Mike's Sunday Letter

Holding Sean for the first time, December 27
--with personal notes
  • We ate the last of our garden produce yesterday:  shelled beans in a soup.  I also have some dried parsley in the pantry.  Time to plant again.
  • Reading journalist Charlie LeDuff's book, Detroit:  An American Autopsy.  It includes some sensationalist stories of the city, but so far no analysis or hope for the city.
  • Renovations are going on in the church building, so I moved my study down the hall.  This past week was a time for culling books.  I have about 11 boxes of them to give away.  I'll let you know when the hand-out day will be for family, new pastors, church members, and friends.  Many of the books are those I have picked up (at sales) over the years simply for the purpose of giving away.  So there are some good ones there.  There are also some "only a mother could love."

January 17, 2016
Are You a Boring Person? 
It was a workshop for clergy on counseling.  A pastor asked, "How do we know when someone's problem is beyond our ability to help?"  The leader's answer:  "If a person bores you:  call immediately for a specialist."  

In other words, a person who is unable to access the splendor of being fully human in this world is in need of deep salvation, perhaps "treatment" of some sort.
The opposite of being a boring person is to be an entertaining one.  So from the time I was a kid, I studied the phenomena of entertainment.  I particularly took note of those people who were good at entertaining, especially those who entertained me.  When I was three years old, the old lady in church who kept candy in her purse was pretty entertaining.
As I got older, I was enthralled by anyone who could flaunt fame, sex, wealth, or talent.  People of other races, countries, and lifestyles mesmerized me. And to this day my favorite interesting people are eccentrics.  If I didn't always have the courage to be eccentric myself, I soon realized that a good storyteller was almost as good as eccentricity.
Because everyone has some eccentricity, I seldom meet a boring person.  I simply won't allow someone else to bore me.  If a speaker (or a room full of people in a meeting) becomes inane, shallow, or repetitive, I daydream, or amuse myself by jotting down satire.  If I am in a one on one conversation with a bore, I quickly interrupt the droning discourse with questions:  personal questions, embarrassing questions, or questions that demand a good story.  People don't mind being interrupted...to talk about themselves! 
If you get bored easily, the chances are that you are often a bore to others.  You therefore have to inoculate yourself from being boring.  One preventative is to be intentional about doing things that interest you.  

When I got out of seminary I made a list of things I wanted to do in my leisure time.  I would be proactive.  I found that list a few days ago when I was going through old files.  They are the rather unassuming ambitions of 25 year old.   With a fear of heights and a heart condition, my list did not include things like mountain climbing, skydiving, or extreme sports.  

But I did want to play tennis and softball for the rest of my life.  I also wanted to travel the U.S. and the world, enjoy baseball, read tons of books, write stuff others wanted to read, become a skilled cook, follow politics, go camping, raise pets, plant gardens, make music, watch movies, and make history come alive for anyone who would hang around me.  I've done okay with those 14 of my 26 ambitions.  
Playing pinochle was on my list.  My friends and I played it all the time in seminary, much to the detriment of our grade point average.  But when we all went our separate ways, I never found new partners and have now forgotten its rules. 

I wanted to collect toy trains, but early on didn't have room in the house or the money to buy them.  Bowling, volleyball, swimming, horseshoes, basketball, and golf were all on my list.  I've done all those from time to time, but not often.  

I wanted to learn more about math, astronomy, and magic.  But those are still on my bucket list, primarily because I've pursued economics, psychology, and computers instead.  And I wanted to learn how to fish and become an expert photographer.  But sadly I've settled for eating fish and taking digital pictures with my phone.
In the end, we are saved from being bored...and being boring...by love.  We are never bored when we are being truly loved...whether by God or by others.  And we are never bored when we love others (by giving them our curios attention.)  And we are never bored when we experiment with what our minds and bodies can do in this resourceful world around us.  And we are never bored when we recall the stories of all of the above.  Thanks be to God for all that saves us from dullness.  


 The Sunday letter is something I have done now for over 20 years.  It is a disciplined musing:  mindfulness, memory, and imagination.  I write it when I first wake up on a Sunday morning and then share it with the congregation.  The letter you see published here is usually revised from what the congregation receives.  This discipline of thinking and writing puts me in the place of describing rather than advising.  It prepares me to proclaim the gospel rather than get preachy with the souls who will sit before me.  --JMS