lenten journal: routine


    Duke is on spring break this week, which means my restaurant has been closed and I’ve been a day worker at our catering shop, getting food ready for various catering gigs and also doing some other prep, or background, work. The shop is quiet, too, so our crew there has been small: our pastry chef, Tony the dishwasher, me, and one additional cook each day. The pace is deliberate, but doesn’t carry the same sense of deadline that getting ready for dinner service and working the kitchen line carries. I have a list of stuff to do, I do it, and I come home.

    The hardest part has been trying to reorient my sleep schedule. My normal schedule – or what passes for normal at our house – is I work from 11 am to about 9 pm, then I come home and see Ginger and the pups, and then I write, and then I go to bed in the one or two range. I haven’t been able to break that habit, even though I’ve been getting up at 6:30 to get to work by 7:30. I’ve ended up sleeping a split shift: four hours at night and two or three when I get home from work. I ought to be able to get my days and night straight about the time I have to go back to Duke on Monday. Duke only has about five more weeks of classes, so about April 20 I will have to reorient my schedule again.

    As tired as I am, I’m grateful that my routine changes because I’m quite capable of becoming tied to a routine. I’m a creature of habit. Hannah, our beloved Schnauzer who has been gone many, many years, always had to walk on Ginger’s right side when we were out strolling. Though the little dog is no longer walking with us, I still walk on Ginger’s right. It is far to easy for life to become an exercise in muscle memory.

    Since we’ve been at Pilgrim I’ve done something I’ve not done in any church I’ve ever been a part of. I make a point of sitting somewhere different in the sanctuary from one week to the next. It wasn’t my idea. Ginger suggested it in a sermon, so I decided to take her suggestion. What I have learned is there are parts of the room where I can hear much better than others. I’ve also learned different parts of the sanctuary have a different feel. Sitting up close to the front helps me hear, but it also puts me in front of everyone, so I can’t see who else is in worship very well. Sitting in the back gives me the panoramic view, but makes me feel distant from the altar. I’ve found a couple of dark spots in the sanctuary that make it difficult to read; I’ve also learned we have boxes of tissues at the end of several rows.

    The best part of the moving has been getting to sit with different people. I don’t just pick a pew, I pick a pew I can share with someone. I’ve gotten better acquainted with some folks and gotten to greet people I had not seen before when we pass the Peace since I was on the other side of the room. It is a small gesture that has had large implications. It has helped me think less about a particular pew and more about those with whom I am worshipping.

    When we lived in Marshfield, I used to go walking down the beach looking for sea glass. When the tide was out, the beach was wide; there was no way to cover all of it. I had to choose a path and work my way across the sand. I learned that if I were more precise in my path I looked more closely and found more glass. If I tried to cover too much ground, my gaze was not focused enough to be productive. I also realized that when I chose a path that particular I was leaving most of the beach unexamined. Over the years I found a lot of sea glass; I missed more, I’m sure.

    We follow the routines that shape our days because there’s a payoff. We get stuff done, we know where we’re going, we get a good night’s rest. But our little path through life does not afford a view of the whole beach. I need to make changes – little, one step to the left kind of changes – to help myself see a bigger picture of the world.

    Sit in a new pew.
    Drive home a different way.
    Go to a different grocery store.
    Walk on the left side.

    I see new things, even with tired eyes.



    1. It is like putting on the left sock first. VERY difficult. Sometimes we just need to shake up the brain a little. Refocus. Experience life from a new perspective. Thanks, Milton.

    2. This is reminiscent of the scene in “Dead Poets Society” when Robin Williams asks the students to come stand on his desk. Look at the room from a different angle – open your eyes to all there is in a space. Some begin to look but others just get up and walk off. Robin’s response: “Don’t just walk off the edge like lemmings!” It makes me giggle each time I hear it, but its truth is strong – open our eyes, see the world, find God.


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