Sabbatical Blog

...chronicling some of my projects and learnings during this time apart from parish ministry

Thursday, April 27, 2006


Just returned from a three day retreat, most of it a silent retreat. The retreat leader reminded us of how it is with a duck, who must go under the water to eat from the bottom of the stream, and then come up for air. The duck who never ducks starves, the duck who never comes up drowns.

A three day retreat is one way to really duck down and feed from the depths of the pond, and this nourishment strengthens one for the work of the world. Daily and weekly practices of "ducking out" and down are also the part of a healthy life, especially the healthy life of a minister.

I did nearly this same retreat during my last sabbatical, and that retreat solidified a contemplative mood which then characterized the next four years. This week's retreat solidified something else, a sense of urgency to be more outwardly focused. It's been coming for a while. All signs pointed to the temporary nature of the stepping stone that was my contemplative started crumbling away nearly the moment I landed on it. Still, it was a stepping stone which held me up for a good long time, and I am deeply appreciative of all that I learned and experienced there, all of which I take with me. Now the time has come to leap to the new stepping stone which has become visible in the running stream of my life. And that reminds me of a poem.

Crossing a creek requires three things:
A certain serenity of mind, bare feet,
And a sure trust
That the snake we know
Slides silently underwater
Just beyond our vision
Will choose to ignore
The flesh
That cuts through its territory,
And we will pass through.

Some people think crossing a creek
Is easy,
But I say this--
All crossings are hard,
Whether creeks, mountains,
Or into other lives.
And we must always believe
In the snakes at our feet
Just out of our vision
And we must practice believing
We will come through.
-by Martha Courtot

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