ONE YEAR ON DISABILITY
(or as some say, “RETIREMENT”)
“….I have calmed and quieted my soul” Psalm 131: 2
Psalm 131:1-3 (NRSV)
O Lord, my heart is not lifted up, my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its other; my soul is like the weaned child that is with me. O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time on and forever more.
It was one year I ago I notified the Session of the church where I was pastor of my need to resign and go on disability. After almost forty years of ministry, twenty-eight years at the Warren Avenue Presbyterian Church in Saginaw, I could no longer keep up with the physical rigors of day-to-day ministry.
Retirement or Disability? For practical reasons, it was better for me and my family to apply for disability. I am now a “Minister-at-Large” of the Presbytery of Lake Huron living as a disabled almost retired pastor.
Health issues aside, I am enjoying my new schedule. For the most part I can get up in the morning and go to bed when I want. This means I get up about 7:00 a.m. and go to bed around mid-night. I take an afternoon nap. I now have coffee or lunch with friends and colleagues on a very relaxed schedule. Because of mobility limitations, I get out at least once a day.
I regret not being able to help around the house or yard. While I can’t physically cook or do housework, I can be the “house manager” when it comes to keeping up with contractors who cut the lawn, clear the snow or tune the furnace. Life is different than before. I no longer have to worry about sermons and church budgets and buildings and most important, the spiritual welfare of members. I can now spend time taking care of my family and myself. In the past, I never really gave enough of myself to be with my family.
I miss the people in the church I once served. A day doesn’t go by that I don’t think of and pray for the congregants in this church. I have done pretty well in not interfering with the work of the new Interim pastor. I really like Jim Williams, a UCC Transitional Pastor. He is doing a great job in loving this congregation. I also know he has the skills and gifts required to help this congregation work through a variety of tough decisions before them. Jim Williams is in my daily prayers. While I don’t really know what is happening in the church internally, I do hear through the grapevine occasional comments from those who say “things are going well”. This warms my heart.
I am now ready to get to know some new people in the congregation I am now attending with my wife—Second Presbyterian Church of Saginaw. This is a warm and caring congregation close to where we live.
One of the greatest things about retirement (yes, I should get used to using this term), is the time I have to catch up on all kinds of reading. I no longer read with an eye on what I am going to be preaching on Sunday. This was a weekly task that seemed to never end. I’m glad I kept about half of my personal library. This avails me the opportunity to re-read books I should have read more thoroughly forty years ago. I no longer skim through chapters. I can now take time to savor and really internalize what some fantastic authors have to say. The sad thing about retirement is not having a platform or pulpit in which to share the many ideas running through my mind and heart.
In turning to the Psalmist, now is the time in my life to quietly place my trust and confidence in God to help me find ways to use what God has entrusted my care. It is in God I find hope in the future. While life has changed, my faith in God is as solid as ever. In fact, I believe because of the ‘sacred-time’ time I now have for reflection and prayer, my faith is stronger than ever before. I now listen to two or three worship services a week on the Internet – in addition to worshipping as often as possible at the Second Presbyterian Church. Using the lectionary, it’s actually FUN listening for how different preachers bring light to common texts. The preaching at Second Presbyterian is as good as many of the sermons I hear from mega churches in large cities!
I am trying to do some blogging. My newest goal in blogging is to remember I am an ordained pastor. I am challenging myself to write, as Karl Barth would suggest, with a newspaper in the one hand and the bible in the other. My biggest challenge in writing is in juxtaposing what I want to say with my theological training in a scriptural context.
All in all, this first year on disability has gone fast. What will the next year bring for me? My wife retires in another month. We can spend more time in mapping out our journey for the last quarter of life together. In December we will celebrate our 37th Anniversary. Together we can watch our one-year old grandson grow. While trips to California will be physically challenging for me, I really look forward to spending more time with our daughter and her family. Simply, there’s a lot ahead for us.
Personally and pastorally, I hope to discover new ways to be a “Minister of Word and Sacrament” without a pulpit. I have plenty to do in capturing where God wants me to go “in occupying my heart” and my daily schedule with things that are worthy of God’s praise.
For those who read this, I continue to hold you in my heart and prayers. I ask for the living Christ to walk with you each and every day….just as the living Christ continues to walk with me and my family. I continue to ask God’s blessings for my family and those I call “friend” and “child of God”. In Christ’s service I hear those who read these proclaim with me: AMEN.