Surprised by My Own Unfolding

Hands Over Heart

“I would love to live as a river flows, carried by the surprise of its own unfolding.” John O’Donohue

Have you ever had one of those moments when everything came together into a singularity of bliss? It never lasts for long and evaporates as unexpectedly as it appears. Nonetheless, when those occasions unfold, they exude hope, a sense of purpose, and oodles of joy.

I had such an experience Saturday night. At the Chaplaincy Institute’s monthly interfaith service, I (along with three classmates) had the honor of receiving my certificate of completion for the Interfaith Spiritual Direction program.  I also transferred my ordination to the Chaplaincy Institute’s Interfaith Community. The community celebrated these milestones along with the announcement that I am now the Acting Director of Interfaith Community for the Chaplaincy Institute.

What a change! Over the past year or so, I felt despondent, discouraged and utterly confused. Where was my life going? What is my work? Where is my community? What the hell am I doing? So I waited. I noticed. As each next step appeared out of the fog, I took it, not knowing where it would lead.

When I first moved to California, Stephanie Warfield, a friend in Austin, e-introduced me to John Mabry, the Director of The Chaplaincy Institute’s Interfaith Spiritual Direction program. While I have been a spiritual director for several years, I’d never completed a certificate program. The opportunity to do so while also learning about multiple faith traditions (included working with people of no faith tradition), excited me.

Then a fellow student in the program, Amy Hoyt, became the first person to transfer her existing ordination to The Chaplaincy Institute, which is not only a seminary, but also an interfaith community. When I left parish ministry 17 years ago, my ordination was eventually “inactivated” since I was not in a ministry setting with the denomination that ordained me. Reactivating my ordination had not been on my radar screen for some time. Next thing I knew, I was completing all the requirements to transfer my ordination to the Chaplaincy Institute. Now I am once again endorsed as “clergy in good standing”.

Then Jim Larkin, the kind minister who shepherded me through that transfer process, announced that he was stepping down from his position as Director of Interfaith Community. I applied for the position, was hired, and started last Monday! I now feel at home in community and in my vocation.

This was no strategic, step-by-step plan. I did set my intentions (prayers) for the kind of work and community that I longed for. Then I kept my eyes open, noticing any subtle hints that emerged. I waited. I struggled. I kept returning to my intentions. I applied for jobs. I tried out various communities and groups. The desert stretched out before me in limitless, frustrating desiccation. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, streams converged to form this oasis.

Of course, I still have no idea how all of this will evolve. But, in this moment, I am filled with gratitude for how this life is unfolding. I feel supported by the Universe (God) and by so many loving people, including my friend Kathleen who gave me the ministerial “charge” (words of encouragement and blessing for the way forward), and especially by my partner Herb who put the stole on me during the service.

As you reflect on your life:

  • What yearnings do you notice?
  • How might you activate that yearning into an intention?
  • What subtle hints, crumbs along the path, align with your intention?
  • What is your best guess as to your next, single step forward?

Those moments of bliss, those times when life “comes together”, are neither guaranteed nor permanent. They, are, however, more likely to be noticed and appreciated through an open heart, an open mind, and a willingness to be carried along by the surprising unfolding of life’s river.

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10 Responses to Surprised by My Own Unfolding

  1. Earl Ray Saathoff says:

    Bravo to you and Herbie!

    Previous comments to this post, have expressed my feelings far better than I ever could — so I’ll be brief. Several questions do come to mind, though…

    Now that you’re gainfully employed, again: do you get your own parking space?

    What exactly, do *I* call you now? Your Eminence? Father? Personally, I like “His Excellency?” On second thought, I think I’ll stick with; my cousin, Scotty.

    Seriously; all kiddin’ aside; here’s wishing you, my dear Cousin Scott; much love, happiness, and joy in your new endeavor.

    Very well done.

  2. David says:

    Lovely. And so happy for you, and much deserved! Important to remember past moments when facing the desert again. To more oases!

  3. Stephanie says:

    Your unfolding blesses all of us! As you are blessed, we are also blessed. Thank you dear Scott for all that you are and all that you continue to become in wisdom and compassion.

    • scott says:

      Thank you Stephanie for being so instrumental in this unfolding path and for your ongoing encouragement and kind words. Oodles of love and blessings, Scott

  4. katrina leathers says:

    Scott, I feel so blessed to have known you in this time, and to be a part of this unfolding life of yours! How beautiful to see someone in the right place, willing and open and receiving. Love to you…. Katrina

    • scott says:

      Thank you Katrina for your wise, loving, liberating support! I am truly blessed by your presence with me on this journey. Love, Scott

  5. Sandra Martin says:

    Scott, I, too, felt tears arise as I read the story of your journey, your certificate, the transfer of your ordination, and the beautiful ceremony in which dear Herb could play a role. I am so happy for you, Scott, and wish you bon voyage on this new ‘unfolding’ in your life. Thank you for sharing so generously with us. love, Sandra Martin

    • scott says:

      Thank you Sandra for sharing a heartfelt moment with me across the miles. I feel your sweetness in your words, which makes me feel close. Blessings and love to you and Kurt!

  6. Nancy says:

    I am weeping tears of joy at this news! Thank you for reminding us so beautifully to stay open and awake…and faithful to who we are,just as you have done. Sending much love, nancy

    • scott says:

      Thank you Nancy! Your light and friendship are joyful encouragements that have helped me along the way. Much love to you, Bill and the boys!

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