As rest can heal the sores of a body and sleep restore its strength,
so may your angels of grace visit me in the night
that the senses of my soul may be born afresh.
Visit my dreams with messengers of grace, O God,
that the senses of my soul may be born again. (from Celtic Benedictions by Philip Newell)
My self-imposed five-month sabbatical ends today as I begin a new job this week as the transitional executive director for Mennonite Central Committee U.S. The time away from work has healed the sores of my body and restored my strength as surely as rest and sleep do for each of us on a daily basis.
My experiences of the last five months have been visited by many messengers of grace. I think of Weldon at St. John's Abbey, Joel and Barth in Arizona and Nevada, Lloyd and Bernie in Jamaica, Larry and Eleanor in Strasboug and a rag tag band of merry pilgrims in Scotland, Ireland and Wales. And, of course, Mim who has given me this space without one word of anxiety. This time has truly been a gift of grace.
The photo above is of a small church in Pembrokeshire, West Wales, near the ruins of the chapel of St. Non, who was the mother of the patron saint of Wales, St. David. The image serves as a symbol of my five months in a number of ways:
- Its location on the rocky coast of Wales serves as a reminder of the rest for my soul I have found in so many "water" places, from the Colorado and Rhine rivers, to the beaches of Negril and the rocky coasts of Scotland, Ireland and Wales.
- Close to the chapel is a retreat house of the Sisters of Mercy, a place of hospitality for sanctuary and reflection. The chapel marks an historical spot but also houses a modern day ministry of welcome for all people. I remember the hospitality of the Benedictine fathers at St. John's Abbey, the open arms of the circle of condo owners who welcomed Mim and me in Negril, the Mennonite World Conference staff in Strasbourg and our pilgrim experiences with so many folks in U.K. who opened their hearts to us.
- The chapel also stands as a symbol of the many ways in which my expereinces these months have opened my eyes and my ears so that "the senses of my soul may be born again." It is a chapel, yes, but it is also a doorway to a deeper understanding of who God is and of the moments of grace in my life.
One final messenger of grace came today in the form of an email from one of my fellow pilgrims in Scotland and Ireland who writes to thank me for my "laughter and humor throughout, and for the details, depth and soulful sharing, both on the journey and in the blog."
How can I tell Beverly that it was I who gained from her presence on the trip, she who in her quiet way always pointed to the deeper meaning beyond what was evident on the surface? Her depth of character and insight providing a foundation for the rest of us?
This evening, Mim and I are hosting Larry and Eleanor Miller, from Mennonite World Conference in our home. This seems a fitting way to bring these months to a close. Thanks to all who have helped me on my journey and will continue to do so in the days ahead.