Friday, September 02, 2011

It's been an interesting two years...

Here I sit writing and sipping coffee as the ocean breeze blows in the windows and as the morning marine air fills my happy lungs. What an Israelite-like journey it has been to get this moment, to this location, to this reality.

As I resurrected the blog this morning (again...this blog has been resurrected more times than Jesus), I was shocked to discover that there were only two posts from the last two years. I'm not sure what to make of that. I was serving in an inner-city congregation in the Midwest and, for the most part, was very thrilled to be doing so. There were so many incredible, insightful, wonderful people there and such phenomenal colleagues who accompanied me in ministry in an area hard hit by economic realities. It was most certainly an interesting time.

I just concluded the call to Elijah in Egypt. My ponderings and reflections continue to form as literal distance sinks in. Over the course of the two years at Elijah in Egypt, I learned a great deal. I learned a great deal about myself, about the congregation, and about what it looks like when the walking wounded journey together in a yearning for wholeness. I learned that following a 37 year pastoral tenure without the benefit of an interim pastor between your call and the previous one is not only inadvisable but also pretty much insane regardless of the optimism surrounding such a venture. I learned how fragile life can be and how holy the ground upon which we walk really is. I learned and experienced how unspoken nuances and assumed but not confirmed meanings of words and actions can chew a person up in the eyes of another. I learned that Jesus does indeed walk with us - whether or not we name him or claim him as Savior - and that he accompanies us in our deepest pain, greatest joys, and everything inbetween.

I find myself fairly wistful about almost everything to do with my time in the Midwest. There were so many happy moments and some treasured friendships. The Midwest was a great training ground for ministry. Though I most certainly had my share of missteps and errors, my foibles were almost always met with grace and Midwest nice-ness. Sure, there were times when grace seemed less apparent but dusting off the sandals and moving on seems like the best way to address that. The Midwest was also a wonderful place to raise my children. Much to my dismay, the boys consider themselves Midwesterners even though they are 3rd generation native Oregonian. My great-great grandfather probably wouldn't be so thrilled about that, but then again, he was French so maybe he'd simply roll his eyes and shrug his shoulders in disbelief, sip some espresso, and move on.

Now if there is anything else worth mentioning about life in the Midwest, it'd be the winters. We're talking snowflakes galore and temperatures not fit for human life. I remember as a child how I would revel in jubilation whenever the fairly rare occurrence of a falling snowflake entered my day. Now I cannot think of anything I will miss less than the piles and piles of seemingly unending snow and the inside of my nose freezing. Rather than causing my heart to soar, the mere mention of snow and cold now causes my heart and energy to plummet in despair. Snow. Ugh. Ick. Hopefully I will never again dwell in a land of low temperatures and snowbanks.

As I prepared to move to the Left Coast, Midwesterners would ask in all honesty, "Won't you miss the seasons?!" My theory is that this question is simply a form of denial about how crummy the weather is in the Midwest. Saying "I love the seasons" helps create a framework and coping mechanism for the soaring sticky heat and the dry frigid cold. So, in answer to the question, "Won't you miss the seasons?!" the response is an emphatic no. I will not miss the summer humidity, mosquitoes, and air so thick you feel like you are swimming in molasses. I will not miss the all-too-short spring replete with thunderstorms that freak out my dog. I will not miss the blink of an eye autumn where the beautiful leaves change color on the way to work and fall off the tree by the time you return home. And, yes, mostly, I will not miss the winters. The long, cold, harsh, snowy, icy winters. You can have your seasons, Midwesterners. I even admire your love of the variety. For me, though, I'll stick with morning marine fog that burns off in the afternoon and temps that tend not to dip below 40 degrees on the coldest of cold days. As Jimmy Buffett croons: I have found me a home.