Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Sunset Sunrise

We're in Cedar Key, Florida ~ a small Gulf island pretty far north, at about the same latitude as Gainesville .  Record cold weather, they say ~ although I noticed in the condo guest book last night that folks here in late December and early January during the past two years had remarked upon the unusual cold -- 40s in the daytime and 20s at night.  I would say that three years in a row equals standard rather than unusual!

As a consequence of the cold, there is no kayaking, no hot tub, hardly even any walking.  (Maybe later today.)  And I am therefore doing a lot of reading, and writing, for myself, and for the class I'll be teaching next term, and for the two churches for whom I'll be preaching through January, and for my own imagined future.   I expect some of that writing will make its way to this blog, along with some completely unrelated photos.

To start with, last night's sunset:

I've decided to try and keep track of the books I'm reading, for whatever purpose, and I've added a tab for a page in which to do that.  But once in awhile, I might paste what I've written into my blog.  Or who knows, maybe more often than once in awhile.  For starters:

12/24/10 - Viktor E. Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning.  

I'm teaching this book next semester, and so I read it in the car on the way down to Florida.  It's a book which I encountered for the first time as a high school senior, in my senior elective religion course entitled Church and Society.  (No doubt today it would be called something like Religion and Society.)  

I was stunned, as I re-read it, to realize what a profound influence that little book has had on my life, in its insistence that even when all else is taken from us, we retain the freedom to choose our response to our circumstances.   Dignity and responsibility, for instance, over hysteria and selfishness. 

"Really?" asked The Lovely Daughter over Christmas Dinner.  "You would trace that conviction back to a book you read when you were seventeen?"  

 "Absolutely,"  I responded.  "It was a fresh and compelling idea to me when I was so young, and I think that it has grounded much of my thinking about life since."  

The students whom I will be teaching are college freshmen, about the same age that I was during that long ago course ~ I wonder whether it will leave the same imprint upon any of them.

Ready for another image?  This is what I saw this morning, from the warmth of inside.  It was 19 degrees outside!

And finally, here's something I picked up yesterday at The Episcopal Cafe, pertinent (I hope!) to my future:

New pastors are most successful in the transition from seminary to their first congregation when they expect and accept imperfection as an essential ingredient in the art of ministry. While some congregations are clearly dysfunctional and may even fall into the category of clergy killers, most congregations are healthy enough to provide adequate support, challenge, and acceptance for pastors embarking on their first call. 
A good pastor needs to join appropriate boundaries with curiosity about the human condition. In Tending to the Holy, Kate Epperly and I noted that, in the spirit of North African monastics, the pastor should be "all eye" and "all sense" as she observes the physical, spiritual, and emotional environment that surrounds her. This curiosity and awareness is essential for good ministry as well.

One of my favorite detective shows is Columbo. In that series, the cagey Columbo appears to be clueless as he fumbles his way through murder investigations. He solves cases, so it appears, only by accident and good luck. While pastors may not wish to be viewed by their congregants as the dumbest person in the room, pastors as observers, spiritual ethnographers, and keepers of secrets always know more than they can tell. To keep confidentiality and promote healing within the congregation, pastors often have to play dumb in situations in which they know more than they can let on.
New pastors enter a multidimensional, nuanced, and confusing world when they begin their first call. Things are not always as they seem. They may intuit certain unspoken communal understandings, past experiences of misconduct and betrayal, feuds and alliances, and secrets that "everybody knows about." Successful pastors take time to listen well to the spoken and unspoken messages of their congregants in order to discern how best to minister. Observation enables pastors not only to be healers but also to avoid issues of triangulation and unintentional offense. Careful observation also forces pastors to listen before they speak and to speak to the real, rather than assumed, situations in their congregation's life.
So . . .  I have plenty to photograph, to read, and to think about.  

I did think, though, that I would be kayaking!


  1. I'm happy to see that, while not ideal, this Christmas trip has turned out much more satisfactory than last year for your family.

    Why would you not be using the hot tub? Forty degrees is perfect outside temperature for that activity. Seriously!

  2. Kayaking most probably would have been delightful. But it sounds as if you are finding plenty to delight in. I like Bruce Epperely and think his words hold true to the early days of every call, not only the first one.

  3. Lisa, I'm with you ~ as long as there isn't any distance between the hot tub and the indoors, I'm fine if it's snowing. But here ~ too far to walk in the cold!

    I did walk for 5 miles this afternoon ~ it's warming up.

  4. I think the teen years and early 20's ARE the values formative years--everything flows from that time in our lives, and I am reminded to put good things into the lives of my grandchildren. Bruce Epperly said a mouthful; very wise and truth filled. That's the invisible side of pastoring, probably the most important side! Glad you are filling your tank with good preparation for all that this new year will hold for you. Christmas was different than what you thought it would be, but it sounds like it was okay anyway.
    Have a safe return trip, friend.