walking among giants

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Last week, I flew to San Francisco for UNCO (the unconference, a gathering of church leaders) at San Francisco Theological Seminary.  Have you ever been to a conference and felt like the most powerful part is the side conversations that happen in between the scheduled speakers and events?  UNCO takes that concept and creates an entire gathering around those conversations, where we get to discuss what is most necessary for us in our calls and lives as church leaders.  Throw in creative worship (where coloring is encouraged) and lots of social media (that actually brings people together!), and you have UNCO.  It was a delight, and stirred a creativity in me that needed to be awoken once more.  Naturally, I took a ridiculous amount of pictures during the past week, and naturally, I wanted to share them here.  So, grab the nearest fedora, my friends, and let’s take a wee jaunt to California, shall we?

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A sign of good things to come (see the rainbow)?

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Worship included U2, Mumford and Sons and ancient Irish tunes, among others.  And yes, that is a live Twitter feed on the other screen.  Like I said, technology was used in an incredibly constructive way.IMG_6636 IMG_6641

Some of my worship doodles.  I’ve decided to put butcher paper on my kitchen table and have an ongoing art space in my house.IMG_6637Did I mention UNCO was held at Hogwarts?
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With wild red trees out of Dr. Suess?IMG_6644 IMG_6645…and lovely benches to sit and ponder things?

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I found the most perfect leaf on a walk with my friend Erin.IMG_6650 IMG_6651 IMG_6652 IMG_6653

(and a few other lovely sights in San Anselmo)IMG_6654

This was the most glorious gluten-free pumpkin cookie in the world.  And no, that is not hyperbole, I assure you.IMG_6655 IMG_6657 IMG_6659

Met Indy and Yoda, I did.

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California, seriously, you don’t need to be so cool all the time.IMG_6662

Even your art deco tree grates are stunning.IMG_6664

Ambling about on a lovely autumnal day with Tad, Jessi and Erin.IMG_6665

Have I mentioned California is something of a show off?IMG_6667

(This pertains to amazing Mexican food as well.)
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More UNCO time, including a discussion on writing and publishing for those of us who feel very strongly about usage of the Oxford comma, among other things.  What an inspiring room of people.  We’re going to write monthly blog reflections on a common theme (called UncoSyncro), so watch this space, y’all.

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Then, we hopped in our red mustang (oh yes, there was a red mustang — again with the showing off, CA!) and ventured to wine country to sip some salivating local wines, and bask in the sunlight of stunning vineyards.  Basically, I was in heaven.IMG_6696 IMG_6697 IMG_6698 IMG_6718

See?IMG_6717 IMG_6799

Fisherman’s Wharf was next in our exploratory adventures.IMG_6767

This fella played some bad (bad = good, kids) blues.IMG_6787

Erin contemplating ministry, life, and her Facebook status (as you do).IMG_6785 IMG_6779 IMG_6783

Jessi contemplating ministry, life and seals (as you do).IMG_6786 IMG_6788 IMG_6793

Apparently clam chowder in sourdough bread bowls is sort of A Thing.  Now, I know why.  YUM.  (Again with the showing off, CA!).IMG_6794 IMG_6797I might have bought a straw fedora to become one with the locals.
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Now, my friends, this was the most magical part of our entire trip: a visit to the Muir Woods.  I’ve longed to go on a pilgrimage to these ancient towering trees, and felt a deep wisdom and spirituality there.  I truly believe that trees are essential to my faith in God.

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(I read a book by John Muir whilst walking among those statuesque redwoods).IMG_6826 IMG_6832 IMG_6887

Hugging a tree (as you do).IMG_6841 IMG_6844 IMG_6845 IMG_6846 IMG_6848 IMG_6850 IMG_6851 IMG_6853 IMG_6864 IMG_6870

Then, we visited a bridge that is apparently a big deal.  The fog rolled over us as we looked out upon it, creating an effect of something mysterious and wonderful rolling in.IMG_6876 IMG_6883

Then, we headed to Chinatown for dinner + cocktails.  Have I mentioned that this was quite possibly the best day ever?  IMG_6896 IMG_6897 IMG_6898

One final jaunt around San Francisco the morning we flew out, and I had to bid goodbye (for now) to that showy California.  I’m so grateful for my time there, for old friends and new, for laughter and time to simply savor the unexpected treasures that appear on a sidewalk you’ve never walked upon before, or in food you’ve never tasted before, or innovative and relaxed worship you’ve never participated in before.  I left feeling completely myself, which is I suppose the best any of us could hope for.

I learned while there that my Mother’s cousin Richard passed away suddenly.  What a loss.  And then a few days later, his father Jimmy passed away as well.  So, if you are the praying sort, please send a little light to my Aunt Martha and my family.  Life is so short — there is never enough time to hug all the trees or taste all it has to offer.  But there is time enough to explore, to revel in everyday grace and to connect with other human beings in ways that never really die.  For that, and for wonderful memories, and for Richard and Uncle Jimmy who savored life with the most extraordinary passion, I am grateful.  And I hope, in my own small way, to be something like them.  For like old redwood trees with deep-running roots and so very many stories to tell, they were giants.  They will be missed.

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“October” by Robert Frost

O hushed October morning mild
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
To-morrow’s wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.
The crows above the forest call;
To-morrow they may form and go.
O hushed October morning mild,
Begin the hours of this day slow,
Make the day seem to us less brief.
Hearts not averse to being beguiled,
Beguile us in the way you know;
Release one leaf at break of day;
At noon release another leaf;
One from our trees, one far away;
Retard the sun with gentle mist;
Enchant the land with amethyst.
Slow, slow!
For the grapes’ sake, if they were all,
Whose leaves already are burnt with frost,
Whose clustered fruit must else be lost—
For the grapes’s sake along the wall.