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Alabama

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I've been to many states in this big beautiful country that I live in. From east to west and north to south, I've lived in or visited many of them in my lifetime. This is, however, the first time I've been in Alabama. I flew here from Michigan on Wednesday, with four other people from my congregation. We're here for a residency as the Baptized for Life initiative at Virginia Theological Seminary draws to a close. Wednesday was a long long day of travel, beginning at 7:30am with a carpool pick up of the team members.  Our flight had a layover in Atlanta before arriving in Birmingham. And as a result we spent  more time waiting in airports than in the air. We encountered an intense storm on our hour long flight from Atlanta to Birmingham, and the flight attendants were directed to stay seated and buckled in. Long stretches of that flight that were very bumpy, the plane shifting violently from side to side. Thank goodness it was only an hour and by the time we were ready t

Walking. Breathing. Praying.

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  We’ve had very little rain where I live. The grass is crunchy and dry. Leaves are drying on the trees and falling off in the wind. But last night a rain storm was blowing in. After a quick supper I headed out for a second round of my daily walks. I hoped to complete a one mile walk around the neighborhood before the rain started. I donned my trusty lightweight waterproof rain jacket and headed out. The air was thick, humid, but cooling down from another hot day. Cool enough that the jacket was just right.     I bought this waterproof rain jacket in 2020 for a sabbatical trip I was planning that included an eight-day retreat near Belfast, Ireland. I anticipated chilly damp weather and a lot of walking, as described in the travel guide for the retreat. The COVID pandemic conditions caused that retreat to be cancelled - twice in 2020 and once in 2021. Finally, it was to take place in August 2022. In July I flew to Scotland, ahead of the retreat in Ireland, where I spent five days walkin

Sabbatical Day 20: Heading home

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We woke at 5am Paris time. I made us a cup of really strong tea while Dan took a quick morning shower. We headed down to the front desk at 5:55, paid the bill and at the same time the taxi arrived. Our drive to the Charles de Gaulle was relatively quick. It took us a few minutes to sort out where we were supposed to go and how to check in and at which gate, but the airport staff were helpful and we managed that process easily enough. Although we had TSA pre check we still had to go through a fairly extensive check in. Security at Charles de Gaulle -  do not fool around - and with my experience from Sunday still way too fresh in mind, I approached all of it cautiously. Thankfully this experience was much better. Or course it was also following protocol where as Sunday was way off protocol. Then, I was lost in the airport and going in circles through areas I didn’t need to be in. Whereas today I was following protocol, with nothing out the ordinary Thank goodness. Well, except that the

Sabbatical Day 19: Anniversary in Paris

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Thirty-seven years ago today, Mollie Williams can attest to this: the day was a little off kilter. We had the wedding photographer from hell. A photographer far more interested in her photos than she was in the wedding ceremony. A lesson I have never forgotten and always informs the instructions I give to photographers of weddings in which I am the celebrant. 1. Don’t delay the ceremony. 2. Take all the photos you want from where ever you want BUT I never want to be aware of your presence. Don’t let me see you, and don’t get in the way. This is a religious ceremony for which the couple have spent a lot of time preparing for.  Our wedding was delay be nearly 45 minutes because the photographer would not stop taking pictures. Mollie, the officiant, finally came to where we were taking pictures and insisted on starting. I had absolutely no idea of the time. The day was hot and complicated, as wedding days often feel for the couple marrying. But when all was said and done, the ceremony

Sabbatical Day 18: An art museum in Paris, finally. But also the Champs Elysee, the Arc de Tromphe, and the Eiffel Tower…

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We left our hotel early this morning and walked about 15 minutes to the Musee d’Orsay. This is a smaller museum but it has a lovely collection of impressionist and post-impressionist paintings: Cezanne, Monet, Manet, Renoir, Degas, Van Gogh, and many others. We didn’t have tickets, the app kept refusing our credit card for some odd reason (we’ve used it every where else). But getting in was no problem. And we were early enough that the exhibits were not overly crowded, at least at first. I stood in the rooms with paintings from artists I have studied and admired all my life. My eyes welled with tears. I’ve only been this moved a couple of times on this trip: the moment I stood in the ruins of the nunnery garden on Iona, the moment in St. Paul’s Cathedral in London when the priest invited us to sit down and pause for 2 minuets in silence and then he said a few prayers for the world. And then in several rooms at the Musee d’Orsay and the great art that I was present too. I also cried a