Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Solstice shift

The heat has finally arrived. Like a long awaited visitor – overdue and keeping us waiting, waiting, waiting after a long cold wet spring. Everything is green but only the little kids have dared the lake’s still cold waters. Gardens are in and growing but the blooms are hesitant. Nature is saying “Wait for it...”

The blackflies will be gone
The plants will ripen.
The tourists will come.
Summer jobs will open up and the summer economy flourish.

When the sun reaches the solstice it’s like the hot water tap finally being turned on - the heat arrives. The last week of June gave us a whole week of hot sunny days.

And a shift begins to happen in me. The heat causes me to slow down. I begin the shift from white-man time to island time. From the manic hurry and scurry of seed planting productivity to the wait and see pace of savouring a summer’s day.

I’ve been in a manic pace since the last equinox – since we made it through the introspection of Lent and celebrated the miraculous bursting new life of spring. Ideas have been popping up like dandelions. Plans have been hatching like cute warm little chicks hungry to be fed. Old problems that seemed dead and hopeless in March – suddenly solutions are greening with promise.

I’ve been multi-tasking like a cpu chip. I’ve put so many miles on the family car – I could have been to Halifax and back.

I’ve got five gardens on the go.
Planting hopes to raise a million dollars and a hundred thousand men to help build a school in Dondi Angola.
Planting the idea of a seed fund for Children’s Ministry.
Planting ideas for a Children’s Church program that pulls families into a totally different Sunday School/worshipping experience.
Planting ideas for 150th Anniversary celebrations – in the uncertain times of a recession and rising costs – that involves seven different sprouts coming from one root. (I’ve given up on the idea that we might all get behind just one idea – God loves diversity right?)
And much creative energy has also been going towards planting seeds for a summer holy-day experience that involves travel in boats, boats, boats; kayaks, a fishing boat and the sale of a sail boat.

These are the plans of a single man. I remember a professor once suggesting to me as I laid out my agenda in a similar season of manic productivity “the Catholic priesthood works well for such agendas.”

Somehow I keep getting the dishes done and the garbage out and the kid to school and my weekly quality time date with my wife – well, most weeks. Tai Chi classes fall by the wayside and the grass grows long like my hair and the gardens grow wild. There is a connection between creative energy and chaos I tell myself. My legs bounce when I’m sitting still for more than a minute or two.

I visit my Spiritual Director (planning two side trip tasks on the way). When I lay all this out, she asks “are you bragging or complaining?”. It’s true that I feel good about all these creative endeavors. It’s also true that I’m venturing into a place where I might seem “normal”. Isn’t it the norm to be busy, busy, busy. Isn’t that what you expect a minister to say when you ask “how’s it going?”. Isn’t that what every good decent citizen says when asked?

It’s an expected status quo – to be busy filling up our hours with worthwhile and productive things to do. I find that it also seems to produce a fair amount of guilt. As in “I feel bad about not spending more time with my children and my wife and family and friends. I feel bad that I haven’t made it to church again this month. I feel bad that I have to say no to so many good and worthwhile efforts that call for my time.”

I think it’s time to go back and read Peterson’s “The Contemplative Pastor”. A friend gave me this book before I started in congregational ministry. To me this book is an anchor that keeps me grounded in the busy-season storms. Peterson says that a pastor needs to be un-busy, un-conventional, and prophetic. A Pastor needs to be able to step out of the flow and rush of the endless river of good work. On Sabbath’s bank a pastor can observe and listen to the spirit’s birdsong. Living more as an artist than a CEO, a pastor can see, by stepping back and away, the God-moment opportunities to throw the rescue rope and ring.

Of course Peterson somehow managed to translate the entire Bible into “The Message” in contemporary North American lingo while serving as a pastor of a large congregation. Was he un-busy too?

For me it’s always been seasonal. There are seasons of creative physical energy and there are seasons when I go deep inside. Of course, in each of those seasons I need to make time for the balance to happen. When I’m at my most introspective, I still show up for work and do the meetings and get the Sunday order of service done. And when I’m at my busiest, I still make the time to go for an evening boat ride with David and feel how the wind and waves soothe us.

As I grow larger and greener, I learn to pay more attention to those balance points. When I’m manic I’ve found ways to notice the bouncing leg and breathe deep give my body the care and attention it needs. When I’m slugging it out in February’s dark depths, I’ve found ways to get doses of light and laughter into my system.

As that last full moon of frost passed into the first phases of a summer’s season, I began to shift my energies away from planting into tending. The Amazing Grace of the one I follow reminds me that my endeavors do not depend entirely upon me.

In Matthew and Luke you find the parables about the Mustard Seed and the Sower who plants on good, better, and bad ground. Those parables have an urgency about yields and productivity about them. Only in Mark’s short gospel is there this passage about letting God do what God does with seeds.
Jesus also said, “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.” Mark 4:26

And so, as we enter summer’s season, I quit with the planting of seeds. It’s time to let God do what God does. It’s time to fill my days with play and art. Time to fill our family-sized hammock with resting bodies listening to good music and nothing at all but the buzz of nature busy doing what comes naturally.


corrie said...

Hi Allan, those seeds need growing and now it is in God's hands and the ones who help with your wonderful ideas. Enjoy these holidays and the wealth of living with God and family, make it last so you can draw from it later on. And I am sure there are more seeds spinning in your head, it will not go away, take time for yourself and your family. Enjoy!

Mick said...

Allan, this is good news indeed - the shift from planting to tending. Surrender is another name for it. The weather has turned but things are still growing, pushing, meetings obstacles but continuing. Hope you are too...