Leaving Home

Just found this in my WordPress file. It’s interesting to read at the end of my first year in St. Clair. It makes me smile to remember.  I feel so happy to have been called to this place, and to have had the good sense to listen for God in making the decision.stained glass

Today is a big day for me: for us. At noon we’re leaving Oberlin with our two hybrid cars filled to overflowing, because I’m moving to St. Clair, Michigan. God asked me to do this so I said yes. It means I’ll be leaving behind my son Matthew  and his wife Tammy and my two grandchildren, Solomon who is 13 and Elias who will be 4 in a few weeks. I’m also leaving Zack although he moved to Columbus, Ohio a few years ago, so I’ve gotten sort of used to seeing him only once in awhile. And I’m leaving David. This is the change that has caused people who know me some confusion, some concern and has a raised a lot of questions for them and for us too, quite honestly. It has caused us both to change but in a good way. We’ve been married for 42 years come May 11, 2016. We’ve known each other for 45 years, so yes, this is a big step and I understand the concern.

We’re excited, David and I. He just told me that the temperature tomorrow will be 19 degrees. Actually, he gave me a complete 24 hour weather report for St. Clair. This big change in our lives has inserted a new energy and a new found sense that there is still so much life to live and as I approach age 64 and he settles into age 67 it feels like we’re about to embark on an adventure. He has been every bit as excited about this move as I have been. First of all, St. Clair, Michigan has so much to offer. It’s a small town right on the St. Clair River which connects Lake Erie to Lake Huron. Lake Huron is about 20 minutes away. Sarnia (not Narnia) Ontario is just up the road and across the river and this, for some reason is something we both delight in. We’ve had some wonderful days in Toronto and in Niagara-On-The-Lake, so it makes sense really that we’d be drawn to this aspect of the move.

The people of the church in this small community that I’ll begin serving beginning tomorrow do seem an exceptional group. This is one of the reasons I’m going there. I’ve been told by those who know, that this particular church is a gem; extremely healthy, mature, happy and wanting to move into new areas of ministry. Heaven, right?  I’m not naïve though. I know that after a year of getting to know one another we’ll begin to learn about the issues that we’ll want to work on during our time together. No congregation is perfect since they’re all made up of people. Right?

I’ll be living in a parsonage and this will be very new for us. We’ve spent this past month moving furniture, books and household items in one large moving truck and several car trips. But, it’s been great fun. David and I love car travel and moving in the past has always been exciting. It still is, we’ve learned. The house looks great. Most of the furniture is now in place. Our dog Betty who will live with me, has been to St. Clair once already. I have to note that this morning as she watches us scurry around moving suitcases and stacks of clothing that she seems a little bit edgy. But, she’ll adapt to our new routine. On our last visit, I made the mistake of opening the back door after our first night there, and let her out into the yard, I thought.  She took off. David reported to me that a short time later there was a knock at the door and a bunch of kids, aged 6-12 or so, all stood in a circle around Betty who had followed them back down the street and to our new front door. “Is this your dog? She came up to our house where we were playing outside.” Betty has already made a nice group of friends. She may not remember today, as we fuss with last minute laundry and car stuff, that she had a great time on our last trip to St. Clair.

So, let’s do this!


A Certain Kindness

Thanks to Matt Fitzgerald, for his meditation on the very brief Scripture verse, “Do good, O Lord, for those who are good.”

The United Church of Christ Daily Devotional Matt wrote is posted at the end of these thoughts. It reminds me of the cruelty that often existed in the daily life of the Junior High School many of us attended years back. I’ve noticed in young people of that age today a certain kindness and sensitivity that we did not possess. I know this has been encouraged and taught. And, I also know that very many of the young teens I encounter today are very kind, very loving, very accepting.

I dropped my grandson Solomon off at school a few days ago. He complained a little about the car in front of us being slow in dropping off the student on board. When he saw who was being dropped off he said, “Oh. Never mind.” His classmate in front of us was a person with a mobility disability. The child’s dad removed a tuba from the back of the car and set it onto the sidewalk. The young man began to struggle as he pushed and pulled his tuba toward the back door of the school. Almost immediately another student came along, picked up the tuba and carried it to the door as they walked together, both looking very happy, into school. Yeah. That’s what I saw.

Thank God for parents and teachers who have learned that the most important lessons to be learned in school don’t necessarily revolve around subjects taught like math, English, history and Science. Thank God for students who open their hearts to others in a much more accepting way than we ever did when we were in Junior High School.

Imperfect Love  by Matt Fitzgerald
“Do good, O Lord, to those who are good.” – Psalm 125

“Pray for your enemies.” Only God knows what such prayer might do for those people, but if you’ve tried it, you know that Jesus’ prayer kills the enmity that lives inside your own heart. It may be the closest we ever get to being Christ-like. As Kierkegaard says, “Perfect love means to love the one through whom one became unhappy.”

But such prayer is agony. It kills us. So Psalm 125 brings relief. It issues no challenge, just asks God to be good to those who are good. I love this. Christianity doesn’t need constant effort. Sometimes it is easy. Pray for those who are good.

I live across the street from a middle school. At recess the tweens separate themselves into castes and cliques. They are too old to play. They act cool. Except for one girl who wears unfashionable long skirts and runs across the playground, bursting into one group after another. She suffers from some disability. It’s obvious. Yet each time she runs into the middle of a group—the Goth kids, the gossips, the athletes, the introverts—they all make room for her. They give her a pound or a shoulder hug. They smile. She smiles. Then she turns to run toward some other group.

I think back to the cruelty of my adolescence and I am simply amazed at the goodness on display.

Oh God, give goodness to that good child who refuses the boundaries of adolescence. And pour goodness over all those good children who see her with eyes of love. And give more goodness to the parents who have shaped them. And rain goodness down on our world as it changes for the better. Amen.

Matt Fitzgerald is the Senior Pastor of St. Pauls United Church of Christ in Chicago. He is the host of “Preachers on Preaching,” a weekly podcast sponsored by The Christian Century.