"Graceland" is the name of my favorite song and album. It's by Paul Simon, but more importantly, it's what "home" sounds and feels like to me. We always listened to this album as we traveled from my home in Tennessee to my parents' childhood homes in Florida. But today, it's also a pretty good snapshot of my theology. Somewhere I really believe that the Christian journey is all about a wild trip to Grace-land. As I see it, Grace-land is the place where God is waiting to meet even us–with all the baggage and brokeness that we tote with us. Grace-land is the place where we will be received with open arms, even though our attempts at “getting it right” have been miserable failures at best. But, I think, every step we take is a step on the journey to Graceland.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Wish I had thought of this!

Wow...I love this! What a great video!

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ze5nCEmiamQ?rel=0&w=640&h=390]

Friday, August 26, 2011

Carving out Sabbath Time

"Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy."  A commandment.  Perhaps the commandment with which I struggle the most.  But I know God must be trying to get my attention, because Sabbath keeping is showing up over and over again in the things I pick up to read.

Eugene Peterson started it off as I was reading his memoir about being a pastor.  He recounts a conversation with a colleague of his when they were in the diner.  His colleague had had many conversations with their waitress, apparently about the spiritual life. Peterson's colleague, Tom, says "Eugune, did you see us talking, the way she was talking--that intensity? I wish I could do that kind of thing all day long, every day.  Every time I come in here and there are no customers, she wants to talk about prayer and her life." Peterson asks why he doesn't, and Tom answers in a way that haunts me. He says, "Because I have to run this damn church."

Certainly, that must have been a sign of his colleague's burnout. It made Peteson and a group of pastors realize just how much they were all overwhelmed by the tasks of ministry. They all began a practice of serious sabbath keeping which Peterson speaks of in his chapter called "Emmaus Walks." Peterson made the commitment to keeping a Monday sabbath, and describes the shift they made from taking a day off to keeping a Sabbath.

I'm a little fascinated by this.  I try very hard to set aside one day as a day off, but my husband and friends would say that I'm not very good at it. There is always a sermon that just didn't get finished or there are bulletins to run or there is a possum to get out of the office (no, seriously!) When I'm in town, I might get a chunk of time for myself, but more often than not, I spend it cleaning or doing errands in town. Maybe I will get in a long walk with my doggie, but that's about it as far as doing something completely for myself. I understand that I need a day off.  But I also understand that it's not enough. I want something more, something other. I want delicious time to think and pray and listen and watch.  I want to fill my soul.

I've been "reading at" Abraham Herschel's Sabbath again, and I'm reminded of what a beautiful job Jewish folks do with Sabbath keeping. They don't cook or clean.  They don't drive.  They don't use electronics. They pray and worship and enjoy family time, without the destractions that weigh us down.  I want that.

I can't however, for the life of me, figure out how to actually make it happen.  I did make a start last night.  I stayed up and cleaned the house.  I ran my errands yesterday.  There is still a sermon to finish today, but it feels a little bit different.  It doesn't feel like one more thing on a very long to-do list.  It feels like a cherished time to write and think about God's word. Assuming the hurricane doesn't come in this afternoon, I'm looking forward to a long walk in the cornfields.  Maybe I'll cook, just because I love to cook--not because I have to get a meal on the table. Maybe I'll draw as I pray-- like I used to do.

Maybe I can learn to Sabbath a little bit at a time, until the whole thing just takes over my being.  After all, it's 8:42 in the morning, and I'm still in my pajamas listening to the dogs snoring on the couch beside me. I've not made a manic rush out the door in an attempt to fit more things in to an already crowded day.

It's a start.


If you'd like to read more about Sabbath keeping, here are some books I love:

Babara Brown Taylor's "An Altar in the World"

Eugene Peterson's "The Pastor: A Memoir"

Wendell Berry's "A Timbered Choir: Sabbath Poems"

Abraham Herschel's "Sabbath"

Don Postema's "Catch Your Breath"

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Mowing Meditation

Despite the fact that I haven't had to do it nearly as often this summer as I usually do, I've been putting it off for weeks. It's just been too hot and it hasn't been at the top of my list. But I had the time this afternoon, so me and my push mower headed out for some quality bonding time. Lots of quality bonding time--our yard is huge! It didn't take long until I was dripping with sweat, but it was just a short time past that when I realized I wasn't hating the mowing. I was cranking my ipod (which was also counting my steps-- 11,000 of them to be exact) and the music that I love but never seem to get a chance to hear was making me smile.  I even got caught up on the "This I Believe" podcasts that I cherish so much.  I was thinking and daydreaming, and while it wasn't as much fun as curling up with a great book, the hours out there were mine.  Time for me, cleverly couched as productivity.

I finally took the plunge and mowed down what I had considered to be a garden.  At the beginning of the summer, before we had our own personal drought, the area around my sidewalks had all sorts of pretty flowers.  But when it got so dry, the only thing that would grow was weeds.  So I mowed them down, and its lost potential only broke my heart a little bit. But I guess that's redeeming too, because now I have a brand new space if I want to plant beautiful fall flowers.

Tired and sweaty though I am, I'm a happier person.  Not just because the dreaded chore is finally over, or because my yard is finally presentable again, but maybe just because of the work itself. When I was a teenager, I always wanted to mow the yard, but dad would never let me.  I thought it was because he was worried about my safety--as if I might fall off the riding mower or something.  But now I understand what he meant when he said "That's the only place where I can make order out of chaos."  There's something meditative about mowing.

I wouldn't go so far as to say that I saw God while pushing a mower, but there's something in me that feels just a little freer from having spent the time working so closely with God's creation.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Do you write?

The conversation started innocently enough with "What was your major in college?" I'd never met the man, but he was visiting in our church one afternoon.  He was a charming, elderly fellow and brilliant musician. (And listening to him and one of my congregants as I worked on my sermon was probably the highlight of my day.)  But he'd asked a question, and I owed him an answer.  I told him that my major in college was English, hoping the conversation might stop there.  "Oh, that's simply marvelous", he said. "Literature? Poetry? Technical Writing?", he wanted to know.  But it's not any of those things.  I majored in creative writing, and had to tell him so, knowing the next inevitable question.  "And do you write?"

Well, there's the million dollar question.  "Oh, these days, my creative writing is mostly sermons and newsletter articles.  God has a funny sense of humor-- because this isn't what I had in mind when I chose my major, but I'd guess it's creative enough."  I'd blamed my lack of writing on God's funny sense of humor--as if that answered anything at all.  But the wise man saw through it.  "Creative? Yes.  But enough? I can see in your eyes that it isn't."


Maybe it's time.  I finished up a big writing assignment in June, and I was kind of burnt out after that.  The assignment, though I was honored to be invited to do it, was much harder than I expected.  It was a huge blow to my writing ego.  And I was just done for a while. (As evidenced by my complete lack of blogging since April or whenever it was.) But maybe it's time again.  The need deep within my soul is coming back.

The problem is that once I start, I can't seem to stop.