Today is the one year anniversary of my spinal fusion surgery (T7-11). Today is the day I am supposed to have a sense of how I’ll feel going forward as the surgeon told me on more than one occasion – give it a year. Instead of ‘celebrating’ (whatever that would look like) I’m heading to my regular doctor to discuss how much my back hurts following a traffic accident last week. It is so frustrating to have all my plans for recovery and improvement ‘rear-ended’.
The weekend before the accident, my wife Jani and I were working out in the backyard together for the first time in over a year. At one point she stopped, looked at me and said, “David, you’re better. Two months ago you wouldn’t have been out here at all.” It was a beautiful moment of awareness – I am getting better; I’m feeling better.
Now I wake up and am afraid to move. I wonder: have I done more damage? Am I going to need more surgery? Will I have to live feeling like this the rest of my life?
As I held these thoughts and questions this morning I realized that I need to once again change my plans. I need to make yet another accommodation to the pain I feel in my back and the worry that rises in my heart. Rather than fly to Atlanta next week to be with my friends and colleagues with Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, I think I need to stay home and take it easy. I missed last year’s meeting due to my surgery and now I am going to miss this year’s meeting because of how my back feels after a car crash.
A dear friend, Winston Charles, taught me to ‘welcome the day and all that comes’. On a day when I expected to welcome ‘healing and progress’ Yet I find myself today being invited to welcome (again) ‘pain and worry and having to change my plans in order to be okay’.
During spiritual direction yesterday, I recognized a deep sense of gentleness within. I think I continue to bear fruit from traveling to Big Sur in January and the desert of NW New Mexico in February. In both places I did little other than attend to the spirit and myself (even while attending a conference in New Mexico).
I no longer beat myself up for failures or failings. I no longer question myself endlessly as to whether or not what I did was right. I no longer live with debilitating guilt hidden from all but the eyes of my soul and my God.
My prayer is that this is a permanent condition – an abiding sense of gentleness with myself. I also hope (and pray) that this emerging spaciousness within bears fruit in my relationships with others and in the works I feel called to engage in. I hope I can accompany others on their journeys toward gentleness.
As I sat having coffee this morning, listening to a chorus of birds, I felt increased pain in my back from the auto accident I was in last Tuesday. It’s hard to tell is its just sore or if something new is wrong. I’ll let the doctors help me figure that out.
But what I was aware of in the darkness of the Monday of Holy Week is that pain quiets one down and invites a deeper focus. There is less movement, deeper breaths, a quietude grounded in pain. Pain and stillness were partners this morning as I prayed about all that Jesus faces in the week ahead.
As we get closer to Easter, I love that everything in my backyard is turning from brown to green. The hydrangeas, the river birch trees, the cranberry bushes – everything is coming back to life.
The greening of spring is a reminder: life comes out of death and dormancy.
The song of the birds seemed extra chipper this morning as I drank my coffee in the backyard, watching the light come up. They too seem to sense the possibilities ahead for a new season of life.
Yesterday I received a whole shipment of exotic wood blanks. I was so excited to get up this morning and turn a thuya burl blank on my lathe and make a pen. I love the cinnamon color of the thuya wood – it is exquisite.
In my excitement, I cut the blank into two pieces, drilled a 10 millimeter hole in the center of each one, glued in the brass tubes, trimmed them and sanded the ends. I then put them on the mandrel on the lathe, ready to watch the sawdust fly, only to realize I had cut each one of them too short and then sanded them even shorter. I had to throw the blanks away.
Sometimes, in my excitement to get something beautiful done, I can ruin the beauty. I forget that the joy comes from the process, the slowness, of working with wood (or people). Thankfully, after realizing I had ruined a beautiful piece of wood, I had enough sense to simply throw the material away, turn off the lights in the garage and be done for the day. Rather than push on and try again with another blank, I decided to honor the failure and not rush forward with another piece of wood. (I ordered three thuya burl blanks so maybe I will be able to get one of them to become a pen.)
This morning I learned again – go slow and enjoy the process not just the finished product.
I am accompanying the choir on their trip to New York City to sing at Carnegie Hall. The week ahead will be filled with peace and joy as we explore New York and enjoy a wonderful choral concert. I’m particularly looking forward to hearing the Casavant Pipe Organ at the Brick Presbyterian Church – the inspiration for the new instrument the church installed in Kirkwood. I will be taking a break from blogging while in NYC, unless the Spirit whispers. My next post should be on March 27 (if all goes well). Peace to you as we continue our journey through the season of Lent.
During Lent, in response to the Assurance of Pardon, the congregation I serve is singing a beautiful hymn entitled Come to Me, O Weary Traveler. The first verse is:
Come to me, O weary traveler;
Come to me with your distress;
Come to me, you heavy burdened;
Come to me and find your rest.
And while I appreciate the invitation of the hymn and the beauty of the tune, this morning I find myself wondering about the need for us to “come to me (God/Jesus/Peace)”. As I posted a few days ago, I wonder about us needing to search for or find God. Can the creature find the Creator? Or do we simply need to stop and be found?
So I’ve been wondering how this variation might sound:
I come to you, O weary traveler;
I come to you in your distress;
I come to you, you heavy burdened;
I come to you to give you rest.
For me, the ‘quest for God’ has ended in that somehow I must ‘find God’ or ‘come to God’ or do ______________ to be with God more dearly. If the Spirit is the breathe I breath, then there is nowhere to go. If God is the shadow of my right hand, there is no distance to journey to find the Holy. If Christ abides in me – then why would I need to search or look or go anywhere to be with the Loving Presence? Yet for many of us Christians, we are continually taught and reminded that God is ‘out there’, somewhere far away, and we must be the ones who make the heroic journey in order to find a hidden god.
If the hymn tune was changed to “I come to you…” I’m afraid the next verse might too often be:
Why do you, O weary traveler;
Why do you in your distress;
Why do you, you heavy burdened;
Keep on going and never rest?
Yesterday, we awoke to about an inch and a half of beautiful, heavy snow covering everything but the roads and sidewalks. Snow brings with it a natural hush and an invitation to slow down: I drank my coffee slower; I sat longer looking outside; I began my day a little later than normal.
Snow is a contemplative gift – a natural invitation to breathe deeper and go about the normal activities of the day a little slower. The beauty of snow covered branches bending toward the ground cheers my soul and makes me say (more than once): thank you!
So this morning I signed up for Richard Rohr’s Daily Devotional to be emailed to me each morning. I’ve loved Richard’s writings ever since I was introduced to his thinking when I arrived at Rollingbay Presbyterian Church fifteen years ago. Richard had been the speaker at the church’s spirituality conference the year before my arrival and everyone was talking about him.
Being impatient for tomorrow’s devotion to arrive, I clicked on January’s devotional archives, and then clicked on Sunday, January 29th: The Dualistic Mind. (This is all just random clicking; or so I think.) Part way through the piece I run across: “How else could we possibly search for God?”
I am sure there are people who ‘search for God’, who strive earnestly to have a better relationship with Jesus their Savior, but this idea that we search for God seems ludicrous to me. I’m convinced: GOD FINDS US! So rather than searching or scurrying or worrying or trying harder to find God I’m working on stopping more often; sitting still; and allowing myself to be found by the great “I AM”.
One of the participants at the Ghost Ranch Sabbath Conference said: “Now that I’ve built it; I’m exhausted.” She had built a successful business but had reached the point where running it wearied her to the bone. She was exhausted and trying to discern what to do next.
Sometimes, the Spirit whispers to us in those random phrases we blurt out without thinking too much. When she said, “…I’m exhausted,” you could almost see the light bulb go on (and not just for her).
Many of us weary at maintaining routines and doing things simply to get them done. The joy, meaning, and Spirit of the act has dried over time. In Lent we are called to examine our ‘dry bones’ without feeling any need to ‘fix’ anything. Our invitation is to pay attention, to allow ourselves to settle into a deeper awareness and to watch for signs of the Spirit.