Saturday morning, 17 April 2010. Today I am 64 years old, Happy Birthday! John Davis called me at 6:30 and sang the song, my cousin just called from California, and several people on Facebook wished me greetings, A friend here is taking me to lunch down the street in a few hours, and I will be in Melbourne tomorrow afternoon, all good!
I have a sermon to write for tomorrow, a bit of cleanup to do here, a little more thought and organization to give to some ideas under education and formation for chaplaincy, then drive to the other side of the diocese to where I am preaching and celebrating tomorrow, and I want to take time -- on my birthday -- for some quality reflection.
I think of several birthday’s in Berkeley in the 80s when I would take my bound journal and find a congenial coffeehouse to write about where I was, what was good or bad, and where I wanted to go from there. That seems both so close and such a long time ago.
In most ways I am in the best shape of my life. I am a priest, my work, interactions, aspirations, are all-hopefully found and grounded in Eucharist, prayer, kenosis, scripture, community, spirit. It’s a wonderful feeling to finally arrive at the destination I desired (and thought God wanted for me) for most of my life. There are so many things to learn from here: discipline and dedication are important, as are following both duties and dreams. I saw some people from a parish where I preached a while back and they called me “The Happy Priest”! I don’t think I’m called to be unhappy, to be other than what I am, which is what God calls: and that is a real mix of good and bad, seasoned and new talents and liabilities. If I can just keep turning them over -- like compost -- and presenting them to God; receiving them back as gifts to be stewarded for the sake of a larger body, a greater hope, than that might to be enough.
I like working for Bishop John. He’s a complex man, nicely uneven, growing, creative, intelligent, interested, sensitive, smart. And in taking me along as his chaplain he’s gifted me with an opportunity, both in pastoral work and in education/formation, for a very creative and exciting ministry. I recently drew the bare bones of my job description in a kind of brain-mapping mode, and it is very good! I enjoy the people I work with, within the Registry and around the diocese. And we are finding the technology to work smarter and learning to work better together so both our focus and momentum are on the increase.
The celebrating, teaching, and preaching aspect of the work is wonderful! I blessed over 100 schoolchildren yesterday, and last Sunday performed my first baptism. The way I celebrate the Eucharist still feels unformed but that will take time. Yesterday I was asked to do some Friday morning Eucharists at the Cathedral and that will be good.
I am lonely a lot, that needs to be said. It’s natural, being in a new place, without real reasons to be here in Beechworth now that I am not attached to the local parish, and away from all old friends and associates in Melbourne, home for the last 10 years. But it means driving up the hill I to an empty house and an evening in solitude. I’m trying to work with that, and there are other reasons to move out of here sooner rather than later, which will happen fairly soon, and that will be good. I think I will return to Beechworth in a different configuration in the future but it seems very lonely to live here now.
I decided against going back to the Beechworth Singers for the present. I was going to go to the gym instead to work out some evenings but that hasn’t happened. In many ways I’m in the worst shape I’ve ever been physically: my right knee and shoulder are both giving me trouble and I need to look at exercise as well as physical therapy in the next month. I stopped checking my weight in the morning and I fear I’ve put on more weight. I’ve rationalized this because of some of the stresses and busyness of Lent. It’s time to change that.
The same with food: too many pizzas, too much frozen food, not enough fruits and vegetables, too much chocolate! I have been reading Mark Bittman on “Food Matters” as well as his book on vegetarian cooking, but there is less incentive to eat mindfully at the end of the day. I did bring up my slow cooker from Melbourne recently and might start to make casseroles and stews or soups that can be frozen and eaten later.
There is lots of writing to do now and I love that! Sermons, brochures and articles regarding formation and education, drafts of letters and papers for the, planning documents for diocesan matters, even my regular bits on Facebook. And I still have a constellation of ideas and images around the title “spiritual directions”, though the content varies. It would be lovely to get a real book published.
I have mixed feelings about getting older. I await and find myself stiff in the wrong places! I get sore and tired more easily: and lifting, pushing, pulling furniture or packages seems beyond the pale. The other day I saw a movie where two guys wrestled for a while and I remembered when I had the faith that my body could do what was needed, what was salutary or salacious or just fun, without any worry at all. That is no longer true. And it saddens me.
So today I write a sermon, lunch with a friend, travel to the town where I celebrate Eucharist tomorrow, have dinner with parishioners there tonight. Tomorrow after church I will go on to Melbourne for a few days at St Peter’s. I got a massage scheduled for Sunday night, as well as a haircut Monday morning, might buy new shoes, eat out at a good and trendy Mexican restaurant, enjoy Melbourne friends, get good rest and enjoy myself.
So I’m 64 years old. And in most ways I’m happier, more fulfilled, more “self-actualized” than I have ever been. God has been good to me. I am deeply thankful for the good friends, especially John Davis, have made such a significant difference in the quality of my life, and that is putting it so mildly! I am very thankful to be alive today. I am having a Happy Birthday!