Wednesday, June 30, 2010


= beloved friends + surgery + long recovery + long distance

God is going to have to handle this one  -- but I'll be waiting by the phone just in case.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Sabbath

Even though I read this just a couple of months ago, I had already forgotten just how edible Heschel's prose is.  He makes me want to linger on every sentence, savoring like the first asparagus or truly fresh black truffles.  Simply amazing: no wonder I have always felt kinship with Hasidism, if Heschel and Potok are to be believed.

The SabbathThe Chosen (Ballantine Reader's Circle)

2nd Amendment

Three things about our Constitution I do not understand:
1) The arguments that the 2nd Amendment is meant personally rather than collectively, given that it starts with that "well-regulated militia" clause (which individuals, by definition, cannot be)
2) Why the Five aren't considered "activist" when they've consistently overwritten decades of precedent;
3) How in the world you can call yourself a "strict" constitutionalist, given #2.

I mean this honestly: I do not understand it at all.

Monday, June 28, 2010

For the doubters

There has been scoffing, so I present to you my clean desk, one week later. And yes, I have used it since I blogged.  Note particularly the lack of stacks of books and papers on the shelves. 

I pray that this may also offer some crumb of hope to those who have not seen their desks since Barry Manilow ruled the airwaves.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

... the teacher will come.

Early this morning I added my Renovare Institute reading schedule to my shabbatical reading schedule, noting the splendid overlap of purpose and desired outcomes.  That was okay. Then I reviewed the syllabus, and looked at the seriousness of the practice, and the educational expectations.  And heard Beautiful Daughter rousing and the chickens clucking and the laundry cycling.  Not to mention the scores of apricots dropping from the tree and the job I'm not currently doing but at least vaguely expect to return to.

They say that when the student is ready the teacher will come.  I'm a little afraid the teacher may come whether the student is ready or not.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Desk is still clean

It's been 24 hours. I'm on a roll.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Renovare Institute begins

This morning I received a letter, schedule, syllabus, and FAQ for the 2-year Institute that begins July 1.  I am beyond excited, and am relieved that so far the reading looks manageable.  Doesn't hurt that I've read nearly all the books for the first semester already.

Now I can concentrate on those DMin apps.

You: Staying Young: The Owner's Manual for Extending Your WarrantyThe Clinton Tapes: Wrestling History with the PresidentOn the summer reading front:  I simply cannot get through The Clinton Tapes. How could anyone take 8 years of conversation with former President Clinton and make it boring, you might ask?  I asked myself that through about 1/4 of it; today it gets donated to the library. Truly disappointing: I ordered it pre-release and saved it for this summer.   On to the next non-shabbatical books:  two of the You series.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Today we begin

Last night Wonderful Husband and I had a difficult conversation about just exactly what my instituting Sabbath was supposed to do for him and our family, and exactly what I expected of everyone else.  Of course, I couldn't answer: I am not in the habit of talking about what I'm reading, thinking, feeling. Sometimes I expect him to be psychic, but most times it's just my hating when I am not able to make myself clear and understood. I prefer to present a coherent set of reasoned thoughts, and to discuss those, rather than to pour out whatever murky muck of thinking and feeling happens to be -- like primordial chaos -- knowing that with God's help it will change and morph and evolve. 

So today we begin, not Sabbath planning, but my learning to speak sooner, knowing that what I say will be misunderstood and will change, probably as I am saying it. That may be enough work for today.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

1st Sunday of Sabbatical

9:24 am

Wonderful Husband sleeping.
Beautiful Daughter watching 101 Dalmatians.
Clearly we're going to need a plan for Sundays.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


The Sabbath World: Glimpses of a Different Order of TimeOne of the books on the shabbatical list is The Sabbath World by Judith Shulevitz. Our local library set it aside for me and I picked it up today, reading only the first couple of chapters.  Why the restraint?  Because the stack for the summer is very high, and I've got 3 books going right now without even touching the "official" pile. Or the piles of laundry and stacks of to-do lists.

But reading even a few minutes' worth I recall why I'm doing this: Sabbath is necessary and challenging both theologically and practically. When I resume reading this one in a couple of weeks, I'll be looking for the notes supporting her (anti-Jewish) interpretation of Kierkegaard's use of the tax collector. In the meantime, it's back to the short stack and the piles.

Friday, June 11, 2010

First day

First day of sabbatical:

Slept in until 6:30.
Two rooms in house now clean.
2 more half clean (if you don't look inside anything.)

What a whirlwind!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Transitional thoughts 5 am

Today I become a Christian for 3 months.  Not a pastor, but a Christian; not a leader, but a follower. What, besides sermons and budgets, is the difference? Some initial transition thoughts:
  • If they play a music video in a worship service I attend, I won't cringe at its being way too soft. (Nickelback last Sunday. Excellent video. But seriously, AV guys: it's rock!)
  • If the officiant knocks over the communion juice, I won't be sticky.
  • I won't know the opening crew at Peets.
  • No longer can I tell myself "I'm too busy." Especially when someone is in need. Including me.
  • Random screeching by strangers probably won't be directed at me, and my phone number won't be in circulation among certain segments of the mentally ill population.
  • No teenagers.
  • No office away from home.
  • Public identity gone.
  • When people ask me what I do on all the other days, they'll understand my answer.
More will present itself. But for now I just have to submit my reimbursables and empty out my office for the new guy. Who may very well turn out to be Jesus.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

How many things wrong can you identify?

Scene: Getting 2.5 year old Daughter into carseat.

She:  I'm not white.
Me (waiting): Okay.
She: I'm black.
Me: Actually, you're white and black and Indian, but okay...?
She: So you don't like me.

Other conversation ensues. The rest of the day passes. Wonderful Husband consults a biracial colleague then leaves work to be with us and figure out next moves. There is ice cream and talk about how many colors of skin and hair and eyes are in our family and at the ice cream store, and how much we adore (and like) her.  He leaves. She goes on as usual. I avoid lethal injection by not physically ripping the hearts out of anyone who might have said anything like any of this to her, or who ever will, ever.

But the hole ripped in my own heart gapes. Fear and sorrow enter, and I pray that God is entering too.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

My Utmost for today, excerpted

Examine where you have become sluggish, where you began losing interest spiritually, and you will find that it goes back to a point where you did not do something you knew you should do. You did not do it because there seemed to be no immediate call to do it. But now you have no insight or discernment, and at a time of crisis you are spiritually distracted instead of spiritually self-controlled. It is a dangerous thing to refuse to continue learning and knowing more.

My Utmost for His Highest (OSWALD CHAMBERS LIBRARY)The counterfeit of obedience is a state of mind in which you create your own opportunities to sacrifice yourself, and your zeal and enthusiasm are mistaken for discernment. It is easier to sacrifice yourself than to fulfill your spiritual destiny, which is stated in Romans 12:1-2. It is much better to fulfill the purpose of God in your life by discerning His will than it is to perform great acts of self-sacrifice.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Homeland security

The effects of this oil spill are the greatest threat to homeland security we have ever seen. How about sending our best minds to work on that?

Space and time

I've actually had two other sabbaticals.

The first was in 1990 or 91 or 92.  Having been a college philosophy teacher for a number of years, I took all my money out of CalPers retirement and moved to San Francisco. There were two purposes to this, one of which was to learn how to not work 80 hour weeks.  The days stretched out in front of me like the Pacific Ocean out my window. I was so anxious I wanted to peel the paint off the wall.

Sabbath -- spaciousness -- is a blessing, partly because the pain inside has room to move, and then to heal. That doesn't seem like a blessing when it's happening, so most of us do everything we can to avoid it.  Gerald May writes, "True space is encountered only with the willingness and courage to experience things as they are....When people tell me they have trouble taking time for prayer or meditation, I often ask them what unpleasant things they might be wanting to avoid."

Sabbath is a blessing, also, because one's soul has space to yearn, to stretch, and to rest in the presence of God or peace or hope.

My second sabbatical was a few years back, when my oldest friends invited their friends to spend a week in a villa in Tuscany.  A week may not seem like a sabbatical, and certainly we kept busy (even without traveling, you put twelve people in a house there will be cooking and cleaning to do) but if sabbatical is purposed break in normal activity to rest in the arms of God, this was sabbatical.  Every morning my friend Jeff and I awoke early by nature, with neither alarm nor agreement. One of us made coffee. Then we would sit outside, drinking coffee, and reading. This was not intentional; it just was. Sometimes we talked, mostly we didn't. The Italian hills stretched out before me like those minutes of internal spaciousness.  The quiet companionship, the uncluttered time, the softness of morning, and the joy of reading remains for me the image of the jewel that is Sabbath.

In sabbatical, we wait in space and time for healing and rest, and after the pain begins to heal and the clutter blows away, it finds us waiting, with room to spare.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Undisciplining a gift

In 8 days I will be on sabbatical. Other than knowing I already miss our youth I really don't know what to expect. I have plans, but suspect God giggles at them and angels cover their faces with an "uh-oh". My to-do list gets longer by the day, and now includes activities like painting the two walls we missed 7 years ago, and cleaning out my laptop (including bookmarks. What evil genius invented bookmarks?). Suddenly 13 weeks of relative freedom seems like nothing. In fact, in some ways I'm feeling more constrained than usual.

That's how the devil works, isn't it? God gives us a gift grounded in freedom, and we (at least I) immediately unwrap it, take it apart, and nail it to the ground. Then wonder why I can't pick up this great gift and use it with abandon. Whether it's the gift of words (I am not spending enough time wordsmithing my sermons; I am not blogging enough; my Home Depot lists lack panache.) or the gift of freedom in Christ, our/my temptation is to render them a burden.

When gifts become a burden, it's time to rearrange, rethink, and recharge. Sometimes the only discipline needed is enjoyment. Which gets us right back to "in 8 days". Angels, uncover your eyes: I'm going to need your help.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Shabbatical Reading List

Would you read with me this summer? During my sabbatical I will be reading and blogging, and would love to have others to talk with.  Here's my approximate schedule by week; I'll announce any changes here.  I begin the 2-year Renovare Institute in July; I'm hoping that reading list will augment rather than replace this one.
6/11/2010 Rest and clean my house
6/14/2010 Play and continue to clean my house
6/21/2010 Other reading and projects
6/28/2010     Sabbath, Abraham Heschel
7/5/2010     The Sabbath World: Glimpses of a Different Order of Time, Judith Shulevitz
7/12/2010     Mudhouse Sabbath, Lauren Winner
7/19/2010 Visiting Oxford, MS and Asheville, NC
7/26/2010 Catch-up and projects
8/2/2010     Acedia and Me, Kathleen Norris
8/9/2010     Streams of Living Water, Richard Foster
8/16/2010 Catch-up and projects
8/23/2010     The Holy Longing, Ronald Rolheiser
8/30/2010     Living the Sabbath, Norman Wirzba and Wendell Berry
9/6/2010 Catch-up and projects