May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.Romans 15:13
As July gets under way, halfway through this very challenging year, I thought this might be a good opportunity to tweak the general tone of this blog. I typically have an overall sense of direction, or a filter through which I try to pour most of my writing, but 2022 has been so unsettled that I’m not sure that I have done much more than simply respond in real time to what has been going on around me.
But at least that makes for authentic writing. The name of this page is Words, Photographs, and Food for the Journey and the accent so far in 2022 is absolutely on the “journey” part of the equation. I may have experience as a newspaper reporter, and I still write features for several organizations, but this space is personal – it always has been – and the foundational filter, the lens through which I see the world, is my journey, my pilgrimage.
Life in “retirement”
So, as Rebekah and I come up on the first anniversary of retirement, the seismic shift in our lives that removed us from the defining focus of our life together, I have to wonder what is central now, what anchors us today?
Yes, I understand that faith in God is still the current that steers us, but we are certainly not floating in the same river any more!
I guess that, today, this is the present reality I’m responding to, along with the question, “What is my focus?”
As I ask this question, I am reminded of a story I posted several years ago during a visit to Italy. Our son Andrew was living in Tuscany and he took me to a friend’s vineyard and olive orchard in the hills, where we spent the day helping with the harvest.
During the afternoon the family patriarch, Giovanni, took me for a short hike, across the road and into another section of the beautiful hillside property. He showed me a gnarled old specimen with small, dried up olives. He asked me what I thought of it.
“Not so good?” I observed. “Useless,” he responded…
“But I keep this tree, just one among 1,600, to remind me about Romans Eleven.” Giovanni cups the fruit in his weathered hand. “If I graft this branch on to this good tree…” He gestures at the adjacent tree, full with ripe, plump, olives… “If I graft him – even here – the fruit is still small and it is still not of the right quality….” He waits to see that the wheels in my mind are beginning to turn before he continues. “But you see, the message of Romans Eleven is not about production, it is a promise about belonging….”Olive Harvest in Tuscany
My focus right now – and this is also picked up a couple of chapters later, in Romans 15 – need not be on production anymore (not in the focus of leadership and inviting and supporting the life and outreach of a dynamic church in the way we did in Pensacola, Brandon, and Wake Forest)… but my focus right now, God’s invitation to me in this moment, is a promise about belonging.
I am tired. Not so much retired as just plain tired. That is not going to change much until my parents’ ongoing situation resolves itself in such a way that I can – we can – engage this time of our lives in the ways we had planned for.
But until then God’s word to me is a promise about belonging.
It’s just a phrase, in a verse, part of a paragraph, in a chapter of a long and complicated letter. I may be taking it out of context. Maybe. But I am taking it to heart.
This is where I am. It’s going to be background for me over the next few months of writing. Because right now God is inviting me into a ministry of belonging. As the old hymn puts it, “I am his, and he is mine…”
In the confidence of grace and hope – DEREK
Loved with everlasting love,Wade Robinson (1890)
drawn by grace that love to know,
Spirit sent from Christ above,
thou dost witness it is so.
O this full and precious peace
from his presence all divine;
in a love that cannot cease,
I am his and he is mine.