Monday, June 08, 2009

A Few Thoughts from the Beach

Posts have been fewer and fewer in recent weeks.

I've had many thoughts pass through my head to which I'd say to myself, "Self, you need to post something on that," but alas, time was too fleeting to give any such thoughts their due.

Some random thoughts -

I'm now in the homestretch of a few days away, at our usual spot, until I return and go about the painful task of saying goodbye to folks I love deeply, and a place I labored with great passion for eight years.

I leave there honoring the best part of our United Methodist tradition knowing that whatever Saint John's is, it's not because of me. It's more like how I describe church membership for any who would come to be a part of a congregation I serve. That is, for a particular season of our journey we, as practicing disciples of Jesus, hang our shingle out in the company of others, who together comprise as a congregation. They are our fellow pilgrims on the way. We practice our discipleship of Jesus here, wherever "here" happens to be.

So it is for those of us who vowed our lives to the order of Elders. We promised we'd go to wherever those charged to watch over us call us to go trusting the Spirit of God is at work. I vowed to be obedient to that order.

I know a couple of people, some of whom vowed the same thing I did, who have told me such talk is archaic and not in touch with the contemporary business models for how effective leadership is secured.

That may all be true, and yet I don't believe them necessarily incompatible.

The product of a faithful vow belies conventional thinking.

Systems may be flawed (ours is), people within system may be less than they could/should be (ours are), and yet within our falleness always comes the opportunity for redemption.

The day we stop believing in the redemption of the fallen and broken - of all persons and systems, we need to cash in and chain up the doors, cause at that point, it's all over, folks.

Although it came at a time I didn't expect, the call for me to be obedient emerged again. How could I do any other?

Rarely, if ever, does God's call come on our time table anyway.


"Fixed." That's the word the bishop says when the appointments for the coming year are official. "I declare these appointments fixed."

It's done.

No place to look but ahead and be ready to engage the new tasks for ministry with vigor.

Hearing those words,especially when you're about to change, hits the ear a little differently. I heard those words last week, not with a jolt, but with a relief.

I've been told that mine was among the very first appointments made this year, with first word of its possibility coming in the first days of February.

That's a long time for anybody to live in waiting.

But it's fixed, now.

Time to go. Time to work. Time to do what I'm called to do in a new venue. And now, in hearing those words, excitement is building for what can be for the flock I'm now called to shepherd in Cordova along with my partner in ministry, Lora Jean.

"Happiness Is . . . " It was a strange feeling. I didn't expect it when it hit, and I was so thankful it did. Glad River had a mini-reunion last week at Annual Conference. We had been asked to provide musical context to the report of the Outreach Team. We played John Michael Talbot's "St. Teresa's Prayer," and David Haas' "We Are Called." What made it extra sweet was that we were complete. Our original line up was present. We had Anne back. It was a special moment.

We had no commitment to do anything other than play these two tunes on a stage we debuted "We Are Called" at Annual Conference, 1995. The freedom to come together and play and move on helped make it easy.

It hit me when Brad clicked off the first few beats of "We Are Called" and away we went. As if timeless, the voices were there, the spirit of our singing was there, the crowd was in it.

I was happy. That's it. Happiness. The realization that I have not felt that in quite that way in a longer amount of time than I'd care to admit brought into high relief how potent the moment was.

There's a zone you get in when it's right in life. It happens in sports, music, relationships, life. You're in it, and all you want to do is relish the moment that is.

More than a few folks noted something different in my spirit that day. I did, too. I wished I felt it more often.

We've all moved on to much busier lives since those that allowed us to gather, practice, play and travel the annual conference gigging in county seat sanctuaries, and high school cafetoria. Most of us didn't have children then, or at least as many. We were all associate ministers back then, and we all lived in the same town.

Last week showed that there may yet be the remant of a stream, maybe but a trickle in Glad River's bed. Whatever we'll be will never replicate what we were, which is really o.k. For everything there is a season.

I think the happiness was found most in the concrete reminder of what formed us in the first place, that we were friends first, who love to play music together.

That was special.

"KT" - My time in Florida this year is not all vacation. I had to work. I officiated my sister-in-law's wedding. Katie (to her I'm John-John), is somebody I've watch grow before my eyes. She was about the age Jack is now when I first met her. I found myself choked up a bit as I was reciting their vows. Little Katie, a woman, and a married one at that. It was a beach wedding, a first for me. I was in full liturgical regalia and barefoot on the sand. Felt good.

I was surprised and thankful for how easy everything transpired with the wedding. Best behavior all around (whew!). Katie is married to Kris, a great guy from a great family. We're now family with a New York family. Dare I say even, connected?


The merger of these families is the stuff of fairy tale and strange coincidence, but very cool.

My family kept telling me how great a job I did with the wedding, as if they were surprised. I'm like, "Hey, I don't make this stuff up out the air, this is my job, this is what I do."

There was some curiosity of how I'd handle the Protestant/Catholic thing. Are you kidding? That's in my wheelhouse.

"Everyone keeps saying what a great job you did, Johnny."

Would you tell the surgeon, "great job on that surgery?"

You might do that, but what would come first would be the expectation that excellence would rule the day because the person is trained to be just that.

I appreciate the thought. I really do. I just find the surprise that I "pulled it off" kinda funny.

Anyway - Katie and Kris - Cheers.


A few focused thoughts from the beach. That ought do for a bit.

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