As I pause to look behind at the church year that is coming to a close, lines from Whitman come to mind: “Now understand me well: it is provided in the essence of things that from any fruition of success, no matter what, comes forth something to make even greater struggle necessary.”
Yogi Berra said it simply: “It isn’t over till it’s over.” The struggle …life.
Speaking of struggle, I’ve avoided talking about my health, except when asked, personally. I certainly don’t want to dwell on it, much less impose it on you, but neither do I want to allow it to become the proverbial elephant in the corner of the sanctuary. I’ve come to picture it, poetically, as the quiet figure of a man standing in the corner of the room – every room. He has a benign-but-determined look as he stares at me. I call him Mr. P. and tell him he’ll just have to wait.
I feel your support and encouragement, and I assure you it matters. I know, as the poet Jane Kenyon expressed it, that ‘someday it will be otherwise.’ I have increased appreciation for this day, and all the days life allows. I’m keeping Mr. P. at bay and I’m doing quite well. Be assured.
As a congregation, we’ve been battered by a difficult economy, but it hasn’t knocked us out. We’re not only staying on our feet, but we’re showing signs of resiliency. Staff morale is high – higher, certainly, than the Dow Jones average. Our congregation is strong. Predictions are positive – perhaps we’ll emerge stronger when the storm is over, putting our priorities in a better order. Hard times remind us what’s most important in life – family, friends, health and attitude.
My summer plans are taking shape, including the usual week at Chautauqua, where I’ll conduct a Sunday service for the Unitarian Fellowship and spend time meeting with folks during the week – I always meet new people there as well as reconnecting with the active members of the Fellowship.
“I have walked through many lives, some of them my own, and I’m not who I was, though some principle of being abides from which I struggle not to stray.” Kunitz hit that nail on the head.
Then another: “I have made myself a tribe out of my true affections, but my tribe is scattered. How shall the heart be reconciled to its feast of losses?” Is that a question, or a conundrum?
There have been some significant losses in our tribe since last September, whose lives we’ve celebrated – since last summer I’ve conducted nineteen memorial services. Each one adds to the ‘feast of losses,’ about which the heart needs to be reconciled. To reconcile is to accept, but that sounds too close to saying, “It’s okay.” But it’s not ‘okay.’ We simply have to adapt to the losses.
One of the constants in my life is the little cabin in Old Orchard Beach, Maine. Thoreau would approve! I’ve had the place for 35 years – Sue and Jonathan spent childhood summers there, then Sue’s children, my grandchildren, Alex and Hannah loved coming to Papa’s cabin and walking down to the beach or the amusement park – Old Orchard is Maine’s Coney Island.
I hope you have plans to turn summer into some Sabbath moments. Ed, Debra and I will take turns being on call, responding to church emergencies in July and August. Take good care.