postcards from sabbatical – week 11

postcards from sabbatical – week 11

Dear Faith Friends, Trail Ridge Road runs straight through Rocky Mountain National Park.  It gets you high and it gets you high quickly.  Before you even reach the Continental Divide a sign tells you that you are two miles above sea level.  You haven’t gotten out of the car and you are already out of breath. Trail Ridge Road will take you even higher.  You can walk straight out of your car onto Alpine Tundra.  They say that driving the three hours from the high plains of Colorado to the top of Trail Ridge Road is like driving from Mexico to the Arctic Circle.  The tundra is a desert, where – despite large snow falls – only small amounts of moisture seep into the ground.  Plants and animals have evolved and adapted to the treacherous temperatures and wind speeds.  It has made flora and fauna creative, hardy and fragile.  A plant may bloom only once a decade.  Animals have about two months to gather food or get off the mountain. The air is thin.  I must hike slowly.  I must take my time.  I must be prepared with water, nourishment and adequate safety measures. I must watch ever step over boulders and stones, across tender plants. I am rewarded.  With astounding views.  With animals who are as curious about me as I am of them.  With delicate plants in bloom.  With bright sunshine. With enormous billowing clouds.  With occasional friendly human companions.  With the presence of God.  With time in God’s time. This is truly a thin place for me. My soul is being restored in places I did not...
postcards from sabbatical – week 10

postcards from sabbatical – week 10

Dear Faith Friends, What a gift it is to be in the high mountains.  I love the rolling hills of Indianapolis and the flat, sprawling plains of the Midwest.  But, oh, what a delight it is to be where the air is thin, the sky is vast, and even the trees fall away to make way for the wind! My daughters and I had time to hike.  We went on familiar paths that are ancient and new every time. (Husband and dog stayed back at the cabin.) Then one daughter flew off to Seattle for a five-week internship, and the other took my husband back to Indianapolis to prepare for her senior year of high school and final year of basketball. Now, I am alone. It is surprising how disorienting it is.  I make so many decisions in response to others: when I wake up, so my devotions are in quietness; where we eat; what I cook; which hike to take; how fast and far to go. Then, I become aware of other expectations and perceptions which skew my decisions and mood.  Am I hiking as high as another hiker?  Does the church expect me to be working harder? Why are my pictures not as amazing as someone else’s? Apparently, I need this time to be alone with God.  I need to shed what is false, to be unencumbered of expectations which are not divine, to let go of presumptions and find my soul.  I want my focus to be what God wants me to do with my time and where God wants my effort to be.  I want God’s expectations alone to...
postcards from sabbatical – week 9

postcards from sabbatical – week 9

Dear Faith Friends, All five members of the family (husband, two daughters, the dog, me) made a very familiar drive from Indianapolis to Grand Lake, CO.  The second year Gene and I were married, we bought a cabin about the size of my office at Faith that’s half a mile outside Rocky Mountain National Park.  I grew up in the Canadian and American Rockies (in Calgary, Alberta and Golden, Colorado) and now our girls have grown up as mountain children, too. Having the cabin has meant our family hasn’t traveled as widely for vacations as some families. (It’s one of the reasons that our trip to Greece was so extraordinary.)  It has given a second home to all of us.  We just start down the road to the cabin and the mountains and we are already on vacation.  No need to settle in, figure out our way around, or learn what there is to do.  It’s instant restoration. That’s a good thing, this year because most of the family won’t get much time here.  The eldest daughter has a five-week internship in community housing development in Seattle and the youngest needs to get ready for her senior year of high school and last year of basketball. But, just being here is a touchstone for us. A reset button.  A spiritual renewal.  The ruggedness, majesty and oxygen depletion of this place sets us right, makes sure we keep the right perspective.  We live in particular amazing place of God’s making, are close to one another day and night, live simply, and spend more time outside than inside.  We walk and watch and...
postcards from sabbatical – week 8

postcards from sabbatical – week 8

Dear Faith Friends, The three flights and 30 hours of travel that got us from Athens to Washington, DC, weren’t as bad as we expected.  We were thankful for that because it meant that we could really enjoy the time with at the Shipman reunion. Every year, for 27 years, my husband’s children and grandchildren have been gathering at North Myrtle Beach, SC, on Father’s Day.  My sabbatical threw all of that off this year, as we would be in Greece during June.  One daughter had the inspired idea of using this opportunity to visit the National Museum of African American History and Culture.  All tickets are timed entry now and we had to plan four months in advance, but it was worth it. The history section begins by taking you down an elevator, back in time to the 1400’s when enslavement of African peoples and slave trade in Europe and the Americas began. Slowly we walked up through the history of oppression, dehumanization, cruelty, greed, resistance, overcoming, confession and persistence that is the story of America and the story of African-Americans.  It was moving, filled with shame and pride. The story is still unfolding, of course.  I am grateful to our Sunday school class that has tackled “Waking Up White and Finding Myself in the Story of Race”, by Debbie Irving.  The need for knowledge of history, self-understanding and radical openness to the other is so important for those of us in the majority if there is to be hope for our nation.  I believe that, as Christians, we accept a greater responsibility for changing our society. To be...
postcards from sabbatical – week 7

postcards from sabbatical – week 7

Dear Faith Friends, We had four wonderful and rich (and very hot!) days in Athens.  The Acropolis was our first stop.  The beauty and immensity of the Acropolis, the Hadrian Wall, all of the temples, and – especially – the Parthenon are remarkable. The next day, we got up early to visit the Agora, the marketplace. In the afternoon, we went to the new (air conditioned) Acropolis Museum.  It is an excellent resource for imagining and understanding the life, politics, art and religion of ancient Greece. All of those spots were teaming with people. Fewer people climbed up to explore the Areopagus.  The Areopagus is an enormous boulder, poised between the Acropolis and the Agora.  Here, between the sites of worship and everyday life, Paul proclaimed good news to all nations. The Areopagus isn’t fenced off, as other sites.  You don’t need to pay to visit it. There are no plaques to read.  Those of us who were present spoke quietly, took fewer pictures and lingered longer. We were taking in the marvelous knowledge that the world – and our lives – were changed by words spoken here.  And our lives are still being transformed by the God we know, who is never far from us. Blessings on the journey, Charlotte What…you worship as unknown, I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything it it, the One who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, nor is served by human hands, as though this Divine One needed anything. From one ancestor God made all nations…so that they would search for God...