The setting was an Episcopal camp called Beckwith south of Fairhope, Alabama. It was warm, sub-tropical weather all week, and the amount of wild birds we saw was really astounding. The area has been carefully preserved by local work and dedication. They even have a local event coming up called the "Eagle Bash," a celebration to raise money for environmental conservation boosted by the presence of local eagles, including a nest that you can see from the water.
This was a real treat and adventure for me and many of my fellow participants, to paddle board, canoe or kayak out to see the aerie in person. Although I have seen several bald eagles here in Michigan, I had yet to spot a nest.
The hard part of finding the net was standing on a paddle board in a tidal current in shallow water looking up into the tops of the trees searching for that elusive structure of branches and brush.
You would think that a structure almost five feet across at eighty feet or so up in the air would be easy to spot, but the trees did a good job hiding it.
Here we come to the analogy of ministry that really helped me look at my practice and the office and staff at Grace. This church is very much like a tidal estuary, with divine and secular needs blending and pushing in and out moment by moment, all while several rivers push outward to the gulf through Mobile Bay. The amount of ministry being done through and around Grace is constant and always moving. This community has served like a cathedral to Traverse City for a long time, a place to worship, to find sanctuary and solace, to do commerce, and to just gather and have conversation.
We are often trying to stand still on the flow and look up. Our vocation and purpose sometimes feels hidden by the trees as we both balance and paddle to stay in place among the various movements around us.
How do we stop? I fell off more than once trying to come to a stop in the tide. I have fallen a lot more trying to find quiet and stillness in the midst of the flow of ministry. Without that stillness though, you simply cannot see what you seek.
We will continue as ministers of the Gospel to find ways to float on this amazing amount of ministry while staying in balance.
Stillness. We all want that. Balance. The eternal shifting work of staying upright in the flow. All of my physical work these last few months better prepared me for the paddle board. But the work of finding God's vision is always more dependent on the Holy Spirit and grace than on my grip on the board or understanding of the flow. God comes, and we just try to be ready when the trees clear, and the vision appears.
Practice. Stand still. Wait. Repeat. Make a daily habit of liturgical pauses in the flow of life.