Back home again in Indiana

We arrived back in Indy in the wee hours of Sunday morning, Aug. 17 after a non-scheduled stop in Boston. Our young adult children met us at the airport. Even though it had only been a week, we were glad to see them. It is good to be home, but much is changing here. Our son, his wife, and their dog left on Monday for their home in Claremont, California. The house seems empty and silent without them. My husband and our daughter have gone back to work and I jumped right into a retreat for field ed. supervisors for Christian Theological Seminary. I find myself only beginning to unravel the significance of this clergy renewal leave. I am eager to return to the church but with a sense of a shift in my pastoral priorities. Upon my return the congregation and I will indeed begin a new dance. We will grow deeper in our love of God, in our care for each other, and in our commitment to faithful living. We are changed by these past three months; all of us. Only God knows the depth of what has occurred in each of us; only God's grace and love can lead us forward. I will spend these next few days prayerfully preparing for my return. How good it will be to see faces, to hear voices, and to reach out as we reconnect with one another. May God walk us well through this time of transition and anticipation.

The Holy Isle of Iona

We truly fell in love with Iona. When the early Celtic Christians decribed it as a "thin place"; a place where God's Spirit's presence is easily discerned; a place thinly veiled between this world and other worlds; a place of healing and sacred hope...they were absolutely correct! While rugged and harsh, Iona gives herself generously to those who tred her shores. She has a sense about her that draws one into her and helps one "see" life with more clarity and truth. We took a pilgrimmage walk across the island (led by the Iona Abbey community). We stopped at Celtic crosses, crossroads, the bay, St. Columba's holy hill, and the other side of the island. We tossed a Ionian rock into the sea symbolically tossing away whatever burden we carried. Then we took a second rock to keep with us as a sign of God's hope and presence in our lives. Our pilgrimmage led us through the Iona golf course; such as it is! You can play for free if you don't mind sharing the space with the sheep and cattle that graze there!. We worshipped at the Iona Abbey; an ancient building from the 1500's. Our worship was both traditional and creative. It suggests that we long for the ritual of tradition while craving the creative twists to words and prayers and practices that keep our faith from growing stale. The community has made a commitment to ministries for peace and justice. Those were very much reflected in the worship. I could have bought out the bookstore, but will order online to save our luggage weight!. I feel very much at home on this marvelous island and already long for the day when I will return. God has offered me renewal, peace of mind, creative stirrings, and hope for the Church while I've rested, read, reflected, and wondered this holy place. Thanks be to God for grace abundant and strong!

This pilgrim has landed!

August 10
Determination and flexibility lead one to Iona! In other words, it is not easy to reach this place, but oh, so worth the effort. Having arrived in Oban late on Saturday evening, we meandered through the street to find our hotel. It was small and not at all glamorous, but sufficient for a night's rest. The next morning we booked passage on the Caledonian-MacBrayne ferry to the Isle of Mull. We crossed to Mull at 14:00 (2:00 P.M.). The ferry was large and the ride smooth. Arriving at the village of Craignure on Mull we waited two hours for the only Sunday bus across the island. Our bus ride, as yesterday's train trip, led us through some of the most beautiful yet rugged terrain God ever created! The mountains are covered with green; most of which is small growing shrubs and ferns. Yet, bare outcroppings of rock stand majestically facing the harsh Highland winds. Traveling along a single-way road, we frequently paused to let cars coming the other direction pass us by. A few times we breaked for sheep and goats to cross the road; clearly the animals scavenge every where for food. We saw more waterfalls, Highland cattle (bushy long hair and large horns), more heather, and few homes. One must be tough to survive the weather and conditions on this island. After a forty minute drive we arrived at Fionnphort to take yet another ferry to the island of Iona. This was the only ferry on Sundays! As we crossed to Iona we could see the Abbey and our hotel. The village is small and there is not much here. In one sense it feels that we have reached the end of the earth and on the other hand it feels like we have reached the very foothills of heaven! This island is indeed sacred and holy! I find myself overwhelmed with joy and a deep sense of belonging as we settle into our hotel and get the lay of the land.
Our hotel is cooperatively owned by residents of Iona. They share a deep commitment to the environment. Only enviromentally cleansers are used, meals are prepared with locally grown vegetables, and they composte all food waste with the other hotel on the island. Truly they recognise the wonder of God's creation and the desparate need to save this creation for the best use by all God's creatures. We are ready to explore while the weather is good, so I bid you "good-bye" for now!

Exploring London with friends

Aug. 5-8
We just spent several days with friends in London and had a very enjoyable time! On the 5th we left Strasbourg by train to Paris and then took the Eurostar train through the chunnel (the tunnel in the English channel) to London. Barely made it passed immigration becuase we did not have the proper address of where we would be staying in the U.K. (security is as high here as at home!) We arrived at London's St. Pancras station at 5:30 and were met by Kevin Ferguson. Kevin is a Lilly employee who was transfered to England for three years. Our lives have intersected with his family's in multiple ways the past nine years. It was such a pleasure to see a friendly face in this large bustling metropolis!
Immediately we crossed the street to King's Cross station where we visited the famous Platform 9 3/4 (any Harry Potter fans reading this will understand the thrill!). The Ferguson's live in Sunningdale, over an hour outside London. They were our outstanding hosts as they led us through little English villages; took us to a pub to eat fish and chips, traveled with us into London to see the Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, St. Paul's Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, Hyde Park, Trafalgar Square and Harrod's! On Friday we traveled out of London to Stonehenge. How incredibly awesome! The original intent and purpose of these stone structures is much disputed, but I must say that a sense of the sacred filled me as we circled the great henge! To me, they are a holy site that draws me closer to my Creator! I worshipped at Stonehenge!
We are so grateful to the Ferguson's for their hospitality to us! It is no small feat to take in 5 guests, three of whom you've never met! We enjoyed time with their three children and felt right at home with their family dog! We are blessed to have friends who welcomed us into their homes and showed us their new lives in the U.K.
On Saturday our son, his wife, and our daughter returned to the States while Fred and I began our adventure to Scotland. It was not an easy trip. It appears vandalism happens here as well as at home! Vandals had broken the signals along the track line we would take to Edinbourgh. Thus, when the train finally departed it was over full. Fred stood the entire four hours to Edinbourgh! However, the beauty of the ride from Glasgow to Oban (heading towards Iona) was breathtaking! We saw waterfalls, Loch Lomand, the ruins of a castle, and rugged mountains. Those of you who know anything about the musical "Brigadoon" will appreciate that we spotted heather growing on the hills!!!! Of course, I loved every minute of it!
Today we are off to Iona and the settlement of Celtic Christians! I will be looking for these thin places where God's Spirit intervenes!

From Freiburg to Fackenthal

July 31-Aug. 4
We have had some wonderful family bonding time the past few days! Having safely and easily managed the German train system we arrived in the city of Frieburg, nestled in the southwestern corner of Germany. Jeremy took us to the Goethe Institute where he studied one summer as well as showing us the dormitory building where he lived with the other students! We spent the rest of the our time strolling through the Old Town, enjoying ice cream from a balcony across from the cathedral (as a band played German tunes). Freiburg is a beautiful city and Jeremy felt very much at home as he showed us "his" German city!
But we had to move on to new adventures. Two short train rides brought us into Strasbourg, France- home of the European Parliament and Union. Strasbourg is the main city of the Alsace region. We spent the first day and a half taking in the sights of this wondrously old city (both Strasbourg and Freiburg date back into the Middle Ages). The cathedral in Strasbourg is magnificent. Although it does not have the same character as the great Renaissance cathedrals of Florece or Sienna, it is a wonder to behold. On the first Sunday of the month there is no cost to climb to the top of the cathedral spire, so climb, climb, climb, climb we did (don't know how many steps, but we could see all of the surrounding countryside from the top!) We have eaten much spatzele, tort flambe, crepes, and sipped much kaffee at sidewalk cafes! The French know their food!
However, the true highlight took place today as we rented and car and took off in search of the Fackenthal area! We drove out of Strasbourg (kudos to Fred for handling a French automobile and the road!) and headed into the Black Forest. Deep in the forest we followed the curving road and came upon none other than the campground "Le Fackenthal" located next to the Rue de Fackenthal! We laughed and celebrated to see the family name on a sign! Along with the campground is a restaurant named Fackenthal. Sadly, it was not open on Mondays (couldn't rent a car on a Sunday, ugh!). We enjoyed taking pictures and continued on into the area of the Fackenthal village (just a few homes-not even a sign). We did also find Fackenkopf; the mountain! We drove through the Black Forest, lunched in a small village where they only had the daily special (noodles and beef!), then back to Strasbourg.
As I recall the purpose of the clergy renewal leave I reflect on how precious time with family is part of my spiritual and relational vitality. I am forever grateful for this trip and especially for our visit to the campground "Le Fackenthal"!

Visiting the Homeland (at least for some of the family!)

July 27-30
Sometimes life just doesn't go the way we hope it will! Such was our air travel experience on July 27th. Fred, Kathryn and I were to leave Indy for Philadelphia then on to Munich. However, severe storms across the eastern seaboard caused too much delay leaving Indy and meant we would not make our connection for Munich. Frustrated, tired, and sad we went back home on Sunday night; got up early on Monday and met with a much more pleasant traveling experience. We traveled to Munich via Charlotte on one of the last Lufthansa flights before their strike interrupted air travel. We had telephoned the hotel in Munich so Jeremy and Megan would know we were delayed. It was with much joy and relief to be reunited with the newlyweds on Tuesday morning. The greatest disappointment of missing out on a day in Munich was the cancellation of our visit to the concentration camp, Dachau. It would take over half a day and we just couldn't squeeze it into the shortened time frame. Just a good reason to return some day!
We enjoyed Munich; visiting the Marienplatz (Old town center), Olympicpark and the new BMW headquarters (across the street from Olympicpark). Then we headed by train to Freiburg where our son, Jeremy, had studied during one summer of his college career. Freiburg is a relatively small (in comparison to Munich) city established in the 1300's. We walked into the oldest part of the city for dinner, listened to a German band and ate ice cream on a balcony restaurant overlooking the city square. What a delightfully peaceful evening with our family. Tomorrow Jeremy will take us to the Goethe Institute where he studied and we'll take a gondola/tram ride up the mountain! Fred is in his element; taking pictures and relishing the architecture, both Medieval and modern! We cherish this time with our family of five and thank God daily for Lilly's clergy renewal leave generosity! This is a trip of a lifetime for us and we are trying to savor every moment!

And now we are Five!

July 22, 2008
On Saturday, July 19, our son was married. Such a simple statement to type into a blog site, but so rich with meaning and deepfelt emotion. As I reflect on the wedding my thoughts circle around a theme of Tender moments, Fun moments, and Sacred moments.
The tender moments, upon reflection, are far too numerous to name them all! There is a mother's tears of joy as she watches her son step into the sanctuary and see his bride! There is the tenderness of the bride's choking voice as she speaks her vows amidst her own tears; tears that reveal her deep love and commitment to our son. There is the tender moment of lighting candles in remembrance of grandparents; knowing they would have cherished this day with great joy! There is the tenderness of a dance where whispered words reveal the heart of true friendships. There is the tender moment of hearing our daughter call the bride, not her sister-in-law, but her sister! There is the tenderness felt as congregational members sacrificed hours on the road toward Wisconsin to attend their pastor's son's wedding! What a joy to see all the congregation who could attend! Oh, how I miss them and feel my heart tugging toward sabbatical's end!
Fun moments bubbled through the day like the bubbles that sent the bride and groom on their way. There were fun moments during the homily as one of three ministers noted characteristics and qualities of the couple. There was much clapping and fun as the newlyweds were introduced to those gathered! There was much fun sharing multiple flavors of cake and ice cream at the reception. Fun defined the dinner celebration with games and dancing for those who dared!
But it is the sacred moments that I will treasure in my motherly heart. The blessing of all hands extended towareds the couple as we offered them our blessing of support, love, and encouragement for their marriage-this was a sacred moment. Hearing the words of Micah 6:8 and Ruth 1 was a sacred moment for these are the words this couple intends to live by- justice, kindness, love, and commitment to each other and to God. The sharing of Holy Communion with the couple and those in attendance became a holy meal of wedding trust and celebration.
How thankful and full my heart is. I'm so very touched by friends and family who shared this day with us and extended their blessing and prayers to our son and new daughter. Now we are a family of five and it feels so very very right!

Thoughts on Sabbaticals, consumerism, inclusion and other random stuff

July 10, 2008
These past three weeks have provided me with the opportunity to partially satisfy my voracious appetite for learning. In other words, I've been reading...lots! I have thoroughly been blessed by:
The Gift of Being Yourself by David G. Benner
When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron
The Sabbath by Abraham Heschel
and am currently reading: Mandate to Difference-An invitation to the contemporary church by Walter Brueggemann
My head is so full it is spinning with ideas and reflections about my personal life as well as our collective lives in today's culture. I'm always amazed at the timing for reading what I read. Some of these books I've had sitting on my bookself for years. I'm just finally getting around to reading them, but their suitability for me, at this moment, during this sabbatical, is simply profound. They are meeting me in this moment and stirring my soul with their rich wisdom.
Both Heschel (obviously by his title) and Brueggemann discuss the call to Sabbath adherence. Now, I must confess, that as a child, and especially as a teen, I just rolled my eyes at the pastor who continually bemoaned the fact that more stores and restaurants remained open on Sundays. I cringed in pity for my teen friends when he rampaged about faithful Christians being strong enough to refuse to work on Sundays. So, needless to say, I've not been a huge enforcer of Sabbath observance. But, I have been thinking about Sabbath in terms of sabbatical; about what it means to step away from my vocation as a pastor and just "be" me without the Rev. in front of my name for three months. I've also been thinking about what it means to step away and rest. In many ways it is wondrously and luxuriously glorious! I'm sleeping better than I have in months. I'm less anxious and stressed than I have been in ages. I'm actually enjoying the mundane things of life that normally irritate me; meal preparation, sorting through closests, laundry, and caring for the flowers along the front porch. I've been able to walk the dog most evenings without hurrying to get back to work on the sermon or to a meeting. But I'm also realizing a deeper, more substantial sabbatical transition occurring. I am not in a hurry to participate in our consumer driven "acquisitiveness" (ala Brueggemann, pg. 64). I find myself wanting to slow down everything about my life-to slow down my spending power, to slow down my eating habits, to slow down my need to think I should as an American have it all! This brings about a renewed recognition that our capitalistic society runs on the fuel of $$$ being made. We have come to a point in our culture that this $$$making has to happen 24/7 with no breaks for anyone or anything. As consumers we demand that all good be accessible at all times. As producers of goods, it is demanded that we have all goods available at all times. Both Brueggemann and Heschel speak of Sabbath observance as the time to be released from this incessantly demanding society. Sabbath becomes a day to enjoy the pleasures of life that cannot be purchased or handed to us at a drive-thru window. When we adhere to the Sabbath we give ourselves a break from all that our consumer driven culture tells us we need. That means (and this I surmise from Brueggemann also) every seventh day we enter into an alternative lifestyle that defies the mandates of the world! Every seven days we enter into a lifestyle that seeks relationship with God, with creation, and with each other over seeking more, more, more of any and everything! Every seven days we enter into a lifestyle that slows us down and calls us to "attend" to our selves. Every seven days we are reminded that life is more than making $$$ and selling ourselves to the ways of our culture.
Every seven days we rest. Resting is good. Resting is necessary. Resting is renewal of our spiritual and relational vitality. I will stop now, for it is time for me to rest.

Traveling Companions

July 9, 2008
The theme of Journey recurs in scripture. We read of the journey of Abram away from his homeland to the place where God led him. We know that Issac journeyed back to this homeland to find his bride, Rebekah. The whole people of Israel journeyed out of the bondage of Egypt through the wilderness and into the Promised Land. Jacob journeyed when he fled his deceitful deeds. Ruth journeyed with her mother-in-law Naomi. Jesus journeyed with his family to Jerusalem for festival days. He told of the journey of the man who was beaten and left for dead; who was ignored as religious and social leaders passed him on the road; who was finally rescued by a fellow journeyer-the Samaritan man who gave him medical aid and paid for his room and board as he recovered.
This theme of journey still speaks today. During my recent travels through Netherlands and Italy I noticed the encouragement and support offered to us and others by our traveling companions. As my friend, Peg, and I attempted to find our seats on our first Eurorail excursion, a young Australian couple assisted us- pointing us to our seats and telling us how to store our luggage. At journey's end of another train trip a different Australian young man took the time to carry luggage for several women (those of us who were no longer in the "youthful" age-range!). On that same occasion, Peg transported luggage for another woman who'd had a back injury. Peg's graciousness led to a luncheon invitation in Siena where we ate with two women-one from Massacheusetts and one from Pennsylvania. A time of friendship and discovery emerged as we shared some of our life stories with each other. During our tour of Rome we found comfort and companionship with our tour group-relishing in the sites and passing along our perspectives of the tour as well as what it was like to be Americans visiting in Italy.
I realized from these varied encounters how much I value traveling companions. I could not imagine traveling to Netherlands and Italy alone; I was glad to have Peg accompanying me. I was grateful for help from others as well as the opportunities to be of assistance to some.
Our lives are a journey. The destination, where we end up, seems to distract us from focusing on the actual journey of life. As a traveler on this road of life, I have come to understand the teachings of Jesus to be more about how we live now than about getting into heaven. The story of the Good Samaritan illustrates this point. The two religious leaders who passed by the wounded man may very well have been more interested in reaching their destination than attending to what was going on all around them on the journey. If I focus only on my destination I miss the richness of what I can encounter on the journey. I also miss the opportunities to share my journey with someone else; to become involved in other's lives and dreams.
I also miss the richness of relationships! I need traveling companions! I need persons with whom I can celebrate and grieve the different parts of our journeys. Iam grateful for the many companions in my life; for friends, for a congregation of loving companions, for my family, my children, and my husband. Each person contributes to the journey when I attend to what is around me and in us all. Thank you, God, for the gift of traveling companions; for the journey and all it bring!

Is it always better to give than to receive: lessons on receiving

July 3, 2008
It seems impossible that this clergy renewal leave began over one month ago. Since I arrived back in the States late June I've attended to wedding details (yes, the parents of the groom really do have a few responsibilities!), time with family, and reading. I am presently focusing much of my energy on "attending" to what is going on around and inside me; spiritually, intellectually, mentally, and emotionally. So much of my life gets engulfed in hurrying from one appointment, one sermon, one Sunday, one visit to another that I found myself starved for the space and time to pay attention to how I respond to all that happens around and within me.
For example, today I lunched with a seminary student; a delightful woman who already brings rich gifts and graces to God's call for her life. In speaking about an upcoming mission trip she reflected on a past experience. She pondered how Scripture tells us it is more "blessed to give than to receive" and talked about how that is not always so. On her pervious mission experience families from the local village would prepare a daily lunch meal for the mission team. My student told of how necessary it was for her to learn to accept/receive the meal becuase it honored those who prepared and served it.
As I attended to what was going on in me at that moment I thought about how hard I find it to receive. I thought back to my visit with Lauran Bethell in Amsterdam. Lauran is a wonderfully gracious missionary whose light ability or gift is hospitably serving others. Practicing a Thai custom, she brought coffee to us as we awakened in our beds each morning. Her hospitaility continued with delicious meals beautifully presented and with a kind spirit that refused my offers to clean up! Lauran would not let me lift a hand to help. What a struggle this created in me! After all, my mother and other wise women, had taught me to get involved and help out when I visited in someone's home. There resides deep in my mind a notion that a good guest is a helpful guest! I felt inadequate, weak, and at "loose ends" as I surrendered to Lauran's hospitality! I realized I struggled with the idea that I was not contributing to the household acitivity there! It felt strangely peculiar simply to accept someone's care for me when I spend so much time as pastor, wife, and mother caring for others.
This renewal time is a life lesson on receiving. I am learning to face each day with an attentiveness that leads me to receive. This receiving comes from the birds singing outside our home office window, from the spaciousness of silence as I find no desire for TV, music or radio "noise" around me, from my family as I engage with their lives on a calmer less stressed level, from God as my soul is refreshed through these reflections and ponderings. I am only now just beginning to grasp the truth that I cannot give unless I have first received. Scripture rightly says it is a blessing to give, but our giving only comes from the filling we gain when we receive.

Siena to Rome: June 15-20

Two cities could not be more different than Siena and Rome. Siena (admittedly my favorite) was established in about 30 AD. This ancient city greets you as you climb the steep hill and pass through her city wall. Truly Medieval, Siena has one of the oldest piazza's (a square or gathering area) in the world. Quite unplanned we entered the piazza Sunday evening just as two of the city's districts began to march through with drums and flag waving/throwing (ala "Under the Tuscan Sun"). It seem this medieval custom is repeated on Sunday night in June leading up to a horse race each July. Siena is divided into at least six districts which compete in the horse race annually. The champion then "reigns" over the city for the next year. It's a hugely big deal, so we were thrilled to get a taste of the excitement. We visited the Basicilica Saint Catherine; dedicated to Catherine of Siena. This woman mystic from the Middle Ages defied her day by becoming one of the most educated, influential, and respected women of Roman Catholicism. It is said of Catherine that her letters and writings caused the Pope to radically alter decisions on behalf of the Vatican and the Church. I have been drawn to Catherine since church history class, so I was honored to visit the church named for her.
From Siena we traveled to Roma. Ah, Rome, now that's quite a contrast! The population of Rome stands at around 5 million. While it retains much of its ancient charm, it is a bustling metropolitan city with all that image implies! Most certainly we were "ripped off" in Rome, at least twice, but I will always treasure the memory of it's beauty and rich heritage. To stand in the heights of the Coliseum, to walk up ancient Palatine Hill, to crane one's neck to behold the beauty of Michelangelo's work in the Sistine Chapel is to gaze into a world far gone, but ever continuing its impact on our day. I easily pictured Romans in togas walking along the dusty cobbled streets of the Roman Forum. I could just imagine Michelangelo on his back with pain dripping into his face as he painted his greatest work. Beauty and splendor abound in Rome! I have been blessed by the glories of great art and find my soul soaking up the spiritual vitality these works offer me.
For all it provides, I find myself longing for home. I miss my family and look forward to my time with them.

A World of Art: Florence-June 13 and 14

We traveled to Florence via the Eurostar train. I have to say it rides wonderfully well and the service is quite fine. A young Australian man assisted us with our luggage so we did not have to lift it over our heads. We are finding that tourists help each other as we manuever through foreign countries together! Hospitality and grace abound; once again breaking American's stereotypes of persons outside our experience range.
Every place we visit seems to be better than what came before. However, I realize it is just the joy and awe of each new experience. Florence (Firenze in Italian) is quite a marvelous city. The ancient narrow streets immediately take you back to Medieval times! While the atmosphere reminds me that I am in an ancient city; the shops tell me this is modern times! Versace, Gucci, Salvatore Ferrengo, and other designer shops fill the centuries old buildings of Florence.
Art abounds in this city! On Friday we visited the Accademia where Michaelangelo's David stands tall and strong. This famous sculpture brought me to tears with its elegant lines and fine details! While many Americans tend to be embarrassed because all of David's body parts are visible, , Renaissance artists viewed the human body as a thing of beauty to be admired.
On Saturday we toured the Duomo (cathedral) of Santa Maria Del Fiore and the Baptistry Don Giovanni. This duomo was masterfully created by many artists including Michaelangelo, Giotto, and Donatello! Words cannot describe its majesty or beauty. If you have seen "Under the Tuscan Sun" this is the church visible in the background while the character, Francis, is touring Italy. In the afternoon we toured the Uffizi art gallery, home to some of the most well known Italian art. Quite serendipitously (becuase I didn't quite know what I ordered online) our tickets came with a quided tour. It was worth every penny. A gracious Italian woman, Barbara, took us through the galleries explaining in detail the great works of Botticelli, DaVinci, Micaelangelo, Donatello, and Raphaell.
As I reflect upon all the great art I've seen I'm reminded that God has gifted us each with "Light abilities"; a means to live out our lives using the gifts and strengths we each have. These great artists shone the Light of God's love through their works of sculpture, fresco, painting, relief, etc... How grateful I am for their gifts. They often were employed by the Roman Catholic church or wealthy patrons of the church. Frequently these artists found themselves in disagreement with the Church, but their work continued to express deep faith and awe.

Surprised by Padova (Padua)-June 12

Today we took the bus line from Noventa Pavona, where the Kelsey's live, to Padova. Padova is a quaint Renaissance city that one can easily overlook on a trip to Italy. Indeed, I would not have visited here had not Debbie Kelsey recommended it. What a blessed surprise to find this ancient city full of Roman ruins, magificent basilicas, and some of the greatest works of art ever created. Our visit began in the Scrovengi Chapel where the artist and architect, Giotto, painted his most famous frescoes. These marvelous paintings that adorn the walls and ceilings of this chapel are known as the beginning of a whole new era in art. Three tiers of frescoes fill the chapel; each tier depicting aspects of the life of Mary and Jesus as well as the crucifixion. Particularly interesting was Giotto's rendering of Heaven and Hell. The Scrovengi family thrived on their skills in usury. This scene shows a member of the family at the foot of the cross with his usury bag handed over to the Virgin Mary. Some persons descending to the depths of Hell also hold the usury bags. It seems the family attempted to pay their way out of their misuse and abuse of others. To enter the chapel it is necessary to pass through a decontamination chamber. Once inside visits are restricted to 15 minutes.
From this chapel we walked through ancient Padova to the Basilica di Sant' Anthony. This extremely large and beautiful church is to home to more Giotto frescoes as well as Donatello sculptures. Saint Anthony's tomb rests in a side chapel with his tonge, jaw, and voicebox displayed in separata cases. It seems he was an awesome preacher so the people chose to cut out these important body parts pertaining to speech to remember him! Ah, my pastor friends, should we wish for such a display of honor and respect?! Ugh! Just let our congregants say we did not put them to sleep! That will suffice for me!
Aside from the body and parts of Saint Anthony, I pondered the fact that this as well as other cathedrals/basilicas/churches of the Middle Ages and beyond feature such immense opulence. I struggle with so much money poured into a building. But as I walked through and saw persons in prayer, I was also aware of how profoundly sacred these places become. While God is not in the relics, the tongues of saints, or even in the ornate decor, there is a sense of divine peace and hope in the quiet of these structures. I walk outside having had a moment of grace and an encounter with the divine.
We are not sure about our internet access from this point of our journey simply because we will be leaving our missionary guides with their touches of home. Keep looking for new posts, but pictures will come later. Ciao, from Padova!

Four Continents and a Caravan-June 10

Peg and I spent today exploring a small market here in the village where ABC/USA missionaries, Jim and Debbie Kelsey, live. The Kelsey's arrived in Italy last fall with a ministry focused on assisting immigrant Baptist congregations. Debbie had begun a ministry among the prostitutes of the red light district in Ghent, Belgium. She joins a similar ministry in progress here in Padova (Padua).
This evening we went with Debbie to the lovely town of Vicenza where she had been asked to speak to the Valdencian Methodist women. The main purpose for the event was a faith movement among Methodists known as "Caravan of Peace." This movement seeks to bring together people of various countries in an effort to build understanding and to dialogue about the many ways to share peace in God's world. Beatriz, a woman from Uruguay, had journeyed to Italy to share her peace efforts working with women and children victimized by domestic violence. The evening turned out to be an incredible encounter with God's presence moving among persons from four continents. The little church is blended with Italians and immigrant from Ghana (in Africa). As Debbie began to share both about her work in Belguim and the prostitution issues in Padova the group of 15 erupted with comments and questions. Debbie's words (her first presentation in Italian) were translated into Spanish for Beatriz and then back into English for some of the Ghanans! I sat in awe as I realized the bubbling passionate concern for the situation of prostitutes in Italy (where 1 out of 3 Italian men visits a prostitute at least once a year-a statistic that is matched in many countries-not sure about U.S.) Both the men and women present agonized over the statistics and the awareness that numerous African immigrants are trafficked into prostitutions to pay off the debt for their passage to Italy; many of whom are underaged.
I also realized that this tiny group of concerned persons; ernestly desiring peace in many forms, represented four different continents! We listened, we prayed, we ate, and we came together in God's holy name to build bridges of peace.
Following a scrumptious meal we regathered in the tiny sanctuary for a meeting of concerned citizens. They met to discuss their thoughts on the proposed expansion of the U.S. military base in Vicenza. I listened with deep humility as I discovered that these people shared grace concern about the role of the U.S. in the world these days. Many expressed intense apprehension at the thought of a base expansion; fearing for their country becuase of our presence there. I felt deep despair as I realized our country no longer has the respect and support it once held, at least in this one village in Italy.
Please pray with me for peace in God's world. Pray for women in Amsterdam, Ghent, Padova, and Indianapolis who are forced into the life of prostitution; pray for women like Beatriz who bring comfort and security to victims of domestic violence; pray for peaceful ways to share this glorious earth and live with others- on four continents, on five continents, on all of God's world.

Dutch and the Divine-Sunday, June 8

This morning we worshipped at Meerkerk, a dutch independent Baptist church outside Hoffddorp. Friends of Lauran's pastor here, but they were on holiday for their anniversary. While worship was all in the Dutch language, I enjoyed attempting to sing along and recognize words (Herr=Lord). I may not have understood much, but I boldly sang out "Shine, Jesus, Shine"! Built on the megachurch model, the worship is contemporary with a stage, lights, and praise team. Afterwards we stood outside in the sunshine sharing koffee with Anouk, another of Lauran's friends. I found tremendous reassurance in the awareness that language simply acts as the means of expression for our worship, while the particulars of language or style merely suit our purposes rather than God's.
In the afternoon we traveled to Kinderdijk, a small village that is also home to some 15 windmills. Lauran drove with care as we entered the village; seeking to avoid the many bicyclist. These were not bicyclists as we would see in the States. These were entire Dutch families; many dressed in traditional Sunday attire known as Black Socks (not a baseball team!). The men wore black suits, white shirts, and black ties; while the women attired themselves in severe dark suits and hosery. Many Dutch continue to hold to the older practices of the Dutch Reformed Church. Their faith is strong and their devotion to God totally negates any myth that all Europeans are secularists. At 6:00 PM they were back on their bikes heading towards the kerk (church). Faith and family predominate the values of the Dutch.

I Amsterdam

I Amsterdam
The Canal across from the Anne Frank Haus

Amsterdam; days 1 and 2

We arrived safely in Amsterdam early the morning of June 6. Missionary consultant, Lauran Bethell, met Peg and I at the airport.
As I reflect on our activities for the first day I find myself rejoicing at the mercy, compassion, and hospitality of others! I have seen God's handiwork in both simple and tremendous acts of kindness and grace. The simple graces have been visible in the graciousness of our host, Lauran. A world traveler and frequent speaker, she has extended such warmth and comfort to two female pastors traveling in Europe together. Lauran, having served as a missionary in Thailand for over 15 years, greets us each morning with a Thai custom. She knocks on the door of our room handing us each a cup of delicious fresh brewed coffee (made points with me right there!). She also will not allow us to lift a hand with dishes or straightening around her apartment, reminding us that we are on sabbatical!
Other simple acts of kindness have come from the people of Amsterdam. Nearly everyone speaks some level of English. As Peg and I arrived in Amsterdam yesterday to sightsee we found people to be wondrously gracious and helpful. On the tram to the Anne Frank house a young man kept telling us at every stop, "Not yet". He kindly let us know when we'd reached our destination.
The larger acts of kindness reflect the inner good of humanity. Lauran took us to the home of Corrie Ten Boom, whose family hide Jews from the Nazis. Corrie was taken to a concentration camp and experienced similar atrocities as the Jews who were forced into the camps by Hitler's army. Corrie's family took a huge risk, but did so out of their faith in God and their sense of care for fellow humans.
Friday evening Lauran took us to the Red Light district of Amsterdam. We saw the young women who literally stand scantily clad in full length "store" windows and beckon men to them. Most of these young women have come into the trade via a "lover boy"; a man who has convinced them to sell their bodies. The girls' lives are controlled by the lover boys.
Thankfully many ministries exist in the district. One of the them, The Scarlet Cord (named for Rahab's cord), reaches out to these women showing them God's love and grace for them.
Yes, God's goodness shines through in this place; in small and large ways. I am so very blessed to see the handiwork of God and it encourages me to look when I come home; to spend time daily reflecting on such acts in Indianapolis; both large and small.

Saturday, May 24, 2008


Hello and welcome to a pastor's journey toward renewal. Today is May 24 and the renewal leave begins in just 8 days. I look forward to the events of this leave and to the reflections it will bring.

The itinerary for the summer follows:
June 1 Send-off Celebration at Garfield Park
June 2-4 Preparation time
June 5 Fly to Amsterdam
June 5-9 Visit ABC/USA missionary, Lauran Bethel. Journey into the city's Red Light district with her. Speak with women trapped in prostitution. Observe Lauran's ministry as she seeks to lead them to lives of health and wholeness.
June 10-12 Visit missionaries, Jim and Debbie Kelsey. Debbie also works to rescue women from sex trafficking.
June 13-14 Florence, Italy-enjoy great works of art!
June 15-16 Sienna-retreat in the heart of Tuscany
June 17-20 Rome-former capitol of the Empire and current home to Roman Catholicism
June 21- Fly home to Indy
June 22-July 26 Renewal period for reading, reflecting, researching, and writing
July 27 Fly with family to Munich
July 28-30 Tour Munich and Dachau
July 31-Aug. 1 Freiburg; where our son studied one summer during college.
Aug. 2-4 Strasbourg and the village of Fackenthal
Aug. 5-8 London and Stonehenge
Aug. 9 Travel to Oban, Scotland
Aug. 10-13 Isle of Iona, center of Celtic Christianity
Aug. 14-15 Glasgow
Aug. 16 Return to Indy
Aug. 17-Sept. 1 Time to re-engage in pastoral ministry!
Sept. 2 Return to Garfield Park Baptist Church!