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CHAPTER 4–HOMEWARD BOUND

 

Every Sabbath has an ending,
A moment when one turns the corner, ends the day, and reenters ordinary time.
That moment has arrived for us. Suitcases are packed, boarding passes obtained- we head for the airport early in the morning.

A dear friend of my soul reminded me that experiences like these make sense over time, that one needs some room to reflect, so I will resist the urge to comment or summarize.

We spent today visiting the cathedral at Chartres, touring for 90 minutes with the legendary Malcolm Miller and marveling at the architecture and stained glass, the detailed stories carved in to the walls of the building.

Tom and I walked on the thousand year old labyrinth.

We marveled at the beauty and endurance of this place of pilgrimage. We took a few pictures.

We are ready to come home.  All of us find ourselves longing for familiar things, favorite places, and people we love. We are ready to return, and we will carry this amazing experience with us.

In Jewish tradition, there is a ritual for the end of Sabbath called “havdalla”.  It involves lighting a special braided candle (that has always seemed to me an apt symbol of how rest and work are braided together in our lives) and then passing around a box filled with sweet spices such as cinnamon and clove for each family member to smell.  The idea is to acknowledge the sweet smell of Sabbath and celebration, and then to carry the memory of that aroma into the days ahead.

Our time abroad has been sweet.
I wonder how the aroma will follow us home.

See you Sunday (the 18th!- I will be back in the office this week)

Sandy

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Chapter Three

I did not bring a laptop on this trip, and so I am typing with my thumbs on my cell phone. Which somehow makes me feel clever.

Last week we were on the island of Iona, a remote (difficult to get to) island of perhaps 120 residents, that is known as a ‘thin place’, where God is very near.  It was often drizzly and foggy, and we wore wool sweaters and drank tea, and took long walks without seeing another person. We worshipped morning and evening at the Abbey (see photo) and I gathered many great ideas to bring home :) It was quiet in the best possible way, and Tom and I prayed for people and situations we love, and drank in the solitude and the views of the sea, and were still.

It turns out that Abby Barrantes’ brother Luke, who is a PCUSA pastor in the Chicago area is also on sabbatical this summer and was on Iona the same week that we were with his wife and their 3 year old daughter.
I have included a snapshot of Eliza (Abby & Eliecer’s niece) who was singing her own Alleluia song in the sanctuary one morning after worship. It was so lovely to meet and connect with other kindred spirits, and to feel connected to home even far away.  I confess that I cried on the ferry as we left…it is holy ground for me and I do not know if I will ever return.  I wonder how many in the congregation know that we have an Iona Room at First Pres? It is in the back of the office, and is decorated with pictures of the island and things that hint at its history.

Tom and I are now in Assisi, Italy, a town made famous by St. Francis.  Among other things, he cared for the poor, preached peace, and believed that nature expressed the goodness of God.  It is very warm and sunny, but also breezy- gorgeous!  The city is on a hill, and we are definitely getting our exercise!  We have rented a rooftop apartment here (thru the internet) in which I would be willing to live forever it is so beautiful!  This is the patio, where we ate dinner overlooking the church of San Ruffino. Walking up 4 flights of stairs is totally worth it. We spent the day exploring the basilica and the neighborhood, and are savoring bread and melons and peaches and parmesan and other things that are plentiful and inexpensive and delicious. Mostly today I am full of gratitude for the community of faith that has given us this great gift. You are astonishing! And even in paradise, we miss you.

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Chapter Two

I am just returned from a week in the Forest, and I return full of gratitude for the gift of these days.

Bethany seems older to me, having completed her orientation to camp staff and a week of leadership. She and her non-biological ‘cousin’ Morgan are both on staff, and though they have spent time together every summer of their lives, it is startling to see them treat each other as young adult colleagues.  They are thriving, as you can see, and they are doing good work. And there is laughter.

My friend Sheila and I have walked the journey of life together from college onward. Summer camp staff, weddings, babies, professional development, deep faith and great loss: we have shared it all.  The time has come for her to finish her work at the Woods (www.westiminsterwoods.org), and to seek what is next.  We spent hours reflecting on the extraordinary story of our relationship with this place, and then cooking and eating and singing along with the stereo.  We sat outside and watched the birds visit the feeders in the garden, and we remembered how each sparrow is cherished and fed by the Holy One.  And we marveled at what it means that our babies are now adults. We conclude that Grace has brought us safe thus far, and will lead us safely home.

Friendship Camp is always a gift, a chance to remember what really matters.
In a sabbatical season, it is good to have friends who do not or cannot hurry.  At a gathering of young adult counselors, I posed this question about our disabled campers: “Why doesn’t God fix them?”  There was a brief pause, and then a twenty-something said, “Because they’re not broken!”  Suddenly, everyone had something to say, and we spent time reflecting on how the image of God resides in these earthen vessels,and also on what we can learn from friends who are free to delight, who trust us, who demonstrate daily that ‘perfection’ has never been the goal.

Later that evening I talked with a smart and beautiful  friend about what makes us insecure, what makes us safe.  I am awed and humbled by the love of God that calls me again and again to trust the refuge I am offered in Christ, and to rest in that sufficiency.

And so the second chapter of sabbatical ends as I leave my beloved redwoods and prepare for what is next. I am packing now, reviewing itineraries and checking lists, preparing for our departure in a few days to places I have dreamed about.  Thank God for the gift of Sabbath.

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CHAPTER ONE

Our Graduate

The first chapter of my Sabbath season is done. One of the clear intentions for this time of ceasing and resting and embracing and feasting was to cease my ‘normal’ routine in order to embrace my daughter as she finished her high school journey.  I began this sabbatical several days before she graduated, so that I might be fully present to her and able to feast and celebrate with family. I wanted to accompany her in this important moment and also to listen for God’s word to me in this tectonic shift in my life.

And I did. As she completed Last Things at school, as she offered her lovely valedictory speech to the graduates and their families, as family came from the East Coast to celebrate this milestone, God was very near.

In the days since then, she’s moved through a series of sleepovers and farewells and gift-giving, all tinged with ambivalence. As her school friends have grappled with the work of saying goodbye to what they have known and counted on, we’ve had several conversations about love and loss, about faithfulness and fear, about how love never ends (1Cor. 13). We’ve done tasks together: sought out a sleeping bag for her summer job, and filled out paperwork for UCLA.  She completed classes for her lifeguard certification.  We’ve baked cookies, watched TV, and visited an art museum together.  I have had some precious days away in beautiful places to pray and journal about this holy season of letting go. I am struck by how God speaks if I can slow down enough to listen.

Yesterday I took her to the airport where she put herself on a plane, along with all her luggage for 6 weeks on staff at Westminster Woods (www.westminsterwoods.org) , and also some clothes for France, (since Tom and I head for Europe before she is done in the forest. She will fly over and meet us there. )

Thus ends the first chapter of sabbath, and I am full of a conglomeration of feelings. I am so grateful for the blessing of being Bethany’s mom.  I’m humbled by the generosity of First Pres loving her and blessing her on her way- “what can I return for all your goodness to me? I will lift up my hands in the congregation and bless the Lord” (Ps. 116:12).  And I am so sad! Tears fills up my eyes when I am present to it- how I miss my girl! (and it is only the first day!).  I am proud: this summer she will serve young people on behalf of the church, she is trustworthy and will make the world a bit safer. I am wistful, wondering if I have ‘done enough’ as a parent now that her official childhood is over. I both fearful and delighted about these next few years where she will live in a dorm and not down the hall.

This mash-up of feelings is shot through with a powerful sense that the Holy Spirit is speaking through all of it. This is the ‘abundant life’ Jesus promises us: full and deep and rich (John 10:10). I see that part of this abundance comes from noticing it, from moving at a pace that is gentle and allows me to feel and hear and respond to my life, and the Life underneath the series of events. And I wonder how, when the sabbatical is over, I can live more gently and abundantly…

Wishing you Sabbath depth ~ missing you

 

 

 

 

 

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Sabbath Rejoicing

God’s mercies never come to an end… And this was this morning’s surprise!

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Sabbath Musings

My Sabbath season begins at sundown tonight! All week long folks from this community have been sending me thoughts about sabbath:

about this process for me, and for us as a congregation as we listen to God’s invitation to REST!

The following are quotes from emails and cards that I have received this week.

What are YOUR sabbath thoughts? Send them to Wendy wendy@slugparade.com and she will post them here, so the sabbath-y conversation can continue while I am away.

and may the Holy Spirit guide us all into sabbath and rest!

****

To go away (for Sabbath) is an a statement of faith, an affirmation. It is an invitation into the mystery of trusting God.

**

I hope that we can continue to offer opportunities to our congregation to discover this “gift”, not a commandment but a gift!  I am sure that our Sabbath journey now, and as Sandy is away, will continue to unfold.

**

I wish we could get together one more time before you leave, but one thing I hope the practice of Sabbath will  teach me is that the time will be there.  If we partner our conscious effort with God’s Grace, the time will be there.

**

I just enjoyed a lovely Sabbath moment (on a Monday!) It involved the last bit of the cool morning on my patio, a cup of tea and your sermon on my iPad.  And it involved taking a moment. Carving out the time and savoring the morning in a way I don’t often do.  And I am so very grateful for being guided toward that moment as we all take time for Sabbath…I am joyful for you. I am sad because we will miss you. But mostly I am so delighted that we have found our way to this place…

**

Praying and hoping you will be able to “let go” this week!! Let’s see, I believe someone I know used the scripture, “Do not be afraid” this morning in worship and never fear, we will still be your loving congregation when you return!!

**

Many people love you and pay you to be so good. Now go and be good for nothing. (!!)

 

I am headed off to be good for nothing.  :)

What is the Risen Christ saying to you about Sabbath??

~Sandy

 

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Supporting Safe Schools

A group of 50 teenagers and adults spent their second day here, teaching and learning about what it takes to make a school safe. This is the Safe Schools program, created after Columbine to train young people to listen and notice and care about students in their school community who may be stressed or troubled. These particular students are from SBHS, our neighborhood high school. With the help of 12:7 intern Stephanie Fletcher, we have been working this year to build a partnership with the school, and see how we can support them in their mission to educate young people and ready them for adulthood. It has been exciting to become friends with principal Sandra Rodriguez, and to meet counselors, teachers, and staff who are strengthening this neighborhood by investing in its teenagers. I was so touched to see the lovely thank you note they left for us (they made a separate one for James!) Good things are happening here!

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Sabbath in the Suburbs

Pastor, author, and parent-of-young-children MaryAnn McKibben Dana blogs about her experience interviewing with PBS for a segment on Sabbath in the Suburbs, her book describing her family’s year-long experiment with Sabbath: “About that PBS Story: On White Couches and Missing Lampshades.”

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2 Minutes of Wisdom

Extraordinary preacher and author Barbara Brown Taylor reflects on one of the things that makes practicing Sabbath difficult- watch this two minute video and ponder with me what we are about to undertake… both “the hammock part” and the “looking up at the night sky” part….

http://www.faithvillage.com/video/a60f72728ddc4099b6510fe4ddf866ae/sabbath_a_practice_in_death__barbara_brown_taylor

see you Sunday~

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