I am half way through my sabbatical and the time is moving along way too fast. I have traveled, written, read, and relaxed. One of the things that has started to set up in my mind these days is “paying attention”. Yes, I pay attention when I drive, talk with folks, or am working with power tools. I am not talking about that kind of attention, but more about how God is speaking to us and showing us things all the time about his love and plan for this world and our lives.
Just taking in the beauty of God’s creation, whether on the North Shore of Lake Superior, the beauty of the Mississippi River Valley when it is not flooded, the uniqueness of the Wisconsin Dells, or the rolling hills of Iowa or Nebraska along the Platte River (also when it is not flooding). These are just one aspect of God showing us God’s plan for his creation. But beside the geography, there are the people. God is speaking in quite remarkable ways through people, both in their words and their deeds.
Hearing people’s stories, seeing how they treat one another, even the stranger. God shows his love through all of us, if we pay attention. This is people watching and being a tourist, seeing God’s creation, the land, the creatures, and the people in ways that maybe we have not thought of before.
I know human beings can be just as contrary as the geography we live in. Seeing firsthand how the floods of this Spring continue to run down from the northern plains to the Mississippi delta. Anger, frustration, loss, and grief make us not very pleasant to be with. But then I see the neighbors, who in truth are not the folks next door or even in the same town, coming to help those who have been so damaged by unforgiving weather.
I hear the stories of hopelessness and hopefulness, I see the folks at picnic tables sharing with strangers a meal between working on cleaning out a house totaled by water. I watch as children play together and their parents glad that they can, despite a world where violence comes to schools, malls and places of worship for no reason other than hate. Despite the struggle, there is still joy, because God’s love is still pouring into people’s hearts through the actions of simple clay vessels of God’s people.
Sabbaticals are supposed to be a time of rest, relaxation and renewal. The first two are about down time, the third piece is about learning, learning to pay attention to what God is doing. I am only half way through, but so many stories do I have to share.