Today, February 3, 2017, four of my five grandchildren are here at my house after a “sweepover.” We are iced in. The grader/sander truck is stuck right by our driveway. I have drunk a lot of coffee, read my email, posted a comment I’m a little worried about on Facebook, and played a video game. I bought new organic cereal for the kids’ breakfast yesterday.
It is hard for me to believe, given these things, that my world feels shaken, but it does. I did worry for a while in the summer about the big quake coming to the West Coast. I’m still waiting for that, but events both political and denominational have left me wondering what’s next in my world.
That kind of church will my grandchildren attend? Will they want to attend church? Will their gifts and insights be welcomed in their church? Will they welcome others’ gifts and insights?
That kind of nation will my grandchildren grow up in? Will they want to be part of it? Will their gifts and insights be welcomed in their nation? Will they welcome others’ gifts and insights?
It is my grandchildren—three girls and two boys—who make me want to make sure the future is bright for them. How can I do that?
I’ve always made it a high priority to show the children in my care that God loves them, that Jesus is always with them, that they carry the light that lights every person who comes into the world. This knowledge will help them be resilient, as it did me.
I also want to model faithfulness, even when I am anxious. God began talking with me about being spiritually homeless more than a year ago. My spiritual home wasn’t George Fox University, where I worked from 1988 through 2011. My spiritual home isn’t Northwest Yearly Meeting, where I worked from 2012 through June 2016. My spiritual home is in fact in God. “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee” (Augustine of Hippo, late 4th century A.D.). It is a mistake I have easily made to try to rest in a more visible spot: a nation, an institution, a structure—a congregation, even.
But even as I am embracing this specific homelessness, I want my grandchildren to feel at home in my congregation, my denomination, my religion, my nation. Thus it is important to protect them from any talk or action that comes out of my fears and anxieties. I need to make “no sudden moves” (credit to Noah Baker Merrill), and I need to share joy and peace and love with them. When I talk with them, I need to express openly my trust that God is in fact our home, Jesus carries us in his heart, the Holy Spirit is our constant companion to whom we can turn every time we get weary or confused.
Years ago, I was encouraged by Bill Vaswig, a Lutheran preacher, who said that when we ask God for help and guidance, we need to expect an answer, to be on our toes ready to obey. I can pass this on to my grandchildren as God’s honest truth and model a cheerful itinerancy through this world.
My two older grandchildren (10 and 8) were upset over the announcement that NWYM will split. So Sunday, I talked with them. I told them, “I think this is like a plant that has been in the same pot for a long time and has become root bound. When that happens to a plant, sometimes you have to take it out of the pot and comb out its roots and separate it into two or more plants and then repot them so they can grow big and healthy again. That’s how I’m thinking of this split, and it comforts me. I think God gave me this picture. It’s going to be all right.”
And now I’m sharing it with you in case it helps you, too. Let’s care for the next generations: let’s make it easy for them to trust in God, and let’s model for them that God is in fact our resting place.
And now the grader/sander truck has moved on up the road, and it’s time to find out what the grandkids want for breakfast.
I’ve attended NFC, girl and woman, for more than 35 years. Mark and I were married here in 1975. Both of my daughters held their weddings here. I have met God during worship services and committee meetings here, and I’ve learned so much about God from various pastors and congregations over the years. My professional life has been as an English professor, a university administrator, a general superintendent. Right now, I’m spending time just spending time, waiting to hear from God what’s next for the day and for the near future.