Day 74 Wednesday, September 21 Salem to Portland, OR 71 miles
The best part of the day was when my lovely, 22 year-old spirited daughter came into the reception at Eastminster after not seeing me for over 2 months and declared, “Oh my god, dad, you are ripped!” This had nothing to do with alcohol. I, of course, have not recognized the subtle changes in my body as they occurred slowly day by day. But I have changed. I lost over 10 pounds, became quite a bit leaner, and my face now has sharper contours that weren’t there when I left. Indeed, I have changed. My body is different. My view of the world has shifted. I feel more grace and more determination all at the same time. I am psychologically stronger. And I feel more whole, less fragmented and scattered.
I mostly want to say thank you, thank you, thank you to all the people who have supported me, prayed for me, encouraged me, and reflected back just the right question at the right time when I needed a nudge to go deeper, ride lighter, or shift my focus. It would have been a very different pilgrimage if I had not remained connected to all the good people in my life–my children, Phil and Julie, the whole Eastminster clan, the growing community associated with Eastminster’s various ministries, my extended family, and some of the best friends a sometimes quirky and stubborn man could ever hope for. I will apologize now to anyone who might have been offended by my complete solitude in the first weeks. I had to let go of everything in order to re-discover what was truly important. Thank you for your patience and understanding. I am h0me and the good news is, now I know it.
I anticipated a pretty emotional ride in to Portland today. I awoke this morning with more energy than I have felt for many weeks as I knew this was the last leg, the very last leg of the journey. Yet, by the time I had breakfast and had packed, my stomach began to tell me that I was feeling anxious about this re-entry. I compared it to making an airplane landing at the end of wonderful flight. You are really ready to get home, but there is still that anxious few moments just before touchdown where you pray, “Please God, just one more time, make this miracle happen!” Then throughout the ride I noticed the same pattern. At times my legs were driving me forward trying to get home as fast as possible. Minutes later I could feel them let up as I began to feel some nerves about making this transition from the pilgrimage world back into my Portland life. I didn’t really feel like I was home until I walked into my apartment. It was just as I left it (thanks Maggie and Ken!) and I felt the first signs of relief. There is much more of that to come as the whole experience has a surreal feeling to it. I broke down at dinner as a wave of relief suddenly hit me. My wise son said, “I was wondering when that was going to happen.”
I made my way to Eastminster where they had a planned a very warm “Welcome Home” for me. It really did feel like I had come home. We at Eastminster are in a very interesting position. On an organizational life cycle chart our scores show that we are both in the “old age/dying” stage of life and the “birth/infancy” stage. It is a time of rich opportunity even as it is also very fragile. For the church and for me as a pastor it leaves us in an almost constant state of uncertainty and insecurity. Yet, I arrived back and knew this is where I belonged. Whatever is happening there, whatever is unfolding, whatever emerges out of the pilgrimage this is where God has called me to be. I arrived in the parking lot and all I could say was, “I’m home, I’m home, I am really home.”
And then mixed in with all that are these nudgings that I felt as I rode by the Capitol Building in Salem. I began college actually as a political science major before shifting over to religion. I was active in Ronald Reagan’s campaign for president when I was 19 years old (be careful about drawing any judgments about things we did 30 years ago!). In addition to the ministry I have worked also in county services and with state agencies. Eastminster is partnering with the county on providing homelessness services. And, in recent years, I have found myself thrust into positions of leadership on citizen boards in the city.
I am arriving home with these two very strong messages. One, that whatever we have going on at Eastminster, this is where I belong as it continues to unfold. Two, that I have increasingly found my ministry to be shaped by the dialogue and the partnerships that we have nurtured along in the broader community. I have said in previous blogs that I have felt and experienced the lines between the sacred and the secular to be dissolving. I am interested in helping shape how the whole community–government, churches, non-profits and businesses can all work together for the common good. It is religion in public life that especially draws me in.
This pilgrimage really has been about working out my own call. It is becoming much clearer. The good news is that I am already where I need to be as it unfolds. I am already in a church where we are developing community partnerships and working through the issues that that presents. And I already am active in city planning and community development. I think I found myself here by accident and now I know this is where I need to be. My future will unfold from right where I am currently standing and I may only need to be more intentional about fostering the relationship between our churches and the larger community.
T.S. Eliot’s quote was spot on the whole time:
We shall not cease from our exploration. And at the end of all our exploring. Will be to arrive where we started. And recognize the place for the very first time.
I am home. All is well. And now I am truly ripped and ready for the next challenge!