Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Quiet gratitude...

O, wad gift the Giftie gie us,
to see oursels as others see us!

(an ould Scots rhyme)

It's now officially Wednesday morning. I should be in bed, but I'm not. Nothing new there...

In about 22 hours, I will be with my sisters in Ohio for Thanksgiving weekend. I'm more than ready to be there, too. (I can smell the family-tradition stuffing from 240 miles away...) The weather forecast is for cold, snow and slush across northern Indiana and northwest Ohio - so my travel goal will simply be "slow and steady progress," with a lot of music and more than a few phone conversations to keep me company as I eat up the eastbound miles.

This evening, I made the mistake of looking back at my Thanksgiving-eve post from a year ago. The problem is, every single word of that post is still true today - so it seems a little redundant to repeat it all in this space. But in retrospect, it also sounded a little bit like a blogger's Oscar acceptance speech - there is perhaps more of a strain of pomposity woven through the gush of gratitude than I would have liked to have seen in that posting.

It's that awareness, which is happening on so many levels in my life, that is making this Thanksgiving both sweeter and more bittersweet than last year.

A week or more ago, a friend said to me, "You haven't been blogging much lately," and I half-heartedly replied, "Yeah, well, I haven't felt much like being inspiring." His snappy comeback hit home: "Oh, well, not to worry - you never really were inspiring, anyway." More truth than I wanted to hear, at the time...but truth, nonetheless.

This year has been one of constant digestion of truths like that - or, perhaps, indigestion. I've spent this year alternating between just trying to survive, putting one foot in front of the other, and then chewing my way slowly through a number of uncomfortable revelations about myself, my motives, and the consequences of my actions over the last several years. It's all been necessary - and a great deal of it has been good and worthwhile, but not much of it has been comfortable, to be honest.

What's different, this year?

Well, my material condition is considerably less bad than it was a year ago. By last Thanksgiving-time, I'd only been working steadily for two weeks...I was still smarting from post-seminary financial reverses that I couldn't even have imagined a year earlier. And those continued through this year, despite a low-but-steady income all year. Even on the cusp of being made a full-time, really-real employee again, life's still gonna be less than peaches-and-cream for a while. But it's a whole lot better than it was a year ago - for which I give much thanks.

I have wandered for a year without really participating in a faith community. Oh, I've attended a bunch of 'em - notably Fourth Presbyterian of Chicago - but I never really found a place where I could really feel "a part of." And I think it's going to take some time before I'll really feel comfortable going back and getting in the middle of a church community again. It will happen - this particular man was not meant to live his faith life alone, to be sure - but I'm going to need to do some healing first.

My saving grace this year has been quadruply-anchored in the love of my sisters; the support, encouragement and love I've received from the community of recovery; the ongoing prayers of my brothers and sisters in faith, both from my Kansas congregation and from Fourth Pres; and the accountability and encouragement of my online sisters and brothers in the blogosphere. Without each of you, I do not believe I would have had the strength to "keep on keepin' on," as my mentor Tex Sample used to say. And for each of you, I am eternally grateful to God.

And I'm thankful for at least the willingness to take the painful steps toward being more honest - about my life, my faith, and my struggles with them both. There is much more to say about that journey - but at least today I'm aware I don't have to say it all tonight. Or this morning, as the case may be...

As the old spiritual goes, "I ain't where I wanna be, and I ain't where I'm gonna be, but thank you Jesus, I ain't where I used'ta be." It's been a long, strange trip - but it' a long way from over, too. And today, I really do believe that the best is yet to be...

To each and every one of you who have read my feeble scratchings, and have shared your thoughts and your hearts in this space, I'll steal the words of Shakespeare: "I can only say thanks, and thanks, and ever thanks." You've helped make the journey more than worthwhile; you've pushed and pulled me when I've wanted to stay rooted, and you've both lifted me up and kicked my ass precisely when I've needed it the most. That is a gift that's worth celebrating.

Happy Thanksgiving, y'all...

11 comments:

Nathan said...

Top 3 Ways You Can Tell Steve is Inspirational:

1. His Lips are Moving
2. He is Blogging
3. He is in your presence

Steve,
Your perspective of life is inspirational. I am sure your freinds tounge was in his cheek.

Have a great T-Day and safe travels.

Nathan

Danford said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you, brother. Another powerful post. You truly walk in the way of the Lord, right with God. Keep preaching and teaching.

Hesterman said...

Your friend must be joking unless he is stupid. It would be an to sit in a room and hear you preach in person. You are my model of Christian integrity -- you tell it like it is in your life, brother, keeping nothing back.

Anonymous said...

I keep coming back to your blog because it keeps inspiring me...

Graham said...

I am lifted up by your rigorous honesty and inspired by your teaching almost every day. I don't understand how your friend could feel the way he does about your blog. A truly blessed Thanksgiving, Steve. Your sisters are lucky to have a brother like you, guiding them to Christ by word and example.

Steve F. said...

Thank you all for your comments - your encouragement is a blessing.

To be fair, my friend Tom has a snappy or catty answer for just about everything - and I know to take him with a grain (or a pound) of salt, depending on the topic. He's a good man, and he knows me inside and out - knowing, especially, that I need "ego deflation at depth" more than I need encouragement, most days.

But I also need to be reminded that I have a tendency toward grandiosity and pomposity - a rather unholy synergism, to be sure. Tom's comment reminds me (as he does so well) that I don't need to be inspiring. My job is to be honest, open-minded and willing, and doing that well is the only real hope of inspiring anyone.

curious servant said...

Who knows what will come this year?

Well, I suppose He does.

At any rate, Happy Thanksgiving!

Michael said...

Hope your visit with your sibs was fun and the traditional family stuffing as good as you remember. Since you mention your search for a meadow, I thought you may want to check in on Nathan over at Sacramentum Minimum if you don't go there already. He is asking people to let him know more about their own faith traditions as he works out some frustrations with our Roman communion. Someone may leave some words you find useful. Or you may have some to share yourself. He mentions ELCA in particular as one he wants to know more about.

Mnason said...

I am a lurker, but I need to say that Tom is wrong. You teach honestly and authentically, as a humble servant like a latter-day Paul. Pay no attention to Tom. He may be a "good man" but he sounds far away from The Lord (Romans 11:8). Keep Christ before you, Steve, and keep up your inspiring blog.

JAMS Z said...

Brother Steve,
As one who has rode copilot in the Lime Green Chevette You ave and always been inspirational! Hope things went well tin Toledo, We never made it home.
JAMS Z

Keith said...

I'm with Jams and the others, Steve my brother. You tell it straight and shoot from the shoulder -- inspiring! Keep up the good work.