>Fireworks NYE2005photo © 1980 Mr Magoo ICU | more info (via: Wylio)

It took over a year, but I’ve got over 1000 posts up on this blog.  That’s 1000 published posts.  I have a few more sitting among the “drafts” that haven’t yet seen the light of day.

This post here is, in fact, published post 1005.  I knew I was coming up to that magic 1000 number soon and it kinda snuck past me the last day.

I’m sure some of what’s been published could be classified as “filler.” Maybe A LOT of what’s been published is filler.  But I have a lot of original stuff here and a lot of information from others that I’ve found interesting. I believe I’ve been shaped by a lot of what I’ve read and by what I’ve written.   This has been a good experience for me.

When I started out with “THE EPISTLE OF JIM” my thought is that it would be ALL my words to the church…real churchy reflections and deep thoughts.  Well, that didn’t last very long.  There’s so much fun stuff out there and interesting stuff and stuff I thought may express more of who I am as a person even if it’s not religious.

If you’re reading this one, I hope you’ve found some other posts or quotes or stories that were meaningful to you of things you’ve passed on to others for whatever reason.

Thanks for even checking out any of it.


>Do You Need "Tough Skin" to Be a Pastor?

>Saw the cartoon below over at David Hayward’s site, NakedPastor.  Now, having followed David’s blog and comics for a year or so, I know that he had a difficult period in his ministry.  I think he resonates with the cartoon.

For myself, I can think of a few instances where “tough skin” or “thick skin” were definitely needed in my own ministry–two more painful than the others.  In one case, my desire to do outreach to Hispanic persons in the community was met with a loud rejection by some members of the congregation I served.  There were angry letters and angry meetings.  But, probably the most hurtful part was persons walking out of the worship service before communion.  That seemed like an intentional attack on my pastoral identity.  Was it?  I don’t know.  A lot of years have come and gone since then.  Everyone’s moved on.  But, even though I had to have tough skin and try not to take it personally, I’m not sure I did a very good job with that.  The other serious case is less defined and harder to describe.  However, it involved persons questioning my integrity, my trustworthiness.  There was one real bad meeting that involved my wife leaving in tears.  It was painful.

But, I’m not sure I ever thought of it as having “tough skin” but rather trying to see what the underlying reasons for the complaints/concerns/attacks were.  I guess I’ve always known that many of the hurtful issues that come up in the church really aren’t so much about “me.”  (There may be some that were about me.  I’ll admit that.)

On the other hand, I guess being able to step back and look at the root causes of crisis and concern and not take it all personally does require “tough skin.”

Thanks, David, for making me think today.

>The Center of the Labyrinth

>Walking the famous labyrinth on floor of Chart...Image via WikipediaWe had our Stations of the Cross last night.  I worked with a friend to map out a contemporary “Stations” with images and prayers.  While our hope was to walk our way from the Catholic Church to Girdwood Chapel as we did last year, we had to change plans because it was raining so hard yesterday.  With no let-up in sight, we were pretty sure that the weather was going to keep people from participating.  It was the right decision.

So, we had nine stations over at the Catholic Church and another five at Girdwood Chapel.

We closed it out with a Prayer Labyrinth. It was a cloth labyrinth, 28 feet in diameter, laid out on the Girdwood Chapel sanctuary floor.

For the uninitiated, a prayer labyrinth has one long path to a center location.  It’s designed to slow down our minds so we can focus on God.  While its use predates Christianity, Christians have found it a valuable tool for focusing hearts and minds on God.  One is directed to pray while entering and while exiting on the same path.   Tonight’s participants were given a choice of ways to experience the labyrinth.  They were told they could meditate on Scripture, and verses were available to them.  They were told they could recite a favorite prayer or Scripture.  They were told they could offer up their burdens before God while entering the labyrinth, bask in God’s glory and presence in the center, and then offer thanksgivings and praise to God as they exited.  Essentially, they were told there was no wrong way to go about doing this.

I played “host” for the bulk of the evening.  I made sure we had Gregorian Chant on the stereo and that candles were lit in the sanctuary where the cloth labyrinth was spread.  I walked with our four – year -olds as they “raced” through it….not quite the meditative experience I was hoping they might touch on.

So, I wasn’t able to enter the labyrinth myself until most of the people had gone.

As I entered, it was hard to put away the thoughts of the day and all that needs to be accomplished over the next couple of days.  So, I tried to center myself with “The Jesus Prayer” — which is the prayer I use when I need to do some centering or need focus on my breathing or need to calm myself down…

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God,
Have Mercy on Me, a Sinner

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God,
Have Mercy on Me, a Sinner

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God,
Have Mercy on Me, a Sinner

Breathe in.

Breathe out.

The whole way in, I had trouble.  The noise of my own mind was keeping my mind from resting.  I wondered if it would be worth it to keep moving on with such a wandering mind.  But I kept going.

And I was rewarded.

As I got to the center of the labyrinth, the music kicked it up a notch, the chants went into overdrive and I got to rest in the center, with my eyes closed, soaking in God’s goodness and grace and reflecting on the great sacrifice of the cross.  There was a peace that came over me.  I was truly “resting” in the presence of God. I could have stayed in the center of the labyrinth forever.

But I didn’t.

I made may way round and about and out again.

The way out was easier but the realities of what the weekend has in store started creeping back into my mind.

But I walked out having been blessed by God in the center of the labyrinth.

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