Beyond Wood and Stone

Rev. Elisabeth's Cedar Park Blog site

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Beyond the Sabbatical – the journal will continue

I’ve given this some thought in the last weeks of the Sabbatical, and into this first week back.  Do I put down the journal?  After all, the Sabbatical is over, and  won’t I be too busy being with the people of Cedar Park to be writing to/with/for them?

What I realize is that 97 days is long enough to form a habit, and this habit has been good for my soul.  As an introvert who needs to write to figure out sometimes what I’m really thinking or feeling, this journal has helped me to see myself in the world in more attentive ways.  It has helped me to create a reflective/communicative space where I can connect with you,  the people with whom I serve God in the world. Those are gifts and graces from this sabbatical time that would be too good to give up now.

So the answer, is yes… the journal will continue (not daily, most likely bi-weekly), and for the coming weeks, be something like a  “Beyond the Sabbatical: Journal/Musings on the Return.” I’ll be taking some time in the coming two weeks to reconfigure this blog space so that the periodic musings will be the first thing you see when you come to this site.  I hope in this way to continue a community conversation around this life of faith, pondering, wonder and wholehearted connection to one another, God and this world.


Sabbatical Update: It’s Over?!

Well, it’s over! 97 days,  each one filled with its own unique gifts, challenges, surprises, and expectations. Three months, each with a different purpose and feel.  A season of thinking deeply, and the discipline of writing.

And now for the return. What a brilliant idea to come back just in time  to participate in worship with all who came to the the Participatory Pageant!  The winter sun wouldn’t quit shining on us, making tinsel halos sparkle, and eyes glisten.  (see right).


Mark your calendars for a grand catch up together on January 14th after worship.  A “Lunch and Learn” event where not only I, but all of us, share our experiences of this Sabbatical season.  I shall be reviewing my journal, sharing more photos, the highlights, the hilarious and the holy, as well as some of the tougher aspects of being intentionally separated for a season from the community.  I am sure that you, dear readers, also have stories to tell too, and I want to hear them.

And to all of you who read the journal, and who shared it with some of our folk who are not into finding such things on computers,  please accept my heartfelt thanks. To know that you were following the journey proved to be one of those bonds of caring community which make Cedar Park such a grace-filled, holy place.  And yes, I am glad to be back.

Sabbatical Update: writing status report

Sabbatical Update: Is that a train, or daylight?

It was good to come up for air last night to hear the Philomela Choir perform their Christmas concert (the bass section is awesome, Norman and Peter!), but here I am, back at the desk again this afternoon!  This is my world for the next week, completing the last chapter of writing the thesis.  Most chapters have already been submitted to the first reader, so the edits are also in process.    If you want to join Paul Clarke in a caption contest for this photo, you can find it on Facebook too!

More seriously, I have a request for you readers of this blog; prayers, thoughts…maybe a comment on here, a word of encouragement.  The comparison of long-length writing and long-distance running is apt; both are at times, lonely.   As the end of the tunnel (light) is in sight, it’s even harder to keep focus on the track itself….. Thanks!

Sabbatical Update: Kids Are Unstoppable!

I’m having a wonderful time today reviewing  the midrashic work we did as a community last Advent (it’s a key piece of the fifth chapter of the thesis). There were the Texts and Textures groups and their amazing courage and insight shared, with a salty mixture of seriousness and humour, the wonderful worship, as well as the  sermons I preached, and this: “Kids are Unstoppable!”  The wonderful song that the children of KidZone composed with our much-loved (and missed) Pat Mayberry.  (Whom you can hear this weekend at Coffee House. Go!)

I can plant a flower, I can plant a tree,
‘Cuz I know by doing this I’m helping people breathe.
Keep it simple, we can do it!
When we share, you know it’s true,
I can plant a flower for the love of me and you.
‘Cuz kids are unstoppable –
We can make a difference too!


I can share a smile, put away my frown.
I can help you to get up when you have fallen down.
Keep it simple ,we can do it!
When we share, you know it’s true,
I can share a smile for the love of me and you.
‘Cuz kids are unstoppable –
We can make a difference too!

Oh, how my heart aches, and my toes itch to be back in the midst of  this amazing creative community again!

Sabbatical Update: one word at a time.

Yep.  One word at a time. Writing them, editing them.  That’s really the story of the last week or so of my sabbatical, and will be almost until the end.  I am sure it’s also probably far less interesting to read than “The Adventures of RevE in Provence!”  But that’s the true gift of this sabbatical time,  a ‘wilderness’ space and time to be filled with those things that could not happen if I were in the thick of ministry with the busy people of Cedar Park.  It is a tremendous gift, and some days it feels more like a ‘responsibility’ to make good on that gift, but that’s alright.  That keeps me going through the ‘grind’ of one more word.  I was asked why it’s sometimes a “grind”, and here’s the answer I came up with, on reflection:  I LOVE writing creative midrashic (imaginative) explorations of scripture that will be shared with Cedar Park.  What I love less is the academic writing about creating midrashic -imaginative biblical experiences. But it’s important work, not just for us, but for others out there, trying to find a way to be authentic, life-affirming followers of the way of Jesus, and dreamers of the Dream of God.  I miss you, and pray for y’all, and hope you do too, for me!

Sabbatical Update: Provence

What a gift this has time in Provence has been! After an intense time in UK (with parents who are ill, and/or with housing issues that necessitate many conversations with care providers, lawyers, social workers), this past two weeks as been a time  of sun-soaked restoration.  For most of the time, Norman was with me, so we were able to fully explore this ancient region – how many hilltop villages are there??  This past four days has been ‘toute seule’, my days spent primarily starting on the task of writing my D.Min. thesis, balanced with daily walks  in the vineyards and olive groves,  or to read  and take-notes for the next chapter sitting on a térasse in the village square with  un café au lait avec du pain au chocolat (which pretty much negates the walking!).   Some photos……

Cheap flights mean it will take me two days to get back to Montréal, so my kindle is primed for lots of waiting in departure lounges.  The next phase of my Sabbatical is about  thinking and  writing, and writing, and in between, more writing. To the folk of Cedar Park United who are following this blog journal, thank you for being interested, and supportive.  Please know I think and pray daily for the congregation, and also pray daily that this thesis – which is about our journey together with Scripture – will come some way close to mirroring the amazing, courageous, creative community that you are.

Sabbatical Update: Thanksgiving

Good Morning, and a Happy Thanksgiving Morning to all Canadians!

I’ve updated the Sabbatical Journal again.  Each week has its own page, and the latest entries are simply sitting in the “Sabbatical Journal”, with most recent entries first.   Norman and I are now in Lourmarin, Provence, where I shall be for the next two weeks.  After spending 10 days with aging parents, and attending to those matters which are specific to age and illness,  I am now shifting gear into full-time writing.  A number of you expressed concern that that didn’t seem “restful” or even “pleasant.”  Rest assured, all is well!  Take a look at these first images, and you will see; we are in a beautiful spot,  and I can’t imagine a more conducive way to write than at a table soaked in Provencal sunlight, above the  crooked alleys of Lourmarin, doves in the eaves across the way.Please don’t feel sorry for me. Not at all!  Today, this Thanksgiving, I am indeed thankful. 

Sabbatical Update

The Journal continues. You can find the latest entry  here and you can find the Journal week 1 by clicking  this, or using the tabs above..  I hope there’s a ‘thought for the day’ for those of you who are choosing to read this (and thanks for the encouragement).

To update those who are interested on my plans for the next 3 weeks, now that I’ve had chance to finalize some of them:

  • I head to the UK next week, to spend some time with my mother, who at 84 is no longer very mobile,  so we’re planning a few trips to old haunts, and lots of cups of tea.  I shall also visit with my father, who having suffered a number of strokes this year, is now in a nursing home.  For  a hitherto  fit, active,man-of- the-moors, and one whose mental acuity was legendary, this is a hard chapter of life to be writing, so I ask your prayers for my family as we connect as deeply and as meaningfully as possible.
  • Norman and I will meet up in London, to head to Provence, France. We will spend a week basking in late lavender and early grape harvest, croissants and honey, and such delights for eye, body and soul. He, alas must return after a week, but I shall stay on for another week by myself, to write, write, and write.


And so it begins….. Sabbatical

I will post periodically on this  front page of the blog, various highs and lows of this Sabbatical time.  I also intend to keep a regular (but not daily) journal which you can find by clicking the link here  or find “Sabbatical Journal” above in the black header.

After over a year of planning, preparing,  it begins, for me, and for the congregation of Cedar Park United… a time of difference, newness, exploration, attentiveness,  all the while being blessed by the surprises of  life in all its fullness.

Sabbaticals for clergy are meant to be intentional  periods of release and rest from the day-to-day tasks and responsibilities of pastoral ministry, thereby creating  space and opportunity for spiritual and physical renewal,  for vocational reflection,  and for study.

The supreme model for taking Sabbath time is God! In Genesis we read that after the work of Creation, God took a breath, took a break from all that creating,  and took time to reflect upon it, and to celebrate its fundamental goodness.   In the Gospels, particularly the one written by Luke, we see Jesus frequently taking a ‘time out,’  heading off to the edges of the day, to the edges of creation, to reconnect with God, rest his body, and renew and retool for the ministry that lay ahead of him.   Good models  I intend to follow.

My hope and prayer for my sabbatical is

a) to rest my body and treat it well.  This involves time on my bike, on a golf course, at the gym, at the piano, cooking interesting food,and  some travel.

b) to bring to completion the work of my Doctorate in Ministry (D.Min).  I need to complete a dissertation/thesis, but I WANT to write down the best of our recent experiences of unlocking Scripture in community through the use of a “midrashic imagination”  – a faithfully playful, curious engagement of the Biblical library in ways that make relevant connections between these ancient texts, our own context, and God who is involved in both.

c) to connect meaningfully with my far flung family.  With parents in UK, our children and their families living in Vancouver and South Dakota, that is no small undertaking!

d)  to  pray and ponder, read and listen well to the call of God for the next chapter of our lives together at Cedar Park United, for you can be sure, God has things, good things in store for us!

My hope  for this Sabbatical time for CPU is that you relish this opportunity to worship in new ways with great worship leaders, Revs. Wendy Evans and Alyson Huntly, and our guest line up for early Adventwho will bring insights from other faith traditions in their Human Quest for the Holy.  My prayer for you is that you love and care for one another as you share the  ministries, programmes,  vision, and  mission of Cedar Park United in the months ahead.

May God bless the space between us.

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