Notes from the Vicar of Grace

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Bill Harper

Hey All--     

I've been thinking.  And yes, I've been thinking a lot.  Coupled with the thoughts are all sorts of feelings-many of which await sorting.  Of course none of this is surprising.  With our first child graduating from High School,  both Carolyn and I find ourselves reflective and a bit tender.  Last Sunday, at the Baccalaureate service Grace hosted, I felt all of that emotion and pride and wonder rise right to the surface.  Blake offered a loving address to his classmates and I sat there amazed at the journey of faith that defines being a parent.  And just this morning I had to make him stop, in his rush to get out the door, so I could take that one picture-"last day of school."  Well, sort of the last day . . .

So yes,  I can't stop thinking, wondering, feeling waves of stuff, and feeling like I'm riding a wave.   Compounding this is the simple reality that after preaching this Sunday I will begin a 3 month sabbatical.  I know that many have put time and leadership into thinking through the practical effect of this "sabbath time," and as I've said to many, I feel very grateful and humbled to be able to exercise this opportunity.  I'm lucky that my job not only allows such things, but in fact encourages and even requires that I set aside time to think and feel and stretch myself-or let myself slip into another sort of time.  I will do my best to live up to my own hopes for this time, and the hope that Grace sends me with.  In our recent newsletter I detailed the outline of my plans, and we tried to answer various questions about these weeks ahead.  With that done, and with this Pentecost Sunday approaching, I feel both inspired and anxious-and, well, thoughtful.  I think of the way I tend to define myself by my relationships, and that this time away is meant to create some time alone-even some big blocks of time traveling mountains by myself.  I think of building a deeper relationship with myself-with  my self as the only witness to the relationship.  I think about how deepening  that primary relationship will indeed deepen every other relationship in my life-particularly my relationship with all of you.

Yep.  I've been thinking . . .

As I travel I will be carrying two books with me.  One is Barbara Brown Taylor's An Altar in the World.  I've just begun to read it, as I straddle my life with one foot out the door.  Here is how she introduces the book-or invites me in:

"Whoever you are, you are human.  Wherever you are, you live in the world, which is just waiting for you to notice the holiness in it.  So welcome to your own priesthood, practiced at the altar of your own life.  The good news is that you have everything you need to begin."

That is good news, even as just tentatively begin to trust it.  My other wordy companion will be some of Wendell Berry's collected poems.  Given contains his extended "Sabbath Day" poems.  They could be just right for this journey, and this one in particular seems to be embedded in me:

I dream of a quiet man

who explains nothing and defends

nothing, but only knows

where the rarest wildflowers

are blooming, and who goes,

and finds that he is smiling

not by his own will.

And so I do go, smiling some.  With a tear,  and so many thoughts.  I'll miss these weekly connections, and the daily of Grace.  I'll keep a journal of what I continue to think and feel, and I look forward to sharing what I can.




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