Sunday, September 23, 2012


When I was a young adult, just emerging from college with my strong ideas and ideals, I remember thinking: "I will never change." I joined a volunteer corps after graduation and that was what brought me to Cleveland.

I was hungry to live out my values. I was to live simply, in a community with others, sharing spirituality and a lifestyle that promoted social justice. I was to work for a small, ecumenical church-based agency that assisted ex-offenders. I was ready to change the world - although I would have told you at the time that I was not that idealistic.

One of my coworkers at that agency was a politically radical, often frenzied, much caring minister of a different denomination from mine. He was familiar with my volunteer corps in that the agency had had a volunteer the year before. Often when he was introducing me to others, he would say that I was "taking a year off" to do this work and live this way. I always wanted to correct him, though I don't remember if I ever actually did. I wanted to say: "I'm not just doing this for a year. This is how I want to live all of my life. I will not change from this way of living - when I'm thirty, forty or fifty. This is who I am."

Recently, my parents faced the difficult task of downsizing twice in a short period of time - first from their house to a senior apartment, then from the apartment to an assisted living apartment across the country. All of this downsizing meant discovering possessions that they did not remember that they had and having to make decisions about what to do with them. One discovery was a large collection of cards and letters sent to them by my brother and me. Quite possibly every card or letter.

My mother gave me the bag of my own, suggesting that I read through them and decide if I wanted to keep any of them. My first thought was just to pitch them. Of course, curiosity got the better of me in the end. There were predictably cute ones from when I was very young. The ones that made the most striking impression, however, were the ones from college and my young adult years.

It was so peculiar. I thought I remembered myself at that age, how I thought and felt and wrote as a young adult. Yet reading the letters I had written home were like reading letters written by a stranger. A rather strange stranger. Now well into my fifties, there is no doubt. I have indeed changed, much as I had vowed I wouldn't.

In my youthful exuberance, I was not mistaken in believing that my core ideas and values would guide the course of my coming decades. What I lacked was the experience to understand that life must change. Life, as part of its "aliveness" is dynamic, constantly in motion, growing, developing, withering, dying and being reborn - anything and everything but staying the same.

Life has its seasons. It is no coincidence that I write now, as the season changes from summer to autumn. But life's seasons are so much more than the cycle that repeats, year after year.

My life has its seasons, even when I haven't recognized that that was the case. It is much like when one is used to the summer heat and then suddenly notices that there is a bit of a nip in the air when the sun goes down. When did that start happening? Yet the seasons of my own life are even more mysterious. While I can predict that my hair will gray and my mind will slow (and surely they have!), there is much about the changing seasons of my life that I cannot know before I get there.

Even my response to the changes in my life has been changeable. Sometimes I have feared change. Changes that I chose sent panic shooting through my body as I could see nothing before me but risk. Other times, I have longed for change, but could not see how to make it happen. Yet so often it seems that, when I allow it to, life unfolds and change simply is. Not always easily or without effort or without pain. But I fumble through the fears and obstacles, living the questions until they turn into answers. (The answers too, because life is always changing, turn back into new questions...)

This, now, is a time of major change in my life. I have both longed for and feared it. I tried to make it happen many times and discovered that I couldn't. I was afraid. I didn't know how. And now I understand why. I could not be in charge of the change. To be my true self is to be in God. To be in God means that I cannot be God. Rather I must entrust myself to the sacred movement, the sacred dance of the living universe... I found that I did not know how to do even this.

Yet there is grace. And that grace is like an irresistible melody that guides my heart to dance in its rhythm, though I do not know (and cannot know) the steps. In that sacred dance, it is He who leads - and so I follow...

If you are a patient or friend who has been out of touch and do not know of my life changes, feel free to contact me. If you do not know how to contact me, a link will be provided sometime in the next few weeks. If you would like to read more about life-in-motion, Father Stephen Freeman, an Orthodox priest, posted a wonderful article on his blog:

(To celebrate the changing seasons, click on the image below to view my 50 favorite photos from summer of 2012. To watch them as a slide show, click on the slideshow button in the upper left; to stop the slideshow, hit the escape key. As always, you are welcome to download any of my photos for your personal, nonprofit use.)
summer 2012