Dear Future-Focused Friends:
Yesterday, Memorial Day, I spent my time expressing my patriotic duty by working on the house. The fascia board on the garage had rotted to where attempting to paint it again seemed pointless. So off I went to Menards for two 12’ pine 1 x 6's. It took a few hours, but now it looks great. I was relieved to find a still usable can of exterior trim paint in the garage, so I had the unusual experience of completing a project with only one trip to the hardware store. That was disappointing.
Now I’m looking at the other three sides of the garage fascia and thinking they need attention too, and although they cannot be seen from the house, I’m wondering if I can have similar success in their replacement. Their substandard finish mocks my sense of accomplishment, and now I see them more clearly than the gleaming new boards.
We just successfully oversubscribed our $9,800 Parlor Kitchen remodeling fundraiser, receiving well over $12,000 in gifts in less than two weeks. And now, even before we begin the Parlor Kitchen project, the Westminster Hall Kitchen looks shabbier than ever; don’t get me started about the Fellowship Hall Kitchen.
My musing today is not about the insatiable sinkhole of house or building repairs, but about my lame capacity to celebrate today’s accomplishments without jumping to tomorrow’s responsibilities.
As you know, I’ve started a five-part series referencing the Lord’s Prayer. Each sermon will parallel one of this summer’s VBS theme days. This past Sunday was “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by Thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Never mind how that sermon went; I’m obsessing over what comes next.
This coming Sunday will be, “Give us this day our daily bread,” and here’s what’s got me musing.
We are commanded to pray only for today’s bread, but my energy and anxiety draw me forward to next week’s groceries. I seldom pause to acknowledge how the request for today’s bread has been abundantly fulfilled because I’m focused on my next responsibility, my next job, my next meal. I even claim such thoughts are virtuous by suggesting a forward-looking mindset gets things done, not recognizing how powerfully this attitude renders my heart ungrateful.
I’m thinking Christ’s admonition for us to request only daily bread challenges me to quit gulping my meal to rush off to the next important thing. As my dad used to remind me, “Slow down and chew your food!”
So, thank you for your generous gifts to the Parlor Kitchen Fund! And I’m going to take a moment and admire my new fascia board; it looks great!
Trying to slow down enough to experience gratitude, I remain,
Dear Fellow Translators:
During my years as a pastoral counselor, I recommended one book more than any other: The Five Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman. It is a simple, straightforward read in which Chapman suggests that each of us is conditioned to share and receive love in particular ways. When we want to convey our love to our partner, we do so in the love language we understand. We also resonate with love communicated in the language we find familiar. As the book title suggests, Chapman identifies five love languages: 1. Words of Affirmation, 2. Quality Time, 3. Receiving Gifts, 4. Acts of Service, and 5. Physical Touch. The problem, Chapman believes, is not our lack of love, but our failure to translate our love into expressions meaningful to our partner.
Tomorrow, Dani and I celebrate eight years of marriage, initiated eight years and three months ago by my proposal
Dear Commandment Keepers:
The study guide for the 2019-2020 Presbyterian Women (PW) will lead participants on an in-depth journey through the Ten Commandments. The guide, Love Carved in Stone: A Fresh Look at the Ten Commandments, accomplishes this task in nine lessons by combining the first and second laws in the first study; subsequent lessons take them one at a time. As has become a tradition, Darlene Aniolowski, one of FPCLG's PW Moderators, invited me to provide an overview of the curriculum at the first Presbyterian Women’s gathering on September 5. I know I had best arrive prepared, so I’ve been thinking a great deal about ‘God’s Top Ten’.
Of course, when Jesus was asked about the greatest commandment, he stepped outside of the Decalogue (ten laws) and suggested the twin commandments to love God and neighbor. Regarding this, I stumbled on a
Dear Time Takers:
Well, the fourth annual “All Together Under the Son” ecumenical worship service is now in the books. It has been my privilege to have participated in all of them. This year lacked commemorative T-shirts, but I don’t think we really missed them.
Years ago, I was part of a clergy group planning an ecumenical worship service on the south side of Chicago. There were about 30 congregations who had agreed to participate; they represented nearly every Christian theological, ethnic, racial and socioeconomic slice of our community pie. Of course, those groups who felt
Dear VBS Voyagers:
2019 Vacation Bible School (VBS) is now in the congregational rear view mirror. Once the songs are out of our heads and we’ve cleared up the glitter and glue from Fellowship Hall, we will start thinking about children’s programming for next summer; but before we pull forward to the TUXIS mission trip and Vacation Cross Trainers (VCT) coming up next month, I think it would be useful to muse over the experience. By the numbers, we were able to provide VBS without charge. Participant families were invited to contribute in any amount through the online registration process, and most did, but the bulk of the expenses were covered by generous VBS-designated gifts from FPCLG members.
Dear Space Racers:
With this year’s VBS program—To Mars and Beyond—reverberating in our church this week, I’ve been reminded of how much space junk clutters my brain, and the brains of my generation. Space Food Sticks were a thing, developed by Pillsbury’s chief food technologist, Howard Bauman, who was working on a nutritionally balanced snack food for astronauts. The first version was space food cubes consumed by Scott Carpenter on Aurora 7 in 1962. The later version, sold to the public beginning in 1972, came 14 to a pack in peanut butter, caramel and chocolate flavors. (The commercials used to bother me because they featured child astronauts eating the Tootsie Roll-like snack through a hole in the front of their space helmets.
Dear Pride Preparers:
During my first year in college I attempted to join the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF) that held a weekly campus meeting, but after three or four gatherings, I stopped attending. It was no crisis of faith; I just found their meetings and Bible studies too saccharine and a little paranoid. Their focus—near obsession—was how, because we were Evangelicals, we were persecuted by the academic world hostile to our existence. I just didn’t buy it. While the University of Chicago community provided little encouragement for a Christian Evangelical worldview, at worst I found the environment indifferent, not hostile.
From those IVCF Friday night gatherings, however, I did make friends.
Dear Sabbath Seekers,
I was home from college on winter break many decades ago when I stopped by the Fishkins' for a visit. Art and Jane Fishkin were the parents of my high school classmate Charlie, and I had been a guest at their Passover table for many years. Charlie was my former debate partner; we both left for the University of Chicago and were sharing an apartment on Ellis Avenue in Hyde Park with a third roommate, Jim Smither (Hinsdale Central, '78). Art and Jane rushed to greet me. Hellos at the Fishkin household were not for the faint at heart; they involved hugs and backslaps that left the greeted
Dear Fellow Joint Pain Sufferers:
About 12 years ago I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid arthritis, abbreviated RA. When it’s not annoying or painful I find the condition to be quite fascinating. RA is an autoimmune disease, a condition where my own immune system has somehow determined that the tissue in my joints is an enemy of my body, so it unleashes its disease-fighting strength against healthy tissue. What makes my body decide that parts of itself must be attacked? Rheumatological research continues to seek an answer to that question.
I’ve been quite fortunate to have avoided the kind of flare-up that merits the use of a class of medications called biologics; these suppress the immune system more generally, dialing back the body’s disease-
Dear Fellow Travelers:
About 10 years ago, my 1995 Cutlass Ciera was stolen from the street two blocks from my apartment in Hyde Park. I did get it back a week or so later, and how that happened can be an illustration for another musing, but today’s focus is on that bizarre moment when I believed something was going to be there and it wasn’t.
I can’t remember where I was planning to go, but I do know from the police report it was August 17, 2009. Relying on a Google search, I can affirm now that it was a Monday. From memory I can only recall my sense of disorientation. What I believed--that my car would be on the west side of Lake Park Boulevard between 55th and 54th Streets--was not confirmed by experience.
Dear Sibling Rivals:
What do we do when our sacrifice is disregarded? When the work of our hands, the sweat of our brow, our calculation, labor and execution are ignored, how do we respond? The question becomes even more intense when we see others respected, regarded and rewarded for their work. To us the adulation, the mobility, the affirmation received by others seems unwarranted. That their effort leads to still waters and green pastures of success angers us, while we remain in the valley of the shadows, stumbling along an ever more treacherous path.
The human response, the one easily at hand, is to flip the script, rewriting our circumstance as a competition