Thinking About Farewell

“Farewell! God knows when we shall meet again.”. – William Shakespeare.

The last few days have forced the idea of saying goodbye to the forefront of my mind. Sunday commemorated the seventh anniversary of the death of my best childhood friend, Rusty. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t know him and we were always friends. It’s been seven years, but when a memory of him crossed my mind, tears still swell in my eyes.

Today, I closed a chapter in my professional career putting the concept of goodbye on my radar again. Since 2017, I have labored in Christian Education, but I felt God leading me to focus my attention on my local church. I said my farewells to some of the greatest kids I’ve ever met. We shed tears. I’m still not sure I know how I feel about leaving. It’s time, but my heart is having trouble catching up.

Finally, tomorrow, December 14th, is the first anniversary of my dad’s death. I’m not sure how to handle this day. There is a part of me that wants to carry on like normal. However, there is another part wanting to walk deep into the solitude of the woods to find a stump to sit on and reflect on my dad’s life; contemplate my life.

Our lives are full of goodbyes. Some we plan, others we don’t see coming. They catch us by surprise and send us reeling. However, I’m looking for the day that the word goodbye will never be spoken. In Christ, I have the hope that one glorious day I will say farewell to goodbye.

I am just thinking.

Me, a Memoirist?

Memoir—/ˈmemˌwär/ (noun) – a narrative composed from personal experience; an account of something noteworthy; an essay on a learned subject

Memoir. The word has always conjured up images of a man with a long gray beard sitting in a worn leather armchair, flanked by bookshelves filled with antique tomes and trinkets from his many travels, while smoke lifts and lingers from his hawkbill tobacco pipe. I don’t know why. It may be because I believed the misconception that people with extraordinary experiences write memoirs. There are those authors for sure. However, I understand some of the best memoirists are those that capture the simplicity of life in unique ways.

I’ve loved the genre without even knowing it. For many years, I’ve wrestled with what type of writing I felt the most comfortable writing. As a pastor, I knew sermons, devotionals, and Bible studies fell in the category of nonfiction, but I wanted to tell stories. Short stories and novels were my first choice. However, after several attempts, something didn’t feel right.

When I studied the craft of writing more, I learned what a memoir actually means. A memoir is a “narrative composed from personal experience, an account of something noteworthy,”1 or “an essay on a learned subject.”2 After learning this definition, I realized this was the stuff I loved to write.

Why do I feel qualified to write in this vein? It’s simple. I’m not an authority on any topic, but I observe the world in my own unique way. No one can tell a story from my point of view. My personal experiences as a husband, dad, and small-town pastor provide endless fodder for memoirish writing. I think my perspective on life, which is fueled by a biblical worldview, can help offer hope for the readers.

1https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/memoir

2https://www.google.com/search?q=memoir+definition

Have a Messy Christmas

I came across this piece I wrote the day after Christmas 2020. I thought I'd share it here on my blog.

Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. (Matthew 1:23)  

A few years ago, I preached a sermon called “Have a Messy Christmas.” I called the congregation to reconsider the night Christ was born. Not the dating of his birth, but to reimagine the conditions into which Christ was born. I emphasized how we allow our culture and traditions to paint a mental picture of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus with halos in a clean stable surrounded by a host of animals and divine visitors. However, I can’t imagine a place where people kept animals being too sanitary and clean.  

Although our minds may fill with picturesque nativity scenes, the truth is Jesus, God with us, was born in a lowly estate. Jesus came to redeem a broken and dirty world. God did not give baby Jesus a clean delivery room to enter the world (or even a bottle of Germ-X). Christ wasn’t concerned with painted halos about his head, but he came to roll up his sleeves and to do the work the Father sent him to do.  

Why am I talking about this? Well, it’s because for many people Christmas 2020 has been tough. I’m not sure why several people have testified it didn’t feel like Christmas to them. And I must agree it didn’t for me either. The reasons are different, but for some, it was because of sickness, tragedy, or even death. For my household, it was all three.  

Last night, I struggled to hold in the tears as I looked at my phone screen. I realized I would not get that call from my dad this year. Many times, they were brief, and I didn’t realize how important they were to me. I was a fool to think of them as an obligatory act. Of course, we had our disagreements, but he was (is) my dad. Our relationship should’ve been stronger. Sometimes, life is messy like that.  

But that’s the point of Christmas, isn’t it? It’s not about ribbons, bows, eggnog, or mistletoe. It’s about a God who loved us so much, that he came into our world. Into our brokenness. Into our sorrow and pain. Christmas was not meant to be about many of the things we celebrate. Some of them, are good in and of themselves, but when they fail to happen we shouldn’t lose hope, because Christ was born in Bethlehem!  

It’s become a cliché to say, “Jesus is the reason for the season.” However, in 2020 we all would do good to recall this simple fact. He came to seek and to save that which was lost. He came for you and for me.