing – bear-shaped “extenders” so a little growing boy could get a bit more use out of suspenders on his shorts or the shop apron he wore when he took the class in 7th grade. And so I’ve been digging through my life and throwing away a lot.drawings

Pictures I drew when I was 3 ½ or 7 or 10, stories I wrote when I was 5 or 6, folded paper projects, small simple puzzles or maps… quite an assortment of nostalgia. It has all been surveyed, considered and in most cases discarded. That has lead me to my own files and so deeds of houses past, contracts, letters of recommendation, scripts, stories, sermons, poems… all products of times and places past are, at this moment, being loaded into the growling garbage truck outside our window on Orange St.

Most of what is being swallowed by the mechanics of the truck are things of which only I would have interest. You may be one of those gasping a little “no” about this, but if I sat you down and made you look through the boxes, and made you listen to explanations or stories connected to the stuff, you’d only be able to hold attention for moments. I remember these things. I connect with these things. So, I can let them go.

At this moment of my life I want to look forward. I’ve come to believe sincerely that nostalgia is the enemy of faith. Faith moves forward into the unknown, the unsure and the “what if.” It’s where Jesus calls me into trust. That’s where I want to go and that’s what I want to find at the end of days…what’s next. I can’t be carrying all this stuph if I’m going to get there.

Blessings,
Geoff

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It’s just a little change…

It’s about time I said something about change.

In the last four months, we:
Changed jobs
Left a community and friends of a decade of experiences
Left responsibilities and colleagues, projects and plans
Met new people
Tried to make a good impression
Took on new responsibilities
Learned new styles, approaches, habits, traditions, streets, names, faces, histories, finances, stores, doctors, barbers, hairdressers…
Organized, reorganized and then managed the home care for our elderly, bedridden mother
Personally handled the care of our mother when other caregivers were absent
Sold a car
Bought a car
change 3Celebrated Christmas, New Year’s, our Wedding Anniversary, and our oldest child’s birthday while traveling to California and back in one week and a half.
Moved
Into a motel
Into a rented/furnished condo
Into a rented/furnished home
Into a new purchased home
Drove up the eastern seaboard from Tampa, FL to Lancaster, PA in 19 hours
Flew between Tampa and Lancaster 3 times
Bought a new home
Flew back and cleared out, threw out or passed on all possessions from our old home and then guided the movers through the process of packing, handling and loading everything
Learned while we were away to move our things out of Tampa that our mother had gone into crisis and were called on to be the primary decision makers in that situation, by phone
Came through the end of our mother’s life, while hosting the family that gathered and that watched her die on Monday of Holy Week
Handled process for the cremation of our mother’s body
Made preliminary preparations for her memorial service
Created and held a small, private memorial service for her
Received and oversaw the movers during Holy Week – over Maundy Thursday and Good Friday
Prepared and preached a sermon in Community Good Friday service at St. James Episcopal
Prepared and paid personal taxes
Prepared and preached 11 sermons – handling all of Advent traditions and changes – preaching 3x each Sunday
Organized and structured the preaching plan for all services
Oversaw all Christmas services including new additions to these services
Reorganized, planned and executed a new training program for Elders, Trustees and Deacons
Prepared the Lenten series
Wrote 7 Lenten devotions
Restructured the organizational design of the staff
Reorganized and oversaw the restructuring of office space
Prepared evaluations of office staff
Redeveloped the Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter morning worship services
Led a pastoral retreat for our preaching staff to prepared worship themes through Easter of 2014
Developed the Dream Center for church planning events
Helped in redeveloping the educational approach to Christian Education at the church
Met with 3 groups of senior adults at Willow Valley and one at Mennonite Homes
Created a blog, producing 9 entries
Helped in redesigning a new website
And, you know, all the regular life stuff…

This is all prior to emptying the boxes of our things into our new home, setting up furnishings, overseeing reconstruction work and painting and then doing the same in my new office at the church. It also doesn’t include time immediately prior to the four months which included dealing with the death of my 18 year old dog, Jack, preparing for a marathon, traveling to the marathon, having the marathon cancelled, traveling into devastated areas and assisting those who lost everything. And, learning during the marathon time frame that the house we hoped to buy was purchased by someone else. Then, hosting Thanksgiving and family, having closing worship with the community we left and handling the transition of counseling relationships.

Overall the last half year has been a sea of change. The old term “sea change” refers to something that gets tossed into the sea and undergoes an evolutionary experience where it becomes what appears to be or is actually something else. We have been through a sea of change, but maybe not a “sea change.” What hasn’t changed is God.believe We praise God that we have been carried, loved and even nurtured through these experiences so that changes that might occur are ones that are God directed. Thanks to all who have prayed for, with and over us during these times.

Blessings,
Geoff

What we do…

boston_cityscape_night-wallpaperBest Hope

This week we renew our heartaches, hearing the news of the Boston marathon. It is remarkable that it comes in a moment when life carries such enormous inherent promise. One of the celebrations of spring is the season of activity that includes events like the marathon. All the elements of weather that would keep one inside are dissipating. Life is calling us out of doors. It calls to something deep within and causes us to ache to get out and to leave all things that might inhibit us. Lighter clothes, lighter moods, lighter days, lighter air, life is rising from the dirt and even the dirt has grown lighter.
A magazine ran a caption contest many, many years ago. It was LIFE magazine and there was a devious looking little guy who was holding the L and E of the title with a large IF behind him. The winning caption was something like “He is a scoundrel indeed that robs life of its ends, leaving only doubt.” Very clever and maybe it was because it carried a truth we can feel. The ones who remove goals and the worth of efforts started long ago are corrupting villains who replace hard fought expectation with anxiety laden fear. They are the servants of evil.
I was encouraged that people in Boston spoke to going back into life, back into their days, standing up to fear and doubt with participation. I was encouraged by the singing of the national anthem at the ballgame. I was encouraged that people didn’t allow evil to win. It really is the only thing.

Jesus told his disciples, ““I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) This was as he was telling them that he would never leave them or forsake them and that he wouldn’t leave them as orphans in the world. The first thing I take out of this is his “with-us-ness.” That was how the disciples understood him from the start – Emmanuel… God with us. It’s the “with-us-ness” that we survive and fight against evil. It’s when we’re with each other and when God is with us. It is being the community that we were created to be. It is the thing.

Blessings,
Geoff

Walking

walkingI walked to work today. I walked to the gas station where they have a free ATM and to the Post Office to pick up mail, passing the dry cleaners because I don’t have anything there and besides I’d pick up whatever might be there on the way home, and so I walked on to the church. We’re living in the city of Lancaster and that means I can walk to work, walk to the Farmers’ Market, walk to the Opera House or the tailor or the pizza place or city hall or the barber or the art galleries or a gift shop if I forgot a birthday or a special event, which I wouldn’t do because these places are so “on the way” I’d be reminded, and any number of restaurants or coffee houses… walking. It’s a great thing.

I’m reminded of so many things when I walk. My neighbors… as I pass houses and little yards, a guy closing up and pulling over a garbage can which turns out not to be his because his neighbor, who’s coming out her door, says, “Hey! Thanks for doing that.” And he says, “You’re welcome.” And they both nod at me as I walk past. And the guy walking his kind of ferocious looking dog, who holds him back so I can cross the street. And the two guys who, I get the feeling, are waiting for a ride and just chatting, while one is cleaning up his porch. I’m reminded of my neighbors.

And that causes me to pray. I’m reminded to pray for neighbors and the neighborhood and the city and the church.

Which puts me in mind of the Holy Spirit. I’m thinking that this isn’t just because I’m walking but it’s because I’m surrounded by the Spirit. And now, as I watch my feet crossing a street, I start to think about the Spirit. We’re talking about the Spirit for the next several weeks at church, so it is on my mind. But now I’m just thinking about the Spirit and Kohler… what’s up there?

Suppose, I consider as I walk, the Holy Spirit is a constant companion, always walking with me. I used to think the “paraclete”, the Greek word used by Jesus in John 14, meant only “the-coming-alongside-one” but it has a greater meaning I find. It means something more along, the “alongside calling one”. That gives me a whole different image, an image of this someone next to me and telling my spirit “You can do this! I’m with you. You’ll make it! Don’t be afraid. Don’t worry about the day. Don’t get sidetracked. Keep your eyes up! Pay attention to this part. You’re doing great!”

Saying what I need to hear, when I need to hear it. As simple as it sounds, I consider, what if God really is on our side? What if he wants the best for us and, like a constant companion, is ready to talk over anything I face. It makes me consider the phrase, “Pray continually” from 1 Thessalonians in a different light. It’s not a law. It’s a conversation.

This new life is slowing me down. I’m speaking to a group of students at F&M tonight. I think I’ll walk over… see what the evening looks like.

Blessings,
Geoff