January 20, 2019

The IM Saturday Monks Brunch: December 29, 2018

The IM Saturday Monks Brunch: December 29, 2018

It’s the end of one year, the beginning of another. Time to reflect and time for expectation. We will reflect that in our approach to the Brunch today, giving you a chance to share about your own personal journey.

At this time of year we dwell in recall and possibility…

• • •

And so, our conversation around the Brunch table today will involve talking about the following themes:

Reflections on 2018

  • What treasured memory will you retain from 2018?
  • What was hard about your journey through 2018 and how did God and others help you through?
  • What are some of your “favorite things” from 2018 — books or articles, movies, TV shows, plays, gadgets that enhanced your life, things that satisfied you in your work, recreational pursuits, vacations you enjoyed, or other travel that was invigorating, etc.?

Looking forward to 2018

  • Do you have plans for something in 2019 that you are eagerly looking forward to?
  • Have you set any personal goals for the New Year?
  • Are you looking forward to reaching any milestones in 2019?
  • What hopes and prayers are you holding for the year to come?

Comments

  1. I’ll turn 60 in 2019. I know my wife is planning a party for me, with lots of guests, special food, and live music included — it should be fun. Although I wouldn’t say I’m looking forward to reaching this milestone, neither would I say that the number scares me. In fact, I feel a certain amount of indifference when I think about it. But ready or not, here it comes.

    ready or not
    here comes another year
    winter in the lead

  2. The recovery from the vascular surgery, the varicose”vein stripping”, that I had near the end of this year has been harder and longer than expected. For a while I wondered if things were ever going to get better than a new disappointing and difficult normal, but I seem to have been slowly improving over the last couple weeks. I’m appreciative of all the prayers and good wishes from the people at church and here at iMonk, and most of all for the support of my wife, who has had to put up with not only the difficulties and setback on the path of my recovery, but my resultant bad moods as well.

    In December my wife’s little sister died of complications from breast cancer; just fifty years old, and the second of my wife’s younger sisters to die in the last ten years. It has been very hard on my wife, made all the harder by the extremely dysfunctional family dynamics of my in-laws. She will be processing this a long time, the rest of her life, no doubt; its the kind of wound that leaves a permanent mark and trauma. I wish I knew better how to help her cope with it — I pray that in the new year I would learn how to help her.

    • Robert F — I’m so sorry to hear of your wife’s losses. It’s hard when the younger ones go first. And you’re right, these things linger for the rest of our lives. Grief is the flip side of love, a continuation of love when the other person’s not around any more.

      In my own process I stumbled across Megan Devine (she has a new book “It’s OK that you’re not OK”), who has real life things to say about what grief is (and what it is not). There’s a good deal in the book about how to support people who are grieving.

      Blessings on you both.

      • Thank you for the good words and book recommendation. And blessings to you, as well, as you embark on your 2019 life changes.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > and most of all for the support of my wife

      Indeed, good wives are invaluable.

  3. ha, i had a cat scan on christmas eve, how festive. this was the year i lost four jobs, my right to drive, because of the seizure/min stroke/whatever it was .. my plan for 2019 is to do as many poetry readings as possible, so far i’ve confirmed 17, i tend to sell 7 books at each one…it’s more meaningful that regular job which i can’t seem to concentrate on anyhow…

  4. I started coughing up blood on my runs back in April. Lots of expensive tests later, they still can’t explain it. I swim now, but it’s not as convenient as running and I’ve put on weight.

    And of course, the country and the world continues to unravel and implode.

    Did God get me through it? Yeah, in the sense that I’m still here. Seeing His hand in all this? That is infinitely more difficult.

  5. In 2018 I made a series of major decisions, and I’m looking forward to them happening in 2019. I’ll be 65 in June. The retirement center my brother’s lived in for 8 years now will be opening a new building, so I reserved a spot there. My ex is buying the house, as part of the long-delayed divorce proceeding. She moved out in 2010 because she’s gay… it’s been hard, to say the least, but it’s good to have the business end of who owns what settled at last. What else? Oh, right, I’m retiring in May and moving across the country.

    Why not change everything at once? I’m really looking forward to new friends, new neighbors, people around to do things with, and time to write about the imaginary people in my head who won’t shut up or go away.

    And, who knows, perhaps a new Christian community. Stranger things have happened. One of my friends from school is a pastor out there, and his congregation sounds really interesting. Another one is a deacon in an Orthodox church there. Since his red beard turned white like mine, he looks the part.

  6. Phil Dickens says:

    This year was interesting. On the positive I reached the 2 year cancer-free milestone. I was also told that cataract surgery is probably in my near future. Also this year my church closed. This was the church that helped me navigate the post-evangelical wilderness, gave me permission to ask questions, and taught me to hold the details of doctrine lightly and focus on the essential thing, loving God and my neighbor. I loved this church and the people and this was quite a blow. On the positive side spiritually I have found a new home in our sister church and am making real strides in settling in and getting involved. In 2019 I will turn 65, since I became disabled a few years ago it won’t make much difference in practical terms, just changing from disability to regular Social Security.

  7. Christiane says:

    Shout out to SUSAN DUMBRELL in the land-down-under,
    who was not feeling very well yesterday.

    Susan, let us know how you are doing. Hope you are better today.

    • Susan Dumbrell says:

      Hi Christiane
      The heat is most oppressive as the heatwave continues.
      I am glad of the aircon. So is my cat.
      I am seeing the doctor on Friday.

      I am grateful that I am 10 years cancer free. Having one lung and heart problems, I am grateful for every day God gives me. The downside is that my doctor says I am not well enough to withstand an anesthetic for hip and knee replacement.
      I am grateful for the ministry of the Priest who has recently left us for a larger parish. His ministry amoung us is a treasured memory.
      Consequently I pray for a new person to lead our little parish.

      With the help of a number of prayerful friends I am looking forward to being more focused in my prayer life in 2019,

      Also I appreciate this IMonk community and CM as we all wrestle through our lives and share thoughts and visions.

      I guess I can say that each day is a gift not to be squandered.

      May we all be blessed this coming year.

      Susan

      • Hello Susan,
        Ten years cancer free! That is a wonderful blessing. I wish you were strong enough to undergo those joint replacements as it would greatly reduce your suffering physically.

        But what of the worry and the stress? I have had my share of it and I always think of a quote from a little nun who died at a very young age and who eventually became appointed as a ‘Doctor of the Church’ . . . . what she wrote so simply focuses me on something I had missed for a lifetime filled with worries, this:
        “My soul is at peace, for long ago I ceased to belong to myself! ”
        (Therese of Lisieux)

        There comes a time in life where we who have been strong against all difficulties grow weary and want to rest for a while. For me, the way was to ask for the peace of Christ to come and for it not to leave me alone in this world where there is so much sadness. After a bout of deep grief, I was given peace. I hope it stays. I hope it never leaves me.

        Praying for you and hopeful that your life is blessed this coming year. Thanks for responding. Sending hug.

  8. It sounds like many of you are going through the wringer right now, or have been going through it. My prayers go out to Jesus on your behalf.

    A little good news: I hope to have my two-book sci-fi series published in early 2019! (What a long process this has been!)

  9. Adam Tauno Williams says:

    2018 felt like the year between, An 18 month argument with an nasty antibiotic resistant pneumonia I hope has come to an end, maybe without permanent lung damage. Changes at work, more family moving into the neighborhood, becoming the Vice Chair of a non-profit, stared construction on a building [my first] that has been nothing but paperwork for a couple of years. Did not read as much as I like to but the pneumonia’s demand for sleep eliminated much of the time not required for labor.

    2019 will bring the end / fruit of a laundry list of endeavors; hoping 2019 also brings the ability to breath consistently. If I have won out in that contest I may run a triathlon just out of spite.

    With all the ancient rubble gone, and then construction mess cleared away, I will have a backyard to make into a place for the first time; there having previously never been a point to doing so. I am looking forward to that.

    If 2018 was the year between, 2019 should end as the year of “What next?”

    • Better “what’s next” than “what’s left”.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says:

        True. Eventually “what’s next” always becomes “what’s left”. I am past the half-way point, most things are oriented towards creating as soft a landing as possible.

        Given how long American’s live what to do with the last 1/3 – which is still able-minded for many many people – is a question.

        • In traditional India, at the end of caste duty as a “householder”, a member of the more privileged classes could become a wandering sannyasin, seeking wisdom and renouncing the material world.

          • Adam Tauno Williams says:

            One often has to admire the wise pragmatism of “more primitive” cultures. It makes sense, as the material world begins to renounce us, that a wise man will return the favor [contrary to the tendency of that caste in America to horde].

            Tolkien’s imagining of the decay of the vitalizing bond between Hroa (body) and Fea (spirit/soul/whatever) best captures the experience, IMO. Wisdom may be found in the widening gap; in contrast to the consequences of those who would bind the estranging forces together through any and all means.

            • At my age, and my husband’s age, we will begin to very slowly but firmly attend to what they call in Sweden ‘the death cleaning’:

              which simply means a culling of those hoarded and un-used items of over fifty-years of marriage by sorting them for their usefulness and GIVING them away to charity thrift stores (our favorite supports a children’s hospital which is local) . . . .

              this is a GOOD thing, this ‘cleaning’ out of ‘our’ things and wanting for them to be ‘of use’ again and not waiting until our family must do this after our passing or until the time when we are unable to lovingly do this ourselves

              so we anticipate imminent death? nope . . . . but we do not deny that it comes and we are preparing constructively and proactively to ‘help’ those who remain after we are gone, so they are not burdened with sorting and throwing away, and wondering how it was that we kept so much . . . so much

              a little at a time . . . while time remains for us to do it, and ‘all shall be well’ 🙂

    • I wish you good health in the New Year.

  10. Peter Mayer – good tune. Bag pipes give an ethereal quality.

  11. 2018 was a “reclaiming my Jesus” year for me – after years of letting myself get discouraged and cynical because of the behavior of Christians both in my local community and in the country as a whole, this was the year that I was finally able to turn a corner and decide that I wasn’t going to stop seeking communion with God just because other people were making Jesus look bad. It’s been the first year in a while that I’ve been able to live with a sense of God’s reality and presence in my life (with some ups and downs, of course).

    My hope for 2019 is that it would be a year of soul-searching in the broader Christian community, particularly among evangelicals, and that we would begin to turn away from some of the sins that we’ve embraced and the ways that we’ve abandoned the Gospel as a result of our unholy alliance with conservativism.

  12. the first Christmas trees
    stripped of light and ornament
    depart by dumpster

  13. Wow, lots of this community is suffering on so many levels, hope and pray 2019 is smoother. None of us know what tomorrow brings. Thankfully.

    I, too, will turn 60, and definitely looking forward to it. My husband knows better than to give a party….probably travel instead! I’ve looked forward to each passing decade-aging doesn’t scare or bother me, what does scare me is living too long. I have no plans to prolong life, nor delay death. God’s timing.

    – treasured memory: thanksgiving spent in Sicily with all the kids…the first time with everyone and probably the last, as they’ll all start having children.
    – hard? : usually it’s dealing with (my mom/brothers) family, I’m sad, and yet, as Paul says….live at peace with all men as much as is up to you…and I cannot change them, but I have the freedom of living in truth, rather than in their deceptive mess. God gave me peace throughout the year to be in their presence without agony and dismay. His peace was truly from the Holy Spirit.
    – favorite things: all around a great year, a year to reread some favorite books, got hooked on some great podcasts, a little bit more involved in Church, started tutoring, made a few new friends, lost a few others either through their moving or soured relationship.
    Highlight- healed a long-standing friendship

    2019
    Looking forward to staying home, not traveling as much (need to regroup our life), maybe a grandkid, and reading more. Still working on being a minimalist….a journey started last year (2017), and continues,

    I’ve seen so many this past year where their lives were ‘changed’ overnight by different circumstances….and so I know that my future, though I can plan, is known to my God, in His hands, and so I hold it all loosely.

  14. A very blessed 2019 to everyone..I rarely comment, but do appreciate all of you, especially you, Chaplain Mike, Robert F. And Christiane. I have been tuning in since around 2008, always learning something new and new ways of thinking about the issues we all face.

    God has been very good to me. In 2018 I turned 84 and finally had to start carrying a cane, just in case the bad knee begins to act up. My health is otherwise good, I have a very large family who love me, and a small PCUSA church that I love…For 2019 I pray that I will still love learning something new every day, will work on procrastinating, and continue de-cluttering..I want to keep an open mind and learn something new every day..In spite of all the darkness this world is full of wonderful people and things, gifts from the Father.

    • Ah, a fellow procrastinator! I have a newly coined motto: “I procrastinate, therefore I am.”

    • Myra, it is an encouragement to me that at 84 you still desire to learn something new every day. My Mom is 84 but has Alzheimer’s. Before that she was like that as well. She married at 15, had me at 16. Finished high school via correspondence. Then after having four children she started college at 36 and went straight through to a Master’s to become a guidance counselor.

      Decluttering is good. My wife has always been good at that and finally I’ve begun to see the light on that.

  15. Treasured memory:

    My wife an I took a long road trip vacation from our home in upstate South Carolina to the Florida Keys, taking roads the tourists don’t take and stopping in places the tourists don’t see. 2120 miles in 10 days. Definitely an experience.

    Hard journey in 2018:

    Just about everything else. My wife has a history of small strokes in strange places in her brain (I’ve learned to hate doctors when they used the term “idiopathic”), coupled with Chronic Kidney Disease, worsening from stage III to stage IV over the course of the year. I am 58 and have been unable to work for the last 5 years and my wife (9 years my junior) is the sole bread-winner. Unfortunately, she has been unable to work since July, although she may go back to work soon. I have no Idea how God has helped us through, but we continue to persevere.

    Plans for 2019:

    Survival. A kidney transplant may be in my wife’s future, plus she has 2 teenage kids at home, so survival is a noble fight. We pray that God will work everything out. Prayers are appreciated.

  16. 2018 started off with a bang as we celebrated the marriage of our youngest son. It was the very best day of the year. We danced and laughed and just enjoyed the day and each other (family of 4 with spouses and 5 grands)

    Both my husband and I turned 65 this year and are moving into retirement which has had many “adjustment” challenges.

    A bum knee has kept me somewhat inactive but has forced me to learn to ‘be’ instead of ‘do’. I am most excited to have introduced our small CMA congregation to the lectionary and a greater observance of the church calendar year through weekly postings on our Church FB page. (A slow but positive step). Personal spiritual encouragement came in the form of a retreat weekend with Canadian musician and story teller Steve Bell.

    The polarizing political upheaval around the world has been very discouraging and causes anxiety especially as I look at my beautiful grandkids who will inherit what we leave behind. It is a constant reminder to pray for leaders, to pray for wisdom and to pray that “God’s Kingdom” come.

    Happy New Year to all in 2019

  17. With apologies to Chaplain Mike, my most treasured memory of 2018 was the Red Sox winning the World Series for the 4th time in the last 15 seasons. Yet that also illustrates what a challenging year this has been, considering my most treasured memory of the year has to do with a sports event. Health concerns and work-related issues dominated much of my year.

    I spent time, particularly in the last few months, working on myself in the area of relationships and sexuality. I’m trying to become healthier in those areas. One book which I read and found helpful was written by Rebecca Lemke, “The Scarlet Virgins: When Sex Replaces Salvation.” It’s a devastating commentary on purity culture, particularly as preached by Bill Gothard and Joshua Harris. I grew up before “True Love Waits” and “I Kissed Dating Goodbye,” so I missed modern purity culture. Nonetheless, I got a heavy dose of guilt teachings regarding relationships and sexuality despite my upbringing in a relatively liberal mainline Protestant church. I suspect that may be one reason among several why I’m still single today.

    I expect 2019 will be a year of transition in my life, aside from the fact that I will turn 60 in the fall. It’s time for me to find another job, and finding one with a better salary will be helpful as I anticipate the possibility I’ll need to move this coming year. My landlord recently passed away; I wouldn’t be surprised if his heirs put his properties on the market in the coming months.

    My church is undergoing transition as well. Our longtime senior pastor will retire next spring. His successor has already been named and there’s plenty of reason to be both excited and concerned. He’s single, so I hope the church’s attitude toward singles will change for the better. On the other hand, he’s also a fan of John Piper. I’d be less than honest if I didn’t say I find that frightening. The church is also in the process of building a new sanctuary. Weather-related delays have made it increasingly unlikely the new sanctuary will open in time for the pastoral transition. The congregation, like many other churches, has shrunk in recent years and I hope the debt service in the coming years won’t be too heavy a burden for the remaining parishioners to bear.

    And with that, I wish Chaplain Mike and everyone else a Happy New Year.

  18. senecagriggs says:

    I turned 70 a couple of months ago; finally started receiving social security Being self-employed for decades means you really don’t get to retire. Also, the self-employed pay the government lots of money so it’s kinda nice to begin to get some back. Apparently I have to live to 84 to justify putting off social security until 70.

    Major surgery was on my schedule, I took it off my schedule for the time being. There are some medical procedures that MIGHT deal with my thyroid issues [ a couple non malignant golf ball sized tumors] but in the U.S., they only remove the thyroid instead of tumor reduction which you can apparently get in Italy or South Korea. I already lost one thyroid gland 30 plus years ago. Hate to lose the last one if it’s not totally necessary and since I’m still upright, I’ve put the surgery off hoping the “gov” will okay the new procedures [ radio frequency reduction? ] before the esophogal interference becomes seriously problematic.

    Still attending the same Evangelical church after 30 years. We’re not all that big, but we’re healthy. Our pastors have stayed about 7 years. They’ve all been faithful to Scripture; they have all done expository preaching. They have been faithful. God is good.

  19. Hardest thing about 2018: contending with sciatica, especially my own resistance to being active enough to ward it off. So hard for me to just get up early and take a walk – I’d much rather sit, which is the worst thing. Yeah, getting older.

    It became more apparent that husband’s retirement 2 years ago from his gov’t job was at just the right time. We are doing okay financially, paying the bills with a small amount of $ left over at the end of the month. Very grateful, and concerned about folks our age who face poverty. This should not be.

    On the brighter side, youngest daughter finally got a permanent full-time job at the end of this year. Friendships have deepened. I’ve learned some (good) interesting things about my family history.

    Looking forward to visiting the 2 older children & spouses soon. Not looking forward to the hustle & bustle of the air travel, but it will be worth it 🙂

    Glory to God for all things.

    Dana

    • Likewise, Dana, the hardest thing for me in this past year’s journey was contending with sciatica. Just had my third nerve block yesterday. Hope this one will make it much better. One good side benefit of sciatica if there is one is that it resulted in my wife and I often taking long walks together, a blessing for which I’m grateful. If you or anyone here has advice, I am open to it.

      My favorite memory of 2018 is, like others have mentioned, a traveling event. We flew into Glasgow, Scotland for a conference and stayed for a week of travel after that, making it down to London and returning from there. The biggest surprise of that trip was how breathtaking York Minster Cathedral was. Visiting cathedrals taught me things that no amount of preaching or book reading can. But I don’t know how to articulate it.

      My other favorite memory was captured in a photo I took of my 6 and 4 year old grandkids from my older son walking down the hallway with my Mom in her memory care facility. She has Alzheimer’s. There was one on each side holding her hand. It was a magic moment.

      What I’m looking forward to this year: My younger son and family, they have kids 2 and 7 months, will be moving from 900 miles away to merely 400 miles away this coming July. That will be an easy weekend trip. Yea!

      This coming year I’m hoping we finally settle on a home church. We decided when we moved here a few years ago that we would travel around to different churches. That has been educational. Have visited about 20 so far. This preacher’s kid is hard to please but I’m hopeful.

  20. From Scott McKights blog If you were wildly in love with church as a kid, it’s a confusing and painful thing to grow up. Over time, I learned that some of the teenagers I idolized in my childhood church dabbled in drugs and at least one deacon dabbled in adultery. As an adult, I am cognizant of the broader church’s sins; I now know about the Crusades and colonialism, about sex scandals, abuse, racism and oppression. I learned about American churches that supported slavery and Jim Crow. I’ve experienced sexism and misuse of power among church leadership. I’ve met two pastors who shocked me (and made me cry) with their meanness and narcissism. I’ve stuttered in embarrassment over the antics of the religious right and winced at the smugness of the religious left.

    Yet I still can’t shake my love for the church, in its variant and frail forms. This love eventually led me to seminary and, after a long process of discernment, to ordination as a priest. Over time, I came to understand that the church—with its grape juice and fried chicken, with that basketball hoop and fellowship hall, that Bible and baptism—was not just a place I went for friendship or family ties. The church was, and still is, making me. What has kept me in it is not nostalgia about good people and potlucks, but rather that my understanding of the world—my whole life—has been shaped by the story I learned there. …

    At the heart of the church is either total folly or the mysterious power and love of a dying and resurrected God. If it’s the former, as Paul said, Christians are “of all people most to be pitied.” In other words, we are total idiots, and you should feel sorry for us for wasting our short lives on a fiction. And if it’s the latter, however I define the church, then there is a remainder; something that can never be summed up by scientific or sociological account. According to Pope Paul VI, the church is not a rational experiment but “a reality imbued with the hidden presence of God. It lies, therefore, within the very nature of the Church to be always open to new and ever greater exploration.” As post-Enlightenment Westerners, we are in the habit of speaking of mystery as if it’s a code to crack, the true-crime novel we haven’t finished yet. For Christians the world is a different kind of mystery, one crackling with possibility and saturated with God’s goodness. As Elizabeth Barrett Browning puts it, “Earth is crammed with heaven, and every common bush afire with God.”

    Hiding in church as a child, I felt I was part of something: a story, a family, a global alternative polis, a forgiven people. I had friends there and good food and ritual and music and meaning. But beyond all that, there was something more. Just as I could tell you all about me, yet there’s some mysterious life—some essence of me—that can’t quite be pinned down or summed up, so there is the mysterious power of the Trinity forming, humbling, remaking, and sustaining this creature called the church. That holy and mysterious remainder is, ultimately, why I embarked and remain on my crazy mission to stay forever in the church, living on treasure chocolates and the off-key descants of the saints.

    • Stbndct,

      I find your lack of vowels disturbing. I don’t know what to call you, but I like what you said about your faith, and about mystery, and what E B Browning said. It reminds me a bit of what Flannery O’Connor wrote in her novels and stories about grace, without calling it that.

      Here’s to “that holy and mysterious remainder.”

  21. Ronald Avra says:

    Survived 2018, hopefully expect to survive 2019, and occasionally do some laundry as well. Read and reread Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le Carré, in addition to The Silk Roads: A New History of The World by Peter Frankopan. Enjoyed both immensely. Will try to revisit this page frequently to orient my prayers during the month of January. Grace and peace to all.

  22. I’ll answer the first two questions, and the last.

    1. My most treasured memory is of the birth of my first grandchild, Johan Theodore, in August. The “Theodore” they named after me.

    2. What’s hard in the 2018 journey is yet unfolding. We sent my mother to the emergency room Christmas eve, and at 96 she’s not likely to come home soon, if at all. Yesterday my sister and I had to persuade her, with hospital personnel, that she’ll need to go to a rehab facility (we are NOT calling it a nursing home!) until she is “strong enough” to come home. Watching her face during this was like we were selling her downriver, and last night and today I feel pretty rotten. She loves her home.

    3. Hopes and prayers for 2019?
    —For Mom’s situation to be resolved gracefully (Mom resists God’s grace, btw).
    —For our national angst and chaos to resolve itself legally and peacefully.
    —For our evangelical churches to get over themselves and get back to Jesus.

    As Tiny Tim would say, “God bless us, every one.”

    • Very sorry to hear about your mom’s trouble. Prayers for your mom and for you, Ted.
      Good news about the new grandchild. God Bless you also.

  23. rhymeswithplague says:

    Since I am a pre-Boomer (born a few months before Pearl Harbor) I will just sit quietly over here in the corner and say nothing. Group therapy isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

  24. senecagriggs says:

    A gravestone at the church of St. Martin’s in the Fields in London captures it nicely:

    Remember, Man as thou goes by
    As thou are Now, so Once was I
    As I am Now, so must thou be
    Prepare thyself to follow me

    • Great comment, senecagriggs

      from the poet John Donne, this

      “” … come
      And re-create me. . . . .
      that new-fashioned, I may rise up from death before I’m dead. ”

      from the medieval time, the ‘media vita’ . . .
      ‘in the midst of life, we are in death’
      https://youtu.be/KMrDCsK42Gc

  25. My treasured memory is my summer of “bookends:” seeing a new grandaughter for the first time; and then visiting my aged parents. My mother has some form of Alzheimers. The difficult thing about 2018 was the health challenges: me having a heart attack in February, and my husband’s surgery in the summer.The Jesus prayer and the prayers of friends helped.