A Morning Pause

Divine Moment
Photo by Tim Graves. Creative Commons License BY-NC-ND 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/us/

Make the bed.
“Should I change the sheets today?”
No time. Tomorrow.
Do the dishes.
Water the grass.
Shower.
Dress.
Deal with dog.
Eat. Don’t dawdle.
Ding. Ding. Reply to texts.
Teeth. Don’t forget to brush your teeth.
Floss, too.
“I’ve gotta start a load of clothes before I go!”

In the midst of my morning routine I found sabbath. As the laundry detergent slowly and intently flowed into the cup, I took a breath. My body relaxed and my blood flowed in rhythm to the steady, unhurried liquid as it flowed from bottle to tap to measuring cup.

In and out. Sigh. I am here in this now.

That’s when I knew who I am. That’s the moment when I felt the divine presence in my morning routine.

Amen.

 

Greater Than Fear & Annoyance

Greater Than Fear & Annoyance
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Photo by Tim Graves. Creative Commons License BY-NC-ND 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/us/

I avoid her. I fear running into her at the post office or the grocery. She has a way of taking a chunk out of my spirit.

Just when you wanna hate people, though, they go and do something nice. Just when I’m ready to have nothing to do with someone, I become aware of their struggles and like the Grinch my heart grows three sizes.

In my small town there is a woman who feels I’m entitled to her opinion of my driving. In addition to my atrocious driving habits, I apparently pastor a not-Christian church. I need to know that, too. Apparently.

Emotionally it is easy to become annoyed with this woman. I don’t have any first hand understanding of her struggles. Nor has my personal driving instructor done something nice for me. However, I know she volunteers to do tedious work in our community.

People are complicated and messy. I’m sure she has challenges of which I’m unaware. Her behavior tells me that she does. Our “stuff” often spills over onto innocent people. As a local pastor, who won’t strike back,  I’m an easy target.

My faith tells me that we all hold the sacred within us. I can’t just write her off if I believe what I claim.When I remember this, I find my heart growing and softening. I’m more tolerant. I find ways to interact with her in love rather than mere tolerance.

I even find myself seeing the good within her. Love really is greater than fear and annoyance.

 

 

Manhood

Manhood

I get that.

The whole world tells us we’re supposed to be strong,
but I’m not.

I’m just tired.
I’m hurting and fragile.

We’re supposed to be gruff and unfeeling.
Provide and protect, we’re told.

But I can’t.
And you don’t need or want that.
Not really.

I can’t help it. I feel deeply.
I think it all in my heart.

They, the others, say I should be,
but I’m not.

Sometimes it bothers me,
but sometimes it doesn’t.

I know I don’t need to fit a mold,
but I feel the world trying to squish me into it sometimes.

Or is that my loneliness doing the pushing?

They say I should but I can’t.
I sometimes try anyway,
because the cravings and yearnings are powerful.

I am me. I choose my am over their shoulds.
(Well, most of the time.)

I hope you get that.

Am I Wasting What Time I Have?

It can be extremely rewarding and gratifying but this month, it is hard. Ministry is hard.

We spend half our time 165-miles apart and I’m done with it. Done, done, done. I ache. We’ve been at this for over three years. Before that we dealt with 350-miles for the three years while I was in seminary. There was a brief period between in which we lived together, in which we slept in the same bed every night.

I shouldn’t be surprised that we’re challenged by separation and distance. In my focused meditative Bible reading leading up to my seminary years, I perceived the Holy Spirit speaking to me about the cost of my call. Following God can sometimes involve leaving family behind, at least for a time.

Large crowds were traveling with Jesus. Turning to them, he said,  “Whoever comes to me and doesn’t hate father and mother, spouse and children, and brothers and sisters—yes, even one’s own life—cannot be my disciple. Whoever doesn’t carry their own cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:25-27 CEB

No, I don’t think God is trying to break us up.  The still speaking God, however, hinted to me about the very kind of challenges we’re enduring. I naively thought they would end once we finished my seminary years.

I’ve grown weary about what it means for a clergy couple to respond to our individual calls from God and remain true to our marriage vows. We both work hard in our respective ministries. We also remain strongly committed to one another and make good use of texting, phoning, and Facetime to maintain our relationship.

But it is hard.

Ministry can be lonely work under the best of circumstances. When you are faced with personal struggles of loneliness, there is often no one to whom you can turn. The role of the pastor (me) and the chaplain (my wife) is to listen to others rather than talk about our own problems.

I have found healthy ways to cope. I exercise regularly. I maintain friendships of mutuality outside of my tiny community to the extent I’m able. I sit with my feelings and accept them without judgement. (Well, sometimes.)

But it is hard, especially in weeks like the last few.

Having survived Holy Week with its extra pressures and services, I looked forward to some downtime with my wife. As is prone to happen, death comes on its own schedule rather than on mine. Word reached me that a beloved member of our church was nearing his final breath. I kissed my wife and traveled 165-miles to be with the dying saint of the church. I did not get to pray with him the one last time I’d hoped. He died while I was en route.

The time apart from my wife has been more emotionally difficult since this death. I’ve been weepy. I’ve been clingy. I’ve been a bit on the controlling side.

This is what sometimes happen when standing and praying with a widow as she bids the body of her husband of six and a half decades goodbye. Her emotions mingle with my own and I wonder if I’m wasting the little time I have with my own beloved to minister to others.

Ministry is hard, especially when my emotions get all tangled with others.

I don’t know whether I’m wasting the little time I have with my own spouse. At the end of the day being a non-anxious presence for others, I just don’t know. All I can do is sit as quiet tears fall down my face.

Heaven

 

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Heaven. Photo by Tim Graves. Creative Commons License BY-NC-ND 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/us/
Hope of the Earth
Earth’s Hope. Photo by Tim Graves. Creative Commons License BY-NC-ND 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/us/

East of the endless retail, and
the keeping it weird of Portland,
lies a land forgotten.

Far from the fir & fruit trees,
the nation imagines,
is another Oregon.

Beneath the infinite sky,
the sage grows wild, and
wheat, wind, & warmheartedness sustain.

In the arid landscape,
the rare rain & tree are treasures,
as beloved as family and history.

The tiny grocery, the pub,
& soda fountain are the venue
for a shadow vibrancy unseen by passersby.

Beyond that neighborliness,
using only my feet and legs to carry,
I step along a rocky path once walked by rancher.

Deep in the canyon,
beneath the hot spring sun,
my ears are baptized with silence.

Beside the deep blue river,
and beneath the azure dome,
my thoughts come easily.

Purifying sage reaches my nostrils,
the Spirit descends,
and divine love & clarity permeate palpably.

The rocks beneath & sky above are me.
My toes hug the rocky soil,
and my spirit soars among fluffy clouds.

I am one. We are One.

The Long & Short of It

In the Dark
A Place to Reflect. Photo taken by Tim Graves at Silver Falls State Park, Oregon. Creative Commons License BY-NC-ND 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/us/

It was longer, it is shorter now. My colon, that is. Two years ago my right colon was removed. That experience of surgery, hospitalization, and months of recovery changed me. Significantly.

On the second anniversary of my semi-colon, my incision said “hello” with a sensation that got my attention. It’s not unusual for it to speak to me, especially when I’m working my abdominal muscles at the gym.

I confess I like the hellos. They remind me of love, of vulnerability & mortality, and my humanity. The hellos remind me that caring for myself is not an extra. It is an essential.

I confess I like the hellos. They remind me of the love of my wife of nearly 37-years who took time off work to cook me mashed potatoes and help me manage the infected wound area. (It required gross things). They remind me of my children who ignored me when I told them they didn’t need to come see me.

I confess I like the hellos. They remind me of my vulnerability. There was something humbling and spiritual about being dependent: by medical staff in the hospital and my beloved at home. I experienced living fully human. To suffer and depend on others is part of how we are created. We are one family.

I confess I like the hellos because surgery & recovery changed me. I no longer give lip service to self-care. I take care of myself even when it is not convenient. I know — I believe & embrace — that I am important to myself, to others, and to the one I call God.  I start my day with the gym or I stop work early and lace up my running shoes. I hike in the Columbia River Gorge, the sage-marinated trails of eastern Oregon, or I hike the sacred Mt. Hood. I take rest days when my body and spirit needs them.

After two-years with a semi-colon, I am thankful for the “one permutation from cancer” growths that necessitated removal of my right colon. Though my life is still filled with personal challenges, personal mistakes, deep grief at times, I am blessed by the divine presence within creation and  each of us that nudges and encourages every rock and human being to be the most loving that we are capable of becoming.

____

This is the twelfth of multiple posts about my experiences of surgery and recovery following a colonoscopy and removal of my right colon.

Related Posts

God Hides God’s Face From Me! May 20, 2014
Unnatural, May 21, 2014
Out of Chaos, May 27, 2014
No Big Deal, May 29, 2014
Mortality, June 3, 2014
Wiped Memories, June 6, 2014
Perseverance, June 10, 2014
Scars, June 19, 2014
Embracing Emotions, July 2, 2014
An Unexpected Onion, January 14, 2015
One Year Ago Today, March 28, 2015
The Long & Short of It, March 29, 2016

 

 

Bridge of Breath & Dust

Bridge of Breath & Dust
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Photo by Tim Graves. Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 3.0 

Beside the fir’s olfactory balm,
I step and step again.
Pausing I breathe in Mama Gaia.

Healed.

The silence and chittering creatures,
lose their dominance as I continue.
Trickles and gurgles become roars.

Curious.

Beneath the green canopy,
the end of tunnel light beckons.
Emerging solar warmth embraces my skin.

Energized.

Hopeful yellows, purples, & reds
dot the spring shoreline beyond the roaring.
The icy danger disrupts my forward journey.

Yearning.

In the mountain’s domain,
far from she and far from he,
I stand beneath the blue skies.

Flummoxed

Beside the rushing waters,
I gaze beyond the treacherous sea.
No steel or human-crafted expanse facilitates my journey.

Decoding.

Fear and desire compete.
“Maybe here. Maybe up that way.”
Turning around feels like giving up.

Trepidation.

“There!” I spy rudimentary clues.
Those who’ve come before point the way.
Challenge, skill, and hope lure me across the rushing risk.

Cautious.

A little muddy, damp, and chilled,
I look back to where I’ve been.
Ethereal kindred united self with me.

Bridged.

In the mountain’s domain,
the breath of divine wholeness reveals,
the dusty camaraderie of humanity.

Only the Young are Healthy

Youth
One of the gyms I visit regularly is covered with inspirational murals. While the gym serves people of a variety of ages (many are decades older than I am), not one of those images reflects someone over thirty years old. Photo by Tim Graves. 

Only the young are healthy. Only the young are worthy of respect. Admit it, the older burden and annoy those who are doing the real work. They play their TVs too loud or keep closed captions on (as I do). They don’t understand modern technology or culture. They wear frumpy clothes and walk too slowly to keep up.

 

True. They can be amusing in their quirks, forgetfulness, and their little dances. (Google “old people dancing” if you don’t believe me.)

If I were to believe the dominant images of western culture, I’d believe all of this and more. I wouldn’t value the men and women with whom I minister in rural eastern Oregon. I’d detest my father, my sister, and even my younger brother. I might even divorce my wife because she’s not twenty-something.

I wouldn’t value myself. I’d be panicked about the worthlessness of my very existence as I approach yet another birthday.

Sigh. The truth is sometimes I do feel unworthy. It is hard not to feel less-than when you’re told you are no longer needed.

Thing is, there is not one experience I’ve had that I would give up to gain a year or two. Each of my adventures — the challenging and the exhilarating  — have made me who I am, and I like me.

Yep, I like me! Not only do I have awesome memories and experiences but I have so much more to do. I have dreams, new ideas, and creative abilities that will yet benefit my corner of the world. I am am not closed minded. I grow and change. Daily.

I am valuable. I have feelings, heart, and mind and so I won’t let our culture’s negative images about aging stop me from becoming who I was created to be. And if someone else finds my little dances funny, they should quit spying on me.

They will bear fruit even when old and gray;
they will remain lush and fresh in order to proclaim:
“The Lord is righteous.
He’s my rock.
There’s nothing unrighteous in him.” Psalm 92:14-15 CEB