When I started seventh grade, I was in a club that asked us what we wanted to be when we grew up. We were told to write our answers down on a piece of paper and keep it somewhere where we’d see it again in several years.
I recently found it again all these years later and I bet you’ll be surprised as to what it said.
I serve my congregation as lead pastor, having grown from not at all thinking about pastoral ministry to being called and curious, and now having been in ministry for over 20 years. From my initial call to ordination to increasing responsibility with other staff, I feel as if my church has been one step ahead of me, more ready for me to take on leadership than I envisioned for myself.
A few Sundays ago I preached in a church that has three different worship services in three different locations within the church. One is a moderately sized chapel, one is a voluminous fellowship hall with a stage at one end, and the last one is the original sanctuary of the old downtown church. The variations in space accompanied the differences in worship style. The one thing all three had in common was a clock easily seen from the pulpit.
Whenever I go on vacation, I realize again how tangled up my faith practices are with my work. I am not proud to say it, and I begin each vacation time with a desire to encounter God on vacation in a different way than I do in my daily work.
I have many conversations with people who find it difficult to believe or people who barely believe or people who want to believe but can’t or people who are embarrassed to believe or people who look down in condescension at those who believe or people who are just bewildered that anyone could believe in something like God or resurrection or hope or any kind of future that is radically dissimilar to the present. This is the shape of our life and imagination in the post-Christian West.
I looked at the front of my house and saw some peeling paint. I looked again and saw more peeling paint. This did not make me happy. Just four years ago I painted the house. I know that proper preparation is critical for painting success. I spent days, no, more like weeks, on prep. I power washed. I hand scraped the entire house. Up and down the ladder. I scraped most of the south side of the house down to bare wood. Then I bought good paint, expensive paint. Paint that was supposed to last 25 years. I didn’t really expect 25 years but I was expecting more than four.
So last week I washed the front of my house and started removing the peeling paint.
Once, when I was about seven, I jumped into the car after school and grabbed a Thermos rolling around on the floor. I was sweaty and dying of thirst and expecting water, or lukewarm juice, but was hit instead with a mouthful of my mother's leftover coffee.
I inwardly shuddered when Mom bluntly spoke to the doctor, but tried to appear calm on the surface. Regardless of any success or failure in hiding my feelings, no one in the hospital room was paying attention to me. We were focused on the surgeon's visit with Mom.
"They put pets out of their misery," Mom said. "Why can't you do that with me?"
The clouds hung over the summit like a wet towel and, as if the bathroom fan were broken, my eyeglasses fogged up. My first hike to the top of Washington’s Wind Mountain was ill-timed for taking in its views of the Columbia River Gorge, Mt. St. Helens, and Mt. Adams.