The Buchele Adventure

This is record of the Buchele Adventure, as reported from West Africa.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Steve@50 part 2 – Walking a Dry Riverbed

Steve@50 part 2 – A Walk in a Dry Riverbed

Conventionally, lostness has to do with location, and not knowing where one is in relation to the rest of the world, but the lostness I feel is knowing exactly where I am, but not what I am to be doing here. Is it the same question God ask of Elijah in 2 Kings 19, “What are you doing here?” except the roles are reversed, and I am the one asking “What am I doing here?”.

Elijah had prayed for the rain to stop, and it stopped raining for three and a half years. I’m not sure who prayed here, but up until a few weeks we were experiencing an exceptional drought (exceptional being two stages past extreme). I woke up one Saturday morning and went for a walk in the park near our house. It hadn’t rained in so long; I followed the dry riverbed of the San Gabriel, walking on dry bedrock well below the usual water mark, or put another way, I would have been completely under water in normal circumstances. I had the feeling then, not a voice I could hear, but a thought that said to me, “this is my church, and the water my spirit.”

I noticed a few ducks scrambling over to a muddy puddle to sip what water there was, and like the drought they were experiencing, I understood it to be today’s church, squabbling over its little puddles of what is left of God’s spirit; there has been no fresh outpouring in so long. God designed the riverbed to be filled with water, and here it was dry, almost as if God’s hand of blessing had been withdrawn, that God’s Spirit had been diverted, that God’s Holy Spirit did not rain down on it, nor wish to enter what is called the church today.

Why, I asked. Now many of you know I’ve been walking the more conservative side of the road these past 10 years, believing I was still in the middle, but somewhere the road shifted, and today I find myself not so comfortable with what I once believed. We were told it was the way to grow your church, to believe these things, be inviting to these people and we did, and it did. But I am not sure we helped people the way the church was designed to as that more conservative way of the faith did not always help the living of it. We were sold a bill of goods, a set promises that can not deliver. I’ve tried to live that way, by those books, by the ideals or purpose driven notions and failed. What I have learned is

a) It is near impossible to live that way, and life feels like a failure, and guilt ridden.
b) When I do manage to ratchet down my humanity and live that way of life, it is joyless (and if there are small periods of joy, it is from condemning others who can’t live it)

So I’ve had a bit of a conversion, and sharing this with a friend who had not lost her way (and didn’t give up on me when I had). I now see empirically what she’s always known, that God’s kingdom invites a larger set of people than I could have imagined and I guess that is contributing to my sense of lost-ness too. Where is the box?

It is a lesson people of the faith have learned, or had to learn throughout the centuries, that a life of faith is lived by more than a set rules, but by a shared love of all peoples. I have found that subtle switch enough to let me live more faithfully than I have in a long time. It is amazing what love can do.

At the end of the walk, I laid flat on my back in the dry riverbed looking up, arms out stretched and confessed. I asked God to show me a new path, let me learn its ways by walking it, let me swim in this riverbed called the church, swiftly flowing with God’s spirit.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Steve@50 part 1 – Finding the Path by Walking It

Steve@50 part 1 – Finding the Path by Walking It

I am now 50 years old, and a month, and a day. Ouch.

Before I turned 50, I heard one of those sermons that keeps working itself out in my thoughts, specifically, it was the introduction to the sermon where Dr. Beverly Jones, the Chaplain of Southwestern University was remembering a cathedral she visited years ago in Europe, how she noticed a labyrinth built into its stone floor of the narthex. It was a room crowded with tourists rushing their way to see the sanctuary, and she looked down and saw this ancient stone path.

Dr. Jones talked of following the labyrinth to see where that experience led her; how it felt to follow a path oblivious to those pushing toward a view of the Chancel. She spoke about walking a path that others do not follow, know about, or see, and how we are still called do it, even when we don’t know where it will lead us. Quoting ancient wisdom “we find the path by walking it,” she said, and I knew it to be true to my soul.

That sermon began an interesting conversation in my mind with Barbara Brown Taylor’s latest book, an Altar in the World. Taylor talks about the spiritual practice of lost-ness, how she set out to be married, and ended up divorced, to be healthy, ending up sick, to be a village priest, and now teaches college. I think of my own journey, musician, computer scientist, pastor, and now 30 years later back to being a musician, working in a church. Like Taylor, it is a path “no one in their right mind would have chosen” , but whose treasure outweighs the “projected wages in the life I had planned.” Esteemed philosopher Guy Clark observed the same

Sometimes you write the songs, sometimes the songs write you.

We went to see the movie Julie and Julia a few weeks ago, a wonderful movie that chronicled the story of a historical Julia Child set against the modern day blogger Julie Powell as she cooked her way through Julia’s first book. Similarly lost, both Julia and Julie found their way in the art of French Cooking. It was a lostness I understood, a movie I totally connected with, because I’ve been finding my way in the kitchen too, not a French one, but an Indian kitchen, through the teachings of another Julie, Julie Sahni, and her wonderful book “Classic Indian Cooking”. If the ancient wisdom says we find the path by walking it, then I’ve found my path by cooking it. It has been a delicious adventure.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Pastor’s Privilege: A Tribute to Jerry Barnes

Jerry Barnes died earlier this week while driving a school bus that collided with an 18 wheeler. That’s about all I know about how he died. What I have been thinking about this week is how he lived. At his memorial service, we heard stories of how Jerry loved fishing, never met a stranger, always had a winning smile, a man who didn’t let the circumstances of life define his attitude toward it, a person who, when judged by the quality of his friends, was indeed very rich. All true, but what keeps coming back to me this week is how he invited me into the sacred moments of his life.

Jerry was a good salesman, and being that, he had an innate ability to make people feel good about who they were. It wasn’t hollow or undeserved praise, it didn’t have really anything to do with what you were doing, you just felt better about yourself when he was around, and as I think back on it, that’s what I enjoyed most about being invited in those sacred moments.

The story always starts with when you first met them, and for me, it was visiting Jerry and Janet in their home in Morgan’s Point after church one Sunday afternoon after they had visited that morning. I’m sure one of my kids in tow. I brought them a mug, and stayed too long, we fed the deer, but what strikes me about that day is the people I met at their house and how in the years to come, we would see each other these sacred moments.

Like when Janet’s body died, holding her hand, along with Gayla, and the kids in that hospital room after her mind had been taken from a stroke earlier. It was just a shell, but we stood there, thanking God for her life, for the mother she had been, and love she had given the world and wondering about the huge hole she would leave in Jerry’s life, one that the church and good friends would try to fill. A sacred moment, a privilege to be there, and one that made saying good-bye at the memorial so much more authentic. I think back to that service and something I heard about the foods that Janet loved to cook, but her favorite thing to make was, reservations.

Or their daughter Heather, when she married Chris in that amazing castle in Burnet, as Suzanne and I were invited to witness it and feel much like one of the family. Or like when Jerry fell in love with the future Mrs. Janet Barnes, the second. How watching those two fall in love reminded us what it was like to be in love. And they were. Each had lost their soul mates a year or so earlier, and found in each other, rest from those empty places in their hearts. For a while they were together and made each other whole, but once healed from that brokenness, I guess, that which had brought them together was not enough to keep them together, and so that marriage ended. Still it is a favorite memory of mine of watching them hold hands in the parking lot after church and almost skip across it.

At the memorial service, I wondered was it me, or just the office of pastor that Jerry had invited into his life. We were not that close but I had been a part of so many sacred moments, and this being one more, I wanted to be a part of it—for my sake—and I know, when I want something for reasons like that, its never good. So I wondered when seeing his kids after the service, would they remember? Kim saw me first, and she rushed over and gave me this deep hug, saying “Steve…” Then Cal, with that great smile of his father’s, saying, “hey, I remember you!” Or Heather introducing me to her two children, both beautiful and handsome. I knew that even if it was just the office of pastor, I was the one who sat in it, and to be invited into a family such as this, and to share in some small part of the lives of the children of Janet and Jerry Barnes was indeed a privilege, and one I am deeply grateful for. I got all that from one good hug.

As much as I want this to be about me, about the pastor’s privilege, it is really just a tribute to the way of Jerry Barnes and how he touched my life and maybe yours. I would like to close with a poem by David Swing, that I’m told that was one of Janet’s favorites, and we read it at her memorial.

Let us learn to be content with what we have.

Let us get rid of our false estimates, set up all the higher ideals—

A quiet home

Vines of our own planning

A few books full of the inspiration of genius,

A few friends worthy of being loved and able to love in return.

A hundred innocent pleasures that bring no pain or remorse

A devotion to the right that will never swerve,

A simple religion empty of all bigotry, full of trust and hope and love—and to such a philosophy this world will give up all the joy it has.

God Speed Jerry, and thank you.