Wednesday, August 25, 2010


My Starbucks by the beach is being renovated this week and the evidence is all around me this morning. The good news is that, so far, my chair is still here. I’m guessing that they could tear the place down around me and as long as I still have my chair and my coffee I’d survive the change. On week 2 of my sabbatical, it kind of resembles what I might look like on the inside while I attempt some renovation time of my own. From my own DIY projects I have learned that renovation goes through phases. There is demolition. There are glimpses of vision of what the project may look like. There is the reality of the mess that things become and the feeling that it might get worse before it gets better, and then…..

Thursday, August 19, 2010


Yesterday, I and the love of my life celebrated year 26 of our incredible marriage journey. We relaxed, wandered some of our favorite parts of Seattle and then finished off the day with an amazing dinner on a patio overlooking the water of Puget sound while the setting sun made lavender silhouettes out of the mountains against a clear blue sky. A few tables away a young couple sat celebrating their first anniversary. This began a conversation between my wife and I about where we had been on our first anniversary , trying to recall where we have spent subsequent anniversaries, and how much more madly in love we are now than when we began.
Unfortunately, try as I might, I cannot remember where we spent each of our anniversaries. I can remember a good percentage, but I have to admit once more, “I ain’t as good as I once was”. I do know, or at least have a good feeling, that most of them were reflective of our lives at that moment. In other words, as I look back on where we were each of those 26 years, the setting and events surrounding our celebration would have been appropriate to the context of what was happening in our lives. You might think that this not an important note, however, as we remembered last night, none of these milestones passed with the obligatory card and dinner out. We never sat stiff across the table from each other trying to manufacture the emotion that should accompany the event. Many years in fact, although many of you won’t believe this, we didn’t even exchange cards. Instead we exchanged whatever was going on at the time for a reason to celebrate.
As we ventured into ministry together, a journey that can be very hazardous to a family and a marriage, we have clung even tighter to these occasions. We don’t throw money at it. We make the entire day a priority. Having just finished the monumentally draining event of our daughters wedding, this year we avoided all temptation of a few days away and just relaxed together with nothing but a 7pm dinner reservation to lead our day. It was a fitting tribute to the life that we have built together.
In my profession as a pastoral artist, I am in the wedding /marriage business more than I care to be. I can honestly say that the biggest reason why there are not more people as madly in love as we are is that they really have no idea what the vow “for better or worse” might be leading them into. We have skipped through the better and trudged through the worse. One thing we have learned is that when you are trudging through the worse, there is always better on the other side… but you have to climb the rocks to see the view. When you are skipping through the better, you had better be holding the other ones hand, because there is something lying in wait to trip you up.
Lest you think that this blog was written by some Hallmark flunkie, let me tell you that it’s not always been perfect. Sometimes it is exhausting on both our parts… mostly for her I suppose. As I look back over the years and the journey with the birth of our children, the miscarriages of some, the life, the death, the security, the uncertainty, the haves, the have nots, moves, career changes, dreams, realities, teenagers, colleges, weddings, and a grandchild, the common thing to all of this in our lives is that we experienced them together. I don’t always know where the time went, but I am certain that we went with it. So this morning I sit here in my chair by the beach and salute with everything that I have and all that I am. Here’s to the next 26, Gorgeous!

Thursday, August 12, 2010


This morning marks the first full day of my one month sabbatical. The marine layer is very thick down here at the beach and I’m finding it a fitting scene for the beginning of this time. If I were to sit here the entire day I would witness a gradual clearing of the skies. Right now I cannot even see the water from my big comfy chair by the window. Soon though the water will appear, and then I’ll begin to catch a glimpse of the ferries. Eventually I’ll see clearly the sun shining from the snow capped peaks across the water, the city skyline, and everything else a sunny day in Seattle promises to reveal. The reason I’m on a sabbatical in the first place is that in just about every part of my being, I’m sitting in the marine layer (aka fog).
The most frequently asked question from those who have heard of my status these next 4 weeks is “what is a sabbatical?”. Dictionary dot com identifies as “any extended period of leave from one's customary work, esp. for rest, to acquire new skills or training, etc.” I try to simplify it even more by saying it’s a sort of working vacation. I am at the point that a vacation in its purest sense could be disastrous to me. The traditional sort of vacation (that there’s a recreational vehicle Clark) is meant to clear out one’s mind from all of the accumulated trash of the previous 11 months. There are two good reasons why this would not be a good thing. First of all, you usually need a vacation to recover from the vacation. A good vacation can wear you out physically and you need an energy boost just to recover. Secondly, an empty brain at the end of this time isn’t going to help anyone. The problem is that I am empty in the first place. A good part of the objective is to be filled once again for the long haul and to build into my life refilling stations and boundaries so that I do not get to this point again.
So I’ll be here for the next few weeks, to be a writer, to be a reader and sometimes to just be. I am incredibly grateful for the leadership of my community o’ faith who have allowed and encouraged this time away. I am eternally grateful to my gorgeous wife who has supported me in this journey. As I sit here in the morning clouds, I look forward to the rest of the day and what the afternoon sun might reveal.