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Called to be Generous!

August 5, 2017

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This week has been a whirlwind… just like the week prior… just like the month of July! July began quietly and inauspiciously with the Fourth of July Fireworks and the Rooftop Rodeo parade. As a volunteer Chaplain with the Estes Park Police Department, I donned my uniform and helped with traffic control and then met with the Sergeants and the two other Chaplains afterwards. That afternoon I received a call from the Estes Valley Crisis Advocate to help with a emergency situation. It led to the opportunity to walk with a dear couple and their family through a difficult time. It was our honor to provide a place for them to stay and the care and support they needed for about three weeks. Both are in rehab facilities and still facing some tough decisions. Even though they aren’t living with us, they are still very much in our hearts and on our minds. We continued to walk with them after we went to check on Denise’s folks in North Alabama.

Her folks, like mine, moved out of their forever home and into new surroundings. The transition has proven to be challenging for both sets of parents. Considering the fact that I spent 21 years in ministry in an environment (the USAF Chaplaincy) where the average “parishioner” was much younger and very healthy. Now we have transitioned to a retirement community where the median age in the congregation is at least 70 (I believe that estimate is low) while walking with our parents through life changes in their late 80’s and early 90’s has been a challenge as well as a blessing.

Our parishioners understand the challenges of aging and have shared so many stories of humor, laughter, pain, sorrow, and challenge with us. They also “get” the challenges we face caring for aging parents from a distance based on their own personal experiences. So, if you have looked at the Matthew and Isaiah readings for the Ninth Sunday after Pentecost, you may be wondering how this all ties into what I have shared thus far. Well, that is a good question, so here we go!

Matthew 14:313 is the beginning of the Gospel reading. “Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns.” What had Jesus just heard? He had just been told that John the Baptist, his cousin, had been executed by Herod. Overwhelmed and grieving, Jesus did what any normal person would do. He withdrew to a deserted place to pray and sort through his thoughts and emotions. Yet even in the midst of his sorrow and grief, he reached out with compassion to those in need.

As I look over the past six weeks, we have checked in with my parents in Minnesota, we have checked in with Denise’s parents in Alabama, and we have cared for our precious friends in Colorado along with other church and community members who are struggling with life and health issues. We still had some vacation days to use before the end of my second year of ministry in Estes Park and so we decided to go to New Orleans for a few days. Some would argue that comparing Jesus going to a deserted place to our trip to New Orleans is a herculean stretch! But you know what? It wasn’t that huge a stretch at all. On the way to the airport, we made three pastoral calls to rehabilitation centers and by the time we got to the airport for our late night flight, I was exhausted. The first two days in New Orleans we slept late, and walked all over places I had not seen before. The Upper and Lower Garden Districts, the Irish Channel District, and the French Quarter were among our stops. The walking and photography opportunities were tremendous for us. Even in the midst of the loudness that is The Big Easy I found myself relaxing, the weight of the past few months lifting, and a quiet descending upon my spirit.

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Across the street from the Roosevelt Hotel and Domenica (where you can get a lovely cocktail named “Domenica Vespers”) is the beautiful and peaceful sanctuary of Immaculate Conception Jesuit Church on Baronne Street. In the beauty and tranquility of this sacred space, I truly felt the peace of over a century of prayer. It symbolized what we have been doing this week with our schedule, walking, picture taking, and simply being still.

From Wednesday evening on, we have been blessed to be with two of our closest friends who were in New Orleans for a conference. The time together was refreshing and lots of fun! They are also the sort of friends who aren’t afraid to ask tough questions. You know, like how are you doing with our own self-care routine? The answer? Well, we haven’t been doing very well lately and it shows!

I find it ironic that I am working on this blog while we wait for our evening flight back to Colorado and the church. We won’t get in quite as late as we did last weekend, but it will be late enough. Tomorrow will be a full slate with two worship services, a 110th Anniversary (of the church), Pie Social, and Hymn Sing, plus a birthday party for a very dear friend of ours.

What is Jesus teaching me this week? Well, it appears that I need a reminder of just what Sabbath Rest is supposed to be. Tomorrow I won’t necessarily feed 5,000 with five loaves of bread and two fish, but we will break bread together as we celebrate the Sacrament of The Lord’s Supper. I will be coming at this from a slightly different perspective thanks to our time away. Even though I have fielded phone calls from my Dad and emails from our dear friend, I truly have tried to be present in the quietness too.

We are indeed called to be generous in the Lord’s service. Part of being generous in the Lord’s service is to be generous to ourselves. I am not talking about being narcissistic and self-serving here. I am talking about finding time for refreshment in order to continue to serve as we are called to serve. This is a good thing to be reminded of from time to time as we give of ourselves in service to the Lord.

 

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