Ministry in Context

Stars and Stripes Forever

On the 4th of July I put on the white golf shirt with the American flags and blue stars on it my family bought for me a few years ago when I was riding on a float in a parade on the big day. I’ve had memorable moments in that shirt. Riding in the parade was a unique experience. Another year I was in a sour mood because I had to travel on business on the 4th of July but I put the shirt on anyway. My mood brightened as the flight attendants and car rental agents and toll takers I met that day

On watching the royal wedding

I am always an early riser, but my wife, normally a more sensible, temperate soul, climbed out of bed on April 29 at what was a very early hour for her (though I am routinely kicking around at that time) and planted herself in place to watch Prince William and Kate Middleton tie the knot.  I had no choice but to join her.

Well, to put it in “Upper Midwestern,” it wasn’t that bad.  Nice wedding, nicely done.  Dignified.  Neat.  Traditional.  No sixteen

So what do pastors do?

When our children were young they all enjoyed one of those delightfully intricate Richard Scarry books, What Do People Do All Day? This book introduced them to the great spectrum of work done inside and outside the home every day. My grandchildren are about ready for it now.

I sometimes think that the first question to be answered on internship is, "What do pastors do all day?" The average person might be a faithful participant in the life of a congregation,

Preparing "the final paragraph"

It seems like you just got finished with the mid-year evaluation (that is finished and submitted, isn't it?), and now Easter is at hand and then the program year begins winding down and the end of an internship is in sight. As the last few weeks or months of internship approach, all of you interns, supervisors, and lay committee members will turn your attention to the final—and most important—evaluation.

Similar to the other evaluations, the final internship

Your biggest mistake

My friend Jack was an engineer for a major firm in the aeronautical field, and no slouch at that. He was one of the designers of the original lunar landing module. Later he was involved with the design of a massive maintenance facility for the Saudi Arabian Air Force. Jack and his colleagues put in massive amounts of time planning for the facility, and traveling back and forth to the Middle East. The process took years, with no final commitments and no final results.

A good word for bass players

A while back my wife and I spent a delightful evening at the Dakota, a jazz club in downtown Minneapolis, listening to a wonderful group called the Roy Hargove Quintet. We had prime seats up front, only a few feet from the musicians.

You may have seen one or two of the many books exploring the link between our life in the church as the Body of Christ and jazz. I'm not going to re-plow that ground. I just want to think about the bass player.

Roy Hargrove, the quintet

A present that gave guilt

I got this marvelous present for Christmas a few weeks ago, but now it is driving me crazy and, more than that, causing me to examine my life in a way that is not flattering.

The gift was a portable GPS unit to go in my car. Perfect. On the one hand I love technological gizmos and had admired GPS units for several years. On the other hand I am cheap, and have never been willing to spring to buy one for myself. So it came as a Christmas gift. Perfect.

They're playing our song

I sat in church on Christmas Eve and remembered...

In one of the churches I served, a parishioner named Bill would sing, "O Holy Night" at the late service on Christmas Eve every year. He had done so every year since the congregation was founded fifty years before. Even into his eighties Bill's voice was strong, clear and powerful. No quaver there. Whenever the church had a funeral, there was an excellent chance that Bill would be the soloist. The

You weren't listening

When that little fur ball terror known as Abby Gail McKinley, our cairn terrier, was but a pup, I expressed consternation to our vet one day about her boundless supply of energy.

"Don't worry," he said, "when they get to be four years old they start to settle down."

Abby is now seven years old and has shown no sign of settling down. She is still the same terror she always was. (And we love her for it.) I can only conclude that she wasn't listening to the vet.

My banjo, please

As an ice breaker at a recent cluster meeting, I asked all the participants to tell the group one little thing about themselves that other people would not usually know. One supervisor reported that she had taken banjo lessons as a child. I was filled with envy.

As a theologian of some small sophistication, most days I don't put much stock in the classic comic strip paradigm of heaven which portrays the blessed departed floating around in white robes with wings