Originally Published 2019.11.27. It was Thanksgiving, about four months before the pandemic lockdown. As you read, pay attention to commentary in parentheses, as the “Time Traveler” in 2021 has a couple things to add. The first photo of the Guardian of Forever is also new.
Several times in the past two weeks, various conversations and situations have reminded me of all the places I have lived in my life. Then it occurred to me how “42″ has given me these places to become part of who I am. This week reminds us to be thankful, and I will share some spaces in my life and the things I am grateful for that are associated with them.
I recently spoke with a woman whose mom immigrated from Puerto Rico to, of all places, Meriden, Connecticut. South Meriden is where I grew up and spent the formative years of my life. It makes me think about my mom and dad, my two brothers, and my “kid” sister, all playing essential roles in my development. (I had no idea my mom would break her femur six months later, and be gone by the end of July) Connecticut means falling in love with my best friend and partner, “J.” It is where we bought our first house and started our family. So Connecticut means family, and I am profoundly thankful for them this Thanksgiving.
Another conversation led me to think about southeastern Pennsylvania. A career move took our little family there, and it is there that God brought us to a church where my faith blossomed. The Lord transformed me from a simple Christian disciple to one called to congregational ministry full time. So southeastern Pennsylvania makes me think about my sacred call and how God leads us to vocations serving our neighbor. I am overwhelmed this Thanksgiving with the sense of thankfulness that “42” called me!
This past weekend I did a cameo appearance in the Salt and Light Theater’s production of The Music Man. The setting for this musical is Iowa, where I attended seminary, and is where I returned to earn my doctorate. It was there that God gave me the tools to serve. It was a beautiful place to live, and we made some good friends. This Thanksgiving, I remember fondly our three years living above the Mississippi River!
The first church I served was outside of Peoria, Illinois. It was there that I learned the patterns of ministry, the ebbs and flows of liturgical life, and pastoral care. It is also where I realized that I never wanted to be a church caretaker or undertaker. (I see many churches that are no longer viable, and yet they linger. Many don’t even know they are dying.) This was the birthplace of a burning passion to challenge churches to make a living Christ relevant in the 21st century rather than be trapped in the 19th or 20th centuries; or worse! I thank “42” for answering my prayer to serve with passion and incite!
This past weekend, we had a brief visit from our friend Patricia. We met her and her husband in western Pennsylvania, where I served the second church. This visit reminded me of the segment of my life that challenged me like no other. (!woW. Was I in for a shock! The pandemic and cultural upheaval goes way beyond what I faced back then. This period in my life has been beyond challenging. I hope and pray that I never have another challenger to this time.) It was literally and figuratively one disaster after another that made it feel like I had lived there twenty-five years rather than five. Yet all of those experiences were necessary to prepare me for my current ministry setting. I give thanks for good and bad experiences and good friends and enemies because, like Job, I found that God is in all of it. Thank you LORD!
Then there is Sparta! I am watching “42” as he moves like Aslan in this place we call home. I cannot imagine myself serving anywhere else, and God willing, I will serve here until I retire. Thank you, “42,” for this beautiful place with such extraordinary servants you have provided to walk alongside me. (I have seen and dealt fear across the entire horizon in this church family over the past sixteen months. I am tired. But I still love them all. It is going to take some time to recover from this insane time.)
My friends, I pray that this little journey through my life will cause you to do some reflecting this Thanksgiving. Remember good times and bad, family and friends, and all the stops in your life. And never forget that “42” is in it all!
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. Genesis 1:1-2 esvGenesis 1:1-2 esv