It was a nice enough restaurant, but man if i didn't see a guy sitting there who looked like dad just before he died.
I kept turning around to look at him, searching, reconnecting with an image in my head I'm trying to hang on to.
It seemed good to see him again, but it also surprised me that some of his features are fading in my mind.
I don't like that.
But yeah, we had a good supper and then took a drive down to the lake. This city is a beautiful place, especially when the work is done and you can enjoy the scenery.
A part of it reminds me of when we used to live just off of Lake Erie. Same smells and feel and humidity. Felt comfortable, like home used to be those years we lived there.
Good memories all around tonight.
And tomorrow we start the journey home.
This morning when I got up and moving,Â I was surprised to find thatÂ there was a deep sense of contentment resting with me. I walkedÂ to the University in a good clear mood, andÂ I may haveÂ even have whistled as I walked.
Ok, that paragraph just makes me look too much like I was in aÂ Viagra commercial... sorry.
I assure you that I um, wasn't high on viagra, as much as I was high on some part of life yet to be identified...
Yes, now to save this post...
While I was thinking later on in the morning, I recalled that last night while I was praying, I experienced a very clear sense that I am deeply glad for what I do.Â And that thing that I do is pastoring. I am really glad that I have the opportunity to do that, it is a gift to me and. I. love. It.
Go figure. I haven't been able to say that for a long time. At least not with a straight face.
But there it was last night, coming up in my prayers from someÂ deep place inside of me.
And perhaps there is a connection, between that realization, and my sense of contentment.
But asÂ I looked more into that contentment, I realized that because contentment is there, creativity begins to work it's way back into my heart.
I have been creatively dry for longer than I care to admit.Â Before the summer, I hadn't taken an interesting picture for a long time. And my writing was for the most part, just bla, bla, bla.
But as I sensed contentment, creativity started to grow. Maybe they are related, in good ways.
I need creativity in my life.Â It is the physical outworking of internal joy.
So, tonight I thinkÂ I am heading downtown to take pictures of Chicago. We have the evening free and most of us are exhausted, but I think I have enough gas to make it there and back.
Occasionally its good just to ooh and ah at some amazing architecture and visuals. Reminds me that there are big amazing things in this world. I think I need that.
SoÂ I'm offÂ for the El.
I leave the house just after 7:30am and walk up to the University campus so that I can get on a computer and check in with home and some of you. This morning in spite of my fuzzy mind the walk was refreshing. So many times in Chicago at this time of year the weather is less than refreshing. it's muggy and hot, even early in the morning. But not this morning.
It had rained in the night, and the old, brickÂ community I had to walk through looked fresh and inviting. The air was not so humid yet, and a little cool on the skin, so it helped to repair some of the damage of a sleepless night.
Today we continue on with much of our practicum. In small groups we each take turns giving Spiritual Direction to our classmates while other class members and supervisory staff sit and evaluate us.
To say it is un-nerving would be a bit of an understatement only equalled by the statement that I will be glad when it's all over.
But, the relationships with class members is coming along nicely. I'm going to miss them and their questions on my life next week!
It looks like Saturday afternoon weÂ have a couple of hours off, soÂ I am heading off with a friend who lives here in Chicago, and we are getting out on the water on his boat for the afternoon. I shall be sure to bring the camera, I hear Chicago is beautiful from the water.
But for now, back to focusing on other people's stories, and how I sit invitingly, and not interrupt the flow, and ask questions without asking a question. (You should try that once.Â It ain't easy you know!!)
Hope your day is well too.
It's good to see thise people again, my classmates I mean. We've been interacting all winter through our online classes, and its good to get some face time again. And it's also good to observe how we are changing. There are sometimes subtle, but often clear indications that we have changed. It's good to see them again.
And it's good to be in class again too. Certainly it's a bit of a challenge, getting up to speed, but so far its been a good challenge.
But, I am tired, and it's only Tuesday.
We go mornings from 8:30 till noon, then one till five, then 6:30 till 9:30, then we walk home.
I don't think I'll have time for Jazz this visit, but that's ok.
Tomorrow I'm having supper with a classmate. We made arrangements mid-winter some time, and I wasn't sure if she would remember it, but she did so we will. Then another night it's a light supper put on for us by Denomination officials. Maybe another supper with classmates and that will be the weekend.Â
So, class is on and I am engaging with the material and things are going well.
Class starts agagin in 15 minutes, so I'm off to get ready.
Well, after starting the journey to Chicago about 24 hours ago, we have arrived.
Couldn't sleep last night at mom's, too hot or somesuch thing. Then up at 4:30 this morning to catch the flight, flying all day, and we are here.
The flight into Chicago was a bit bumpy, and there were a few moments we wondered if he wouldÂ get the thing stopped, withÂ bits and pieces of peoples stuff sliding past me.Â
But, wonder of wonders, it's cooler here than it was at home!
That I can do.
So, tonight I have one more book to finish off, then tomorrow morning at 8 am, the bus leaves for the first day: Solitude Retreat Day.
I am looking forward to this. Alot.
Blessings on you all too.
Since we got back yesterday from Broadview, I've run errands and completed homework today and Lauralea, Bless her heart, has done my wash. I think I'm ready for the journey that begins tomorrow.
The books we've been reading have been good ones and I really feel eager to engage the topic and try some things out myself. I am looking forward to this week of learning. Hungry even.
I have discovered a couple of new discernment things since I left Iona. It may have resulted in a greater sensitivity within, and since I've come to the place where sensitivity isn't a weakness, its kinda fun to explore this thing with God.
The listening is going well. There is so much in our communication with God that I have missed, due to impatience or immaturity on my part. But I have discovered new places to explore in this vast interconnectedness with the Creator of the universe. It's like I've found a whole new wing of the house and each time I push open a new door I find four others to push through and explore. It is exciting again.
And even if this road never again takes me to places like Iona, the road I am on leads me closer to the One who created Iona. If I can learn to listen better, I shall hear better, and in hearing I will be closer to the one who is Satisfaction himself.
He is the answer to the questions of my heart.
So, I'll have some fun hanging it over Lauralea's head for a bit, teasing her that "I know who dies..."
Ahem, yeah now for some REAL life.
We are at Lauralea's mom and dad's house this week to catch up and see family and friends. It's been fun, well EXCEPT FOR THE HEAT!!
I mean, I think I would prefer the doctor/terrorists and the balmy, beautiful cool of Scotland to this +30C muggy heat.
I've been doing a bunch of reading and writing, trying to get ready for the next installment of my Spiritual Direction course in Chicago.
It's going well, I think. And I only have a few more books to go through, so it's good.
And yeah, next week Chicago. I'm thinking of turning this blog into a travel blog. Scotland, Broadview, Chicago. All the great places to get fresh haggis, donuts, and Hot Dogs.
But, if history is any indication, it'll be stinking hot in Chicago. And humid, hot and humid. That really takes the joy out of it for me.
Still, it's been good to be here, and to be quiet and think deep thoughts and read deep books.
I think tomorrow I will hate to leave.
But home calls, and at home is another person who has read the Potter books, and that just means there is one more person to tease that I know who dies.
Life is good.
One of the best I've read, as a pastor.
He gets past some of the contemporary cliches and brings the Spirit into the discussion.
You find that missing piece of jewellery, or you bump into an old friend in a mall when visiting a distant city, those kinds of things.
And then there are the events which seem to defy anything short of divine interference.
The regular reader of this space will remember how Lauralea indicated a desire to visit her ancestral home town while we were in the UK, and the next day came a letter from a stranger offering us a bed in that EXACT SAME TOWN.
Well, for those of you keeping score between God and coincidence, Lauralea and I experienced another such Epiphany while in a book store in the Iona Abby.
Lauralea took a pottery course last autumn and wanted to continue to explore her creativity with that medium. I had asked her to consider making me a Celtic Cross to hang on my wall, and for Christmas she presented me with a beautiful, hand carved clay Celtic cross.
The design for the carving came from a long process of looking at different Celtic designs, knots, and images.
The final outcome was a beautiful piece of work that hangs proudly in my office. Exactly the kind of thing I was after.
One would think that was the end of that story. Except that while we were in the bookshop Lauralea happened upon a book about the design, style and history of Celtic Crosses.
She came looking for me in a hurry, showing me what she had stumbled upon.
In the book of 101 Celtic Crosses, cross number 86 was a picture of an exact copy of my cross with the following caption;
"This style is used by some modern Celtic artists to represent the Isle of Iona, which in Gaelic means the Isle of Saints. St. Columba landed there in 563 with twelve companions and founded the monastery where, it is believed, the Book of Kells was begun."
In other words, seven months before we would be on Iona, with no real connection to the place or that unique design, Lauralea was carving me an Iona Cross.
A great big fluke, or a God who is not constrained by the limits of time? You decide.
As for us, we bought the book, with humble hearts and surprised looks on our faces.
The Sabbatical has been going well to date.
The ultimate Spiritual retreat to the Isle of Iona, continuing to see my Spiritual Director, working around the house, so far has been a great rest.
I've also been doing some "Fun" reading, and that's been sweet.
This weekend will begin the Educational component of my break. I have a number of books to read through before I need to be in Chicago next weekend, and some of them will be easier to read than others.
There are some things I need to have written about too, and of course the continuing Spiritual Direction meetings.
I am kinda not ready for that, but I will do my best. I am way better than if I had gone into the schooling with out the previous break, that's for sure.
So, yeah, sabbatical three weeks in looks good and on track.
I am a most blessed man indeed.
While we were on Iona poking around the Iona Community Bookshop, (where I was loading up on books not easily purchased here on this side of the Orb,) we heard a sweet voice singing over the in shop stereo. It was a young female voice singing strongly the folk songs of the area.
I asked who it was and was introduced to the musician Kate Rusby.
We promptly bought a cd then and there and have been listening to it ever since.
As one reviewer put it, and I would agree, her songs make one weak in the knees.
You can see her at http://www.katerusby.com
Here is a YouTube version of her song "The Goodman" and here she is singing her song, "Underneath the Stars."
Ah, this is the question I have been trying to answer since we returned home. Does Iona live up to it's reputation as a thin place.
And how does one actually measure that kind of "Thinness," if you will. I'm not sure I am up to giving that question a proper answer, however I have made some observations.
(Pardon all the quotation marks. It's my way of using language in ways it regularly wouldn't be used.)
It did seem that there was a freedom and a kind of "Accelerated" connection with God there. It felt as though he was close and "easily accessible."
The clarity of the things God was saying to me was unmistakable. Each day we took time for quiet reflection and just simple prayer times which didn't feel as though they were "Words hitting the ceilings." Sunday and Monday I took some extended time for prayer and waiting on God. I found the quiet corner in the Abby and spent the afternoon there. It was sweet. There was freedom to communicate with God, and there was clarity as He communicated with me. Clearly and deliberately he unfolded some things from my life that I needed to take time to deal with. As I processed those things and moved through them, there was more that he unfolded before me. It was a time of cleansing and working through old sins and hurts.
That led to a place where we talked of my future work. No great specifics mind you, but enough to be an encouragement for me for this second half of my life.
Then followed a time where I was free to pray for many of you who had asked for prayer. That was a sweet time too. Not having to fight through being able to focus, not easily distracted. As I would begin to pray for you, in my spirit I knew which direction to move for you in prayer. It was as though God and I were having a chat about your needs, and I asked and he heard and led me to ask for more for you. That was a most enjoyable part of the week.
The critic would observe that I had had some of those senses simply due to the fact that I was on a spiritual retreat and had prepared for that, so in that way the closeness of God could be explained away.
I did observe that the locals were amazingly gracious people. Their warmth and willingness to have us on the Island seemed to me to be an indication of something different. It effected me enough to take notice of it.
And the ministries of the various churches on the Island were quite, ...profound I would say. We attended three different churches and their Services, Evensongs, Complines, and Prayer Services. Each one was quite significant for us. There was a freshness to the word of God and the prayers, whether extemporaneous or written down, were very moving and alive to our spirits.
The different men who led the services were gracious, friendly people who warmly embraced us and received us into the services with pleasure. They did not seem to be cranky old farts who hated having to travel to the Island to run a service for the few people who would come by on any given evening.
I observed to Lauralea halfway through the week in a somewhat joking manner, that to date I had yet to observe any used, discarded hypodermic needles or condoms. A regular occurrence in the town I live in. In fact I had not even heard curse words used or an angry exchange between people.
Now I am not naive enough to think that those things don't happen, because they do. But even when seated near the hot kitchens preparing food for the customers and watching wait staff pressed to their limits, I didn't observe anger or volatile language. That was quite different from home, and not necessarily an indication of "Thinness." However, I remember taking notice of it and commenting on it.
I remember when we were leaving the Island, and we were on the bus traveling across the Isle of Mull. A couple of guys got on, sitting near us. After a few moments one of them swore, and I remember how it pierced my spirit. It just cut through with heaviness and darkness. That surprised me.
Again, the critic would easily be able to explain many of these incidents away. However for me they were, or seemed to be significant events.
I have traveled to some valleys and locations here in Canada, and the world, that are just heavy and dark and oppressive. When you arrive in those places it's noticeable to your spirit. The outward signs are usually people fighting, children disobeying and swearing up a blue storm. It feels hard to pray, and to see your words even pierce the sky.
I've been to those places and this island was the exact opposite of that.
Was it a thin place?
Yes, I think it was a thin place.
Even if you throw out my subjective opinions of it being such a place, you still have to deal with the fact that people for thousands of years have found the Island to be a place to connect easily with God. A place where the gap between earth and heaven seems especially, thin.
As the Rev. George MacLeod prayed during his time there: "Invisible we see you, Christ above us, Christ beneath us, Christ beside us."
So if you're from Prince Albert and you have a bit of history of sunbathing in the altogether, you might want to go check and make sure you were not captured by a distant passing satellite.
It's kind of fun to try to guess when the images were taken.
(That's my house right near the center of the map, mostly surrounded by trees and green space. Nice.)
It it not fear exactly, but more of a sickening realization that there are people out there who would be pleased if you were dead due to their work and sacrifice.
It was a great blessing from the God that I serve that no one died last week in the UK.
I imagine it was a great sadness to the God that the terrorists serve that they failed.
You don't die for a cause because you hate someone, you are willing to die for a cause because you believe in something. You are convinced it is the right thing to do, or that you will be serving a higher purpose, God if you will. And that makes it so much more dangerous.
It looks like those arrested in the UK and elsewhere for the attempted killings last week were trained Doctors. "Reasonable" people. Not people without hope or jobs or hungry, but people who we may think should not be as susceptible to such drastic ideology.
They have worked as Doctors and caregivers, and been quite caring and compassionate with their patients. Which makes the attacks all the more shocking.
The attack on the Glasgow airport happened as the Scottish school children were beginning their summer holidays. There would be many extra of them at the airport going away on vacation. Some believe the timing was not accidental, but deliberate.
I imagine these attacks will continue for some time, perhaps getting worst before they get better, if they ever will. We may have opened the proverbial Pandora's Box by now, and find ourselves unable to go back in time.
More and more we will need to be known by what we believe, and our actions will make those belief's clear. Just as these "Terrorists" actions have shown us what they believe.
In the days ahead may our faith in God be more about whom we love than about who we hate. And may the God we serve bring us towards love and life, rather than death and destruction.
The attack on the Glasgow airport happened on Saturday and by Tuesday when we arrived for our flight out, the place was still swarming with police with very big guns. We still could not get close to the building by bus and had to walk in with our luggage.
The smell in the darkened Airport was what caught your attention right away.
The acrid odour of burned petrol and rubber and building. It chilled to the bone.
A couple of pictures taken.
Even at 5am they were hard at it, installing new safety measures.
Or so one would think. But one would be wrong.
Another delightful treat of our recent trip to the UK was meeting Rachel. Rachel is a United Reformed minister based in Kendal Cumbria, in the United Kingdom. Her special task these years is to assist a group of their churches as they try to make transitions into the place God is calling them to go.
Quite a task indeed.
Anyway, I met Rachel via this space, and as it turns out she has become a great new friend.
Praying, eating, laughing together over the same jokes. Sharing stories and histories, hopes and a couple of dreams, really became for us another delight of this trip.
The Internet can be a wonderful place to meet new friends, even from around the world. Then go meet them in person!
God Bless this Internet thing and all who meet in her.
She is a blessing indeed.
(Rachel I mean.
And the Internet too I guess.)
Rachel and Lauralea
Yesterday morning Lauralea was up at three am and unable to get back to sleep, the same for the previous night.
By last night I was completely out of gas by 9 pm so I fell into bed exhausted.
And I suppose that's why I am up with the birds this morning, bright and early.
And while I'm on the bird thing, allow me to recall the amazing birds on the Isle of Iona.
Amazing in their variety, colours, and songs.
But more amazing was the way they responded to us.
Not the bigger birds mind you, but the smaller song birds.
They would fly right up to you and land at your feet.
Then they would look up at you and watch you, looking for ways to chat I suppose.
This happened three or four times while we were there, and I've never experienced it before.
Whether we were sitting or standing, a small songbird would come and land at our feet.
And just stand there, smiling up at us. Or have a chat with us.
It was, yeah, amazing.
There are moments this week when I am alone and silent and suddenly I am overwhelmed with gratitude of what I've experienced these past two weeks.
It comes suddenly and quickly overwhelms. A sudden gushing of thankfulness.
The faces of people and their hearts, the places we've seen and the words we've heard all pass through my heart in quick fashion and it takes my breath away. All I am left with is a breathless gratitude and my small words of thankfulness aimed towards heaven are all I can manage.
So, tonight I shall use Mr.Rauschenbusch's words:
O God, we thank you for this earth, our home;
For the wide sky and the blessed sun,
For the salt sea and the running water,
For the everlasting hills
And the never-resting winds,
For trees and the common grass underfoot.
We thank you for our senses
By which we hear the songs of birds,
And see the splendor of the summer fields,
And taste of the autumn fruits,
And rejoice in the feel of the snow,
And smell the breath of the spring.
Grant us a heart wide open to all this beauty;
And save our souls from being so blind
That we pass unseeing
When even the common thornbush
Is aflame with your glory,
O God our creator,
Who lives and reigns for ever and ever.
I loved the final product though.
The grass is always greener...
Check it out.
The couple in front of us, are obviously in love.
She, flirting with him as she leans all the way over him to look out the window he's sitting next to. The smile on her face and the look in her eyes shows her to be teasing, looking for a reaction more than she's looking for a view.
He's in love too and won't let her get away with it. He grabs her and holds her, tickling just a bit as she gives in to his arms, laughing with her eyes, loving with her quiet words...
Behind me sits an older lady, travelling by herself. She seems a bit bored so she has decided to redo her nails.
No sooner had she opened a bottle of pink nail polish and an attendant was at her side. He communicated in a way that would convince me of the value of jumping off of a bridge, that could the sweet dear not do that just now. She was delighted to comply. He is good.
Beside us is the sad part of this flight. A family on vacation.
Mom, quiet, moving, sitting exactly where the large loud husband wants her to sit. Two small children, too quiet and sombre for their ages, do exactly as dad tells them. Something is not right as soon as I see them.
He playing the part of the good dad, checking for their comfort and they saying nothing.
He checking the rating on the movies to be shown, to make sure that his kids can view them safely. Then moving to a row of empty seats in front of the screen, coaxing his kids to come and join him for the good view. They remain stoically in their seats, not wanting a good view with him.
The refreshment cart comes and I begin to catch a glimpse into the life of this family.
He orders two bottles of wine and numerous other smaller bottles which he mixes, then drinks quickly.
Within moments he is loosing control of his functions. Supper comes and he cannot seem to use his fork, so he uses his hands, food falling everywhere. He gets up to walk, food all over his seat and floor and self.
As he staggers to the washroom I notice the family shrinking quietly into their seats, wishing they could just disappear.
The attendants have already observed him and are watching him for signs of trouble. Finally dad returns unable to walk straight. He falls partially into the seats beside me and passes out.
Another wonderful family vacation, complete with lifetime reminders of a dad who loves enough to take you on a plane to Scotland, then passes out laying in his own supper, with his dead feet tripping people in the aisle.
God be with them.
While we were in the United Kingdom, we experienced the changing of the Prime Minister, two terrorist bomb threats in London, one attack on the airport we arrived and left from, (Glasgow,) the release of Allan Johnston, major flooding in the country, and British television.
Some questions I have.
So, why the love with things wallpapered?
It's getting better now, but many of the spaces we were in were wallpapered, even the ceilings. Why is that?
Why two taps with two water faucets?Â Either you get all hot or all cold. Why is that?
Why no screens on the windows that open up?
Why 35 daily newspapers? And some of them I learned while reading on the train, include for your daily consumption, topless ladies. (I mean of course that they had no clothing on their upper bodies. Believe me when I say they had tops...)
Why wearing shoes inside, on top of carpets?
My resulting perceptions include a nation that loves to read, is either hot or cold and not lukewarm, with a national libido that needs a bit of a boost each morning, with no mosquitoes to keep out, and they know how to keep things as things, living and using them well.
Not a bad place at all. And beautiful toboot.
I'd go back. easily.
I took a long walk this morning along the canal.
It was good.
Then this afternoon I met Ian and Nikita and Dan and Olivia and a bunch of good church people.
It's been a really good day, and tomorrow we begin the journey home.
May God go with us.
And remain here too.