Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Sabbatical Journal, Day Sixteen


            Not every day at Parker’s Cove can begin with the sun shining bright.  Sometimes it has to be a cloudy beginning to the day, and that is what we had this morning.  Instead of seeing the bright sun shining across Parker Mountain we woke up to clouds covering the horizon and the tide fully in with water everywhere.  Late yesterday evening we had a big rain event with rain falling heavily for a couple hours.  The water runs off into the bay, of course, so flooding does not happen but this was the kind of rain we wish for in Texas, a hard steady rain for a long period of time.  I think it was raining when we went to bed last night but I drifted off so quickly I do not know what the weather was doing when I went to bed. 
            I have been sleeping very well here.  The cool air agrees with me.  There is no air conditioning in most buildings here.  Our cottage has none and it is not necessary as each morning we awake to temperatures in the 60s and the high is rarely above the high 70s.  It is a mild climate, a bit on the cool side for some but I find it very nice. 
            We brought light jackets and we wear them occasionally when we sit on the porch both in the mornings and in the evenings.  If the sun is shining brightly, then the midday is warm and the jackets are not needed. 
            Today has started out as a lazy day, with plans to be around our cottage most of the day.  I have been reading my next book I brought with me and I have been working on sermon planning again.  I have them planned through June, 2015 now.  I am thinking about texts that I have not preached in many years or that I have never preached.  I have one sermon series planned for the Easter Season from the book of I John. 
            It seems a bit odd to be thinking about Advent/Christmas and Lent/Easter in the summer but thinking ahead helps me to begin thinking about sermons for the future rather than just trying to figure out what I think will work as the time gets closer.  Both special seasons require some advanced planning as they involve special events that happen only yearly.  I would like those to be more creative in nature than in past years. 
            I am finding places to incorporate part of what I have been reading during my time away.  I brought the books I did mainly because they were new and I wondered if they could be used as study books for small groups.  I am finding some of what I am reading to be inspirational as well as possibilities for use in the parish. 

            The sun came out for a bit and then ducked behind the clouds again.  We rarely hear a weather forecast as we have no television here and trying to hear it on the radio is a bit sketchy as one never knows when it will be given and one has to be listening to a station in English at that time.  In the past, news and weather were given on radio stations on the hour and perhaps the half hour but now it can happen at any time.  So, we just take the weather as it comes to us and try to enjoy the various aspects of what happens. 
            I guess that is a little like life.  It is hard to predict what will come along in life.  Most of the time we will experience a lot of sunshine in our lives and then suddenly a storm pops up, unexpectedly, out of the blue, for us to deal with.  The storms challenge us because we have to decide what to do in response to them.  We can become angry, sad, confused, or a range of other emotions.  We can also try to listen for God’s voice speaking in the storm to us and see what we think God may be saying through it. 
            I reported one day on the book I read recently, Learning to Walk in the Dark by Barbara Brown Taylor.  She talks about all the dark places in life and how we often try to shut them out of our lives.  She ends the book by talking about her plans to plant a “moon garden” in her yard.  She says there are plants that thrive with moonlight and there are people who plant those specific plants in places where they can feel the moonlight when the moon is full.  Most of the plants are white or light in color.  Some are very delicate or fragile in texture.  The point she was trying to make in giving this example is that even in the darkest of places, there can be truth and beauty and meaning that may emerge. 
            We have all experienced times of darkness in our lives.  Sometimes they happen because of our own decisions we made.  Sometimes they happen because of the actions of others.  At times there is no reason for them to happen.  They happen just because we live on this planet and are subject to the forces that rule our planet.  How we respond to those times in life help to indicate how we will live our lives following them.  If we continue to have hope and faith, then the future will be clear regardless of the outcome of the experiences. 
            I happened to have liked Ann Richards when she was our governor.  I actually met her one time when she was on a campaign stop in Athens, Texas.  She was a delightful person to meet and talk with.  When she lost her election as governor the second time around, I wrote a letter to her telling her how sorry I was that she did not win.  She wrote me a nice note back and thanked me for writing but concluded, “It’s not the end of the world.  It is just the end of an election.” 
            To many of us, life’s experiences may seem like the “end of the world” to us.  Sometimes our very lives are threatened by ill health, financial disaster, or job loss.  We may think we cannot go on in life but we must remember that what happens in this life is not the end.  God is ultimately in control of our lives as well as our world. 
            St. Paul said it well in the book of Romans when he wrote, “For I am convinced that neither death, not life, nor angels, not rules, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, not anything in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)

            The sun may not shine every day but it is behind the clouds waiting for them to move so that it can be seen once more.  The clouds will eventually move and the sun’s rays will shine brightly to warm the earth once more.  That experience is something we have witnessed again and again.  Life’s clouds will not stand in the way of God’s rays of sunshine in our lives either.  We will see them once again if we wait patiently for the new day to come.   

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