Ten days of study leave is long enough to leave you feeling refreshed and ready to go back to all things pastoral. Usually. It is a time for well, studying of course, and a time of spiritual renewal. This year I was blessed to be able to semi-bookend my time with pulpit supply at two churches, one two weeks in a row. I prepared my first sermon well in advance and had a rough draft of the second when I left home. Finishing it was, in my mind, a form of study anyway, so I was okay with taking time to define and refine it as my time away progressed. I had brought five books along with me and when I was done reading them, God in His usual, very bossy, very annoying, extremely demanding way was poking and prodding me to pick up pen and paper, okay, the computer, and begin writing once again. Get to Book Three, make it unlike the other two, was the calling I couldn't shake no matter how I tried to sit and just soak up the sun and moon and stars and feel fresh, salty air breezes blowing through my hair and kissing my skin. By day nine of my leave, I had five chapters and titles and ideas for ten more. Here is a teaser from the chapter titled above.
"I take my time away seriously. I mean, how often do I get time with no kids needing my attention and no dogs interrupting my peace of mind. I was offered an opportunity to stay at two different places as part of my study leave trip and so the deal was sealed. I packed lightly, okay for me. I always want an option of what to wear on a day to day basis but seriously I didn't overpack for ten days, I just didn't wear most of it, as usual. I went grocery shopping, determined to stay put, other than the preaching things, and packed the perishables tightly with frozen ice packs to ensure they lived through the two and a half hour car ride ahead.
Can I just say, no matter how much the news anchors tell you that all the holiday weekend traffic will have dissapated by Friday night, don't listen. I hit the road with all the hope and resolve to be at my first location within two and a half hours. Four hours later, having a desperate need to use a bathroom, I finally pulled into the driveway of the funky, eclectic location to which I was assigned.
I went to the local grocery store because of all things I shouldn't bring, I forgot wine, I know, a necessary study tool, and something sweet, a necessary survival tool. I settled in, couldn't figure out how to operate the TV, had my sermon for the next morning all prepared, so I decided to revisit the following week's message now before I got too heavily into my new books.
Overhead, a cacophony of crickets began chirping and chirping...and chirping. Their symphony was a loud, staccato aria that moved from a melodic whisper to a raucous proclamation of their purpose in being the creatures of the night that they are. If they were human, I would have called the local law enforcement and lodged a disturbing the peace complaint. My 94 year old host the next day said that he thought they were making mating calls. It is that time of year after all. Uncomfortable as I was with this conversation, I could buy that reasoning. But what those mating calls did for me was to keep me awake the entire night. Great, a sleepy, muddled presentation of God's Word to a congregation that by in large did not know who I was or why I had been asked to be there that morning was looming in the not too distant future.
I tried to convince myself these cricket songs were a carefully constructed meditation piece that should soothe my soul as I melted into my second day of leave. Yet, I found it annoyingly distracting and again enough to keep me from the harmonious dreaming that I so desperately needed. So, I did what my brain often does during times like these, I began to think of my grandmother and the things she would say to me during times I was perturbed by anything. That evolved into remembering a story she would tell that brought her great joy and one of the heartiest forms of laughter I have ever heard each time she told it. Fingers met keyboard. So this is how I opened the sermon I just gave, because it brought me joy on that morning after a night searching for invisible crickets who not only chose to be hidden but chose to be heard, as I resignedly burst into laughter at my useless attempts to quiet their storm, and joy came over and through me.
'When I was growing up, every summer we would come out to California and stay for 3 months with my grandmother. Now she was of the era where sitting at the kitchen table in her housecoat, drinking coffee, smoking cigarettes and watching soap operas all day long was a common occurrence. It happened that I was pretty little, and I can’t tell you at this point how little, yet I was old enough that my grandmother would let me answer the door. One afternoon, there was a knock at the door and when I opened it up, there was an enormous man at the door. He asked if my mom was home and I yelled into the kitchen, “Grammy there’s a man at the door.” “Ask him what he wants,” she yelled back. The man bent down and oh so quietly and politely he said, “Could you tell your grandmother that I want to talk to her about God.” I promptly slammed the door in his face and went into the kitchen to relay the message. It didn’t even occur to me that the man may not be there when I got back. My grandmother looked at me with a rather stern face and said, “you go tell that man that God already lives here, and we don’t need to be evangelized.” I ran back and opened the door, sure enough the man was still standing there waiting and smiled at me and I said, “Grammy says that God already lives here, and we don’t need to be evil-eyed,” and I shut the door in his face again.'*
Sometimes joy feels elusive, hiding in the crevices like the crickets that want to just be heard but not seen.....(TBC....Guess you'll just have to read the book whenever it publishes ! LOL)"
*Excerpt from "Witness Joy" sermon, Bonnie Boe July 9, 2023