By Bill Malcomson
Three weeks ago today Barbara and I moved from our condo in Port Ludlow to a retirement community in Port Townsend. This has proved to be a more traumatic experience than we had expected it to be. What we are experiencing is, I think, common to transition experiences of various kinds: change of job, loss of spouse, new relationship, etc. My preliminary take on the experience falls into five categories.
1. It is not only physically draining (at 85 most everything is physically draining), but emotionally as well. "Why am I so tired today? I haven't done that much." "I just want to watch some non-demanding tv show and go to bed early." "Can't we put that off until next week?" One's emotional energy is not quite up to the task of so momentous a change. So slow down, wait for your emotions to catch up, don't expect to be "yourself" again for some time.
2. We are in a strange place. This is not home yet. We lost our home, our nest, our cozy womb. What is this place? Where is our stuff? Who are these people? When will we arrive at our home?
I think we make a place our home, it is not a "given." And it takes awhile. Sometimes a great while.
3. In a retirement community you meet people in the halls, at events, in the dining room at meal time. You test out relationships. Is this a person, is this a couple whom you want to know better? We aren't really choosing these people. They are chosen for us. What if this is not "our community?" Do we seek a community in a local church, an organization? Do we spend more time with family? Developing community is a project, not a given. And it can be tough.
4. The decision we made was to move. But the decision to commit ourselves to the new has not yet been made. It is like in a new relationship--there is an initial commitment and then the deeper commitment develops over time. Commitment involves risk, uncertainty, some inner change, some letting go of the old and welcoming the new. At our age we might ask: Didn't we do all that? No, it is an ongoing process. And it takes our whole lives.
5. I would say that in this transition we are hopeful, but wary. Hopeful that the decision was a good one. Wary that we are not quite ready to jump in fully. Hopeful that we can handle the unknown. We have done it before. "Through many dangers, toils and snares We have already come. T'was grace that brought us safe thus far And grace will lead us home."
An email from Rev. Douglas Avilesbernal, our new Evergreen Association executive minister
Dear Evergreen pastors and leaders,
My thoughts and prayers are with you.
My thoughts are that you find a way to speak the word of God this Sunday.
My thoughts are hopes that you share the love in Scripture that points to proper love. That you preach from the depths of your hearts and the top of your lungs that yes, guns don’t kill people. But, our love of “my” guns makes it easier to kill people we will never meet.
My thoughts are that your God given wisdom helps you stand firm as you point to Scripture’s condemnation of loving things more than God’s children.
My thoughts are that you preach God’s freedom. Freedom from idolatry. Freedom from the desire to have a Hollywood chance of being the good guy with a gun. A freedom that willingly sacrifices choice for the sake of life. Freedom that knows being pro-life is not about choosing for others but choosing to forego my want for the sake of life.
My thoughts are that God guides your thoughts.
My prayer is that you are imbued with the discernment to know when you need to comfort the afflicted, accompany the scared, embrace those in fear, cry with the hurting and convict the unrepentant, help cast the veil from the eyes of those who are blind. I pray you can help bring the fullness of God’s love to your communities this Sunday and going forward.
My prayer is that you preach Jesus’ convicting Gospel that condemns our love of “my” weapons above a stranger’s life.
My prayer is that in you genuine concerns about attendance, offending, guilting, you remember that Jesus condemned the use of a weapon that was wielded to protect a loved one, himself!
My prayer is that you preach to our love of objects that make us feel powerful. I pray you preach how that misguided love blinds us to the hurt it brings to the world.
My prayer is that you preach God’s love and the respect that flows from that love instead of the fear that births misguided search for respect in powerful weapons.
I pray you preach that fighting fire with fire only leaves us with more fire.
I pray you preach how wrong it is that our love of firearms, which we justify by calling it freedom, makes it easier to build an arsenal than to buy enough Sudafed to last for two months.
My thoughts and prayers are that we preach how thoughts and prayers are nothing without being convicted into changing so profoundly we are willing to sacrifice our desire for choice for the sake of a stranger’s life.
My thoughts and prayers are that we all stop just thinking and praying.
“And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:24-25
By Jim Segaar
When I think about these last few weeks my head spins. It all started when two of my aunts died a few days apart. At the same time Jim Ginn’s Aunt Ruthe, who lived in Seattle and always came to our musical events, entered hospice, and has since died. And then Jim G’s mother had a stroke. She remains in the hospital making a good recovery, and Jim is moving her into an assisted living community next week. Oh, and did I mention Marilyn Pulliam? She was a great friend and mentor to both of us. When I bought these new glasses I thought of her – she told me my old ones were boring and ugly. But she died before I could see if she approved of this new pair.
And amidst it all life continues to happen. Jim G has been in Missouri for three weeks now, first to visit but then helping to care for, and now move, his mother. I’ve been keeping the home fires burning in our two houses – the one in Seattle and the one we are building in Methow Valley.
This past week I was in Methow Valley. I went skiing a little, but most of my time was spent taping and mudding wallboard and trimming out windows. I didn’t mind the work – it helped me deal with a crushing sense of loneliness I’ve been experiencing. I’m not used to living by myself any more, and some days it’s hard.
Thursday evening I was really feeling that loneliness when our little dog Otto demanded to go outside. I bundled us both up and grabbed a headlamp - it’s really dark in our Methow neighborhood. We stepped outside, and I glanced up at a moonless sky. The stars nearly took my breath away. Orion was brilliant, and all around it countless stars gleamed. As my eyes adjusted I saw more and more, finally picking out the glimmering band that is the Milky Way – our own galaxy – which is only visible from the darkest 10% of our well-lit planet. I was in awe.
It strikes me that this defines what it is to be human. We go from day to day, sometimes happy, sometimes sad. Sometimes dealing with way to much loss. And sometimes, especially when we take time to look up, we are awestruck by grandeur, beauty, love, grace.
Lent is upon us. It starts this Wednesday, Ash Wednesday, and continues through to Easter on April 1. And during this time we are all invited to Acknowledge our Humanity. For some this can be a problematic time of the church year. We might spend a lot of energy thinking about what we believe, or don’t believe, about the Lenten scriptures and especially Holy Week. And in doing so we miss a key ingredient – their humanity.
This year I challenge us all to take a slightly different approach. Let’s not debate what we believe. Let’s read these stories in all their humanity, and see what we can learn. I’ve started early, since I’m working on the Good Friday service. You don’t have to believe in magic to find meaning in that very human story - friendship, loneliness, betrayal, fear, agony, empathy, abandonment, death, and dare we add resurrection?
Late Thursday night in Methow Valley I was sleeping fitfully when I was startled wide awake by yips and howls. Coyotes serenaded the neighborhood. It was amazing, and a bit creepy. I told Otto that under no circumstances was I going to take him outside until dawn. He cooperated.
Humanity. One second we are enthralled, the next we fear for our lives. And eventually we lose those lives. And yet, what a world we live in. What wonder. Awe. Grace. What will you experience during Lent?
This blog includes thoughts from various contributors at Seattle First Baptist