October 19, 2015
Faith Journey - The Ministry Years
Don served three churches in his ministry. Our first church was La Mesa Community Church in Santa Barbara, a small church of 100 members and our home for six years. Our second was the Woodland Hills Community Church in the San Fernando Valley about 75 miles south of Santa Barbara, and finally we left California when Don was called to the First Congregational Church of Bellingham, WA. Both of these churches were larger from about 400 to 600 members. Over the years, I heard hundreds of sermons that certainly had to affect what I believed. As previously mentioned, we three couples who became so close during seminary days also shared in many theological discussions which came from the learning journey the men were taking and the opportunity we women had in participating in their discussions. Perhaps this could be called a "second hand theological education." But, for me, it was the beginning of a more complex theological perspective. If the Occidental College Biblical Literature class took apart any misconceptions I had formed in early years, this experience brought me further along in forming what I actually believed myself based upon all of the former experiences I had around the subject.
I fondly remember the first time I disagreed with a theological point that Don had been making. Since I had so often followed in his footsteps in my beliefs, it was exciting to find myself argue a different stance when his theological credentials were so intimidating. His thirst for knowledge was so broad and eclectic. Don was always interested in a variety of religions. He read widely of people like Edgar Casey who had mystical experiences. He was open to the mysterious and when he was younger, he would drag me to a variety of churches. I was always worried that he would go up for an altar call or start speaking in tongues. I think he was simply fascinated with how people worship and how they experienced God.
If my faith was forming earlier, it certainly coalesced during his ministry. Over the years, I saw his preaching deepen and his beliefs evolve and grow stronger. For instance, I probably heard over 45 of his Easter sermons. I can tell you that every one was different. Some elements might have stayed the same, but each one showed either a birds eye view of one particular element of the story, an alternate way of looking at the same event, or an entirely new perspective. One of the things that I kept me always interested in what he had to say was that he believed in preaching at his own edge, instead of lecturing to those who knew less than he did. Once after an interesting sermon, I happened to mention that I was glad a particular person was in church that morning and could hear what he had to offer. "Did you write that sermon with her in mind?" I was astounded by his annoyance at my question. "You need to listen to sermons to find whatever is meaningful to you. I preach to my own questioning and my own search for meaning. I try to be true to God's Word. I am not attempting to teach or manipulate someone into thinking one way or another." His religious thinking stayed alive and growing for him, and therefore for me.
Speaking more of preaching, people often asked if he "tried out his sermons" on me. The answer was never. He often wrote sermons after having the ideas simmer in his brain for several days. Don took his topics from the lectionary, and knew approximately the themes coming up. He kept files and dropped ideas in over time. When it came to writing the sermon, he rarely did that before Saturday night. And, if he had happened to write it on Monday, chances are that he would write a completely different sermon on Saturday. It was never about him. It was always a search to find where inspiration and faith would take him at the moment of writing. The search for the poetic was also important. He had a literate mind, a poetic heart, and an amazing ability to understand how to craft a sermon that captured the essence of the scripture in a space between 15 and 20 minutes.
I'm sure that a great deal of my theological belief system came from my husband. Even though I occasionally had some differences of opinion, he was such a dynamic preacher and he was truly authentic. He didn't "act the preacher role." He was who he was whether being a father or a minister. He was not a different person in the intimacy of his home than he was at church. The only thing that differed was the necessities of the job. Perhaps that is the first thing that I attribute to him. He had no patience with those who preached one thing and lived another. It was a point on which we both agreed.
Here are some other things that I learned from my husband. I think they are self- explanatory so I will mainly list them. They have definitely nudged their way into my own belief system. And, I can see the roots of many in his family of origin.
The first tenet is simple. I don't believe there was a time, even when agnostic, that Don didn't believe that there is a God. I think that he would say that just because we can't explain everything, doesn't mean there is not meaning behind the universe. That is what faith is all about. God is called by many names in many languages, but there is something behind all that ancient wisdom. And, he chose to call that God. And, that God loves everyone - especially those that others do not love.
Don once said that he was probably Christian because he was born in the Western world. It was part of his culture. But, there are many paths to the ultimate truth in all the ancient religions. People have to choose which path to follow or they get lost (or maybe he would say they "cop out") by not following any. Which might follow that he believed that you must be of service to others as an outgrowth of your belief system.
He believed in forgiveness and practicing forgiveness. God forgives you, forgive yourself and move on. Be understanding of others in their struggles.
Share your wealth - give a tithe to the church. You don't own anything that isn't a gift from God. Be thankful for what you have and share it with those who are not as fortunate. And, part of that belief was the reason you go to church - because you are grateful for what you have already been given. Church may give you solace, but you don't go to receive, you go out of thanks for what you have already received.
And, especially for me, you shouldn't go around complaining or worrying so much. You don't want to put that negativity into the universe. Your glass is half full, not half empty. Share the good news with others.
And then, finally, after observing him to the very end, you don't have to be afraid to die.
Another Long Recess
It's been two months since I wrote on this blog. I guess I haven't had much to say. I have been struggling with my Faith Journey stuff and have actually transformed my interest in it. I will soon post the next section which is almost finished, but I've decided to take the whole Faith Journey material and think in a larger sense about a memoir. That's my writing self thinking differently -- but there are so many little funny stories that are not really part of the faith journey, but make a more interesting and less dry journey, that I thought I would try my hand at it. At the moment this is just musings, but we'll see which direction I take. Since I have already written my next section, however, I will post it as is. This is for Larry who reminds me that it has been a long time.
I've been thinking about habits lately. After a rather busy summer which ended by my usual trip to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival for almost a week of plays, I came home and was rather a couch potato. Gone was the walking, I didn't go to the gym, and I ignored my usual trek to Weight Watchers. I have put off some phone calls that I promised myself to make, and some household things that need attention. The past three weeks I have hosted house painters that transformed 1/2 of my old several-storied house -- and now they are unsticking windows and finishing touches on areas they missed. I'll have the second half done in the spring.
Fall brings lots of things that seem to click back in place. My housemate, Katie, has returned to teach voice for three days a week at the University. My calendar is a bit freer. My grandson, James, is back at college and his cousin, Nicole, is a freshman at University of Puget Sound. Nico is back in school and Lionel has started kindergarten. And, last week I either walked daily or went to the gym -- now if I can get back to Weight Watchers, I will have restored my habits -- as long as I keep them going which is not always easy in the dreary weather. However, I felt more on track last week, and that feeling is good as if more is right with the world.
Dani and Charles are busy with their academic editing business and Charles is teaching a class on Buddhism at Western. Ron and Jeni are busy working (Ron is currently in London for business). Jeni has started Craswell Consulting which engages in nonprofit organizational management. Christine and Martin are presently up to their ears in new projects. Christine continues her freelance art work. Martin has just published his first novel which he financed through a successful Kickstarter campaign and he and a friend have launched Seattle Review of Books which, at the present time, is an online journal. This is on top of his day job as a web designer for NBC Breaking News. This has definitely been his banner year.
So, this is it for now. Happy Halloween!
August 19, 2015
Lazy Days Still Around!
I have been ignoring this blog as I have been ignoring all kinds of tasks and chores. So, today I have been doing some things that hang over my head. They are not fun things to do because no one but me will know they are done. No one will pat me on the back for being resourceful or clever or industrious. But, sometimes you just need to do what you need to do.
So what momentous things did I accomplish? I took my bedspread to the laundry. It is just too large for my washing machine. I defrosted the big freezer in my basement that I have ignored for two years. It was a huge job since Dani has been keeping some stuff in there also. So, i had to drag out my old ice chests and fill them to the brim so I could turn off the machine. I paid bills. I sent two cards to friends. i self cleaned my oven and personally cleaned all the messy oven burners. I finished painting a little cupboard that has been sitting in my basement to house my little Native American miniatures. I had taken it down when we painted the living room. I ironed some napkins. I watered all the pots and even did a bit of weeding.
I guess I can safely say that I wasn't idle. I can also say that these are things I keep in my head on a virtual to-do list. I am pleased that they are finally done although many of them will have to be repeated again very soon. I'm glad I'm not metered yet because my plants have taken a great deal of water this summer. I look around the house and see other things I did not do today -- but they can stay on the list for now.
Oh yes, I also have writing on that list. But that seems to have gone by the wayside. Oh well!
July 20, 2015
I am sitting in the big lounge chair drinking a cup of tea and eating a one day old chocolate croissant that is slightly stale but still tastes good when you hit the chocolate! It has been quite a week and this is the first time I've had more than a few minutes to simply be.
Lots of fun times and company last week beginning with the arrival of Katy Caliendo from Texas. Katy is a horn player who just left the Houston Symphony and had a three week gig at the Festival of Music here in Bellingham. My neighbor was housing the musicians and asked me to help. During Katy's final few days, my friend, Hope Newcomer, came from England to visit. She arrived on Monday, just in time for my dinner group here. I overcooked and had lots of taco makings so we put together another taco spread on Wednesday night for some friends who wanted to see Hope. Both women left on Thursday. Katy was headed to Texas to pack up her earthly goods and move home to New Jersey while she goes around the country for auditions for her next symphony job. Hope is traveling to Idaho and Montana for family reunions. She'll be back the end of the month for another few days in Bellingham.
Just as they walked out the door, Martin and Lionel came for a very fruitful visit. I have been going through hundreds of slides that have taken up five shelves in my basement -- slides from my father, from Don's parents, and from our own archives. I've thrown away many hundreds of slides from trips, zoos, and flowers! If there was no significance to a picture without people, it was tossed. I gave away dozens of slide carousels and other paraphernalia. I kept Larry Green's projector so long that I thought he might send a collection agency around to seize it. I winnowed the pile of slides down to a mere few hundred or so. Then I put them in order of year.
A few weeks ago, my nieces visited from California and Texas. Thanks again to Larry's generosity, we had a slide show from my dad's collection when those nieces were little children. It was so much fun. So, this weekend my lovely son, Martin, came up with grandson, Lionel, and we spent the entire weekend finishing (mostly) the BIG MCCLELLAN SLIDE PROJECT! While I sorted for him, Martin put all the slides on his computer and then we began tagging the people. That project needs to be finished, but what Martin can't figure out, he assures me that we can finish between us by talking on our computers. Once the project is completely done and there are names to the photos, we'll make the slides available to our whole family including the nieces, nephews, and anyone featured in the pictures.
It is one more of those burdensome projects off of my list, and I am delighted. There are just so many things around that need to be distributed and/or tossed in order to simplify my life. Along those lines, I put out an old barbecue and a stationary bike on my curb and they were both gone within a few hours. I had called You Got Junk but they lost their franchise in my zip code.
Next on my list is a continuation of the painting we (or mostly Jeni) has done. The entry hall is next! And then one of the bedrooms upstairs. And, the garden, and, and, and, and! But, I'm not going to let what hasn't done dampen my spirits because I am so impressed by what HAS been done in this past month. And, I am very grateful to my children for helping me keep the momentum. They are awesome!
July 17, 2015
I have had trouble getting into this blog. Also, I found that others had similar problems. At one time you had to go to marilynmcclellan.com/blog - but my son, Martin, changed it just to marilynmcclellan.com. I had trouble with this for a short while, but it seems to be working now. Maybe I was entering it in wrong because I kept getting a whole list of things to click on.
Martin had to cut out the comments section quite awhile ago because I was getting 40 or 50 spam a day. Since he cut it out, the spam have vanished. We may try to put it in again. Of course, you could always email me at email@example.com.
Sorry to have so many problems. I might have had a virus. Martin has been generous in housing the blog on his own computer.
Thanks for your patience.
July 16, 2015
A few days ago, I went to Costco at 9:50 a.m. arriving ten minutes before it opened. Listening to a podcast as I waited in the car, I looked up to see the doors being slowly raised. I got out of the car and approached the store realizing that there must have been 50 people in a line that stretched to the right reaching almost to the gas station. Some folks were milling around in front of the doors, but not very many. Most of the customers and their carts were patiently waiting in this very long, quiet, and orderly queue. I thought, "Why do people wait in long lines to get into Costco before it opens?" It is not the first time I've experienced this phenomena, and I still fail to understand it.
Nothing is on sale. I see no reason to line up in your order of arrival although it may be a polite thing to do. Since more than one person can enter the store at the same time, why weren't they forming two lines? Or they could all be mingling around the entrance. They could have sat in their car until the doors opened. But, hordes of people arrive early and get into a long line before the store opens its doors. I was there because I couldn't remember if it opened at 9:30 or 10:00. Was that the case with the others?
Every time I've arrived early at Costco, I've seen the same large number of people standing in the same orderly single file lineup. Earlier, I thought it was a Canadian thing, but with the difference in the exchange these days, I doubt I could blame this behavior on the politeness or mores of our northern neighbors.
On a lark, I decided to ask some of the people why they were standing in line. The first time I said, "Why are so many people standing in line to get into Costco?" A woman looked at me as if I was crazy. Then, I asked another. "Why are we standing in line?" Maybe the "we" pronoun would not be so threatening. Again I got a weird stare. What seemed obvious to them escaped me. Or, maybe they just were following the crowd and thought I shouldn't question the majority decision. In any case, I felt like a crazy outsider who just didn't understand.
The doors were finally raised all the way. At this point, I had been waiting by the carts for the people in line to finish entering the store in their orderly fashion. God forbid that I should break in when it wasn't my turn. But, a lovely young woman stopped and invited me to go in front of her. I declined, but she insisted. So, much to the chagrin of the elderly man behind her, I stepped into that line at the midway point and entered Costco. I grabbed the few things I wanted and found the checkout quite reasonable at that time of day. Do you suppose that the people who stand in line expect to avoid the long checkout lines at the other end of their shopping experience?
I continue to search for understanding!
June 28, 2015
Chuckanut Writers' Conference
I attended the 6th annual Chuckanut Writers' Conference on Thursday through Saturday and heard some of the best sermons ever. It was awe inspiring. I went to Conference #1 with Martin in 2010 and for a variety of reasons haven't gone back. This year names like Bryan Doyle, Erik Larson, and Elizabeth George drew me to submit my application and put aside the time. I'm so very glad I went.
Thursday evening began with the Chuckanut Radio Hour and some fine poets including Sam Green who is one of my favorites in the Northwest. I've heard Sam before at the Skagit Poetry Conference. He was there with his wife, also a poet and others as well as the Radio Hour regulars and a band from San Francisco. It was a nice beginning.
On Friday, cookbook writer, Kate Lebo gave the opening address about authority and risking being wrong if you want to get anything really right. After, I attended an interesting workshop given by a physician/fiction writer, Carol Cassella who is an excellent speaker, who talked about facts and fiction and how important it is to get the writing close to real life. The afternoon keynote speaker, William Kenoyer, was quite an entertainer but the best of the day was the workshop with Elizabeth George who explained how she developed characters in her books and then put us through some really intense character development exercises.
But, the piece de resistance was definitely on Saturday. The whole day and every event was wonderful from the early morning sharing on the topic, "Why Write?" to the first session, an author's panel with Elizabeth George, Erik Larson, Carol Cassella, and Canadian Steven Galloway. Chuck Robinson from Village Books moderated the authors as they answered questions about their process, how it has changed over time, and about their writing life. What was enjoyable was watching how they interacted with one another, truly interested in questioning the way each other wrote and why they did this or that. It was a stunning hour and worth the entire conference.
And, then we heard from one of my favorite authors, Bryan Doyle, who basically preached an hour long sermon on the fact that everything is story and that everyone has a story. And, he told moving stories as he paced the stage. He was mesmerizing as he encouraged us to get our stories out no matter what the genre. He actually reminded me of several of Don's sermons over the years about our life stories. He moved me to tears at times. And, it was especially poignant after taking the long character development exercise with Elizabeth George where she helped us flesh out real characters with real lives and real events for our various stories.
Later that day, I attended a well planned and helpful workshop on Building an Author Platform with two women who work in the publishing industry and then heard Erik Larson on how to know when your ideas are actually a book. He had people pitch some ideas to him which he critiqued. Then, Elizabeth George delivered the final address of the day which was stunning. Her outline was: 1) Develop a process that works just for yourself and that reflects who you are. 2) Discover if you have the "fire power"to carry whatever you are working on to completion. "Fire Power" takes discipline (treating your writing like a job), a schedule that works in your own life, and sacrifice. She ended with 3) Have no regrets. If something else is taking your attention, maybe it is more important than writing. She has friends who are excellent published writers, but because of their life circumstances, other things (health, family, etc.) have taken their attention. If that is so, stop writing and stop feeling bad about yourself for doing that. During her talk she was very vulnerable about explaining how her early difficult years have often led to deep depression which has been alleviated by her creative endeavors. For her, writing is therapeutic and totally necessary. But, everyone has to decide for him/herself.
It was a wonderful two days, and I'm so glad that I was able to attend. It did fire me up. I want to try George's character development ideas and remember that I'm basically telling stories. I want to see if I can find the discipline or if other things are really just more important to me than writing. Lots of think about and ponder.
May 6, 2015
There's No Place Like Home!
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I am finally home from my trip -- I say finally since we took a taxi to Orly and then waited. And waited. And waited. Our small plane flight was very late (ritarde said the sign!). When it arrived, it was a much bigger plane and during the flight, our attendant said that we were missing our London to Vancouver flight. After landing, we had to be bussed into the main airport. We checked in as requested, and were sent to a hotel for the night, given receipts for dinner and breakfast, and a cute little package with a large T shirt, and a bunch of little items such as toothbrush and paste, razor, shampoo, etc. We were tired from sitting around in the airport all morning, so it was lovely to be in London where we could enjoy watching television in English once again. Actually, Barb and I got pretty good at French game shows which were on in our hotel lounge without sound. But, the only channel we could enjoy late at night was BBC and, believe me, you don't want to watch BBC two days before the election of the new prime minister. We did get to see pictures of Charlotte, the new royal baby with the rest of the world.
For some reason beyond our understanding, we were placed on Air Canada the next morning. I was delighted. After going to England on British Air, I can tell you that Air Canada is a step up (a long one). The electronics are far better, screens and sound clearer, selections more interesting, and the amenities better. Barb and I had paid to preorder our seats on British Air, so we were frustrated until we saw that we were going to share three seats because the plane wasn't full. Yea!!! Finally, we got much better food -- full lunch and treats or snacks every few hours -- ice cream, cookies, etc. etc.
Now I'm trying to readjust to another time zone. The first day I went to bed around 9:00, was awake at midnight and finally dozed until about 3:00 a.m. when I just gave up and got up. I made it until 9:30 last night and slept (mostly) until 6:30 this morning, so I'm making progress. It is beautiful here, so that lifts the spirits! The final few days in Paris were mostly rainy.
It is lovely to be home. It was an adventure and a fun vacation. Barb Storms is the easiest person in the world to be with. She is unflappable -- and a good and fun companion. She kindly spent time with my relatives and we have long known that we compliment each other since I'm right brained and she is left brained. She found things that I lost and I always have a sense of the larger picture. We've done enough traveling together (grad school, Maine, yearly to Ashland) that we are comfortable together. And, since we agree on most things political and religious, we can laugh at the same jokes!
How very lovely to be home!
May 2, 2015
The Left Bank
Today we took our second walking tour -- this time of the artists and writers of the Left Bank. The tour guide was originally from California and went to Paris with a software company and never left. He was quite knowledgeable and very enjoyable. We wandered through the streets, Le Jardin Luxenbourg in the middle of the area, and by the Senat and the mint. We saw where many of the artists lived, heard stories about Gertrude Stein and her siblings who were art collectors, saw where the popular drinking areas were and the original store for Shakespeare and Company which was evacuated quickly when the Nazi's got mad at the owner and were coming back to ruin her store. We heard story after story and the time flew by very quickly as we walked for the two hours.
Barb and I hopped the Metro back to our hotel, caught a second breath and headed for Rue Cler where we shopped for some souvenirs and sat and drank some coffee. Well, mine was a chocolate and coffee with a big cup of whipped cream. It was quite decadent. Then we meandered back to the hotel where I plan to print out our boarding passes for tomorrow. Tonight our group is going out to dinner.
We've had a great deal of time on our own. Although we have chosen to eat dinner several nights with others, we have had enough free time for the two of us to meander here and there. I finally feel like I have a sense of the place we are staying and the area around it. I have just a small sense of other places -- but that is what happens when you find yourself in another country. It just takes time to get oriented.
Tomorrow we head for home.
May 1, 2015
A Rainy Day in Monet's Garden
Just got back from Monet's Garden in Giverny. It was a lovely experience even in the rain. Second day of continuous rain didn't slow us down. The gardens were lovely and just a tad droopy in places -- mostly not affected at all by the rain. The house was fascinating and the water gardens beautiful also. Afterwards, we had coffee and tea in the restaurant behind the house and I had a lovely tart tatin. Our group had a chartered bus, and went into Vernon afterwards and sought out various restaurants. I had an omelet and frites. It's May 1st so most businesses were closed for the holiday except for the flower shops that were doing good business for May Day.
Now, back at the hotel with our feet up. Not sure what tonight will hold but I know I'm not too hungry at the moment. Tomorrow morning we are going on a walking tour of Hemingway's Paris. We'll have a free afternoon and get ready to depart on Sunday.
It's been lots of fun to get to know Paris.
Monet's Garden in the Rain