During my first year of teaching, I learned the hazards of asking college seniors their postgraduation plans. I had mistakenly thought that a good way of getting to know the senior students in my spring seminar would be to ask them about their future. Instead of hearing about plans, I received anxious and concerned looks combined with tentatively spoken hopes and uncertainties.
I just want my child to be happy." Parents say this so often that it has become an accepted explanation for why a child is doing something other than what the parents would have hoped. And, in one sense, it seems straightforward, particularly when we consider the alternative. Do we want our children to be unhappy? Depressed? Discouraged?
Let's face it," my clergy friend said to me. "We clergy are much better with people after they are dead than when they are dying. We know how to do funerals. But we find it very difficult to be present with and to care for people at the end of life."
Hans Christian Andersen tells about an emperor who was so fond of new clothes that he spent all his money on them. Alas, the emperor was so committed to his clothes that he neglected to take care of his people's needs. Instead, he spent all his time in his dressing room, admiring his garments.
Would you come and lead a series of classes on sexuality, drawing particularly on our denomination's statement on sexuality?" Such was the request from the leader of a congregation's adult Sunday school class. Even though I normally am predisposed to accept such invitations, it did not take me long to decline this one.
A seminary student and I were walking around the lake on a beautiful evening. We had begun the walk in part for exercise, and in part because he wanted to talk about his vocation. He had begun to think seriously about his ministerial identity, his spiritual formation, and the oscillating sense of excitement and apprehension he felt about how others would perceive him as "the minister."
A pastor calls the kids to the altar rail for yet another children's sermon and says: "I am thinking of something that is brown, has a bushy tail, and every fall gathers acorns to itself. What am I thinking of?" After a long silence, a young child pipes up: "I'm sure the right answer is Jesus, but it sure sounds like a squirrel to me."
I have often been compared to my father. Though I neither look nor sound like him, I seem to have his temperament, some of his intellectual gifts and some of his vices. We have also followed a similar trajectory in our vocations.
What Bill Clinton and others like him don't understand is that sexual escapades always bring more trouble than they are worth. It is fidelity that makes you happy," my friend said. The conversation had been moving along at a rapid clip until that last sentence. Fidelity makes you happy. I hesitantly nodded in agreement. But I didn't know what to say.
Jonesboro, Paducah, Springfield. These towns have become synonymous with random youth killings in schools. Close to two dozen people have been killed in school shootings over the past two years, many more have been injured, and thousands have been emotionally scarred by the trauma.
We were driving home from soccer practice. I was talking with my 11-year-old son about his team and the drills they had done that evening. I did not anticipate the turn our conversation was about to take.