Here’s a post by me that seems to cross professional and personal lines. I certainly spend a lot of my clicks on personal endeavors like Second Life, Facebook, and two blogs as well as Skype, where I attend board meetings for Christos Center for Spiritual Formation. Looking for comments on this topic along the lines of are we making our clicks count?
When I emailed Sister Julia at Christ in the Wilderness about registering for a few days, I asked if I could try one of the other hermitages. As nice as Mariglen is, I wanted to indulge my Seven with somewhere new to spend my retreat. So, I stayed at Sabbath Place, which is a bit more isolated to the south of the other two hermitages and the main house where Sister Julia resides. I liked this location as you can walk up behind the place and find a path that can take you out toward the road to CitW. What I hoped for was a clear night and another view of the stars like I had last year but without the extended and steep hike.
Sabbath Place is essentially the same building as the one with which I am more familiar, Mariglen, but without the nice round outdoor deck. Leading into the porch is an area equipped with a table and chair, but it’s not as nice as Mariglen’s deck. Nonetheless, I found Sabbath Place very charming and restful.
I liked the name of Sabbath Place. A theme I ponder often is that of sabbath. It’s what going on retreat is all about. The Fourth Commandment is not like most of the commandments: Keep the Sabbath. In a sense, we are being told to rest. Literally, a seventh portion of our lives is to be spent resting. I don’t think this is about sleeping, either. It’s wrapped up in the concept of “Be still, and know that I am God.” When we take this rest as a time to be alone, to reflect, and to intentionally listen to God, we not only obey the commandment but we receive so much that obedience becomes easier.
Despite the mid April wet and cold weather, I hiked the up and down trails which seemed pretty much my own to walk. I should say no other people were encountered but I heard wild turkeys gobbling and saw several deer prancing about. The sky was gloomy and the vegetation was still brown, quite a change from my previous visit in the heat of last summer.
I read my journal and listened to the last five CDs of Following the Mystics Through the Narrow Gate. I wrote in my journal and sat out on the cold porch with a blanket over my legs to watch the birds feed. I followed the discipline of doing one thing at a time, if I had to do anything at all. A tendency I have is to think of what I’ll do next when the point of being there is to let God tell me what is next. It works out to doing very little and that is fine.
I made breakfast Friday morning and realized I had not brought butter for preparing my Trader Joe pumpkin pancakes, and since I needed to give Sister Julia a check for my stay, I asked for a quarter stick of butter. I have found butter in the refrigerator in the past but you cannot count on these things. She graciously gave me closer to a half stick and that extra was needed to keep the pancakes from sticking to the pan, which does not have non-stick coating. (The pancakes were great and are definitely entrenched as a retreat tradition for me.)
On Saturday, the weather warmed a bit in the afternoon to sunny and windy. I once again tried body prayer in the form of dancing but outside gave me more room and it was invigorating to have the wind and the sky involved in the experience. I had downloaded the song I danced to last summer to my phone and that worked well.
Chairs of various kinds are placed along the miles of trails, and in the far meadow, the one inscribed with INSPIRE looks down at a valley. Sunlight would light the leaf-strewn floor and ignite the shadows thrown by the bare-branched trees. As a cloud passed over, the valley would darken and lose definition, then slowly re-ignite. Looking skyward was its own reward as clouds rolled by, framed by blue sky and a hope that the weather would relent. These chairs invite you to be still along this contemplative path.
It warmed enough on Saturday afternoon that I took the table from the outside deck and placed it in the porch, put out a plate of cheeses and crackers, a bowl of soup, and some wine for a dinner with the birds. I became very relaxed and gazed out past the birds and through the bare scrub brush that lines the hill on which Sabbath Place overlooks, out to the creek in the valley below and back up into the trees covering the taller hill that leads to the first meadow and the trails of CitW. I drifted in and out of a dreamlike state, very comfortable and content.
No great insights came. I can’t claim to have heard a voice speaking to me. As I walked up the hill behind the hermitage Sunday morning, the sun was bright, the clouds very dramatic, and the wind gusted strong. I was reminded of the silence in the wind and its significance in Scripture. It blew through me and I felt embraced.
‘Kindness’ covers all of my political beliefs. No need to spell them out. I believe that if, at the end, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn’t always know this and am happy I lived long enough to find it out.
Roger Ebert, Life Itself
Last year, it was Ray Bradbury; this year, Roger Ebert.
I loved reading both of these writers. Ebert, like Bradbury, was a craftsman with a poet’s soul. His humanism shines throughout his reviews, raising the significance of viewing movies as well as giving all of us standards by which to enjoy them. He had no qualms loving Star Wars as much as a serious movie by Ingmar Bergman. He did this by placing himself in the context of each film he wrote about (averaging more than 200/year for 45 years—just think about that!) and from that perspective, determined whether it succeeded or failed.
What works for movie criticism ought to work for everyday encounters, too. Ebert respected the power of motion pictures to change the way we act and think. He explained that to us day after day. He also recognized the power of the Internet and used it well, celebrating the past, present and future of movies. He seemed to enjoy interacting with his readers and his blog facilitated it beyond what newsprint could sustain.
The remembrances that are appearing about this formidable, Pulitzer prize-winning writer honor more than just the reviews but the behavior of Roger Ebert. The courage to appear in public after his surgeries is not to be dismissed but it isn’t the sole definition of the man, either. The Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune are obviously sources for the full measure of his impact but here are some personal articles that go deep:
Mary Schmich, Chicago Tribune (register for the free Lite membership, she is another one of those great Pulitzer prize-winning Chicago writers)
We didn’t get around to writing a Christmas letter again! We did send cards, which is certainly ahead of the curve for us. I figured I could blog it and even complete strangers can wonder “what’s wrong with those people?”
First and foremost, as I’ve made clear in other posts: I have a job and will actually celebrate a year at ABA on Wednesday, January 9. I ran into another fellow who was at orientation that same day on the elevator. It was late December and he nodded when I mentioned that it was a year ago that we we waiting to hear about jobs. He said something about how his kids were so happy and that Christmas was very special.
The year at ABA was special in so many ways. The Wellness program afforded our staff of eight an opportunity to walk along the Chicago River to Navy Pier for a ride on the Ferris wheel and lunch before walking back to work. We received wellness points for a group walk of five miles. It was a great opportunity to talk and get to know each other better.
Free access to the Chicago Water Taxi let me enjoy a boat ride on hot or rainy days instead of walking.
The coolest perk was having a half day off each week between May and September, being able to combine with vacation half days to extend holidays or just make sense of a Monday where I’d otherwise spend two hours commuting to work for four hours. We took great advantage of the Mondays by driving our bikes to trails in Busse Woods, Fox River, I&M Canal, and Tinely Park, where the bike paths weren’t as crowded as they’d be on weekends. We also went to Minnesota for a Christos summit and to McDuck on the Fourth of July, where we also rode bikes in 96-degree weather on the Kal Haven trail, a long-time favorite of ours.
We canoed the Fox River with another couple on a 100-degree day, stopping often to wade in the water and cool down.
The Fourth of July was memorable for the days preceding it: Alex and Kim lost electricity in Lockport and stayed with us overnight. Their dogs, Sutter and Jake, were welcome and enjoyed watching for Iris, our cat, to appear. When it looked like power was being restored, they headed home on Sunday right before a big storm came through and knocked out our electric. We spent two nights with them. Iris house sat and was fed by our neighbor’s daughter. I commuted to work on Monday and Tuesday via the Metra line passing through Lockport, about five minutes from Kim’s house. Alex went with us to Michigan on Wednesday and power was restored later that day. Jessie tossed stuff we couldn’t take to Kim’s or Michigan. It worked out well.
I’ve actually shared a fair amount of what happened this year already:
One unsettling occurrence: my bike was stolen.
Our trip to Minnesota has been documented.
We did some hiking after a lunch stop on our way to Minneapolis.
As was my retreat to Christ in the Wilderness.
And a visit to The Cell.
The rebuilding of our shed has been documented on Facebook. We had a great opportunity to be with Bob and Tamara MacAlpine, Jessie’s nephew and his wife, during this construction-done-in-stages. Bob has great toys! Uncle-hood has perks, too.
A visit to Zach & Libby in August was great and a reminder of how busy we were at their age. As busy as Jessie and I seem now, we’re still slacking off compared to these two working as a team!
I’ve been on the Christos board of directors for close to two years. I’ve been advising them on Web matters and getting a better handle on what the Chicagoland Christos program needs to grow into its own. I attend meetings via Skype, which provides good experience using Internet tech.
Jessie retired from public relations in the late spring and is now fully functional as a spiritual director and teacher/trainer. She works with Father Albert Haase as well as on her own. I go to work much happier knowing she is finally doing what she has been called to do.
We spent the night of our 38th anniversary on the Chicago Riverwalk with perfect weather.
Great fall colors walk with Mom at the Morton Arboretum.
I went to Atlanta around Halloween for my first Section Annual Conference and it went very well. I really didn’t get to see as much of Atlanta as I wanted, having been there before when I worked for ALA. But dining at the top of the Westin Peachtree Plaza hotel was definitely a highlight as well as visiting the Georgia Aquarium. (BTW, if you backpedal through my “professional” blog, you’ll read about other things I’ve been up to this past year in Second Life as well as First Life.)
We’ve ended 2012 with some definite plans for 2013. The upstairs bathroom cries out for a total update and we’ve pretty much signed on the dotted line to get that done. We are going to the Kalamazoo Beer Week, at least for one day. Down to Columbus in February. We are talking about adopting a dog. And we hope to hit more bike trails once the winter cold is done with us. No big trips planned since the bathroom will suck our disposable (HAH!) income dry. Next November’s conference is in New Orleans, however, so we may try to make more of it than a mere business trip.
Last year at this time I was writing about how our Christmas was so special because I’d learned I was going to start work in early Jaunary. Well, I did and am still working! I wish it were so for everyone but that’s not happening.
Advent is about waiting, anticipating Good News. It’s an opportunity to practice patience.
Yes, it’s also a time for giving and receiving, which are both good disciplines to practice as well. Stretching our generosity muscle is good for us. Plenty of people have written and are writing about that during this season. Receiving is an art that most of us could use some practice with as well. Some of us feel we don’t deserve gifts, while the other extreme is not knowing when enough is enough.
I think I’ll focus on receiving.
As Gluttony is a distinctive dysfunctional aspect of a Seven in the Enneagram, I can speak with some personal authority on the topic of receiving. One of the artifacts of my youth that distinguishes me as an Old Fart is the Christmas catalog. Every year my brother Roger and I would attack the Sears version of that bygone publication and create lists of what we wanted for presents. I rarely looked at other parts of it for my folks. That came much later. As I’ve grown older I spend more time looking at lists for others. My advice is pretty simple: if you are spending more time looking at your own list than the other lists, it’s time to consider closing the gap between more and enough.
So many people abhor the way the holidays have been commercialized, but it seems to me as long as the focus is on generosity and giving, there’s hope. What happened to me last year is nothing short of a transformation of what a gift means. Along with wonderful presents from family and friends, and the gift of a job, I realized the most important gift I received was patience. The waiting ran longer than the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas, but it was filled with lessons and insights. When I look back at what was surely a very hard and difficult time in my life, all I seem to see are gifts!
This past fall, one of the students at our Tending the Holy course on spiritual direction gave us an image to ponder during our prayer time. She spoke of gifts we have not received hovering over our heads like airplanes circling a runway, waiting to be called in to land. Sometimes we get gifts and aren’t even aware they’ve been given. Sometimes we don’t think we deserve them. And sometimes, maybe, we don’t want them because there’s a cost to acknowledging them.
This may sound very counter-intuitive to the usual wisdom handed out during the Holiday season, but Christmas gives us an opportunity to practice receiving. It may take an awfully long time—yeah, nearly sixty years for me—to get what receiving is all about, but it can make a huge difference.
This past Thanksgiving service in the Chapel at First Pres, I stood up and without having prepared anything articulate, I said something along the lines that I was most thankful for being made to see how everything is a gift. When I see these gifts, they point to my Creator, Someone whose love completely overwhelms me.
You see it’s not about what the gifts are but from whence they come.
Col. Ichabod Cronk
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Following on the heels of all the pumpkin brews and Octoberfest style brews, this is the Next Great Season of brews, with a lot to like. Here’s another listing of seasonals that is missing one where I cannot recall the name but recall that it’s a domestic brewery handling distribution and had the words Bourbon (Barrel?) and Yule in it.
Favorite names include the Elf series by Ridgeway, Very Bad and Seriously Bad …
Also, I really like: St. Benedict’s Winter Ale, Point; Sparkling Ale, Bell’s; Old Fezziwig, Samuel Adams; and Delerium Noel.
I posted my thanks on Facebook earlier in the day. And later, in what is always one of the great services our church holds every year, I talked about what it was like a year ago, when we’d run out of unemployment money, how a part-time job came through to take the place of what really was a fairly meager amount of money. Even then the work made me feel so much better about myself. When the job with the ABA came through, I remember going to work and remembering every step of the walk to work, the first cup of coffee, the whole day filled with little things.
I felt gratitude.
Most every day since then, I see so many little things, everyday things, as gifts.
And the gifts point to the Giver. Living this way is humbling and feels good.
As Pastor Chris said, it’s important to state these things out loud to the community, so here’s a reworking of that FB post, where I name names:
In my Thanksgiving thoughts this season are Dan Lewis and Vanguard Technology, who at this time last year gave me work that made up for when unemployment benefits ran out.
For Jack Gedge at ABA, who gave me a callback when one interview with a different department didn’t pan out and found me a wonderful home with the Section of Labor and Employment Law.
To everyone (pictured above) who works for same Section for making it a delight to be back at work these past eleven months!
Thanks to the 321 N. Clark Building for making riding the Chicago Water Taxi free!
Thanks to Chris Griggs, new pastor at First Pres of GE, who gave spiritual formation and spiritual directors such support from the pulpit this summer.
Thanks to our neighbors Jennifer and Killian for graceful negotiations, this year and last, over the expenses of removing storm-damaged trees that sit on the border of our properties.
Thanks to Ed & Karen Caspers, who open their lake house in Michigan to the Fugowee refugees from college days, and for Bill and Genie who take some of the entertaining burden off them by having us at their lake house in Michigan, making every Fourth of July in the past three decades memorable and full of love.
Thanks to Tony and Vicki for that afternoon out on their lake and for dinner at Bake’s.
Thanks Mom for everything and happy birthday!
Thanks to Alex and Kim for all the wonderful times in their hot tub and sharing their honkin big TV.
Thanks to Zach and Libby for finding a home for Odin and their hospitality on our visits.
Thanks to Jessie for every single day, your smiling face and your wisdom.
Happy Thanksgiving, one and all!