Friday, September 27, 2013

Moving Is Like Playing Whack-A-Mole

It is amazing how disruptive moving is, or, to frame that positively, how important routines and disciplines are to creativity.  I think I've placed far too much emphasis on inspiration in my writing and in my work.  Moving has reminded me, inspiration is mostly a matter of just showing up every day.   

Now, things are coming together in our new home.  Moving a short distance helps us whack one mole before the next one pops up.  That's what moving feels like.

Last night, sitting out on the deck in the early evening, the thinning leaves and trees dark shadows dissolving into the darkening September sky, I actually wrote a few lines.  The dust may be settling.

I am surprised how comforting it is to be in a neighborhood again, surrounded by other houses and other lives.  Maybe that stems from the simple animal comfort of presence.  Of other people carting their trash to the curb, walking their dogs, leaving in their cars in the morning and coming back at night.

Or, maybe it is the familiarity of this floor plan in our new place.  We lived in a house like this with our boys through middle school and high school, and left for college.  This place takes us back and moves us forward. 

The places we go and the stops we make along the way become part of our evolution as people.  We think we leave a place and move on, but we never really leave.  It comes with us as the people we have become from having lived there.

Friday, September 20, 2013

My Summer Vacation

This summer, we went back to the Gulf Coast of Florida for our vacation, and I discovered snorkeling.  The Gulf of Mexico was exceptionally clear this year.  Something I am profoundly grateful for after the BP oil spill.  Stepping into that warm, clear water felt like standing in liquid forgiveness, the limits of which I hope we never test again. 

So I went to the tacky t-shirt shack, a fixture at all beach communities, and I bought a mask and a snorkel that sealed itself if I went completely under water.   What a world they opened to me.     

Suddenly, our little beach was like swimming in an aquarium.  I felt like the plastic diver  in the aquarium we used to have in our living room, forever about to discover the treasure chest with the lid that kept opening in a stream of bubbles.

As soon as I put my face in the water, connected to my world through the plastic tube by my ear, I found myself in the middle of a school of bait fish.  Shiners the locals called them.  They were about an inch long with green backs, blue eyes and sides made of a thousand tiny mirrors.  They swam straight at me like snow flakes when you’re driving at night through a snow storm.

Below them, I could see the larger fish, Jack and Redfish, darting up from the bottom, feeding on the stragglers.  The sunlight,  a spidery web of light underwater, created endless patterns, brilliant flashes as the fleeing shiners turned to avoid me.  A garbled cry of amazement and joy caught in my throat.  What beauty lay just below the surface!

I realized that water is just another kind of atmosphere, and as I swam connected to the world above by the thin pipe whooshing full of my own breath by my ear, I felt like I was flying, held by the water, my shadow gliding across the rippled sand bottom 12 feet below me.  Startling the small fish for whom every shadow means danger.

After awhile some would swim along just below me, using me for shelter from the birds above and the larger fish below.  What grace to pass through this new world extending shelter to these temporary little traveling companions.

How many worlds exist like this, just below the surface of my life?   I get the uncomfortable feeling that there are undiscovered worlds like this at my finger-tips all the time, and that God is so much grander, so much more present around me than I ever imagined.

We often make redemption and salvation a personal matter.  Turn Jesus into our personal savior, like the personal flotation device my seat cushion can supposedly be turned into if the plane we arrived here on were to go down over water.  Some things you just have to take on faith I guess, because I’d surely drown trying to figure out how to do that.  It takes me a couple of trys to locate the correct buckle for my seat belt.

Swimming in the blizzard of these shiners extending my accidental grace and protection, gives me a sense of the grandness of creation.  Can God's redemption and salvation be any less grand?

Thursday, September 05, 2013

The Spirituality Of Moving

Living in an area with lots of military personnel, moving is a fact of life.  Clergy aren’t quite as mobile, but we do our share of relocating too. 

My wife and I will be moving again in about a week to the new church parsonage in Riverside Estates.  The process of moving again helps me understand, just a little, the lives of the military families that are part of our congregation and community. 

For the next few weeks, I’ll be blogging about our move here.  I’ll be sharing tips, mistakes, hopefully some small successes, and exploring the spirituality of moving.  You’re welcome to come along...  

Yesterday, I rented a 16’ truck and picked up a new sofa, recliner and area rug at Costco.  I remember when our entire lives fit inside a 16' truck.  The fact that it doesn't now is a testament of the way our lives together have flowered.  Children. Children's spouses. Grandchildren. Dogs.  So many blessings. 

Sure, some of this accumulation of "stuff" represents the typical postponed decisions.  Even after only a couple of years.   Lots of this stuff is headed for the trash.  Probably should have been there long ago.  Many of my books fall into that category.  I still have my books from college and seminary.  A lifetime ago. 

For a writer, books are companions.  They are relationships, lessons learned, a record of the questions and collective wisdom that has shaped my life.   In the age of ebooks, the time has come my friends... 

Things are coming together in the house.  The congregation has done a great job getting things ready for us.  Looks good…hopeful…with our new rug down, the empty bookcases in the study waiting to hold the books I’m not ready to part with yet.  It becomes possible to imagine a life here.  It begins to take focus and shape. 

The sofas, the chairs, the rugs, the pictures on the walls, the books on the shelves…these are all the silent witnesses to our lives.   I haven't always paid them the attention and respect they were due.  I've mostly taken them for granted.  I realize that as they are taken down one by one, wrapped or sealed in  cardboard boxes.  This is exhausting work.  Slow and painstaking.  Thankfully, my wife shoulders the bulk of this.  Driving the truck, lifting and sweating is the easy part comparatively and  I’m better suited to that.

I believe it's true that a life observed is changed simply by being observed.  These things carried from our old place to our new feel like an extension of ourselves.   A bridge to take us from who we were to who we will become.  They are the immense gratitude, sealed and delivered,  for all that has been.  They are gestures of faith in what is yet to be.