Selected posts from around our network of affiliated bloggers
When one of our beloved flock are nearing death, we live in dread of the next phone call or text. That’s the way it is for clergy. When the call comes, our carefully planned day or day off drops to the bottom of the priority list.
During my annual visit to the doctor’s office not long ago, I was asked if I had any interest in getting connected with their new online patient portal. Sure, I told them. When I finally went to check it out, I noticed that under my name and a few other pieces of personal information, there was a box that somehow seemed to summarize the practice’s view of me and my current status.
As we sat on my back patio listening to the crack of fireworks, sipping Fat Tire and eating peach pie, a friend told me the story of the February night he nearly drowned in Lake Michigan. He had jumped in to save his dog. Good Samaritans were able to pull the dog to safety, but they had to leave my friend in the water while they went for help.
A few years ago, our church installed a new water cooler—not the kind with the clear jug on top but the kind that we used back in grade school. It's a rectangular prism that rises straight from the floor. When you press the circular silver button, water flows in a gentle arc so that you can lap the cooled water up into your mouth. (I had always called that a water fountain, but David, who helped us install it, taught me that a fountain is a landscape feature in your front yard.) We hadn't had a working water cooler at St. John's in a long time, and it was a welcomed addition.
How do you measure what is happening in a congregation? I have been here for about a year now. I was reminded of this when the "check engine" went on in my elderly car, as that is what happened when I first drove into town a year ago.
When I was a kid, I was often puzzled by the way Jesus responded to people in the Gospels. From callously telling someone to “let the dead bury their own dead” to calling a Samaritan woman a dog to saying that he didn’t come to bring peace but a sword, Jesus often seemed a bit obnoxious (at worst) and enigmatic (at best). One such vexing encounter in the Gospels that irritated me as a kid was Jesus’ response to the rich young ruler in Luke 18.
I’ve come here so often, an average of four days per week for a year, that my phone recognizes the Cancer Specialists Wi-Fi signal. The woman next to me, on the other side of the drywall partition, with the plum purple glasses and weathered gray hair, is sobbing. Gasps that sound like someone drowning. My phone doesn’t recognize that but I do. Her cancer, I can tell from the fresh, pink chest port wound, is a recent discovery.
My older brother died 25 years ago. I was ten years old. I grew up with grief.
Flip turns have a mystique about them. Walk up to any pool and watch folks swimming laps. Your eyes will immediately go to the swimmers who do flip turns at the walls. It doesn’t matter if they are faster than the other swimmers, they will look fiercer because of the flip turn. Conversely, if, instead of doing flip turns, you saw Katie Ledecky or Michael Phelps sticking their heads up at the walls, gulping air, turning awkwardly half out of the water, then plunging back in for the next lap, they would seem significantly less fierce.
The realization came to me while watching the “Mothers of the Movement” speaking at the Democratic National Convention. These mothers of children who had died too young and too violently, Sandra Bland, Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis, and more, had come to Philadelphia to speak. Sandra Bland’s mom was leading them off with words of faith and grace. And that’s when I thought about Donald Trump’s speech at his own convention last week, and about the overarching message of fear, intolerance, and negativity that has come to define his campaign.