August 4, 2012
It’s stinking hot today, and yet this old man did some energetic things instead of just sitting like a wet dishrag in his armchair. This was because of a revelation.
This is not the kind of revelation I’m talking about here
No this revelation is a much humbler one than that, and it’s even, I should confess, a little bit embarrassing.
Here’s how it unfolded:
After all of this year’s cottage challenges were met, I sat down, and became somewhat immobile. There wasn’t a lot to do by way of ordinary chores, but I found that I wasn’t motivated to do much of anything else either.
I felt old, and worn out, and hot.
If nothing else, I wanted to do some writing for my website – either these Chronicles that you are reading now, or the section about being an Anglican priest.
But I couldn’t seem to get started. I was unmotivated; uninspired.
The adventures with the water pump and the post office and the phone company had already happened, and I knew that they would make good stories, and because, if I ever wrote them they would become part of these Cottage Diaries, I decided that in order to get my creative juices flowing I would read through some of the early entries in the series. So I started, right at the very beginning. Forty-five minutes later I was still reading. I had followed every segment of the story almost right up to the present, and with each entry something was becoming more and more clear.
I had never before noticed – although you, if you’ve read this diary, probably have – that I’m always complaining about old age. Eleven years ago, I was a mere youngster of sixty, and I whined about how I was getting old and about how hard everything was. But, if I was old then, what am I now, at seventy-one!? Dead? Nah, just older.
But still complaining, it would seem.
I noticed something else, though, that perhaps you have also seen: I don’t do well in extreme heat. I like the cold; I thrived in Churchill; I love -40° Celsius, and often go out for walks in it. In cold weather I feel alive and energized and ready to roar. In a heatwave, I’m like the tigers that chased each other around the tree in The Story of Little Black Sambo.15 I turn into melted butter when it’s hot, that’s what I do!
And, I realized (see the revelation dawning?) that almost every time in this blog that I lamented growing old, the weather was also impossibly hot.
In other words, I’m weak and languid, not because of old age, but because of hot weather!
So I made a resolution: when it gets hot here at the lake, I’m gonna fight back! I will deliberately become active and accomplish something! I will say to the heat, “You’re not going to get me!” If I do nothing else, I reasoned, I can just drive into town on some little errand and regain energy through being in an air conditioned car!
Hence today: it’s been a true scorcher at the lake (I’d hate to think what it was like in any of the nearby big cities! 16). So I got out of my big chair, turned on a fan, and did stuff: I played the clarinet, I cleaned out the portable toilet, I recharged the boat battery, and then I went for a long refreshing swim. It felt good, and feels good, and the creative juices are flowing even to the extent of telling you this yarn about a very hum-drum “revelation.”
And you’ll get no more moaning about old age from me!
The Essay & The EmailAugust 5, 2012
Almost all humans have a word for it. Psychiatry speaks of “self-actualization” or “integration;” the religions of India and the East have “enlightenment” and “moksha;” Muslims call it “Islam” (submission to the will of Allah); and we Christians speak of “vocation.” In non-Christian terms, it is the condition of being fully who you are, a balanced and complete person, comfortable in your own skin. Or, if you believe in an active and intervening God, as I do, it is the condition of being who God wants you to be.
Yes, yes, I know – my theological writings are supposed to go in another part of this website, while these Chronicles focus upon life’s adventures! But this past month at the lake, the fact is that “vocation” has been an important part of my adventures!
One day I received an email from a candidate for ordination in Great Britain, who said, “Would you please send me the link to your essay on Vocation?”
Uh-oh. Such an article didn’t actually exist at the time.
Last December I had written an essay about the daily life of an Anglican priest. I enjoyed doing it, and at the end I added a line promising that there might be more: “An additional essay, on vocation itself, is in the planning stages. Let me know if you would like a preview,” I wrote.
Well, such an essay was “in the planning stages” – the very earliest of planning stages. In other words, I had made a five-point outline! But then Christmas and a bunch of other stuff intervened, and I put it aside. In time I forgot all about it. Then the day came, here at the lake, that a website visitor from the U.K. took me up on my promise and asked to see the non-existent essay.
So I quickly typed up a reply and sent it off, apologizing that there was nothing online as yet. However, in that reply I included some of my views on Christian vocation, in effect making a very rough draft of the promised essay.
Over the next couple of days I turned that rough draft into something reasonably finished and polished. Interestingly, I felt a sense of urgency, as if completing it was really important. On July 18, at the end of the day, I put it online.17
The next morning, right after breakfast, I checked my email as I usually do, and found this, from another website visitor:18
Today I had the opportunity to do some perusing on the internet and came across your page on priestly discernment [and, given everything that I have been struggling with, I found it to be] somehow exactly what I was looking for. I thought that it was very timely and answered quite a few questions.... I would just like to thank you for your hard work and diligence on putting together this page, and let you know it is already having an affect on others. I think it was perfect timing, as I just saw the date on your essay: July 18, 2012. Wow, I could not have asked for better timing, as if it were the Holy Ghost at work. Today is July 19, 2012.
Was the hand of God at work? I think so.
Those four days of writing also caused me to spend hours thinking about Vocation – about how God has a purpose for every one of us, and “calls” us by making that purpose known in a variety of ways. Immersed in such reflections, it was very natural for me to think about the specific ways that God is calling me at this phase of my life, and to ask myself whether I am “listening” consistently, and obeying that call, whenever I discern what it is.
For the most part I concluded that my present “calling” has a lot to do with Internet essays such as the very one I had just written. Consider this: from December 1, 2011 to June 30, 2012, 17,875 people have visited my website! 19 Although some, like you, accessed personal pages such as these Chronicles, fifty percent made use of my Bible study resource, and the rest came to read my various articles about being an Anglican Priest. In fact, as of today at least 52 people have already read the one on vocation that I just completed!
But there is also a connection to the “revelation” that I had about how it’s not my advancing age that flattens me, it’s just hot weather. Yes, I’m older than I was, but for my age I’m strong and vital. Is there something remaining for me to do in terms of my lifetime vocation of being an Anglican priest? Maybe it is simply Internet essays, but it could also be visible church leadership.
Prompted by such thoughts, I went down to Hawkesbury and attended a congregational meeting at Holy Trinity church (where I worship on Sundays). Like many other Canadian congregations, their attendance and offerings have fallen off and they’re in a bit of a crisis. At the meeting I mostly just listened: not only to the various speeches; I also listened intently for any hint of what God was calling me to do there, if anything. Well, for the most part God seemed to be saying, “Keep your mouth shut,” but at one point it seemed to be exactly the opposite: “Yes, that does need to be said. Get up and say it.” So I got up and said it. 20
When I return to Winnipeg in September, this process of “listening” for the call of God will continue, as I try to discover exactly what I am supposed to do as a retired priest, as an Internet writer, as a mentor, as Honorary Assistant at St. Margaret’s church, as a husband and as a friend.
Meanwhile here at the cottage, when I’m not swimming or doing chores, I have another article 21 for the Anglican Priest section underway.
I have been unable to add any further posts
about cottage adventures this year.
to go directly to the
2013 segment of the Cottage diary.
15 Okay, there will be no jokes about “Tony the Tiger” here! The Story of Little Black Sambo is a children’s book by Helen Bannerman, published in 1899. In the story, Sambo is a South Indian boy who encounters four hungry tigers, and surrenders his colourful new clothes, shoes, and umbrella so they will not eat him. The tigers are vain and each thinks he is better dressed than the others. They chase each other around a tree until they are reduced to a pool of melted butter. Sambo then recovers his clothes and his mother makes pancakes of the butter. There’s a YouTube video of Little Black Sambo at www.youtube.com/watch?v=qSfGvptL_TY and an account of the sometimes controversial history of the story in Wikipedia.
16 I later learned that it was 35.5° C. in the city of Ottawa, about 100 k. from where we are. (35.5° C. equals about 96° Fahrenheit).
17 You can find the article on Vocation by clicking here. It’s called, “How do I know if I’m called to be an Anglican Priest?”
18 The visitor signed his name, but gave no information about where he lives or what stage he has reached in preparing for ordained ministry. Over the past two years I’ve had emails from Pakistan, India, Mexico, Great Britain, and several places in Canada and the United States, but some, like this one, don’t say where they’re from.
19 How do I know that I had that many visitors? Google Analytics, that’s how. See my blog entry called “A Hidden Website Camera.” I’ve used Google Analytics since October 2010, and its results actually guide me in deciding what articles to write next. Traffic in the Anglican Priest section of the website has grown exponentially in the almost two years that I have been developing it: for the period January to July, daily visitors in 2012 increased 460% over 2011.
20 For the purposes of this diary entry it really doesn’t matter what I said, because my point here is just the process of “listening” for the call of God. But if you’re curious, the congregation was talking about selling some property, and fundraising, and rentals, and I thought I should draw a verbal picture of successfully raising money, but then having a building in perfect shape but no one actually attending it! I asked if there had ever been any other meetings where the main topic was not funds, but spreading the Christian message. I tend to think, after all, that spreading the Christian message is our highest priority. There was scattered applause and the Rector said, “Well put!” Then the meeting ended.
21 This forthcoming article is tentatively entitled, “Wearing the Dog Collar,” it examines the question of where and when ordained people ought to wear a clergy shirt or other visible indicator of their vocation.