Sunday, August 18, 2013

Harrisburg, PA to Waterville, ME... the Goose is Coming Home (Day 14)

The plan this morning was to get through New York as early as I could and beat the traffic... well, you know what they say about plans... it was a good one though!

I was moving by 5:45AM and it was looking like this was going to go according to plan... but the minute I crossed into New York things started to slow down!  The traffic!!  Oh my... and the tolls... they almost got the best of me!

I left Harrisburg with $20 in my pocket thinking I would get cash when I got gas... and then figured I
could wait until I got the second tank of gas... one toll after another and I arrived at the George Washington Bridge with $13 in my pocket.  The toll was $12.  I crossed over and by then I needed gas... and by now I knew that there would be another toll!  I almost didn't get off before I would have needed the toll!

I managed to get off the Interstate at New Rochelle and find an ATM and a gas station.  With the tank full and some cash in my pocket it was back on the road... but by now the traffic had picked up and the speed had dropped.

By now my stomach was grumbling as loud as the motorcycle... and the billboards kept telling me about the restaurant at Exit 41 that had the best breakfast... I turned off, I know now into Orange, CT... but I never did find the restaurant of which the billboards spoke!  Instead I filled my belly iHop.  It was ok - don't worry Anna - you didn't miss anything exciting!!

With my stomach sated I got back on the road... but by now half of New England had to be heading to
Maine!  Bumper to bumper and slow cars travelling in the left lane.  People to who do that should be banished to the hottest part of hell!!  Keep right except to pass!!

It was slow going - and I must confess that there was not much time to ponder life's big questions as I had to be constantly paying attention to the traffic around me!

I filled the tank for the third time and got back in the saddle.  I was tired - but I knew that I wanted to reach Maine today - and the last toll both!

I did it.

I stopped at the Welcome Centre in Kittery, ME and called home as I drank two bottles of water... and prayed that the traffic would thin out.  My prayer was answered.  Seems many of the travel
lers had stopped at the Outlet shops in Kittery!!

By 3PM I was getting pretty weary - about then I saw the sign for Waterville, ME.  This has been a stopping point for many trip for both me and for Mom and Dad... seemed like it would be fitting to do it again!

I turned off the bike at 4:25PM after 893KM of congested Interstate travel... I've no desire to do that again any time soon!  Give me a back road any day!!!

The fellow at the motel recommended Ming Lee's for supper - the next exit down the road... off I went and enjoyed a lovely supper and returned with a full tank of gas and a couple of beers to enjoy as I caught up on some work... by 9PM I was in bed... and I slept until 6AM... and that's all folks...

In a little while I will load up one more time for the final leg of this Wild Goose ride, but before I do, let me leave you a brief reflection on some words from Frederick Buechner:
The time is ripe for looking back over the day, the week, the year, and trying to figure out where we have come from and where we are going to, for sifting through the things we have done and the things we have left undone for a clue to who we are and who, for better or worse, we are becoming. But again and again we avoid the long thoughts….We cling to the present out of wariness of the past. And why not, after all? We get confused. We need such escape as we can find. But there is a deeper need yet, I think, and that is the need—not all the time, surely, but from time to time—to enter that still room within us all where the past lives on as a part of the present, where the dead are alive again, where we are most alive ourselves to turnings and to where our journeys have brought us. The name of the room is Remember—the room where with patience, with charity, with quietness of heart, we remember consciously to remember the lives we have lived.
The time is ripe for looking back... I've been doing a lot of that over the past two weeks and it has been such a gift.  I say again to Anna: thank you for your love, support and encouragement; to Justin and Zack: thank you for all the joy you have brought to my life - follow your dreams wherever they may lead!; and to Mom and Dad, and to Chris: thank you for all you done to support our family over the past 25 years!

To those I have failed over the years, "I am sorry..."  It has been my attempt every day to do learn from the mistakes I have made and to try always to improve myself and make the world a little better than I did the day before... "The Angels And The Furies" continue within me...

Have you not wounded yourself
And battered those you love
By sudden motions of evil
Black rage in the blood
When the soul premier danseur
Springs towards a murderous fall ?
The furies possess you.

Have you not surprised yourself
Sometimes by sudden motions
Or intimations of goodness
When the soul premier danseur
Perfectly poised
Could shower blessings
With a graceful turn of the head ?
The angels are there.

The angels, the furies
Are never far away
While we dance, we dance,
Trying to keep a balance,
To be perfectly human
(Not perfect, never perfect,
Never an end to growth and peril),
Able to bless and forgive
This is what is asked of us.

It is the light that matters,
The light of understanding.
Who has ever reached it
Who has not met the furies again and again:
Who has reached it without
Those sudden acts of grace?

To all who have nurtured the light within me... blessings... that's all for this ride... until next time on the Sabbath Road...

Friday, August 16, 2013

Asheville, NC to Harrisburg, PA... the Goose is Coming Home! (Day 13)

I was up at 5:30AM and ready to roll.

All my stuff had been packed the night before and it took me just a few minutes to place the last few items in their proper places and set of... after hitting the "Home" button... and waiting... and waiting while it calculated the route.

Hmmmm... don't think I'll makae it in time for breakfast tomorrow...  Hahahaha!!

It was a beautiful morning to be riding... and to watch the sun come up as I enjoyed one last look at these mountains that have provided so much enjoyment!!

Knowing I would not be home in time for breakfast, I had set for myself a goal of 900KM - that's three tanks of gas at freeway speeds and it seemed like a good idea... until I noticed while doing a walk around after the first tank of gas (having filled my belly too) that the rear brakes were shot.  The was nothing where I was so I opted to go onto to where the next tank of gas would take me and by then the shops would be open.

In New Market, VA they pointed me toward the local Harley shop... I knew that would be a useless visit - unless I needed a t-shirt (which I didm't!!).  I filled up with gas confident that the next city would have something: Winchester... if they didn't I figured I could at least find a rifle to shoot the steed!!

I stop at a gas station at the first exit and asked for a phone book... "Whattdaya want that for - just Google it..." Eventually they located a Yellow Pages and I was soon on the phone with Valley Motorsports (located right next to a Harley shop (they knew I really wanted a t-shirt... NOT).

I purchased the part I needed and a can of chain lube and proceeded to do some trailside repairs in the
shade of a tree in the parking lot... I managed... but I must pack better tools if I am going to do much of this kind of work.  I had to borrow a ratchet and socket and a large screw-driver.  I'd have been screwed if I'd not had access to the nice mechanics tools!!

I had it all just back together and by chance pushed on the tire as I was aligning the wheel... and the tire was flat...  no kidding...

I rolled it around and it didn't take long to find the culprit - a 2 inch wire nail or perhaps a large staple... I pulled it out with my leatherman tool (now that is an important tool!!) and over my shoulder the manager said, "I don't have one of those in stock..."

"Oh, no need I'll plug it..."  I said.
"We can't do that..."
"You're not doing it...  I am," I said, "Though some of your air would be welcome as I am not sure my little 12 volt pump will get me all the pressure I need..."
By the time I had the plug in he was back with an air pig and we filled the tire... I washed up and packed up... total time for that pit stop: 2 hours and 30 minutes including finding the shop and do ing all the repairs...  not bad!

Truth be told it had taken its toll on me.  I was tired.  As soon as the trip
meter turned 900KM I started looking for a place to stop... and Motel 6 beckoned me in - and hear I sit - having done a couple of hours of work and now I'm done... done... and ready for bed.

On the Sabbath Road... almost 1/2 way home...

Preparing to Return... Renewed and With Courage... (Day 13)

Wednesday evening following supper I called Phil, my colleague from PRC-L who was storing my
motorcycle in his garage.  I told him that I thought I had told him the wrong evening to pick me up– that I would be back on Wednesday evening.  He informed me that it was Wednesday evening.  I remember saying, “Are you sure…”  He was.  I was not!

Once we established that I would in fact fly back to Asheville on Thursday and arrive at 9:40PM and that this was the time I had informed him earlier… I felt a bit more connected.  Once again I knew what day of the week it was!

Looking back now I am surprised that I was able to go as deep as I was and connect as fully with others in my small group as I did given that other issues that were crowding my plate.  Email after email kept coming in and I was finding myself unable to not respond… and so I sat with that: asking myself “What is going on here, within me at this moment?”  I found the silence so helpful – the quiet created a space for me to simply be – and to begin to realize that I don’t have all the answers and I don’t have to be the first one to offer a solution to the first or even the eleventh issue of the day… simply showing up and bringing my best self is enough.

Our final act for the evening before a social time was to build on a conversation about the place of
metaphor in dreaming and community life.  In a group of five we were given simple tools: markers, paper and tape and invited to create something that spoke to us of the experience of the event, the learning we were taking away, the wisdom we had discerned over the course of the retreat.  And we had 20 minutes.  With four folk with whom we had not spent any time with over the course of the retreat.  After a quick conversation where we identified some of what was rising in each of us we began to create a weaving – had we had more time would have become a basket.

Let me offer my reflection on our creation: the weaving represents our individuals stories and the stories of our communities.  All of these stories are woven together.  We touch one another.  Our stories, our truth, our living of the habits of the heart is all done in tension and it is in the tension, in the creative space where the holy exists and is experienced.  When we weave ourselves together as we have done so in this time we create a space and time that holds the dreams and longings of the world as we know it together… and that’s a holy place.

We continued being in community in a more informal way for the rest of the evening.  John, one of the facilitators had arranged for the Bistro to open and we shared wine, Wisconscin beer and three different types of Cheese curds… the Amber beer was awesome… the Wheat ale just so so… and I really don’t know what all the excitement is about Cheese curds… must have something to do with cow tipping in Wisconscin… you just had to be there!!

After two beers and a half dozen conversations I was done.  Done.  Finished.  Asleep on my feet.

I awoke on Thursday morning and before my feet hit the floor I was in going home mode.  I have enjoyed both events.  I have been comforted, challenged, nurtured and encouraged – but I have also been challenged in staying focused given the many other issues that are needing attention at this time… by 7AM my bags were packed and sitting by the door.  I was checked in to my flight and I was getting the pre-ride jitters.  It always happens.  Something to do with excitement of the road and a nervousness… I will be alone on the road.  The neverousnous had an additional layer this morning.  I found out last night that a 33 year old woman whose wedding I had conducted a few years ago was killed in a motorcyle accident in Alberta.  As I spoke with Anna this morning we tried to find some details… there are few – but they all point to tragedy and sadness.  I am so sad for her and her family – and while it may sound unsympatheic, I offer this with the deepest of care and conern for her and her family: I can only hope that she died in the midst of a passionate pursuit… and that she was living fully right up until the moment she died…  for such is our calling in life.

Following breakfast we gathered in community one last time with singing followed by silence as we went around the room and pondered the creations – the metaphors that sought to capture and convey the transformation that had taken placed: the softening of hearts and the growing of habits.  Degane.

With quiet voices one by one we spoke words of affirmation, naming what we were taking with us from this place, others spoke words of gratitude and commitment, and still others offered images of new understandings and ways of being in the world.  I was drawn deeplu into an image offered by one young man.  He spoke of how is his mind is like a map.  His mind creates many possibilitities, many roads and even contour lines and shading that indicate the terrain and possible ways of travel over mountain and valley.  He spoke of the intellects ability to create pathways and roadways the go from one place to the other… but the mind cannot point the way to go.  To discern the direction of travel he must rely on his heart.  His heart is the compass of his being… Degaje

With these words echoing in my heart we were given one final task: to write a letter to ourselves: to write of something that we wanted to be reminded of from this time together in six or eight weeks… Corney?  Silly?  Not in the least.  The moment I put pen to paper the thoughts started to flow… a message from myself to myself – an opportunity to capture wisdom that has been gleaned and offer it again to myself at a later time. Degaje.

With a final chorus and hugs all around it was over… The ride of the Wild Goose has offered courage and renewal for the journey that lies ahead.  Degaje.

I write these words as dark falls at 10,000 feet somewhere between Detroit and Asheville.  I will arrive in Asheville at about 9:45PM, return to Phil and Cathy’s home, pack up the bike, catch some sleep and be on the road home in the morning… if you are reading these words you will know that I found time to post them before leaving North Carolina…

As time allows while I am making my way home I will share with you some additional thoughts and reflections as they have arisen out of some of the poems and resources offered as part of the retreat.

In closing, for tonight, hold me in your thoughts as I travel the road home to those I love…

On the Sabbath Road… Degaje... a word from Haiti that means, "we will make a way..."

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Considering the Heart of Community... Courage and Renewal (Day 12)

Last evening (Monday) was spent in community sharing our last few hours with Parker Palmer and
being nourished by the soul touching music of Carrie Newcomer.

Parker took some extended time answering some well crafted questions that were created at our supper time table group conversations.  I was deeply touched by his response to a question (stated more complexly than this - but essentially) "What is true?  Why does it matter?

If I understood Parker correctly, truth is important because any truth is our truth... a truth grounded in our experience, a truth that shapes our reality.  There is no truth capital "T" - except the truth that we seek and create in community, truth that is shared and owned - and this truth is ever evolving... that its more important to be in relationship than to be right.  Parker also reminded me of the wise words of a fellow Canadain, Jean Vanier who said "community is the continual act of forgiveness..."  In the next breath Carrie Newcomer ended our time with two of her signature songs - one I made a link to on yesterdays entry and the other, connected to Parker's quote from Jean Vanier took my heart to a very soft place.
Silver                          Carrie Newcomer
Will you love me when we go silver
When our ears and noses get bigger
When Arthritis starts to nag
And our best parts start to sag

Will you love me in reading glasses
Kiss my neck and still make passes
And our grandchildren we'll scandalize
By holding hands and making eyes

There is no real way of knowin'
But if things keep goin' the way they're goin'
I will promise you again
I will be with you and we'll be the best of friends

Will you love me if I babble
Let me win sometimes at scrabble
Will you help me bare the load
And be somebody I'm still proud to know


Will I still be what you need
When I drive below posted speed
Lay down like spoons in quiet wonder
And love me years and days without number

Will you love me when life hurts
Wake me up if I fall asleep in church
Sit beside me when evening comes
And count our blessing one by one?

Will you love me when we go silver...

Being so far from home drawing near to Anna and I's 25th Wedding Anniversary, this song touched me in some pretty deep places - and this probably contributed to the deep, vulnerable reflective place that my spirit went to over the rest of the day.

Our task, in small groups was begin to examine the community or communities we are part of and look at where the habits of the heart are evident.  There are many communities that I am a part of that I could have chosen to examine - and in a manner of speaking I held each of them for a time - but, I focused on two communities: the community of Chaplains I am part of and the small community of men that I have been meeting with each month now for going on almost a year.

Yes, we Chaplains are a community.  We may not share the same physical space, nor do we share all the same beliefs - but we share similar values - we share common space in our concern for those who are incarcerated and this draws us together in community.

Habits of the Heart (see earlier entries for an explanation) that I see as strongly evident in our community, habits that are well developed include "a sense we are in this together" and "an appreciation of otherness" - but even as I named these as strong habits I also was called to acknowledge that we hold these in tension...  I align myself well with those with whom I work.  I sometimes do a poor job of doing that with colleagues who are of other spiritual traditions.  We do well at creating community and as community we commiserate well with one another, we share the struggle well with each other but we struggle with holding tension in creative life-giving ways  that lead to finding our voice and agency.

This of course let me to reflect more deeply on how the venture of KPC Inc. is for me a spiritual one... this step is in fact a living out of a habit of the heart.  In daring to begin the conversation that led to founding of KPC Inc. I found my voice... and this of course leads to a new tension for me - for now I and others are leaders in this community we are part of... let me say more about that...

Early in this journey a colleague offered to me, upon learning that we were forming KPC Inc. and putting forth a response to the RFP that they had "lost three colleagues..."  I remember at the time being stung by this comment.  I now know why - it was a projection.  I as a leader am standing in the "tragic gap" and this person was projecting onto me... that I had changed, that I was now in control... but I haven't changed.  My heart hasn't changed.  It is the same heart that led me into prison ministry that led me into starting the conversation that brought forth our response to the RFP... yes, my role has changed, yes, I may now with others have new responsibilities, but my heart remain the same and it is this this is in tension with our ability to continue to create community among Chaplains and remain a part of that community.  As I pondered these thoughts I came to this poem that was in our material:

May Our Eyes Remain Open

May our eyes remain open even in the face of tragedy.
May we not become disheartened.
May we find in the dissolution
of our apathy and denial
the cup of the broken heart.
May we discover the gift of the fire burning
in the inner chamber of our being—
burning great and bright enough
to transform any poison.
May we offer the power of our sorrow to the service
of something greater than ourselves.
May our guilt not rise up to form
yet another defensive wall.
May the suffering purify and not paralyze us.
May we endure; may sorrow bond us and not separate us.
May we realize the greatness of our sorrow
And not run from its touch or its flame.
May clarity be our ally and wisdom our support.
May our wrath be cleansing, cutting through
the confusion of denial and greed.
May we not be afraid to see or speak our truth.
May the bleakness of the wasteland be dispelled.
May the soul’s journey be revealed
and the true hunger fed.
May we be forgiven for what we have forgotten
and blessed with the remembrance
of who we really are.

The Terma Collective, Life Prayers from Around the World

It will be so very important for all of us to have eyes open and we continue to move into this new model of Chaplaincy services - the movement will require trust on the part of all of us - not the least of which will be the Chaplains for KPC Inc., and KPC Inc. of the Chaplains that it engages for the provision of service - and let us all not forget who we really are - the heart that brought us to this place of service.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Attending to the Heart of the Leader... A Day with Parker Palmer and Others (Day 11)

What a day it has been.  To be reminded that "all we need is here" and that it is the "power of the
human heart that has fostered most all of the important social movements in human history... those who worked for racial equality, the abolishment of apartheid - they didn't have money or power, but they had heart... to be reminded that when all the external forces are stripped away, and all they had was the power of the human heart - change was possible.

Parker spoke at length about the power of the heart - the core of our being, the human soul/spirit and its capacity to foster change.  Leaders need to nurture their hearts for "if it ain't in your heart it ain't in your horn".  Leaders teach a hidden curriculum in what they do and don't do... and as a result have powerful impacts on people.  Am I as a leader "teaching" a hidden curriculum that fosters obedience to a set social message or am I "teaching" a hidden curriculum that fosters openness and dialogue?

As we moved into considering the "habits" at a deeper level Parker shared the results of the groups input in respect to the habits we were most comfortable with and the habits we were most stretched by... the most people were the most comfortable with "we're all in this together" and the most people were the most uncomfortable with "holding tension in creative, life giving ways".  This was no surprise to Parker who then went on to share some his story.  He spoke of how he believes that his father provided for him an environment of expectancy - NOT expectations - but expectancy: that he would find his niche, that he would find his way, that he would discover his gift... and so on...

As I rolled this idea over I thought of the power it has in working with inmates: calling forth their best
selves - affirming their possibility to be the best that they can be.  Parker spoke of how he learned that he could fall and survive and that this nurtured within him his dominate habit of the heart: a sense of person voice and agency.  He went on to speak of his writing and teaching using Ghandi's phrase: his life as an experiment with truth... discovering as time went on what floats and what won't... always working toward what he aspires to... all the while being prepared to risk failure.

This got me thinking about where I am at right now... this venture, experiment, new opportunity/challenge... and it feels good.  Scary - but good.  I believe, or have now come to understand that my decision to begin a conversation that led to the formation of KPC Inc. was rooted in this habit of the heart: a sense of personal voice and agency... a habit that is somewhat less developed than what I name as my dominate habit, "an understanding that we are all in this together".

In the quiet time afforded us we were invited to reflect on who, what and how our dominate habit was nurtured in us.  I went back to my childhood and the experiences of being bullied as a result of my hearing loss... longing to be a part of the "all".  I also recalled the experience of being depended on as a goalie on the hockey team - thereby being a part of the "all".  I remembered how open our home was and how we had friends from across social strata and status and that mom and dad would do what they could to help those who needed it... I acknowledged Mom and Dad's small "l" Liberal leanings and their involvement in the community... And, of course the role that the United Church has played in nurturing my commitment and passion for social justice.  And most recently I am thankful for the small group of men that I meet with monthly to reflect and pray with and the manner in which they help nurture this and other habits of the heart...

It has always been scary
to step into the circle of firelight,
to show up in the company of strangers,
to ask for entrance or offer it. Our hearts race –
Will we have the courage to see each other?
Will we have the courage to see the world?
The risks we take in the twenty-first century
are based on risks human beings took
thousands of years ago.
We are not different from our ancestors,
they are still here, coded inside us.
They are. I believe,
Cheering us on.
                              Christina Baldwin, Caling the Circle

Following lunch we moved into examining our less developed habit - and again Parker shared some of his story - beginning with a poem by May Sarton: The Angels and The Furies

Have you not wounded yourself
And battered those you love
By sudden motions of evil
Black rage in the blood
When the soul premier danseur
Springs towards a murderous fall ?
The furies possess you.
Have you not surprised yourself
Sometimes by sudden motions
Or intimations of goodness
When the soul premier danseur
Perfectly poised
Could shower blessings
With a graceful turn of the head ?
The angels are there.
The angels, the furies
Are never far away
While we dance, we dance,
Trying to keep a balance,
To be perfectly human
(Not perfect, never perfect,
Never an end to growth and peril),
Able to bless and forgive
This is what is asked of us.
It is the light that matters,
The light of understanding.
Who has ever reached it
Who has not met the furies again and again:
Who has reached it without
Those sudden acts of grace?

I was so moved by these words - there is so much of my life within words - the dance, struggle, desire
to please and serve - the selfishness of time away and all the commitments and demands that I take on and place upon myself and as a result lead to other things and relationships suffering.

Parker spoke of how for him "the only way out was in" - to go deep... for in the deep well if his own soul, the water nourishes him - and offers nourishment for others - but he does it first for himself, for 'I dare not write about it 'til I am ready to say, 'I am all of the above.'"

Another topic on which he spoke was the tendency of the human person to strive for effectiveness and as a result we end up taking on smaller and smaller tasks because those are the ones that can be accomplished... "Effectiveness is not a good norm by which to live your life."  And he went on to say, "There is not a sadder way to die than to have not shown up in the world as my true self... and in all cases faithfulness trumps effectiveness!"

I have long said that "we are called to faithfulness NOT perfection" and I really connected with the idea that faithfulness trumps effectiveness - that the measure is, "To the best of my ability, did I bring forth my gifts to share?"  "To the best of my ability, did I see need and respond?"  As I pondered these questions I connected on a very deep level with these words from Victoria Safford as shared by Parker:
Our mission is to plant ourselves at the gates of hope--not the prudent gates of Optimism, which are somewhat narrower; nor the stalwart, boring gates of Common Sense; nor the strident gates of Self-Righteousness, which creak on shrill and angry hinges (people cannot hear us there; they cannot pass through); nor the cheerful, flimsy garden gate of "Everything Is Gonna Be All Right." But a different, sometimes lonely place, of truth-telling about your own soul first of all and its condition, the place of resistance and defiance, from which you see the world both as it is and as it could be, as it will be; the place from which you glimpse not only struggle but joy in the struggle. And we stand there, beckoning and calling, telling people what we're seeing, asking them what they see.
What a vision for the human person!  What a vision of Chaplaincy - ones who, at the gates of hope "stand there, beckoning and calling, telling people what we're seeing, asking them what they see" - and maybe - just maybe in our actions of compassion and care for - those with who we work with may come to see the fullness of the human creatureness they are: good, capable of goodness, loved with the potential to love...

We ending with Carrie Newcomer leading us in singing her song, If Not Now.  Have a listen!  A powerful song that ended a powerful day...

On the Sabbath Road...

Monday, August 12, 2013

A Real Flight... to Courage and Renewal on the Sabbath Road (Day 10)

Phil and Cathy Bostrom have been such gracious hosts to me!  The world IS filled with good and beautiful people!

I awoke Monday morning at 5AM to the aroma of blueberry muffins!  What a treat!  Cathy had been up late worrying about her son who was travelling home to Florida from the Wild Goose Festival and she used the time to prepare muffins - this after preparing Blueberry Cobbler for our desert on Sunday evening!  Boy was I being spoiled!!

Phil and I had engaged in an animated conversation the night before about how I would get to the airport and he won.  He got to drive me.  I am so very grateful for the graciousness of these folk I had never met before but who have welcomed me into their home even as they are in the midst of settling in themselves - a modern day example of desert hospitality!  Phil and Cathy, I do hope that as retirement allows you to travel that we might be able to extend hospitality to you should you travel our way!

Both flights were uneventful.  I dozed and did some work on the computer and before I knew it I was in Milwaukee - greeted by a Harley shop next to a store selling cheese heads!  Anna informs me that I need to bring one home for her!  I really didn't know that she was a football fan - let alone a Green Bay Packer fan!!

I had a quick bite in the airport bar and made calls to the folk with whom I had arranged to travel to the retreat centre.  Connections went smoothly and within a half hour of the last person landing, Evie, Marina, Cheiw and I were in the car Evie had rented heading to George Williams College.

First, let me say what a beautiful and restful space it is!  The rooms are very comfortable, the meals are nutritious and tasty... and serve to enhance the wonderful community that I am a part of!

Our session began at 3PM and we ended for the evening on about 8PM... and my mind is still swirling with the possibilities and learning!  Let me for now simply share with you some of the words that are stirring in my soul from last evening:

"What we need is here... it is within us, and between us."
"We will find commonality by going deep within our own wells... and the richness of our souls."
"The greatest revolution is a simple change of heart..."
Sitting in an oblong circle of 40+ other persons followed by some small group time prepared me to enter into this space and time of reflecting on the habits of the heart...  One of the questions that we were invited to reflect on in our small group time was: "What is the ballast in your life that needs to be set aside..."

I found this to be such an interesting question: ballast is something that is taken on to even a ship's keel when it has a light load and ballast is removed at other times depending on the cargo within the hold.  It was a liberating experience to ponder what I have taken on - how "it" has kept my "keel even" and then to ask, "What of that ballast might be set aside now?"

If you feel so inclined ponder the habits of the heart below.  If you want more information about them you can "Google that".  Join me in pondering which of these "habits" is most easy of dominate for you?  Which is more difficult or challenging for you?

  1. An understanding that we are all in this together.
  2. An appreciation of the value of “otherness.”
  3. An ability to hold tension in life-giving ways.
  4. A sense of personal voice and agency.
  5. A capacity to create community.
On the Sabbath Road...

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Packing up for the Next Leg... of the Wild Goose Ride (Day 09)

I was up at 6AM and before I headed off for a shower I began to break camp.  My mind had begun to shift and I was thinking about the next event... I am so looking forward to a normal bed, less humidity, and a real chair to sit in!!

With the morning routine done I got a call into Anna - both of us agreed that this trip seems long!  We are both looking forward to some time away together to celebrate our Anniversary when I get home!

By 9AM my camp was all packed on the bike and I made my way down to hear Brian McLaren: "We make the road by walking..."  It was an encouraging address - reminding people of the many encouragements that had been offered over Festival... focusing on the we... and the walking...  and by 10:15AM I was riding... riding out the Rattler that I had rode in on in the rain on Wednesday!  It was a

Unfortunately these were many that I did not get to connect with one last time before I left - but in this age of social media I am sure we will connect again... and again... and the Wild Goose will gather again!  But... if I come again I WILL NOT BE TENTING!  There are lots of cabins in the area that I am sure can be rented for a week or two and make a holiday out of it...

By 2PM I was in Asheville hanging my stuff in Phil and Cathy's shed to dry and this evening we shared dinner and some good conversation together.  Unfortunately their son had to leave as I was arriving to drive back to Florida for work on Monday.

Tomorrow I am in transit so there will not likely be anything to share unless I have a brainwave and make some connections between all the threads that have been pulled loose over these past few days...

On the Sabbath Road...

The Last Full Day... of a Wild Goose Ride (Day 08)

I slept through until 5:30AM and was pleased to discover that there were still no line ups for the
showers!!  With over 900 people camping in a space with 4 showers those are pretty slim odds!  Alas – by the time I came out there with six folks waiting to get in!!!

Showered and as fresh as a daisy I headed over to the Still Mountain Pub to use the WiFi only to find that it was down for some reason… so, I typed away in a word document thinking I'd get a connection at some point... it never happened!

At 7:30AM I made my way to the community centre and had the by now usual breakfast of bagels, hard boiled eggs and coffee... and then made my way to the parking lot: a three acre grass field partially filled with cars that needed to hold the two hundred or so more that would come today!

My partners for the morning were three students, members of a band who had ridden their bicylces the length of the Blue Ridge Parkway to be here!  They were still talking about the trip and comparing their blisters!!!  For the next four and half hours I got to "tell people where to go and how to get there" all with a big smile!!  On about 10AM the sun was getting hot and I asked one of the shuttle drivers to stop by my tent and pick up my hat... and along with my hat I received a glass of lemonade... it was such an unexpected treat!! A gift I neither asked for nor expected - just like grace!

At 11:25AM I told Dough (the Team Leader) that I was done.  I was done.  Smiling, he said, "You've got five minutes left..."  Walking across the still wet grass I laughed, "So, fire me..." And I walked off to take in Ani Zonneveld presentation on Progressive Islam.  You can read all about it here.  Ani and I had a brief moment to chat about my work at Springhill and the relationship I enjoy with the Imam there, Zia Khan - who in my experience, while he may not identify with all of the principles Ani identifies as "progressive" is very progressive in his own right!

Back at my tent in the shade by the river I warmed up my soup and ponder the folk I had met that day... so many different types of folk: a rainbow, a patchwork quilt of family types and sizes, a kaleidoscope of abilities and giftedness... all coming to take part in an event that proclaims itself as a cross-road of spirituality, art, social justice and music!  Wow!

With gratitude for all that has been filling me I headed back to the Still Mountain Pub for an interfaith discussion involving Ani, Brian McLaren and Stuard Davis... there was no room in the inn... or more specifically, on the outdoor patio where the discussion was to take place!  I had to sit in the air conditioned comfort of the bar - and because the windows were closed I was subjected to CNN for 20 minutes while I hydrated myself with Cascade Kriek Ale...

At 2:30PM I had every intention of taking in an interview of Brian McLaren by Krista Tippett... but the shade called... and another cool beer.

I sat with John and Dan we swapped stories for the better part of the afternoon only to leave to go to the Main Stage to here William Barber preach!  Wow!!  His sermon title was “We” is the Most Important Word in the Social Justice Vocabulary…  and did he preach!  Using the story of Eziekeil he did an amazing job of preaching in manner in which any person of faith could connect with his so very powerful words!
We' Is the Most Important Word in the Social Justice Vocabulary. The issue is not what we can't do, but what we CAN do when we stand together. With an upsurge in racism/hate crimes, criminalization of young black males, insensitivity to the poor, educational genocide, and the moral/economic cost of a war, we must STAND together now like never before.
Following Barber's sermon I ended up back at Dan and John's tent and before too long another 1/2
dozen folk were there and we had a pot-luck supper!!!  And Jesus-on-a-keychain was there was well!  It truly was communion: sharing the stories of our lives, values and goals, stories of faith and hope... and all this led so appropriately into an evening of music with River Run North followed by the Indigo Girls!!

By 11:30PM my phone was full of video and much to Anna's
disappointment I didn't get to record Closer to Fine... the song we belted out together on some of our early road trips!

The Indigo Girls
That’s all for now… on the Sabbath Road!

A fine end to a fine day,,, Wild Goose Ride (Day 07 Part II)

Having enjoyed my birthday dinner at the Still Mountain Pub with a couple local craft beers I made my way back to the Main Stage where Aimee Wilson was playing followed by Phil Maderia – all I can say is WOW!

Maderia is a very accomplish Blues player and singer songwriter in his own right, having played with some pretty big names along the way too!  The guitar rifts, the steel guitar and violin together with Maderia’s soothing and chillingly challenging vocals had the hair on the back of my neck standing on end… and then it started to rain… so I gathered my stuff up intending to head to bed – but – by the time I got to my camping area the rain had stopped and the neighbours were working to get a fire going!

I joined in with their efforts and before long we had a nice blaze going – but not before one of number had gouged themselves with the wedge and another had opened a box of wine to share around!  By 11PM I was on sensory overload.  So many fascinating and engaging conversations, and my brain was exhausted – as was my body!

Friday, August 9, 2013

As the Rain Falls... So Does Grace... Wild Goose Ride (Day 07)

My mother tells me I was a gift.  Through my life I have known what it is to be received and treasured
as a gift.  Thank you.  I have also known what it is to be treated as other than gift and today was an opportunity to bring those two experiences into focus together - even as I celebrated my 48th birthday and (as of 5:30PM Eastern Time) have received 91 birthday greetings from Facebook Friends, two from LinkedIn and 36 personal emails.  I am loved.  Wow.

I began my day with some conversation with Anna and answering some email that needed attention and then I went to the Community Centre where breakfast is hosted each day for the volunteers.  I shared the table with Meaghan who is a student at Queens University and is doing a three month tour of the eastern US in her car... alone!!  She is studying occupational therapy and Queens and ended up here at the Goose as a result of a poster she saw in a coffee shop in Raleigh, NC.  The Spirit does work in wild and wonderful ways.  We shared in a conversation about travel, the goodness of people and how so many folk let fear limit their horizons!  Blessings on the journey Meaghan - it was a pleasure to meet you!

The view as I ate lunch...
With my belly full and my mind and heart whetted for more invigorating conversation I made my way to the Main Stage where Alexa Salvaterra and Dana Courtney were leading in a conversation/workshop on Racism and Dealing with Differences...  We sat in groups of six and had a chance to share our personal stories of when we have been "in the circle" and "outside of the circle".  I shared some of my story of growing up as a hard-of-hearing child and how that experience influenced, I believe, the ways in which I respond to those who are marginalized today.  

Others shared of their own pain and struggle and it was a useful way to get in touch with the expeirence of those who are marginalized in our societies today.  Alexa then lead us through two other exercises: one where we were invited to ponder and share a heartfelt cry for the world and the second, our dream/God's dream for the world.  She rooted each of these in a powerful story from her experience of working with marginilzed communities who came to understand that their longings and dreams for their respective communities were not divergent - but convergent.  At end of our time together I was left with these words: "God is at work when the potential for the future overcomes the pain of the past..."  

At 11:30 AM Philip Yancey took the stage.  I was looking forward to his address and was
unfortunately disappointed... I was disappointed by what I experienced as his arrogance.  He told the story of his brother who had experienced all sorts of addictions and challenges and seemed to put himself over and against that by saying, "I knew I did not want to become like my brother... and along the way I found God..."  He spoke of other writers and how he wonders "why he subjects himself to reading their material..."  Yes, he spoke of one woman who had ceberal palsy and how "her material was gold" but then he went on and, in my view spoke in a disparaging way of her attempts and ability to communicate... add to all this his focus on Jesus and my growing disease with the idea that Jesus is the "only way..." I was tuning out...

I did hear Yancey remind us not to forget the source of all our justice making... and I held that close to my heart... "In God I live and move and have my being..."

My travelling companion!
Still pondering these words I went and heated up a can of soup on the JetBoil and had sourdough roll from a local bakery (and a beer - hey, it was noon, its my birthday and I'm not driving!!).

Full of Campbell's soupI shared a conversation with Caroline where we each shared our experiences of "arrogance" and a seemingly lack of humility... and perhaps by passing judgement as we had we became as arrogant as those we were criticizing...?

Caroline headed over to a workshop on "Food for the Hungry" and I headed to the Performance Cafe where I listened with interest to performances by Pinketon Reid and Insomniac Folklore - and that's when it started to rain...  WOW!!!  It almost downed out the artists.  As the rain came down I shared in a conversation with two men from Alabama who shared with me their struggle in their tradition in respect to same gender marriage and the ordination of gay and lesbian folk... it was humbling to hear their pain and struggle and to in some small way offer them the hope that is ours in the United Church of Canada!

As the rain eased off I headed over to the Main Stage to hear Glennon Melton as she spoke about
"Love Wins".  I wish I had of caught all of it as she was speaking pointedly about shame and guilt.  I did write down these words though:
I am confident because I am a child of God.  I am humble because everyone else is too!
Glennon ended her presentation with a reading from her book, a dream she has of sitting in a room with God.  God is knitting.  Glennon is waiting for God to ask her what is wrong.  God does not ask.  Eventually Glennon speaks  and God listens and Glennon comes to see that what God is knitting is her life - in this she learns that she IS beautiful and that God is knitting her life... and God says simply, "You go dance and I'll keep on knitting..."

Its pouring rain...
still people sit and listen!!
We are called to dance and enjoy the life that is entrusted to us.  Amen.  Amen.

I have just finished my birthday supper - the 5th that I have marked away from those I love - not by plan but by circumstance and scheduling (and grace inasmuch as they have always supported my pursuits)!  I am blessed.

As I prepare to order dessert, finish my beer and close the computer in
preparation for the rest of the evening, I've just received the 95th Facebook Birthday Greeting.  To all of you: Thank you for remembering me.  The day has been a gift.  I hope and pray that I may always treat each of you as the gift you are to me.  Blessings.

On the Sabbath Road...

As evening falls, so does the rain... Wild Goose Ride (Day 06 Part II)

At 11AM I went and officially registered.  The lineup had begun!  It was so amazing to stand in a line
up and so quickly find points of convergence with individuals from various parts of the continent.  We may have all come for different reasons, but there was a commonality among us that was easily identifiable.  And the parking lot filled up...

With registration completed I began to wander around the site and and meet some people.  I met Eric and Steve two of the key movers and shakers involved in Darkwood Brew a progressive, ancient, mystical Christian internet television program.  Before too long we were finishing each others sentences and making connections to wider issues that each of us is wresting with.

Next I met Chris - a single man from Virginia who works as DVD programmer.  Our conversation began with "What question(s) did you bring with you this weekend?"  Chris shared with me some of his struggle around understanding and accepting gay and lesbian folk in the Church.  I share with him some of my journey as we shared a beer and we ended our conversation with a walk over toward one of the venues.  There I met up with Caroline again and we spent some time talking about the schedule for the weekend and some of the things we were going to take part in - and before we could end our conversation, two of our neighbours (between Caroline's tent and mine) Dan and Bob invited us to their table for Fajita's!!  What hospitality.  A young couple was there with their small daughter and while mom ate, dad kept the little one away from the river... they will have their hands full and I am sure there will be many eyes watching the little ones around the river!!

At 7PM the Official opening took place and the group was addressed by one of the Elder's of the Goose, Phylis Tickle.  With the openning done I made my way over to the Performance Cafe which is being hosted by Darkwood Brew for a dialogue between Frank Shaeffer and Eric Elnes.    Shaeffer is a Phoenix Affirmations and the journey he and others undertook to walk these affirmations across the country in 2006 with an organization called CrossWalk America.
name well known to Americans - not so much to me - but it was interesting to hear these two talk about their respective faith journey's and how they have found points of convergence.  Shaeffer has moved from the right to a place of saying that he now guides all his actions by the following maxim: Does it create beauty?  Does it give love?  Does it find peace?  Elnes spoke of the

By 10PM I was toast and it was starting to rain... so, I headed of to my tent, crawled in and promptly went to sleep.

I woke at 3AM to use the bathroom and decided that as the showers were likely free then that I would shower now... glad I did.  When I got up at 7AM the line for each shower (4 of them) was 15 people deep!!! I will likely do the same thing again tomorrow!!!

It's 9AM on Day 07 of this Wild Goose Ride and I am now 48 years old and as of 5 minutes ago I have received 58 birthday greetings on Facebook including a wonderful (albeit short) conversation with my lovely wife of almost 25 years and one of my two handsome sons!  I am blessed and so very thankful to have such wonderful people as part of my life!  Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you.