big change


Ginger goes back to work today.

Her sabbatical and vacation have ended and she is getting ready to go to her office at the church. She woke up early and has been a bundle of activity all morning: she took Gracie to the beach for a walk and a prayer, washed her car and cleaned it out, did a couple of loads of laundry, and who knows what else — Lola and I slept through most of it.

I love watching her process because mine is so different. When I was teaching high school and it came time for a new year to begin, I would lay in bed and moan, “I don’t want to go back to school.”

“You’re the teacher;” she would say with a smile in her voice, “you sound like one of the students.”

I know returning to a job as relationally intense and complex as the pastorate after having had the chance to live for some time watching a clock without hands makes for harsh reentry. I also know, as I have listened to her prepare for today over the past couple of weeks, that she has missed seeing the smiles and faces of the folks at North Community Church and is truly at her best as a pastor, which is where her best self and what the world needs most from her intersect.

I’ve always admired her singular sense of calling. If purity in heart is “to will one thing,” as Kierkegaard put it, then she is as pure in heart as they come.

“Blessed are the pure in heart,” Jesus said, “for they shall see God.” I watch Ginger as she both works and plays and expect that if my Bible had illustrations, were I to look up that particular Beatitude I would find her picture. As for my own vocational experience, I think I know why there’s not a Beatitude that begins, “Blessed are those who want to try and do just about everything. . .”

Today, I send Ginger back to work with a poem — one by Mary Oliver, whom we both love:

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees

for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting

You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.

Meanwhile the world goes on.

Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain

are moving across the landscapes,

over the prairies and the deep trees,

the mountains and the rivers.

Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,

are heading home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,

the world offers itself to your imagination,

calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —

over and over announcing your place

in the family of things.

Being a part of “the family of things” is as wonderful and as complicated as being a part of any family; it is both harsh and exciting. We have a great deal to say about how we choose to perceive and receive it. As we both head off to work today, Ginger to the church and I to the inn, we move in formation with the rest of our family, praying for eyes to see the world with imagination rather than buckling under the weight of obligation.



  1. Milton- what a beautiful way to bless your wife as she heads back to her work. And you captured something true and lovely when you said:

    we move in formation with the rest of our family, praying for eyes to see the world with imagination rather than buckling under the weight of obligation.


  2. I can’t tell you how happy I am to have you “back” — but I’m talking about the blogosphere. Your blog was unavailable for a few days and I thought you might have pulled up stakes and given up. Glad that’s not so.

    Sounds like a good sabbatical. Hope the re-entry is a breeze.

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