Sunday, December 22, 2013


We Go Here…but don’t attend very often
         That’s the phrase I heard repeated recently buy a church member. She was asked to participate in a worship liturgy and she said yes, but had some questions about how it worked. Nothing is wrong in asking questions. But her caveat was that she and her family, while happy and identified with this church, did not attend very often. What’s with that?
         When the church I serve did a survey a couple years ago, respondents were asked to identify themselves by frequency of attendance in worship: seldom, occasional, regular. What was striking was that a number of those who called themselves regular indicated that they attended worship less than once a month. How is that regular?
         What does that sort of attendance routine do to the rest of the church and these sporadic worshipers? Are they receiving spiritual nourishment through other means (pod-casts, blogs, Facebook)? Or is it a broader trend of spiritual browsing, sampling, grazing like we do in a shopping mall and food court? A little of this and a little of that, depending on our mood.

         In talking with a guy who has not attended church in months, he said he really missed me, the church and was lonely, but his children’s sports schedule demanded a long drive every Sunday morning! Is the only non-negotiable, fixed routine a traveling league sport? What is fixed and non-negotiable for believers today?

Monday, December 09, 2013


Teachers have been an integral part of my life. I can narrate much of my intellectual and spiritual development around good or bad teachers. The good ones touched and directly me deftly, opening my mind with great questions and keen observation.
My daughter is a music teach. My wife has been an art professor. My sisters-in-law live in academia. My mother-in-law taught both art and Sunday School most of her life. I love teaching Confirmation to 7th and 8th graders and Bible Study on Tuesday nights to interested adults. I seek out Westmont faculty in various disciplines when I have questions and they graciously give me their time and insight.
Life-long learning is a mindset and discipline I deeply believe in. Reading is my primary vehicle for growing and stretching my mind and heart. Recently I have been captivated by the writings of Richard Rohr and Robin Jensen. They are introducing me to new vocabulary for my more mystic side of life.
But then there are the self-appointed "teachers" who love lecturing me, instructing me, giving me advice and sometimes scolding me. Recently I have become "deaf" to some folks I know on social media whose writings morph into scolding and admonishing. They assume I am ignorant and need their enlightenment. They assume that they alone have experienced the particular social injustice of which they speak. Some like to give me pastoral pointers on preaching, leading, pastoral care and management...unsolicited.
My strategy is to adopt and early deafness and move on to those who ask good questions and know how to listen. Lord make me one of those!

Sunday, December 01, 2013


There are shifts and seasons in life. In the midwest, where I grew up, the weather helped reinforce the shift in seasons: the first frost, the first snow, the first thaw, the first buds, the first thunderstorm, the first fall  leaves all signaled  nonnegotiable change. You can't stop winter from coming. 
There are other shifts and seasons that bring delight, and I'm coming out of one right now; from Thanksgiving into Advent. I love the Thanksgiving traditions of food, family, a relaxed schedule, longer conversations, travel (we did it this year). This morning in the church where I baptized Ella and saw the first Advent candle lit, with the tree in place and "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" being sung, and I had to scrape the frost off the window of the car this morning! 
But the biggest transition is in my heart, mind, and gut. I'm a grandpa! It happened first with the birth of Elise Johnson and now again with the arrival of Ella Camozzi. When we arrived in St. Paul after a brutally early morning of flying, I saw that little girl and became blind to everything else. Martha and Liz needed to do some shopping and asked if I was OK with taking care of Ella. Duh! That's all I wanted to do. I did not contact old St. Paul or Salem friends, because all I was aware of was that little girl and her parents what's-their-names. I got up early in the morning as is my practice, but when Liz or Jeff came stumbling downstairs with wide-awake Ella, I grabbed her and sent them back to bed. And she and I cuddled and played together till we were interrupted by parents or grandmother. 
And I can't wait to get back to California with the prospect of seeing Elise, and taking her to the beach swimming and digging holes in the sand and finding random object that fascinate her. I only wish I was as good a parent as I am a grandparent. It's a good season! Thanks be to God!

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