Ministry in Context

Behind in Their Reading

I’ve talked to quite a few pastors recently, and I am concerned about them. I don’t think they’re keeping up with their internet reading.

These pastors tell me that they consider themselves blessed to be serving where they are. Their congregations are supportive, encouraging and understanding. While there is a steady throb of disagreement within those congregations, the pastors understand that as a sign of health, people wrestling with hard issues together. These pastors say that

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You May Refer To Me As...

When asked about my ethnic background, I usually say “Scotch Irish” and leave it at that. In fact I do carry Swedish on my mother’s side, but we were never into that when I was growing up, and I liked Scotch Irish better. I’ve had lutefisk once in my life, which was once too often. But haggis? Bring it on!

I visited Scotland for the first time last September, and it immediately felt like home, like this was where I belonged. Knowing that, for Christmas my eldest daughter

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On Walls and Second Winds

I admire people who run marathons, but have never been so inclined myself.  A few times I have participated in 5Ks in which some of the participants have run the entire distance, but I have limited my own running to distances approximating 50 yards.  Nonetheless, I do read and listen, and have seen the testimonies of marathoners that one typically “hits the wall” at about 20 miles, feeling totally spent and worn down.  However, the further testimony is that if one persists

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Psychiatry, Not Surgery: A Reflection on Adaptive Leadership

We’ll give up when the snow comes, but until then our dogs Hobbes and Abby and I take a three mile walk each morning at 6 a.m. We all get exercise. They deal with bodily functions. I get my mind stretched listening to Morning Edition on public radio. We’re all ready for breakfast when we get home.

The other day I heard a particularly interesting story. It was an interview with Ron Heifetz, Professor of Leadership at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. ( http://www.npr.org/2013/11/11/230841224/lessons-in-leadership-its-not-about-you-its-about-them

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Your Own Reality Show

There is usually nothing overtly thrilling about the day to day life of the average pastor or intern, unless your threshold of thrilling is low enough to include committee meetings.  But every now and then...

I got an e-mail the other day urging me to buy a particular book.  I haven’t done it yet, but I might.

The book is a thriller about a Lutheran pastor.  The blurb in the e-mail describes the central character as “a Lutheran minister with a past quite different from

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On Gorillas and Flamingos

The church is big enough for both gorilla and flamingo fans.

In late August Mrs. McKinley and I took our 3 ½ year old granddaughter to the Como Park Zoo in St. Paul.  It was Eliza’s first visit, but she had heard about the place from her older brother.

From the beginning our agendas were not in perfect harmony.  As veteran zoo-goers, Pat and I were excited to show Eliza the various animals on display: the gorillas, the lions, the giraffes, the zebras, the bison, etc.; and

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Wreck this Journal

My lovely wife gave me a gift for my birthday that is absolutely driving me nuts.

She knows very well that I love blank journals. Give me a Moleskine and I go to my happy place. And if a pen comes with it, all the better.  It is an article of faith for me that a person can never have too many journals or too many pens. 

So here’s this gift called “Wreck This Journal.” Every page has an instruction on it.  For example:

  • Figure Out A Way To Freeze This Page
  • Write

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Matching the Words and the Music

During a long car ride last week we popped in an old CD, and I heard a song from deep in my past that always makes me laugh.

When I was in high school the singer Bobby Darin had a short-term hit with a song called “ Artificial Flowers .” What amuses me about the song is this: while the narrative is “tragic”/maudlin (a nine year old orphan girl freezes to death), the music that goes with it is relentlessly cheerful and upbeat. If you just heard the music, you’d want to

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Learnings from the Road

I was more-or-less out of touch for a couple weeks in May. Pat and I were on a “Turbo Tour” of Europe, touching the soil of eleven different countries in the company of other Americans, Australians, and New Zealanders. Most of the Americans were contemporaries of ours, meaning folks who can remember when Dwight David Eisenhower was president and your television picture, if you were fortunate enough to have one of those new-fangled devices, came in two colors: black and white.

Pat and

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Life is Good

One of the businesses temporarily displaced from its Boylston Street headquarters by the Boston Marathon bombings was the “Life Is Good” company, well known for its line of optimistic apparel and other sundry items bearing the “Life Is Good” logo. When they were able to return ten days later, a reporter on the spot questioned the company president about the irony of the situation.  “We don’t say ‘Life Is Easy,'” the president replied. “We

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