I love the word, “Comfort.” I love being comfortable. And I am fascinated by the many guises it takes. It can come in the form of a first cup of coffee or hot tea, early in the quiet of the morning, before the rest of the world is awake. I sit in my easy chair, snuggled under my favorite blanket, mildly frustrated with being awake so early. I’m certain my body needs more rest, especially after the stressfulness of the week, yet here I am…again….staring out at the darkness, knowing the day will begin soon.
For now, I have time to let my thoughts wander, pondering my use of time and energy in the last few days. I am remaking myself, given this new lease on life that DBS affords. Returning to my classroom apparently is never going to happen. That routine is beginning to fade as this new “retired with disability” lifestyle takes shape. It’s been exactly 6 months since surgery – half a year of my life. I’m ready to move on!
As always, with “eyes bigger than my stomach,” I can think of a million things I would like to do. There’s no chance of getting bored! Rather, the issue is energy and process thinking. In defense of Parkinson’s and DBS, this may be more a product of my advancing age than a product of a chronic illness. Whatever, the fact remains that there is much in this world that still interests me, and the kid in me wants to dive in and sample everything. At times, I don’t want to be a grown-up, thinking things through, measuring out stamina and focus like precious resources that must be rationed or conserved lest they run out.
As I sift through the possibilities, many of the same questions of my youth are active again: Who am I? What things do I do best? What captures my attention? What things so hold my attention that I cannot ignore it or let it go? What do I want to do?
Several questions from those youthful years are not a part of this debate. The wisdom of the years has shown that some things I once considered frivolous or unnecessary may actually be the most important things of all! For example, I realized, once upon a time, that music is not a luxury, but is part and parcel of most human existence. Hence, I spent a career teaching it, studying it, doing it.
But there were other activities that seemed less important – things that weren’t really a necessary part of life. Age has proved me wrong. There is immense value in a leisurely cup of coffee in the morning, for it gives time for reflection, creative thinking, and just being. Digging in the dirt is also important – much like making mud pies as a child. Then, I was just absorbed in the pretend world of baking, learning to create and serve as I played. Now, the rose garden beckons, promising delicious rewards while I reconnect with the earth itself. Reading a good book is a delightful way to pass a few hours, but as a youth I never understood the immense value of stimulating the imagination, creating worlds that only exist in one’s thoughts.
Photography, always a fascination (thanks to my Dad’s career-long connection to Eastman Kodak), is perhaps the most surprising necessity. Only now am I learning the value of this art form. For me, it’s not so much about the end product, but rather about my ability to listen and see. The camera offers a challenge: Can I honestly see and capture the world as it is? Do I choose to see beauty or ugliness? (There seems to be a sufficient supply of both in this world. The news media certainly does an impressive job of highlighting the worst parts!) It always amazes me how quickly the camera lens shows the remarkable detail of creation – the intricacies of every creature; the patterns, even on the backs of the smallest spiders; the elegance at the center of a flower…
Yesterday, I was privileged to sit before Ordination Council as a final step towards becoming a full-fledged Minister. It’s strange how clearly one can see things, given the right questions! I came away from that meeting with many feelings, but perhaps the most profound was the realization that photography is, for me, a fulfillment Jesus’ command to “Love God.” Taking time to see and record the creativity of the world – the creativity that continues, unbidden and often untended – can be an act of worship. It is an acknowledgement of a Loving God who cares about even the smallest details of existence.
So, as I struggle with what is comfortable in this new phase of the journey, I am struck again by Jesus’ simple summary of all of the commands, rules, and considerations we each face as we make life choices: “Love God. Love your neighbor.” (For you Bible scholars, that’s found in Matthew 22:34-40). How interesting that the things I find most comforting embrace those two directives! The title, “Reverend,” might seem weighty, auspicious, and perhaps a bit pretentious. Yet, it speaks to me of servant-hood, of loving my neighbor, of searching for the image of God in each person I meet. Photographer/Musician and Ministry = Love God and Love your neighbor. (I do so love that clarity!)