As I walked the dogs on the first morning of fall, I felt a cool breeze on my cheek. When I looked up, I saw the first autumn leaves swirling in the air.
This year as I clean up the squash vines and pick the last tomatoes, I’m so aware of the change of seasons in my life.
For 35 years, my focus has been The Upper Room at 1908 Grand Avenue in Nashville, Tennessee. This ministry and the people who embody it have been an important part of my formation, shaping me into the person I have become. And I am so very grateful.
On the afternoon of November 30th, we will celebrate my retirement from The Upper Room with a service and reception. [I’ll let you know soon how you can join me online for the celebration.]
I am beginning to wonder, Who will I be when I am no longer a staff person of The Upper Room? What will it be like to wake up on a Monday morning and not go to work? How will I adjust to this new schedule (or lack of schedule)?
I am in the fall of life. Like the plants and trees here in Tennessee, some facets of my life are fading and dying, creating space for the new things that the Holy One will be doing in me. I trust that I’ll find the way gracefully, as so many of you have already done.
I ask your prayers for this transition – both for me and for the staff of The Upper Room. And I’d love to hear from you if you have any tips on entering into the season of retirement.
“For everything there is a season.” -Ecclesiastes 3:1, NRSV
I’m excited to announce that I’ll be retiring from The Upper Room at the end of 2022. I plan to stay here in Nashville and learn what retirement looks like for me.
I’ll be welcoming the Rev. Dr. Amy E. Steele who will begin work at The Upper Room as Dean of The Upper Room Chapel and Executive Director of Program Ministries. (I will be serving in an emeritus role with the Chapel.) I hope to dedicate this coming year to documenting content from our out-of-print magazines: Alive Now, Pockets, Weavings, and devozine.
I’m looking forward to time for creativity, worship-leading with The Academy for Spiritual Formation, and just hanging out.
I covet your prayers as I discern how to “finish well” and as I cross this threshold into the next part of my journey.
Artwork by Beth A. Richardson: “The Rabbit,” SoulCollage from 6/21/21.
I’m honored to be in a virtual choir for this video by my friends at Rising Violets (Marie McGilvrey and Jenn Franklin).
Marie wrote the song a few elections back after being saddened by the growing division in this country; at the same time, she began receiving daily visits from a Mockingbird pecking on her backdoor window. Mockingbirds have a beautiful birdsong but are known for singing the songs of other birds. This inspired the song about truly listening to one another, seeing the beauty in diversity and the ultimate oneness we all share.
I hope you’ll watch the video and share it with others who might need these words of hope these days.
I woke up this morning to a world without you.
You were my bright morning star and confidante.
Cheerleader and librarian.
Theologian and comic foil.
When we sat down to talk,
No time was wasted on chitchat, sports, or weather.
We took deep breaths and dove deep.
Last week in the hospital,
I asked, “Are you scared?”
“Yes,” you said.
“Shall I say a prayer?”
“Loving God, give wisdom to the doctors
and comfort to your beloved one.
Let him know he is not alone,
but is surrounded with love and light.”
The last few days you haven’t been responsive.
But yesterday, hospice on the way,
You squeezed my hand and turned your face toward mine,
Giving me the gift of your blessing.
I prayed for your final journey.
“Loving God, give comfort to your beloved one,
To the family and friends who love him so much.
Let him know he is not alone,
but is surrounded with love and light.”
Today you sit down to talk with angels.
No time is wasted on chitchat, sports, or weather.
You are taking deep breaths and diving deep.
On All Saints’ Day, it is not just the saints of the church that we should remember in our prayers, but all the foolish ones and wise ones, the shy ones and overbearing ones, the broken ones and whole ones, the despots and tosspots and crackpots of our lives who, one way or another, have been our particular fathers and mothers and saints, and whom we loved without knowing we loved them and by whom we were helped to whatever little we have, or ever hope to have, of some kind of seedy sainthood of our own.
I’m at my annual conference — Mountain Sky — in session in Billings, Montana. There is so much uncertainty, anxiety, and pain in this place. And yet there is such love and joy that comes from being together in the beloved community. Wherever we are, wherever we are going, we go with this community of beloveds.
These words from Tilden Edwards have spoken to me and to this time of uncertainty in the church. Prayers for all those who are working to try to help us find our way.
In approaching the Spirit’s movements … [we are called to] a habitual leaning into our souls in God, with a quality of trust in the abyss of divine love there, wanting to see our desires transformed in the light of God’s desire for us. We rest attentively in that abyss ultimately without knowing anything except our desires to embody those qualities of soul in our lives. …
Often we are not given … clear sight and [must] rest in our trust that we will be given enough of what we need to see as we go along. … Sometimes decisions need to be made without clear sight, but with just enough light to take a first step in one direction or another, trusting that the Spirit will shape our path with us as we go along. …
[The discernment process] may well not provide clear specific discernment, but over time … it can provide a way of approaching decisions that frees us from a focus on “getting it right,” that is, finding out just what God wants, or else we will be lost. Instead, we become free for a focus on an ongoing divine/human dance together … one that keeps us living out of our deep souls no matter how vague our sense of what decision to make. …
When we live out of our souls in trust, we become looser about knowing, and willing for a blind walk when that is what is given.
Let us trust in Divine Love to guide our steps in these days of struggle. May we allow our spirits to sink into the abyss of divine love, trusting that we will be given “enough of what we need to see as we go along.”
On Wednesday we will welcome Morgan Stafford as our preacher in The Upper Room Chapel. Morgan is working with the Tennessee Annual Conference as a Cross-Cultural Strategist. He will be preaching on “Will We Welcome”?
The service, at 10:45 a.m., is one part of a Day of Prayer for the Healing of the World. We will be gathering as a staff for a day of pray for the world, for our nations and leaders, for our churches, for our communities, families, and friends. We invite your participation from wherever you are. We hope you will send us your prayers for the world so that they may be a part of this day. Share your prayers with us.
Join us in body or spirit on Wednesday, October 18, 8:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. (CDT). 1908 Grand Avenue, Nashville, TN 37212.