Saturday, June 26, 2021

Changing Lanes

Forty years ago I reluctantly attended the Commencement Ceremony at Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Columbus, Ohio. If it was not for the friends with whom I shared this event it would have been completely miserable. The attendance of rituals was not a part of my childhood nor adolescence. Sure, I was present at my High School graduation. Along with walking across the stage shaking hands with a few adults and receiving a folder with my signed diploma, I also played in the band for a couple of selections. Those are the images I remember. I did not attend the University graduation, The diploma was mailed to all students anyway. I do remember who spoke at the Seminary ceremony. I have no idea of the theme of the speaker's address. Probably something to do with the church needing to respond to a changing world.

Honestly, the rituals of the church or at least their formality have never peaked my interest. Early in my career I followed the printed, approved hymnal liturgy to its exact wording. This seemed to be what people expected or at least were conditioned to hear. It also was comfortable for me. Over the years my comfort level with veering from the printed text increased. It seemed strange if not silly to be sharing significant events with others while having my face looking into a hymnal. However, in those years many congregational members where more comfortable if eye contact was avoided.  Eye contact was associated with stern warnings or even belittlement.

Each of the last two Saturdays, I have been a part of celebrations of life. One occurred at a small cemetery while the other was at a county park. Both were free flowing with story-telling, music, interaction, and reflection. No one, including myself had their face in a book. An electronic device provided music in each setting. One had the benefit of a Bluetooth speaker. Written notes on a smartphone were glanced at by a couple of family members and friends. Scripture was shared and reflected upon. Prayers were voiced by those who chose to do so. Lunch was a time of continued conversation, connection, and laughter. 

Early in my career a worry revolved around having a church funeral for an adult who ended his life. Years of struggling with addiction had turned around day-by-day. However, a relapse created enough internal and external turmoil that he ended his life. His parents were longtime members of the congregation. I had no issues with holding the service in the church, as was the standard practice. Yet, some of his relatives expressed their displeasure for such a drastic change in tradition. These people did not make their concerns known to me, but to the parents of the deceased. This was the opening salvo of my strife between pastoral care and the rituals/customs of the organized church and/or local congregation. 

As my active time in pastoral care moves toward its conclusion I am grateful to be a part of these less than "traditional" rituals. Whether it be baptisms, affirmation of faith (confirmation), weddings, renewal of vows, or gatherings at the end of life those attending are no longer spectators. The gathered are looking into the eyes of others. Stories are speaking the realities of:  frustration and forgiveness, grit and grace, stubbornness and substance. These are components of the web which encompasses meaning and connection. Some people bemoan the decline of the church. I sense that the church (support group for sinners) is still strong and vibrant. It has moved out of a building into the fabric of daily life. This is where it should be practiced.

A diverse community yet 
enjoying a common connection.

In the month of July, both on my YouTube channel and on this blog I will share perspectives which have changed during my decades of pastoral ministry in multiple settings. If I ran for political office no doubt my opponent would blast me for "flip-flopping" on issues. For me the dissonance between policy and practice is ever present. The answers come through listening, interacting, studying, reading, and allowing faith to be interwoven with current existence.  I am grateful to have been given the opportunity to be a part of the lives of so many people!

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Can You Pull It Off?

About a decade ago a local, word-of-mouth gravel road, bike event debuted as the Woodchipper 100. The

Ryan on the 200 mile route.
original organizers experienced life events which jeopardized the continuation of the event. Thus I became the coordinator. As an advocate of gravel roads, along with the community formed by like minded riders new events emerged. Staying with the "wood" theme, a late spring 200 mile distance was birthed in 2015. The Woodticker 200 had the tagline, "Can you pull it off?"

Numerous aspects of my life fall under the umbrella of that tagline question. In my childhood I would find and eat chocolate chips hidden by my mother. Would she notice some were missing? Consuming alcohol and driving occurred more than once. Could I make it to my destination safely? Classes in college and seminary which were less than stimulating were regularly skipped. Could I pass the course? You get the idea. Parenting, leading co-workers, navigating new perspectives, facing personal challenges, and deciding what the years to come (including retirement) may look like continue to enlarge the tagline, "Can you pull it off?"

At various times, beginning at 5:05am on Saturday, June 5th, twenty-seven participants set out to "pull off" their chosen distances at what is now called: END-TICK (Extreme North Dakota - Terrifically Intense Country Klassic). As an event coordinator for ENDracing, I brought the Woodchipper and Woodticker into the ENDracing stable of events. What follows are a variety of photos from the most recent event, as well as previous renderings.                                                                   

All alone 

Getting ready to ride

Sign made by Weisgram Metal Fabricating
West Fargo ND

2017 Edition

Finally, the "Can you pull it off?" question continues. At this season of life I am examining my vocation, what commitment and care-giving to my partner may involve due to health conditions, my willingness to be involved in multiple interests, where to live, and how to live. There does not appear to be a finish line. Speed of completion holds little significance. These examinations are initiated at unexpected times and in various settings. A major reason for my enjoyment of gravel road biking is the wide open arena for processing life. What is over that hill? What can I see around the next curve? Should I turn around or go another mile? What is my hurry? 

Not All the Same

It began as a tagline. Now it has become a pervasive question in the journey of life. I invite you to consider, "Can you pull it off?"

The following photos are from an anonymous rider.  I provide them not only for their beauty, but to assist in your consideration of the question posed above.

A New Day!

The beauty of the world!

Open spaces and miles to go.

What is the hurry?