Today another package arrived from Ethiopia. I handed the post office clerk the yellow claim slip and he handed me the brown paper package with the exotic stamps on it. Inside, wrapped in old plastic bags, I found 12 exquisite icons on tanned goat skins. Each is about a foot square, painted in primary colors that range from egg yolk yellow to royal blue.
No birth was ever celebrated enough. The miracle and mystery of life is too much for us to take in. The Christian community sets aside 12 days to celebrate the birth of Jesus, but it is never long enough. A few years ago, on the seventh day of Christmas, I got in on my first birthing, my first firsthand experience of this holy mystery.
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."
In Joseph and His Brothers, Thomas Mann tells of an exchange between Jacob, who has just seen what he believes is proof of his son's death, and his servant Eliezer. The passage reminds me of two friends who were complaining about God.
About a dozen years ago, I took a bunch of rich kids from midtown Atlanta on a mission trip to rural Kentucky. To be fair, many of them did not know they were rich. Because they had only each other to compare themselves to, they thought all teenagers received cars for their 16th birthdays and went on cruises to the Bahamas for their senior class parties.