Saint James College Seminary
fragility of life...whether huge national
We have daily sad reminders of the
tragedies or a local tragedy that we
know has occurred when we hear an
ambulance's siren wailing mournfully in
the distance... Another reminder to
live fully -- really fully -- now!
Please join me in resolving to play more and work less...to laugh more and
once again see life as we did through the wide eyes of an innocent
child! -The Pastor's Porch
How I met my wife - an interesting perspective on "The Law of
A friend of mine (who happens to be a Presbyterian pastor) has been single for many years.
He's looked and looked, played the field, even tried a couple of unsuccessful relationships.
The other day, we were discussing his situation when it sprang to mind how my wife and I
met, after a similarly long drought.
I'd done all the things you're supposed to do -- asked friends for "referrals" ... tried to meet
someone at church ... even went on Match.com. I wished so hard to attract my soulmate
into my life that it felt as if my insides had twisted into knots!
I prayed and prayed for God to send my soulmate
my way. Dates showed up but the right one failed
Then, one day while meditating on the problem,
I had an amazing insight (counselors call this
phenomenon an AHA although we ministers,
affecting the pretense of divine wisdom, call it an
Epiphany!). Instead of concentrating only
on attracting the "right one" to me, I was suddenly struck by the awareness that
somewhere out there was a woman who was looking for me! There was, right at that very
moment, a woman whose list contained all of my attributes, just as my list contained hers!
It was a new (and uncomfortable) notion for me to realize that I had ultimate value to a
woman who was looking just for me! But, thinking about it with an open mind and heart, of
course this was true. After all, I am not a bad guy and, even more significant, I try to
improve and become even kinder, gentler, more thrilled at the gifts this world offers those
who take the time to notice them. Why wouldn't a special soulmatey-type woman want to
hook up with me just as much as I want to blend my life with hers?!
In that moment, I realized that I needed to change my prayer from "send me a gift" to,
"please let the woman who's out there looking for me become aware of my existence...and
to find me. Oh, Lord, let me be a gift to her!"
After years of looking, within two weeks, she did find me, we felt as if we were "coming
home" and, as happens in chick flicks, rather than sensing that we were "meeting" one
another for the first time, the sensation was more that we had "re-discovered" one another.
Psychologists might call this serendipity and Fundamentalist Christians might say that this
was the fulfillment of "God's plan" but, whatever force was at work there, as soon as I
stopped making my wish solely about my own desires and began to realize that I had
something to offer that might be desirable to a special woman, we met.
Now, not only are we married, and very deeply in love, we each have found our Best Friend
Give it a whirl. The thing you want so badly is the very thing someone else is yearning to
Life through a movie theatre projectionist's eyes -- what fun!
The other night, my wife and I were at the movies watching a Denzel Washington film.
About three-quarters of the way through, the picture sputtered to darkness. In fact, the
entire theatre was dark.
Then, an odd thing happened: everybody but us
got up and fumbled their way out of the theatre.
What was that all about?! Was everybody else
afraid of the dark? Did they find the movie so
boring that they figured they might as well go
home? Were they on drugs that thought that the
film had ended?
Or, were we the crazy ones for continuing to sit there in the dark for about fifteen minutes
thinking that they'd make repairs and we'd get to see the film's ending?!
As it turned out, after sitting there for a quarter of an hour and starting to feel a bit self-
conscious and silly, the lights came on and the projectionist came into the auditorium. He
had a couple of guest tickets for us, which he handed over with an apology. He said that,
the projector had broken part that he couldn't fix.
He was a friendly fellow and told us that his name was Gary. My wife and I asked him about
his job, how often projectors break, does he like the work? Stuff like that. He explained the
nature of the equipment, its complexity, how it functions, etc. Suddenly, I had an
inspiration: "Gary," I asked, "instead of explaining all this...could you show it to us?"
He said, "Sure! Follow me!"
He led us through a door that was sternly labeled "Employees Only" and up a narrow flight
of stairs. We emerged into a slightly-lighted room that was probably at least a hundred feel
long. All lined up in a row was a series of huge projectors, one after another, each aiming
through a small porthole-like window...each was pointing into a separate theatre auditorium.
We followed Gary along past a line of these monster projectors until, at length, we stopped
in front on the only one that was still and silent. In point of fact, it was in front on the only
one that was still and silent. In point of fact, it was smokingsmoking!
The source of the smoke was a large, obviously broken pully. Apparently, the bearings had
seized, and the whole rigmarole had overheated, thus the premature end of the movie.
But, instead of skulking off homeward as the others in the theatre had done, we still had an
entertaining (and informative!) night out. For us, the "silver lining" aspect of this situation is
that the evening turned into an adventure!
We got an unexpected "field trip" into the projection booth at a cinema multiplex. We
learned that some theatres are now digital but others still have to have the big old projectors
because Hollywood still produces many movies on film. (The film, by the way, doesn't
thread vertically on a reel like the old-time movie projectors used to. It lies on a huge round
disk, about the size of a dining room table-top, and the film pulls off horizontally and is then
routed through a series of pulleys suspended from the ceiling, across the room, and
eventually down into the projector. The whole arrangement looks surprisingly like a giant
game of Cat's Cradle only with film strung crazily around the room instead of the white twine
we used to thread between our fingers and thumbs as kids.
We've all seen the sign, "Expect Miracles." I even have my own personal proclamation of it
on a Tee Shirt. This certainly wasn't the sort of miracle one experiences when a loved one is
cured of cancer. But, it was a little miracle, a fun little bonus that was stuck in the middle of
a movie night that almost turned into a dud. It was an unexpected nugget, an encounter that
sweetened the evening in a way that we could never have foreseen when we left home to
see the show. And, it was a glimpse at the backstage of Life that none of the others in the
theatre had seen since they all departed when the screen went blank.
And, as a super BONUS, we get to use our two free tickets to go back and see how the
movie ended...a second date night for my wife and me that will be absolutely free. Thanks,
God, for the fun little perk!
-The Pastor's Porch
This little girl has a great lesson for us on giving, even "unimportant" stuff!
When her kindly old uncle died, his four year old niece, Alicia, wanted to attend the funeral.
The family talked it over and decided to try explaining to her that Uncle Albert hadn't
actually died -- only his body was now lifeless -- and that Albert would live forever, in Infinity.
A complex subject for a child, yet, she seemed to be untroubled by the fact that her uncle's
still and lifeless body would be on public display in the church....
Now, little Alicia wanted to bring along her much-loved-but-rather-worn Barbie doll, Molly.
Mom and Dad said, "No, Honey, not this time. Let's leave Molly home." Oddly unmoved by
her parents' wishes, Alicia stubbornly and somewhat loudly proclaimed, "I love Molly! If she
can't go, then I won't, either. Molly and I do everything together!"
Since it was getting late and this seemed like no time to argue with a child who was
inseparable from her doll, the parents crumbled and said, "Okay, Molly can come, too."
Then, the family trundled off to the church.
The service was held at the late uncle's Lutheran church with many family members and
friends speaking on behalf of good old Albert.
After everyone who desired to do so had gotten up and spoken their piece, the pastor then
asked, "Does anyone else have something that they would like to share?
What this little kid was about to do was soooo wonderful, so breathtakingly sweet! I'm
going to get tears in my eyes again right now, just telling you what happened next....
Hearing the minister ask people to share, Alicia got up and, as the whole church sat in
silence, uncertain as to what the appropriate response would be, this little girl slowly walked
to the front of the church and laid her beloved Barbie doll, Molly, in the open casket.
The congregation then heard her murmur softly, "I love you, Uncle Al. Here's my special
friend Molly. She's going to go with you so you won't be lonely."
I like to think of myself as a pretty selfless guy...but not that selfless...or thoughtful.
This small child taught me a powerful lesson in unconditional love that morning!
"I hate commercials, but here's a really cool one!"
If you're like me, you detest television commercials. Antacid tablets are tastelessly hawked
by actors grimmacing with feigned pain on their faces who hold their tummies ... people
cough horrid hacking coughs from the t.v. screen, right in your living room ... every car
dealer in town swears that he has the absolute lowest prices...but only until 3:00pm
But, then there was this one, enchantingly different!
(There is no talk, no music, no sound effects during this entire commercial, or, at least not
until the last five seconds.)
• The camera "watches" as a woman stops by a hospital room and sits silently,
holding a bedridden old woman's hand. The patients eyes gleem and twinkle with the loving
• Then, this silent woman is shown at sitting in an office, comfortably chatting with a
young couple, who hold hands, smile, and radiate love. But, we can't hear what is being
said. Their beaming faces suggest,however, that they are discussing matrimony.
• Next, this woman sits on the floor, the only adult in a circle of young children, who
gaze into her eyes as she speaks, probably telling them a story. Only, we can't hear what
is being said. We just see the picture.
• Now, we see her at an accident scene, kneeling over an injured person laying on the
ground as medics prepare to lift him onto a gurney and wisk him into the ambulance that is
just pulling into the picture.
• Finally, after total silence for the entire commercial up until now, the camera zooms
in for a closeup as our silent woman turns toward the lens for the first time. Smiling, she
tells us, simply, "I'm a minister. I touch their lives."
That's what we're supposed to do, too. Go spread God's Love in the world. Go do it!
"A few in congregation questions pastor's, big bucks antique
business. Bah! Enjoy the proceeds!!"
A pastor friend of mine, Bobby, has a very lucrative hobby: dealing in antiques. But, his
congregation isn't too thrilled with his avocation. It earns him more each year than his
$45,000 salary from the church. But, Reverend Bob loves going out on scouting missions to
find old furniture, paintings, clocks, etc. He loves bringing them back to his barn workshop,
stripping them, and preparing them for resale. And, of course, he loves the money that he
For Bobby, "antiquing" provides the same kind of
stress relief and overall enjoyment that fishing, golf,
flying, or tennis provides for other folks. And, in spite
of the raised eyebrows of his congregants, he intends
to keep right on with his antique business.
In a sense, he needs to follow this relaxing pursuit.
His soul calls him to do so.
And we (you and I) should do the same, each in our own way, each with our own bliss-
Whether it's antiques, riding an old Harley on the weekend, or quiltng, we all need
something outside of our work lives to bring us joy, to lift our hearts, to decompress us.
And, if it happens to be something that helps to create wealth as in the case of Bob's
antique business ... that can be part of the fun as well!
We tend to think of our employment as the place where we are rewarded with money,
whereas hobbies should reward us emotionally, spiritually. But, as Bob says, "heck,
hobbies are meant to be as rewarding as possible! Why not have one that fills both our
hearts and our wallets?!" I quite agree, if that's part of the joy for you.
Life is short. Have fun. Reap as many rewards for your efforts as possible. You'll be happier.
(And...be sure to share your joy and resources with others!)
--The Pastor's Porch
"Do it Now! Tomorrow may never come!"
When I was a kid to try figuring out whether to go the seminary route or opt for the serenity
of a monastery, I worked in what is now called facilities management. (I was a janitor for a
brief period at Eastman Kodak Company.)
Our department head belonged to a rather wealthy family and, one year, he inherited over
two million dollars. But, he continued going to work each day, crawling around in dusty air
conditioning ducts, helping to unclog overflowing sewers....
We all nagged at him to retire:
"Al! You're a millionaire! What are
you doing here?!
But, his response always was that,
even though his job was difficult, he
had made a commitment and he fully
intended to stay at it until his planned
retirement, just a year away.
When the day rolled around for
his retirement party, Al got up to
make a speech, grabbed his chest,
and keeled over. He was dead
before the ambulance arrived.
There are two messages here:
1) If you love what you're doing (and it truly brings you joy and fulfillment), stay with that
job. You've found your niche, found your bliss, something very, very few people ever manage
2) But, if you are lumbering through each day, performing toil for people you don't like or
respect, please, please begin dreaming up a blueprint for a joyous change! Today is the
day to start planning a move toward something you'd love!
(Best not to run away from a bad situation...but to run toward something much better!)
There's a great book called Life Is Uncertain, Eat Dessert First, by Sol Gordon and the title
sums it up well.
We don't know what situation may arise tomorrow that will prevent us once and for all from
ever reaching our earthly goals...and finding happiness. But, we have today to make a good
start! We live in a "spacious" world. There's ample opportunity for you to redirect your career
into a pathway that will be personally enriching, as well as monetarily.
Begin formulating a plan to find your niche today!
(PS: Another cool book to check out is: "Do What You Love, The Money Will Follow:
Discovering Your Right Livelihood" by Marsha Sinetar. The book isn't so much about
money as it is a kind of inspiring road map toward discovering a lifestyle that will unjangle
your nerves and bring you joy.
Poor, nearly-dead, Carolyn!
As a sort of follow-up to the musing directly above, let me tell you about an exercise that we
do in our classes. We ask a volunteer to stretch out on a conference room table, pillow
under his or her head. We cover this person with a sheet, and then gather around in a
Let's say that our subject is named Ruth. We ask Ruth how long she would like to live.
Let's say that she tells us, "Oh, until I'm 95, as long as I'm healthy."
We then say, "okay, Ruth, let's move ahead in time and you are now 95 years old and,
sadly, you are now on your death bed. We are your friends and loved ones and we've come
to pay our final respects."
Someone sticks a bunch of artificial flowers in her hands. We "mourners" tell her how
wonderful she is and how important to all of us she has been throughout her years.
It is all very touching until someone asks, "Ruth, I want to know, what one thing did you
always want to do that you never got around to doing?"
Too late now, Ruth! You are on your death bed and now you will never get to do that one
thing that you desired to accomplish.
The moral of this story is, of course, to live now while you have the time, energy, and health
to do so.
So, what are you waiting for?!
The Infinite Power is available within. Sometimes God simply has to
give us a bit of a guilty reminder to jump start the process!
"Second chances to be nice? My graduate students proved that we do get them!"
Once, along my life's path, I was recruited to teach at a university. Among our graduate
students were numerous psych majors. Several of them got together to do a little research
project (actually inspired by an old Candid Camera" episode). The students conducted an
interesting study of human nature using flat tires.
What they did was stage a flat tire, using a perfectly good, operative, car as bait.
They pulled over to the side of a busy street, jacked it
up, pulled out the spare, and had a student standing
"helplessly" by the side of the road. The student tried to
wave people down for help, and only something like one
in a hundred cars stopped to assist the "student in
The experiment had a second component, though: About
a mile down the road, they set up another car, also
jacked up with a "flat" tire This one also had someone
trying to flag down passing motorists for help. In this
case, though, something like one car in thirty stopped
and offered assistance instead of the one-in-a-hundred for
the car a half mile away!
What dynamic was operating here? The grad students theorized that people zoomed past
the first motorist in "trouble" and began feeling guilty. They said things to themselves like, "I
really should have stopped for that broken-down car. Darn. Oh well, too late to turn around
now. But, I promise that I will stop the next time I see somebody in need".
And, as "fate" would have it, there was a "next time" about a minute later! When folks
pulled over to assist the second person with the "flat" tire, my grad students conducted a
brief interview. They asked the good Samaritan's why they stopped for this car but not for
the first one. What they were told was that as these people promised themselves that
they'd help the next person they saw needing assistance, they said to themselves, "oh well,
I told myself that I'd stop next time...and here's my chance. So, I put my directional signal
on and pulled over to see what I could do to help."
Friends, as we go through our day at the office, visit the cafeteria, attend inter-departmental
meetings, or just see some bewildered visitor lost in the hallway, we do have a chance to
If you're a minute late for a meeting, everyone will understand - and you'll have an
opportunity to plant the idea of being nice in their heads, too!
If we've already blown an opportunity to be nice today, don't worry! In life, as in my students'
experiment, we do get second chances to reach out to others. Try it, it's fun!
Where have the front porches gone? Church windows don't open
anymore. The innocent summer days of the past have disappeared.
But, here's how to have stress-relieving fun, anyway!
Television ads still try to induce the idea of peace, tranquility, and stressless living by
showing us pictures of people lazing in a hammock in the back yard. Or, sipping ice tea
while rocking on the front porch. And, ahhh, remember the smell of a fresh breeze wafting in
through the open bedroom window on a summer evening, driving out the heat of the day?
But, these are little more than far-off fantasies in these days of houses that, mysteriously,
no longer have front porches! Today, we have offices with hermetically-sealed windows.
Cars have air conditioners, even in the North, and it's less and less common to see a
motorist driving along with his or her elbow resting on the door frame, window open.
Still, there are things we can do even in the cut-off-from-Nature" lives that so many of us live
nowadays. Stop for a moment to realize that, even today, there are stress-reliving, simple,
inexpensive, things that we can do to reconnect us with gentler, times and simpler lives:
• Go get an ice cream cone...but do it at one of those drive-up
ice cream stands just outside of town. Sit still, lick the cone, taste
the cone! Slowly. Savor it. S-l-o-w-l-y . . . .
• Forget the 20-Plex MovieLand at the Mall, just for one day.
Instead, grab a bathing suit and an old towel. Pack a picnic. Put
some stuff in there that you might have enjoyed as a kid, things like
a Frisbee or an old softball. Be sure to take along some enjoyable
things that are not good for you, potato salad, potato chips,
cheese-doodles, yummies like that! Drive out to the state park you
haven't visited in five years, lay down under a tree, look at the clouds.
If it's warm enough, climb into the dammed-up creek with the cute college-age lifeguards,
and swim a bit. Or, at least, kick your sneakers off and wade. Feel the water around your
toes and ankles. F-e-e-l it! Set your feet free! Connect with the earth for a few minutes!
(A wise old woman recently told me that she goes barefoot as often as she can. She told
me, "my naked toes are like the eyes of my feet. They look at the grass and the pebbles
and the squirmy little bugs. This way, both ends of my body, top and bottom, do their
share to connect me with Life!")
• Go out to the local small airport where the Piper Cubs and the Cessenas are parked.
There won't be any security checkpoints at this little airfield. There'll be people there
polishing their airplanes, checking their tires, and so forth. Walk out to some of these
people and strike up a conversation with the folks who fly there.
They won't be wearing fancy, well-pressed, pilot's
uniforms. They'll probably be wearing jeans or
cutoffs, and will look a lot like you. I mean, talk
with them! Ask how they got interested in flying.
Is there a lot to know? How do you change the
oil? What's it like to see their own house from the
To these folks, flying is a hobby and people love
to talk about their hobbies. Who knows? You
might even be invited to go up for a spin! (One or
two may be cranky. That's why they fly -- to go
out to the airport and shed their stress. Don't take
it personally. They haven't decompressed yet.
But, keep trying...someone there will be chatty...I
• Build a campfire. Cook something over the flames. Search the internet for a
"Smores" recipe and try your hand at creating this culinary delight from the days of your
• Test drive the car you always dreamed about, but never bought. If you have a Ford,
get a salesperson to give you a spin in a BMW. If you have a BMW, try a Chrysler
convertible. Or, just for a giggle, hop into one of those jacked-up "big wheelie" things and
bop around down for a few minutes, pretending you're in a Hollywood movie. Be sure to stop
by one of your friends' houses and watch a curious smile begin to form around the edges of
• Go to one of your favorite restaurants and ask the manager to give you a quick tour of
the kitchen. The servers get the tips...the kitchen staff gets to work in the heat over
steaming kettles and sizzling grills. They'll go home and tell their families that someone
actually cared about what they do and how they do it!
• Rent a canoe or kayak for an afternoon.
• Let's say you're a nurse... you can ask the ambulance crew to actually let you inside
and see the gizmos they have there. Swap stories. Make a new friend for about a half an
hour. Who knows...? Did you realize that these ambulance people want you to like them
and respect them? They do! But, they (painfully) realize that nursing and hospital people
disdainfully think of them as "doctor and nurse wannabes" and, if you show an interest in
their world, they will be very, very grateful.
• Ditto with the fire department. Haven't been there since that 6th grade field trip have
you? Maybe they will let you put on a helmet and blow the siren. Do not pretend to be "too
old for that kind of stuff" -- be a kid for a few minutes!
• Do the opposite of what you usually do one weekend
soon. If you're a Lake Person, find a mountain or a hill town.
If you're a Mountain Person, find a Lake Town. If you're a Tennis
Person, go zing a few balls off the nets at the local driving range.
If you're a Golf Person, take a tennis lesson (the first one is
• Go "apply" for a job in the last place on earth you'd ever
want to work. Hate telemarketers? Great! Go apply for a job in
one of their pressure-cooker sales offices. Sit down with a
headset on...let them tell you what it's like...listen to the stories
about the unbelievable things people like you and me have told
them a second before slamming the phone down in their ears.
You'll still hate telemarketers, but you'll have a different view of their world, and a few giggles
along the way!
• Go fly a kite. I mean, literally. When was the last time you did that!?
• Go to the local downtown library, the big one, with the granite pillars out front. There's
no charge, no one will bother you. (Funny how you'll just be able to wander anywhere you
want and look at anything you want and touch anything you want, and it's totally okay!)
Don't go in there with the idea that you have to accomplish anything. Just go in and see
what that universe looks like from the inside!
• Stop and smell the flowers! Literally. Call the local park and arrange to meet their
flower person, or tree expert, and they'll probably love to give you a few minutes, showing
you the "secret plants" that they are rooting in the greenhouse our back. They'll be
delighted to show off their pride-and-joy plants, equipment, etc. Or, do the same thing at a
local florist shop.
• Got a local public telescope in your town? (Try the college?) Those people love to tell
you about craters on the moon, or about how there "might" be life on Star System
#222059968bh3! Or, just put a blanket on the ground in your black yard, lay down after
dark, and gaze at the stars, being drawn into them, like you did as a kid!
• Are you really uptight? Get a bed sheet and drape it over a couple of dining room
chairs, and "camp" out in your own little "tent" like you did when you were ten. Only this
time you get to bring French bread and cheese, and a bottle of wine!
• Next time it rains, go jump in a pubble and get your shoes wet. Then, call your mom
and tell her what you did and there's nothing she can do about it! (Wait - I am joking, I
mean IMAGINE telling your mom that!)
I know, lots of these things seem silly, childish, totally unlike the "mature" (uptight) you.
Precisely! Remember what Jesus told us: "Unless you be like little children, you will
not see the Kingdom of Heaven). My guess is that as he said that he had a raised
eyebrow, a loving and wise smile, and he may have even been humorously wagging his
finger at his listeners for effect!
Email me with your own idea, okay? Great!
PS: As Mother Teresa sort-of said, "Be nice ...and pass it on!"
at a Glance