“On The Road Again” is more than a song; it is a current experience. Some special moments that make for this new transition-experience so joyful and sad…a mix that says “down deep” life has value and purpose and goodness.
Some examples. Two weeks ago during my exit interview in the interim ministry on Mercer Island, I explained to the wonderful laity conducting the interview, “I’m violating protocol.” I put my cell phone on the table, “I need to have this available because Diane’s in Austin, went there yesterday. I will fly there tomorrow with the purpose of finding our new Austin home.” No protest. Smiles of understanding and appreciation.
Reality was Diane and her twin sister, Cheryl, were looking for a potential new home. Truth transparent, I believe they could produce their own HGTV program segment on how to select and secure a new residence. The game plan was for me to fly to Austin the next day, after Ash Wednesday service, to join in the search.
Thirty minutes into the interview Diane texted me. I read it and burst out laughing…and shared with the interview team. The message lacked ambiguity, “Found home…send money.” Ah, THAT message will never be lost from my cell phone. Well, well. Did go to Austin the next morning, went with Diane to the “found home” and sure enough, for the first time when we’ve moved, we only looked at one house. Love it.
So, the next step has been taken…have a closing on our Snoqualmie home April 8, a closing on our new Austin area home on April 10 and the movers are scheduled to unpack on April 11. You can say all kinds of things about me, some of which I’m certain should never be repeated, but what you can never say is I don’t prioritize being organized.
Then. Yesterday. It was my “last/farewell Sunday” at the church, where the mutual ministry has happened since January of 2014. I had pondered—truth is I struggled with “What can I say in my last sermon?” Had some ideas, but had never really focused—down very deep—on what the interim has meant to me. As Diane and I drove up to the church I lost it. Oh my, did I ever. The signboard unleashed the tears…tears of joy and gratitude and a “yes” to the time shared. But also tears of sadness because this has been such a wonderful experience in ministry…probably better stated a “wonderfullest” time. Here is what the sign reads:
The service itself was filled with laughter, some tears and lots of affirmation. Our choir is over the top in terms of their competency and devotion. And all of that. Every note they sing. Is the fault of our Choir Director Erich Parce. His skill, his love for the church, his tremendous commitment to “the staff team,” ah, a song in my heart. They were great. We shared communion and a very special family—Terry and Donna and Nicholas and Emily Fung, served Holy Communion. That means much because in that family each part of ministry happened…the funeral for Donna’s mother, the help from Terry and Donna in supporting the church, the Holy Baptism of Emily. All capped by gifts from Nicholas and Emily—small figures representing “their pastor,” wearing his red robe. Tugged at my heart.
After the service we experienced such joy—a luncheon. Before we ate together, Paul Benz—his wife, Cassie chaired the committee that recommended me for the interim—invited me to the kitchen, pointed to food on a plate, “Like you to taste this.” My word, I gulp in surprise in even writing this: two fillets of steelhead that Paul had smoked himself. Are you kidding me? Nope. It was his gift. To say I was touched is a gross understatement.
As part of the luncheon our new Moderator, Kim Bennett, a lady of such faith, competency and caring, gave me a basket…filled with cards that EACH member had signed, writing notes of their gratitude. Incredible theme on the cards—every single one had some fishing theme on the front of the card. Wonder where they got that idea?
Then Erich gave me a gift—a book about fly-fishing for trout. After which Bob Wiley, a wonderful friend and most caring and faithful in his church membership gave me an article about fly-fishing. I read it…and need to share the first paragraph now. It says more than I ever could craft on why fishing and life cannot be separated…that is fishing and the fullness of real life. The author is a Seattle resident, Michael Hamilton, the article “Confessions of a Feather & Fin Addict”:
“People often ask me why I am a fly-fishing fanatic. The answer comes easily: Fish live in beautiful places. Purple-fired sunsets; jagged snow-laden peaks; cloudless skies so blue they appear black; the sounds of rushing water, the touch of heat, wind and cold; the fresh smells of new rain. These elements fuel my passion for life by intimately connecting me to a world of natural beauty where time disappears.”
Isn’t that great? It really is.
So the road ahead…time to reunited with Diane’s family, especially her grandchildren. Time to start a new novel. And maybe a smidgen of a sermon or two. But never without a time to see the ripple against the shore and the blackberry bushes leaning over to bless the river, and a cast with the dry fly floating along, at times a good cast so there’s no clue the fly is attached to the leader and line and pole and caster. Then the “take,” the hook-set, the eruption of the river and the singing reel. To then net the fish, remove the hook and set the fish free. But in my own pulse—when the breath and the heart and the soul are united fully—I am set free—and for sure, time disappears.
Will start the newly retired time in my life by heading to Forks tomorrow night, then floating a Forks river the next day with Bob Ball…for the winter steelhead.
Thank you, God. More than words can convey. For your love, for your presence and for your promise to be with each of us…no matter where. No matter what. No matter when. And on this new retired Monday, March 2, 2015, thank you for such a terrific church…the best. As I told them yesterday, really the bestest. Hey, each of us can craft new words. Right?