Ministry in Context

Is my call important to you?

I had some business to transact with a large corporation and, reverting to my dinosaur ways, chose to do it by telephone rather than on-line.  While I had dealt with this business for several years, I had never created an electronic relationship with them, and doing so at this time—when I was dropping their service—seemed like more trouble than it was worth. So I called.

You know the drill. “Please listen carefully, for the options have changed.” So I listened. And pushed

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Appreciate the moment!

Funny how things sometimes flow together.

There I was at my desk. I had just read a review of a local performance of one of the great old classic plays of the American theater, Our Town by Thornton Wilder. The dramatic nexus of that play comes when Emily Webb, dead far too soon after her marriage, is given the chance to return to earth to relive one day of the life now ended. She chooses her 12 th birthday, but is quickly frustrated by her inability to break through the routine-ness of everyday life

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On finding your way

Our vacation on the Maine coast was coming to an end, and we were planning our trip back to the Manchester, N.H., airport. After gorging ourselves for a few days on seafood we were ready for something different and settled on Friendly's, a chain of ice cream and sandwich shops that was a favorite of ours when we lived in that part of the country. I looked up Friendly's in the phone book, found one in Portsmouth, N.H., and plugged the address into the GPS.

Sure enough, the GPS ("Garmanda," we call

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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

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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

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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,

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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.

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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

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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.

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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

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