Jesus would often go to the wilderness where he could be alone and pray. Luke 5:16
As I prepare to travel back to Maine for my annual family vacation, I find myself in need of some solitude. My head and heart are filled with the news of the world even as I take delight in my life here with you. Whether it is the war in Ukraine, the laws being passed to restrict access to reproductive healthcare, book banning, wildfires raging around the globe, or the chaos in our national politics, my head and heart are in need of a place where I can be alone to pray and meditate and ground back into the God of Hope.
Maine has always been a place where I can find that grounding. Yes, I grew up there, but it has been my annual pilgrimage back home that has kept me going through all the seasons of my life. From the rocky coastline to the spruce forests, the lakes and the blueberry barrens, to the hilltops that we call mountains, Maine has been my "wilderness" where I ground and remember who and whose I am.
Part of that remembering for me has come from the ritual my family created over 20 years ago where we gather, in whatever number, for "Lobsterpalooza". Some years it has been a small group of 10-12. Other years it has been 25 or more. Even during Covid we managed the backyard lobster bake with "bugs" (aka lobster) from the dock, clams dug the day before, corn from the neighbor's farm, and potatoes from my dad's garden. There is always a fresh blueberry pie and beer for those who indulge. And we make sure all of our dietary needs are met, so veggie burgers, hot dogs, gluten-free pie, and a big salad always make the menu.
I love this part of my annual trip to Maine. It grounds me into the place I come from and the life I have shared there. And yet, this year, I know I need some extra quiet, some extra solitude, most likely some fasting and lots of rest. I will savor every moment with my kids, and I will relish the quiet of the rocky shore; I will delight in seeing my siblings and spending time with friends, and I will linger in the forests and meadows. I will take in each morning cup of coffee shared with my dad and stepmom and linger over the streams along the trail regardless of the mosquitos that will surely meet me there. And I will take every moment to remember who I am and whose I am so I can return filled for the ministry we share here in Salem, OR. Yes to "Lobsterpalooza" and yes to solitude.
I don't need the extra rest and solitude because of anything terrible. I need this to stay grounded, filled with the Spirit, refreshed and restored as your Intentional Interim Pastor. I delight daily in my ministry with you and am so proud of the work we have accomplished so far! I am always proud to share with colleagues how you keep stepping up and leaning in. You are a wonderful, kind, caring, curious, playful, honest, faithful church family! And our work over the past year has been intense as we travelled into the mountains searching for the headwaters that will take us to our destination.
As I have reflected on where we have been, I am excited about where we are and where we are going. I think we are about ready to get into those new canoes and head down the Columbia toward the Pacific! But before that, we all need to rest and renew so we have what it takes to safely make it to our destination. I am so happy to hear how many of you are making time for adventures this summer. It is always wonderful to hear stories about the travel, reunions, camping, hiking, and exploring you all do! I suspect it might be fun to have a night where we share a meal and our travel stories sometime this fall. I'm sure I will have a few stories to share.
Until then, I want to thank you for giving me this gift of time and rest and renewal, and some lobster, too. I want to thank you for bearing with one another as we have done so much work this past year. You are a people who truly do "walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace..." (Romans 4:1-3)
With deep gratitude and love,