Sunday, November 28, 2010

Holiday Quiet

This year for Thanksgiving, my wife and children stayed home and had a nice day to ourselves. On Black Friday, I indulged every shopping whim I had by staying home and not engaging the crowds.  

I also had a gravesite funeral service to perform. The woman had died a few months before and they had had the big funeral service.  The family took advantage of the holiday to come together to her hometown (where I live) to bury her cremated remains. They needed a minister and the funeral director knew that I'm flexible about these things, as well as available, and I rarely say stupid or offensive things.

Sickness, death, and emotional crises often happen around the holidays. I like to be available for those crises—I’ve never minded those kind of pastoral calls. I like to be of help.  

I think what I like most about the holidays is that people are too busy to bother me with things that don’t matter. During Thanksgiving and Christmas, no one will bother to complain to me about the dirty window sills, the children being too loud, or any number of incredibly stupid, mind numbing issues. They’re busy having a good time visiting or entertaining family.

So the phone is quiet. The neighborhood is full of small children playing. The fallen leaves are blowing in the wind. And I’m left alone to be with my family.  We celebrated by eating turkey, watching movies, and my taking several long naps. 

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

I'd rather have it for dinner:

Than Be One:

Wishing you all a Happy Thanksgiving

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Am I an Agnostic?

Am I an agnostic? Maybe I am and maybe I’m not.

Over the last few years, I’ve examined every element of my faith and I no longer have that rock solid, don’t-confuse-me-with-the-facts conviction that our Sunday school teachers told us we should have.

I really want to believe in mystical things. Sometimes I do. I love the thought of angels. I long for the presence of the Holy Spirit. But if they’re there, I haven’t seen them, or felt them. I wanted to believe they were there. I tried to talk myself into thinking I had experienced them.

I think about how disciples down through history would deny themselves food and wander in the desert, then speak of the visions they’d received. Well of course they saw things that weren’t there. Go without food or sleep and you’re going to have hallucinations—there’s nothing magical about that.

I don’t view scriptures like I was taught—inerrant scribbling by people who took dictation from a God who whispered into their ear. I still study them and teach about them. I see their literary and cultural value. In fact, I love them more than when I viewed them superstitiously.

Please don’t tell me that God is so big that I can’t see him. If God is that powerful and wants to communicate himself to us, then he could find a way. Also, I’m tired of analogies and metaphors—they don’t prove anything.

Don’t tell me to have faith. I show my faith in my service. I show it in my prayers to a God who does not answer back. I show it by listening constantly for the smallest voice. And I haven’t stopped

What keeps me going? There is this aching need that has never been filled. The vacancy is a kind of witness, isn’t it?

The Bible promises fullness, companionship, a slaking of my spiritual thirst. When does that happen?

Monday, November 15, 2010

One of the Sheep

A high school student comes to our church every time the doors are open, although his parents never come. He’s intelligent and thoughtful and usually sits by himself, although he’s pleasant when he visits with me.

I called one of his teachers to ask about him.

The teacher described him as an “old soul.” He sits by himself at lunch and reads, mostly because he doesn’t have anyone to visit with. His teachers like him very much. He used to go to the church down the street where the youth group is bigger, but he opted to worship with us.

His family is poor. People in our church chipped in quietly and rented his tux for the prom. I took him to get fitted and he was quietly excited. Even he could see that he was quite handsome in his fancy duds. He was very graceful in accepting his gift and expressed genuine gratitude.

He’s always hungry. When he comes on Sunday, we always have breakfast for him and a few others. On Sunday evenings with youth, I make sure there’s plenty of food that comes his way.

I asked my son about him. He told me the boy is a nice guy. Everyone likes him. But he just doesn’t fit in.

I like him. He reminds me of me at that age: sitting alone in a crowd with a book, getting along better with adults than the children my own age. Perhaps lonely but unable to be silly like the other kids in order to fit in.

I want to tell him that it may always feel that way, but he’ll find a handful of friends along the way that will mean a great deal to him. I already tell him how many possibilities there are for him. I don’t think he knows that. I don’t think anyone in his family tells him that.

But his church does. And his preacher does.